The punch of dancehall, the lyrical mysticism of modern pop, the monastic stylization of club music, and the angular grooves of reggaeton. Individually each one of these broad genres is a force to be reckoned with, but when wrapped together in the epic new single “Jealousy” by up-and-coming pop singer Paris King, they make for a hybrid that will destroy anything that comes in its path. King’s new work is a leviathan for certain; its content is diverse, multilayered, and exotically packaged in a firm but generously well-produced format, and this song perhaps captures its acerbic artistry better than any other she has cut in recent memory. Defined not by its booming drums or gruff synth patterns, “Jealousy” is a testament to King’s skills as an original songwriter and surprisingly agile singer in a genre sadly dominated by replicators as of late.
The relationship between the bassline and the drums is a major focal point in this track. While the bass is fine with hanging back in the shadow of the guitar and generating the gravity in the grooves, the drums are impatient and competitive, trying everything they can to stamp out the effect of the other instruments. In this sense Paris King is sort of like a sonic referee – she’s keeping everything moving at an even pace through her simplistic execution behind the microphone, while the submissive bass and the abusive drumming create their own set of theatrics to entrance us and keep us glued to our speakers.
Most pop fans will tell you that technique is just as essential to making a solid pop song as harmonies or even a good conceptual foundation are, but the virtuosity in “Jealousy” doesn’t come from some crazy lead guitar fashioned in 80s-style compression or some other bastion of indulgence. The arrangement of the instruments is solely responsible for creating the shake and quake of this track; the synth isn’t mixed beside the bass – it’s basically on top of it. The drums and vocals are the only elements on a level playing field, and everything else is piled on top of each other in a massive pyramid of acoustic violence that exudes as much exuberance as it devours from those on the figurative dancefloor.
Profoundly produced with an ethereal radiance that has more in common with contemporary experimental pop artists than it does VMA invitees, “Jealousy” tests the parameters of post-pop complexity and reggaeton-influenced forcefulness without ever diving into avant-garde excess. King gives us an iconic vocal in this song that towers above what many of music’s toughest critics would anticipate in this era, and I think it wouldn’t be that farfetched to suggest that she could likely take on more angst-ridden and visceral material in the future and manage it as brilliantly as she does here. Songs like this one are what have made her the breakout player that she has become this autumn, and having been a pop fan most of my life I can confidently say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single shaped by as diverse a musical profile as this one is.
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