Double the Package, Halve the Contents
Nina Sky are the easy-on-the-eye Albino (surname, not skin tint) twins, who have had a sizeable radio hit worldwide with “Move Ya Body”, a fairly simplistic slice of sexed-up, hypnotic pseudo-dancehall whose circular, female-physique-fixated chorus (“Ooh move ya body girl/ Make the fellers go/ The way you ride it girl/ Makes the fellers go ooh”) seemed calculated to loop irritatingly inside your brain whilst milking (ahem) the sapphic identical twins marketing dollar for all it was worth. A cunning way to exploit the current commercial hunger for all things dancehall-tinged in the wake of Sean Paul’s ubiquity over the past year or two, whilst ripping a page out of a certain Russian pop act’s book, methinks.
So, if not a one-off marketing gimmick, who are Nina Sky really? Well, in the words of their intro: “Nina Sky is limitless: hip-hop, reggae, R&B, rock, alternative, jazz, funk and soul. Nina Sky is music. Nina Sky is harmony—powerful/fragile, bold/shy, abstract/basic. Nina Sky is balance.” Four sentences that seem to promise variety, if not much imagination. If that promise is sadly not really borne out, the suspicion is more or less bang on.
In the main the tracks here take the form of R&B as Kelis’ Tasty (or indeed many contemporary commercial R&B albums) would have us hear it: pronounced, basic hip-hop drum patterns keep things locked in one speed whilst melodies take the back seat, variations on simple three- or four-note patterns merging and looping over the steady rhythm instead—the more dulcet equivalent of power chords instead of riffs. Whilst Kelis has the know-how to display the attractions of simplicity (not to mention a riveting personality so strong it verges on cheerful pathology), the predictability of the backing tracks together with the twins’ inability to contribute anything much by way of original or insightful songwriting means that things remain mediocre at best; without any emotional lifts or surprises, the music’s ability to move ya remains purely mechanical in nature. If you have the connections to get Betty Wright to appear on your debut album (as she does here, on “You Deserve”) and yet she utterly fails to make any kind of impression, you should take that as a hint: sometimes, who you know can’t make up for what you (don’t) know.
If the twins can be taken to task for concentrating on making their voices sound good rather than singing with any real passion (hey, it’s the Olsen twins of music!), producers The Jettsonz and DJ Cipha are at least equally to blame for making music as bland as it is technically proficient. That said, both manage one slightly more intriguing, if derivative, effort—the Jettsonz dropping “In a Dream (Remix)”, whose synths initally sound twisted enough to promise Timbaland-style madness, yet sadly beds down in repetition rather than developing with the unpredictable telepathy of that maestro’s finest compositions, and DJ Cipha provides the ‘80s-evoking hollow percussion of “Holla Back”. With the only other contributor being the incredibly well named (and incredibly annoying)Jabba on “Move Ya Body”, there’s no-one else to pick up the slack, either.
Whilst much of this album would work reasonably enough in a club, and the acoustic guitar-laced remainder cover topics teenage girls will doubtless be able to relate to, I’m afraid I can’t come up with much more in the way of a recommendation; Nina Sky being one of those dreaded “buy the album for one or two semi-decent songs” deals that the arrival of mp3s was, by hook or by crook, supposed to be saving us from. You certainly wouldn’t want its startlingly hideous cover art in your home, photogenic ladies or not.
Jill Scott’s sophomore album finally drops this August, I hear you say? Praise the Lord. She possesses at least twice the talent, allure and imagination of everyone on this cd combined, however much she may take her time.
// Notes from the Road
"Co-presented by the World Music Institute, the 92Y hosted a rare and mesmerizing performance from India's violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam.READ the article