by Olivia Mastrosimone
Chromeo, the slick electro-funk duo, made an unexpected return in June with Head Over Heels, the band’s fifth studio album. I can’t seem to find the words that describe how I felt when I heard that Chromeo, the group I had a brief obsession with in ninth grade, was making a comeback. Was it hesitation? Doubt? Maybe just reluctance? Or is it because I now understand that Chromeo just rebranded dance music to make it acceptable for the anti-dance music indie boy market? Or the harrowing idea of revisiting your 2013 self that was only into the band because they collaborated with Ezra Koenig? Any way you slice it, there are plenty of reasons to be fearful of Head Over Heels before you even listen to it. Unfortunately for Chromeo, the album meets and exceeds these expectations– or rather lack thereof.
Chromeo has fallen victim to a mistake many bands that achieved moderate success make after years out of the public eye: “going pop.” Head Over Heels is the result of this identity crisis, an album desperately jam-packed with A-list features and a clean, almost clinical pop sound. But it’s not all bad; the album is well produced for what Chromeo was going for, and with the help of some industry legends, manages to find an accessible but objectively fun sound. However, some tracks seem to be rehashing old tricks. ‘Must’ve Been’ is basically Chromeo’s ‘Get Lucky’– a shining, uncharacteristically pop track with delicious riffs and a big wig featured artist– and “Count Me Out” sounds a little like an ‘Uptown Funk’ from a different dimension. Despite the recent and already slightly played out pop-funk craze, Chromeo released a catchy, bouncy album that is probably best suited for background music at a party.
Which leads me straight to my next point: Head Over Heels if listenable if you don’t actually listen to it. Probably on the third try, you’ll realize where the album goes wrong. Behind the faux-funk sound and attractive collaborations lie some pretty unsettling stuff. Apparently, Chromeo missed all of the recent news of sexual assault in the entertainment industry or just the whole “not being a jerk” thing. In fact, it seems that Dave-1 and P-Thugg tried to alienate as many listeners as possible, from women to blue collar workers to – did I mention women? Maybe we weren’t looking out for this type of thing in 2014 while we were listening to some of their other hits, like ‘Sexy Socialite’ and ‘Over Your Shoulder.’ But hey, sexism is okay when it’s put over some synthesizers and a slap bass, right? ‘Juice’ is probably Chromeo at their worse: the album’s first single begins with “relationships ain’t a democracy, I’m good if you just stay on top of me.” Talk about a first impression.
Sure, Head Over Heels has some good tracks for a totally crazy high school party or to listen to 30 seconds of before changing the radio station, but that’s not good enough for a band once known for their new and unique sound. If this album teaches us anything, it’s how washed up Chromeo has become. We’re tired of hearing creepy pop songs sung by 40-year-old straight dudes. We’re tired of being bombarded with false 80’s nostalgia (really though, how much more cheesy synthesizers and Netflix original series set in 1985 can we take?). After listening to Head Over Heels, maybe we’re just tired of Chromeo.