“I think there is definitely a throwback R&B resurgence going on.” So says Le Youth, in what might be the biggest understatement to come out of music since 2011 – you know, the year of revivalist R&B?
I’m not even sure what a ‘throwback resurgence’ is, and clearly Le Youth’s unsure too. Such a revelation didn’t arise after the success of acts such as The Weeknd or AlunaGeorge, or even the ever-so-subtle reformation of Destiny’s Child at the 2013 Superbowl. No, only after hearing Cassie’s iconic breakout hit Me & U for the first time, more than half a decade after it hit the US Billboard charts, did the penny finally drop.
Enter C O O L, a borderline-offensive bastardisation of R&B’s silver age. My introduction to it was a surreal one: I had just arrived home after a long day commuting to and from London. My mother had been watching the UK Official Chart Show and as I chatted with her, I became distracted by something familiar in the background. It sounded new, but I found myself singing along; I knew the words, but I kept losing them – the order had changed.
“Is it a cover?” I thought. However, a google search soon revealed that the woman in the video wasn’t behind the vocal, or part of Le Youth – revealed to be the nom de plume of one man and his pitch shifter.
“It’s called SAMPLING” cried one youtube commenter. But surely a sample is just that – a sample of a song, not a heavy-handed cut and paste of its core parts. It’s puzzling that Le Youth cites Cyril Hahn (and his excellent remix of Destiny Child’s Say My Name) as an influence; call C O O L for what it is – a remix. Only under such conditions could it be considered appropriate.
Despite being so late to the party that it’s almost last orders at the bar, this producer has his head screwed on. Everything about C O O L reads as exploitative. Aside from his choice of source material, the song’s pitch-altered vocal and stock beat has its heart set on quote house fans unquote. Then there’s the video, which takes the subtly misogynist aesthetic of youtube tastemakers Majestic Casual and applies it to a moving portrait.
Talented producers have managed to win over both the commercial and critical crowd with more originality and, more importantly, their own vocalists (see Disclosure et al). However, already proving most popular in the UK, Le Youth will surely gain momentum from C O O L, which reads as cheating to me. One can only hope Cassie has a good lawyer on speed-dial.
All this, and we haven’t even mentioned the embarrassingly uncool stylisation of the title, only slightly less unforgivable than the song itself. Perhaps it’s inviting us to read between the lines, but frankly Le Youth has crossed one.
He gets me.