Monday, July 22, 2013

Music Review: Get Lucky vs. Blurred Lines

"Get Lucky"
  • Artist: Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo) feat. Pharell Williams
  • Album: Random Access Memories
  • Genre: Dance/Electronic
  • Label: Columbia / Daft Life
  • Release: 19 April 2013
  • Writers: Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers
  • Producers: Daft Punk
"Blurred Lines"
  • Artist: Robin Thicke feat. Pharell Williams & T.I. (Clifford Harris Jnr)
  • Album: Blurred Lines
  • Genre: Pop
  • Label: Interscope / Star Trak
  • Release: 26 March 2013
  • Writers: Robin Thicke, Pharell, T.I.
  • Producer: Pharell

Disco.  Just one word can carry so much meaning, and in this case, "disco" may evoke in you memories of a musical genre laden in camp and too embarrassing to wish to recall.  After all, the phrase "Deader than Disco" is apparently a thing.  But what if this sound and even its spirit never left our public consciousness?  To that effect, I present three pieces of evidence for you kind people to ponder.  1) Compare the disco sound to the New Wave/New Romantic sub-genres which sprang up directly afterwards.  2) Consider the endless infusion of "in da club" pop-rap from the turn of the decade which, whilst having less to do with disco in terms of music, carries on its lyrical themes of material and sexual excess in the dance hall.  And 3) as I write this, there are three songs in the top ten which all claim influence from the disco sound of the 1970s, and to an extent the early 80s.  I am talking about the subjects of today's article, "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines", and also "Treasure" by Bruno Mars.  Which is alright, but I'm passing it over for now because A) the other two share singer Pharell, B) they both have similar lyrical themes, and C) comparisons tend to work best in twos.

The Music

The one word I would use to describe the music in "Get Lucky" is "authentic".  It strikes a balance between synthesizers and live instruments which was perfected in the late '70s and '80s, as we may have forgotten when reminiscing upon those times.  It probably helps that Daft Punk brought in co-writer and guitarist Nile Rodgers, formerly of the band Chic, which brought the disco scene some of its most iconic and, for better or worse, enduring tracks.  His funky shredding cleverly disguises the fact that, structurally, this song follows the Four Chords of Pop structure.

The vocals on "Get Lucky" are almost entirely sung by Pharell.  The nice thing about having him on here is that if you turn the pitch up and add some choice sound effects, bam, you can make him sound like Michael Jackson.  Something tells me Daft Punk would've drafted Michael Jackson if he were alive today.  Helps that the King of Pop dabbled in the disco sound himself.  Back to Pharell, his role is inverted on "Blurred Lines", where apart from the production work, his parts are reduced to the occasional ad-lib, while Robin Thicke takes centre stage and T.I. gets a guest rap verse.  T.I.'s alright, he's never been my least favourite rapper or anything, but for the frontman, Robin Thicke doesn't quite have the energy to carry so much weight on his own.  Also, he throws in the most annoying laugh I've ever heard in a pop song.  ...Oh wait, I just flashed back to Eminem in "Just Lose It".  Better make that the second most annoying laugh I've ever heard in a pop song.

Whereas "Get Lucky" draws inspiration from the height of the disco era, "Blurred Lines" evokes the genre's earlier years, leaning more towards the funk side of it.  Pharell's beat is inspired by (but not directly sampled from) the likes of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up", and anyone who draws inspiration from Marvin Gaye is alright in my book.  Unfortunately, there's nothing much else going on in the beat, and given Pharell's past history of making minimalism into an art form, when he says he only needed to spend an hour on the song [link], I believe it.  Thus, the one word I would use to describe the music in "Blurred Lines" is "cheap".

