The Kimbra hype

Last updated 09:36 31/05/2012

I hadn't heard the Kimbra album - I don't know if it's a problem with me and the record label or maybe it was somebody that I used to know who worked there, but I remember asking for the album and being told no. No chance. Seemed odd: new Kiwi artist (or Kiwi-born at least) and I wanted to do my bit - have a listen, report back. But I was told to sod off.

That changed the other week - there's a new Deluxe Edition - and a global market to chase on the back of that Gotye song. Now they'll take comment from anyone, a bunch of new review copies heading out the door to whoever asks - even me.Vows

So I had my first listen to Vows.

It's pretty good. But the hyperbole has well kicked in - some dude in America (a record label guy) has been quoted as saying she's "the next Prince". High praise indeed, a touchstone to suggest she's a clever writer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and some pop wunderkind/some kind of visionary.

Comparisons are made as a shortcut - most often to pay tribute, as a compliment, you're supposed to fill in the blanks and understand the grey area around the subject. In this case there is no way that a person working for whatever is left of a record label could really feel good calling somebody the new Prince.

Prince signed a unique deal at a young age giving him close to unprecedented control.

Kimbra has had her debut album sent straight back out with a bonus EP.

One example rewarded utmost creativity. One suggests the most obvious, lazy and desperate saturation-marketing.

But it's been interesting travelling around America while hearing that Kimbra stands to take off in America. The hype had kicked in before I left New Zealand. And I'm following it still while holidaying in the United States. There is certainly something behind the stories of hype. I read the big rave in the New York Times. She was mentioned in the San Francisco paper too - and in the free street press. Gushing raves.

And there is - I think - something behind the claims and the marketing.

I'm still new to the music of course - when I wanted to hear it, when I could have got on board early, away from the hype, I wasn't allowed. I wasn't deemed worthy. Now I'm just another person lining up to say something obvious, to spread the word in whatever way.

So all I'll say is that I can hear talent.

Kimbra has - for what(ever) it is worth - talent.

Will I keep listening to Vows? It's hard to know. Probably not. I think I'll always hear more in Feist's Metals or Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow - but that's me. And you know that. You know about my terrible taste already. What I'm interested in is what you think.

Is Kimbra the real deal and worth the hype? Or is she simply the "pretty one" from that song (which is to say - the more obvious one to market when it comes down to a competition between her and Gotye) and so she's getting the easy/obvious push?

She will never, ever be the next Prince. And beyond the easy grab for a column inch or two, that comment was almost as insultingly career-crushing as it was intended to be a praise-filled acknowledgment of creative pop flair. We live in different times. The industry works in a different way.

I've heard enough in Vows to know that Kimbra has something - something that you don't always hear. Her success is probably deserved/justified - but it will (most likely) be fleeting. Because that is the way of this world.
They should really be preparing her for that.

Prince is a legend who has lasted 35 years by (mostly) doing things his own way. You can't work that way and be a pop star today.

Oh and that Gotye song is everywhere here. I keep hearing it in the airport, in cafes, bars and shops around San Francisco. Still. I called it the song of 2011 or whatever. And it's never been clearer hearing it now that it is in fact 2012, nearly midway through even. Time for a new song. But I still think it was a clever wee slice of pop music for the time.

So was that right time/right place for Kimbra? Clever opportunism? Or will she be a bit-part in a one-hit-wonder ultimately? It's probably a bit of both - but I'd still recommend people take a listen to her album.

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Post a comment
em   #1   09:46 am May 31 2012

Kimbra is great - have seen her live and she knocked my socks off. Her music isn't always to my taste, but she is exceptional. And she played with awesome musos too. I reckon she'll be massive.

Charlotte   #2   09:54 am May 31 2012

I heard that one of Prince's old managers was the one who told her to get out of NZ and go to melbourne. Flew her there and paid for her rent and everyhing. Which is pretty cool and hopefully a good hint of whats to come. But mostly I just find the comparisons laughable too. Agreeing completely.

Trix   #3   09:58 am May 31 2012

Dude, what was the *music* like?

I don't know how many people here care about the travails of a music blogger - or paid journalist, if that's what the case is - in scoring freebies.

And ok, some background to the Prince comparisons is kind of interesting, from the industry perspective. But again, what about the *music*?

Can she play the instruments? Can she make the tunes? Does she appear to be multitalented (like Prince? or not?). And to say, "never ever ever be like another Prince" - I assume in terms of career longevity, since that's where that provocative statement appears to end up - is pretty bloody audacious. How on earth can you know?

Sure, the industry may be different, but if you don't think she can have career longevity based on her talent, say so. But I also don't think people making Prince comparisons are doing so based on projected career duration. Seems like a strange tangent here.

Jay   #4   10:01 am May 31 2012

I don't think she is the next Prince. But I do like her music and think she is a fresh talent. When people are making parodies about the parodies of your song, you know you have cracked it!

Knife   #5   10:01 am May 31 2012

Kimbra is pure talent. Check out some of her live stuff with voice loops, amaze.

yup   #6   10:05 am May 31 2012

Zowie > Kimbra.

Kimbra does mean elevator music, a kind of bland and inoffensive vanilla that means she'll sell truckloads. Good on her if she can pull it off.

I prefer my music to have a bit more substance.

Jed   #7   10:10 am May 31 2012

I saw her at the last ever Auckland Big Day Out - she definitely has talent. Sadly I think the over-enthusiastic hype will result in a backlash that really isn't deserved. If she was allowed to develop as an artist in a slightly dimmer spotlight, she could go on to really be something of substance. As it stands, I think her fame will be more flash-in-the-pan, however undeserving of that she is.

Lou   #8   10:21 am May 31 2012

I have had this album since last November, i was going to get it for my mum for xmas but i couldn't wait! I was waiting for months for her singles to get really big but they didn't...but its a FANTASTIC album! It's not one of those albums you love instantly but after a couple of plays you can't get enough! She's so quirky in personality (which shows thru on the video cd you get with the album), and in her vocals! LOVE THIS ALBUM! i would defiantly give it 8/10, ps if you like Kimbra you might also like the british artists Emeli Sandé as well as Delilah.

Emily   #9   10:24 am May 31 2012

Kimbra is talented, if you still don't believe the hype watch these...

viffer   #10   10:26 am May 31 2012

I must admit I haven't heard her apart from on the Gotye song, and a documentary on the eejit box. The documentary was interesting - it is evident that she is no "flash in the pan" 10-day wonder, and extraordinarily grounded and mature for such a young woman. I think that based on her character that unless she is over-exposed and/or her record company completely stuffs up her marketing, she is likely to be around a goodly while. I really hope she does well.

But would I buy her albums? I really don't know. Like you Simon, I like Feist's "Metals" (actually bought it on your recommendation!), but I dunno if I like it as much as it sounds like you do. Our tastes are dissimilar.

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