Review: Skylar Grey’s “Dance Without You”

Jun 8, 2011 12:38pm

There is no doubt in my mind that bubbling under the mainstream surface, we are headed for another nineties-style alternative boom.  Lo-fi bands like Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast are thriving and gaining buzz and rock is beginning to get harder and weirder again with shoegaze guitar walls returning into favor with bands like the Joy Formidable, Yuck and Ringo Deathstarr.  But until recently, the other side of the nineties alternative boom, the edgy electronic side that brought us the likes of Garbage, Bjork and Poe had yet to resurface strongly.  Pop radio today is still a stale world of factory beats and autotune in spite of the swelling undercurrent.  Enter, Skylar Grey (formally Holly Brook) who yesterday dropped one of the coolest, freakiest sounding singles to come out of a major label in over a decade as a limited-time free download on her website. “Dance Without You” is no mere song.  It is a two-minute and forty-seven second sonic revolution.  Beat maker, Alex Da Kid has helped create a groove with twisted sounds and a delightfully off-kilter rhythm.  Even better, because of Grey’s previous high-profile collaborations with the likes of Eminem, Dr. Dre, Diddy and Lupe Fiasco, this track is likely to actually get airplay.  Had she not had a hand as a hip-hop hook writer and singer, a track this cool might have been lost under a rug somewhere and might be considered too edgy for pop radio’s limited scope.  This is the kind of strange groove that Tricky and Martina Topley Bird used to be able to create with ease, but hearing this within today’s pop context, it seems like a real breath of fresh air.  In many ways, Grey may find herself getting some Imogen Heap comparisons, and they might be earned, given the fact that both women are gifted multi-instrumentalists, but as a vocalist, she reminds me more of Melissa Kaplan of the criminally under-rated bands Splashdown and Universal Hall Pass.  Both Grey and Kaplan possess similarly striking, dynamic voices and both tend to lean toward tunes that take wonderfully unconventional turns.    Skylar Grey is definitely someone to watch.  “Dance Without You” is set to appear on Grey’s album, “Invinsible,” which is set to be released in the Fall. (Yes, that is the way the title is spelled.)  Judging from this single, expectations should be very high.  I honestly can’t wait to hear her album in its entirety.  “Dance Without You” is pop at its strangest and its best.

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