Freak of the Week (REFIX)
Freak of the Week (REFIX) is available at:
20 August, 2015
Pop; Electro.; Soul
AT the moment, my reviews are turning into…
a girls-only zone. Having reviewed a number of female artists lately, the next week sees me interview/feature Dana McKeon (A Maltese-born Beatbox star); NINA (A German-born Electro.-Pop singer) and Hannah Dorman (A British Country-Rock artist). In-between I am assessing Waiting for Wednesday- an up-and-coming British duo; their lush and dreamy music is among the most seductive around. It is not really coincidence (I am reviewing the girls) as they tend to provide the more diverse music: always a little more depth and originality; they cover a wider spread of genres- and provide something genuinely deep. The boys do well in the band arena: nobody rocks harder (or more commandingly) than them; they are the masters of the anthem-sized riffs/tunes- a necessary sector of music I love exploring. When it comes to moving away from Indie/Rock parables, there is a little less consistency. I am on the search for a great male singer-songwriter: someone who breaks away from the trend of Acoustic-Folk/Pop acts; a bit of Electronica and fervency; something quite soulful and intense. When it comes to the girls, there are plenty of these acts: the boys seem to be comparatively lackluster and under-the-radar. The band market is a weird and wonderful thing: by far the most profitable type of music (compared to solo work etc.) they are the festival-headlining, hands-aloft musicians that get the crowds enflamed. Today, I am doing something quite different: in the four years I have been publishing to my blog, I have never featured a girl group. There are a few good reasons for this. For one, I am not the biggest fan of the ‘genre’: for every Little Mix (one of the most credible current examples) there are dozens of dismal equivalents; by-the-numbers artists that are all no-chills, bland vocals and inane songs. Boy bands are typically aimed at the young girl market: they don’t have the strength and credibility to translate to other (age ranges) and forge any real conviction. Aside from your One Direction-esque bands- that fill a market need and committee-led sound well enough- there aren’t many stand-out acts. When it comes to girl bands, there is a little more choice: there are still typical drawbacks- most of the songs have 15 writers’ credits; there is little instrumentation; it can be quite cover version-heavy; the vocals tend to blend into a sea of sameness. IV Rox have superseded the pitfalls and limitations (of the girl band market) and produce music that can rival the mainstream stars. There are a lot of up-and-coming girl groups emerging, yet London’s IV Rox have spiked the social media ear; amassed a host of fans- seem to be on an unstoppable charge. Before I continue my point, let me introduce the four-piece to you:
Raquel, Natalie, Dolly and Nadine
“Hailing from London and Essex, IV Rox are fast becoming the next big British girl group!
IV Rox girls have gained themselves over 18,000 followers on Twitter and have landed themselves with a hugely dedicated fanbase of ‘Roxstars’.
Natalie, Raquel, Nadine and Dolly have an infectious energy and impressive vocals complete with effortless harmonies. Their already loyal and dedicated ‘Roxstars’ are hugely important to the girls and they will continue to interact with and appreciate their rapidly growing support as they look forward to a big year and a big future!”
