Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Pop Smoke ft. Dua Lipa – Demeanor

But how do we really feel about posthumous collabs?


Samson Savill de Jong: I’m always a bit hesitant about posthumous releases, especially from rappers, and especially from snippets of verses from rappers that clearly hadn’t been expanded into a full track. We won’t ever know what Pop Smoke would have wanted to do with the verse and chorus on “Demeanor,” so we just have to deal with what we’ve got: the verses on top of a generic Dua Lipa(TM) beat. Smoke’s verse (about poverty and doing crime to escape the trap) is decent in isolation, but it’s too wildly incongruous with the sound and with Dua Lipa’s verse (about being sexy). Also, whoever let Dua say “female alpha” needs to be fined a week’s salary.

Oliver Maier: Exploitative and musically incompetent. Pop’s exhumed vocals do not gel in the slightest with the warmed-over synth funk beat, and Dua Lipa gives me second-hand embarrassment. Depressing stuff.

Alfred Soto: Dua Lipa sounds ready to pirouette and somersault, while Pop Smoke mutters and heaves in the corner. Good songs and good motivations rarely coincide, but the cynicism on display stinks. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Despite this whole thing having the combined vibe of a graverobbing and a fanmade trailer for an extremely bad superhero crossover movie, I cannot help but enjoy this. Dua and Pop are well-suited to the Tron: Legacy-type beat, and their extremely synthetic chemistry is good enough to distract you from the weirdness of the material circumstances that led to this happening. Extremely excited to hear this in a grocery store and vaguely bop my head along.

Thomas Inskeep: I never got what everyone saw in Pop Smoke (the world didn’t need a defanged DMX), and I definitely don’t want “Dua Lipa rapping” on my musical bingo card.

Tim de Reuse: Pop Smoke lopes around a cheesy beat, rambling and relaxed and exuding confidence; Dua Lipa comes in after him with the awkward, too-crisp diction of a Marvel movie, trying desperately to hamstring a bad attitude into a song built around a couple throwaway verses. “My diamonds will make you choke” is, bar none, the worst single line I’ve heard this year. It speaks to Pop Smoke’s charisma that any of his personality manages to survive this strange, off-balance hack job.

Ian Mathers: Even without context this feels pretty Frankensteined together. At least when it’s just Pop Smoke listlessly suspended in the middle of the pretty incongruous production it’s got some floaty weirdness that almost succeeds as surreal, but it has none of his usual power and doesn’t replace it with enough. The less said about Dua Lipa’s part, the better.

Leah Isobel: If Pop Smoke was alive, “Demeanor” would probably still feel incongruous. Dua’s persona isn’t in conversation with Pop’s work at all, and her arch robo-Rihanna shtick pulls focus uncomfortably. Pop’s verse is pretty solid, particularly when the beat locks back onto his rhythm. But because he’s not alive, the whole affair takes on a ghoulish, artificial tint. Why a Weeknd-style strobing/sleazy beat? Why this pop girl in particular? Sure, it’s possible that he’d have been making these kinds of pop crossovers now, but we can’t know that for sure, and it’s hard not to see this as a bunch of execs using the memory of the deceased to boost the credibility and profit of the living.

Nortey Dowuona: It’s become clearer and clearer that mimicry of elder and well-liked artists will become the way of future entertainment, especially for elder artists long past their peak and long past their time of living. Or if a young artist dies, they will be recreated by holograms owned by either their estates or some wealthy fanboy about to cash in on the rotting roses lying upon that artist’s grave. Furthermore, many living artists who have just purchased a fresh bouquet of calla lilies would like to shore up their legacies by aligning themselves with a legendary, near-mythical creature to seem important, like they’re Pete next to his beautiful dragon. Struggling in their own artistic designs, listing and wilting on the vine, they see a new chance to swallow the cut roots of the rosebushes and sprout new ones. Then we have these artists’ fanbases, who are ready to imbibe even more of their art, even as their elders are unraveled and their pages scattered to the uncaring winds. Their peers are erased and smudged, leaving a faint outline where any possible future for them could have been drawn, one that cannot be altered by greed or foolishness. Finally, we have this song. “Demeanor,” as it is, might have been furiously decried by a dwindling group of fans scared to see their peer wander onto their own path. It would be applauded by others, who would see in it a forest of dragons available to fly and kill competitors. Millions more would just be here for the job and pass on the track as they go sneaker shopping, completely unaware of the pitched battle for the soul of art. “Demeanor” will find its way into their playlists with its wilted synths and drums, the stiff bass and flat Van Halen funk guitars, Pop’s vague limp flow, and Dua YSL saying things like “female alpha” with the most uninvested smile and a weak, nudging joke to her now-dead coworker. Someone will plan a Dua/Pop Smoke hologram concert, turning their bodies into empty husks. But this shouldn’t happen, because this shouldn’t exist. Death is a frightening and unimaginable state that happens to even the wealthiest, cruelest and most powerful men, who lie in well-threaded beds and pristine houses. It’s not going to be circumvented by holograms and posthumous collaborations and unfinished verses, left to rot on hard drives until the ink is dry on the newspaper obituary, wrapped around the now-worthless corneas and dug out of the tangle of unused microphone cables. Pop Smoke is dead, he’s taken his Dior, he’s been in all the stores, and now he’s outta here.

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3 Responses to “Pop Smoke ft. Dua Lipa – Demeanor”

  1. legit thought the beat was this at first

  2. Love that two of us got marvel movie vibes from this

  3. Nortey absolutely on fire today, damn!