Adult Swim’s good for more than cartoons–through their Adult Swim Singles Program, they’ve not only given web designers a chance to make fun/pointless multimedia toys, but given the world a couple Pitchforkian singles by the likes of the Rapture and Best Coast. This time, it’s intermittently hyped Swedish group jj’s turn, except for some reason the song, “We Can’t Stop,” also has Ne-Yo.
OK, there’s more than just “some reason.” If you’re going to put an R&B vocalist on your track with critical acclaim but don’t want to wait for the Weeknd, you’re much more likely to pick Ne-Yo than, say, Chris Brown. (We’re not endorsing this phenomenon, but it does exist.) jj isn’t exactly stuffy, anyway–they’ve covered an Akon song and “Birthday Sex” with various degrees of faithfulness. And everyone loves it when artists profess love or even acknowledge people from other genres, like Katy Perry Twit-upping Camera Obscura earlier this week. In other words, this isn’t a WTF so much as an “OK, how does it sound?”
You couldn’t call “We Can’t Stop” a gimmick, but it doesn’t quite cohere. jj’s low piano, atmospherics and faintly lascivious vocals move with just a fade-out’s worth of transition into Ne-Yo’s part, faster and heavier on backing vocals but not really stylistically different, although it does make jj’s vocalist up her attitude. They didn’t collaborate in person, but that’s not why it’s incongruous (so many of recorded “duets” aren’t). Instead, the track comes off almost like a genetically spliced fanbase experiment. Are you the sort of person who thinks the introductory jj section plods and snoozes until Ne-Yo comes in with his croon and his BPM? Or are you, like Fader, so unimpressed with Ne-Yo or that beat that you dredge up the dread phrase “adult contemporary”? For the record, we’re OK with both. It beats Robyn collaborating with Snoop Dogg, after all.