Monday, May 9th, 2016

Elle King – America’s Sweetheart

Whistles and banjos, they haunt us…


Alfred Soto: What kind of country album gets co-produced by Jacknife Lee and Jeff Bhasker? One with no interest in purity, thank goodness. The clapping and synthesized percussion turn the joint into a hoedown at Ultra Music Festival — an explanation better in theory. “I’ve got a mouth to put you in your place,” Elle King drawls, sounding a bit like Alicia Bridges. 

Cassy Gress: There’s an astounding contrast here, between the tinkling stomping banjo behind “kick out the jams, kick out the soul, pour another glass of that rock and roll”, during which I was actually rolling my eyes and thinking “okay, so is this satire or not?” Suddenly BOOM, everything drops out for “what do you want from me? I’m not America’s sweetheart”, and her voice instantly changes from scratchy and nasal to wide open. Even on the second or third time, the effect isn’t lost; that banjo and kick drum are so redolent of “good ol’ boys” that it’s easy to get wrapped up in it even after you know what’s going on.

Jer Fairall: The rolling banjo confuses; is this a stab at country radio or an appeal to the Mumford bros? Does King, whose “Ex’s & Oh’s” played the Adele/Amy card as shamelessly as anyone has since that whole thing began, even know? Is she conscious of the resemblance between the final bars of her chorus and that of Concrete Blonde’s “Joey”? Whatever. This is as catchy and spirited as it is confusedly derivative, and any reference to “Joey,” whether intentional or (likely, since she was born in 1989) not, was gonna sell me a little bit.

Jonathan Bogart: My strongest reaction during the first listen was “pennywhistle? really?” I guess the banjos and the synthetic mouth harp should have conditioned me to expect anything, but lord.

Madeleine Lee: Maybe I’m just sensitive, or irritable from all that banjo picking in my ear, but torching a town for saying you’re too loud seems like not only a disproportionate reaction, but a poetically wrong one. Like, it should at least be a sonic boom or something. Then again, nothing creative happens with the “they say I’ve got no soul” line, so what do I want from this?

Brad Shoup: It’s got the momentum of a steam train: the sort of alt-folk clatter that would only get more hectic as verses accrete. But King cuts it all short for that wonder of a chorus, combining vocal disinhibition and arena-rock dynamics. You don’t come across that often — not this century, anyway. It’s a peculiar pop move, but still a pop move: the “love me anyway” part. 

Katherine St Asaph: In the discography of every rising pop star, there comes a time where she asks, of the audience more than any ostensible subject of the song: “what do you want from me?” In 2016, it’s possible for someone to answer that, earnestly, “chicken-fried Zedd,” or perhaps “the musical mind of someone who grew up with soft-rock stations that played Uncle Kracker.” Cool! Also, what?

Patrick St. Michel: Scientists working overtime to simplify the “Meghan Trainor” gene, I see.

Reader average: [6.4] (5 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Comments are closed.