On urban dance pop’s evolution and Usher’s “Climax”
Usher’s “Climax” is so far ahead as a front-runner in “Song of the Year” consideration that the race could already be over. American urban pop 2012 is a turgid sea largely filled with fist-pumping electro and dubstep dregs. Meaningful mainstream artists are for the most part making meaningless music in a sub-par manner. The absolute key to being a top pseudo dance artist is to appear more meaningless than the sounds that surround your lyrics. From Rick Dees’ Disco Duck puppet to 90s, Barbie-adoring one-hit wonders Aqua, plus the self-aware and sexy LMFAO, a standard exists. Lifeless vocalists shouting brilliantly over lifeless music make nary a sound in the mainstream realm. Jumping in and going the extra mile, while say, vomiting streamers (like Rihanna does in the clip for Calvin Harris production “We Found Love”), is key. While everyone is following the sonic trend, not many are willing to bear the brunt of the reputation-tarnishing behavior that cues top-of-the-charts dominance. However, with Diplo bringing future bass to the table in “Climax,” more conservative mainstream pop purveyors now have room to join the dance floor and excel.
This development has been brewing for awhile. Somewhere between the careers of David Guetta and Skrillex reaching mainstream acclaim, the bottom fell ALL the way out of indie dance music. Be it Brits like James Blake and SBTRKT or Americans like Flying Lotus and Toro y Moi, the notion that pop dance could both writhe in the pinnacle of ecstasy and cry in the depths of agonizing pain became readily apparent. Kudos to Diplo for realizing this, and injecting this much needed notion into the urban pop atmosphere. This is a massive single. Being that it’s Usher, it’s pretty much guaranteed spins, no matter what it sounds like. Diplo’s prior soul surprise, his Major Lazer tandem’s “Pon de Floor” sampling Beyonce single “Run the World” was a hackneyed attempt at crossing Jay-Z’s wife into the indie realm. Comparatively, this one gets it right. Future bass makes people who hate dubstep feel okay with liking excessive sub bass. It deletes the pitch-shifting and electro aspects of pop electro, and instead creates space for big voices and giant emotional displays. British indie darling Katy B, the aforementioned Blake and a plethora more may be at singing in the same realm. However Usher, someone who likely influenced the twenty-somethings who dominate blogosphere adoration, blows them completely out of the water.
By evolving an atmosphere dominated by charismatic charlatans into a space once again rewarding of true artistic talent, “Climax” is easily the must listen to urban pop single of 2012.