Continuing my girl band theme- and reasons why, until now, they have been foreign to these pages- there are a number of other points. The modern-day girl band market seems to be getting a bad rap: a lot of the current examples tend to be very sound-alike and indistinguishable; quite unspectacular and mould-fitting. Whilst IV Rox have hallmarks of modern girl bands- four gorgeous girls; swooning and uplifting harmonies; Pop-cum-Soul blends- there is something different about the group. For a start, the band is not label-made and manufactured- not the sort you’d expect to be produced by The X Factor or a talent show. There is genuine friendship and bonds in the group; none of the limitations of the current breed. Whilst the likes of Girls Aloud- brought together by a voting public- have inevitably split (one suspects there were more fractious moments than the media reported), IV Rox have a sisterhood bond; there is genuine love among the ranks- this bleeds into their music. With passion and soulfulness being top of the agenda, the music crackles and explodes; the vocals rise and unite- you can tell they are in love with the art of music-making. Whilst the media has a rather disparaging and snide attitude to girl bands- to be fair there are (a hell of a) lot of terrible groups- there are some genuinely great ones. IV Rox put me in mind of the bygone legends: the likes of The Spice Girls and En Vogue. Perhaps disparate, unconnected names, there is some relevance. Being a fan of En Vogue, albums like EV3 and Born to Sing stick in the mind. For those who have only heard Don’t Let Go (Love), dig into the American band’s back catalogue: their songs have personal touches and insatiable harmonies. Funky Divas– their 1992 masterpiece- saw them hit their stride: the R ‘n’ B-cum-Pop fusions cemented the L.P. as one of the 1990s best. What a lot of girl bands negate is the past: they say they are influenced by The Spice Girls, En Vogue, Destiny’s Child etc.- few actually display that influence. IV Rox are not a one-dimensional Pop band; burying their identities amidst a sea of Auto-Tune and over-production. With its members being influenced by the R ‘n’ B girl bands (of the ‘90s) – and having a wide range of influences- this comes together beautifully in their music. The vocals are sumptuous and stirring; the songs- whilst largely covers at the moment- contain plenty of passion and kinetic energy. The girls have the potential to re-appropriate cynicism and class boundaries: reintroduce some of the ‘90s glory days; use their music/platform to influence and inspire. Whilst not at the giddy heights of the great girl bands (quite yet) they are in their tender years: there is ample evidence to suggest they will have a shining future; be able to break into the mainstream- and nestle shoulders with the likes of Little Mix.
If you are new to the band- and a lot of people will be- Freak of the Week (REFIX) – is a good starting point. Although it is a cover version, it does showcase how adaptable and intuitive the girls are- they place their own stamp on the song; very much make it their own. The best way to get a true impression is to go back: investigate Imperfections (released in February). The seven songs along the E.P. let the girls open up and explore: the songs look at jilted ex-boyfriends and no-good guys- an E.P. aimed at young girls and women; very much imbued with maturity and thoughtfulness. Under the Bridge- consider the E.P. stand-out- bristles with energy and sassiness: the vocals trip and spill; the cool-vibed seduction mixes with polished and clear production- highlighting the girls’ stunning vocals and harmonies. Badder Than a Mother unites Hip-Hop vibes (they collaborate with Stormzy) to create something hard-edged and vibrant- a song that raps and attacks; it retreats and rushes. The energy keeps flowing; the girls’ harmonies soothe and augment- never sounding over-produced or processed. Passionate and proud, the song shows the band looks at command and control (in a relationships); a bad-boy beau; a guy who is good (to his girl) but has a distinct edge. The song reminds me of Destiny’s Child debut; a little En Vogue; it has 1990s remembrance yet comes across as very current and modern. Down for Me (with Ghetts on board) continues this cross-genre splice: vibrant and emphatic, the song fuses fast-scratched Rap with punctuating harmonies- the combination is exhilarating. The composition is busy and street-seeking; the beats are hard and hot; the electronics are ominous and dramatic. The girls need a protector; someone who is in their corner- a guard against the vicissitudes of the world. Lush and heavenly, the vocals blend neatly with the Rap verses: a perfect combination showing the girls are as comfortable collaborating as they are out on their own. Case of the Ex is Imperfections’ softest moment: a more Pop-led number, it is notable for its stunning production and tripping beats. Looking at paranoia and cheating hearts, the heroines read the rights- the central man has been texting his ex; doing no good. Before you think it is settling into a sense of defeat, the song explodes with Trip-Hop fury. Crossing Massive Attack, Tricky and The Prodigy, the song explodes into a club-uniting anthem- something that tumbles and crashes; intoxicates and delights. The vocals switch between low-down coo to enraptured highs; the music matches the mood- the entire effect is spellbinding.
