I have generally believed that greatness in a pop song is a function of an artist’s or band’s ability to make the most of the standard pop song structure that has become commonplace and a pre-requisite for commercial viability over the last few decades. More specifically, I was under the impression that being able to create memorable melodies for the song’s intro, verses, chorus, bridge, and middle 8 constituted the recipe for pop brilliance. After all, aren’t these the ingredients for the “memorability factor” of a pop song? Apparently not. The exception to this age-old formula is one that is rooted in contradiction. Contradiction in pop has a magnetic ability to lure listeners in and leave them longing for more. It is the foundational element of our pick for “2018’s first great pop song of the year”. It comes from one of the artists that we listed in our post devoted to “artists returning with new music in 2018“.
Rae Morris’ “Lower the tone” is unusual in its ability to lodge itself in one’s memory despite its absolute lack of a standard pop song structure. In fact, it is virtually impossible to point out what part of the song qualifies as its chorus. It opens with a mellow and understated vocal buoyed by a sparse production. In an age of instant gratification wherein a listener expects to be hooked on to a song from the very beginning, this approach is an unapologetic challenge to tradition as it applies to pop music. An A&R (Artist and Repertory) professional looking for the next big pop sensation is likely to dismiss this song within the first ten seconds – only to realize that his decision was premature and misguided in view of the brilliance that follows. The multi-layered production unravels itself gradually over the first couple of minutes. This is a precursor to an ethereal harmony sung over the lyrics:
Shower me with kisses
the way your breath
Against my skin makes the
hair on the back of my neck stand tall
Feel like I’ve not felt before now
This harmony is also the song’s key inflection point from a sonic template of minimalism to one of exquisite production propelled by a mid-tempo beat laced with ambient synths, a hauntingly beautiful instrumental, and Rae’s mesmerizing vocal theatrics – especially on the lyric “your dark side is beautiful”. The first half of the song is one that conveys Rae’s simmering attraction towards her lover and her burning desire to act on it. In contrast, the hypnotic second half of the song is the soundtrack to an eruption of unbridled passion between two lovers that have broken the shackles of self restraint. It brims with a crescendoing sexual energy reminiscent of the 90s hit single “Sadness” by Enigma.
It would not be unreasonable for a listener to think of “Lower the tone” as being two dramatically different songs rolled into one. It is this stylistic contrast between the two halves of this song and Rae’s innocent delivery of erotic lyrical content that the song’s inherent sense of contradiction stems from. It is also the essence of its memorability.
While Blackpool (UK) native Rae Morris is not a veteran artist by any stretch, she is not exactly an amateur either. She has been gradually honing her craft as a singer and songwriter in the British limelight for the last five years. The critical reception of her musical offerings and live performances has been unanimously positive. Her music first became a staple on our 24/7 online radio global broadcast with her addictive single “Closer” (released in 2014). Rae embodies an artistic integrity and authenticity that is not commonly found in the newer crop of musicians that have come to define the contemporary pop music scene. Furthermore, she appears to be comfortable distancing herself from the unfortunate trend of homogeneity that modern pop music has become characterized by. After a dreary 2017 in the world of pop, Rae Morris is a beacon of hope and optimism and a reminder that music is far from dead. “Lower the tone” is in an invigorating cocktail of bold, sexy, and dramatic. If it is in any way indicative of the rest of the material on Rae Morris’ upcoming sophomore album “Someone out there” (slated for release on February 2, 2018), listeners are in for a treat. I truly believe that Rae is poised for immense success and I can barely wait to see how this starlet’s story unfolds.
Here is a full-length clip of “Lower the tone”:
STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Rae Morris is a regular staple on our station. Currently “Lower the tone” by Rae Morris is getting 5-6 plays a day on Radio Creme Brulee. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Tears For Fears, Suede, The Corrs, Dubstar, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!