March 29, 2010

Mainstream pop’s been a rut for a minute now. While the underground makes-out with synthesizers and day-glo, the US pop landscape dutifully churns out adequate songs without having really changed the formula since the advent of autotune. In this day and age, Riri and Gaga’s personalities and endorsement deals are worth more than their music proper, so its unsurprising that their records feel like afterthoughts secondary to the arena tours, videos and assorted knickknacks. Same on the other side of the pond where guitar rock seems to have finally hit a wall and the choice is between faux-arty electro and stately sub-Winehouse soul.

Based on the official video above, Rox is planted firmly in the later camp. A sunny, mid-tempo radio tune that’s as pleasant as it is unspectacular, “My Baby Left Me” probably wouldn’t even merit a footnote around here in the Sharon Jones era if it weren’t for its outstanding remix. Overseen by art-grime producer Terror Danjah (a man who’s probably on the no-fly list twice), the new edit stuns specifically because it ISN’T grime. Or dubstep. Or even quite the future funk espoused by Joker, Gemmy and Guido (who incidentally, also blessed Rox).

No, this is POP pure and simple, but pop that’s absorbed the lessons of bass music and has thoroughly integrated them into its DNA. Grime’s wanton 8-bar aggression becomes a DDR sugar-rush, Dubstep’s tempo-switches and wobble pin the whole thing down and the neon-colored synthesizers are Crystal-Pepsi clear rather than hazy and nostalgic. Compositionally, the remix retains most of the original’s elements but renders them in neon-hyper-color, speeding up the tempo and vocal pitch to near-shrill levels without ever reducing Rox to the kind of faceless dance-diva that populates house music. The result is thrilling enough to blast past the revivalism and soulless electro-house currently dominating the charts to claim pop song of the year so far with nothing aimed at the mainstream even coming close to the immediacy and cultural currency on display here. Fuck nostalgia, this sounds like RIGHT NOW. If it were any sweeter, and more colorful I’d have to coin the term Starburst-Pop.

Rox – My Baby Left Me (Terror Danjah Remix)

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