Kind of a group photo, innit?
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Disclosure are slowly building an oeuvre of playful-sounding singles that coax out the hidden storytellers in their collaborators. Where “Latch” found Sam Smith describing an undertaking of intimacy in a clinical light, here Aluna Francis tells us of a relationship evolving into a trap — and that’s before the panicky chorus: “Just noise!!! White noise!!!” A lesser act would go over the top with the bells and whistles at this point, but Disclosure keep it all in check, letting those shiny and alien keys carry the track over and over to the finish. Francis’s sugar-sass vocals are perfect for this push-pull fairy lights glitch’n’bass, and the complicated emotions are only heightened in the sleek, wriggling beat.
Patrick St. Michel: By now, Disclosure’s formula for constructing a song has become familiar — start with catchy dance song, pivot into a moment of dramatic build-up that sees the music turn formless, and then dive into the floor-filling part again. “White Noise” is structurally not that much different from last year’s “Latch,” but it improves on the vocals. This time around, the Aluna half of AlunaGeorge handles singing duty and fits in wonderfully among Disclosure’s tipsy production. Whereas Sam Smith overacted a bit on “Latch,” Aluna seamlessly moves between urgency and confidence (“if you wanna get tough/then let’s play rough”).
Brad Shoup: We’re in the golden age for refracted synths, right? Seamless integration between singer and beat, and a fantastic bassline transposed to the midrange.
Scott Mildenhall: It’s interesting that this is as high as number 2 on the UK chart. Is it evidence that this sort of Nick Grimshaw-endorsed pop really is gaining traction in the mainstream, or is it just an anomaly? It only appeared a couple of weeks ago and was intended, say Disclosure, as a “club track,” so that it’s ended up a commercial breakthrough to outrank “Latch” really is surprising. It’s more dexterous than “Latch,” skipping around, the riff as nimble as Aluna’s verses, but not half as radio-friendly or commanding. Outranking it chart-wise seemed it would be one mean feat; outranking it musically, even harder.
Crystal Xia: As a dream collaboration that actually became reality, “White Noise” doesn’t disappoint. Often lines are repeated; in a song about extreme emotions from defeated to defiant, this is perfect because it allows different takes on the same words. The pre-chorus bubbles and seethes, echoes and fades; Disclosure create space to build while Aluna takes that space to think. She sounds ready to give in, pained but emotionally trapped and unable to do anything about it, each “back” growing fainter and fainter as the synths fade out. It makes the chorus all the more cathartic contrasted against that space. Aluna breaks out, knowing the patterns of disappointment from her lover, painfully aware of her willingness to make them “automatic” allows her for to be played like a fool. It’s a massive release, and we’re just on that journey with her.
Will Adams: The slinky house parts are fine enough, but the breakdown has the most bite. “I don’t need you telling me how to be,” sings AlunaGeorge as minor chords flood the space, as if to scare you from ignoring her request. The moment is too short, I think. That, or I’m just hard up for reasons why I’m not as taken with this as I was with “Control” or “Latch.”
Anthony Easton: The skittering of this is worthwhile, the music as a meta-construction of relationship anxiety is worth something, and her vocals are unique. But the music overwhelms the vocals in places, and it might be a bit too long. Well-conceived, but a bit too precious.
Ian Mathers: The vocals are fine, but part of me just wants them to get out of the way so I can more fully appreciate that ping-ponging little riff in the middle of the track. The vocals even work better near the end when they’re phasing in and out all over the place. Like I said, they’re fine, just a bit inessential.
Alfred Soto: Her Stacey Q squeak sounds marvelous over the bippety-boppety beats, and if I’d sooner hear her take on the title trope over Don DeLillo’s, well, that’s twenty-first century capitalism for you.
Rebecca A. Gowns: This is cute and fun. It’s got all the bip-bop sounds and synths and echoed-out vocals that I love. I’m going to add this to the playlist that I use when I get ready for a party.
Katherine St Asaph: This song’s had me all week singing scraps of Dream’s “Angel Inside,” absentmindedly and when I probably shouldn’t. Mostly it’s because the verses are the same (there’s more craw to this and more, uh, Diddy to that, but otherwise), but in a way they could also be (coincidental) prequel and sequel. Both are crush songs, but by “White Noise” the dude’s caught on and thus caught the upper hand. The girl, meanwhile, is working a particular approach to relationships that’s a bit too familiar: this veneer of uninvested let’s-play-rough nonchalance, tissue-thin and doing nothing to hide the messy feelings beneath. “I don’t need you,” Aluna sings, brash and hooky in isolation, but by the last chorus her voice’s gotten stranded, the synths have gotten evil, neither beat nor bass nor jittery-thoughts riff will cease, and then Aluna’s straining up to that “crying” melisma and everyone knows better. Play it as you’re being played; dance toward your defeat.