On a global scale, the zeitgeist is a tricky one to pin down. But in the electronic music world, you can’t get more zeitgeist-y than LA producer Shlohmo and Chicago R&B artist Jeremih. There’s only three years between them and both tap into a very now aesthetic: respectful to the point of nostalgia of the past yet stretching that feeling into constantly mutating, thrilling new shapes. With his much-celebrated summer 2012 ‘Late Nights with Jeremih’ mixtape, the more established latter ousted the hyper-hyped The Weeknd as the voice of contemporary R&B (a move I can’t help cheering: a win for the revelling sexuality of Fuck U All The Time over The Weeknd’s more than dubious sexual politics). Meanwhile Shlohmo recently cemented his position as the producer du jour with new EP ‘Laid Back’ [Friends Of Friends] that featured a heart-wrenching collaboration with How To Dress Well.
It almost goes without saying, then, that a collaboration between the similarly, almost onomatopoeically named Shlohmo and Jeremih would go down like hot treacle on ice-cream. And, damn, it does: Bo Peep (Do U Right) fits so snugly, so cleanly, into both artists’ discography that it seems to have been born to happen. Shlohmo’s blurry beats need the sweet sharpness of Jeremih’s falsetto; and similarly, Jeremih’s acrobatic vocal flips could almost be part of Shlohmo’s sonic arsenal.
Yet, for all their intrinsic compatibility, what brought them together was a brand sponsored video series from the excellent San Franciscan film-makers Yours Truly. Would this collaboration have happened without adidas bucks? Possibly, seeing as Jeremih dug Shlohmo’s remix of Fuck U All The Time. Would it have sounded different without the constraints of Your Truly’s Songs From Scratch video concept? No doubt. But the real question, the one that’s scratching at my subconscious, is if this being a brand-sponsored song – ultimately made to further the image and bank balance of a trainer label – makes it any less of a tune?
In the moment, when I’m wearing out my laptop’s tap pad hitting replay, my body screams no. Bo Peep’s waves keep crashing and haven’t yet lost their force despite being on a loop. It’s a killer pop song quite aside from the fact it’s by miles the best thing to come out of this series to date. But away from my headphones I can’t help but wonder at the speed at which attitudes to brand involvement have changed over the last few years, partly – no doubt – to do with necessity and partly because we’re all so drenched in media no-one bats an eye anymore. The level of disdain Moby was greeted with when he licensed the heck out of ‘Play’ way back in 1999 just wouldn’t even come into the equation today. Have Shlohmo and Jeremih just made a brilliant adidas jingle? Or is this really the meeting of minds it feels like? Or, to put it another way, when a song’s this good does it even matter any more?