|Remember this? Vertigo Shtick's very first header.|
Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Songs of 2010
#40 - 36
When former '90s teen pop princess-turned-critically adored rebel/pop genius Robyn announced, early this year, that she was to return after nearly half a decade promoting her masterpiece self-titled album - and not just return, but return with THREE albums before year's end - I doubt even her most ardent admirers (one among whom I count myself) were at all prepared for the deliriously fantastic barrage of near-perfect electronic dance-pop the Swedish icon would eventually pile upon us. Upon the June 15 release of by-then mostly leaked Body Talk Pt. 1, though, it was clear that Robyn had every intention of superceding even the high standard and expectations she'd set for herself, with a sprawling set of eight rather different tracks whose main commonalities were experimentation and excellence. "None of Dem," her collaboration with Norwegian electronica duo Röyksopp (for whose 2009 single "The Girl and the Robot" Robyn provided the mesmerizing vocal), is a haunting rebuff to a dreary, stagnant town from a worldly rebel meant for much more, echoing the album-wide theme of the outsider that also frames "Cry When You Get Older," "Dancehall Queen" and "Dancing On My Own." I should admit to taking rather a long while to appreciate this track, finally coming to my senses after seeing her perform the song at the second of two U.S. club tours this year (both of which I attended). It may also have been that I never bothered to listen to the track in full, thereby missing the full minute and a half Röyksopp draws out a chilling, minor arpeggio-laden climax, as if the rebel behind the lyrics were defiantly riding the road out of town, but heading toward a sunset that portends the potential of something even more sinister. SO European.
Enter this one under "semi-guilty pleasures" (it's the first of several). This summer, the Artist Then-Soon to Be Formerly Known as Hannah Montana embarked upon her next step towards shedding the character and accompanying varnish that comes with being a bonafide Disney child star. Such a feat demands walking in the heavy footsteps of former Mouse House kids who made it big in the real world like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Zac Efron and Lindsay Lohan (ideally not the exact footsteps of Lindsay Lohan, but time will tell), but Cyrus is clearly jam-packed with the right stuff - including the wisdom to learn from one's elders, hence her liberal borrowing from the careers of Ms. Spears and Ms. Aguilera and coming out as a rebelliously-sexualized not-quite-18 year old, complete with midriff-baring album cover and a music video simply engineered to keep prudish stay-at-home moms with YouTube accounts and a penchant for judgment and posting comments plenty occupied (it also features a pair of killer CGI wings and an allover well-executed dance routine taking place inside a sinister-looking Museum of Natural History, of all places). It's a shame that some lazy producer felt it appropriate to dress up Cyrus' demonstrably solid voice with the by-then increasingly disparaged Auto-Tune in the style of the moment...about six months earlier, but it's a minor quibble, so convincing and urgent is Cyrus' vocal on the coming-out single. Neither the single and accompanying album were terribly successful, but I sense Can't Be Tamed may likely be merely a bridge from Cyrus' first non-Hannah Montana set Meet Miley Cyrus and an as-yet unannounced major release album cementing the singer's post-Disney persona without the need for further explanation.
|Tremble before my bitchin' CGI-enhanced visual metaphor.|
I have to hand it to whoever greenlit a garishly overproduced pop/hip-hop jam about flaying one's locks in both directions as a means of flipping one's detractors the bird, sung by nine-year-old girl with movie star parents (and older brother), because not only does he or she possess some serious gonads, Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" has turned out to be a rollicking, uplifting smash hit that has gleeful listeners of every age, race and level of elitism headbanging in a manner not seen since the death of Kurt Cobain. Smith (daughter to Will and Jada Pinkett) delivers a vocal that's necessarily endearing but also impressively confident and sassy in precisely the right manner to sell the moderately trite personal empowerment message. It's a performance that somehow manages to be both thoroughly age-appropriate (not here, praise the pop music gods, any uncomfortably/unbelievably disingenuous sexuality or romantic sentiment) and skilled beyond the young singer's paltry years, which bodes well for her planned debut album set to arrive early next year.
Yoko Ono, the Japanese avant-garde musician, controversial widow of the late John Lennon and accused catalyst/scapegoat for the breakup of The Beatles, is now 77 years old, but that didn't keep her from hitting the top spot on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart earlier this year. Admittedly, that particular chart sees more than its share of quirky absurdities, but when Yoko Ono appears in the number one slot on any Billboard chart 42 years after "Revolution 9," even a relatively casual dance music consumer like me might be moved to shell out a dollar for the iTunes download. The Dave Aude club mix of Ono's 1995 track "Wouldnit," off her 1995 album Rising, is but the latest in a nearly decade-long collaboration between Ono and a lengthy list of electronic and dance producers and djs, creating club-ready dance remixes of an eclectic selection of the eccentric musician's hefty repertoire, and the seventh to hit number one on the Dance Club Play chart since 2000. At just over six minutes, the track is succinct enough to hold the interest of traditional pop-leaning folks like me for whom the repetitive, cut-and-paste stylistic norms of the remix genre quickly grow tiresome, but still packs enough bonafide techno-dance punch to please the hardcore aficionados.
I was never much into German dance group Cascada's 2005 hit "Everytime We Touch," and for some time while my only exposure to their newest chart-stormer "Evacuate the Dancefloor" came via the occasional chance encounter mid-song from a radio or store loudspeaker system I was unswayed in my lack of interest. It was only when I made a point, for some fleeting and long-since forgotten reason, to give the track a listen from start to finish, that I found something intriguing about the song's uniquely brazen approach to the melody of the two initial verses, particularly the dazzlingly complicated half-step chord progression on the trio of couplets "steal the night/ kill the lights," "time is right/ keep it tight" and "wrap it up/ can't stop" that precede the chorus, which, after such an unexpected and unusual exercise in melodic sophistication (and vocalist Natalie Horler's impressive command of the cruelly difficult harmonies therein) comes, to me at least, as something of a letdown. Though I rarely play the full length of the track (as is my tendency with the Ting Tings' similarly formulated "That's Not My Name," which loses me when Katie White's sassiness gives way to a repetitive, anticlimactic legato that somehow saps all the bite out of lyrics as delicious as "Are you calling me darling? Are you calling me bird?"), "Evacuate the Dancefloor" has graced my iPod playlist more times in the past year than I ever would have predicted.