“Further on David Byrne and the Dichotomy of Pop Artist and Originator”

Whereas in the cocaine-fueled ’80s Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz laid down those charmingly juvenile and catchy grooves in the Tom Tom Club, it’s arguable at best as to whether David Byrne, in his own right, has ever really been a “pop artist” at any point. I think we’d all agree that the Talking Heads’ most successful song critically, commercially and artistically is “Once in a Lifetime” and that song is just so innovative texturally that it doesn’t really represent a least-common-denominator melding of former styles the way pop typically does. Also, part of its appeal was in its structure, as in that epic modulation on the chord progression at the 3:27 mark, a componential adornment which ironically, though embodying a sort of reversion back to hard rock with the simplicity and fuzzy electric guitar, also allotted the song a transcendent quality by way of juxtaposition, as if recognizing the approachable and everyday even in the celestial [1].
Now, as I say in my review, this presence of “opposites” in a song is a key to the success of Byrne’s new opening track “I Dance Like This.” One extreme within the binary at hand is the sort of shmaltzy mid-’80s pop that his band laid down on that snooze-fest that was Little Creatures. Byrne takes that antiquity on “I Dance Like This” and juxtaposes it with this undeniably stylistic brand of electronica with a modulated voice, as if you were to take some music and say, computerize this. The point of the music is the very vast discrepancy in m.o. between the verse and chorus, not at all unlike the Pixies rubric on “Gigantic” which Kurt Cobain claims understandably was so useful on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
As such, it yields lyrics which are very simple and unoriginal, whereas the pop of someone like Beyonce (“Bootylicious”) or Migos (“Stir Fry”) is, perhaps ironically, more likely to just be weird, to be verbally something we haven’t heard before in music. Beyonce draws on En Vogue probably for her project as well as her former group Destiny’s Child, Migos then taking trap rap and watering it down (to my approval, actually), making it a little more speedy, rhythmic and NBA All-Star Game-ready. The key here is appreciation. David Byrne, in my opinion, hasn’t enjoyed any popular music since James Brown or maybe Roy Ayers, and this is the primary stick in the spokes of his ability to truly be a pop artist and thereby score a hit, but I give him credit for at least attempting a foray into the stylistic vanguard with this oppositionalstep, which may prove to be fecund down the road. But this utter lack of enthusiasm still makes you wonder if he might not be better off writing essays, or something, than making music. Love This Giant further is not disproving of this.
[1] As an addenda to my claim of Byrne not really knowing pop, or not feeling at home within it, I must admit “Swamp” and “Life During Wartime” as notable aberrations from this trend.

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