It’s Scandopop Wednesday! And who better to start off with than a Melodifestivalen runner-up…
Abby Waysdorf: I’m massively fascinated by the Eurovision Song Contest, but I don’t tend to follow national competitions because inevitably, something really good doesn’t qualify, and then I’m pissed off at what did qualify and can’t bring myself to even give it a chance. That probably would have been the case with Sweden’s entrant if I’d been properly following Melodifestivalen, which I wasn’t. So we don’t get this fun Avicii meets Bow Wow Wow song onstage in Copenhagen, but we can listen to it here. It’s got all the makings of a summer hit, as the days get long in northern Europe and everyone wants to shake off the winter and get hedonistic. I’ve heard “Wake Me Up” a few too many times for the country-EDM of the verses to make me do anything but roll my eyes, but the update (both in subject matter and tone) of “W.O.R.K.” in the choruses is great fun. All electro bleeps, stomp, and laconic charm, it brings the timeless sentiment of “hey, work goddamn sucks” into the 21st century party.
Megan Harrington: Ace Wilder is on her second and a half life, keeping the Skrillex drops of “Bitches Like Fridays” but only as a form of mild electrocution after letting her new countrified delivery slow to a sleepy lull. I hope she keeps this one; “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” is one of the better country crossover hits of the year, a rebel anthem for a misunderstood generation.
Edward Okulicz: This is effectively a Swedish Ke$ha doing a take on “Wham Rap.” Ace Wilder’s ode to indolence makes Avril Lavigne sound like a focused young lady with her head screwed on straight, but while she doesn’t want to work, she does — the rhythm is more of a quick march than an effortless bosh, and there are two choruses, the second of which is enormous, bratty and irresistible. Both rest on tripled words — “busy, busy, busy” and “work, work, work” — twin, easily-shouted anthems of rebellion, financial irresponsibility and not thinking of the future while you stay there and rot.
John Seroff: The depressing intersection of Avicii, Train, Icona Pop and a “THANKS OBAMA!” GIF.
Alfred Soto: Long ago Mick Jagger released a single about what he’s learned as a member of the aristocracy. No one listened. Now Ace Wilder uses the sugar rush of a chorus to shout ”don’t wanna work work work” while using the acoustic guitars anchoring the chorus to delineate the manifesto. She’s stressin’ over nuthin’, she says, and with a performance this convincing I believe her.
Anthony Easton: The irony of a song working so hard to talk about not wanting to work is a familiar trope, but this is an excellent example. It’s bratty, kind of ugly, and it has a perfect, historically minded chorus, somewhere between Grace Jones without the sangfroid and Avril just grown up, coke-addled and English.
David Sheffieck: The acoustic-driven verses are some of the weakest production I’ve heard in a while, like some unholy gene-spliced combination of “Wake Me Up” and “Counting Stars,” but the chorus finds Wilder displaying the kind of spark-plug power she exhibited earlier on “Do It.” But while that debut track was direct and simple, this sounds frustratingly at war with itself.
Iain Mew: I usually love the move of having one song explode out of another one, and the chorus of “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” is a fine example, a powerfully direct blast of “I Love It” id. Still, the greater achievement is the rest of it, because to set up the maximum contrast it’s played in a smooth “One Day”/“Counting Stars” mode, and making such a fun pop song out of that material can’t be easy.
Brad Shoup: Lyrically, it’s built for the summer. But that plunging picking is strictly fall. Which means this fucker’s gonna be in all those service industry bars you like to haunt. Let’s hope it doesn’t get a karaoke version, or the poignance might combust the room.
Katherine St Asaph: All Hail Ace Wilder, Patron Saint of the Underemployed Freelancer Burnouts, She Who Sees My Empty Plastic Cup, Forever and Ever and Ever Until The Bank Runs Dry, God Help Us, Amen.
David Lee: It’s advantageous for dance music writers to craft songs as vaguely as possible. Doing so invites a wide range of people to map their emotional projections onto the same thump and grind. Sometimes, though, this vacuum of generality — so often a welcome dumping ground for inhibition, anxiety, and exhaustion — backfires. As is the case with “Busy Doin’ Nothing.” Who, exactly, is the narrator here? Is it a rich youngster lording her laziness over generational cohorts who get chided en masse for their membership in a made-up demographic? Or is she really just one of us, dreaming of a world where she commutes the work ethic demanded of her in the office into the work bitch ethic demanded of her on the dance floor? Plenty of Top 40 EDM tunes present this double-sided coin of fantasy and reality — are you downing shots because you want to get somewhere or because you want to get away from somewhere? — but they deftly shroud the duality with blaring abandon, rendering any tensions irrelevant. And the same applies here: if the deliciously bratty REM cycle of a chorus were fleshed out and the minor-key “Wake Me Up” rework cut out, I would likely be capable of shutting off my dumb, fussy intellect and letting the music subsume me. But I can’t and I blame it on the ha-a-a-acky songwriting. Consider this adulterated fun.