Image for The Future: Brandy – What About Us (via One A Day)

The Future: Brandy – What About Us (via One A Day)

Written by Amelia Schmidt on December 2, 2011

This is a guest post I did for the Seidler Bros’ blog of awesomeness One A Day. It’s a blog that every day posts some sort of insightful song analysis, and I jumped in and did one for Brandy’s song ‘What About Us’. Here it is! With added Youtube.

This song has been stuck in my head for a few weeks now, ever since I discovered a genre called ‘aquacrunk’ (c/o my web-coder boyfriend who is ever on the hunt for new music to put him in a work-trance while he types magic numbers). Aquacrunk is a Glasgow-based genre pioneered by Glaswegian musician Rustie. It’s really not such a ridiculous name for this music once you hear it – Rustie’s tracks are like crunking underwater dubstep parties organised by seahorses on acid with an octopus doing synthesised beats. Or perhaps the ‘aqua’ part of the name comes from the way the music seems to be delayed in waves, whether in terms of the warping pitches or the uncontrollable bass lines that morph in and out like terrifying music from another planet – or the bottom of the ocean.

Err, enough about Rustie, though. Let’s just summarise that Glasgow is an underrated and incredible place for new music. The point here is that aquacrunk is actually a sub-genre of a broader classification called ‘wonky’, which is characterized by the ‘wonkiness’ of its music – where aquacrunk is (often) quite fast-paced and features a shitload of hectic vocoders and phasers, intense laser-powered beats and monstrous bass sounds, ‘wonky’ is a genre which also puts out feelers into grime, R&B, hip-hop and breakbeat/broken beat.

I was reminded of ‘wonky’ when I discovered Obaro Ewijime aka Ghostpoet’s music (himself quite influenced by grime, and once part of a grime collective). His flow is slow-mo wonky, like a British Drake in half time. He’s not out of time by any means, but the placement of his words is syncopated in a subtle, slightly unsettling way, and the sort of slightly-not-right simple single line of synthesiser melody in the background bears all of the hallmarks of wonky. But with Ghostpoet, the stable element of his music is the beat, which is as un-wonky as clockwork, and holds the whole thing together and stops those wonky elements from spinning off like wheels off a broken toy car.

This is where Brandy comes in. I always love learning about songs I listened to when I was too young to understand pop music properly but listened to it every morning on Video Hits. This Brandy track is one of them. The clip itself is what stuck in my memory – it features human pyramids made of men, floating tree islands, and basically a world that looks like something out the Playstation games I used to play. It’s strongly reminiscent of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and really characterises that ‘90s aesthetic, despite being produced in 2002.

(Upon second viewing Brandy is featured with a baseball bat bashing relics of her old relationship that fly towards her in a futuristic tunnel; she has men in chains in a creepy S&M style-scene and she stands on top of the man-pyramids – it’s a full-on girl-power video where Brandy is basically a futuristic dominatrix with a subtle cultural criticism laced through it all. For some reason I think I thought she had an identical twin, possibly because she looked slightly different in Moesha. Whatever.)

Anyway, Brandy comes in to our wonky equation with the ridiculously cool beat in this song, engineered by Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins – you’ll know it’s him because you can hear him say ‘Darkchild’ at the start of every track he touches. Jerkins has worked with about a bazillion people including Mary J Blige, Toni Braxton, Jennifer Lopez (‘If You Had My Love’), Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson (‘You Rock My World’), Destiny’s Child (‘Say My Name’, ‘Cater 2 U’), Spice Girls (‘Holler’), TLC (‘Turntable’), Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Kanye West, Katy Perry, LMFAO, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga (‘Telephone’), Britney Spears (‘Overprotected’), Lionel Richie… I could go on… he’s good, OK?


Listen for it…

His touch on this Brandy track is unmistakable and at the time was also quite groundbreaking. Brandy is no master rapper; even though her R&B melodies are rhythmically-powered, she is straight up and down and the syncopation in the chorus is quite simple. What gives this track its flavour is the beat – it seems to never be able to make it to where it wants to go, and its ‘ta-dun, ta-dun’ sort of chug reminds me of a broken machine or a sense of driving momentum. It is severely, deeply wonky, slow enough to entrance you and probably pretty deserving of its unearthly video clip.

Think of this track as a very early precursor to dubstep before dubstep was even really technically possible. Despite being earwormingly catchy and memorable even from the depths of my childhood, its slightly unsettling off-kilter beat is like the long-lost ancestor of the genuinely disturbing wubwubwubs that dubstep casually drops all over the world today. And to think that 13 year-old me was casually digging it on Saturday morning – weird. And awesome.

Join Music Feeds on Facebook

More On Music Feeds

News

The Vaccines Frontman Is Frustrated People Can’t See How Good He Is At Writing Songs

The Vaccines lead-singer and songwriter Justin Young has gone on a pretty spectacular rant this week about his under-appreciated songwriting, his band’s popularity and Glastonbury headliners.

News

Someone Has Replaced The Snare In Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ With The Shittier One From ‘St. Anger’

Lars Ulrich’s snare sound on Metallica’s divisive St. Anger album has become a music industry punchline, mocked and memed en masse by even the most devout of Metallica fans, since the offensive album was first released in 2003.

News

Watch Primavera Sound Festival Live From The Comfort Of Your Couch This Weekend

Thanks to the internet you can basically pretend you’re in Barcelona at Primavera Sound this weekend, with many of the sets being streamed.

News

A$AP Ferg Has Made A Mini-Doco Of His Mental Australian Tour

Trap lord A$AP Ferg has released a short film of his recent trip to Australia showing just how HAM Aussie crowds went for the rapper.

News

Paul Mac, Art Vs. Science Support NSW Greens Bill To Stop Use Of Sniffer Dogs

NSW Greens member Jenny Leong has announced that she will introduce a bill to NSW parliament which, if passed, will stop police being able to use sniffer dogs without a warrant at festivals, in bars and King Cross and on public transport.

News

Fear Factory Dish On New Album ‘Genexus’

Fear Factory have released the tracklist and cover art for their forthcoming ninth studio album and given away a few hints on what to expect.

Around the web

This May Also Interest You