Simon Curtis – 8Bit Heart

August 26, 2011 at 8:21 am | Posted in Simon Curtis | 2 Comments
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  1. BoyRobot
  2. Don’t Wanna be Alone
  3. Fell In Love w/an Android
  4. Super Psycho Love
  5. 8Bit Heart
  6. Diablo
  7. The Neverending Elevator
  8. Delusional
  9. Joystick
  10. Beat Drop
  11. Brainwash
  12. The Dark (feat. Jay-Z)
  13. Victory

Earlier this year I came across the cover for Simon Curtis’ debut album, 8Bit Heart, and I remembered that there were many blogs making a big deal about him in 2009 when he released the album. Since I’m not into male vocalists, I ended up neglecting his music but this year I decided to check out some clips. I didn’t expect the album to be filled with electronic dance tunes because not many male vocalists delve into the genre and that instantly raised my interest in him.

Starting things off is the spoken intro BoyRobot. A heavy synth line creeps its way in and it turns into a pulsing, futuristic beat that has a slight dramatic feel. Simon’s robotic voice accompanies the beat and he presents the concept of the album, “there once was a boy/who was made, not created/he wanted to learn/he wanted to indulge his senses/to understand pain/but most of all/he wanted to love/for only when he found true love/would he become real.” It gives a nice little taste of what to expect without giving too much away. Don’t Wanna Be Alone continues with the pulsing synths and a heavy drum beat makes its way into the composition which gets hectic when Simon starts to sing. He doesn’t waste any time in showing off his vocal abilities because he performs with strong, emotive vocals, “they say that love is a game/only played by the dumbest of fools/that the feeling’s elusive/and what can you do with a ruse?” The melody remains the same for the chorus but he sings in a more passionate tone and he holds the notes really well. This song is a total tease because there are a few moments where it feels like it is going to pick up but it doesn’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it builds anticipation. The music does change at the end where it slows down before going back into the main melody and Simon closes the song on a depressing note, “don’t wanna be lonely anymore.”

Crazy mechanical beats and Simon’s awesome robotic vocals open Fell In Love w/an Android. The mechanical beats become busier until they explode into a video game synth line and intense percussion beats. Simon has a nice high tone to his voice and the way he speaks before the chorus in a deep tone is so intense,I just wanted to see/if my lust would be enough/to get me over/your complete lack of substance.” Quick beats and his energetic vocals make the chorus incredibly addicting,fell in love/with an android baby/playing games with a toy that played me/the electricity is easy I’m told/so where’d you ever learn to be so cold?” It’s hard to not get the chorus stuck in your head and the final line is amazing, “hate to say it, but I’d rather fuck a robot.” Clicking synths invade the bridge and his ad-libs increase in pitch continuously due to vocoder effects. The hard percussion returns with Simon repeating the introduction and the clicking synths appear one last time for him to sing “ooh pull down the nylons/you must be Cylon” with delicious vocals. His vocoded belting in the final chorus is crazy and he hits some impressive notes. The next track, Super Psycho Love, was an instant favourite and it opens with digitized vocalization from Simon that explodes into percussion beats as well as a sexy Middle Eastern melody. His vocals flow effortlessly with the hot beat and the way he plays with the tone of his voice in the verses adds to the overall catchiness, “something lately drives me crazy/has to do with how you make me/struggle to get your attention/calling you brings apprehension.” The hook is irresistible because the synths are more complex and he puts so much energy into his voice, “say that you want me every day/that you want me every way/that you need me/got me trippin’/super psycho love.” The break after the chorus spices things up with female backing vocals and distorted vocals. Simon gets a little psychotic in the bridge where he desperately sings, “you want me/you need me/you’re gonna/be with me.” His whispering backing vocals increase the psychotic, sexy atmosphere and the chorus explodes back stronger than before.

Simon showcases his vocal ability in the emotional and stripped-down 8Bit Heart. It’s not stripped in the usual sense because it’s an electro ballad but Simon has managed to create an acoustic atmosphere with synths which is something that you don’t hear everyday. The synth line is divine and it’s filled with emotion. Simon’s soulful voice enters the song with snapping beats and as the verse progresses heartbeat percussion is included. All these elements come together to produce a heartfelt and gorgeous ballad with beautiful lyrics, “what would you say if I said that I want you?/would you laugh at me/and maybe think I was crazy?” When the song hits the chorus, deep background vocals are added that harmonize perfectly with his high vocals. The melody is futuristic but it also has a retro feel and it’s so infectious. The final chorus is absolutely shocking because Simon starts belting out the highest notes I’ve ever heard a male singer hit. The power and emotion that he pours into the last chorus is phenomenal and jaw-dropping, “is it so, so wrong to love?/baby is it so, so wrong to love?/is it so, so wrong to love/and to be loved in return?” The song really does become stripped at the end when the electro beats are replaced by a lovely piano and Simon sings the chorus in a deep, soft tone. It’s a beautiful way to end this incredible ballad.

