Is Baauer More Than The Harlem Shake?

We remember the ‘Harlem Shake’ don’t we? Maybe not the entire thing, but 30 seconds or so of it.

As a meme, the video was replicated by many people and went viral in early February 2013, with thousands of “Harlem Shake” videos being made and uploaded to YouTube every day at the height of its popularity.

Just in case you wanted to see the ‘Best Of’ the Harlem Shake (smdh), here’s a video:

I didn’t even realise it went on longer than 40 seconds until some DJ decided to play the whole thing during a set. After everyone had flailed around for the first half a minute, everyone sort of stopped and went ‘what now?’ Some tried to continue their flailing, but the magic was lost. Loved it or loathed it, it was a song that changed how Billboard ruled the top 100 by now including YouTube views.

We had Baauer, Harry Rodrigues a 26 year old from Philadelphia, USA, to thank/hate for this back in 2013. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone (February 2016), he disowned his viral track, saying: “It became corny and annoying as fuck, and my name was attached to that.” Now he’s back with his long-awaited debut album Aa.

But is he a one hit wonder?

The album clocks in at just over 34 minutes and is a split between Baauer’s sides: the first half contains instrumentals, with the second half calling on his rapper friends to show his beat maker side. The range of features included on this album features the unknowns, such as Novelist and  Leikeli47 on ‘Day Ones’ to the well knowns like M.I.A on ‘Temple,’ and  Pusha T and Future on ‘Kung Fu.’ Baauer also offers a few different genres on Aa from grime, to hip hop, to world drum n bass, to R&B, to the typical and peculiar trap that put his name out there.

‘Sow’ is a tentative trap track mixed with an Angolan kuduro sound. It also features some weird Tetris theme remix at the end, for some reason. Maybe he wanted to add it as some sort of interlude, but it was too short of a song even by his standards. Who knows.

‘Pinku’ is one of the albums shorter tracks at 2:13. Drawing on Daft Punk sounding influences, the plucky, funky and tropical house track is, unfortunately, over before it’s even really begun. I’m not sure what happened with ‘Good & Bad’, to be honest. It’s promisingly bassy and feels like it’s building up to something good (and has the faint sound of jungle animals: birds and a distorted elephant noise, which Baauer seems to enjoy on this album). And then it ends. ‘Good & Bad’ is an intro to a song that never comes. Which is a shame.

‘Day Ones’ is the first song to introduce vocals. The track features grime MC artist Novelist from London and an explosive execution from Leikeli47, a masked New York art rapper, is a stand out track on the album. Whilst it could be easy to assume Baauer is trying to jump on the grime craze whilst it’s still hot, the production is still very him.

‘Temple’ reads more as a M.I.A. track, understandable of course, more than one of Bauuer’s own. From the unusual oriental string work, to Korean rapper G-Dragon on the second verse and more animal noises, the song still remains a standout track on the album.

Aa’s tracklist eye-catcher ‘Kung Fu’ featuring rap royalty Pusha T and Future isn’t actually that good, considering what Baauer has shown that he’s capable of on other tracks. It’s good, but it’s generic.

I have a real issue with ending tracks on albums being rubbish, and I’m on the fence title track ‘Aa’. It’s just 77 seconds long and just when you think the song might actually get into something good (random bits of screeching permitted), it becomes a final 20 seconds of jungle sounds.

Overall, it’s a good effort from Baauer. This may possibly be the album that makes people take him seriously. Remarks from the likes of Pitchfork to the YouTube comment section have been singing his praises for Aa. Rather than create an album full of ‘Harlem Shake’ replicas, Baauer has created something that stands far away from something that can be made into a half a minute meme.

Maybe it’s finally time we move away from calling him ‘The Harlem Shake Guy’ and give him credit for his other, and better, tracks. In his interview with Rolling Stone he said that his previous success made him want to “fuck with things more.” Whilst he’s glad that it happened, he also never wants it to happen again: “I totally see what Kurt Cobain must have felt like when it happened to him.”

And if I heard one of these new tracks being played in the club, I’d let out a sigh of relief and think “well thank fuck it isn’t ‘Harlem Shake’.”

Chloe Chaplin

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