Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Sofi Tukker ft. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno – Best Friend

aka Three Acts Who’ll Shit, I Know, To See Their Name Get Billed Below…


Crystal Leww: A cut-and-paste song made by a lot of people contributing vocals, “Best Friend” is inoffensive — seemingly made to be used in an Apple commercial, as I’m sure it’s mostly known for — and fine, maybe kicking off a dance floor but definitely not used when the crowd is in full swing.

Katie Gill: Yet another entry in the category of “songs that are designed to score commercials with choruses tailor-made to get stuck in your head” Even if that “do you wanna meet me at the bar? YAH.” part seems designed perfectly to get on my last nerve, the horns are fun, the lyrics are blandly inoffensive, and the song is memorable enough that it can be used to score trailers once Apple finds a new song to sell you an iPhone.

Hannah Jocelyn: I keep hearing the phrase “Spotify-core” tossed around to describe tropical-tinged percussion-heavy synch-ready pop, but it feels like a forced term. SoundCloud has a -core, but SoundCloud is a distribution platform. Spotify is a streaming service. With that in mind, this might be the strawsong people will point to when they want to prove Spotify-core exists, though it came to prominence due to Spotify’s main rival in music streaming. “Best Friend” is not quite a monstrosity like “HandClap” (baring the bizarre Pokemon line), though the heavily processed reverb is grating and the “do you want to meet me” section is not even catchy enough to spawn any memes.

Micha Cavaseno: Look. I not only survived, I even appreciated the era when people insisted that SpankRock made music that was closer to the spirit of hip-hop or whatever than what was on the radio. Dance music and rap is not inherently a bad combo — it’s been proven time and time again. But I’ve been subjected to the most inane nursery rhyme raps over a lazy house beat, which sound more like a Fitz & The Tantrums record than anything that should make you want to get down, and been told this is a gesture of friendship? With friends like that….

Katherine St Asaph: The stupidest music controversy in recent memory is that over “fake artists,” also known as the new scare term for production music. There is endless hand-waving freakoutery about how playlists are being hijacked by artists who “don’t exist,” but until AI progresses past Microsoft Songsmith, there are real, existent humans composing these songs for hire, presumably very confused at all the thinkpieces doubting their existence. (“We don’t expect any of you to get in touch, of course. Because you’re fake. Lifeless. Non-existent,” said the initial report. More like under an NDA, as most such commissions are. Hey, this argument isn’t completely horrifying when you test it against other common NDAs!) Lots of things are elided here: the fact that the supposed “fake artists” are generally independent musicians under shitty contracts with limited creative freedom, i.e. the very people we’re supposedly concerned about, just not as hip; or that just as many precious playlists spots go to “real” artists” who increasingly resemble “fakes.” Vaudeville aside, there is no actual “Sofi Tukker,” just like there’s no actual Marian Hill or Kate Boy. (There is producer Tucker, indistinguishable from a Chainsmoker, and singer-songwriter Sophie, who used to make “bossa nova-inspired music” that is probably better than Tucker thought.) There are a lot of these duos, subsuming their messy, unmarketable musical history between a made-up, singer-songwriterly, usually female name, with no past that isn’t sufficiently instantly successful, or that isn’t branded — Sofi’s big corporate benefactor is Apple. None of these mean the music’s bad. “We’ve got our own language we cannot describe” is a little rich for a song designed to be instantly likeable by as many people at possible, but there’s an appealing jazziness to the verses that suggests Sophie got some of her original ideas past her co-bro; the whole “we’re just friends contributing verses for our friends out of organic friendship!” marketing of this is dubious, but Nervo deserve more press than they get, and Alisa Ueno could deservedly break out off this. The other reason this controversy is so exhausting is that “fake” music, once out in the world, generates real reactions. If they inspire YouTube piano covers, or home videos, or artsy fanvids, are they really fake anymore? And similarly, if someone makes a new best friend to the genial honking and “yah”s here, it’s done its job, more enjoyably than some.

Alfred Soto: The recent acclaimed crime drama Good Time shows a New York City that is interchangeable with an Eastern European or Asian counterpart. I imagine this multi-ethnic creation playing during one of its impeccable suspense sequences. 

Julian Axelrod: This has so many charming elements, from the spare hook to the pitched down pre-chorus-as-hangout-texts to the prioritization of comfort and longevity in a friendship. But the song’s structure is so baffling it undermines its own concept. It’s an ode to Sofi Tukker’s friendship — but it also features two other duos? So it’s a song about partnerships — but here’s a verse from solo artist Alisa Ueno? Then I guess it’s about non-romantic love — but Ueno says “I might have first love with a great passion”? And “I’m so addictive like some Pokemon”?!?! For a song about best friends, it doesn’t sound like any of these people have been in the same room.

Alex Ostroff: If nothing else, “Best Friend” proves exactly how impressive the Girls Aloud / Xenomania approach to pop songwriting was. The track is crammed full of bits and pieces that you could conceivably construct songs around. Unfortunately, stitched together, they form a Frankenstein’s monster with too many left feet and no heart.

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4 Responses to “Sofi Tukker ft. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno – Best Friend”

  1. sophie’s original ideas are very much still here: the song is built on a samba beat!! their whole thing is fusing her taste for brazilian music with his bro edm. here it’s not great, but i like drinkee, probably because they get their portuguese lyrics from poets and then they don’t sound so clunky

  2. good to know! makes me feel better about my score.

    (left out of the blurb because it was already way too tangential but it’s a hole in my argument: I know that some of this is undoubtedly astroturfed, or will soon be astroturfed (there’s a comment on one of the “fake artist” YouTubes about a past love that seemed a little canned to me; also, it’s so weird how an earnest comment about a past love registers as “canned”). And then there’s the really weird shit, like in the whole Lucia Cole thing where they stole someone’s Jessica Simpson vocal cover and reposted it as a Lucia Cole vocal cover with like 100 views. But not all of it is — when your “fake” artist is being heard by millions of real people, it’s kind of hard to argue that not a single one of them was moved to any kind of creative response.

    (Again, all this is super-tangential. But if anyone’s in Seattle this April, this kind of thing is exactly what my Pop Conference talk is about.)

  3. Your blurb was great and made me rethink; I wish I could be in Seattle!

    A different minor note on marketing – this the third song in a few months that I’d previously encountered via a FIFA soundtrack, and has some similarities in its eclecticism with the previous one (Superorganism)

  4. Having heard their debut album (which is quite good), it’s only now striking me that Sofi Tukker have a similar image and vibe of early 00s euro dance duos who built off the female vocalist/male producer dynamic Katherine brought up: something like DJ Encore/Engelina or even Toy Box what with the goofy male vocals that pop up (see “Fuck They” or “Batshit”). Guess it’s not surprising they’re with Ultra Music, then.

    That said, Sophie’s Brazilian influences are way more prominent on the album, such that “Best Friend” is probably the weakest song.

    Also “Energia” is a total bop.