Thursday, October 6, 2011

The POP-Adjacent Pyramid: Tier 1

POP–Retro/Soul/Funk
   Stone Cold Sober              Pumpkin Soup           Limit To Your Love          Cold War
     Paloma Faith                     Kate Nash                  James Blake          Janelle Monáe                        (listen)                              (listen)                        (listen)                        (listen)

Holler!

So, I’m constructing a POP-Adjacent Pyramid, courtesy of writer’s block. Each tier will be composed of various pop genres. None of them will be pure pop, nor will any of them be any other single genre (hence the hyphen), yet each will have songs with pop elements that glue all the tiers together. I’ll think of it as a wedding cake with POP frosting in between each because I love sugary, frosty confections and there’s no dessert in my parents’ house right now. We have a mouse (at least one, could be more – ick!) that’s gotten in from outside, so having sweets around isn’t the best idea. Also just as an FYI, I’m watching Rachel Zoe as I type this entry, so I apologize if I unintentionally assume her lingo.

Anyhow, I will reveal each of the four tiers every day, and on day four, you’ll have the complete pyramid (This idea was cuter in my head. I apologize for any kindergarten flashbacks it may give you.)

The bottommost tier is filled with POP-Retro/Soul/Funk songs. Obvi, Ms. Amy Winehouse (may she R.I.P.) ruled this mini-genre and every one of the artists I’m about to mention owes a debt to her, but I want to introduce y’all to some new singers because we already know how great Amy was.  You may recognize Paloma Faith’s “Stone Cold Sober” (click here to listen) from the Rimmel London makeup commercial. The verses are a bit simple, but the funky big band sound absolutely EXPLODES during the chorus.  She sings, “I can be wilder than the wind, 119 miles an hour / I’m in a whole other dimension, dancing doubles on the floor / You think I’m crazy, a little bit hazy / But I’m stone, cold, sober.” It’s so freaking fierce, you’ll just want to wag your finger up and down until you have arthritis. It’s that good. Seriously. Also, the video is gorg. I love the mirror dress she wears at the beginning – reminds me of Gaga's wardrobe, but this chick makes it all her own. She’s just as well versed in art and pop-culture as the Lady. Basically, she’s SUPER GLAM. Other standouts on her album, Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful, include “Play On” (click here to listen), and “Smoke & Mirrors” (click here to listen), which also has a cute/funny video.

Kate Nash’s “Pumpkin Soup” (click here to listen) is a semi-oldie but goodie. It’s from her first album, Made of Bricks. It has a funky, heavy, hand-clap beat. These adjectives don’t usually go together, but give it click, and you’ll get it. This chick’s pretty fierce as well, singing “I’m not in love / I just wanna be touched / I just want your kiss boy.” What a modern woman she is! Loves it. Kate’s first record is great, and her second, My Best Friend is You, while not as good, is definitely worth a listen. Her honesty is so on point. Girlfriend tells it like it is. For realz.

James Blake’s (one of the new kids in London’s dubstep scene) “Limit to Your Love” (click here to listen), off of his fairly new self-titled debut, is oh so soulful. He mixes emotional piano riffs with a three-dimensional electronic atmosphere that gives the song this sense of space that he fills with sadness, crooning, “There’s a limit to your love/ Like a waterfall in slow motion / Like a map with no ocean.” It’s heartbreaking. This is totes a red-wine drinking song. (I don’t actually know my wines, but let’s pretend I do because I have this chic image in my mind of listening to this song while toasting myself to lost loves – very Elizabeth Taylor with lots of eyeliner.)

Last song of the POP-Retro/Soul/Funk tier is Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” (click here to listen). Janelle is the kind of pop star I’ve always wanted to love. I love her look, I love her French sounding name, and I love that designers like Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld love her style and music, but I’ve never loved her songs until I heard and saw the video for “Cold War” off her critically acclaimed but mediocre (in my opinion) album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III). (It’s definitely a bold album and not what you’d expect in the age of Katy Perry, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I’ll take Katy. Thanks!) “Cold War” is spectacular. It’s pop. It’s soul. It’s funk. It’s dance, and it may make you cry (as Janelle does in the video) while she wails, “I’m trying to find my peace / I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me / And it hurts my heart / Lord have mercy, ain’t it plain to see / That this is a cold war / Do you know what you’re fighting for? / This is a cold war / You better know what you’re fighting for.” These lyrics speak to my experience as a gay man who is dorky, who is sometimes super shy and at other times obnoxiously loud. Anyone who has ever felt like a freak can relate to her words, which are at once so progressive yet sung in a way that’s so old school. She almost sounds like a singer from the Judy Garland era. (Gaga’s recently begun singing this way on her Born This Way album.)

There you have it! Your bottom of four tiers. Stay tuned for the second one.

Unapologetically,

Gregory


P.S. Click for Tiers 23, and 4

1 comment:

  1. Just checked out James Blake's cover of A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)... the guy's amazing. Love his accent, piano, and soul...

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