Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Silk City ft. Dua Lipa – Electricity

Looking forward to future single “Magnetism”…


Thomas Inskeep: Diplo keeps on keeping on, but as long as Silk City is part of his continued output, he can do whatever he damn well wants. This collaboration with Mark Ronson is devoted to straight-up classic house music, and there’s precious little music I love more than classic piano house. Combine that with the big-lunged, assured, made-for-dance-music vocals of Dua Lipa, and you really can’t miss. This doesn’t. In fact, by virtue of the fact that I prefer her vocal to Merriweather’s on “Better,” it gets a score one point higher. Which makes sense, because this is a perfect four-on-the-floor stormer.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Diplo & Mark Ronson do their jobs adeptly — they’ve been working since around when house music (and not just skilled pastiches of it) was last actually popular, and so slipping into the ’90s aesthetic of “Electricity” is natural for them. But over their pulsating, piano-driven beat, one of those dancefloor concoctions that sounds like how dancing feels, Dua Lipa outshines them. While “One Kiss” showed that ’90s nostalgia-dance beats were a natural fit for her restrained, throaty vocal style, that Calvin Harris track seemed more concerned with showing off his array of producer’s tricks, chopping her up into unrecognizable pieces as the song went on. Here, though, Silk City’s production has the good sense to let Dua run rampant over the entire track. There’s barely a second of “Electricity” without her voice, which has a subtlety and emotional range beyond those of most of her peers in the new pop wave. That overexposure works dividends both obvious and sublime — a line and melody like, “And even if I could I wouldn’t turn on you,” is a gimme, but the way she draws emotion out of a tongue-twister like, “If you only saw a friend in me I’d be bittersweet,” letting the middle of “bittersweet” go all breathy before drawing it down to finish “-sweet” is something rarer. Top it off with an excellent bridge/outro, which cools the energy of the track down and turns it spacey, and “Electricity” sets a high bar for the careers of all involved, whether long or short.

Micha Cavaseno: Mathematically, one would think that the combo of Ronson & Diplo would outweigh and sufficiently overwhelm the brilliance of Dua Lipa’s previous garage house classic “One Kiss.” However, between the attempts at the garage pitch-shift turning into murky goop, Lipa’s limited range getting pressed against her boundaries unflatteringly (especially with that weak sounding Vandross bite on the chorus) and that clichéd ’60s soul outro distracting from the retroactivity they’re already coming up short on, you can see that this record is a failure with relative ease. Still, given how brilliant the former attempt by Dua Lipa to do house went, one hopes she doesn’t lose sight of what actually worked.

Katherine St Asaph: The insistence that Dua Lipa has an on-record personality is the biggest gap between me and the next generation.

Alfred Soto: My out students rave about Dua Lipa; I saw a blankness. But house music demands blankness; it should sound like any person unafraid of loudness and boldness stepping in front of a mike while a piano pounds Latin-indebted melodies and the beats go bump bump. Turns out Dua Lipa and Silk City can do beguiling blankness, especially when Dua drops a couple notes.

Juan F. Carruyo: I’ve failed to catch the Dua Lipa bug as I can’t see what distinguishes her from Selena Gomez or whichever is the hottest pop star at the moment. She seems to get by on her charisma — which is plentiful — and crucially; the material provided at hand. She could be a great disco diva should she desire, but this sounds like every other song I’ve heard from her.

Will Adams: Dua Lipa’s sudden turn as a house vocalist seems strange not because it’s so obviously calculated as a cog in her trajectory, but because her voice is… not a good fit for it. “Electricity” is standard piano-chug house, but the note you expect to be belted in the chorus — “I want to let to know” — is a G4. It’s as if the song was intended for someone else but transposed a fifth down once assigned to Dua Lipa. Suddenly, the lack of feeling I got from “One Kiss” starts to make sense.

David Lee: Boilerplate pump-up ’90s piano house is never not enjoyable. But, man, imagine if Jennifer Hudson was the vocalist! Instead, Dua Lipa makes me that much more aware of the chorus’s limpid release, a slow ooze of good vibes when I’m craving a thunderclap of joy.

