If there’s one thing that the dance-pop takeover of the charts has showed me, it’s that dance music can be warm, fun, and human. I should have known that all along, of course, and it’s my own fault that it’s taken me so long. But that’s how these things go sometimes.
The main catalyst behind the genre’s recent resurgence is Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris. Even if think you don’t know him, you do: that’s his beat underneath Rihanna’s “We Found Love” (a song partially credited to Harris despite the fact that Rihanna is the only one singing). His record 18 Months features “We Found Love” alongside equally infectious songs, including a few that feature Harris on vocals. The record’s main single was “Bounce,” a song that I’m catching up on after somehow missing it in 2011.
Like the production on Harris’s other work, the song’s beat is big and full, its synthesizers round and warm. Another one of Harris’s specialities, the drop, is in full effect here: around the 3-minute mark, the tension gradually ramps up to an inevitable release, a gimmick as effective as it was with the “aah, aah, aah”s of “Twist and Shout.” Here it helps illustrate Kelis’s release from the relationship that caused her so much harm.
Speaking of which, I love how the word “bounce” is employed here: Kelis and Harris use it in the “getting out of here” sense, but it also denotes a kind of joy and celebration, which the music mirrors by, well, bouncing. “Bounce” is in a minor key, but it sounds like hope, as if a new, fruitful relationship is on the horizon.
About a year ago, I was in a car accident. Maybe “car accident” is overstating the case–I clipped a car that was in the middle of an intersection, against the light, and I didn’t see it. While our car was in the shop for about a month, we relied on rentals, most of which didn’t have a way to plug in an iPod.
This meant that, for the first time in years, I was listening to the radio on a regular basis. I decided to listen to “top 40” stations, because it had occurred to me that I actually like the music that’s popular on the radio. As always, there’s still a lot of garbage out there (some of which is also glorious), but the dance-y hip-hop thing is totally up my alley. (The kids say “up my alley,” right?)
I’d heard a few songs by Rihanna before last year; I especially loved “What’s My Name?” and, like every reasonable person on earth, “Umbrella”. But there’s something different going on in “We Found Love.” I do love it, but I’m also intrigued by the weird little universe it inhabits. The melody, simple as it is, is kind of haunting, and that persistent synth is anything but. It’s a great combination.
The song is full of happiness, but it reminds me of coldness, of driving shitty rental cars in frigid temperatures. I don’t often feel nostalgia for the very recent past, but songs like this make that happen.