The amount of flak streaming services were getting from the music press for the best part of the 2010s sounded like a diss track stuck on repeat. Much less attention has been paid to how young artists have benefited from the fragmented yet quickly-evolving digital market now worth over 50% of the global revenue. The prime example of this is 23-year old New Jerseyan 070 Shake and her debut album ‘Modus Vivendi’.
Like Billie Eilish, Kehlani and several others, Shake (born Danielle Balbuena) first made waves on a well-known online platform catering for emerging artists. Among early followers was her former manager Julz Godard, who first heard Shake’s 2015 track ‘Proud’ before she made brief appearances on Pusha T’s ‘Santeria’ and Kanye West’s ‘Violent Crimes’ - head honchos at G.O.O.D Music - who signed her up and produced the ‘Glitter EP’ in 2018.
A state of the art studio filled with gear, a hefty budget and her trusted producer Dave Hamlin behind the desk, Shake has enjoyed the luxury of making gutsy creative calls. More than a nod towards her roots, her instantly recognisable raspy, melodic contralto flows atop blistering pre-’Ye’ analogue synths and luscious ‘Purple Rain’-style electric guitars, which have been amalgamated into a lavish texture. Coming straight from the heart, the album feels as intimate and uncut as someone’s soul-searching on Snapchat at 3am.
While raw emotions might call for impromptu lyrics, here the compositions scream for strong songwriting, which - oddly enough - proves to be the weakest link. ‘Your gonna know ‘cause it’s destined / You feel it in your intestine’ sounds way more stilted and shaky than her lyrics on 070 Crew’s 2016 mixtape ‘The 070 Project: Chapter 1’. That being said, the choruses of ‘Terminal B’ and ‘Morrow’ (‘I know it’s hard to swallow / I don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow‘) pack more punch and go some way towards compensating the lyrics - none more so than the throwback breakup song, ‘Guilty Conscience’, by far the most accomplished one of the lot: “Why you so close but you feel so far / You look like the moon in the morning / Jaded, faded, almost gone.”
And although ‘Modus Vivendi’ has oodles of instant appeal, the minute the rule book is thrown out the window, Shake is at the top her game. From a vitriolic ‘The Pines’ featuring Sarah Schachner’s cutting klezmer cello, Shake flies straight into brooding ‘Microdosing’ with Mike Dean’s growling Moog and then captures the post-millennium tension with a double time vocal delivery on ‘Daydreamin’; pure gold dust all the way.
Spoiled by abundance of having millions of songs at our fingertips, the limitations of the pre-2000 music industry have happily been forgotten: artists who didn’t fit neatly into niche or mainstream were having a hard time finding a fanbase let alone shelf space. Thanks to streaming platforms and new business models, old rules and restrictions no longer apply. Today the supply can actually meet the demand - and about time too.
Words: Eero Holi
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