Fergie, Q-Tip, and pop experiments gone awry | Bleader

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fergie, Q-Tip, and pop experiments gone awry

Posted By on 05.28.13 at 02:47 PM

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I haven't seen Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby yet, but from what I've read about it, it seems like a pretty fitting movie for our times: a meditation on the spiritual dangers of decadent living, filmed in lovingly extravagant 3-D and screened for an audience whose insatiable desire to live beyond its means has helped push the earth to the very brink of economic and ecological catastrophe. But I have heard the movie's soundtrack, and can more confidently assert that it pretty well reflects what's happening in pop music right now. It has global superstars (Beyonce, Jay-Z, Jack White) getting moody and sleekly dark. It has songs by hipster-beloved acts (the XX, Lana Del Rey, Sia) that have found mainstream pop tastes bending to fit them. It has Will.i.am and Gotye.

And in "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)," it has a pretty fantastic summation of pop's current guiding creative philosophy, which is "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks and then put a club beat behind it." It's an admirable way of working, and it can produce great results, like Kanye's recent excursions into basically making industrial music. But then sometimes you get Fergie and Q-Tip going in over a big-band jazz-influenced club beat by the guy who's responsible for LMFAO's biggest hits.

This week the song debuted on the Hot 100 at number 77, making it Q-Tip's third appearance on the chart as a solo artist, his seventh if you count his work with A Tribe Called Quest, and his first of the 21st century. And if he seems a little out of place amidst a roster of current chart-toppers and up-and-comers, his verse only underlines that. Amidst a maelstrom of acid house keyboards and wailing clarinet solos, Tip seems lost and confused, only able to deliver a partial verse that lyrically is on par with some of the less compelling YouTube videos I've seen from untalented rappers who speak English as a recently acquired second language.

Fergie, on the other hand, has spent years alongside Will.i.am, who works by slapping together terrible ideas and turning them up to maximum volume, so she seems right at home. The beat by Goonrock is gaudy and tacky and ill-conceived, and Fergie gives it the hammy performance it deserves, complete with singing in an old-timey "jazz" voice.

I'm a big, big fan of the fearless experimental urge that's crept into pop music in recent years. I think it's one of the main reasons why we're living in a golden age of pop that will eventually rival any other era in its history. Not every experiment works, and some of them can fill you with dread at the prospect of spending the entire summer hearing it pouring out of douchey bars, but if that's the price we have to pay I'll take it.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.

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