Monday, October 19, 2009

#76. 'The chromosomes match'

Roisin Murphy "Overpowered"

And so we close out the lower half of the list, and I'm only a few days behind the one-post per day goal I set for myself. Honestly, I expected to have given up by now so I'm patting myself on the back for getting this far even if I've been losing a day a week since the beginning of October - fucking job getting in the way of a wholly extracurricular activity...but enough about that, let's get to the last entry in the lower half.

It's nothing new to try and cast a depressing lyric in a happy light or vice versa - look at some of the early Supremes singles for great examples of clouding a depressing lyric with major key arrangements and sprightly production - but I don't think I've ever heard a better example of casting such a sinister light on what would probably be a perfectly serviceable song about all-consuming love/lust as Roisin Murphy's "Overpowered." If you look at the two components in isolation they'd never seem to fit with each other; lyrically it's love and obsession tackled with an eye towards science, musically it's all sinister, minor key claustrophobia. The two sides shouldn't work together, but Murphy and producer Seiji meld them in a way that makes them seem like the perfect compliment to each other, with the instrumental and Murphy's delivery bringing out the unsettling paranoia of the lyrics amd the melody enhancing the beat's most standardly poppy qualities. It's one of those ideal collaborations where the involved players know how to make the most of each other's work and make it seem effortless in the process.

It helps that Murphy's one of the most interesting voices in modern pop music. Going back to her work with Moloko in the 90s there's always been something incredibly alluring about her vocals, the breathy, smoky, effortlessly sensual drawl that made Moloko stand out from the glut of trip hoppers that arose in Portishead's wake. The way she uses her voice on "Overpowered" though is something a bit different. Sure it's still identifiably her, but the delivery is so clipped and cold that it imbues the lyrics - already plenty odd in their own right - with the sort of icy paranoia that the production pushes to the fore. The combination makes for a love song that sounds like a plea for release, each individual line both expressing how perfect the two parties are for each other and why there's something fundamentally wrong with that. It's the wort of duality of meaning that I really love in music, and here it's done with a level of sophistication that I doubt many other artists could pull off.

Or maybe it's just the reduction of love to its chemical components that gets it on the list. As a recent Chemistry graduate it's nice to have some intersection between my hobby and my theoretical career, and having a gorgeous coda about oxytoxins is the type of thing that I get a kick out of on a couple of levels.

Coming up tomorrow: Girl power redux part 1.

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