Monday, December 21st, 2020

Cookiee Kawaii – Vibe (If I Back It Up)

Sam has suggested we listen to precisely one minute and 24 seconds of Jersey club…


Rachel Saywitz: It’s important to me that we’re reviewing the 1:24 minute version of “Vibe,” because there is another version that is a minute longer, but it features Tyga, which means I would have had to lower the score dramatically. Luckily we have the Tyga-less version here, hence the better version, even if it doesn’t even reach the length of the preview of a song on iTunes. But Cookiee Kawaii — who was active in the Jersey club scene for years before “Vibe” took off on TikTok — knows what a banger needs, and prefers to fill our ears with just that: a vibrant, simple synth melody, an assured, inviting voice telling us to “throw it back,” and a straight shooting drum machine beat to take us there … to the place where we all “throw it back,” I mean. The payoff in the last 40 seconds, where all three elements combine, is incredible and intoxicating, making us want to play these brief 90 seconds over and over again. 

Crystal Leww: I so often associate Jersey club with high energy — from the vocals and sets of the club queen UNIIQU3 to the dancers at shows to the truly mindboggling quantity of production from DJ Taj. It has been fun to see how Jersey club has evolved as some of the kids who were pushing the culture forward have gotten to be older. “Vibe” feels more like a vibe — its production is still definitely Jersey with bed squeaks and the right bpm, but this feels more more suited to a march vs. a stomp, while the vocals sound like they’ve almost been filtered through a layer of soundproofing. And yet, the best thing this song does is working in that dissonance — there is a genuine contemplativeness in Cookiee Kawaii’s tone as she asks you seemingly the most existential of questions, which turns out to be: “If I back it up, is it fat enough? When I throw it back, is it fast enough? If I speed it up, can you handle that?” After the many, many years of Jersey club producers producing a club remix of pretty much every meme, the fact that “Vibe” went viral on TikTok was what the scene was owed. 

Sam Blizzard: The Jersey club TikTok scene-stealer brings a dazzlingly endless creativity to such a compact runtime. The Tierra-Whack-level of ambition stuffed into the video at whipcrack speed (Avian horror! Westerns! Drumlines! Extraterrestial sci-fi!) is only bested by the musical narrative arc Cookiee Kawaii crams into ninety seconds of exhilaration. Somehow the intro, chorus, dance breakdown, and outro all magically get to shine. The only constant is how effortlessly Cookiee toes the line between cocky and relatable throughout.

Andrew Karpan: “Vibe” is the sound of a mattress squeaking, spun to the pitch of a rubber duckie and it’s the distance in the air between the beat and the sound of Kawaii’s voice, which floats ever so coolly above it as if she’s speaking to us from the territory of a cloud or a dream. It’s the sound heard far away at 3 a.m. that assures listeners that the night is still going on somewhere else, because it’s the very sound of movement itself, the sound of bodily gesticulation, which she both enunciates and literalizes: its central question (“If I back it up, is it fat enough?”) not directed at anyone so much as an idea that she turns into pure dance-speak, aimed at the world that is moving, bumping, backing it up. I do wonder, somewhat earnestly, if the moments of whip-cracking percussion that hit elsewhere are meant to evoke the likeminded thwacking of another viral hit (circa 1980) and to which a brief section of the video, I think, pays some homage to?

Juana Giaimo: “Vibe” reminds me of those moments when you are at a party and you’ve drunk enough to be quite absent, but not enough that you aren’t conscious of your surroundings and your movements. Your mind wanders, creates stories, daydreaming (or nightdreaming?) with strangers your eyes meet on the dance-floor. All the elements of the songs are hushed, except the beat, it’s that beat you need to keep up with to confirm you’re still here.

Katherine St Asaph: More a vibe than a track — it’s not just the runtime that reminds me of Rihanna’s “James Joint” — but it is a nice one.

Will Adams: A vibe all right: a fun Jersey beat full of bells and whistles — or, I should say, bed squeaks, whip cracks and crows — gone in under ninety seconds.

Ian Mathers: So short and so jam packed with bits that could have easily been spun out into main hooks (I’d love to hear much more of that first percussion figure, for example). And yet, despite feeling a bit like the musical equivalent of those pills in ’50s science fiction that replace whole meals, “Vibe (If I Back It Up)” works, the way you might want to get right back on the rollercoaster after it finishes.

Edward Okulicz: What sounds like it’s just the first part of a monstrous banger leaves me somewhat unsatisfied, or at least it should, but even in 90 seconds there’s a lot of love and care and ass lavished here. I mean, it wouldn’t take a lot of tweaking for this to have been a ’90s pop x drum ‘n’ bass crossover. I’m salivating at the thought of Cookiee tripling it in length, although it’s already kind of perfect anyway.

Thomas Inskeep: A B’more club beat in search of a song to which it can attach itself.

Samson Savill de Jong: What if you made a song that was literally hooks and nothing else? That’s basically what Cookie Kawaii has done here, and it really works. Lots of different ideas are crammed into 1 minute and 20 seconds, but they connect, and the song has a good, well, vibe.

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