Monday, April 20th, 2009

Electrik Red – So Good

The-Dream’s empire-building starts-here…


Alex Macpherson: With his Electrik Red project, The-Dream has taken it upon himself to resurrect the dormant-too-long girl group format, and their imminent How To Be A Lady: Volume 1 album is my most anticipated of 2009. “So Good” is their lightest moment to date, a delightful concoction of Prince-esque snapping beats and sighing, swooning backing vocals; a perfect hormonal spring jam in which the narrator sexually obsesses over a boy, pretends she hates him for it, but just ends up mooning over him and checking her phone every two minutes just in case she somehow missed his (booty) call. An extra point for the typically Dream-like line “Got me in the kitchen cookin’ for you like my first name’s Betty”, and for those irresistible “Ooh, damn!”s.

Martin Kavka: This sounds as if it was thrown together in ten minutes. Completely lazy, uninteresting, and forgettable.

Hazel Robinson: I’m not a massive fan of The-Dream but his work with this lot seems to turn out really good. Even this semi-balladic (or at least, not as shouty’n’crunk as their usual) one keeps pace and keeps itself interesting most of the way through. Can’t pretend I wouldn’t prefer another “Drank In My Cup” though.

Alex Wisgard: Mary Wells’ classic “My Guy” is 45 years old this year; apparently in all that time, songs about girls praising their men have somehow managed to get more banal and ridiculous. This plodder, which seems to be based on the theme to “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, celebrates the fact that – “Oooh…damn…” – her man is “so good”; that’s it. That’s the crux of the whole song. And funnily enough, I wasn’t all that impressed by it…

Erika Villani: Pleasant enough ’90s synth bounce — this could be a lost track from TLC’s CrazySexyCool — but the flashes of lyrical brilliance give way to standard R&B wastefulness: “I can’t believe you put it on a girl like that / I can’t believe I just got off the phone with you, but I want to call right back / I can’t believe you got me in the kitchen cooking for you like my first name’s Betty / I can’t believe it, but you got that ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh.” Oh. Okay. Thought we were going somewhere with that, but I guess not.

Martin Skidmore: Weird. Obviously one of the basics you expect from R&B is everything being in tune, but this isn’t. The music is a worse offender than the singers, though they are ordinary. The “whaddaya mean, our budget’s only $100?” video looks awkward and amateurish too. I’ve complained about the autotune vocoder effect plenty of times, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear this.

David Raposa: I would pledge my eternal love to “Pop Life” and its sundry homages as much as the next guy, especially if they’re twerked with some uppity synth squiggles and a made-ya-look breakdown not 30 seconds into the track. That said, neither my fondness for Mr. Nelson nor my tolerance for shameless R&B rewrites are strong enough to put up with charisma-free Ralph Tresvant types cooing about the same old same old. Tell it Vocodering, plz.

Ian Mathers: I honestly thought on my first listen that this was another fey-voiced male R’n’B singer, but nope – girl group (well, at least “I shouldn’tve let you hit that” isn’t as jarring now). And yet, there’s still something interestingly androgynous about that main voice, even if you watch the video. That, combined with the stiff strut of the music, elevates “So Good” ever so slightly over its legions of competitors.

Tom Ewing: Electrik Red’s producers are boldly trying to bring back the “farting robot” keyboard sound you used to occasionally get on 80s funk records. This goes extremely poorly with ER’s feathery vocal arrangements, making it sound like the band are trying to song-n-dance while wearing wellingtons full of jelly for some ghastly Saturday morning TV spot. Somewhat gruesome all round, though underneath all that the song’s not too bad.

Jordan Sargent: Both sonically and lyrically, “So Good” basically plays out as an epilogue to The-Dream’s own “Rockin’ That Thang”. “So Good”‘s luscious, golden synths and breathy vocals evoke the latter’s unstoppable waves of melody, and lyrically, it plays out as The-Dream’s girl’s ode back to him. Both, it turns out, have been left speechless — The-Dream literally tells us so, but on “So Good” it’s a little more coy: “You’re so good, so good, so… oooh, damn”. That chorus — unusual, show-stopping, melodic, confident — encapsulates The-Dream’s brilliance, and if “So Good” had been sung by Mariah Carey it would’ve been #1 three weeks ago.

Hillary Brown: Sweet and sexy, but you’ll have to put it on repeat to use it for its intended purpose (i.e., doin’ it).

