Despite the fact that I've been aware of and vaguely following the goings-ons of baby-sister-to-Beyoncé Solange for awhile now, I've never listened to her music before today. In fact, I've only known about her AT ALL because of her outfits, most of which are truly epic (check out her archive on Go Fug Yourself - don't be fooled by the first couple of normal-looking results, she's got some crazy taste!). And honestly, if I were a celebrity, I would probably dress very similarly to her: more restrained than Lady Gaga, but more open to ugly than most everyone else (one of my best-ever purchases was a bold orange sweater that a guy in one of my college Spanish classes requested that I "never wear again". that was a major win). Not that any of this is very relevant to her music.
Although I avoid music reviews when determining my own opinion of each album I listen to, there was no getting around the Internet's overwhelming sentiment that this EP is '80s-based. This is a reference that any idiot with a sense of hearing and a copy of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation is by law required to make, since first track "Losing You" has a very party-'80s feel, opening with a vocal blip repeated against hand-clapping and a lush, "world"-pop bass line before Solange's pretty, drawn-out vocals begin ("Tell me the truth boy am I losing you for good"), and second song "Some Things Never Seem To F*cking Work" starts in with a beat that sounds like a sexed-up, casaba version of a Hall & Oates track (I have no idea what makes the ch-ch noise on this track, I only know it recalls elementary school for me, more specifically that particular instrument and singing songs about simonizing babies with a Hershey's candy bar). I could go on and on like this, too, except I would both run out of '80s references quickly (it's my weakest decade), and get bored. So let's talk about the album as a whole instead.
First of all, I feel the need to stress that the '80s comparisons on this EP run far deeper than the instrumentation, or the beats: they carry through to Solange's singing cadences (more drawn-out than the clipped pace we hear in most modern pop, yet still not ballad-y), the background vocals ("oooh-ooohs" and "uh-oh"s and whatnot), and even the feel of the lyrics (when's the last time you heard a pop singer call her man-friend "boy"?). While the '80s references are unavoidable and accurate, however, this record is also FAR MORE than the sum of its parts. The percussion sets each track apart, the build-up of each song is pretty delicious, and the whole thing manages to sound effortlessly modern despite its references. Basically, it's just about as good as pop can get, as well as being blessedly different from most of the stuff on the radio. My only tiny, wee, nit-picky complaint is that Solange's vocals occasionally get lost in the rest of the song, which renders the words less important that I'm used to for the genre. I also wonder if I would want to hear a few less-subtle textural changes if it were a full-length album (but it's not, so that's a stupid critique, eh?). All of that being said, however, this EP is one of the most exciting pop thingy-ma-bobbers I've listened to since starting this blog, and it makes me anxious to see what she comes up with next. And not just as far as her clothing is concerned.