Release Date: Jul 30, 13
Throughout the past couple years, we’ve seen a staggering revival in R&B music, spanning from lo-fi experimental approaches to journey-like sound lengths while still satisfying the mainstream. While this spike in popularity has created an entirely new love for the genre, it’s easy to forget what initially kept radio speakers bumping and kept hearts beating with passionate love. Aaliyah, TLC, Destiny’s Child: all of those artists climbed the charts while still embellishing sheer beauty through bold vocals and bombastic backing tracks. Sure, the slow jams are great too, but mastering the formula that’s catchy, heart-felt and expansive is quite the feat.
Evidently, AlunaGeorge knew just the trick. The duo’s much anticipated debut album, Body Music, makes such hindsight applicable to the current evolutions of music today, a scene flourishing with electronic experimentation and booming synth and bass cuts while resurrecting a taste for 90s R&B that was dearly missed. Sweet teeth being satiated, it can’t be ignored that the duo composes beautiful pop songs loaded with contagious hooks and just enough exploration to keep listeners on their toes. It was easy to fall in love with them from their one-off singles sporadically released through the past year, but Body Music proves that the duo has more left in their box of nostalgic tricks.
Serving as the core of the album’s introduction, “You Know You Like It,” “Attracting Flies” and “Your Drums, You Love” instantly reel listeners into the strength of the twisted R&B direction. Each song will force you into a deep groove influenced by echoing vocal samples, adventurous and diverse musicality, and lyrics that apply simplicity in dissecting love or other heart-felt stories. Even with this simplicity, Aluna pens beautiful one-liners that cue deeper thinking and antagonize the emotions indebted in troublesome love, as “life can be cruel, if you’re a dreamer” and living through “little grey fairy tales and little white lies.” While many may complain it’s an indication of playing it safe or recycling old material, the singles give crystal context for the rest of the record.
The proceeding tracks can incite an even more contagious fever. Core highlight “Bad Idea” screams like a lost Aaliyah track with gorgeously stacked vocals on top of a pulsing backing track. The chorus’ vocal line doesn’t even merit breath as Aluna zig-zags between rapid rhyming and reaching her falsetto’s peak. George’s phenomenal production only broadens the palate as his set-up opens an electronic black hole in the track’s bridge, exposing a completely new dimension to the driven R&B anthem. Its catchiness drives your ears into circles to the point where the repeat button is a must.
“Outlines” opens with croons of “it’s odd like a deja vu,” ironically sparking up comparisons with the song’s wavy synth notes and hazy atmosphere. Whether they see it or not, AlunaGeorge trends along a similar path to EDM-pop sensation Purity Ring, almost like a carbon copy across genres. Any fan of their debut, Shines, is going to instantly raise their finger in suspicion of the duo’s warping auras loaded in “From Friends to Lovers” or the wall-to-wall exploration in “Body Music.” Not to mention that Purity Ring also followed the same method of successful singles before releasing their debut album. While it was easy to be knit-picky about repetition and stagnation, lead singer Megan James reinvigorated Shrines with fantastical lyricism that was continuously awe-inspiring. AlunaGeorge has their moments of similar appeals, but there are times where they fall short.
In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Aluna stated that she “never wanted to leave anyone flatlined at the end of a song,” and while that holds true for many on the record, others fall through the cracks and are easily forgettable. “Lost & Found” rhymes playfully of odd relationship exchanges as George’s volume is barren with minor bass grinds during the verses. Its primary focus is agility, rather than a completely sound performance. The same lack of production and lyrics with depth also defines “Superstar,” which coasts on one melody and background vocal static. The ode to George’s father is admirable and caring, but it doesn’t fit the impressive bill that the duo manifested in the record’s first half.
Body Music is a debut that is potent with explorative electronic beats to keep your head spinning and crystal-clear vocal performances that will send your heart a’soaring, but it struggles to proceed past that at times. AlunaGeorge is a duo that glows with talent and understands the commitment to mastering pop, but singularity can be a killer. As long as they break the formula in time, their potential will only grow to satisfy and expand their audience.