Labrinth destroys me — the first time this song came on the radio I swear I sat there open-mouthed! One hundred percent vocal commitment. Beautifully crafted harmonic momentum. A rock-solid groove that sounds as punchy as hell on small speakers but still topples the studio lava lamps when you turn it up on the big boys. More than anything, though, this guy just makes me green with envy at his talent for bizarrely poptastic arrangement. The ideas themselves are already a bit barmy — setting the chorus’s sped-up vocal sample and Theremin-style ‘ooh’ against the grimy sampled drums, low brass and piano stabs, funk rhythm skanks, sporadic electric-guitar powerchord scotch snaps, gospel choir… It sounds like a recipe for catastrophe, but damn him if he doesn’t make some kind of crazy logic out of it all. It’s maddening!
More impressive still, though, is the precise arrangement of those building blocks. Over the long term, that means effortlessly building the drama through the song’s duration, while still delivering enough impact to make you want to jump about at the onset of each chorus. The middle-section freak-out at 1:47 could easily have stolen the last chorus’s thunder, but he’s too much of a pro to fall for that old chestnut, neutralising the threat with an intimate title-lyric-saturated gospel drop section that allows the final chorus entry to retain its necessary wow factor. The short-term arrangement stunts are no less accomplished, demanding fresh attention at every turn: the startlingly upfront snare sample at 0:22 with the suddenly widescreen guitar ‘chu-chung’ that follows it; the stark arrangement vacuum that suddenly zooms you in on the first chipmunked hookline at 0:41, and the stutter edits that then keep you focused on it; the fragmentary scap of “let it…”, and the brass fills, snare hit and chain-gang BVs which all increase the ear-candy stakes for the second verse; and, last but certainly not least, the mad-as-a-brush vocoder and timpani outro I’d defy any self-respecting DJ to talk over!
In short, it’s a masterclass — but an almost dispiriting one because the man’s just on a different plane.