I hope future releases pick up from Imperfections: the E.P. mixes genres and sounds; it is street-wise and vulnerable; passionate and vengeful- sharp enough to prick the underground; seductive enough to rule the mainstream. I am impressed by the girls hugely: they have exceeded expectations and crafted an E.P. that is both expected (in terms of its themes and lyric ideas) yet totally unexpected (when it comes to the compositions and vocal stun). Not to put pressure on them; I would expect their next release to build upon sapling success: retain its sense of adventure and originality and introduce new ideas. I hope the girls address modern concerns- away from love and heartache- to speak to other demographics and sectors. They should retain that bold sense of right and truth- when dressing-down horrid boys- but their maturity could see them tackle politics, inequality and social issues- the same sort of the Rap/Hip-Hop mainstream do. The bangers and anthems of the past- My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It); Say My Name etc. – are being overlooked and updated. Modern girl groups feel too much need to add street/Rap elements; bring in too many collaborators- when they go solo subjects tend to focus on narrow ideals. If you listen to the aforementioned songs- the former particularly- the public is crying out for that type of jam; something that gets every single soul singing. From IV Rox’s openings, I can see them penning an equivalent classic; something brash and declarative- both U.S.-sounding but uniquely British. It may be a lot of expectation; I think they have it in them.
Freak of the Week is a track by English Hip-Hop duo Krept & Konan. Taken from their debut album The Long Way Home (released last month), the song is barely-born- the IV Rox girls have been quick to pounce. Whilst the original is an edgy and straight-ahead affair- it is a typical Hip-Hop/Rap affair. Whilst the girls have kept the electronic beat intact- the introduction does not differ from the original- that is the comparisons end. Whereas the original is a male perspective- and gets dangerously close to being misogynistic at times- the girls give that an about-face; turning it into something less controversial. The girls have instead scrubbed the Vegas tales and freely-available women; they have written their own perspective- something as edgy; told through their glasses. The tale begins at a late-night rendez vous; our heroines are walking the town and hanging out- before being approached by a man. Asking if (she is) free- the answer is a ‘no’- he seems to be relentless in pursuit. It seems (the unnamed figure) is the typical rag-tag no-good- the type of ‘boy’ that wants notches and numbers- but the girls are having none of it. Not wanting to be the “Freak of the Week”, he is being put in his place: the words come from a place of independence and strength; there will be no love-her-and-leave-her coming-together; the boy is being taken down a peg. The original idea (of the track) is diving into the Vegas scene: the boys see a promiscuous woman (a freak) that is moving her body; she is quite objectified and lusted-after; there is little empathy or depth. The song is as instant and raw as you could imagine: it mentions Snapchat and party-jumping; raucous nights and getting wasted- the N-Bomb is dropped when needed. The girls couldn’t really get away with doing a beat-for-beat cover- it would sound a little bizarre. Their hearts and minds are not in the U.S.; walking down a British street- whether London or Essex- the role-reversal sees the boy and his B.M.W.; the desperate chat-up attempts- it is less obscene but no less edgy. The man/boy is sure flash; he has the money and the motor- essentially he is looking for another trinket and diamond. Negating the human aspect- treating a woman like a woman- everything aims towards shallowness and materialism. Without a personality or an iota of charm; essentially he is waving keys and showing his wallet- trying to compensate for a lack of heart and guts. The IV Rox lead is having none of it: having seen too many have-a-go-bed-hoppers, she knows what to do- shut down his mouth and put herself on top. Not your make-up-strewn blonde girl- that would get with anyone for a few minutes in a flash car- the cheapness and crudeness is being seen-through. At its heart, there are deeper issues and emotional contemplations- a slightly softer side pervades. Whoever the man is, there are some feelings and need- the girls wanting something quite quick and easy. Whether the coming-together/lust is intended to be long-lasting or meaningful, you get that sense of longing- wanting something to scratch an itch. Krept & Konan’s alcohol-strewn party scenes are replaced with street-life, late-night club-going: the guy might be just what is needed; so long as our heroine is in command that is all that matters. Maybe misreading things, but I feel there is a mixture of disposability and meaning: that need for a man and warmth; at the same time, looking for something that is quite simple and uncomplicated. Perhaps the girls have a different take, yet you can picture the scenes: we have all seen that club-going conversation; the dancing and sweat-making temptation- and the inevitable conclusions. At the heart of things, the guy is screwing things up: when issues arise (and things get deep) he seems to be heading away; emotions are essentially too complex and meaningful. The girls unite when the moments call: “When you see/there’s an issue/post that picture/let him miss you.” The Hip-Hop original had heavy vocals and domineering beats: it is a tough