Monday, October 24, 2011

First Listen: Luciana - "USA Let's Go Go Go!"

Songs about emigrating to America tend to be pretty grim, if you think about it. There were the woeful songs sung by Africans being shipped over as slaves that eventually evolved into the blues; the snarkily ironic West Side Story number is sung by Puerto Rican immigrants who aren't sure they're better off; even the Russian mice who naively chorus "No Cats in America" in An American Tail quickly discover their error. The only really positive "moving to the States" tune of any consequence was the Jessie J-penned "Party in the U.S.A.," but instead of getting to use it as her great introductory single, we took it off her hands and gave it to one of our silver spoon Disney daughters for her graduation. Yeah, the United States may be the ultimate ballgame for pop music, but it is also a collective asshole to almost anyone who wasn't born here, so if you want to get in from outside you must either charm, sneak, or fight your way in. We wouldn't let Amy Winehouse come to LA to get her fucking Grammys, after making a huge show of inviting her, too. Face it. America is a dick.

The real Luciana

If there's someone who knows how to handle assholes standing in the way, it's Luciana. "I'm Still Hot," the Dave Audé-produced solo single the British singer released in April, marked her reappearance following a relatively quiet period that lasted several years, and in September it hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart...not bad for her first charting US single. In what has certainly been a mutually beneficial partnership Luciana teamed up with the inestimable Betty White for a hilarious, charity-supporting remake (the video for which landed earlier this month and benefits the Los Angeles Zoo) and gaining exposure to the sizeable market of Americans who flock to witness the antics of the last surviving Golden Girl. Then last night I discovered the atomic warhead called "USA Let's Go."

What we have here is a remarkable electronic dance single (also produced by Audé, I confirmed with the man himself) about, more or less, emigrating to America. It's Luciana making the invitation, and it's disarmingly personal for an artist who has had a career as a successful guest vocalist, whose general task had more to do with the mechanics and aesthetics of electronic music than with lyrical storytelling. There's plenty of what we're used to, or what we've come to see as Luciana's M.O. In the verses she lists as things she doesn't want many of our country's less appealing staples (traffic jams, tow-away zones, daytime television), self-important achievements (revolution, Broadway shows), common industry bullshit ("give good meeting," cocky handshakes, "plastic music") and Simon Cowell, who I have to protest is more in her column thank you very much. There's a neat chorus, Luciana navigating a twisting melodic line with "got my supermodel bitches in tow/move your body to the beat of electro," and a nifty "Gucci to Gabbana" bit of clever wordplay near the end.

But what packs the main punch is the sudden emotional honesty at the end of the last verse as Luciana cries "I don't want to make up with you/And I don't want to break up with you/And I don't want to give up on you/I want you to want this too" and her voice leaves off elevated, then swallowed up again by the aggressive production leading into the final chorus. Those paradoxical pleas will be unfamiliar to no one; who has not felt that exact way about a lover, a religion, a college, a job? Certainly it rings true for musicians, and particularly those from other shores, whose greatest fear isn't being unable to be heard but finding that no one wants to. It's moving, especially contrasted with all of the aggressive posturing leading up to it, and even more so when you realize that this may be the first time Luciana has shown vulnerability - the first time she throws out a different attitude - the first time "Luciana" representing an attitude or a single-layer character but a person.

If there's a Luciana solo career in the works, that Luciana is going to need to be somewhat more layered than on the previous collaboration and feature singles where she served a different purpose. If we got all the way to the album and suddenly Luciana had feelings out of the blue it would be ridiculous, just as an album of Luciana just being aggressive and punching people out the whole time would be repetitive and uninspired. I'm saying this for your sake, not as unsolicited advice for the artist, because Luciana Caporaso and Dave Aude are two of the smartest artists in the dance scene and have been around for a long time...whatever they (I am merely surmising Aude's involvement at this point) are coming up with is sure to be unrivaled in quality. I still haven't fully processed the reality of the idea.

It's just up to us to show our interest, and "I'm Still Hot" hitting #1 certainly is a good start. But if Luciana has come here, and appears to want to drop her immense creativity, style, skill, ingeniuty and, yes, hotness on our fair nation, I'm pretty sure we ought to be down prostrate before her kissing her feet in gratitude. And all she's asking is that nobody tow her damn car.

And finally, I put a little something together for you. Feel free to repost it if you like.

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