Right now, in 2015, the 80’s are in style in American popular music. But with a new release from Skylar Spence, the 70’s appear to be creeping in. Beginning as Saint Pepsi (changed because of obvious legal reasons) Ryan DeRobertis rocketed to the forefront of the chillwave and vaporwave scenes remixing disco. Now he has made the decision to bring his own voice into his music – literally. Prom King is a batch of tunes of DeRobertis’ original music featuring himself on vocals. The entire record is catchy, ultra danceable, and super accessible although – I hate to admit – too complex for the mainstream airwaves despite the success of the track “Fiona Coyne.”
Perhaps I consider the record accessible because it deals with themes related to being a young male in America trying to find his way: wooing a girl, falling in love, being cheated on, vanity, and so on. These themes seem trite and a little hackneyed, but Skylar Spence frames them in a different way that teases out the sensitive side of men in American culture. In “Can’t You See,” an explosive single, DeRobertis addresses vanity but as a cloak for anxiety, “I’m in love with my own reflection” he sings. Skip forwards a couple tracks and you’ll encounter “I Can’t be Your Superman” a very personal story of a tough relationship with a friend. In an interview with Billboard DeRobertis said, “Superman is a song about a friend who was living very dangerously for a while. Around the time I wrote the song, I realized I was kind of an enabler of this behavior by not acknowledging the problem, but things soured as soon as I opened my mouth about it. It’s not easy to help anyone who doesn’t see the problem themselves, and that’s where the song stems from.”
Not only does this record contain myriad complex emotions and feelings, but they are nested in music that complements them flawlessly. This is what made the greats great – their lyrical sense. Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald always considered the lyrics to shape the arc of the song, their phrasing, and dynamics. DeRobertis seems to pay close attention to the lyrics and as a result created extra layers and depth to the songs and not to mention this record grooves like HELL. No record dropped in a long time has inspired my body to move so much. It is a disco-pop wonderland that sets itself apart from other popular dance music because of its amplified musicality. Many tracks even harken back to his Saint Pepsi days with excellent instrumentals that include brassy horn stabs and brilliant string quartet colors especially “Bounce is Back.”
All nuance and complexity aside, Prom King is still excruciatingly fun and if you listen to it its guaranteed to end up on your gym playlist immediately as it did for me. All in all, Prom King is an excellent record and is definitely worth the purchase.
Side Note: Check out his other releases under the moniker Saint Pepsi. Hit Vibes is available for free on Bandcamp and is highly recommended.
Devan is a DJ with KSSU