and gritty song that paints some vivid scenes; the boys are having an awesome time- essentially, they are living the life. In this version, that central (bouncing electronic) beat remains strong- and is the song’s compositional focus- yet the REFIX is a lot more pleasing. More relatable and less divisive, the lyrics are still relevant and restorative- it seems like the girls are putting themselves in the guise (of the original song’s) girl; stating she cannot be objectified and bought. Where Krept & Konan are looking on- at the girl is being leered-over to the beat- IV Rox are shouting back: essentially, they will not be diminished or de-humanised. Not wanting to be second-best, the girls let their voice swell and unite: the boy is being sleazy and crude; why is he being so arrogant? With the likes of Rhianna and Beyoncé capable of crafting similar-themed tracks- the man being given a going-over; his material nothingness beaten-down- the girls inject their own take. Although they have an Americanised take on things- and level-in said artists together with T.L.C. and the ‘90s legends- that actually works in their favour. They never lose their British voices and grounded personalities; instead they link U.S. and U.K. sounds; the beats and street vibes of both countries- to create something ubiquitous and popular. The motifs will connect with young women and their target audiences; the incredible vocals and insatiable beat reaches further- the song does not alienate swathes and people. A short and sharp attack, the four-piece move from the gears: the song never loses pace and vision; it remains steel-eyed and independent. Strong-willed and in-charge, the girls are laying the law down; putting the boy in his place- a kick against arrogance, disrespect and inhuman ambitions. Krept & Konan didn’t spare blushes or show restrains: their Freak of the Week is fast food-cruising, late-night detours and getting it for free. The central figure seems like a caveat or accessory: not really tangible or respectful, the song looks at getting cheap thrills; the boys are on charge and getting their way- it did not draw me in. I appreciate the hallmarks and keys of the Hip-Hops scene- a lot of songs deal with similarly empty and sexist ideals- yet it is not something you want to promote. The girls are not promulgating this myth and sexism: they do not want women (mentioned in the original) to be seen as common-place; true women are not like that- essentially, it is not okay to toss them aside like a personal possession.
Whether the band are friends with Krept & Konan (or are fans of their music) I am not sure. Whilst I actually like Krept & Konan’s debut album, I find Freak of the Week a little off-putting and ‘filler’. Better songs lurk on the album; this track is low down the list to me. Although their original did get into the nation’s top 10, it has some downsides and de-merits: chief among them is the rather rampant objectification and sexism. I know the scenes exist (that are in the song) and the boys probably don’t condone the actions (they present in the song). The girls have recognised the stunning beat and composition; decided to post their retort- give it a female perspective. Giving the song a new lease, what we have sounds like an original- they have owned it and complete reinvented the track. Less aggressive than the original, their track is deeper and more nuanced; the vocals more emotive and compelling- the performance more urgent and electrifying. Like Little Mix- who are pretty apt when neutering rather awful men) the girls show they have a similar boldness and sassiness. I know I have been tirelessly name-dropping En Vogue- and will do for the rest of this review- but I see some of them (in IV Rox). Whereas the U.S. giants mixed intense and deep beats around delirious vocals and sky-scraping wonder; the girls have done the same thing. Some notes go off the charts; the harmonies twist and glide- the lyrics are sharp and quotable; inspired and cutting. Most girl bands don’t show much emotional depth; their lyrics are penned by armies of writers- they lose identity and come across as puppets of marketing men. Here, IV Rox shout their independence and songwriting skills: the track will appeal to fans of mainstream girl groups but will go much further- it is broad and stunning enough to drawn in Rock and Indie lovers; fans of the ‘90s masterpieces. Sharp and emotive; polished and slick, the production values allow the girls’ voices to be right up top- nothing gets buried and overlooked; there is no bleed-in or obscuration. Fewer hands have crafted the song- compared to a lot of girl band hits- so you can tell this is an IV Rox-led assault; a track that unites Deep-House with ‘90s Club music; ties in R ‘n’ B with club-based Electronica- a song that will speak to ‘90s kids and modern-day teenagers. Gifted with stunning production merits, the track showcases IV Rox’s gamut of pluses: those intense and heaty-melting voices; the dizzying delivery and intense beats; the maturity and sense of strength and pride. Seamlessly following on from their E.P., it not only showcases the girls’ adaptability (a cover version that is technically not a cover version) and emphasises intelligence and smarts. One of the most insistent and gripping songs of the moment; make sure you check out Freak of the Week (REFIX)– reinventing a song that needs fixing; a clever piece of wordplay around the word ‘mix’- and its many glories. Leave your preconceptions and snobbish attitudes at the door; embrace something wonderful- a stone-cold tune that reveals its true force (over multiple spins).
