Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Listen: Ke$ha - "Blow"

Another week, another Ke$ha track from the upcoming release of Cannibal. This one might be the Nashville pop diva's most hardcore dance track, but unlike with the deceptively raunchy lyrics of "Cannibal" and the not-so-deceptive smack talk of "Sleazy," "Blow" isn't nearly as R-rated as one might presume someone whose lyrics have included "show me where your dick's at" and "I can find someone way hotter (with a bigger...well...)" might do with such a title. No, the titular verb refers to the more family-friendly definition akin to its usage in Ke$ha's debut smash single "TiK ToK" - it's still a colloquialism, but for a metaphorical explosion involving a dance club rather than for the act of fellatio or a certain powdery controlled substance.


 As with the previous three Cannibal singles, "Blow" comes to us, initially at least, in the form of a "leak." Of course, as it has become more and more common for artists with looming release dates to periodically release a number of tracks as digital singles rather than depend on one make-or-break official lead single, given the regularity of these "leaks" and the fact that just one additional track has surfaced, it's probable that the "leak" is an authorized one to drum up interest for what I'd wager my firstborn will appear on iTunes as a digital single this Tuesday.

But since this whole controlled leakage strategy is still so new and untested, and because music labels have continued to be bafflingly inept at adapting to a digital, singles-heavy sales model, until an official "leak" or digital single emerges from an artist's camp, the distribution of the new track is still mired in legal uncertainty. It's not uncommon, for instance, to find numerous appearances of a recently leaked song on YouTube with an altered tempo (either sped up or slowed down), presumably to delay discovery by variously strict content violation detectives. Usually the difference, even if not admitted to by whoever posted the song (bad form, surely), is noticeable or even obvious, and most of the time the true incarnation of the track proves a refreshing relief. But what if, hypothetically, a leak emerges of a track that subsequently spreads across the net in an altered form that actually improves upon the official cut yet to be released? It's a rare occurrence, but surely it must have happened before, or if not, is bound to happen sometime.

Consider "Blow," if you will. I first heard the track on a certain pop music website whose writing style and journalistic integrity grate at my very soul on a daily basis but that is big enough to serve as a reliable source from which to find much of the newest releases and leaks. Later that day I spoke to Matt Burstyn, one of my contributing writers, who had found an mp3 for download elsewhere. Imagine our surprise to discover that his version was significantly slower than the one I'd been listening to non-stop for much of the preceding day. But when I introduced him to my faster cut, I was shocked to learn that he disagreed with my confident assertion that of course my version was preferable. We agree that his version is likely the closest to what the official product will turn out to be, but not on whether that's a-ok or a durn-tootin' shame. Since such a debate seemed worthy of publication, I thought I'd move it from a private battle, unlikely to ever be solved, to a more public debate on Vertigo Shtick, hopefully with some input from readers as to what they think!

Version One 
(or, Blow Faster)


"Blow" Ke$ha (130 BPM)

David: At 130 BPM, this pulsating, pounding dance track is sure to get the adrenaline pumping, and would transition seamlessly into or out of some of Ke$ha's other thrilling dance tracks, particularly the recently released "Cannibal" (130 BPM) or "Take It Off" (126 BPM), the latter one with which "Blow" shares both setting and sentiment. Critics pointed to "Telephone" as one of the most exciting tracks off Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster EP, noting that it was the most hardcore dance-style track the groundbreaking pop matriarch had yet released (and, if she pursues the more honky-tonk Elton John-inspired sound she's hinted she would for her second full-length album due next year, it may remain so for a while). "Telephone" was the record that helped cement Gaga's resurgent popularity after the blockbuster "Bad Romance" and its accompanying video set a frighteningly high bar for excitement and quality that she may not have otherwise been able to maintain in subsequent singles. With the desired sound and style of Top 40 continuing to center on up-tempo, electronic dance music (largely by female solo acts), "Blow" has the makings of a big hit for Ke$ha...at its more engaging, addictive faster speed. Otherwise, especially with "Cannibal" already outdoing "Blow" in terms of beats per minute, and undoubtedly one or more additional tracks from the upcoming EP that have yet to leak, "Blow," at its glacial 120 BPM pace, is liable to be a letdown. That would really blow.


Version Two  
(or, Slow Blow)

"Blow" Ke$ha (120 BPM)

Matt: The sped up version is a leak, meaning the sound quality is lower, bass mixing doesn't factor in and, to my ear, it doesn’t capture all the higher production notes in the chorus.  This version is played at a tempo where one can actually follow what the lyrics, and is easier to sing along with and dance to. It has a much more anthem-like sound, which better connects with the audience. This production enhances the great usage of auto tune in the chorus (“this place about to Blow-ow-ow-ow-ow”) and the electronic manipulation of Ke$ha’s vocal, making it much more interesting to listen to. TA live performance would be very difficult at the higher speed, plus the pace of the synthesized notes on the faster cut sounds very unnatural. The run time of the faster version is 3:21, whereas the slower production plays at 3:40; a track that is closer to four minutes seems more likely to be on Cannibal.


Now that you've heard both versions, let us know what you think! Do you prefer the faster version or the slower one that's more likely the official version from the upcoming release? [Edit: it is]

Comment below!


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