One of the most enduring word pictures from recent music journalism comes from the lede of Kate Hutchinson’s profile of glacially ascending Charli XCX
from The Guardian
. The singer (and author of "I Love It"
) is shown “pale and withdrawn” on a stale, cramped, loud early-morning budget flight to Hungary; later, she’ll have her hair and makeup done in time for the cover photograph and the show. It’s a jarring and purposely unglamorous portrait, but life as a DIY pop star in 2013 can be a match of incongruous halves. An emerging sound reflects this binary reality: majestic skyscraping pop covered in a layer of deep synths, stains and scratches, minor chaos. Producer Ariel Rechtshaid
, a former ska-punk singer in Los Angeles, is at the forefront of this, and he’s ripped open a wide swath of sonic territory, merging the grime and gunk of recent underground dance movements with traditional Top 40. This calendar year alone, he’s worked with Sky Ferreira, Haim, Ms. XCX and Solange Knowles, creating crossover pop that’s palatable to indie rock fans, Pitchfork
readers, and Millennials struggling to make sense of a drastically transformed economic landscape. popbomb
could suggest “dirty pop” as a name for this new genre, but that was taken a long time ago
But there’s no doubt that the sludge is spreading. Up in Canada, a new single from young singer-songwriter Alyssa Reid is in at No. 30 this week, up ten spots from its debut position. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” comes on with whirling crunch, then sets up its verse structure with dark keyboard blasts and a death-clock metronome before switching on the turbine engine for the chorus — reminiscent of the approach taken on, say, Ms. Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time
. And underneath this veneer is a melody that, if arranged differently, would be in heavy rotation at Radio Disney. Calendar year 2014 will bring many more spattered and spiky songs with simple pop affectations; the international breakout prospects of today’s song are likely limited by a regional focus.
Not to say it couldn’t happen. Ms. Reid’s two-year pop career, launched from the frozen tundra of Edmonton, has already included a collaboration with Snoop Dogg/Lion/Gopher. She’s generally known in Canada as that girl who brazenly quoted a Heart song
as a hook to draw attention to her first single “Alone Again”. The highly entertaining music video
, which suggests a cross between Good Burger
and MDMA, is an exploration of the previously mentioned dynamic: she’s a clerk at a fast food restaurant who becomes a glamour princess in a co-worker’s horny fantasy. So Ms. Reid is more than ready for the pop duality of the impending future, now all we have to do is get her set up with Mr. Rechtshaid’s services.