Nortey Dowuona: Plunging synths drop down as Dua Lipa smoothly slides past as bass thwacks rise, then dip out as whistling synth strings clip on then fly alongside like streamers as the drums bounce in and carry Dua and the beat away with them, before stopping to pick up Chinese food, milkshakes and some actual party streamers then take off into the stratosphere, leaving behind slithering guitar and teardrop drums to pick up the slack.

Stephen Eisermann: House music is best when accompanied by a big voice, and on “Electricity” Dua provides all the fire the song needs. Sure, it’s pretty standard house music, but Dua uses the song as just another example of her artistry and proof that she deserves the worldwide fame she has recently garnered.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Electricity” finds Diplo and Mark Ronson utilizing a tried-and-true template that opens up a space for Dua Lipa to take the absolute center stage. Her voice has never sounded more full, more potent, more crucial to a song’s success. That last bit is so undeniably true that the lack of new lines and unprocessed vocals in the chorus only has me begging for more. “One Kiss” established the necessity for Dua Lipa to continue down the dance music route; “Electricity” finds her finally coming into her own.

Crystal Leww: Diplo gave an interview to the Dance Chart radio show on Beats 1 about the intent and influence of the Silk City project that spans everything from Nightcrawlers to French Touch to Cajmere to Eric Prydz to Chicago house. I have such disdain for Diplo’s continued culture vulture approach to making music, especially borrowing sounds and influence from Black people. “Electricity” was written by Beyoncé songwriter Diana Gordon (a Black woman) but ultimately given to Dua Lipa (a white woman) to sing. Diplo says that he was looking for a big voice. And maybe Gordon didn’t want the vocal duties on this song, but it’s hard to listen to “Electricity” and not think about tracing a straight line from CeCe Peniston and Crystal Waters who never got their due 25 years ago to every single anonymous Black woman (Yolanda Quartey, Kelli-Leigh) who has contributed to the careers of the persistent stars of EDM this decade. 

William John: It’s fitting that “Electricity” arrived not long after a change in the seasons; it bursts with new promises and earnestness, dispositions that dominate at those points in the year where the weather is changing and the surroundings seem to take on a different colour. Dua Lipa, who in little over twelve months has transitioned from record label hostage to bona fide superstar, has been criticised for her inelastic and aloof performing style, but here emphatically rebuts such judgments with a vocal contribution that’s equally warm, zealous and rousing. Pair that with ascendant house piano chords and belief in love without a perpetuity period is suddenly an energising possibility.

Reader average: [6.14] (7 votes)

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9 Responses to “Silk City ft. Dua Lipa – Electricity”

  1. 1) love the subhead here 2) @jacob: what era of house music are you thinking of here as the last 3) agreed completely with both katherine and david and pretty astounded that we seem to be in the minority here!

  2. @crystal: this is super out of my area of expertise but i was under the impression that (at least in the US) house was popular throughout the 90s but died off as a prominent genee in the 2000s before being revieved in a distinct derivative new form in the later 2000s? but all that could be entirely wrong and i’d love to learn if i am (regardless i hold firm to my opinion that this bangs)

  3. re Crystal’s blurb: if we’d been having the same conversations about “whiteness” and privilege in 1994-95 that we are now, the conversation with regard specifically to Dua Lipa’s parents would have been pretty fascinating — at the time (IIRC), Rwanda regrettably excepted, there weren’t quite the migration outflows from African and Middle Eastern countries that would develop post-invasion of Iraq (and Zimbabwe gradually becoming less stable, and Congo’s instability becoming more obvious, and South Africa’s promise fading); there was increasing Latino in-migration to the US but that doesn’t really become a topic of focus until Prop. 187 in California and later elsewhere. Which is to say that conversations about migration itself were less racialized — but I don’t know what that meant for the treatment of Balkan War refugees in the UK in the mid-1990s. But at some point Dua Lipa gets moved from the category of “daughter of refugees from a wartorn region known for atrocities against civilians” to the category of “white girl with privileges over her black counterparts”. And my question is, when, and how? (Not saying specifically why you, Crystal, describe Dua Lipa as “a white woman” with no other outstanding qualities; I can’t cite sources but you’re not the first or only person I’ve read to code her as such.) Is it just a matter of skin tone and familiar facial features? Was her family wealthier or more connected than is typical for a refugees-from-wartorn-country scenario? Is it a matter of personality, where she’s agreeable (and apolitical) enough to get features that maybe M.I.A. wouldn’t? Is it that there’s not really (AFAIK) a pan-Balkan-diaspora identity that encourages post-Balkan War refugees to talk about each other as a group, and so since she doesn’t put that aspect of herself forward, it doesn’t get recognized by those who didn’t read Slavenka Draculic (sic)?

