Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX – We’re New Here
Gil Scott-Heron released “I’m New Here” last year and it was a personal favorite. The album was extremely powerful in its minimalistic approach. “We’re New Here” is a remix album by Jamie XX of The XX. When I saw that a remix album was coming, I was pretty excited, I love his poetry, his lyrics and his voice, so I was really curious how it would sound remixed.
Unfortunately, upon hearing “We’re New Here”, it was mostly a disappointing listen. On the original album, the music was a dusty blend of electronic blues that fully complemented his voice, allowing the despair to seep through. As an artist who had succumbed to his demons, Scott-Heron’s voice needed to be heard to exercise those demons and because the music was subtle and never overstated, the voice and the lyrics became the focal point. There is a sense of vulnerability and fear at times that made the album such a brilliant look into the heart of a once broken man. The music played a huge part in that enabling that vulnerability. Had the music been the jazz or classic soul of his earlier releases, it would have been the same old thing once again, but by using modern music that captured that classic and soulful blues sound, it created something new and something powerful in its simplicity.
On “We’re New Here”, the music takes a forefront and limits the impact of the voice. Gone is the minimalist approach, replaced with stuttering dance beats and repetitive synths. Where sadness and frustration once reigned, stirring the emotions, a hipster club vibe now permeates these songs. A prime example of how this project went wrong is with “I’ll Take Care of You.” In its original form, it was a stirring song of devotion, a declaration of love and heartache. On the remix, it becomes a simplistic disco romp that has lost all of its original soul. Overall, there is simply a disconnect between the music and the vocals. Had the project been more collaborative, as opposed to just a remix album, it may have turned out different, but as it is, it just doesn’t work.