As much as we praise and enjoy virtuosity in any single musical skill, be it writing lyrics that resonate with millions or shredding an electric guitar to bits, we really like it when someone is a double or triple threat. Eyes hesitated to blink as Beyoncé dished out gritty live vocals, popping choreography, and a general sense of drop-dead fierceness during the Super Bowl halftime show. P!nk already showed us she could sing live and twirl upside-down on silks on the Grammys a few year back, so for the 2012 AMAs she performed a shoulder-balancing, body-throwing dance routine fit for So You Think You Can Dance... while singing live, of course.
UK-born Florrie Arnold has her own intriguing set of aces up her stylish sleeves. She’s a drummer, singer-songwriter, guitarist… and she models for fragrances and jeans. Furthermore, her songs, all co-writes across three independently released EPs, straddle a beguiling mix of pop and anti-pop that manages to be catchy but strange.
While she has just released a new song as part of a Sony Electronics headphone campaign, her 2012 single “Shot You Down” is probably the best example of Florrie driving in her own pop lane. At once simple and complex, both by-the-books and rule-breaking, it’s an unusual pop song that takes a few listens to digest, understand, and marvel at.
The track opens with the title hook, a sure trait of a standard pop song, but then the hook doesn’t reappear until the very end of the song. What makes up the bulk of the almost-four minutes in between is catchy and repetitive, but it isn’t divided into a traditional verse-chorus structure. Rather, Florrie daringly boiled the majority of the song down to just one section; here, the verse is the chorus, which is extremely rare in pop, and a token of this artist’s adventurous appeal.
This songwriting decision seems ripe for ear fatigue—after all, does anyone want to listen to the same four lines repeated for three minutes?—but Florrie pulls another bold anti-pop trick to give “Shot You Down” some drama and layers. As the hybrid verse-chorus loops back on itself, three different chord progressions develop and unfold underneath. Again, nobody does this in pop, or dance, or R&B; the only similar example that comes to mind is in “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons, where the band plays a new chord progression for the final chorus.
Besides being a risky composition choice, it also casts the small set of lyrics in a new light. While the words that Florrie sings remain the same throughout the chord developments, they’re given new shades of emotions with every new harmony pattern, perhaps to reflect Florrie’s mind as she cycles through ruthlessness, sadness, and regret while wrecking her romantic relationship.
It’s a doozy of a pop song, proving beyond doubt that Ms. Arnold is more than just a pretty face. With her composition and instrument skills, Florrie is certainly not lacking when it comes to setting herself apart from other up-and-coming songstresses.
// Notes from the Road
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