Review Summary: Dragonette loses some of the fire without losing the talent.
I found out about Dragonette through the song “I Get Around” released way back in 2007. I say “way back” because pop/dance music inherently suffers from that symptom of getting old quickly. Think of Lady GaGa, she’s been releasing music for only four years and just feel how old her 2008 debut The Fame
is? Ancient. “I Get Around” followed that tried-and-true Top 40 formula of loud, obnoxious synthesized beats with that undertone of sex and attitude in the lyrics. It was a fantastic song for the time, but did very little to differentiate Dragonette from the rest of what was heard from most mainstream artists. Judging by what many of their radio colleagues do, one would’ve thought the four-piece (now a three-piece) would follow what worked in their debut album Galore
and churn out more of that loud sex-focused filth.
The kicker here is that their follow-up Fixin to Thrill
doesn’t have that feeling of trying too hard, of following a formula. While it stays true to the band’s core electropop/dance sound, anyone expecting another “I Get Around” will leave sorely disappointed as this album seems to stay away from that, opting for a more tamed and experimental offering. It’s not perfect, but there are more than enough moments in Fixin to Thrill
that show the band has the ability to sound strong even without sounding like the in-your-face New Wave punk/dance group they were before.
The centerpiece of Dragonette is of course the delicious Martina Sorbara. Her vocals here have a healthy balance of young Madonna with the rawness of Gwen Stefani, adding that much needed flair to compliment the beats and make the songs come alive. She keeps pace with the rapid beat of “Big Sunglasses”, the album’s most energetic track, and injects a level of sassiness to the chorus that leaves the listener with the hook we were looking for. Martina again supplies the highlight in the opening title track and lead single with an infectious chorus of “get on the floor, don’t make a fuss, just do it”
. It’s important to note that the hooks on here are not the guitars or beats that blotted out Martina before, rather her own bouncy voice and ability to hit a wider range of notes. The vocals have improved drastically and the guitars almost completely forgotten (with the exception of maybe “Okay Dolore” and the soft acoustic ending of “Easy”, both gentler guitar pieces anyways).
While Dragonette does offer their more familiar tracks filled with pump-up cheers and low bass, the album often veers away from that to produce a more touching selection of songs. “Easy” is perhaps the album’s best track and very uncharacteristic of most dance artists. Here, Dragonette writes intimately about a relationship with an unappreciative boyfriend that lives frivolously and makes her anxious, draining the life out of her. Her friends and family wonder why she puts up with him and how hard it must be for her, but she corrects us all by saying that because she loves him “it’s easy, hard as it looks”. The writing on these softer tracks (see also “Don’t Be Funny”) is by no means original yet comes off as both thought-provoking and genuine. This is not the filler that becomes of most cool downs by other Top 40 artists; it’s a pleasure to see this song was made a single.
It’s also enjoyable to see the different sounds the band decided to experiment with on Fixin to Thrill
. Second track “Gone Too Far” has a bit of banjo mixed in, while a little later “Stupid Grin” utilizes a choir of about seven female vocals to support Martina. They experiment while making sure these additions are held in moderation so as not to take away from the songs, just there to add some welcome variety.
Fixin to Thrill
is a fun listen that shows Dragonette can sound confident in a wide range of sounds. Martina’s voice is intriguing, the way she hits those heavenly higher notes to her balance of aggressive yet approachable tone. The last little section (really just tracks 9-11) of the album does lack a bit of substance and is a tad boring, ensuring this doesn’t reach any outrageously high pedestal of greatness. But it’s an excellent sophomore album that surpasses their debut and is a refreshing change of pace from what we’ve come to expect from mainstream artists on radio these days.
Fixin to Thrill, Easy, Big Sunglasses, Don’t Be Funny