Your capsule primer on Alexandra Burke: she won the U.K. X Factor in 2008, she has a fantastic full name (Alexandra Imelda Cecelia Ewen Burke. So many florid middle names!), and her singles have delivered chart positions but not enough by way of quality. “Bad Boys” has Flo Rida in a role anonymous even for himself; “Start Without You” isn’t sure whether it’s about dancing or “dancing” and sounds like children’s folk singalong “Polly Wolly Doodle.”
This is a U.S.-based website, though, so what gives? We’re assured–well, we read the reassuring done for Digital Spy)–that this single is “very, very American,” between the title (we might as well crush your expectations now and inform you that the title refers to the saying “an elephant in the room,” not a literal pachyderm) and its Yankee songwriter cohorts. Leaving aside that the States’ big songwriters tend to be imported from Sweden (Max, Luke), France (Guetta) or elsewhere in Europe, we’ve got a noted thing for American guys, so how could we resist so much concentrated, avowed American-ness? Listen to the track, plus a bit of introductory dithering from a radio Brit, below:
David Guetta is not American, no matter how much he tries for citizenship-via-saturation. That’s not a knock on him or on Alexandra; it just means the operative phrase here should instead be “very, very Ibiza.” (It sounds a bit, in fact, like Guetta’s Nicki Minaj-voiced “Turn Me On” with dynamics more varied than “quiet” and “airstrike.”) “Elephant” is a club song split into abundant sections: various forms of Guetta-thump, the scribblier, some rubbed-out dubstep and a few pauses to fix your footing. The producers weren’t picky; any sound you could imagine over a club speaker is probably somewhere in the mix.
That’s already enough for “Elephant” to overshadow “Start Without You” (more shade, we know, but have you listened to it?), but we suspect there’s more going on. Burke’s vocals aren’t quite autotuned out of human cadence, but they’re close, as many a forumite has pointed out. Now notice the chillier trills barely perceptible over a few choruses and the stranger-in-the-house lyrics–”we’re all alone, but it’s not just me and you,” “I know something’s going on” (a line with dance pedigree), the verse-closer “no kiss, no hug, just…” that’s supposed to end in “blank” but doesn’t even manage an audible word. Burke’s voice picks up when the track does, at the same point: begging him to talk about it. There are two ways to take this. You could say the song sounds as tense as its subject, or you could call that too much blather for a track made for mindless club stomping. Either would earn Alexandra her comeback.