Excited?

Alesha Dixon’s single ‘Let’s Get Excited‘ is a mildly effective, up-tempo electro/R&B/reggaeton mash that is fairly typical of sub-mainstream dance music in the last year or two. The attitude and flavour of the production, though redolent in its texture and its timbres of countless urban pop musics from around the world, is given a sheen of authenticity by Dixon’s inimitably hard-edged vocalisations (some of her former band Mis-Teeq’s best tracks benefited from the same).

The reason I find the track oddly compulsive is its peculiar mode of address. It marries hectoring imperatives in the lyrics (Let’s get excited, I’m so excited, I know exactly what I’m gonna do…let’s get excited), with strangely contained melodic and harmonic movement that totally contradicts the lyrical sentiment; the chorus line moves from an anemic tatoo of 3rd degree – 1st degree on the title phrase, to an unconvincing 4th – 3rd on ‘I’m so…’. The harmony stays on the 1, apart from a cadential shift to the dominant in the penultimate bar of the phrase. After this is repeated, with varied lyrics, the expected harmonic and dynamic release does not forthcome. Instead, we circle back again to the same loop, now with a cyborg crowd having taken over the melody: ‘Aaah-aah-aah, aah aah aah ah etc.’.

Though it could be mistaken for a simple melodic deficiency, as is typical in today’s groove-orientated pop, the tension the line and the form produce with the lyrical surface means that the track chills with an ambiguity quite out of proportion to the context. We are being aggressively urged to become excited, but the clashing signifiers will only allow a sort of confused excitement, and an uncanny dread. The big Other responsible for the machine-efficiency of this track has somehow allowed a code to slip in that definitely means something, but what that something is, we the listeners are not supposed to know. Like the brochure of a luxury cruise ship, which promises pampering beyond our wildest dreams, but fails to account for the true, self-multiplying nature of those dreams (viz. the Pleasure Principle), this music tries to excite, but gets lost in ambiguous promise along the way.

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