    It’s not so much that I’m pushing back against the “Dua Lipa is a personality-free, unfairly privileged white woman” assertion as trying to figure out (a) does it matter, in the unfairly-privileged-white-woman sorting, that Dua Lipa was born to refugees and still identifies strongly with Kosovo, (b) if not why not, (c) what this implies for the current kids of refugees from the likes of Syria and Congo, (d) whether just looking white/European enough trumps everything, (e) whether I’m being an idiot and this has more to do with networking at British theater schools than anything else.

  4. I’m purely talking about vocals here. I wish I could hear otherwise — I remember basically every critic said this about Rihanna in the mid-2000s, which baffled me then — but I don’t.

  5. @Katherine: apologies for having read too much into your sentence! But having listened to the song now I hear what you mean about lack of personality.

  6. I think that’s a fair criticism, Jessica, and yes, I probably could have been much more precise with my language. However, as always, I think it’s all about context. While commendable that Dua Lipa identifies strongly with Kosovo, I don’t think that means she doesn’t benefit from the broader context around her that allows her to benefit from, at the very least, not being black. There’s no one that takes a look at Diana Gordon and mistakes her for anything other than a Black woman, but Dua Lipa does exist at the margins and ‘gets away’ with being marketable *in the eyes of everyone else*.

  7. @Crystal: I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing — just focusing on two different things: your focus is on what this all means for Diana Gordon (and Kelli Leigh, and so on) and mine is on whatever process it was that allows Dua Lipa to both have her Pristina pride and yet not have it be a factor. (To put it another way: if Dua Lipa’s parents had escaped Rwanda instead of the Balkans, it would come up in every. single. profile. of her, no matter how short.) The question is, is the process generalizable? Meaning, can we ever get to a point where a female singer can be proudly Black and yet “white,” in the sense of marketable, by-default inoffensive? And if we can, what is that process? Is it simply a matter of greater exposure to POC faces? Is it about networking? Is it to some degree a business issue, where we have to tackle conservative views in marketing (and thus Black Panther‘s box-office take really does matter)?

    The pessimist in me thinks it may all be a matter of racism / shadism / colorism / lookism and therefore insurmountable; i.e. no matter what Diana Gordon does, she can’t look like Dua Lipa, and therefore she’ll never achieve “marketability”. But I’m ignorant (and also for the record am in no position to criticize anyone for imprecise language) and my pessimism is underinformed as to Dua Lipa herself: it may be that she works, or has worked, connections in a way that isn’t typical (hence my question about British theatre schools). The more instructive comparison may not be between Dua Lipa and Diana Gordon but Dua Lipa and a 23-year-old white British singer no one’s heard of.

    (Feel like I should add: our review of Diana Gordon’s “Woman” and her YouTube channel; also, one of her previous songs under the name Wynter Gordon.)

  8. I don’t know the full answer to this problem, but I do know that at the very least, guys like Diplo and Mark Ronson could feature Black women as the vocalist when they make music that clearly derives from Black culture. And guys like Duke Dumont should *absolutely* provide a featuring credit for their Black female vocalists.

  9. hella late on this but i wanted to echo crystal’s earlier comment. i think this might have been one of my most anticipated songs this summer based on the strength of ‘only can get better’ and i’m starting to think now that ‘one kiss’ was luck because this…just…doesn’t…bang.