By Scott Creney
The singer of the most popular verse in the world’s most popular song written by Australia’s most popular man (Everett’s still running a distant 47th), Kimbra’s album is out now in the United States. And there’s one question lodged in the throat of anyone who cares about money and music (in that order): Can Kimbra duplicate Gotye’s success?
With the benefit of hindsight, I can see I was wrong about Gotye. I think it was the 146th time I heard ‘Someone I Used To Know’ that it finally clicked with me. I can hear it all now — the talent, the ability to play more than one instrument, the insight into human relationships. I resolve from here on out to listen more closely before forming an opinion.
The US version differs from the Australia/New Zealand release, adding ‘Something In The Way You Are’, ‘Come Into My Head’ (Kylie wanted you to come into her world, but not Kimbra, she wants you to come into something else), ‘Sally I Can See You’, ‘Posse’ and ‘Home’. It omits ‘Call Me’, ‘Limbo’, ‘Wandering Limbs’, ‘Withdraw’ and ‘Somebody Please’. But don’t worry, both albums still have the same title.
I’ve only given Kimbra’s album 73 listens, but I still feel confident in saying that you — and I use the pronoun as specifically as possible — probably won’t hear a better pop album this year. People who are working on albums for 2013 have their work cut out for them as well. Vows is a signal post for pop music. It’s like Kate Bush if she knew how to write a good song. It’s like Cat Power if she had someone who loved her. It’s like Adele if she knew how to dance. It’s like the Rolling Stones if they were still alive. Where can anyone go from here except sideways?
Vows is 56 minutes long, because it was 56 years ago that Elvis first appeared on the scene — it’s the history of rock and roll, one minute at a time. But Kimbra’s never going to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She’s smarter than that.
Also, if you rearrange the letters (along with the strokes and serifs) of PRINCE, you get KIMBRA. And all he ever did was sing about a future that now belongs to our past. Kimbra is here today, making music that is relevant in an age when relevance no longer exists. Which is exactly what makes it so relevant.
She even wrote a song about Cameo. How cool is that?
“Love is like a silhouette of dreams” is the best line I’ve heard all year. It’s so meaningless, it verges on the avant-garde. “Open up your heart and let me pull you out” is, in the most literal sense, profoundly disturbing. Her lyrics subvert the very cliches they swim in. It’s the kind of deconstructionist pop nonsense that Greer Gartside tried to achieve on Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85. Where he failed, Kimbra succeeds. Would anyone who believed in the power of linguistics write, “Love is like a silhouette of dreams”? She knows that language has failed us, that an “ooh-ooh-oh” can say more than any words. Whether she arrived at this knowledge through her Pentecostal roots or through endless readings of Lacan is something for future generations and interviewers to ponder.
Kimbra is ahead of us all. She is the peacock to the dull, literal plumage of Gotye.
According to AOL Music, it “sounds like: Gotye, Tune Yards”. And it’s closer to Tune-Yards than you might initially think.
The word ‘Kimbra’ is an old Maori word meaning “one of prodigious gifts”. And as is the case with Bruce Springsteen, whoever named Kimbra knew exactly what they were doing. Like a thinner, paler, less wordy Lauryn Hill, Kimbra holds nothing back. Vows mingles pop and art until you can no longer tell the difference. It combines weight and light in a way that obliterates both. Kimbra swallows the history of music into herself and produces, simply, Kimbra.
Detractors might say her voice has two settings — mewling or overwrought, that it lacks genuine soul. But what do those people know about soul? Here’s a question for you to think about. Has Kimbra ever been criticized by someone who could actually sing better than her? Of course not. That’s a fact. Has Aretha Franklin ever talked shit about Kimbra? Of course not. Has Taylor Dayne? The great ones always know. The hatred always comes from below.
Those people are probably just jealous that she has a husband as talented and beautiful as Wally DeBacker.
So to answer that question, is it going to fly in the States? Probably. Kimbra has a lot going for her. She can be catchy without being cloying. She’s perky and proportioned, here to entertain and eager to please. Kimbra comes across as an artist who has taken all the best parts of Glee, X Factor, the various Idol’s and Got Talent’s, and synthesized them into a whole. And most importantly, her songs will fit on the radio here. In a crass marketing sense — is there any other kind? — Kimbra is able to be urban without being ethnic. And she knows how to sound thoughtful without making you think.
It is the last pop record you ever need to own. Everything ends here. From Frank Sinatra to Kimbra, from New Jersey to New Zealand in 70 years. Kimbra is the most talented act to come out of New Zealand since The Dead C or my name isn’t Neil Finn. You’d better believe it.
Just one question: Did she play all the instruments herself?