Scandinavian Pop Artists Enthralled by Blood-filled, Beating Hearts

Pop's Most Precious Geniuses Come From This Landmass
Pop's Most Precious Geniuses Come From This Landmass

You know something? Scandinavians sure love singing about heartbeats. I have long thought it was weird that perhaps the two best songs from Scandinavia from the last few years were called “Heartbeat” and “Heartbeats.” But add to that list another really good Scando song, “With Every Heartbeat,” and you’ve got a weird confluence of heartbeats and Scandinavia going on.

Maybe the bodily warmth associated with increased blood flow and cardiovascular uptick is especially appealing to inhabitants of the frozen north. Or maybe Scandinavians are fixated on heartbeats because non-native English singers seem to gravitate toward the mainstays of lyrical content–hearts, being a fool for love, dancing. Or, um, not those things. But I ain’t accusing anyone of poor or uncreative use of language! On the contrary, I am praising the Scandinavians for carrying the torch and capturing the idiosyncrasies of pop language at its finest.

In this day and age, how can we compete with those crystalline waters and cold Nordic mountain springs? Those squeaky clean productionz? That purity of intent?

Beyond their titles, Annie’s “Heartbeat,” The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat” don’t have that much in common lyrically. Annie and Robyn are definitely of the same school, except that everyone always makes a big deal out of Annie’s coldness (people just can’t stand emotional aloofness in a woman; she should be HOT, not COLD!), and Robyn has sincerity oozing out of her perfect Aryan pores. I will not even pretend to understand what The Knife spend their time singing about. Their music haunts you like an Ibsen play; Heartbeats, in its surging excitement, expresses the closest thing they’ve got to a tangible human emotion.

Anyway, listen to the three tracks linked in this post and enjoy.


Old School Trend Stops Here: Clipse, WHY?

I am a very loyal music fan. I went through an itunes induced mania in early college, and then music streaming websites (like imeem) further threatened to erode my musical attention span. Sixth to ninth grade I was perfectly content to listen about a dozen cds, late high school saw a time of horizon expansion, and by 19 I was consuming and disposing of music at faster rates than cash for clunkers went bust.

But now I’m getting back to my original formula, even if it means a few chafe marks from the high velocity world of music consumption. As this blog will attest, I kinda just get into one group/artiste and am fixated for a long time. CUZ like I said, I’m loyal.

Take Clipse. Maybe it’s because they themselves are bitter that they’ve never become megastars, or maybe its because they’re also an underdog in my friend group, but I feel obligated to defend Clipse till my casket drops.

What? You say their new single sucks? No way, man, I’m going to find a way to like it, even if it takes 10 listens and a close-reading of the lyrics to find one golden nugget. Fortunately, I normally don’t have to dig so hard to like Clipse jams. (Kinda Like a Big Deal is pretty good, and stuff.)

But for real: “All Eyes On Us?”  I can’t make myself like it. There is just something disingenuous about Pusha shouting like a Miami party boy: “Life as we know it begins on Friday night! Bright lights, big city!” Bright lights, big city? Seriously? I thought this album was called Till the Casket Drops! I was expecting some heavy shit, not party till we drop philosophizing. The song is rigidly formulaic and rhythmically uninteresting; there are no epic twists, no delightful turns of phrase. And they don’t even sound like they’re having fun buying Gucci Fendi Louis or having sex with prostitutes. Or cooking up that “slumdog millionaire.” (crack, i believe)

Pharrell adds a few Kraftwerkesque ascending water droplet arpeggios… or are they just 90s Timbaland sound effects? The track channels old schoolness/Run DMC with that blary sample. Also, Pusha and Malice slick-rick it in a flareless 4/4… or as though they are imitating their tour-mates, the Cool Kids. But rudimentary rhythm is just not their delivery style.

For the Lord’s sake, these guys are hard motherfuckers. Malice–well, his game name is MALICE–spits pretty vicious stuff. And Pusha-T gets his name from his crack dealing days. He also sounds pretty mad most of the time, or otherwise quite cynical and resigned to the ironies of fate. Though this song makes mention of drug deals and dirty money, it’s at best a revision-lite on the themes visited in Hell Hath No Fury’s “Dirty Money.”

Oh yeah, and Keri Hilson guests. Though “Knock You Down” and “Turnin’ Me On” were gigantic hits, a Keri Hilson on a track does not a megahit make.

In other words, where’s the gangsta lean? I will allow for one misfired pander to commercial hip hop, but that’s it.

Shakira, Wolf

OMG! Shakira! She is my favorite Colombian export, after narcotics, coffee and flowers.

“She Wolf,” her new song, features the most demure and girly of moon-lusting howls.

The video shows Shakira dancing like a rubber-jointed circus freak–hot, right? However, let us not forget the dancing scenes in the sparkly star trek cave: she looks like a super awkward but supremely flexible spaz.

I just have two things to say: this song is pure Swedish pop. It’s so pristine. Likewise, Shakira suddenly looks Swedish. I know she’s been gradually getting blonder over the years. But I would feel better if one day, all the non-blond starlets of the world didn’t feel obligated to go blond for some portion of their career. (Here’s looking at you, Beyonce!)

“She Wolf” doesn’t sound like a stomping, organic Shakira song, but it’s one of the best and most interesting singles I’ve heard all year.

The other thing: oh man, women in cages and animal prints. I keep seeing this lately.