Lets Talk About Pop, Baby

You’re about to be guided though a strand in the time-line of pop music that I’ve been pondering lately. Lets begin here:

Robin S.; Show Me Love

This was a #5 hit, and a #1 dance hit in the U.S. in 1993. Is it just me, or is she a little flat on some of those notes? That’s a whole other topic. The point here is that there was another top 10 hit in the U.S. 4 years later, also called Show Me Love and also by someone called Robyn (different spelling but…). This one was #7 on the U.S. charts in 1997:

Robyn; Show Me Love

Can anyone fill me in on how this happened? Did the Swedish pop singer Robyn know that the Queens, NY-based house diva of virtually the same name had a hit by the exact same name only 4 years earlier?

Moving on: According to an article in Wired magazine comparing Robyn and Britney:

Imagine, if you will, a parallel universe where a pretty blonde pop star can actually carry a tune, writes her own songs, and frets over artistic integrity. In this universe, when her record company demands more hits, she tells them to shove it and starts her own label. There’s no making out with Madonna, no messy divorce, no custody battle, no 5150. Instead there’s bankable talent and a credible, long-arc career. In other words, it’s the anti-Britney Spears. Meet Robyn, the 28-year-old Swedish singer whose latest U.S. release drops in April. In the mid-’90s, both were courted by the same big label to be molded into the Next Big Thing: Robyn said no. Britney said yes. It was the first choice of many… that would lead one to hipster stardom and the other to madness.

Fast forward to 2007:

Robyn; Konichiwa Bitches

Hmm! Notice in the beginning when she’s trying to tell the monkey what beat he should play, she goes “uh uh … ih … uh uh … ih”? Kinda reminds me of this one from ’03:

M.I.A.; Galang

That’s really just a reggaeton riddim innit? Perhaps the one Robyn was beatboxing in her video is more of a classic dancehall beat but Konichiwa Bitches reminds me of M.I.A.’s work in general.

The Galang video in turn reminds me of another classic (#3 on the U.S. charts in 1988):

Neneh Cherry; Buffalo Stance

Since M.I.A. hit the scene it seems to me that more than a few “blond pop stars” have become rappers:

Gwen Stefani; Hollaback Girl

And:

Fergie; London Bridge

And yup, even Britney herself is a rapper now. What’s more interesting about the tune in the video below though, is the “wub” bassline so popular in underground genres such as dubstep these days:

Britney Spears; Freakshow

Yeah, I would say that track is pretty hot. Not sayin’ Britney’s hot, just the track. It’s produced by Bloodshy & Avant who also produced Britney’s bollywood-inspired hit single, Toxic a few years ago:

Britney Spears: Toxic

I can’t end this piece without mentioning that the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna, has now entered the fold. She’s not exactly rapping but the producer of this track, Timbaland kind of is:

Madonna; 4 Minutes

Both the track and the video kind of blow (what is this, a move soundtrack or something?!). I realize it’s excruciating to watch, but the best part’s actually at the very end when Timbaland’s beats get stripped down to their classic rawness (Oh Timba, what happened! heyy!)

Lets end this on a positive note, going back to the old-school, or at least the golden-age, before M.I.A., before Robin S., even before Neneh Cherry, to a time when rappers rarely had blond hair unless it was bleached — 1986:

Salt-N-Peppa; Push It

9 thoughts on “Lets Talk About Pop, Baby

  1. What a great trip down memory lane. Have to say that the best and catchiest beat out of the lot has to be the Salt N Pepa number. It will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day…

    Have to respect YouTube as a historical resource!

  2. wow, Robyn is pretty damn cool. I can see her tracks working well in a genre blending mix. I’ve already ordered myself a copy of her album!

  3. this post is blowing my mind on so many levels. Here are some recent run ins I’ve had with some of this material:

    I’m DJing before Ted Leo goes on the other night and he asks me if I have any Robi(y?)n. I’m like “i’ve got show me love,” which regardless of which singer he was talking about I would have been right. Be he was like “nahh you gotta get down with her new stuff,” and told the name of some track I forget, thinking he was talking about Robin S. but that Robyn video might explain things…

    Not so recent but before Toxic dropped I had all those Bollywood samples cut up and ready to go. I don’t think I’m the only one with this sob story.

    On the Madonna tip, those horns sound way cheap! The Emynd blend makes it more palatable though:

    http://www.crossfadedbacon.com/?p=108

    And is that precision pop lock champs from Japan Hamutsun Serve dancing on the car? Funny how this routine seems to use a lot of clashy horn sounds in it too…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY5et2t2dn4

  4. haha i wonder if there is a instrumental of britneys beatshow out there, would be possible to drop it as a garage dubstep blend without being too cheesy, how i gues sit would take the flair out of it….

  5. Nice links, Ghostdad! That video is amazing, and yeah, I think you’re right. It looks like those guys in the video. Really funny story about Robi(y?)n too. I’m surprised that neither of their Wikipedia entries mentions the other.

    KLOSELINE, I dropped “Freakshow” at a party in Chicago and the crowd seemd to be kind of dumbfounded. Guess they weren’t ready. haha! I agree about the instrumental. Just found a copy on MediaFire here:

    http://www.mediafire.com/?epg22noezpn

    It’s not very high quality. If anyone knows where to find a higher quality version please let us know.

  6. Very strange…I checked this post late-Friday eve. The next night I worked my “day” job, catering private functions at a Hotel here in Boston. That night we had a Bar-Mitzvah happening, complete with a VJ/DJ and dance floor…Pretty silly shit for me considering I’m an American mutt with no cultural ties to Jewish culture what-so-ever…long story short…This dude DJing opened the night up with Robin S “Show Me Love” and closed the night off with…can you guess it? “Show Me Love” by Robyn!

    What the fuck? Is this pop-cult factoid well known in certain circles or what? Was this a chance occurrence? Maybe this guy (a Bar Mitzvah DJ?) has been frequenting Mashit??

  7. Nice post!

    btw, in that video Britney doesn’t stay in line with your “blond” theme… the music sounds influenced by (or in the same family as) the cheesy side of bassline.. diva vocals with silly lyrics and lots of wub..

  8. Oh yeah! she went brunette for that video. Good point!

    Good point also about bassline. I was going to mention that but apparently it actually was influenced by dubstep. From Pitchfork:

    “Britney’s borrowings from urban music don’t have a safety net of contact book authenticity: There are no “[ft.]”‘s on Blackout. When Team Britney require a dubstep track, for instance, they simply borrow some production tricks and make one. The result is “Freakshow”, built around the “wobbler” effect that’s a genre standby. A dubstep forum thread on the tune hit seven pages in 24 hours, mixing outrage and delight: It still seems to matter when the mainstream borrows underground music, brings it into the wider pop vocabulary.”

  9. Man, just noticed that the new Robyn album features a cover of the Teddybears’ “cobrastyle”, complete with her squeaking Mad Cobra’s lyrics in a patois. I can’t even tell what the thought process behind that one is, if she’s trying to be ironic in the vein of what’s-her-name from Veruca Salt’s acoustic cover of “straight out of compton”, or what. It’s rough stuff one way or another, definitely.

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