Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Mpho – Box ‘N’ Locks

Artist uses debut single to hit out at people pigeonholing her, which seems a bit pre-emptive…


Dan MacRae: Mpho elects to ride an “Echo Beach” sample til the wheels fall off. Elapsed time for the wheels to fall off: around fifteen seconds or so.

Michaelangelo Matos: “Bet you never knew that I could do this too.” You want to tell her or should I?

Ian Mathers: If you’re the first artist given permission to sample the immortal “Echo Beach”, you oughta make good use of it, and Mpho has – both by revealing that the intro is actually the catchiest part of the song, and by marrying it to a strong anti-pigeonholing narrative. Of course, the worthiness of the subject matter wouldn’t mean much without a strong chorus, but what do you know, there’s one of those too.

Chuck Eddy: Her voice is very boring, she’s an office clerk. Though I get the idea the thinness has as much to do with production as with actual vocal chords. And there’s at least the germ of an compelling song here. The end product for some reason reminds me more of “Hippychick” than “Echo Beach.” Except Soho had more mojo.

Anthony Easton: I love her voice. I have no idea what is going on, but I love her voice (plus I suspect that she feels contempt for me, so extra points for that).

Iain Mew: A summery song that’s breezily at odds with its combative subject matter, with enough hooks of its own for the (well chosen) sample not to dominate. Does so much to make me want to love it, in other words, but with Mpho commanding front and centre it’s impossible not to then notice the words. Chiefly the fact that the whitest place she can think of to contrast Brixton to is Leeds, which is worth a two point deduction on its own.

Martin Skidmore: I liked her dad (South African Sipho Mabuse), but her vocals are unexciting (this a brattier pop-rock Lily Allen), the lyrics fatuous, and we are forced into the comparison with the immensely catchier original. Most could do better things with this terrific tune, surely.

Edward Okulicz: Oh, being categorised, so much worse than anything, don’t you know. “Echo Beach” seethed and yearned in its ennui; this is a mildly ticked-off tantrum over the top of it.

Alex Ostroff: 80s samples? Black-but-not-“Urban”? Ladies and Gents, meet the British Santigold. MPHO spends most of “Box N Locks” telling us that she’s Different and Creative instead of showing us why. For someone breaking locks outside the box, she seems ideologically of a piece with 2009’s school of pretentious in-pop-but-not-of-it girls (her debut album, heaven help us, is called Pop Art), but the sampled riff is undeniable and the song’s defensive, snarling posture is delightful. And if the video’s any indication, she pulls off “pop star” far better than Boots, Florence or La Roux could ever hope to.

Anthony Miccio: I can’t say “I’ll stick with Martha & The Muffins,” whose “Echo Beach” I never heard until I found out this samples it – the sax solo is wack and Martha’s vocal delivery is theatrically drab, if such a thing is possible. So I’m glad everyone from Pylon and For Against to The Organ have made sure I don’t have to put up with Mpho’s chirpy, Stefani-via-Santigold self-promotion for a great new wave flange hook either.

Additional Scores

Hillary Brown: [7]
Peter Parrish: [2]

5 Responses to “Mpho – Box ‘N’ Locks”

  1. You people are crazy! 5.17? Are you kidding? This song is incredible!

  2. I got so distracted by the song telling me how original it was, while sitting on a sample of a well-known new wave classic, that I forgot to notice how incredible it was.

  3. Oh come on, lyrics aside (which I admit…), this song has stylistically nothing to do with the song it samples. It’s got a totally different thing going on.

  4. No it doesn’t.

  5. She calls herself creative?

    Then why not come up with her own tune, instead of mashing up a classic like Echo Beach with pointless lyrics and a humdrum chorus.

    Sheesh – all this sampling is such drivel.
    All the teens jump up and down – wow what an amazing song ooooo I want that album amazing hoo ha.

    Yet they don’t realize that the song they are worshipping amounts to plagiarism, because their idol never had the creativity to think it up in the first place.