The Lyrics

There are similarities between the lyrics of "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines", the first being that both songs are from the point of view of a guy, or guys, cruisin' for a screwin'.  But they go about it differently.  Whereas Robin Thicke and T.I are deliberately more up-front in "Blurred Lines", Pharell in "Get Lucky" takes it slower and more intelligently, describing the scene as such in the first lines:
Like the legend of the Phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planets spinning
The force from the beginning
I have no idea what that means, but it sound beautiful.  Maybe it's by virtue of Daft Punk's operating out of France which permits them to not rely on the lowest-common denominator as we Americans have perfected, but it's a breath of fresh air no matter how you explain it.  Numerous rappers have made the mistake of trying to be poetic after stating their intentions of getting in the guts of Mrs. Deuteragonist, but not so here: these are the first lines.  And... there's not much else to go by. Between two verses, a bridge, and a chorus, "Get Lucky" has but 16 distinct lines to its name before having to resort to repetition.  "Blurred Lines", on the other hand, can boast nearly twice as many.  Not necessarily better lines, mind you, but on the sliding scale of quantity vs. quality, at least it's sticking to a side and not living up to its namesake.  (You know, blurring the lines.)

To be fair, both songs use repetition in their hooks.  "Get Lucky" repeats "We're up all night to get lucky", and "Blurred Lines" repeats "I know you want it".  Despite "Get Lucky" repeating its line more often -- much more often -- they mix it up from time to time, such as layering another round of the chorus on top, or the Daft Punk guys morphing those words into a vocoder jam.  But when Robin Thicke repeats the line "I know you want it" in his chorus, it's done twice in the middle of it, so it comes across more like he's stalling for time.  To be fair, it is a panicky situation to run out of words during your song.
Okay, now he was close
Tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal
Baby, it's in your nature
*sigh* How many times have I told you?  Fellas?  It's not your place to claim you know the mindset of the target of your lust.  You don't know that.  YOU DON'T KNOW THAT!!
Just let me liberate ya
You don't need no papers
That man is not your maker
Okay, so this is another one of those "I will steal your girl" songs which was yet another unfortunate side effect of what I call the neo-disco era of the early 2010s.
I feel so lucky
You wanna hug me
What rhymes with "hug me"?
Ugh, I can practically hear the guy from that "If you know what I mean" meme in those lines.  Not helping is the fact that Robin himself laughs a little whilst delivering that last line.  Or the fact that he rhymed "hug me" with itself and left the joke hanging.  But if it were an effort to defuse the obvious punchline, so much the better, I guess.  Either way, pickup jokes will get you know where.  See, Pharell knows how it's done, as he demonstrates on that other song:
What is this I'm feeling
If you want to leave I'm with it
Oh, and the phrase "get lucky" almost rhymes with "hug me".  What a tangled web we weave.  All the same, I wouldn't exactly call this stuff "rapey"; after all, we once had a song literally (minus censorship) titled "Tonight (I'm [verb]ing You)", and this is nowhere near as blunt.  That was, however, until I discovered the following line:
Baby, can you breathe?
I got this from Jamaica
It always works for me
Dakota to Decatur
By referring to Jamaica and breathing in the same couplet, this is a fairly obvious marijuana reference.  Although to be fair, I'm not familiar with marijuana's use as a date-rape drug.  Not that I have experience with date-rape drugs, either on the giving or receiving end, so that shows what I know.  Besides, this verse comes across as more like a suggestion than a threat.  Compare that to these lines from another song, namely "Shake That" by Eminem and Nate  (and yes, this was from Eminem's sucky period):
Pop a little champagne and a couple of E's
Mix it with the bubbly
I want a [noun] to sit at the crib with no panties on
Knows that she can't but she won't say no
(Not a rhyme -Ed.)
Tonight I want a [noun]
Hope you don't mind
I told him how you like it from behind
Now that certainly comes across as more fatalistic, like it's only one step above shouting "YOU GONNA GET RAPED".  "Blurred Lines"?  Not so much.  Pardon the pun, but of the many lines "Blurred Lines" blurs, it blurs the lines between Thicke playing a harmless pickup artist and a sexual predator.  Seriously, you can do much worse.  Besides, all three men involved in the conception and performance of this song have done the favour of reminding us that they are all happily married men and just having a little fun.  And I ain't calling them liars.  I mean come on, can't we all just enjoy "Blurred Lines" in the innocent spirit in which it was intended to be enjoyed?


Not when there are other, better disco throwbacks on the radio.

"Get Lucky":
Lyrics: 4 out of 5
Music: 5 out of 5
Performance: 5 out of 5
The Call: 5 out of 5 (A)
"Blurred Lines":
Lyrics: 2 out of 5
Music: 3 out of 5
Performance: 3 out of 5
The Call: 3 out of 5 (C)

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