Release Date: Aug 27, 2013
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Electronic, R&B, Garage, Alternative R&B, 2-Step/British Garage
Pop music has reached a point of stasis. A cursory glance at the pop charts will tell you that while there will always be the odd Get Lucky or I Love It, it’s mostly an uninspiring, homogenous mass. Pop used to mean revolution, it used to be pioneering, it used to be at the forefront of fashion – where are we now? Today’s pop music is the equivalent of half past midnight in a mid-sized, provincial town’s only nightclub where there’s a 2-for-1 offer on supermarket own-brand vodka alcopops.
AlunaGeorge are a duo from London who have been causing waves all over the internet since they released their debut EP, You Know You Like It, in June 2012. They hit the number two spot in the UK featuring on Disclosure’s song ‘‘White Noise’‘, were nominated for the BRIT Critics’ Choice award, and came second in the BBC Sound of 2013 Poll. It’s safe to say that expectations have been high for their debut album, Body Music which has easily stood up to expectations.
The rise of London R&B/pop duo AlunaGeorge in the last 18 months has made their debut album one insufferably anticipated event. After dropping a deliciously radio-friendly EP on usually avant-garde label Tri Angle in April 2012, Aluna Francis and George Reid were primed for mainstream stardom. Like their friends and collaborators in Disclosure, AlunaGeorge have been tagged as "futuristic pop," thanks to Reid's production nods to UK garage and R&B super-producers like Rodney Jerkins, Timbaland and the Neptunes, as well as Francis's exquisite knack for effortlessly placing earworm melodies.
The name should really be a sticking point. Usually we’d be screaming out for an ampersand here, 'it’s ‘Aluna & George’ surely? Fucksake'. But in this case it works well. Aluna&George aren’t a musical duo, they’re a genetically modified experiment, grown in the petri dish of pop. They.
Depending on the vantage point, AlunaGeorge's first album is either hotly anticipated or anticlimactic. The first singles from the BRIT-nominated London duo -- vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid -- dated back two years prior to its release. The video for "You Know You Like It," their first song of note, was uploaded in August 2011, and it was followed by "Your Drums, Your Love" (October 2012) and "Attracting Flies" (March 2013).
Then they wake up again. Lost and Found is a ticklish two-step that would have kept the pace on Disclosure's recent album, or Katy B's debut. Reid can do East postcodes as well as he can Virginia Beach (the teenage stomping grounds of both Tim Mosley and Pharrell Williams). Every single song here announces itself with a chopped-up, pitch-shifted vocal sample, or a stark hook, or some laptop equivalent of a clarion call.
“When I met George, I thought: I’ll have this one!”– Aluna Francis “It’s a very self-sufficient thing, the two of us.”– George Reid Think of all the things that need to line up for two people to truly connect. Think of the many little barriers that can stop a prospective relationship from developing beyond an initial idea in a single person’s head. Or the ways an established relationship can so easily fall apart.
It ends with a version of Montell Jordan's 1995 new jack swing hit This Is How We Do It that is wittily incongruous ("All the gang-bangers forgot about the drive-by," sings Francis, who used to be a reflexologist) without ever appearing to be a smirking, arch joke. In fact, there's something infectiously joyous about it: you get the sense the duo love the original too much to let a small matter like the inappropriateness of the lyrics preclude them from covering it. Not for the first time on Body Music, they sound like exactly the kind of people you want making pop music.
Music fandom often follows a slow boomerang trajectory: listen to top-40 radio through your tween and early teen years, reject those impulses in favor of more cerebral, left-of-center music as you're growing up, lean back toward pop as you settle into adulthood. The last couple of years have found a crop of young independent artists boldly attempting to reconcile those stages of their own listening life cycles, walking a tightrope of poptimism and experimentalism to create confectionary, homespun electronic music that’s sometimes described as future-pop. Grimes gushes about Mariah Carey and Aphex Twin in the same breath; Canadian duo Purity Ring have listed “Justin Timberlake, Clams Casino, and Holy Other” as inspirational forces behind their prismatic fairy tales; Glaswegian electro trio Chvrches have spoken about loving Fugazi and the Cure in interviews before divulging plans to cover Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” in live shows.
One recent development few could have predicted is the critical fondness for '90s bubblegum pop and R&B. While most of the bloggers currently praising the virtues of TLC wouldn't have been caught dead with a copy of CrazySexyCool, they have made apparent peace with the fact that churning out glossy singles isn't as easy as it looks. This resurgence has been largely fueled by a slew of great artists—Purity Ring and Grimes come to mind—who cite this sort of stuff as their inspiration.
AlunaGeorge have sky-rocketed from toilet circuit support slots with Friends and charmingly DIY videos to gracing catwalks (in more ways than one), clambering towards top spots on end-of-year lists and brandishing star-studded collaborations. It’s been a year of firsts for the duo, all leading up to the release of what is arguably 2013?s most highly anticipated pop debut. They’ve dangled many sounds in front of us in that time: huge singles in the form of ‘You Know You Like It’, ‘Just A Touch’, ‘Your Drums Your Love’ and ‘Attracting Flies’, not to mention guest spots with Disclosure and Rustie.
