Azealia Banks – Jumanji

There’s not much to this song. Just a repeated nursery-rhymey riff with Banks rapping some inspired nonsense over the top. Or at least that’s all it’d be were it not for the fact that the music – the production, the whole thing – works so hard.

The repeated riff, delivered mainly through synths and steel band drums, never seems to sound the same twice. While the frenetic handclaps, changes in tempo, moments of silence, different drums and various other noises give the song a sense of giddy playfulness. Above it all there’s Banks’ brilliant voice, working with and against the music, with words (and sounds) that are as meaningful or as meaningless as you want them to be. On paper, her lyrics (here) even bear a comparison with Mark E Smith’s.

If this was by Animal Collective or Radiohead or any other ‘leftfield’ rock band, critics would be falling over themselves to declare it a work of avant-garde pop genius. That’s exactly what this is.

And that’s also exactly what her first single, the equally great (probably greater) 212, is. See video below.

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About Paul Saxton

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