Monday, February 8, 2016

Song of the Day #269 - Estelle - American Boy (ft. Kanye West)

I really want to kick it with you, you'll be my American boy

Recently there was a thread on /mu/ about the "greatest pop song of the 2000s", a really good thread... people were opinionated and sharing, and even argumentative, but the conversation never became too hostile, as everyone was just awash in mostly happy waves of nostalgia. I personally nominated the remix to Ignition, and got some support. It seemed like most people were split between "Paper Planes", "Hey Ya", and "Crazy". A good time. But the really lasting impression was something sort of incidental... someone had suggested "American Boy", and it had gotten a few people seconding it, and I... had no idea what that song was. I sorta scoffed, like, how great and popular could this song be if I wasn't suddenly plunged into memory just from reading the title.

Oh man, but when I heard the song? The opening synths - that cool "British club"-vibe that I so ineloquently attempted to explain here, that boldness in tone... leading quickly into the "popular rapper starting the song with a verse that says almost nothing" structure made so famous through "Umbrella" (I'm sure there were others before, but I thought of "Umbrella" first so it must be the most famous lol)... I was instantly warped back those seven or eight years, to when songs like this saturated the radio, and even if I didn't remember this particular song, I was overwhelmed with the sense of there being dozens, maybe hundreds, of similar songs that I had forgotten, and it was somehow a nice feeling.

But oh no hahaha no I didn't actually forget this song. How could I forget a song with Kanye?? And the hook, oh my god, the hook... something about that movement is so delicate, yet so powerful, a sort of champion's grace... the melody was so immediately and overwhelmingly familiar that it seemed to indicate that some entire side of my life, some long sequence of experiences and memories, during which I listened to this song or was at least aware of it, that I have wholly forgotten. It was also somehow a nice feeling.

Really though, it's probably hyperbole, I probably heard it as much as I did any other song of its popularity and age, there isn't any lost channel of memories of, geez, Idk, cruising around in a convertible with it blaring or whatever. I've just extrapolated the necessity of such a thing from the SHEER GREATNESS of this song, oh my god this song is so good. Estelle's flow is this wonderful liquid thing of flirtatious elegance. The production ranges from the addictive electroaction of those synths at the end of the hook (so harsh! so implacably British!) to the subtle heaviness emphasized around 0:50. Kanye's second verse (a novel update to the "lead rap verse from credible rapper to establish market relevance") is stuffed full of endearingly corny British jokes, providing a nice balance to Estelle's romanticization of the USA, but cannot quite mask the maelstrom of anxiety and success that was brewing in him (the motivating struggle of MBDTF)... ahhhh, I love Kanye, omg So Help Me God SWISH WAVES secret album title is only 3 days away!!!

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