The British group AlunaGeorge—who created its name by combining the first names of its members, George Reid and Aluna Francis—makes R&B that’s largely divorced from heavy-hitting hip-hop flavors and golden age soul revival. AlunaGeorge’s Body Music shares more with Katy B’s forays into electronic pop than with Jessie Ware’s explicitly R&B leanings (two other British artists with recent releases). In England, R&B has always had a closer relationship with electronic music than it has in the United States, and Body Music shows a group that believes firmly in all manner of synthesizers, splotches, stabs and distorted vocal samples.
For any musical duo, it is essential to establish an almost symbiotic relationship, a musical telepathy that ensures the music becomes not just the work of two disparate individuals but, instead, a seamless meshing of both individuals’ qualities. AlunaGeorge, the duo of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid, have certainly established that strong musical relationship. Body Music, their debut album, is much anticipated.
By closing their debut with a cover of "This Is How We Do It," Montell Jordan's mid-Nineties New Jack Swing romp, AlunaGeorge hand listeners a parting thought: For almost 20 years, R&B has been inseparable from electronic music. While Aluna Francis sings tart kiss-offs to foolish exes, producer George Reid keeps the digital activity as stylish and minimalist as a Helmut Lang showroom. He builds "Attracting Flies" around a wobbly synth hook and shifting percussion, as Francis coolly smacks down a bullshitter by using text-message shorthand: B.A.B.
The British duo of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid is the latest in a string of upstart acts to turn drowsy, Timbaland-influenced beats into something more overtly pop. With 90s R&B such a ubiquitous influence on both indie producers and the wannabe melismatic divas on TV talent shows, there's a noticeable drought in vocal inventiveness. It seems anyone can bluff his or her way through a Neptunes-style track, but truly original singers are harder to come by.
Not since the late ’90s, when the likes of The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were dominating charts, festivals and school runs, has electronic dance music been such a big deal in the UK. Exhibit one: brotherly duo Disclosure and pop quartet Rudimental landing Number One albums alongside standard chart pap like Emeli Sandé. Exhibit two: Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke popping up on Kanye West albums.
So much of pop music hobbles by on repetition. There’s always That Hook, or seldom Those Hooks, and it’s how they’re employed and at what frequency that figures into the track’s ultimate success. Those alien squonks should scintillate, not sizzle. That vocal melody needs to stay fresh, not prove dull two minutes later.
opinion byPETER TABAKIS If you have even the mildest interest in the music of AlunaGeorge – since you’re reading this review, that’s probably something of an understatement – chances are you know the following two facts: 1) AlunaGeorge is a UK duo which consists of Aluna Francis, who sings, and George Reid, who provides instrumentation and produces their songs, and 2) The duo (Francis, particularly) very much adores 90s R&B. The second fact has dominated the duo’s narrative to such a degree that you’d expect them to be a revivalist act, in the way Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings pitch-perfectly channel the soul sound of the 70s. They’re not – quite the opposite, actually.
The new AlunaGeorge album could be seen as more evidence that when it comes to British R&B, the ’90s are back in full pant-pegging force. Jessie Ware is the primary exemplar of this resurgence in husky-voiced UK soul mamas conjuring the likes of Stansfield, Peniston, and Des’ree. But while AlunaGeorge — the duo of vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid — do capture the smoky, sexy vibe of those latter-day divas, the contemporary sheen of these tracks also reflects early ’00s “electronica.” Francis’s voice is crisp and nimble; and her wordy lyrics flow through Reid’s sleek beats like a bloodstream.
The bluebottle of expectation has been swarming around Aluna Francis and George Reid since the release of their first EP ‘You Know You Like It’ last year. People clearly knew they liked it, too – people with even more taste making influence than Drenge-repping MP Tom Watson. AlunaGeorge were ranked as second place in the Beeb’s Sound Of poll, and if playground rhymes are anything to go by, the second must always be the best.Aluna dominates the album artwork, with her much-discussed feet getting nearly as much pixel-space as the reflected George Reid in the background.
Aluna Francis and George Reid of the British electro-pop group AlunaGeorge knows that their cotton candy pop melodies are your guilty pleasure. The duo’s 2011 breakout song “You Know You Like It” isn’t short on irony—or, perhaps, it’s merely coincidental. It finds Aluna teasing listeners with a sassy, sugar-doused hook that revels in the band’s allure: “You know you like it, but it drives you insane/You know you like it, but you’re scared of the shame,” she banters over Reid’s wonky bass thumps.
Having spent the last year being styled as forerunners in a new wave of British pop, AlunaGeorge are often figured alongside Sampha and Jessie Ware in their poised, post-teen love affair with ’90s R&B. Last years You Know You Like It EP saw the duo experiment with the genre’s back-and-forth of underhand sexual tension, and got to work setting the tone for debut album Body Music. With various award nominations preceding it, and considering the international focus on the current crop of British pop artists experimenting with R&B and house, Body Music comes fairly loaded with expectations of a chart breakthrough and readily identifiable sound.
The strong influence of R&B on young contemporary producers has been impossible to miss over the past few years, and following dubstep's dissolution no end of producers have shown their enthusiasm for it in their productions. Mount Kimbie, Jacques Greene and Joy Orbison have been among the most notable, but they're merely the top of the iceberg. AlunaGeorge’s George Reid, meanwhile, represents perhaps this trend's logical endpoint: rather than simply throwing some cut-up vocals from a Cassie track into his productions, he joined forces with vocalist Aluna Francis to reimagine the genre on their own terms.