Producer Dev Hynes ignores trance stabs in favor of lanky hip-house and Balearic bliss
Solange Knowles' new single "Losing You" is a remarkable song in its own right, with a breezy fusion of singer-centric R&B, 1980s pop (cf. the Cars' "Drive"), and lanky, mid-tempo hip-house beats. But it's just as remarkable for what it suggests about the direction of pop music right now; it feels like one of those moments when something lurking just below the surface of the zeitgeist breaks through in a big way.
It's worth noting that "Losing You" is not an EDM track, if only because R&B's ongoing love affair with latter-day rave shows no signs of running out of glow-stick juice. But it's also not a throwback to the throwback Motownisms of her 2008 album Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams. Nor, in fact, is it anything like the cloudrappy productions of the Weeknd et al — a genre Solange kind of invented, come to think of it, when she sampled Boards of Canada for Sol-Angel's "This Bird."
"Losing You," produced by Blood Orange's Devonté Hynes, isn't without its precedents, though; in fact, it fits in nicely with the retro-leaning, R&B-inflected house that's all over the so-called underground right now. There's not really a name for this stuff, despite Seth Troxler's best efforts to make the term "underground pop" stick — thankfully, it hasn't — but you can hear it running through a loose network of dance-music DJs who have jettisoned cold, Teutonic techno in favor of Latin freestyle, vintage vocal house, and other sounds that make sense at the Miami and Los Angeles rooftop parties where they hold court. Jamie Jones, Lee Foss, Soul Clap, the Wolf + Lamb extended family, and Damian Lazarus' Crosstown Rebels crew have been caning the hell out of this aesthetic for a while now, and it's clearly been taking hold, making its way into the Beatport sales charts alongside much more obviously overground electro-house fare. For Solange and Hynes to have picked up on the trend and brought it back into the R&B fold suggests that, whatever you're going to call it, the sound has well and truly arrived. About damn time: Anything to save us from the deluge of over-compressed trance stabs and moombah-trap silliness that currently defines the overlap between "urban" and "electronic" music. There's plenty of mediocrity in the wannabe-Balearic house scene too, but in the hands of Solange and Hynes, it feels like a breath of fresh air.
The video for the song was shot in South Africa; check it out below. The single is out now on Terrible Records, the label run by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor.