The internet moves at a pace that puts the most hyperactive tween to shame, with new phenomena appearing and disappearing in brief flashes. None have perhaps been as profound as “Harlem Shake,” a song that was produced in 2012 by Baauer (full name Harry Bauer Rodrigues) and one that mostly flew under the radar, its most noteworthy achievement being a feature in Rustie’s Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1.
That is, until a video featuring four dudes in bodysuits strutting their stuff surfaced nearly six months after the single’s initial release. From there, “Harlem Shake”-ing took off, spawning an entire line of imitations, by firefighters, news anchors, and the Miami Heat, among others. Thousands of videos and millions of views later, Baauer had a double platinum record, a place in everyday conversation and a No. 1 spot on the charts. Yet like many other trends of the internet, the “Harlem Shake” dance craze fell off just as quickly, if Google search trends are any indication.
Despite the single’s flash-in-the-pan nature, Baauer has continued to make music, releasing the singles “Dum Dum” and “Clang.” He also collaborated with hip hop producer Just Blaze on “Higher,” touring with him through 2013. Clearly, Rodrigues is not one to rest on his laurels. Two years later, he’s made his formal debut on LuckyMe with ß, a five track EP starring AlunaGeorge and Rae Srummurd. He’s made it with a thud.
Every track on ß is more polished than the producer’s iconic single. The highlight and lead track “One Touch” possesses all of “Harlem Shake”‘s reverberating bass, but its synth component is noticeably understated to allow Rae Srummerd’s irreverent rhymes and AlunaGeorge’s haunting vocals to come through. The lyrics aren’t much to write about, but achieving lyrical genius is not a concern here. If, after listening to the opening track, your inner elitist says “Baauer is going mainstream,” the rest of the EP will quickly change your mind.
All the weird catchiness from “Harlem Shake” is still present, but executed with much more technical skill and subtlety. While there aren’t any obvious vocal hooks like “con los terroristas” (which got Baauer his first taste of controversy), “Boog” is a banger that does nothing more than layer a repetitive “ah, ah, ah” over an erratic, fluctuating bassline. Its also clear that Baauer’s time with Just Blaze made an impact, as “Swoopin” has a markedly hip hop feel that sets it apart from the rest of the album.
In the end, ß is an accomplished debut that marks Baauer’s entry as not just a one-hit producer of an internet-era wonder. Rodrigues is a serious music producer with the chops to make infectious beats with a distinctness that helped make him famous in the first place. He just may never shed the title of “Harlem Shake guy.”
Listen to “One Touch” by Baauer:
Article by John Luan