If Kimbra were a big-time pop star, 90s Music would have been her Run The World, Russian Roulette, Wind It Up, Dirrty,…insert other polarizing first singles here – a love-it/hate-it put-her-back-on-the-map semi-hit that would have gotten her all the attention to unleash the second more ear-friendly single Miracle.
Kimbra isn’t a big-time pop star. Therefore she can release something as weird as 90s Music to kick off an album without it being a risky move because she’s still a relatively clean slate. Despite being a guest vocalist on one of the decade’s biggest hits, and having released her first album Vows a few years back, Kimbra still has the freedom to record what she wants without having to meet excessive expectations.
And that’s partially why 90s Music was a bit of a shock for a different reason than it would had Rihanna or Katy Perry recorded it. For them, it would have been a WTF moment followed by a WTG4TSD (way to go for trying something different). For Kimbra it ended at bizarre.
The song, which was in fact the first track released prior to the album, reminisces on the decade and then name-drops artists who were big in the 90s, albeit somewhat random choices for such a versatile decade. Beyond the song’s metallic production, it doesn’t sound very 90s, nor does the decade she seems so devoted to return anywhere else on the album.
The Golden Echo fits more comfortably into the 70s and 80s with its strong mix of funky R&B and rhythmic disco pop. She goes from a heavy Prince influence on Love In High Places to channeling Paula Abdul on Madhouse. Miracle is the closest she actually comes to the 90s as it touches on Janet Jackson‘s more poppier, less sexual side with a slight hint of Olivia Newton-John‘s refrain for Physical.
With such a wide musical range at her disposal, Kimbra is quickly becoming her own sound, distinguishable among today’s alternative pop music. This is also despite the army of collaborators she worked with to formulate the dozen songs that make up the record. Collaborators that include Daniel Johns (of Silverchair), producer Rich Costey (Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, System Of A Down), Mark Foster (of Foster The People), John Legend, and others.
Kimbra is smooth though. Between her sultry vocals and her clean delivery, she provides an interesting dynamic. The Golden Echo lets go of the restraint she had on Vows with songs that are more developed and detailed. She seems more in her element.
But with such detail and development comes distraction and it’s that distraction that creates interference. The Golden Echo is more coherent as an album than Vows was, but its melodies aren’t as apparent. They’re there but they get buried in the production, resulting in mostly forgettable tracks that could eventually stick, but more than likely won’t.
The Golden Echo has all the right ingredients to make a delicious pop music dessert. It just needs to have them proportioned slightly differently to get it just right.
1. Teen Beat
2. 90s Music
6. Rescue Him
8. Everlovin’ Ya [featuring Balil]
9. As You Are
10. Love In High Places
11. Nobody But You
12. Waltz Me To The Grave