Monday, May 18th, 2009

VV Brown – Shark in the Water

Deceptively tall Northampton lass has a third go at winning over the UK…


Tom Ewing: The beat is Bo Diddley in ill-considered surfwear. The doo-be-doos are Lou Reed via the Brit School. The voice is throaty but detached. The chorus is JESUS CHRIST IT’S A LION GET IN THE CAR. And that’s what gets the points.

Keane Tzong: Very nearly renders the entirety of Natasha Bedingfield’s career irrelevant, and seems to be asking “What? Like, it’s hard?” as it does so.

Chuck Eddy: Guitar starts out like George Michael’s “Faith” — so that’s a Bo Diddley beat, cool! Then VV’s old-school reggae lilt warms my cockles; brings to mind British soul of the early ’80s (though back then, the style was mainly a male thing). She floats along perfectly casual, until that confounded shark comes along, showing his pearly whites. And later Village Voice Brown tells nursery rhymes: Jack be nimble, jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick. Might well be the best “Faith” rip since “Are You Jimmy Ray?” — and if I wasn’t so scared about changing my mind down the line, I might even give it a 9.

Dave Moore: Diddleybeat guitar rhythm recalls Dustin Hoffman running out of gas in The Graduate, except this time it runs steady all the way to the church. The alteration works: still angsty but unruffled, VV Brown, doing flawless if somewhat impersonal Bedingfield neo-soul, wins over the other party with minimal conflict (the triumphal trumpet bombast in the chorus almost feels like an afterthought). And, also like The Graduate, I haven’t figured out yet whether the words are dumb or just a bit odd (my guess is the latter) but the production is ace.

Michaelangelo Matos: You can tell she’s British because of the way the ’60s horns clump in during the chorus, as if everyone needed to pay fifteenth-generation homage to the arranging skills of George Martin just ’cause. No matter: the Lou Reed “do-do-do”s utterly ambush the record’s second half. They raised my score at least one point by themselves.

Edward Okulicz: I’ve loved VV’s other singles but they were examples of an acquired taste. She sounds different here, not just that she’s decided to go a bit Shaznay Lewis on us, but her voice is smoother, sunnier.. the whole VV Brown project has been hastily but charmingly spray-painted with a coat of radio-friendliness. This wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t infectious, and if there’s any justice, annoying teen girls will be bellowing this chorus through the (European) summer.

Andrew Unterberger: Disappointing, because it could’ve been great if it had been kept simple — the Bo Diddley (via “New York Groove”) guitar rhythm is so irresistible in any form that it could provide more than enough of a crutch for any pop single to be a gem with just the right amount of embellishment. But things get weird on the chorus (horns and guitar from nowhere, just a mess), and I’m not really sold on “Baby there’s a shark in the water” as the basis for an acceptable lyrical conceit either. Shame, but on the plus side, there’s already been one song that’s actually stayed honest to its “New York Groove” roots this year.

Hillary Brown: This is really nicely calibrated to push my happy buttons. Acoustic strumming, handclaps, big chorus, and a strong, interesting voice out front, plus indifferent lyrics that include the word “baby” somewhere. Totally pleasant.

Erika Villani: The frantic scrappiness and insistent pace of VV Brown’s last two singles, “Crying Blood” and “Leave!,” gave the songs an urgency that her filler-heavy lyrics and inflexible voice couldn’t accomplish on their own. “Shark in the Water” is less successful at masking Brown’s weaknesses, but the sweeping, echo-y chorus and mixed metaphors — there’s a shark in the water, there’s a monster under the bed, there are wolves howling at the moon — manage to convey neediness and humor even when her singing can’t.

Additional Scores

Iain Mew: [7]
Martin Skidmore: [8]

11 Responses to “VV Brown – Shark in the Water”

  1. Tashbed! THAT’s who it reminded me of!

  2. Though I like this a tenth of a point less on learning that she’s not singing “Baby there’s a shark in the water / There’s something underneath my leg”

  3. Oh, I didn’t bother with this b/c her last couple of singles were so tiresomely ~quirky~ and her career looked like it had been trumped before it started by Janelle Monáe, but this is quite nice. I mean, 7/10 nice, and I agree w/Erika that her voice is blah, but still nice. Could easily live with it being a ubiquitous summer jam, could easily live without it if it’s not.

  4. Except for “Love etc.” this is a uniformly great top 10!

  5. Something about these blurbs together feels like there was something in the water other than a shark. Some serious mind meld around this song
    (even the under-7 scores are basically in agreement with the higher scores).

  6. I think I could have given this a 9.

  7. Yeah, about ninety listens later, I think I should have just written “AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME” and rated it a 10 and left it at that.

  8. This is awesome and I’m getting Amerie vibes from her the legs, the look, the determination – her video is remarkably reminiscent of “Take Control.”

  9. We’ve got a long weekend in Canada so I hadn’t even listened to this one before reading the blurbs but yeah, it’s a 7-8 easy.

  10. Can I just comment on how much I love the phrase “I’m getting Amerie vibes from her the legs”?

  11. My blurb went with Tashbed comparisons too, I didn’t expect there to be several others, since it’s been so long since she did anything, but guess it was quite obvious.

    I’m glad because it reminded me of the existence of babies babies babies babies