Raise your hand if you miss the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I know I do. I might be alone among purists, but I thought that Mosquito was their best record. Not everybody wants to hear their favorite punk rock band progress to recording with a gospel choir, but I live for that kind of fearless growth. I love a bold experiment even when it doesn’t succeed, and this one succeeded very much. I also think that you can’t underestimate the power of a well-placed gospel choir, and this is one of the best uses of one I’ve ever heard. I mean, it’s both totally apropos and kind of ironic. That’s musical growth, great production, total fearlessness, what have you.
Remember when an outsider from nowhere made a song mocking music video cliches into a chartbuster anthem of millennial angst? That was Ella Yelich-O’Connor, age 17, of Aukland NZ aka Lorde. Lorde is a real, grown-up pop star now, a major player in the music industry, a professional with a promising career ahead. She’s an insider now. Nothing she does from here on out can compare to how cool and fresh and unexpected her first big hit was. We’ll be talking about this song as a cultural flashpoint when we look back on the decade.
The first time I heard this song was in concert and I was both thunderstruck and confused. Where was this song from and how had I missed it? I thought I knew every Blondie album through and through. I though it sounded like it might be from the Rapture era. It turned out, of course, that I couldn’t place the album because it didn’t exist yet. It’s quite the honor, at this late date in history, to hear a new Blondie single directly from up on the stage. The point made being that Blondie still has a direct pipeline to the creative spirit that gave them their most euphoric hits. This certainly could have been right at home on one of their 80’s albums, when Blondie was a hit-making machine.
If Lorde is still playing music when she’s actually old enough to worry about ‘getting old’ the songs that made her famous will have an entirely different context. The petty concerns and posturing of youth, which the music industry is almost entirely built around, are notoriously difficult to outgrow, even for artists who were at least technically adults when they established themselves. Lorde came to fame as a teenage prodigy; outgrowing the material that made her famous will be a particularly hard challenge. Lorde is 21 now and just released her second full-length album. As a legal adult writing about breakups and life in the spotlight, she’s going to be sorely tested to keep her voice as fresh and original as it was when she was a precocious adolescent writing about getting on her first plane. How she makes her way remains to be seen, but she is gifted beyond her years and the ball is hers to drop. If she never matches the angst and innocence of her first set of songs, she’ll surely do something equally interesting.
This is my second favorite Savoir Adore song. Dreamers is obviously the best Savoir Adore song, but this deserved to have been almost as popular. It sounds like the 80’s, which I’m a sucker for, as you well know. This would be great for the soundtrack of some ridiculously peppy TV show. Heck, it would be great in a commercial. Since those two things are the new modern measures of success in the pop world, and also the main avenue for artists to earn a living nowadays. But both of those things have probably already happened. I wouldn’t know.
This is a song for speeding through the Texas prairie at 100 miles per hour in a black muscle car, in the dark of night. The shrubbery whips past and there isn’t a single light to be seen on any horizon. The rhythm is propulsive but you feel a sense of stillness. You’re suspended in space and time. Time may be a flat circle, but Texas is a globe you can circumnavigate indefinitely. Your dog is snoozing in your lap and you’re in love with the drive, though only as much as the money he spends on you. At four minutes and 50 seconds in, David Bowie enters to remind you, for the nth time, that there is no resurrector. It’s September 9, 2013 the world premier of Arcade Fire’s soon-to-be hit single, brought to you by Sirius XM satellite radio. It’s one of the most unforgettable moments of synthesis between music and sensory experience, completely undrugged, for once, a memory to take to your deathbed. The rest of the album is pretty good, too. End of story.
The pop scene moves at blazing speeds nowadays, what with the instant gratification culture of the internet, the social media news cycle, etc. So timespans of only a few years begin to feel like decades stretching forwards and back toward infinity. 2013 feels like a life cycle ago, but it was practically yesterday. Time is a flat pancake, is it not? I discovered a lot of new things in 2013, because that was the year I listened to the radio a lot. So when you discovered the same things two years later, I can confidently say that I’ve known about those things for ages, just ages and ages, like eons of geological time. Ahem.. I was listening to Chvrches before they became well known. Four years ago. Do you know how many fruit flies have lived and died in that timespan?