Yesterday, Hardly Art posted the video for the song “I Really Like It” by Harlem World, a group that was apparently Mase’s spin-off project and attempt at becoming a mogul. Everything about it is the kind of jaw-dropping that leaves you unsure if you should squeal with glee or scrub your eyeballs with steel wool; it’s like they gave a bunch of six-year-olds a giant pile of Lik-M-Aid and four million dollars and told them to make a Bad Boy video. (As opposed to a Bad Boy video performed by kids.) The music, meanwhile, certainly makes sense within the Puffy/Dupri oeuvre, but it’s also basically Europop: hypershiny, bubbly basslines, totally superfluous turntable noises, bright synths. If they were rapping in French, this could’ve been huge in Antwerp. It also, however, gives us another plot point on America’s on-the-DL relationship with Euro-style dance music.
After the ’80s came the time we were supposed to be ashamed of the ’80s, which for some reason was also the time someone decided to break rave here. It wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but it certainly didn’t stick to the mainstream’s ribs, and “electronica” henceforth occupied the same rhetorical space as “eight-track” and “golly.” Since then, any other attempts have had to come in disguise. The 1999 release date of “I Really Like It” places the song firmly within the teenpop period that imported a slowed-down, modulated happy hardcore in the guise of pseudo-R&B. That did stick, and certain dark places in the musical world (like Disney and club music) have had rewarding relationships with the sound ever since. Still, it was inevitably discredited, and when it did (just as inevitably) return, it was in the unexpected guise of Timbaland. While Justin Timberlake’s first album had the weirdo-funk sound of the Neptunes (who, coincidentally, produced a couple songs on the Harlem World album), when Timbaland took over for album number two, he presented some straight-up rave tracks like “My Love.” That this stuck made a certain amount of sense, since it was rave’s darkness that encouraged electronica boosters to think it could catch on in America. Now, Timbaland’s current single, “The Way I Are,” has nothing pseudo or secret about it: it’s a straight-up europop song, complete with cartoonish boy-girl vocals and self-consciously juvenile lyrics. It’s like Timbaland built up all this cultural capital and decided to cash it in on tributes to Ace of Base. Who, of course, lead us back to ABBA, which then leads us forward to hip-hop, and life begins anew.
I Still Can’t Believe This Actually Happened [Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage]