opinion byAUSTIN REED < @austinsaysrelax >
I am incensed by the hyper-confident, always-positive, totally unrealistic universe Chromeo lives in.
“I can be your boyfriend and your counselor,” Dave 1 waxes confident on “Sexy Socialite” one of the primary singles from their latest LP White Women. Yeah, right. In what world would that type of relationship actually work out? I’m not arguing that it’s impossible, but I am arguing that we are naturally predisposed to blurring the lines between advisory construction and emotional destruction. Also, when you consider that “Sexy Socialite” is Dave 1’s identification of a woman as a charity-case networker who he believes deserves to live a life less emotionally laborious, it’s evident that the odds are sort of stacked against him.
But this is merely a snapshot of the world—the neon, glittery, night-time-is-the-right-time world—that Chromeo has constructed over the years. Here, disco never stopped having an immediate impact on the hits of today; life lessons are analyzed and digested in the form of, “Aww, shucks. Being an adult is the WORST,” anecdotes; romantic altercations are merely vehicles for amazing make-up sex; and even society’s nerdiest bachelors possess dance moves capable of landing league-shattering women. It’s not a realistic world to imagine, but no one is paying Chromeo to tell the truth. In fact, their single-greatest gift is their ability to sell a healthier, happier, altogether-better version of the world we actively experience every day. Not all songs have a happy ending, but each one’s realism is underscored by the duo’s unnaturally definitive confidence. I can’t imagine a single scenario that could push Dave 1 and P-Thugg out of stride, which makes even the sad songs sound happy. Which makes their entire portfolio sound outrageously believable.
They are terrific salesmen. When Dave 1 talks, we listen because we aspire to say in real life the things he says hypothetically. It probably doesn’t hurt, either, that they have cultivated one of the most authentic sounds in dance music—a sound that might as well have some derivation of the word, “optimism,” in whatever we choose to call it. As such, their constructed world is one we have no problem living in when we listen to Chromeo records.
But White Women succeeds in a way that prior Chromeo LPs don’t: It erects a version of reality that sticks with us long after we stop listening to it. Where past full-lengths serve as temporary situational pacifiers, White Women possesses the longevity necessary to keep you considering the merits of being more positive for real.
Not surprisingly, Dave 1 and P-Thugg elected to take emotional inventory on this one, which wholly explains why White Women sticks around for as long as it does. It’s no less engaging, but it’s certainly more cognitively approachable. The surprise, though, is the duo’s decision to market this newfound emotional bandwidth. Tracks like, “Come Alive,” “Somethingood” and “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” do well to establish their old-school, dance-first-think-later footprint. But tracks like “Lost On the Way Home,” “Play the Fool” and “Old 45’s,” express real, honest, never-avoidable feelings so convincingly, it’s not outrageous to suspect that White Women is the Chromeo album that has existed within Dave 1 and P-Thugg since day one. These songs have driven them the entire time, but only just now do they exist on wax.
Technically, White Women is a living, breathing testament to the duo’s resourcefulness. They’ve grown quite aware of the things they do really well, and one of those things involves the recognition of other artists who would sound awesome on a Chromeo record. And, as their intuition theorized, those guest appearances couldn’t have been much more faultless. Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick provides excellent vocal dimension to “Come Alive” one of White Women’s pioneering singles. Solange is the crucial second brush that paints “Lost On the Way Home” into a heartbreaking portrait of relationship imbalance. And Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig delivers a poignant depiction of the pains of aspirational love on “Ezra’s Interlude.”
The most critical talking point attached to White Women, however, is the songwriting and the widespread versatility therein. As the preliminary singles from the album began to emerge near the end of 2013, I worried that these were the best tracks on the album. I wondered if they were accidentally spilling the best secrets early. That’s the first and last time I’ll doubt Chromeo’s self-awareness, because White Women is stacked to the brim with content as good as (and probably better than) anything we heard prior to the album’s release.
And that widespread versatility is the ingredient that makes it all so intriguing. While the rhythmic speed trap of “Somethingood” might qualify it as one of the most infectious deep-cut dance tracks of the year, it follows “Old 45’s” a song created to convey Dave 1’s commitment to a near-extinct definition of chivalry. Scattered intermittently throughout are pre-album favorites “Come Alive,” “Over Your Shoulder,” “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” and “Sexy Socialite,” making for a melodically diverse cocktail as familiar as it is unanticipated.
But album closer “Fall Back 2U” is White Women’s decidedly strongest moment. With little-to-no effort, “Fall Back 2U” represents the culmination of every single step Chromeo has made since 2010’s Business Casual, let-alone across the span of their ten-year career. Mid-tempo with guiltless lightheartedness “Fall Back 2U” positions Dave 1 as a man committed to figuring things out for the sake of the relationship. “It’s never too late to try. I never want to make you cry. Our love’s to great to attenuate, so let’s not say goodbye,” he declares mid-chorus with vilifying assurance, and all you want is for his recipient to come to their damned senses.
That, in just one chorus, is the unassailable power of White Women: In an attempt to make another record, Dave 1 and P-Thugg mined their emotional epicenter and put their findings on display. By appearing vulnerable, they took a risk for the sake of remaining relevant. And everything would have been fine if that’s what would have happened. But that’s not what happened. They didn’t just retain relevance; they released the best album of their entire career. Maybe this hyper-confident, always-positive universe isn’t so totally unrealistic. B