The Bottom Line
It looks like will.i.am has met his match in retro futuristic party music with red-hot rapper Nicki Minaj sharing vocals. Both voices are perfectly suited to this type of composition. The robotic delivery here seems almost second nature, yet there is an underlying warmth to both voices that renders the entire project human. The Buggles "ooh ooh" vocal clip and keyboard riff from the classic "Video Killed the Radio Star" provides a foundation to the entire piece. Are we in the future here? Or 30 year old pop sci-fi dreams? Perhaps it's both at the same time.
- Brilliant vocal interplay
- "Video Killed the Radio Star" as the sampling foundation
- will.i.am's retro futuristic pop muse
- Lyrical silliness abounds
- Written by Onika Maraj, William Adams, Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, and Bruce Woolley
- Produced by will.i.am
- Released September 2010 by will.i.am music
Guide Review - will.i.am and Nicki Minaj - "Check It Out"
The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" ushered in the MTV era in 1981 as the first music video aired when the network launched. At that time the song was a perfect mix of futuristic synth effects and retro bubblegum pop melodies. It is a perfect fit for will.i.am's retro futuristic pop experiments. Fortunately, he also brings along Nicki Minaj and her Harajuku Barbie image to provide an outstanding female foil. The pair deliver robotic vocals with a warmth and immediacy that undercut any distance created between artist and listener.
The minimal composition, vocal distortions, and stop-start effects all make "Check It Out" sound futuristic, but the hand clap, fat synth beat, and 30 year old "Video Killed the Radio Star" foundation pulls us back to somewhere in the electropop past. As he has achieved with recent massive Black Eyed Peas pop hits, will.i.am lands with a timelessness unmatched by any other artist dabbling in electropop.
Don't go looking for lyrical genius here. Essentially, will.i.am and Nicki Minaj tell the haters where to go as they dominate the club. The sound of their voices is brilliant here. The content, not so much. However, it is clear on "Check It Out" that the sound is the overwhelming focus, and the repeated "Check it out" lines are perfection for posing in the club.
As with the breakthrough of Black Eyed Peas, pop radio will be all important for determining if "Check It Out" becomes a big hit. Programmers should be listening, because will.i.am continues to be an artist dedicated to mainstream pop while using his idiosyncratic tools to point in new directions. This time he has one of the most exciting new stars at his side. Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday will be one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the fall. It hits stores November 23, 2010.