Diablo is a dark and aggressive club banger. It is introduced by an intense buzzing sound that eventually morphs into a hard, pulsing beat. The verses are great and his intonation throughout them is interesting. I love that he references past hit songs and manages to make them fit into the subject matter. In the first verse, he references Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone, “here’s the thing, yeah we started out friends/but this is not a Kelly Clarkson song/and not how it ends,” and in the second he incorporates a line from Britney Spears’ song If You Seek Amy, “oh baby, baby/does she take a piece of lime/for the drink that I’ma buy her/oh wait this song isn’t mine.” He goes on a rampage in the chorus and delivers a fiery, hateful hook that demands attention, “you’re the devil/you’re a filthy piece of trash/gotta brush you off my shoulder/gonna let you kiss my ass.” The repetition of “you’re a diablo” is paired with vocal effects which make it even more addicting. In the bridge, the synths take on a slow video game sound and Simon performs in a higher tone. This part doesn’t flow with the rest of the track and Simon’s singing clashes with the beat. However, the robotic chorus that comes after is much better and it explodes into the main beat for the grand finale. The Neverending Elevator is a pointless interlude that consists of Simon talking on the phone with the producer of the album while he’s inside an elevator.

I adore Delusional and it’s one of the strongest tracks. The production is on-point with hot synths and strange beats. It’s got that mass appeal sound to it and Simon’s vocals are flawless. The backing vocals in the pre-chorus harmonize with his vocals and the way he sings just blends right into the beat, “say what you mean and don’t try to deceive me/I so want to believe it, yes I want to, yes I do.” The chorus is powerful with its dramatic synths and Simon’s incredible singing, “I’m feeling all the heat, they’re gonna hear my call/now I can wait to see you lose it all.” The high notes that he hits are superb and the song even goes into an infectious breakdown in the bridge which is filled with intense synths and distorted vocals. Joystick was the first song I previewed and it’s the main reason I checked out the album. Simon is a genius because he takes the subject of video games and turns it into one steaming hot sex song. It’s a rare combination but it’s perfect. The introductory video game beeps burst into the percussion and Simon’s vocals are filled with sexual energy. The chorus is an auditory orgasm. Simon’s voice is strong, the robotic backing vocals are a great addition, the synth line is delicious and his panting is sexy, “baby, grab a hold of the joystick/take control of the motion/I can feel it when you _ _.” The post-chorus is repetitive but he makes it interesting by alternating between different vocal tones and in the other half a deep robotic tone is used. If the song wasn’t hot enough, the bridge is even steamier, “I don’t want you thinking that I’m trying to apply pressure/but the pressure makes it better/pushing harder makes it wetter.” It’s dominated by hard beats but it eases down near the end until Simon seductively and impatiently says “okay, just plug the damn thing in already” which leads to the final chorus.

Simon likes to combine unusual things together and for Beat Drop he throws opera into dance. The song doesn’t waste anytime in showing off its operatic sample. After the robotic introduction, a female opera singer belts out while she’s accompanied by club beats and upbeat strings. The operatic sample takes a back seat for the electronic beat and Simon employs a lower register for the verses. In the second verse, he throws in a sample from Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance which works as a nice transition into the chorus, “so you’d better find some rhythm/’cause they’re playing Bad Romance.” The sample is more prominent than it was in the verses, Simon ditches the low register for a higher tone and the infectious beat blends nicely with the sample. Screechy synths take over for the bridge with pounding, electronic percussion beats which makes for a good change of pace. It’s clever how he references the number of times he sings the chorus within the chorus itself, “I said it five times why don’t you understand?/tell the DJ drop the beat/don’t play some motherfuckin’ band.” I’ve never seen that done before and it makes sense in the context of the song. Brainwash is a very busy track made up of a variety of electronic sounds. After the intro, which uses a clip from Yuri Bezmenov’s 1985 interview, a high pulsing synth line appears which incorporates percussion and other synthesized beats as it progresses. Simon’s voice is extremely vocoded but it works with the computer-like synth beats and it gives the song a futuristic feel. The chorus goes into synth overload with hectic beats and Simon increases the energy of his singing, “ooh, I’m brainwashed/captivated by the fame/oh it’s taking over me now/mighty baby, untamed lover.” In the post-chorus, he repeatedly sings the title in high vocals and it sounds amazing paired with the vocal effects. The high digital belting also shows up in the bridge and the final chorus which makes for an epic conclusion. The song ends with another extract from Yuri Bezmenov’s interview.

The Dark (feat. Jay-Z) opens with a sample of The Dark Crystal Overture and it establishes a dark atmosphere for the song. Simon enters, singing in a pretty soft manner but in the pre-chorus he sings in a faster pace and the melody follows in his footsteps. This leads to the rapid fire chorus and it’s highly addicting. The other half of the chorus slows down to become intense and dramatic, “can somebody show me?/I can’t see in the dark/can somebody take me?/I can’t stay in the dark?/will you illuminate me on out of/the dark?” The bridge samples a rap by Jay-Z from Encore and it is integrated very well. It keeps in line with the dark theme and it spices the song up a little. Like the introduction, Victory follows suit with robotic vocals and the melody sounds like congratulatory music from a video game. It wraps up the album nicely and when it’s over you realize that the whole album was a narrative of the BoyRobot searching for love, “and so the boy traveled on/undeterred, upon his quest/for he now knew/that it was not another’s love that would make him real/but the love within his own heart/and with that/He knew that he would never be/alone.”

Conclusion: Simon Curtis, without the help of a record label, has crafted a pop album that some artists backed up by labels could never make. It’s full of great pop music that is addicting, mature and insightful. The hooks are insane and the production is amazing for an independent release. The fact that the album tells a story is very creative and I love how every song connects back to the main theme. Simon Curtis is the first solo male artist to impress me and he fits into the world of electropop perfectly. The two were meant to be together.

Recommended Tracks: Joystick, Delusional, Super Psycho Love, Beat Drop, Diablo and Fell In Love w/an Android

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  1. Thanks for sharing this! I really trust your album reviews, btw. 😀

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