I'm an unabashed pop lover, but let's face it, these days its getting harder to impress my little beating pop heart.
I feel like pop, in recent years has become a bit of a ladies game. Not a bad thing at all, especially when there are so many great female pop acts around. Making the distinction is redundant, I don't really care what gender we ascribe to great music makers, but that said, sometimes I have a yearning for a bit more of a male perspective in pop from acts that I can relate to.
In order to get that little black pop heart of mine beating, I also need something more than a hooky ear worm. Straightforward pop doesn't really cut the mustard for me these days. I need something smart and funky. Ideally that I can find on an album that switches genres like there's no tomorrow to keep me on the ball.
And to that end, I've got a soft spot for Dan Black: not because we share a birthday, but because to my mind he's got a talent for hopping across genres like few others.
His [[UN]] album (2009/2010) is one of my all time favourite albums. Mind you it doesn't come as much of a surprise: it's the work of a studio boffin who is credited for having created much of the album on his own in an apartment basement.
I consider Dan something of a neo-romantic. You know, if you could imagine that the new romantics of the early eighties ever reincarnated for modern times, they would do so by soaring over this generation's heartbreak in Dan Black like form. They'd be smart and self sufficient musos whose edgy songs bristle with great melodies and with lyrics that will leave you with a wry smile on your face.
As with the greatest wonky pop releases, UN found success in some markets but was criminally ignored by most of the masses.
You've probably heard the lead track Symphonies which took Rihanna and Jay Z's admittedly already fab Umbrella and recast it as something completely different and brilliant and whose video was a breath of fresh air. Dan Black's talent for bending and reinventing widely recognised sounds was what led me to discovering him in the first place: through his mixtape which was circulating in 2010, I stumbled across his breakthrough moment. A moment born from the idea of putting Kate Bush and Madonna together into a blender, layering himself over them and seeing what came out the other side. The result? This epic piece.
But beyond his abilities to mix and add value to pop staple pieces, on UN, his debut solo album, Dan has a way of combining his own pretty heartfelt observations with fresh sounds. Check out Wonder for his take on wistful pop, or Alone for some grubby funk inspired romanticism. Want something a little more passive aggressive? Well, the electro pop of Yours has your name written all over it.
Since UN there have been a few singles and a mix tape, including another almost crossover moment: this one featuring Kelis and paired with an innovative video. But Dan Black fans are in wait for UN's perpetually delayed/postponed follow up.
When will it arrive? Who knows? But let's just say that pop could do with a nice shot in the arm from this wonkypop making neo-romantic.
In the meantime, go and discover UN and see what all my fuss is about. It's held up really well over time and remains a favourite.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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