Review Summary: Rockism and poptimism, bastardized.Hopelessness
sounds like that dreaded intersection between rockism and poptimism; that is, where music is elevated both because of its self-righteous purpose and its propensity towards likable hooks. Think about it; a serious attempt to marry political rhetoric with music that might otherwise be described as disposable or throwaway. Lesser minds would refer to it as subversion, as if by merit, any attempt to exist outside of what is considered normal is an automatic attempt to undermine the accepted pop music structures. Anohni, though gifted, falls victim to this idealism, and constructs Hopelessness
as something so devoid of intelligence or fun that it seems almost unprecedented to praise her for singing about death by drone strikes. She doesn't actually address the implications of it as such, instead writing clunky observations about what it might be like to be on the receiving end of Western aggression. But then criticizing Anohni for having a political purpose is unfair, and to say that her message is the problem with her album isn't addressing the actual problem; it's terrible delivery. The idea that one might be able to enjoy music regardless of its lyrical content is thrown into peril when Anohni makes it clear she intends to beat you over the head with the droning of her achingly simplistic lexicon. Accordingly, Hopelessness
is marked by its excessively guilt-ridden navel-gazing, unable to divorce itself from any surface level aesthetic it seems keen to emphasize in the interest of being an overt political rant.
Most of Hopelessness
attempts to mix politicized sentiment to danceable music and rarely succeeds. Deliriously silly though its lyrics are, "4 Degrees" stands out as a most obvious success, arguing the complicit nature of human consumption in relation to global warming whilst also presenting itself as a melodically engaging piece of synthpop. That overwrought contemplation is rife, though, and Anohni's infrequent distractions from it leave most of her songs to sound like what they are; lyrically overwritten and hookless compositions. At its worst, as in "Obama", she voices naive disappointment in the assumption that the neoliberal polices of the 45th president were the first time anybody was ever blindsided by a politician's false promises. All of that wouldn't be an issue were it not for how her vocals, so dramatically calling attention themselves, put every word in stark contrast to the beat. It problematizes highlights like "Drone Bomb Me", which, though elevated by Hudson Mohawke's customarily club-ready production, is left to sound so very cringy with a refrain that unironically exclaims, 'blow my head off / explode my crystal guts.
' In being so obvious and direct, she betrays the central thesis of subversion; namely, the music isn't fun to listen to. At its core, that's the very problem with Hopelessness'
desperate attempts at political sloganeering, as every opportunity that Anohni has to bolster such wonderful Oneohtrix Point Never bangers with confrontationally political sentiment, she manages to reduce it to platitudes and a remarkably poor vocabulary. To the extent that we can commend a class tourist, Hopelessness
is admirable. However, without subtleties and seemingly proud of it, it is not the subversive statement it strives to be. Instead, it wallows in obvious answers, unable to defeat its enemies as much as paint mediocre caricatures. This is pop music, made to seem intelligent without the substance to assert its claims.