Bringing it Back: Chromeo Delivers New Cool in “White Women”

Brian Josephs thought Summer Jam and SummerSlam were interchangeable in ’01. At first glace, Chromeo didn’t strike me as the type of group that I’d like and the kind few would take serious —...
By    June 3, 2014


Brian Josephs thought Summer Jam and SummerSlam were interchangeable in ’01.

At first glace, Chromeo didn’t strike me as the type of group that I’d like and the kind few would take serious — the ones you like only in an ironic sense. Sarcastic everyman lyrics sung in near-falsetto are part of the duo’s style, the keyboardist (Patrick Gemayel, a.k.a. P-Thugg) looks like a recurring caricature off a sketch show, and there’s that ‘80s aesthetic. And why listen to decent ‘80s revivalism when you can listen to a project from the ‘80s? White Women doesn’t even borrow from the higher echelon of the era’s music, and instead sounds more Hall & Oates and Rockwell (a.k.a. the guy who many teens said, “Oh shit! That is him,” when using Wikipedia to discover Michael Jackson was actually on the hook of that one song).

Yet, White Women succeeds off the same traits that should be a demerit. It is unapologetic with its sugary synths and pop-leaning lyrics, but the project is purposeful in doing so. There are a few misfires — specifically the weak country waltz of “Hard to Say No” and the haphazardly constructed bliss of “Frequent Flyer” — but the majority that does work has a tangible element to it. Chromeo never falls into over-romanticizing its throwback element without losing its sense of newness; White Women remembers that making your feet move is imperative.

Chromeo accomplishes this by just coming off as invested. It’s the type of charm a comedian or actor gives off when they fully commit to a performance, even if the sketch may have already been a bust. Chromeo isn’t just committed; they’re really feeling it. “Sexy Socialite” follows a pretty basic concept outlined by the title, complete with a cheesy mid-song verse by the sexy socialite herself. It all sounds too much of a novelty to work, but it manages to be a hit with its airtight musicianship — that rollicking bassline and starry synth hook — and the charisma of David Macklovitch’s (Dave 1) singing.

When they’re not trying to (and succeeding at) make corny ideas work, you get glitzy, amiable synth-pop like opener “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).” On “Lost on the Way Home,” Solange’s coos and the warm synths are the sounds of a couple two-steppin’ across an empty Coney Island in the middle of July. Then there’s the frenzied album-closing “Fall Back 2U,” which combines smooth seventh chords, elastic keys, staccato violins, and soaring vocoder croons for an epic goodbye, but not without low-key asking you to comeback. That’s an easily compliable request since White Women works as a welcomed invitation rather than an insistent affirmation of its throwback inspirations.

These thoughts come after a week when the schism between this idolized view of traditionalist music (specifically New York rap, thanks to Troy Ave’s comments) and those fully accepting of its shifting ethos without that fear of losing its core, “real” values made itself apparent again. The problem I run into with the former — and I’m sure a lot of folks do to — is the idea of risking originality and potentially distorting your worldview just for a replica.

Macklovitch explained such trappings don’t mold its style in a recent interview: “We felt like our anti-heroic schmucky take on the love song could actually stand for something.” It’s the type of perspective that takes precedence throughout White Women, whether the duo is sulking over some dude possibly fucking the girl he wants (he even bought her a jacket!) on “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” or mourning the fall of monogamy on “Old 45’s.” White Women isn’t perfect, but it defines itself rather than letting its influences do so.

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