Friday, April 13, 2012

Manufactured Superstars: Paris Hilton & the Genius of "Drunk Text"

By Techno School, Vertigo Shtick contributor and dance/electronic correspondent 

Any blogger's worst nightmare is a lengthy bout of Writer's Block, and I've had a serious case of it. The combination of lengthening work hours and increasing dependence on Boyfriend after breaking my wrist just, plain and simple, got to me. I wallowed in a sea of self-pity for a good six weeks. It put a strain on every factor of my life. And it took a jolt of techno—okay really two jolts—to bring me back to my normal state of Techno School badassery. First I forced myself to venture down to The Fillmore for the Deadmeat Tour, where for the first time I saw SoCal superstar Steve Aoki and dubstep debutante Datsik play live sets. Then, thank The Literary Gods, I received a divine text from my blogging bestie at Vertigo Shtick:

Can u write about the Paris Hilton Manufactured Superstars demo?

Um, yes.

Is it at all surprising that a duo dubbed Manufactured Superstars teamed up with THE self-manufactured superstar Paris Hilton for this Leonard Cohen-meets-deadmau5 creation? Not gonna lie: it was the highlight of my week. I didn't even know who Manufactured Superstars were a month ago, and now I'm tempted to wrangle in everyone who passes by my desk at work and MAKE them listen to this genius track.

One word comes to mind when I listen to Manufactured Superstars' latest single: effortless. Effortless music, effortless lyrics, effortless execution of the melding of both. Now, they seem to have taken the easy way out when it comes to the music, coming up with a backbeat so resonant of deadmau5's For Lack of a Better Name album that I spent a good half hour clicking through deadmau5 songs trying to figure out exactly which one Manufactured Superstars ripped off (lack of time limits my research ability, but that riff sounds mighty stolen). And Lea Luna's performance on the original release of "Drunk Text" just sounds awkward, so the duo lucked out big time when they got Paris Hilton on board.

Yeah, that's right. Paris Hilton wasn't, like, a muse for these guys. She was a way out. Lea Luna's execution of the lyrics was ethereal and wafting. Full of drama. And there's a tacky echo added to it. So dramatic that it made the song, with its intense musical rises and falls, sound like just too much. Bring in Paris Hilton, whose straightforward and conversational tone melts into sublime perfection with the beat. This is not a trance song, so I can't fathom why Manufactured Superstars originally picked a trance-y lyricist to perform with them.

And, really, who could pull off such an absurd line as “No one is safe in the Twittersphere anymore" but the never-safe-from-the-GossipNet Paris Hilton? Even better is that the lyrics change up a bit when Hilton comes on board. Where Luna's opening line in "Drunk Text" is:

I went out to the club the other night to, y'know, have a couple drinks.

Paris Hilton's is (of course):

I went out to the club the other night to, y'know, dance with my bitches?

GENIUS GENUIS, back to the music. Because I love the music even more than I do Hilton's cameo. Low, heavy bass chugs along at a fast beat, placing the audience, as it were, IN the club with their friend bitch Paris. She starts talking about how she went to her regular club and ran into a guy, who apologizes about some unexplained, probably offensive message. And then, just as Paris says those magic words “It was just a drunk text,” a louder melodic beat comes in. The music keeps following Hilton's speech, the bass dropping out and the melody building to a squealing climax whenever she reaches a dramatic point in the story. The way the text and the subtext interact is expert.

We can't let Manufactured Superstars walk home with all the credit, though. It could be argued that this song sounds so effortless because Manufactured Superstars didn't really put any, well, effort into it. They let everyone else do the heavy lifting. The chugging bass rounding up a glowing melody, with low-volume snares and echoes in the background. That is TEXTBOOK deadmau5. It's a style that deadmau5 defined over his last few albums. Using someone else's beat or sound for a remix or in a club is acceptable, but using it to drive an entire single just comes off as...derivative.

One thing I will give these guys is that they composed "Drunk Text" very well. The standard ebb and flow of a good house track, the strategic use of volume, the separation of high-pitched pings to create drama with the steady, iterative bass to keep the music flowing. The way the lyrics move along with the rest of the sounds. The rave crowd and club crowd alike can appreciate this kind of music. It's agreeable. This is a song that will get a group moving while still revealing that Manufactured Superstars understand the, ahem, less sober side of raving. Together, all the parts work beautifully, and it really goes to show what kind of skilled producers we're dealing with.

I wouldn't expect to see these guys headlining any festivals in the near future, but they probably put on a sick club show. Give them an audience to work with, and they'd probably drive it home live where some of the better techno songwriters can falter. I'd go see them, so long as they were just the opening act.

And while we're on the topic of how Manufactured Superstars leverages other people's strengths to their advantage, can I please point you to the music video for their single, "Take Me Over?" While you watch, I'll try not to roll my eyes too much at the stupendously unoriginal song name.

I'm not even gonna comment on the sexy-hipster-astronaut ladies. Bigger fish to fry: check out this video for a song called "Hangover," by Taio Cruz and Flo Rida:

WHO is ripping off WHO here?!?!? Was the fact that these videos are exactly the same thing planned by the makers of The Hangover Part 2 (wouldn't shock me)? Happy accident (unlikely)? Manufactured Superstars ripping off Taio Cruz and Flo Rida (they have no problem being inspired by others)? Taio Cruz and Flo Rida ripping off Manufactured Superstars (they have more power to leverage)? Ah this is killing me! But not as much as Paris Hilton's claim in "Drunk Text" that:

I'll be damned if I end up in some lame diner after this.

Paris, Paris, Paris. I'm going to give you a free pass on this one, since I'm assuming you've never ventured to the humbler-than-thou downtown LA and so never experienced the absolute glory of stumbling in your platform stilettos, very shitface-ted, from SevenGrand to The Pantry. Oh, the memories...

Techno School blogs about life, cars and techno, and is currently based in Detroit.
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