Single Review: Example – ‘Stay Awake’

“His feet have spent a little too much time adrift of the ground in his search for something with depth and meaning”


Digital Release: August 28, 2011

Physical Release: August 29, 2011

When Elliot Gleaves – better known to you and I as Example – released his more commercial second album, it catapulted him to huge successes. And one could only commend him for wanting to return to his darker, less commercial roots, whilst channelling them into his newly acquired fame in a bid to help revamp the current state of UK chart music. It seemed admirable, that he’d volunteered to the task of revolutionising a more hardcore electronic sound, but many saw it as rather pig-headed, as if he’d forgotten that Chase & Status, Nero and Katy B had all brought about such a change to the UK charts merely months prior to the release of ‘Changed The Way You Kiss Me’, and, in light of said single’s poor dubstep-lite production, Mr. Gleaves’ contribution to this ‘revolution’ was little more than a gust of air.

But now we’re given ‘Stay Awake’, the second trailer single from ‘Playing In The Shadows’. This time, Example has enlisted dubstep duo Nero as the chief producers. But even so, the song is poor: his vocals are over-produced and still manage to sound completely tone deaf, and his rapping is uninspired and lacklustre, often sounding identical to almost anything else he’s put his name to. And for a duo responsible for some of the best dubstep singles this year, ‘Stay Awake’ is quite the disappointment from Nero’s side as well.

So essentially what we have is Example, arguably one of the most self-assuring, artificial artists currently enjoying the blinding glow of the media spotlight, indulging in the belief that his superfluous preaching is actually going to have some positive effect on a society apparently full of illegal drug users. He bleats tunelessly about how “if we don’t kill ourselves we’ll be the leaders of a messed up generation”: a hideous generalisation of only a relatively small population of the UK. It seems very ill-judged of him to assume that every member of the ‘younger’ generation spends their evenings on street corners with a couple of spliffs and syringes, and even moreso to think those are the kind of people intent on becoming “leaders”.

It then strikes you that ‘Stay Awake’ is little more than shock tactic complimented by a supposedly clever reference to Lewis Carrol’s Alice In Wonderland; a well-timed shock tactic too, in light of the recent London riots; sponging off social downfall and anarchy. But nonetheless it’s shock tactic, which is something Example has always laughed off in other artists, using it as ammunition against them, so ‘Stay Awake’ contradicts many of his jibes through self-spun hypocrisy. By presenting the ultimatum of our nation having to make a choice between economic disintegration or suicide, you get the feeling his feet have spent a little too much time adrift of the ground in his search for something with depth and meaning.

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