Respecting dance-pop’s past while making something unique isn’t necessarily easy. For Jenn Champion’s newest effort she brings forth core tenants of pop while trying to mix things up in her vocals and production. While it doesn’t always make for the most original listen, Champion’s music is fun and surprisingly introspective for the genre.
Modern production brings Cyndi Lauper-esque pop into contemporary worlds on “O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)” where Champion is fully enamored with her lover. Using the romantic overtones of the music, Champion is able to subvert musical moments while making the most of what people attach to the tones she uses. Huge drums drive “Coming For You” where Champion goes on the offensive in search of someone, and lets her synth hooks match her emotional lyrics. It’s in the sparse breaks however that Champion shows her true range as a singer and brings even more depth as an artist.
The bubbling bass runs through “You Knew” as she takes a stand against forces in power. When the song expands into its triumphant choruses however there’s a swelling sense of pride to the saxophones that complement the vocals. In her party grooves and beats “Holding On” finds Champion trying to strike the balance between being authentic and truly enjoying life. This tension and mental strain is in every ounce of the song as she tries to straddle these two worlds in her music as well.
Though there’s something inherently too predictable about the arrangements and base writing of “The Move,” she makes something more of it her dynamic mixing. The visceral lyricism also pushes the track beyond its simple pop core to something haunting and uneasy. As the synths take a sharp and even more retro tone, “Never Giving In” finds her looking inwards more than ever. Unfortunately without a big release to let all the emotions out, the song feels a little anti-climactic.
“Mainline” on the other hand embraces its inherent pop structure and flicks its dance beats on and off to create a constantly unpredictable energy in the song. By hitting both ends of the spectrum on this track, Champion creates something catchy and new here. While it’s about as classic disco as it can get, Champion lets her vocals do the heavy lifting with strong percussion on “Time To Regulate.”Bleed” strips the electronic production away for a simple piano ballad, where Champion slowly builds instrumentation and emotion with it. While her writing is somewhat predictable here, it just allows the arrangements to stand out that much more later on.
There’s something more brilliant to the skipping rhythms of “Hustle” that make its piano-driven pop much stronger. It does feel a little stranger to completely step away from the aesthetic of the album this late and continuously however. “Going Nowhere” brings the keyboards back in cleverly as Champion takes control of every aspect of herself to take her life forward and grow stronger.
Words by Owen Maxwell