It’s official. The 80′s are back. It’s everywhere – from big budget re-imaginings of 80′s properties like Transformers and Miami Vice, to reissues of classic Nike Air Jordans, the nostalgia factor for “the me decade” is bigger than ever. But nowhere is it more prevalent than in music. Just look at many of today’s biggest pop acts. Fergie is trying to be Salt-N-Pepa, Gwen Stefani channels Toni Basil, and let’s not even start trying to count everyone trying to capture the sound of Prince (Diddy, Ciara, Kelis, Common; the list goes on).
Enter Chromeo. You’ve seen these guys before, but you wouldn’t know it. Instead, when you hear their new album, Fancy Footwork, you’ll swear you’ve heard them before; maybe back in ’86 – but you haven’t. Chromeo is the brainchild of Dave 1 and Pee-Thugg. Dave 1 is co-founder of now defunct indie hip-hop imprint Audio Research, and is also older brother to one DJ A-Trak (who you might have seen on the wheels at a Kanye West show). Pee Thugg is Dave 1′s longtime childhood friend, who was also a partner in Audio Research.
But what is Chromeo? Just like projects like Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, or Amy Winehouse, Chromeo is essentially hip-hop guys making anything but hip-hop, and doing it well. Abandoning their backpack beginnings, Dave and Pee take things further back into time, and produce an album of 80′s keyboard synth, talkbox R&B, in the tradition of New Edition, Midnight Star, and Cameo. Yes, this from a Jewish French Canadian and an Arab.
It’s easy to see where this fits in with the current landscape of popular music. Maybe not yet stateside, but Chromeo’s sound fits neatly in with the recent French (dance!) revolution popularized by groups like Daft Punk and carried on by Chromeo’s buzz-worthy label mates, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. But the sound of French house is only alluded to; lightly touched upon on songs like the catchy pair of singles “Tenderoni” and “Fancy Footwork”. Instead, this much easier classified as 80′s R&B, with a slight modern edge to it.
And Chromeo spares no expense, leaping headfirst into the genre. It was argued that with their first album, She’s In Control, that Chromeo were merely poking fun at the now outdated style, but with Fancy Footwork, it’s more evident that this is indeed a labor of love. This is a true, balls-to-the-wall synth-funk record, and can easily be classified as the feel good album of the summer.
The album jumps off with the up-tempo “Tenderoni”, which finds Dave One crooning refreshingly innocuous lyrics like “you aaaaaand I / baby we go side-by-side”. It follows up with the equally catchy “Fancy Footwork”, which inspires the listener to “show her that you’re not that shy / let her see that fancy footwork / show her you’re that type of guy!” This style continues on “Bonafied Lovin” (you can see where they are going by the song titles, huh?), where Dave 1 promises his lady candle light dinners, a sweet caress, and that special touch. Remember when music was fun and innocent like this?
This style continues throughout the remainder of the album lending a unified sound to the entire LP. The only song that ventures slightly off the path is “Momma’s Boy”, which crosses over a bit more into the style of 80′s synthpop, complete with electric guitar solo. Meanwhile, the closing song, “100%” also pushes the limits, employing a Kenny G-like saxophone in the mix. As if the rest of the album didn’t already garner it’s share of “Oh, woooooow’s”, they save this crown gem for the end.
If you missed out on the 80′s, chances are this record will not appeal to you whatsoever. But for those of us who lived through the entire decade, and recognize it as the most totally awesome, fresh-to-def ten-year period ever, this is definitely for you. Outta sight.
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