"Let It Be" by Labrinth
Last Friday, a friend sang at our local karaoke night for the first time ever. It was a big deal: he’s been there plenty of times before, cheering the rest of us on, but - despite the fact that he unquestionably has the best voice of anyone in that group - he’s always been too nervous to actually put his name in. Until that night. Maybe it was the shot of Fireball, maybe it was just good vibes; he went for it. And he slayed “Bright Lights, Bigger City" - but the problem with "Bright Lights, Bigger City" is that it’s best known as a song from the Cee-Lo album people only downloaded "Fuck You" from. So even though its soul-gone-Bond sound and monster hook should’ve made it a huge hit, only about five people in the bar recognized the song - they were the ones singing along to every damn word (I would mention it’s also in Pitch Perfect, but frankly that is the most unrecognizable cover I’ve ever heard.)
I mention this because Labrinth took one lesson from Cee-Lo - cinematic production behind a retro-soul vocal can be absolutely killer, and “Let It Be” packs an epic scope into its three minutes. What it lacks is “Bright Lights”’ sing-along quality, relegating its hook to a pitch-shifted chirp that’s anything but inviting. It’s a weird touch, one that gives Labrinth room to almost scat on top of it, yet it seems at odds with how much the rest of the song wants to sweep you up into its world of drama. It makes things more interesting at the risk of making them more niche. Now that Aloe Blacc’s gone to the dark side, I’d love to see Labrinth carry the nu-soul torch forward. My concern is that in five years, someone will karaoke “Let It Be” in front of an audience that has no idea what they’re hearing.
Ouch, DV. You have damned Labrinth with your faint praise. This is the most interesting soul pop has sounded this decade! Pieces of the production snap like a whip crack and echo with a Wild West whistle; later, robotic auto tuned vocals emerge giving it a Godzilla battles Zorro quality. I’m much more into the sound of the song than the message but a passing listen reveals it’s the standard getting by anthem. The lyrics are of doubly little significance in a song that sounds this huge, that manages genre blending at the molecular level. I know that when DV accuses Aloe Blacc of some vague betrayal, he’s referring to satin and tulle like “The Man,” not his experiments with Avicii. Still, Labrinth capably outshines both, proving we need not refer to deft mixing and blending as “experiments” any longer.