The girls’ 7-track E.P. Imperfections was greeted with acclaim and applause: new fans were recruited; reviewers were impressed with its depth and concision- the consistency and quality shone through. Their Freak of the Week take is currently doing the rounds: it shows the girls have lost none of their potential and lustre; their inimitable voices gilded together- they showcase themselves to be tremendous interpreters. Not just your run-of-the-mill band- who cover songs without changing a note or syllable- here they have made the song their own: it sounds like an original; an IV Rox standard- they put their very distinct stamp on things. Having been introduced to the girls- by their P.R. representative Tasha Demetriou- I have been pleasantly surprised. I am never going to be a fan of the boy band market: I can find no quality or merit among any of its acts; I will never be converted. The same can be said of (the majority of) girl groups: those that are talent show-stamped/committee-controlled will never really impress me at all. IV Rox have their own sense of identity and authority: their music blends of-the-moment urgency and ‘90s shades: little hints of the all-time great girl bands. I know the band is making their next moves: expect to hear some new music coming pretty soon. That will be exciting to hear: the girls have tonnes of confidence and style; their voices (when blended particularly) are tremendous. I guess when it comes to their direct competition, Little Mix are their closest comparison. If you look at the two genetically, there are similarities for sure; a similar make-up and image: that does not do IV Rox a disservice; the two bands are distinct and have their own heritage. The most impressive comparisons can be described this: the impressive and slick production; the mature and infectious music; Americanised sounds and songs. What our IV Rox have going for them is their edges: the band have a wider appeal- they can draw in fans of all genres; go beyond the teen boundaries- and will speak to both men and women. If you go beyond skin-deep looks- it is true the four are stunning and undeniably heartbreaking- there are four distinct personalities; they are a band made up of four strong women- which will speak and connect with older women (in their 20s and 30s); the revitalised ‘90s vibes will inspire those who grew up with them- myself included. In terms of the male vote, there is a huge potential: if you consider the ‘90s R ‘n’ B legends; they are still seducing male ears- with their timeless harmonies and relevant messages. Whilst a lot of contemporaries tend to focus on tried-and-tested themes- heartbreak and bad men; the need for space etc. – IV Rox have something more about them. With plenty of street sass and ammunition, the four-piece could go on to craft something spectacular. I am not sure that a future release will sound like- whether it’s an album or E.P. – but it would be great consider. If the girls fuse genres like House, Soul, R ‘n’ B, Soul and Rock; put their own lyrics and music into the fold; introduce sophistication and political relevance among the fun- then they could really reign without challenge. Too many other girl bands- your Saturdays, Fifth Harmony etc. – are too confined and homogenised; too concerned with ticking boxes and not pushing boundaries. The London-Essex collective could craft something Funky Divas-esque- sorry to bang on about the album. Our time needs anthems and nostalgia: something modern and relevant; yet something that evokes the ‘90s and ‘00s- thus uniting multiple ages and factions. In a time of crisis and uncertainty it is not folly to connect with that (in the music): the girls could speak about injustices and discrimination; women’s struggles and racial prejudices- they have the credibility to affect some real change (in the girl band music market). Toss in some funky-as-hell jams; some personal ballads and introspection; keep the production and sound true and focused- they could come up with one of the best albums of the year. Of course, that will be down to them and their team- the producers and writers they conspire with. Their current offerings- the E.P. and current single- show they have huge potential and long-term reign- the girls have a lengthy career ahead. If they keep the music this fresh and alive; consider broadening their grasp (for future releases) and don’t try and follow the pack- they will draw in many new faces and ears. Their tweak of Freak of the Week is brash and rejuvenated; attitude-laden and sparkling. If you are ignorant of the girl band market- because too many bad examples have spoiled the genre- then make time for IV Rox. The girls are starting their climb and making big plans: brace yourself for a forthcoming attack. When that arrives…
MY eyes will be trained their way.
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The E.P. Imperfections can be purchased here: