Thursday, June 16, 2011

First Look: Jessie and the Toy Boys / Single and Video Review: "Push It"

By Contributor Matt Burstyn

When a pop artist emerges into the fray of plastic beauty, auto-tune and popularity it’s easy to compare one artist to another based on similar voices, music styles, looks, choreography, performance, appearance, any similarity in the sky. I could describe Jessie and the Toy Boys by referencing the teasing sexuality of Britney Spears, or highlight gritty lyrics (“That’s good to know, but I’ve got dick like Ron Jeremy, yo”) which can be crudely fabulous in a way reminiscent of Ke$ha, or talk about electro beats that make my ass shake in a way it hasn't since Static Revenger and Luciana’s “I Like That.” But I know that being compared to other artists drives new artists crazy, so I just won't do that.

Jessie and the Toy Boys is one of those semi-dadaist names that isn't as straightforward as it looks. To whom the name refers depends on the medium in which one encounters it and when. "Jessie" is singer Jessie Malakouti wherever and whenever the name is found. The Toy Boys fluctuate, however; in early performances they were simply a group of mannequins, which was almost too clever; for her stint opening Spears' Femme Fatale Tour, which launches today, the Toy Boys have come to life as a pair of blonde dancers; on recordings, though, the Toy Boys are merely an idea, with Jessie doing all the actual musical work. Think of it as a more honest, co-ed version of the Pussycat Dolls.

Jessie Malakouti is not the kind of dance pop artist you see performing at a night club (more than likely a gay club) and forget about the next day. This week sees the release of Show Me Your Tan Lines, the first full flavored EP from Jessie and the Toy Boys in perfect timing for Femme Fatale Tour concert venders to handle the inevitable demand of the throngs of concertgoers who aren’t yet aware that they’re about to become a fan of Jessie and The Toy Boys. Malakouti displays convincing star quality with a set of five tracks that feature playful vocals, ballsy talk-sing rap, and skillful electro-pop production, all with a sound that is familiar yet all brand new at the same time.
The EP fortunately includes recent dance club hit “Push It," which has been released previously and closes her Femme Fatale Tour set. The really insidiously catchy part of the whole song is the well crafted series of “Oh’s” throughout which don’t sound like actual bedroom screams but seductive enough to stick in your head for god knows how long. It's not the best song on the EP, and one or two of the other tracks could easily see higher Billboard chart peaks if released as club singles. Still, it's a good simple track that gives a concise introduction to what Jessie and the Toy Boys is all about: electronic and dubsteppy production with hints of ska/rock (No Doubt's Tony Kanal co-wrote), a bit of hot sex mixed with some emotion and longing ("I've been trying to get a little bit closer to you," she croons with on the surprisingly wistful chorus), and Jessie. At 22, Malakouti has some time for her voice to mature a bit, and hopefully it does so the moments of richness and depth in her vocals sprinkled throughout the track and the EP can become the norm instead of the exception. The original “Push It - EP,” by the way, offers a group of remixes and extended versions by Static Revenger and heavy collaborator DJ Skeet Skeet along with a slew of fan-made remixes mined through a remix contest the artist held earlier this year. 

The video for "Push It" is also the first Jessie and the Toy Boys music video, breathing the concept to life with some sexy dirty fun. Jessie is fierce, and save wholesome for Selena Gomez. Set in a laundromat-a-go-go with a crew of hot men busting out amusingly effeminate dance moves in hipster rags is visually bad ass. These are, for one video at least, the Toy Boys, and it's great to see some gender-breaking choreography in a pop  music video. Featured artist Yelawolf is replaced by a mannequin laying down rhymes with a sing-a-long text as Jessie sex-kittens out on top of the washing machines. (The previously mentioned Ron Jeremy-referencing lyric was apparently too much to push and has been changed to “That’s good to know, but can you push it back and fo'th?” in one small step for artistic freedom but one giant leap for good taste). The video ends with a bubble party and laser imprints forming around slow motion jump shots and the Toy Boys' shuffling. The direction, art direction, and editing effects are professional grade but not showy.

With Jessie and the Toy Boys, Jessie Malakouti is out to change pop as we know it. Facebook lists FUTURE POP/DANCE/DUB STEP for her "Genre" and she boasts on Twitter that she is the “Future of POP. Fact.". After some extensive listening to unreleased tracks from her solo career as well as demos, single releases and the new Jessie and the Toy Boys EP, it’s safe to say she could help change the game in music, or at the very least play the game with the all-stars. If Jessie and the Toy Boys hasn’t been on your radar,  expect it to be as of today. With a solid new EP, television appearances, and especially the Femme Fatale tour, there's a well-deserved shockwave of popularity coming Jessie's way.

Buy it on iTunes or Amazon

Additional reporting by David Salter
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