Strictly speaking this is an EP, but whatever. Karmin sprang to my attention last year with their massive hit “Brokenhearted”, which keen fans will know was one of my top 10 favourites of last year. Since then I’ve experienced a few of their slightly baffling but nonetheless impressive covers of unlikely tracks.
Well I say unlikely, they seemed like such a pop duo, but there they are on Youtube doing rap covers. Amy might come over as a bit precocious, but she’s certainly got an interesting talent for rap. Look for their cover of “Look at me now” to see her keeping up with Busta Rhymes’s insane rapid-fire rapping. Or for a poppier flavous, their cover of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass”.
Anyway, they’ve only got an EP to their name at the moment, so I thought I’d do some investigating.
07 Walking on the moon – Starts poppy enough, but then she’s “uh uh!”-ing her way through a rappy verse. Sounds a bit like she’s basing her style on Jay-Z here. The production doesn’t do much to stop me thinking of that either, so it’s a surprisingly un-pop track for the most part. The chorus is pretty pop but for some reason it feels a bit thin. Still quite nice though.
10 Brokenhearted – Well you know what I think about this. Deservedly a massive hit for them, with that irresistible synth-guitar riff running through its core (did someone listen to Dr Luke that day?). Considering that foundation doesn’t change, it’s a pretty varied track, chopped up with some Nicki-style rapping, and even a few weird Cheerios thrown in for good measure. Really love this, such an instant pop track.
07 Told you so – I guess I should get used to the rap as a recurring feature. This time it’s a bit heavier in the mix, and a link to their breakthrough on Youtube doing rap covers. That chorus is pretty catchy, but overall I’m not crazy about this sort of cocky swagger jagger stuff (I don’t know the slang these days, humour me). She’s impressive as a rapper, especially that bit in the last minute.
07 Too many fish – Again this feels like it’s feed off a familiar influence, though I can’t quite place where this time. A pretty solid track about not settling for any old guy, with some old-school instrumentation in there. Maybe like that sort of retro sound Bruno Mars likes doing these days. By this point I wonder if their unique selling point isn’t quite selling it to me, but it’s alright.
07 I’m just sayin’ – A bit of a poppier move now again, they are certainly trying to cover all bases with this EP. Well if you’ve got an eyecatching rapper, you might as well use her, so she gets down to business again. At least the chorus has a bit more to it than other tracks so far. That “No no no let it go” reminds me of a failed Sugababes single, that’s not the sort of parallel they probably want to inspire, but fortunately that’s a good thing for me.
08 Coming up strong – The guy’s getting a chance to sing, hooray! He’s so sweet in those videos *sigh*. In a nice change to the pop-rap schizophrenia we’ve had so far, this is quite a nice RnB ballad duet. OK neither of their singing voices are spectacular, but they go well together and it sounds fine. Sure there’s a bit of extra rap thrown in there, I guess it might sound a bit dull otherwise, and it saves cash on rent-a-rappers!
08 Hello – I think this is what they decided on for a follow-up track, and it’s surprisingly unrepresentative of the EP. It’s a pretty full-on dance track, or in the poppy Guetta sense at least. I can understand why this was the single though, fitting in nicely with the prevailing wind of urban-dance crossover tracks in the USA (and indeed most of the world). That chorus is a bit basic to say the least with (is that just “Hello” over and over again!?). Nothing super special, and may seal their doom as one-hit-wonders for the time being.
So that was quite quick, only a slim 25 minutes, with that I imagine is just a stopgap while they come up with a whole album. It would have been too much of a risk to leave a massive gap after “Brokenhearted”, and it does at least bridge the gap between their rap-cover beginnings and whatever they are hoping to become.
Saying that, I’m not entirely sure what they want to be. Amy’s rap skills are rarely avoided in this EP, but I wonder if I’d like a whole album of it. I suspect not, but there’s potential there for more massive pop songs, I think.
Keepers for the iPod: Brokenhearted, Coming up strong, Hello