‘Body Music’: Less than the sum of its parts
By the time I was 14, I had discovered a world of music outside the endless homogenous stream of Top 40 radio singles. Within a year, I transformed into the indie elitist that I am today: “Katy Perry’s songs are all the same,” “Hip-hop has become lazy and too commercial,” “You’ve probably never heard of this band” and “What’s your favorite Radiohead album?” were some of my favorite phrases.
But BuzzFeed, YouTube and streaming music services like Spotify have a knack for fostering rediscovery and nostalgia. Some recent revelations of mine: “Umbrella” by Rihanna is one of the greatest pop songs of the past 15 years; Justin Timberlake’s “Justified” was my soundtrack for last semester; “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” had nothing on “Shake It Off” for my personal song of the summer; and T.I.’s “King Back” has recently become one of my favorite hip-hop songs.
The cycle of mainly listening to Top 40 during middle school, to denouncing the mainstream as a teenager, to a renewal and familiarity with pop in adulthood is a familiar pattern. Recently, though, a handful of artists have blurred the lines between conventional pop and obscurity. Dubbed “future-pop” by Pitchfork, these musicians have unleashed what the magazine dubs a combination of “poptimism and experimentalism to create confectionary, homespun electronic music.” By returning to their roots while clinging to the underlying basics of pop, these visionaries have crossed into genre-bending territory.
The newest member of this band of artists is AlunaGeorge, a duo consisting of producer George Reid and singer Aluna Francis. Their story probably sounds familiar by now: the two met on Myspace, when Reid got in touch with Francis’s old band My Toys Like Me to do a remix on their song “Sweetheart.” From Myspace, the duo started making songs on a MacBook in bedrooms and posted “You Know You Like It” on their YouTube channel. A minimalistic black and white but ultra-glossy production, this video succeeded in capturing the essence of the duo’s lead single and attracting the attention of millions of internet-goers. A year later, the duo released an EP, also named “You Know You Like It,” in June 2012.
Finally, after a slew of singles (“Your Drums, Your Love” and “Attracting Flies”), remixes (Florence the Machine’s “Spectrum”), and guest features (Rustie’s “After Light” and Disclosure’s “White Noise”), “Body Music,” the duo’s first studio album, has arrived. AlunaGeorge has effectively solidified its status in the emerging genre of “future-pop” with recent indie critical darlings Purity Ring (another producer/singer duo), Grimes, and CHVRCHES.
The press release for “Body Music” says AlunaGeorge is ready to make pop music “strange” again, citing Aaliyah’s “Try Again” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” as radical yet catchy songs from “visionary producers and charismatic singers.”
The problem, however, is that “Body Music” sounds almost too perfect: the duo consistently executes sleek pop songs, but when fashioned together in an album, the series of tunes comes across like a compilation album, a pattering of gimmicks by veteran pop artists seeking to reassert their relevance in the music industry while keeping fans satisfied with some new material.
While Grimes and Purity Ring have a brooding and sometimes satisfyingly haunting aspect to their music, sometimes dubbed “witch house,” Reid’s production is utterly sleek and fluid which blends well with George’s icy, baby-like voice. AlunaGeorge’s love for the Neptunes and Timbaland, producers behind the most recognizable music of the past 20 years, is apparent throughout the album.
But the best music is often the kind that doesn’t follow the rules – Kanye’s “Yeezus” has deep roots in 1990s industrial rock and 1980s Chicago acid-house, for example. It might be breaking any barriers, but with “Body Music,” AlunaGeorge still successfully creates a progressive yet sophisticated urban pop formula that is sure to keep future-pop a relevant genre for, well, the future.