This time with Armand Van Helden on the knobs…
Tom Ewing: Obviously when you see the word ‘Bonkers’ you think of the unending series of boshing hardcore compilations by those ageless pharaohs of the dancefloor: Hixxy, Sharkey etc. But of course a record by Dizzee Rascal isn’t going to sound like one of those, is it? Good Lord, it is! Actually it could stand to be MORE hyper hyper – the bar for chart-bustin’ dancepop as dramatisation of a crack-up has been raised pretty high this year by “Day N Nite”, and the best bits of “Bonkers” are the moments where Armand Van Helden appears to be putting the background together Diceman-style.
Rodney J. Greene: What hath “Wearing My Rolex” wrought? This is a step in the right direction by dint of not featuring Calvin Harris, but I don’t think Dizzee really gets how to do house. The builds and releases are all wrong.
Martin Kavka: With production (by Armand Van Helden) that makes dancing as much fun as undergoing a dental procedure without anesthesia, this is the least erotic dance track ever made.
Alex Macpherson: Much-touted collaboration scuppered by obvious lack of effort from all concerned. No one’s expecting Van Helden to return to the quality of his heyday, but surely we could expect more than an oddly dated nod towards Justice? Dizz, meanwhile, seems to think that “going dance” means he can get away with repeating one substandard verse three times. It could be a lot worse (at least there’s no Calvin Harris around this time), and there’s a basic energy which carries it, but it should be so much better.
Martin Skidmore: I always enjoy Dizzee – he makes me smile every time, even when the words aren’t silly, which they often are. These tend towards the deliberately wacky, which isn’t good, but I forgive it from Dizzee more than most. The grinding backing from Armand Van Helden is kind of hostile, and it keeps switching tone in strange ways: very odd indeed. I have no clue whether it will repeat last year’s success – it could be another #1, it could be a flop. This is a good kind of uncertainty, I think.
John M. Cunningham: Just as words like “tarlatan” are tailor-made for Colin Meloy’s adenoidal schoolmaster tone, “bonkers” is so well-suited to Dizzee Rascal’s nervous mushmouth that it makes me grin every time he says it. Everything else about this seems a little tossed off.
Renato Pagnani: Dizzee Rascal is one of those rappers who is a joy to listen to no matter what. The way his consonants smack you across the face; how he does that very British thing of stretching his vowels in such a way that makes you believe all meaning is contained within them; the fact his pinball flow and voice reminds you simultaneously of your friend’s kid brother (PAY! ATTENTION! TO! ME!) and your high-strung friend who thinks the Illuminati killed his goldfish and got him fired from his job at the Gap. Unfortunately, Dizzee’s delivery does all the work here, as he doesn’t even bother to drop more than eight bars, all of which are easy to sing along with, seeing are they’re nothing but uninspired clichés (example: “All I care about is sex and violence/ A heavy bassline is my kind of silence”). The thing is, Armand Van Helden’s bassline is but a whisp amongst synths that sound like a bad approximation of Daft Punk by way of Digitalism; it’s the kind of thing that even Tiësto would be embarrassed of. At 1:49 the clouds open up and glimmers of something really great—playful, and dare I say almost soulful—shine through for a few brief seconds, until all hope is snatched from us and the shitty dance track that is “Bonkers” resumes. This is not a good look for either dudes.
Alex Wisgard: As much a sonic slap round the chops as “Sirens” was, but disappointingly rides the same verse and chorus over and over again. If the lyrics suggest a lack of ideas, Armand Van Helden’s production has too many; he chucks everything at the wall – schizophrenic synth noises, machine gun drums and vocal effects that should have been left in the late 90s. Something tells me this won’t follow “Dance Wiv Me” to the top of the charts; still, if nothing else, at least “Bonkers” lives up to its title.