Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Aloe Blacc – Loving You Is Killing Me

Really a dream for we amateur historians…


[Video][Website]
[5.00]

Jer Fairall: Bored me silly the first few times through; I’m generally a sucker for these kind of retro soul-isms, but this felt like it lacked the sheer force that makes something like Raphael Saadiq’s latest interesting beyond the point of homage. The single version speeds the original up a bit, though, tossing some clickity-clack hip hop drum loops into the now-downplayed mix of old soul horns, keys and wakka-choo-wakka guitars, making the song’s lineage suddenly not so easy to pin down.  Also, love the “stop children, what’s that sound” bit for no other reason than for the cheerfully elastic way in which he throws it in there, insensitive as it may be to appropriate an old protest song for an ode to a heartbreak that Blacc himself doesn’t even sound all that broken up over.  
[7]

Hazel Robinson: Oh sure, I could go and buy an old soul album, grandad, but I happen to have been really enjoying the Aloe Blacc one over the last two weeks. It’s a bit “if you found Cee-Lo too seminal why not try this?” and there’s no new sounds but Aloe is more than competent at the reproduction work he’s doing here and if white girls from the UK can get away with a hit like this (because those sounds are great) then I don’t see why he shouldn’t.
[7]

Anthony Easton: Polite, with a brass section that is absurdly polite, and no sense of menace at all, which suggests that the problem is Aloe and not the song’s subject.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Sure, she’s the one that’s so evil, but Aloe Blacc’s tastefully appointed throwback surroundings and pro forma lyrics (all the depth is in the title) makes him seem like a bland chump. I want to hear her side of the story.
[6]

Al Shipley: The aesthetics are different, but he’s as wooden and amateurish as just about every singing rapper who’s on the pop charts.
[2]

Michaelangelo Matos: The low-res John Legend is such a retro guy that his pleasures are minor by definition, except when he bull’s-eyes it the way he did with “I Need a Dollar.” That was timing; this is craft, and if the hip-shake stays strictly ’66, well, that’s what he does. The music outpaces the singing by a length and a half.
[6]

Michaela Drapes: At first blush, this totally works if you don’t listen too closely. It’s pleasant enough, but suddenly drags in strange places and stumbles badly. To make matters worse, the depth of the mix is strangely shallow given the genre conventions; if one is doing this kind of thing right, the back end should sound like a delicious, long lost rare groove carefully marinated in the current pop vernacular. Otherwise, don’t bother.
[4]

Alfred Soto: As sharp as Tim Meadows leading Jamiroquai.
[3]

Sally O’Rourke: What made “I Need a Dollar” stand out from the neo-retro-soul pack was its unforced consonance, as if Aloe Blacc had traveled to 1972 and intercepted a bolt of divine inspiration meant for Bill Withers. In contrast, “Loving You is Killing Me” is more blatant in its construction, an idealized pastiche of Retro Music that stretches to encompass both a folk-rock protest song and Rick James’s “Super Freak.” It’s comfort food for anyone (me included) who sometimes pines for the days of live instruments and actual singers, but the familiar influences and Blacc’s slippery-smooth vocals help it all go down a little too easy.
[7]

Chuck Eddy: Tasteful soul revivalism for organic food stores and indie coffee shops, with Buffalo Springfield and Intruders quotes but no sweat, grit, or grits. Once again, I get why people think this fellow is okay. No idea why people think he’s exciting, or doing anything half as good as scores of current Southern Soul artists I’ll refrain from listing.
[6]

Zach Lyon: The soul-revivalism on Good Things veers so much toward pure genre tribute that the songs can sound like novelties, much cheekier than recent Saadiq or Cee Lo. Even more than tracks like the latter’s “Old Fashioned,” perhaps because Blacc doesn’t just come out and say that he’s doing Al Green or Bill Withers or etc. For me, that cheekiness is part of the joy when it’s packed with some hooks and sonic brilliance. “Loving You” lacks both. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s a single, as I can see scores of folks in their middle ages asking their local barista, “Who is this?” and then, “They don’t make enough music like this anymore.” This is perfectly tailored for that situation. It’s a pity it couldn’t be the title track, or “You Make Me Smile,” or any of his other, more heavenly cuts.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Casualties of love: a natural rhyme scheme, the brass in the brass section, the passion in Aloe Blacc’s voice. Not a casualty of love: Aloe Blacc.
[3]

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