Album Review: Amanda Blank – I Love You
by Marcus K. Dowling
I Love you
If you hate Amanda Blank, you have every desire to lock every hipster in the universe in an Urban Outfitters, soak it in kerosene, light a match, and walk away giggling. There’s something about Amanda Blank that brings out the most amazing and dynamic of opinions in people. There are those who hate her, if for no other reason than what she brings to the table is so completely mindless and vapid that in our current musical era, in which everybody and their best friend has a blog to tear apart an artist word by word and line by line, and over and counteranalyze everything, that artists that make you think, or well create thought provoking and/or different sounds get pushed. Someone like Amanda Blank, who sings and raps about absolutely nothing of gravitas past relationships, boyfriends and partying, well, it’s more than likely that she’ll get the shaft in a 2009 musical conversation. However Blank, the daughter of a college professor, is clearly more than fully aware of this, and in being an in your face sexpot favored by the pink t-shirt and purple sneaker crowd, embraces them likely more than they embrace her, allowing herself, as an artist to exist and excel, despite the slings and arrows of tastemakers and media alike.
See, I’m of the belief that Amanda Blank’s I Love You is one of the best albums of the year. It has a timeless quality to it that, not like the Black Lips or US Royalty remind you of classic, feel good 60s rock dipped in a batter of southern soul, or like the Cool Kids remind you of Masta Ace, Stetsasonic or any great number of late 80s – early 90s rap geniuses, but instead, Amanda Blank is deeply reminiscent and appreciative of cherubic, club ready, one hit wonder pop. She covers Vanity, Romeo Void and LL’s panty moistener on the album. Let’s not forget that. This is not for the Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit or Animal Collective audience. Hell, it’s not even for the Wale, Kid Cudi or Pac Div audience either. It aims lower than that. The base. The confused young lady that’s in a scene and it’s her first pang of acceptance. The gay guy that’s living for the moment. The partier that revels in life’s absurdity and laughs in the face of taking anything too seriously for fear of crying about the morally devoid and tumbling into a rabbit hole of irrelevance nature of society. Say what you will, but imagine a universe in which you don’t know or care deeply about bills or jobs, and your stress is totally encased in “Will Bobby buy me a can of Sparks and sneak off with me to the bathroom tonight?” Amanda Blank, with I Love You, successfully attempts to raise the universe’s lowest of cultures to the highest of art, and succeeds. It may not be a victory for you, but to a legion of kids nationwide fully ensconced in hipster and club culture, it’s an entirely too accurate portrait of a completely absurd and ridiculous universe.
However, far, far, far more important than anything Amanda Blank says on the album is the canvas upon which she gets to artistically create upon. Diplo, Switch and XXXChange, given their creation of and participation in the Hollertronix parties that pretty much spawned this entire movement, are the absolutely perfect production squad. They do nothing more than put the pitch perfect beats behind the pitch perfect people. You may want Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids over something other than a fuzzed out synth bassline on “Lemme Get Some,”, but, as anyone will tell you, that’s where he excels. You may want to hear Amanda Blank ape LL Cool J over some generic electro sounds, but, over a Sir Mix A Lot and Masta Ace sample, with Santigold’s “I Love You” over the chorus, it’s exactly the place where that track should be. The album’s opener, “Make It Take It” sounds like it was jacked from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or CSS’ discard pile. The Vanity cover “Make-Up,” well sounds as close to the original as humanly possible because, well, sometimes you can’t mess with perfection. To NOT see Diplo, Switch or XXXChange attempt to push music forward with Amanda Blank as the showpiece is appreciated as Amanda Blank celebrates what is literally happening right now for so many young men and young women in urban America. A different sound would have completely destroyed the album’s legitimacy, which is so absolutely key to where it succeeds.
The album’s real winner though across all fronts is the Lykke Li duet “Leaving You Behind” which, if it were a track without the soul stirring Swedish songstress on the hook, would be Blank’s attempt at showing some artistic expansion, but, with Lykke Li there, the heart stopping gravitas not apparent anywhere else on the album is more than apparent, likely making the track more a victory for Lykke Li than anything, but definitely showing Blank the exact space where there is significant room for improvement. And “Might Like You Better?” Well, outside of being a good cover and a very solid production, well, it allows Amanda Blank to make videos like the one below, and craft an entertaining and media ready visual image. It may not be an image we like, because it’s too expected and too mainstream, but, there’s the victory of an Amanda Blank. She is, EXACTLY what she is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Amanda Blank has officially arrived and not a second too late. If nothing else, I Love You is a very adequate encapsulation of the last three years of popular culture. For many, it has been the best of times. For yet so many more, it has clearly been the worst. In urban America, it really is the tale of two “cities.” Mainstream and alternative. The alternative diva is here. The city has a leader.