Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Unperfect – Gots to Give the Girl

Presumably they’ll have a webpage at some point that isn’t that of this Italian band


Katherine St Asaph: Unperfect is a new Xenomania girl group, or as the Fader puts it, “the British pop equivalent of a new royal baby.” At least it would have been in 2009. What 2019 will make of it, I don’t know, though it’s a bad omen that a whole damn Mutya Keisha Siobhan album went up online last month to silence, as did other singles by their girl-band peers. It’s also a bad omen, but shouldn’t be, that “Gots to Give the Girl” isn’t a banger but a languid outing like “Overload” or “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”, full of sprawling solos, little vocalises, and an actual bridge. The singers’ verses don’t vary melodically but do build on one another — note how Siobhan’s “when she says jump” morphs into Chloe’s “you ask how high” — and the resulting lyric is slyly, more uncompromisingly independent than the blaring likes of “Bo$$.”

Josh Love: Listening to tons of wannabe chart-toppers with hooks and choruses that are precisely spring-loaded for maximum attention-grabbing impact gives me great appreciation for any pop tune that takes such a distinctly indirect approach. “Gots to Give the Girl” is refreshingly moody and unhurried, organically flowing from a coffeehouse ’90s Martina Topley-Bird vibe into something a little more conventionally R&B (nodding to how conversant Unperfect antecedents like Girls Aloud and Sugababes were with that genre) and then tossing a sinuous guitar solo into the mix for good measure.

Pedro João Santos: Sugababes’ debut One Touch never fails to amaze me at how sobering and antithetical it is compared to their (some brilliant, some passable) remaining discs. I wouldn’t be shocked to see its cover sleeve hanging on the walls of the studio where Unperfect recorded this–or attic, judging from the deliberately lo-fi feel, which carries on to the sweetly awkward, unintentionally hilarious video. It’s earnest, sobered-up and self-conscious, but unfortunately for these new girls, their vocals really don’t gel, like they were joined together in Audacity. Not every girl group can arrive as neat and tight as the Sugas, but they have time. (Also, another reminiscence of MKS is very “thanks, but painful.“)

Thomas Inskeep: “All Saints on a handful of Xanax” isn’t what I expected from Xenomania’s latest discoveries. Or what I wanted.

Alfred Soto: The pseudo-musty mix given the rhythm section is a mid-’00s affectation, and the Bee Gees falsetto calls needless attention to itself. A lot of care went into creating a song this annoying.

Iris Xie: The falsetto that comes in is infectious and provides some acidic sweetness and contrast to the woozy guitar and casual vocals. The best part about this song is how it constantly rolls forward, from an “ooh ooh” that makes you do a little shoulder dance and head sway, to a guitar solo that adds some bright texture. I also appreciate the lower, smooth tones of the singers — they sound at ease and comfortable in their own bodies and attitudes. This is music for a post-brunch stroll amongst the Mission District murals, then hopping over to Dolores Park to chill out on the lawn and watch the sways and rhythms of folks relaxing, all the while eating strawberry balsamic vinegar ice cream sandwiches.

Iain Mew: A slow-mo skeleton of a banger, with sonic elaboration mercilessly removed to 1) imagine anything you like in its place 2) notice all the structural elaboration more easily. I prefer not having to do so much of the work, but at least what is there is interestingly unpredictable. When this train comes I don’t know the destination. 

Will Adams: I’ve got to give it up for the confidence in having a girl group’s opening statement be this reserved, at least on the surface. “Gots to Give the Girl” is challenging in the best way, setting off pop fans’ alarm bells and subverting expectations — where’s the chorus? The arrangement stays the same throughout! It just trails off into nothing at the end! — in a way that beguiles the listener, proving there’s power in subtlety.

Ian Mathers: I hate to be a sucker for Xenomania, but the only mark against this for me is that the closed loop(s) of the production feel so perfectly, hypnotically stripped back and yet complete (and all four singers sound so great over it) that when they start changing it up at about 2:30 I was the slightest bit disappointed. This is also why the instrumental outro, which could easily not have worked, is just fine with me. Even with a mark this high, I suspect I might be underrating this song.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A song that makes you hate the world because a debut girl group single that’s as understated as this could never find major success. I love how the vocals are mixed, how carefree they sound. “Gots to Give the Girl” is so unconcerned with making a major statement that it makes me care all the more for its existence.

Danilo Bortoli: Glenn McDonald ran his The War Against Silence column for several years. It started out as a sort of consumer guide, but slowly became a collection of essays intertwining music and life, in which the former was contextualized by the latter, then a place where life was a mere excuse for music, as it should be. In my favorite piece, he likens pop music to some sort of Cartesian plane: there are different axes for different qualities, but perfection resides over at a corner “where songs sparkle conspiratorially like diamonds tossed on the bubbles of champagne at the first perfect picnic after the thaw, where voices are silk and silver and magnesium flares, where guitars are the sound of angels’ wings strumming the bars of the mortal cage.” That is not my definition of “perfect pop™” though, which shows how pernicious and individualistic the concept can be. Mine is synonymous with Xenomania: exuberant and almost ridiculously nonsensical bubblegum pop. But it is also classicist (Girls Aloud were closer to the Supremes than the Sugababes were to All Saints), which is to say that the usual Xenomania style of production and craft looked forward to the future as much as it looked behind at the past. (“No Good Advice” and “The Loving Kind” act as proof.) So it’s weird to listen to unperfect’s “Gots to Give the Girl” and perceive the nostalgia in a sound that was already nostalgic. The single is glossy and calculated as can be, but still contradicts what you’d expect from a girl group in 2019. Just as indie was trying to create its own variation of popstars back in the beginning of the decade, pop was busy adapting and branching out. And branching out now, for Xenomania, means saluting an era that then seemed innovative and now strikes as minimalistic. Perfect pop might not always be that fixed point on that Cartesian plane. It’s cyclical. And this time around, perfection might reside in recontextualizing the epitome of yesteryears in more palatable ways, making you long for something you had never heard before.

Reader average: [8.75] (4 votes)

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5 Responses to “Unperfect – Gots to Give the Girl”

  1. Always nice to see a War Against Silence reference, and really beautifully used too!

  2. @katherine: a whole MKS album dropped???? my week has been changed, ty.

  3. I think MP3s of that YouTube have been flying around for at least a year. But I never listened because I’m pretty sure some of them are unfinished and I don’t burn for them that much.

  4. The MKS stuff is pretty great – man did they get hosed by their label – but pretty unfinished as well. The ballads are the strongest songs, and there is a Sia co-write they may or may not end up using but their harmonies are amazeballs on it. The Richarx X cut got retweaked for the new Bananarama album too. Overall, if you like them, you will love it – it’s Smile/Chinese Democracy/I’m A Rainbow all in one for fans!

  5. There’s a remix now