9 Responses to “Electrik Red – So Good”

  1. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new third-most controversial song! Congrats Electrik Red, but you’re not as galvanizing as Lily Allen or La Roux.

  2. Huh, would never have picked this as a threat to the controversy chart at all.

  3. I think this is a marmite genre rather than a marmite band: there’s a clear split between the people who take girl-group R&B very seriously (who I think are overcompensating a bit) and the people who are inclined to dismiss it (who do so to an at times ridiculous degree – I would not like to have ears so sensitive as to give this a 0).

    FWIW I think the defenders do a better job of defending – i.e. making me want to listen again – than the attackers do of attacking.

  4. Hmm, in my experience the marmitey bits of R&B have been its male soloists and ballad-prone female soloists – whereas from TLC to Destiny’s Child, girl groups have tended to get reasonably consensus love. And yet we have The-Dream and Mariah as our No 2! And the Electrik Red track, written and produced by the same dude, of about equivalent immediacy (ie: I liked ‘So Good’ and ‘My Love’ from the off, but it took a while before I realised I loved them), hits up the controversy chart instead.

    BTW, Tim Finney did a great write-up of ‘So Good’ (over Electrik Red’s more look-at-me singles like ‘Drink In My Cup’ and ‘We Fuck You’) in his fbook group.

  5. The-Dream is brilliant. I don’t think this is as immediate as ‘My Love’, especially not the soft and inviting opening of that track. But I do think this is similarly seductive after a while. “8/10”. High hopes for the album.

  6. The-Dream might have produced – but Christopher “Tricky” Stewart composed, and so should receive his fair due. The ubiquity of the Dream/Tricky pairing shows no sign of letting up (hell, they even pop up on Lionel Richie’s new album), and while “So Good” is no “Umbrella” or “Single Ladies”, there’s a freshness to this which makes it, as Lex says, a spot-on spring jam.

    (Last week, when the weather was still a bit shit, I wasn’t feeling this at all. But earlier today, strolling to work in the sunshine, everything snapped into place.)

    The arrangement’s slight 1990s vibe suits the track well, adding mock-credence to the singer’s not entirely serious claim to be an old-fashioned Baking Betty who has suddenly and miraculously changed her ways (and we only have to clock the langourous lingering over that first “We had a fliiiiiing”, to know that the re-invention is merely tactical).

    For while “So Good” purports to be a simple and heartfelt declaration of romantic intent, it strikes me more as a jokily knowing come-hither from a girl who knows the rules of the game backwards.

    (OK, so there’s four of them in the group – but this is to all intents and purposes a solo turn, backed up with a few strategically supportive ooh’s and yeah’s.)

    So although you *could* argue that Lil’ Wayne’s contribution on the remix (whose chorus inserts a “shit” between the “ooh” and the “damn”, in a way that suggests that “ooh” and “damn” had been keeping its place warm all along) subverts the message in a rather nasty fashion, I prefer to see it as Weezy calling his ex-shag’s bluff, and letting her know that Baking Betty isn’t fooling him for one moment.

    And then I imagine the whole lot of them falling about and cackling at the whole extended wind-up, and sloping off for al-fresco early evening cocktails, just before the sun goes in and the air turns from crisp to nippy.

    4 out of 10 last week; 6 out of 10 earlier today; and a 7 since sundown.

  7. I think this song is pretty decent, maybe a 6/7. But again, I note that Lex has singled out what I think is THE WORST LINE in the entire song as part of his justification for why it’s good. I tend to like girl-pop except at its most unfeelingly overwrought extremes (i.e. Destiny’s Child at their most insistent and hectoring) and best at its warmest (early TLC, say, definitely En Vogue, DC’s most invitingly danceable stuff) and this is in the same tradition but hardly superlative. However, it is SO MUCH better than Lily Allen and La Roux.

  8. However, it is SO MUCH better than Lily Allen and La Roux.

    Incorrect. Well, incorrect on the Lily Allen front. Marginally correct on the La Roux front.

    I can’t for the life of my figure out why I rated this so high — surely a couple of good lines don’t make up for using five whole “ooh”s where you could be using actual words to actually tell me what you like about this man. (Who is cheating on his girlfriend. WTF. You can do better.) At least Lily bothers to write about things.

  9. Some of you are mad. I almost feel like if this doesn’t reach ubiquitous summer jam status, I’m quitting the game and turning in my jersey for good. The CrazySexyCool comparison is completely apt.