Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Liz – All Them Boys

Liz, on naming: “A lot of times people will have a name.”


Katherine St Asaph: Liz is LA-adjacent and blonde enough to have been in the industry since age 13 making actual teenpop, none of which emerged. (I kind of want it to.) Now she makes teenpop simulacra — not Melissa Lefton-style parodies, but the kind that’s serious like Coke campaigns are serious, designed and micromanaged to come off simultaneously as trendy-alternative enough for tastemakers (now spare a blog post for Sophia Black) and mainstream-faithful enough to massage millennials’ memories of pop-R&B crossover, rebranded by Liz and label (Jeffree’s, of Diplo’s Mad Decent) as “Y2K R&B pop.” More so than usual, you can tell how everything, concept down to production twitches and fashion accessories, was “curated,” i.e. chosen specifically to play on nostalgia. Her last EP is called Just Like You! She wears weird camouflage shit, just like you did! She’s got an anachronistic and sometimes really anachronistic techy aesthetic, just like you… did? (This is what Google actually looked like in 2000. As for, if it were truly Y2K it wouldn’t load so slow.) She wears FUBU, just like… see, the thing with Liz, and often with Mad Decent in general, is that to like her you’ve got to ignore a lot of appropriation. (First thing to ignore is her press bio, where you learn that someone wrote the phrase “tasteful post-ratchet lollipop sounds,” that the producers were writing intentional kitsch, and that the flack couldn’t even finish the thing. I take it back, Lena Fayre’s publicist; this = worst. Second thing to ignore is that her label did “Harlem Shake,” which is not the Harlem Shake. You may notice a lack of ignoring here.) So much branding work! And all for what amounts to a Craig David song with a dick joke (and house piano and “Vogue” drums and Xtina melodies — this is historically playful, not historically faithful.) Forget post-Y2K, call this post-Facebook: easy to Like, difficult to like.

Patrick St. Michel: “While channeling the guilty pleasure of throwback Brandy, Mariah and Destiny’s Child…” is a terrible way to start any conversation, let alone an official artist description. Still, let’s give Liz the benefit of the doubt on “All Them Boys,” because this is trend-biting at its hoppiest: R&B meets Disclosure’s UK garage revival buffered out with a late-track Jersey Club taste (those bed squeaks). It sounds bouncy enough, but the fixation on so many different styles leads to none being fleshed out.

Iain Mew: I enjoy that amid all the different dance music styles “All Them Boys” draws upon, its UK garage elements include its own sproingy version of “Craig David all over your *boink*”. That’s the most memorable thing about it.

Crystal Leww: The only thing that isn’t delightful is the creaky bedspring beat that appears in the bridge, but we can always blame Wale for that.

Brad Shoup: Finally, a bedspring sound I like! It’s the syncopation, the speed. This feels like the photonegative of a banger, like one of those skippy mid-’90s Janet Jackson video hits.

Scott Mildenhall: Such floaty vocals feel incongruous in this setting. Shouldn’t it have a man shouting something like “1990s! Time for the guru,” or a woman bellowing something like “we’re having meatballs”? It’s like a blogbusting collaboration from a universe alternate to this one of Rodgers and Smith; between Black Box, Disclosure Tribute Players and Ariana Grande.

Alfred Soto: Recent tracks by Akdong Musician and Elliphant have played with genre with the quiet surprises expected of unassuming virtuosos. This is merely generic.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The cover to Liz’s Just Like You EP shows the singer standing in front of a Google image search with aliens, unicorns, roses — all the familiar ephemera of the glitchy and oceanic-obsessed cutesiness of Internet weirdness. “All Them Boys” is an assemblage of ’90s girl group R&B, Twice As Nice two-step compilation mixes, Disneyfied wide-eyed teen love and ex-Disney awkward teenromp raunch. It’s catchy enough, if serviceable, but tiring in how much it wants to feel like a Tumblr wall come to life, stitching together zany net-signifiers into three minutes of batted eyelids and flexing Twitter followers. It’s an emoji wall acting as a song, and I’m ready to run into the ocean to get the hell away from this cutesy cool-chasing technological influx.

Megan Harrington: A Liz song is always an exchange where a friend tells you they like an embarrassing piece of pop culture (My Little Pony, Dungeons and Dragons, Pizza Hut) and you laugh at them like they’re joking. Then they insist they’re serious and you quietly agree that you like it too. You still feel embarrassed by your perceived shitty taste, plus you feel guilty for foisting that shame on your friend. Liz is just making ’90s throwback R&B and dancing awkwardly in her music videos. It’s nothing to stress over. 

Reader average: [6.57] (7 votes)

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5 Responses to “Liz – All Them Boys”

  1. I adore the EP for how it embraces the not-so-innocent melancholy of the period, more than any of its signifiers – but I’m curious what you’d make of her 2013 single “Hush”? For me at least, it bulldozes the same bubblegum pleasure receptors in my brain as Ariana:

  2. Until today I had never heard a LIZ song. I figured I needed the caps there because everything with her name on it is like that. Presumably “Liz” is someone different to LIZ. Anyway, I just listened to “Hush” so now I have heard two. I listened to them both thrice and I can’t remember a verse, chorus, hook, anything. Is that a reflection on me or the songs? Either way for me they don’t pass the old grey whistle test. I don’t find myself disliking LIZ, but I really don’t like her either. Katherine mentioned ignoring things and I don’t think I can do it. I’m more caught up in trying to rewrite her bio than thinking about finding more LIZ tunes. The phrase “guilty pleasure” seems to come up a lot when LIZ is being discussed. Whether or not Brandy, Mariah, and Destiny’s Child are, in fact, guilty pleasures is another discussion, but I would say the “channeling of guilty pleasure” hasn’t been successful. Guilty? No, or at least not in my case. Pleasure? No; I don’t feel a thing really. “Ageless pop gold”? Pop, yes, but ageless and gold, nope.

  3. I think this is the weakest song of the EP, and I’d still put this at a [7]. “Turn Around” is especially amazing.

  4. they don’t pass the old grey whistle test

    oh my god i just got that phrase i am in my thirties

  5. Like a true millennial LIZ stan, I had to google it