Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

James Blake ft. Rosalía – Barefoot in the Park

First J Balvin, now James Blake… the Justin Bieber collab can’t be far behind…


Alfred Soto: Over James Blake’s distorted loop, reminiscent of a Vampire Weekend arrangement circa 2013, Rosalía tries to out-etherealize Valerie Armstrong, whose “Fíl a Run Ó” forms the spine of “Barefoot in the Park.” Singing at the top of her range doesn’t suit this tinkly traffic; it forces Blake to pour the sap.

Ian Mathers: When Blake’s first album came out, some of the best bits sounded genuinely otherworldly, but not as much, or as wonderfully, as “Barefoot in the Park” does. A large amount of that is Rosalía, of course, who starts off the vocals here so compellingly that on first listen I wouldn’t have been disappointed if Blake had stuck to production (done with Mount Kimbie’s Dominic Maker, it’s colourful, woozy, vivid). Instead his own more diffident tones wind up entwining with hers in a way that perfectly suits the narrative about a transcendent experience, romantic or otherwise. It’s so immediately and repeatedly compelling I started looking for every other song from Assume Form I could find, but nothing works quite like this.

Abdullah Siddiqui: The production is impeccably nuanced, the melody is Orphic, and James Blake singing in Spanish makes me feel like Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give

Thomas Inskeep: This would be a lot better if Blake would stick to production and not sing. Though his production here is only so-so.

Will Adams: The combination of Rosalía’s nimble, precise vocal with James Blake’s marble-mouthed drawl makes “Barefoot in the Park” a confusing listen. No matter how appealingly the track flutters, the two sound completely disconnected from each other.

Katherine St Asaph: As exhausted as I am with the music industry’s compulsion to overexpose its breakout stars via out-of-character guest spots in every genre and context but the one where they were great, the idea of a James Blake-produced Rosalía single isn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, this is a James Blake single with Rosalía on it, performed with James Blake levels of liveliness and vim. The tiny, one-decimal-from-mumbling voice both singers are forced into is quite possibly James Blake’s vocal ceiling. But if it isn’t Rosalia’s vocal floor, it’s far closer than she should be; one iota more of energy and she’d completely dominate the track. So many duets (with some exceptions), from indie to pop to R&B to country, have this flattening effect. Why must she be brought down to his level, instead of him brought up to hers?

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Some of the most interesting production that Blake’s done in a while, only to be ruined by his frog croak of a voice. And yet, the bigger issue is how it all sort of meanders with no clear goal. Blake used to tastefully utilize silence in his work. Nowadays, he could use more than a little restraint. Rosalía is fine but she’s treated as an extension of Blake’s own self-indulgence.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I’m still mostly unsure what James Blake is doing on any given James Blake song, but even as he begins to drag Rosalía into a ballad-y morass she lifts up the material on “Barefoot in the Park” to a point where it makes Blake almost seem charming.

Reader average: [8.66] (3 votes)

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