Friday, December 21st, 2012

A*M*E – Play The Game Boy

And yes, we will be looking at the Sound of 2013 list at some point…


Patrick St. Michel: Amy Kabba gets compared to K-Pop artists a lot, and it isn’t strange to see why — she has made her love for Korean music clear in various interviews and she wrote the song “Beautiful Stranger,” which was picked up the group f(x) earlier this year.  Her debut single doesn’t sound like K-Pop though, because “K-Pop” lacks any unifying sonic quality and is full of diverse styles. “Play The Game Boy” does, at times, capture the spirit of K-Pop, especially the stuff that’s attracted Western attention. Kabba’s unafraid to mix sounds together — here, she squares off with 90’s pop, hip-hop and chiptune (pretty much mandated with a title like that).  Yet what makes “Play The Game Boy” so great has nothing to do with similarities to music on the other side of the world — this is just incredibly catchy stuff, highlighted by the chorus and Kabba’s delivery of “I’m calling you out.” It’s great pop music that should not have to be held back by any geographical reasons.    

Iain Mew: A*M*E is in the BBC’s longlist for Sound of 2013. Maybe if she places well in the final list she’ll one day be as successful in the UK as Niki & the Dove! Then, since her being a K-Pop fan is central to a lot of coverage of her, we can look forward to more wrongness to follow on from most mainstream coverage of “Gangnam Style” and positive but dismissive live reviews seemingly designed to piss off Big Bang fans, rockists, and Beliebers in equal measure. I’m apprehensive not just out of general cynicism but because A*M*E’s K-Pop repping has to date resulted in widespread uncritical repeating of her calling her co-write on an f(x) B-side a number one hit in Korea, and in the video to this song, which sets off several Gwen Stefani style alarm bells. The song? It reminds me more of Oh My! with added punning video game bleeps than anything Korean, and its playfulness just about wins out over the limitation of its repetitiveness. I’m not sure I would have had much to say on it even if I hadn’t taken in all the baggage first.

Sabina Tang: Oh, geez, is this like Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls now? Dubious over-enthusiasm for K-pop visual tropes aside though, the ’05-atavistic-throwback-to-’88-dance-pop groove is irresistible, so it’s a mystery that A*M*E manages to avoid cutting loose. (No evidence from her other tracks that she’s a belter, so maybe that’s it.) If she’d so much as thrown a few ad-libbed shrieks and trills into the outro this would shoot up to a [10]. As it is, climactic measured spoken-rap à la Neil Tennant is best left to Neil Tennant.

Brad Shoup: I love the production, but I don’t like the chorus at all. I just want to hear that synth swing.

Ian Mathers: For whatever reason, none of the hooks on this one landed with me, and yet… she seems immensely capable and likeable and I seriously suspect that she’ll make at least one song I really, really love in 2013.

Andy Hutchins: There’s an alternate universe where this is actually an Azealia Banks diss aimed at Jim Jones or something, and I wish I lived there, if only because Jim Jones reacting to a perfectly-sung “I’m calllllling yew OU-UT!” would be neat. In ours, this is one note stretched to beyond the breaking point, an unfunny joke (“Get it, Game Boy is in the title, and it sounds like a water-logged one being operated!”) that can’t totally be saved by the rest of the act (that pre-chorus, “Get my Madonner on and watch me vogue,” the Cher Lloyd-ish rap-sung bridge).

Jonathan Bogart: Addictive and sugar-rushy — though in a hi-NRG way rather than a K-pop way (not that that’s a huge distinction, necessarily) — with an irritatingly sticky chorus that will curdle into outright loathing if repeated too often for too long. With a runtime of three and a half minutes, she’s pushing it.

Will Adams: A*M*E steps up for “Play the Game Boy,” offering an impressive range within three minutes: the verses find her quick-footed and blustery, the pre-chorus is poised, and on the rapped middle eight she sounds exactly like Charli XCX. The whole time, however, she’s never upstaged by the chunky midtempo electro. Shame about that botched chorus, though.

Katherine St Asaph: “Game Boy” is a red herring; there’s only as much chiptune per minute as your average Calvin Harris track. The chorus, then, is better parsed (and much less gimmicky) as “play the game, boy,” at which point the other red herring dies. K-pop? Sure — if it’s the subset of K-pop that sounds like amazing lost Mis-Teeq tracks. 

5 Responses to “A*M*E – Play The Game Boy”

  1. I felt bad about not covering this when it came out (the particular lineage of British pop tends to get shrugs, so I was a bit gun-shy), she’s on the Sound of 2013 list so thanks to Josh for allowing me to mitigate the former sin, and get a head-start on the latter list.

  2. Damn, this is definitely an [8] from me. Awesome.

  3. no problem, edward! it’s cool she’s on the sound of 2013 list, even though we all know that the list isn’t really that great of an indicator of good artists/music (jessie J? really?). at the end of the day, it’s just a silly list that’s fun to analyze and shouldn’t have any weight put on it.

  4. This song continues to be awesome, btw. Any movement on A*M*E in the UK?

  5. Dave, she was signed to Gary Barlow’s record label (or imprint, whatever), but that went bust. Now she’s moved to Epic and will have something out “in the very near future”, so I think she’s still a thing that’s supposed to happen.