Conquistador - "I'm Alive" (PopMatters Premiere)

by Joe Vallese

18 February 2013

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls (and boy-girls, respectively), Conquistador is in the house and PopMatters has the exclusive new track.
Photo: Jeff Forney 

Visually, a shimmery, spanxy, technicolor hybrid of Lady Gaga, Willy Wonka, and Vlad the Impaler.

Vocally, a tranquil Jim Morrison-meets-Michael Stipe modulation that sounds as though it’s being whispered from atop a plush—but likely stained—leather sofa in a velvet-roped VIP corner of a thumping discotheque.

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls (and boy-girls, respectively), Conquistador is in the house.
To say Conquistador—nee Alexander Antebi—has been causing an international stir would be a huge understatement. MTV Video Music Awards red carpet bombings aside (his fuchsia lycra cat suit ensemble quickly went viral, as did a shot of him snuggling up to Korean megastar Psy), he’s been praised (and kissed) by Ke$ha, invited to join British ska-meisters Madness onstage at Coachella, and even nominated for two Latin Grammys for co-writing tracks for Mexican band Kinky. Just a few weeks ago, he was honored at Sundance, winning the Machinima Interactive Film Festival for the video for his first single, “With a Love Like That”, which he boldly entered as a short experimental film. Featuring a grainy ‘70s exploitation flick filter, psychedelic triangles, space crystals, neon lasers, and some confidently bizarre choreography, it’s an effortless and effective accompaniment to the song that plays like a more conceptually successful response to what Gaga tried to achieve for her “Born This Way” video clip. Antebi also managed to – at this point, unsurprisingly – find himself crowned King of the Mardi Gras parade to help promote the Louisiana International Film Festival.

The self-made madman, who has become a glitzy staple of both LA’s red carpet and underground music scenes, a walking, talking, sashaying shard of a vintage mirrorball with an impressive Euro-stache, is now treating us to his second single, “I’m Alive”. A bubbly blend of retro acid-guitar riffs, a classic rock beat, and a flurry of electronic tinkles, the track, at once twisty and straightforward, is the perfect musical embodiment of its creator: once Antebi’s voice enters, we understand the power of its striking contrast, a mellow murmur cushioned against echoing synths and determined percussion. Rather than the colorful pop aggression his image might suggest, his vocal delivery is more of a soft chant to the self, a repetitive survivor’s mantra, audio documentation of a spiritual rebirth.

There are sonic and lyrical inspirations and influences aplenty embedded in “I’m Alive”. Ranging from the Arab Spring, to Antebi’s collaboration with the Free Iran organization’s efforts to demand the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the Zazous subculture in World War II era France that mocked the derogatory badges Jews were forced to wear for identification, “I’m Alive” is a track that champions perseverance, endurance, and self-sufficiency—being comfortable in one’s own skin and mind, and well, their own spandex—above all else. Antebi’s message of fun and freedom is electric and authentic and, unlike some of those he will be undoubtedly be compared to as his star continues to rise, he makes clear his intrinsic understanding of a little known truth: that those having the best time in the room need not scream or shout about it.

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