February 23, 2006

The Next Big Thing

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I’ve been reading a lot about the buzz surrounding the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s new highly anticipated album, Show Your Bones, for quite some time now. Since last year, I’ve heard all sorts of details floating around about the album’s title, look, and feel before I ever heard a single note from the recording. Understandably there is a high level of expectation concerning the New York City mod group’s next move, particularly the usual second album qualms of whether an major-label production has left the distinct sharp edge that initially brought the trio acclaim diminished and tainted by the smell of success.

I still think it’s funny how publicity circulates eons before actual content ever reaches the public. Back in January, I learned that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a new double-disc set entitled “Stadium Arcadium” coming out. When is it set for release? Oh, all the way in May. And new artists can easily attract a loyal following riding high on the positive reviews of a meager six song EP. I’ll never forget when Bloc Party first caused a stir in the U.S., which was all based on mere hearsay either from the lucky few that actually made it to their impossibly high-profile concerts in New York City or from their high-volume circulating web downloads, long before the group’s first full length album “Silent Alarm” was issued. Premature comparisons to former greats are always a common offense. Everyone so quick to call Coldplay the ‘Next U2’ or those who compared Toni Braxton to a ‘young Anita Baker’ should never be taken seriously.

It’s as if media corporations have created an omnipresent hype machine that force feeds us their idea of what the next big thing is, or that they’ve got something close enough to suit our tastes. And there’s actually some truth to my suggestion. Shortly after Ashlee Simpson’s famous Orange Bowl crowd displeaser, fake fan postings reportedly distributed by her representatives for damage control and to promote her reality television show infiltrated a number of web forums. It could have just been an isolated incident, or a recurring common practice that has finally been exposed. Maybe someday record companies will think of ways to force product placement through subliminal messages in our sleep. Or maybe that someday has already begun.

Hype has become an increasingly vital means to an end. It’s all about building anticipation. Whether it is deserved or not is a whole other problem. I suppose it is then ironic that in a time of entertainment excess, when the industry has more access to consumers than ever before, the music and movie business has in fact been significantly underperforming in recent years. Whatever the reason, much can be said about the rapidly changing formulaic dynamics of popculture, where a paramount focus on publicity has overtaken artistic and creative value.

Fortunately for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the hoopla is more than warranted. I loved their new single when I finally heard it on the radio. The group returns with a fuller sound, a more pronounced driving beat, and cleaner guitar section. The song, “Gold Lion,” signals the group’s maturity and abandons the abrupt and punctuated sound on Fever to Tell in favor of a more melodic continuum. Karen O sounds a bit more polished but still possesses her charming character and inclination to wear bold get ups such as lycra, spandex, and unitards in a plethora of colors. For those who simply can’t wait for the album to come out and rock your world, the single of Gold Lion comes with an equally satisfying slower bonus track, “Let Me Know.” Despite my protests, I’ve bought into the hype. Hell, I usually do.

Archived article by Sophie Asare