Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conducting "Symphonies" with Dan Black

Dan Black is a name that's being kicked around quite a bit the past few months, not just by the blogsophere but by general "in-the-know" fans that frequent the "indie"-pop side of the music underground. His first big US single, "Symphonies", is officially coming up for radio grabs in a few weeks' time, and it feels literally overdue, despite only being on my radar officially for a month or so.

British Dan first grabbed my attention over at the Hype Machine, an epicenter for new and buzzworthy music, as he was quite literally put on a pedestal as one of the new artists to watch in the wake of New York's famed CMJ Music Marathon back in October. Earlier this month, "Symphonies" itself was offered as the Free Download of the Week at the US iTunes store (thanks again to John for reminding me of this -- I would have totally missed out on it had he not posted about it!). A fun remix of the song featuring Lady Gaga's former tour-partner Kid CuDi is also making the rounds, hitting #1 on the Hype Machine's Most Popular list last week.

"Symphonies" stands out in the pile of new cuts of mostly because the song's sound is so...different. In a pop scene that is arguably overcrowded with 80's inspired cuts, "Symphonies" speaks to the listener in a refreshing way by standing out in a sea of production and synth for being starkly stripped down. No, you're not hearing things -- the overarching backbeat is sampled from the pop gloriousness that is Rihanna's "Umbrella" (, something that is recognizable from go. The sample was a clever little ploy to hook folks like yours truly. You would think that would serve as a bit of a distraction, but lo and behold, as the chorus of "Gimme gimme symphonies..." starts up, the backbeat fades into the recesses of your eardrums as you get wrapped up in the lovely sounds of an actual symphony sounding behind Black. It's always exciting to see an artist thinking outside the box of what's currently chic on the charts, and Black certainly does. He's not afraid to tout his pop influences, but also brings something fresh to the table.

(Note: An alternate version with the exact same backing and Rihanna sample, but different lyrics and a sung chorus of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" is also available, dubbed "HYPNTZ".)

The video is now also available, and I don't often plug music videos, mostly because -- in all honesty -- I don't usually clamor to watch them unless I'm 1) a huge fan of the artist (and even then, I don't often watch videos), 2) a huge fan of the song as well. Both factors are in motion for Dan Black, as after watching the video once, you want to watch it again, as there are so many pop culture references in there, it's hard to grab them all upon first venture. You can check it out for yourself via the new wannabe YouTube for music videos, Vevo:

Overall, it's obvious that Dan Black already has a strength in having won over the hipsters and generally clued in. Whether or not "Symphonies" will be embraced at radio is still to be seen (although, it would make for a nice sweeping, winter-y midtempo cut, no?). Plenty of songs that filled me with so much promise proceeded to promptly tank at CHR/Top 40 (I'm looking at you The Veronicas and V Factory). Still, I have my fingers crossed. Given the fact that the tides in America are starting to turn slightly (alright, slothly) toward the more unexpected pop record with the surprise success of Owl City, who knows what 2010 could bring us? Needless to say, but I will be keeping close watch on this one.

His full record, UN, is available for purchase on iTunes, and is due for a physical release in the US later this year, although I believe it's already available in shops in the UK.


Myfizzypop said...

loving the Dan. I think Symphonies would have been a number one for me last year only I had my obsession with those pesky nearly-abba songs to contend with :)

Aaron said...

Ooh...Sounds really interesting!

Anonymous said...

I scooped it.

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