“A dodgy career move that’ll probably make an explosive first impact but then see her nose-dive to obscurity”
Digital Release: March 11, 2012
Physical Release: March 12, 2012
To try and pretend Alexandra Burke isn’t stumbling her way through her music career right now would be a bare-faced lie. There’s every possible notion of hesitance and misplaced complacency pointing frantically at her desperation to resurface as a formidable pop entity, and quite frankly there doesn’t appear to be much she to convince us otherwise. The first sign is her ballsy bravado retreating from the spotlight to rest in the shadow of yet another collaboration; there’s also the swapping about of release dates; the dropping and signing of a different labels; the fashion line (now the ultimate accessory for artists’ whose careers are on the rocks), and the lingering stench of unoriginality: all telling signs that not all is well and good aboard the Burke bus.
But really, new single ‘Elephant’ is only unoriginal if you care (or are able) to think back to a time when weirdly ostensible metaphors and perverse curiosities were ignited and doused within the space of a three-and-a-half minute awkward shuffle on the dance-floor down your local every Saturday night. Alas, few people that this song is aimed at will probably remember the real essence of 90s disco anthems – a time when even the most off-centre experiments and musical sensibilities were restrained by ineffable desire to be as close to gimmickry as possible, without ever once attracting the label. So successful was this pop fluff, this disposable dance, this handbag house, that it near-on perfectly personified, with both startling and unsettling accuracy, that the wet dreams of even the most sincerely poptastic synth-jockey include such horrific scenes as standing on a rooftop in Ibiza, arms wide and playing to a crowd of floating faces bobbing up and down in choreographed unison. Unfortunately for Erick Morillo, one David Guetta has that particular avenue of douche-bag dissipation covered to a tee.
Handbag house, such as in ‘Elephant’, seems to be built upon the hypothesis that it thinks itself rather good, but at the same time it optionally chooses to be a hollow void of sound and irrelevant lyrics about weekends, clubs and shoes. But in it’s defence, you could argue that it makes in the perfect soundtrack of many brainless weekend antics. But none of that really matters, as the argument’s validity is compromised by a grave lack of individuality in every other success-hunter and success-clinger in all of popular music. And armed with a nobody collaboration and a song of questionable merit, the uncomfortably-titled ‘Elephant’ is Alexandra Burke’s first and quite definitely only chance to prove she’s little more that an air-headed money-puppet for Syco Records who can stand without their (mis)guidance.
It seems foolish then, for her to be resting her once-soulful cross-demographic appeal on the crippling constraints of droid-like auto-tune and a clichéd metaphor (I sympathise with her for thinking that us Brits are oblivious to the saying ‘There’s an elephant in the room’ and how she aims to “introduce an American saying the UK”). There’s plenty of dizzy synths and reliably recycled melodies that, even after futile inflation in the big-build, still don’t stick in the brain. To those children of the 90s, the song is more a case of something fishy than something elephantine – although Burke’s own observations could be applied to the song quite congruently – the intermittent bass flatulence, breezy bridge/breakdown, and the bi-note refrain are all remnants of 90s DJs’ love affairs with their Yamaha equipment. It’s hardly built to make a staying entry in the history books of even the best (and therefore worst) handbag house, is it? And all that’s left when the lights come on at the end of the night and you spot the rest of your posse through the hanging sweat in the room is a dodgy career move that’ll probably make an explosive first impact but then see her nose-dive to obscurity.
But above all, what we have hear is not just the sound of hapless handbag house and silly lyricism, but the sound of someone wanting to return to the spotlight without possessing an iota of perspective of how to go about it, thus she ends up sounding like everything else. And this logical fallacy can be traced right back to what makes a popstar. Alex might have the voice, she might even have the personality and a slice of song-writing talent (however questionable), but there’s no direction here; no particular niche she belongs in, which renders her doomed to failure. Oh, she’ll return alright, for all of an incoherent speck of musical history before once again disappearing amidst a swarm of newcomers now that the majority of the UK’s Class of ’09 are either on their way out of the industry boardroom or planning hotly anticipated comebacks of their own.