Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Zendaya – Replay

Better than Iyaz? You be the judge…

Crystal Leww: The Disney Channel has been linked to the origin story of a few of this year’s pop stars all year with Miley, Selena, and Demi all originating from that camp. Zendaya is about two years behind those girls in her career trajectory, but she’s on track. “Replay” doesn’t sound distinctly like any one genre, doesn’t rely on the personality of its singer, doesn’t do anything particularly different or distinctive, but Zendaya has good enough pipes and good enough writers and producers that they’ve produced a solid track. The low drum like synths that originate in the beginning verses that explode into the same rhythm pattern but much louder and obvious provide continuity throughout and that hook is crazy catchy. The song might not make her into the biggest pop star in the world, but the potential is undeniable. You can hear a girl who does a “Party in the USA”, “Come and Get It”, or “Give Your Heart a Break”.

Anthony Easton: I can’t keep these Disney teen stars straight, and I don’t know who is from Nick and who is from Disney, but this one is a little more abstracted, a little sadder than the chipmunk cheerfulness of the rest. The added detail should provide interest, but anonymity has its own pleasures.

David Lee: The video suggests that Zendaya’s marketing team envisions her as an up-and-coming Cassie. But the music contradicts those visions. Where Cassie is talented at slowly working an icy beat until it crackles and simmers, Zendaya wastes no time in attacking this with Disney sunshine. It helps that the production operates in this realm too, tailoring more severe genres like grime to warm dancepop sensibilities. Others have written (and sung) better about music as symbol of or proxy for love. But then, Zendaya is only seventeen and just breaking out of the Disney bubble. As far as jump off points go, this is a good place to start.

Brad Shoup: Lost indeed: a metaphor thoroughly examined and still found wanting, grandiose EDM acceptance in the refrain while synth figures hurl themselves through the verses. Zendaya packs nothing but anguish; those verses would have forgiven a certain understatement, but she opts to impart the feeling of working this all out.

Iain Mew: The lyrics are unvarnished cliché, but the music isn’t, or at least isn’t from a matching set, given that it could pass as coming from the laptop of some next big thing in indie synthpop. That means that the weight is all Zendaya’s to carry, and her desperate, gasping approach drags more emotion out of the words than it seems ought to be possible.

Will Adams: Zendaya one-ups Selena in the meta love song department in a neat three and a half minutes. “Replay” is the sound of someone who knows they’re smitten. The “I don’t know” in the first verse is a front; Zendaya knows exactly what she wants and uses the massive chorus to show that. And then there’s the track, which spins and stutters with the wildest sonics I’ve heard in a mainstream pop song. If glitch is the next stop for Top 40 pop after dubstep, I will not complain.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: She drops in and out of the beat, delivering lines in a high register, making her young voice sound gentle and light. When she’s not disappearing behind the song’s swathes of open space, she’s exuding breathlessness and hinting towards suggestiveness — the degree of the repetition of “right there” definitely isn’t meant to be just coyness.

Jessica Doyle: When I have a song on repeat, it’s for one of two reasons: one, it’s lodged in my head and the only way out is seventeen playthroughs in a row — not a joyously lustful occasion; two, it’s background music while I’m working or thinking, I’m barely paying attention. So the metaphor doesn’t work for me. What does: the early breathless repeat of “I don’t know” and the incorporation of impatiently punching the MP3 player into the dance. (The whole video, actually, though it made me nostalgic for Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle.”) I wish the chorus were stronger; I wish the producers had left out the 8-bit beeps and trusted Zendaya to get through the more subtle part alone. I wish I wasn’t so old, is what I may be saying.

Alfred Soto: Appropriate, eh, that the title is bold about the shamelessness with which this colorless would-be attempts Dr. Luke-era Britney. The problem is, she tries to sing.

Jonathan Bogart: I like the desperation in her voice — or rather the illusion of desperation I hear, which may merely be an artifact of limited singing capabilities — but even more I like the intense sense of rhythm to the piece, what you might call its dubstep roots if you meant by that a constant push and pull of rhythmic elements rather than any given drop. Most of all I like how ambitious the current crop of teen tv-show stars are with their debut singles.

Scott Mildenhall: Gloomwobble is a bit of an outdated device in pop these days and even if it weren’t, the one on display here would still be one of its most anaemic, up there with the one in Sugababes’ “Freedom” or Pixie Lott’s “Kiss The Stars“. Zendaya is fine (if not spectacular), the lyrics are fine (if a bit repetitive), but the whole thing sounds like it was made on Dubstep eJay, and that’s what’s holding it back.

Katherine St Asaph: Radio Disney is fascinating; it’s both nothing like and a test kitchen for Top 40 pop, sometimes inanely behind the times, sometimes predicting them. The writer on “Replay” is Tiffany Fred, formerly of the prolific Underdogs and now working with Disney and Nick types including How to Rock star and Master P’s daughter Cymphonique (whose latest single I’m linking here on the off-chance “Replay” gets huge and it gets a few clickthroughs, because, well, some Disney and Nick stars get massive promo and fanbase cultivation and Hot 100 spots, and some release free mixtapes, and it’s sadly predictable who tends to be which.) Fred had a song called “Turn It Up” (a YouTube comment, solitary and weirdly poignant: “like if you’re still listening to this in 2011!”), and she must have realized it’d make more sense in meta-mad 2013. The sonics get an update from 2010 Rihanna to 2013 wonk&B: baby Ciara backed by baby Dawn Richard on a stitched-and-glitched remix of “Katy on a Mission” you’re hearing on a buffering YouTube. It’s not as exciting as it could be — when everyone’s got a gimmick the gimmicks are routine. There’s not much of a chorus, either written or sung, the innuendos are uncomfortable from still-underage Zendaya, and you wonder where one’s got to mail the payola to make the non-Disney R&B chart. But if this and Ariana Grande’s ’90s-happy Yours Truly are a sign of something bubbling over, pop could get more fascinating yet.

Reader average: [8.42] (7 votes)

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5 Responses to “Zendaya – Replay”

  1. Katherine’s reference to Katy B is apt: exciting in its promise of what’s to come. But it also makes me think about the way “Replay” channels certain strains of UK dance music and the commercial hurdles that artists working in that vein face stateside. (Which sucks because I love UK dance music and feel that, given the EDM-ification of the charts, the time is ripe for Garage and Grime to break into the US market). It’s a phenomenon that’s at least partly rooted in the unfortunately narrow whims of the US music press in regard to UK female dance vocalists. Right now the fanfare is Jessie Ware’s, but Katy B’s recent (good) release barely made a splash. :/

  2. To be fair, it barely made a splash in the UK, too.

  3. Plus it’s an EP and Jessie Ware’s was a full debut.

  4. I WAS WRONG THIS IS A [8.5]

  5. yeah seriously, this song is soooo good