Jul 31, 2013 Web Exclusive
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. But nobody has done so with as much abandon, or success, as Aluna Francis and George Reid—the one-two punch that makes up AlunaGeorge.
Body Music, the duo's first full-length album, has been saddled with an incredible amount of anticipation. One listen to the album's first single "You Know You Like It" will show you why. The song finds Francis on the prowl, sounding like she's sidling around downtown London with trouble on her mind. "I just want to have some fun," she coos, sounding like she wants anything but. "Don't tell me what can't be done."
It's a good picture of just what AlunaGeorge does. They ooze a confidence that marries the seductive mews of Aaliyah with something just slightly sinister. It's a combination that could easily sound forced, but Francis has mastered the trick of adding a nuance to her purrs that makes them intoxicating. She keeps you guessing about whether she's the seduced or the seducer.
It wouldn't work as well without Reid at the wheel. His jittery, scrumptious production matches Francis' poison drop for drop, providing a grim sophistication to her slinky coyness.
That game is at its best on "Attracting Flies," which finds Francis playing keep-away from an aggressive suitor. "Oh, enlighten me," she growls. "What is this special thing 'bout you I need?" That'd be business-as-usual for your average pop star, but with Francis' combative tone, it sounds like a dare.
The sort of hype AlunaGeorge has been anchored with has sunk other bands, but there's a stickiness to this sound. In the 20-some years since AlunaGeorge's genre of choice fell from favor, it never truly died. It's just taking albums like Body Music to bring it back—as catchy as it ever was, but a little more dangerous. And much harder to resist. (www.alunageorge.com)
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