Friday, December 5th, 2014

GRL – Ugly Heart

But OK song.

Will Adams: Something about the GRL project seemed destined to fail. Maybe it was the group dynamic, which always felt a bit off: the way Lauren Bennett appeared aloof and over it in interviews, the competitive tension in their (usually not good) live performances, how obvious it was that Paula Van Oppen barely sang any of the lines. Maybe it was that their biggest claim to fame was an appearance on a throwaway Pitbull song. Maybe it was the looming specter of Robin Antin, the mastermind of three now-defunct girl groups. The music, too, is strange; excepting “Show Me What You Got,” one of the year’s best pop songs, their Dr. Luke-helmed pop is a hodgepodge of inoffensive ingredients meant to inspire (example title: “Girls Are Always Right”), perhaps a response to those who thought that the Pussycat Dolls’ brand of female empowerment was too “sexy.” Which leads to “Ugly Heart,” an otherwise passable ukelele-stomp kiss-off that, again, just sounds off: the melody hovers, the key sits too low in almost everyone’s range (only Natasha Slayton sounds fine), and awkward pauses abound (“does it stop your heart… TO KNOW“). I could deal with this single that could do nothing else but flop; I had more trouble with the truly sad suicide of Simone Battle. My impulse was to lament the fate of GRL; the correct response would have been to avoid lumping a serious tragedy into the narrative of a girl group. All of a sudden, those abnormalities feel inconsequential. But what do you do? GRL are continuing on as a quartet, with an upcoming song dedicated to Battle. It is hard to say what the right path is, but for a moment I want to ignore the industry bullshit and remember that we’re all just human.

David Moore: “Dr. Luke’s girl group,” however accurate, is a designation that has taken on ominous undertones, to say the least, since the Kesha lawsuit. I have no less of an impulse to tank this one for ideological reasons than I do for the work any other sexual predator who happens to eventually come to my attention, usually owing far more to the luck of cumulative advantage than I’d care to admit. So it’s a bit of a relief that this unholy mash-up of Mumford and Sons and “Stupid Girls” sucks all on its own, allowing me the easy way out (this time).

Thomas Inskeep: So they were supposed to be Pitbull’s Mary Jane Girls? Of course, this frankenstein of a single is built around strumminess of the Avicii “Wake Me Up” variety, with mediocre vocals and not a whole helluva lot of elszzzzzzz. And it makes me long for the artistry of the Pussycat Dolls.

David Sheffieck: Great vocal interplay throughout, sadly dampened by an increasingly-overbearing production. Still: the attitude and chops of the group are on full display here, and they’re enough to make this the first GRL song worth a second listen.

Alfred Soto: In which Dr. Luke borrows acoustic guitar from Avicii and marries it to a four-on-the-floor stomp. It works, kind of, thanks to the group’s gymnastics. “I wonder does it blow your mind,” the hook goes, and while it doesn’t the sarcasm is felt.

Katherine St Asaph: So you’ve rewritten “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” That… don’t impress me much. Especially when the rewrite attempts to infuse radio pop with Mumfordstomp.

Edward Okulicz: “Ugly Heart” taps into the belief that knowing you’re beautiful can in fact be what makes you not beautiful, but to what end? I can’t find a use for this song as a kiss off, I can’t gain any schadenfreude from its bitterness, drown myself in its beat, swoon at its melody or get dizzy at its vocals. Nothing about this makes me angry at the boy who was a jerk or feel good about the girl(s) who gave him his marching orders.

Scott Mildenhall: The most captivating thing about “Ugly Heart” is the melancholy in its triumph. The chorus is a tubthumping, emancipatory parade that ramps up by the end to an impossible shower of confetti, yet throughout there’s an inseparable tinge of disappointment. Each “such a pity” is intended as insult, needling, a pity for him and not GRL, but it could belie honesty. Ultimately, this is not a desirable situation to be in, however satisfying in its moment. Whether he was always going to be a pillock or not, it is a pity that any of it happened. The song is a vigorous exit, refusing to waste any more time.

Brad Shoup: Nothing in this folky stomper zings quite like the sickly synth, which razzed and rues at the same time. No one’s willing to commiserate with it.

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