With a groove slow and fat enough to lose yourself in and glitchy enough to sound of the moment, “Give It Up” manages to answer the question no one was probably otherwise asking, which is, “What would Tears for Fears sound like had hip hop existed in the early ’80s?”
And if that sounds facetious I don’t mean it to be. First of all, I kind of like Tears for Fears. Second of all, while I like authentic artistic expression as much as the next guy, I also like a good pop song (in the traditional sense of the word, not necessarily meaning that I like what is currently played on Top 40 stations). And at the risk of pointing out the obvious, there is almost nothing about a good pop song that can be rightly called “authentic.” Good pop songs have always been shrewd constructions, built from any given era’s available materials. (This is no excuse for Auto-Tune, by the way, but that’s a separate post.) So, here we have a British duo that blends sampled and/or synthesized strings and horns and all sorts of elusive electronic effects into something that sounds both super constructed and super attractive. And also—I like this part a lot—connected to its own history. When Robbie Furze sings, “It doesn’t have to be/So hard,” switching from falsetto to normal register for that last phrase, I feel myself in the presence of a huge interconnected wave of pop that arrows back not only through the early ’80s but straight into the birth of pop music with a groove, which happened on soul records some time in the late ’60s to early ’70s. The sample here—apparently taken from Memphis soul singer Ann Peebles—is telling. I’m not sure precisely what’s been sampled—horns? strings? vocals?—but that never seems to be the point here in century 21. It’s all about the final collage, and if the collage pulls me in this smartly, I’ll happily go along. Just steer clear of that Auto-Tune.