A joyless album where wacky intonation obscures some potentially appealing harmonies.
Natalie Shaw 2012-02-21
A key fallout of the Lana Del Rey echo chamber of hype was the revelation that so many music critics let their fascination with A&R process amplify anticipation for an album to fever pitch. As the noise rose, so did the low-level snooping – and the questions became so loud that reviewers barely even required a copy of the album.
Alex Winston’s King Con is so flimsily constructed and devoid of imagination that a reaction can only follow as such. The intonation is purposely wacky, and it’s about drifters – "People you don’t really write songs about," according to Detroit-born Winston herself. But instead of offering allure alongside its social commentary, it just sounds desperate to be alternative. Quite how this became a marketable crux evades common logic.
The story goes that Winston named her album King Con after spending several months in an Elvis costume promoting her single Velvet Elvis, concluding that Elvis impersonators are the ultimate con. As if that wasn’t bombastic enough, there’s a sub-narrative on objectum sexuality – so far, so dizzying. But instead of allowing us space to fall for her strange obsessions, King Con merely constructs a space for Winston’s fleeting thoughts to stew in their own pretension.
The sugary sound of weirdness has become the adult version of bubblegum pop, as showcased by the shrieking soprano in Shock Me’s intolerable quirkfest. But where current bubblegum queen Cher Lloyd’s array offers excitement and curiosity, Winston’s own Broadway-tainted inflections come off cynical. There’s no path here to Winston’s thoughts, they’re just thrown at the microphone; a timely reminder that Lily Allen’s rare charm came from deft construction rather than a neat repertoire of references alone.
If the constructedness of King Con doesn’t isolate, the lack of fun ought to. Run Rumspringa (a ditty about Amish adolescence) could have been the song to step up to Winston’s oddball fascinations, but its enrapturing slow tempo sadly defaults to a saccharine jaunt. The lack of variation is lazy and transparent, even in the face of such buoyant harmonies.
A joyless listen in and of itself, sure – but moreover, this is a puzzling eyesore exemplifying quite how this process of constructing and immediately normalising eccentricity can still have an appeal.