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About a month ago, Kimbra released her latest song, “90s Music” in preparation for her sophomore album The Golden Echo, out Aug. 19 in the U.S. via Warner Bros. Records. The official music video for the track that followed a few weeks later is so loaded with nostalgic imagery and bubblegum goodness that it has taken me this long to process everything into a coherent review that does not just include me flailing about and emitting high-pitched squeals.
To many, Kimbra might be known as “that one girl who was on that one Gotye song that really blew up” but to others, she’s the singer-songwriter from New Zealand who released a stunning debut album in 2011 that was full of retro vibes and soul-pop perfection. Vows showcased Kimbra’s vocal and songwriting prowess and her music videos and live performances revealed her eclectic style and confident yet quirky dancing. The album climbed to the top 5 in charts in both New Zealand and Australia and in the US, it reached the top 20 on the Billboard 200. She was slated to tour with Janelle Monáe, an artist also known for her eccentric style, but it was cancelled after Monáe fell ill. It’s a damn shame that all we have to remind us of what could’ve been is this swoon-worthy promo video for the tour, but we’ll take what we can get.
There’s little anyone can do to prepare for the sensory overload that is “90s Music;” Kimbra’s last single from Vows, “Come into My Head,” shares elements of having a fresh take on soul throwback, with lots of trumpets and funky bass, but is practically minimalist by comparison. On this latest single, auto-tuned references to 90’s pop stars like Aaliyah, Mariah Carey and TLC sound like a cassette tape rewinding several decades, Kimbra’s forceful voice squeezed into a rapid-fire falsetto.
On “90s Music,” there’s little hint of the somebody we used to know, and that’s why I’m 100% in love with this song. It’s a delight to see her pushing musical boundaries, exploring new styles and dabbling in wordplay, and having fun as well. Both the song and the video work well as an homage to a Lisa Frank-ified era, but at its core, we see how absolutely enamored Kimbra is with music, making it, and performing it, and it’s infectious.
The video seethes with an uncontainable energy: all bright colors, animated Trapper Keeper patterns, kinetic dancing reminiscent of Missy Elliott’s bombastic offerings. Kimbra’s crazy wardrobe takes some definite cues from the “Supafly” rapper, her over-the-top outfits paired with vibrant makeup and equally uniquely dressed backup dancers. Not only does this correlation bring out some of the hip-hop influence at work on the track, it successfully references the hey day of the big-budget, blockbuster videos that dominated MTV’s TRL and cast performers as larger than-life superstars, from Biggie and Puff in “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” to Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs” video, to Busta Rhymes in… well, everything. But Kimbra is smart when it comes to stylistic appropriation, updating her brand of nostalgia when necessary, and providing ample shout-outs to her major sources of inspiration. Throughout it all, Kimbra’s carefree spirit, dynamic originality and exceptional talent take center stage.
You can pre-order The Golden Echo on iTunes and get an instant download of “90s Music,” “Love in High Places” and “Nothing But You.” These songs are sure to top every summer jam playlist, but don’t be surprised if the album becomes a critical favorite of 2014.