Monday, 11 August 2008

FLO RIDA WITH WILL.I.AM AND TIFFANY VILLARREAL: In The Ayer


You know, I think we're going to have to get over "My Humps" and what have you because whenever will.i.am is engaged in extracurricular activity he is creative to a degree which isn't particularly noticeable in the Peas environment; think of the tremulous quiet of a rebel shout that was Mos Def's "Umi Says" or the various things he's done for and with Estelle (not least "American Boy").

Or indeed the super-stratospheric "In The Ayer." I'm pretty sure that ex-prison officer (and ex-2 Live Crew associate member) Flo Rida didn't have intentionally stuffy semi-broadsheet newspapers in mind when he called his new album Mail On Sunday but it's an apt title since its music represents everything likely to induce arrythmia in Associated hearts everywhere.

The magic of "In The Ayer" as it appears on the album (as opposed to sundry subsequent remixes) is its complete understanding of the importance of the singular moment in the pop song, the breakthrough point, the peak which everything else in the record leads up to and away from (transformed). It's a stormer of a post-"Planet Rock" electrobomb (not surprising given its sampling of the long forgotten "Jam The Box" by Freestyle Express), its "ayers" a clever counterpart to Nelly's "herre"s with starkly stellar curtain raisers of Numan grindcore synths; will.i.am's choruses authoritatively naughty, Flo Rida's verses anxiously eager to get moving - bend with that 16 rpm "ride with me" halfway through verse two and don't avoid that "ain't gon' treat our city like the Mayor (Mayor)."

But the punctum here is Tiffany Villarreal, the backing singer; she appears in only two choruses but makes both of them count; in the first, indeed, she is only audible in the second half, singing unison with a relishable tang to her tongue, but the second - at 2:18 - is the key to the whole record; the Southern robot of her deadpan "DAMN" in response to will.i.am's "Oh hot damn," and then the equivalent "JAM" to "This is my jam" and suddenly it becomes a radiant National Grid of pop currents. On the original this moment materialises only once though it becomes an unstoppable refrain on remix.

Nevertheless, after the second chorus, the song suddenly turns a darker corner, heralded by will.i.am's "Alright now, STOP!" The key drops, the skies darken ("It's a STICK UP stick up stick up!" - the tripartite call and responses here the counterpart to their lighter hearted equivalents on "American Boy") and eventually we return to the chorus in a lower key, will.i.am now intoning a baritone "DAMN" and "JAM" before the light burns itself out.

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