As pop music gets edgier, it’s becoming harder to find a message underneath the jumble of heavy synthetic instrumentals and nonsense lyrics. Terror Jr is proving it’s possible to balance a hip aesthetic with adventurous lyricism and true meaning.
By now you might have probably heard of the trio, made up of Felix Snow, David “Campa” Benjamin and Lisa Terror, simply by the rumor that Lisa Terror may in fact be the pop-music alter ego of Kylie Jenner. Possible high-status member aside, the group has proven they deserve independent respect based off of their talent alone.
In their first 4 releases, 3 Strikes, featured in a video promoting Jenner’s lip glosses, Sugar, Come First and Say So, the group seemed to be a party music powerhouse. With the release of Bop City, an eight-track album, though, they’ve shown a richer side filled with messages about infatuation and unrequited love. For dance music with an after-hours vibe, the content is surprisingly deep, making Terror Jr a true force to be reckoned with.
Listen: Bop City – Terror Jr
It can be expected that in time, the group will become a standalone force in the indie pop/dance music world, Jenner involved or not. Bop City has set a new standard for the content of dance music, beautifully mixing hard and soft edges and intricately balancing meaningful and meaningless lyrics just enough for enjoyment and the ability to relate.
What makes Bop City such a standout collection is Terror Jr’s ability to manipulate unrelated words poetically. Throughout the album, meaningless words are laced together to create intricate articulations, see “Pray” for words like Edamame alongside Kamikaze. It’s these lines of fluent memorability that will allow listeners to quickly learn the words and press the repeat button.
Fallin’ all in to your tsunami
Edamame, be my saké, my kamikaze
Push the Audi pedal into my body
I’m a wreck, babe, write off the check, bank
The four new Bop City releases, “Little White Bars,” “Truth,” “Pray” and “Super Powers,” focus on vocals with less production. While still in tune with the sound projected in the pre-releases, they show a softer, more serious side to the band.
Of these, “Truth” may be the most thoughtful on the album. The high-vocalled almost-ballad tells a love story in lyrics like “Tell me I’m your best song, sing it out of tune. When we lie together it’s the truth.” The vulnerability of the track’s lyrics show a side to the band that listeners wouldn’t have expected from party tracks like “Sugar” and “3 Strikes.” “Truth,” while fragile in message and angelic in vocals, still displays the group’s ability to rhythmically lace lyrics with lines like “You’re my pillow on a hot night. My cigarillo in a hot life.”
“Super Powers” follows in the meaningful love-song range, but talks about a non-reciprocated infatuation. One of Terror Jr’s biggest strengths, leaving gender and relationship undefined, is beautifully displayed in the track. Over the course of three choruses, lyrics are changed from “he’s” to “your” to “she’s,” leaving room for interpretation and allowing a broad range of listeners to relate. We see a similarity in “Little White Bars,” the album’s first track, which refuses to define a relationship as romantic or platonic. The ability to emit unnecessary storylines and details gives the group the capability of injecting pure rhythmic enjoyment into their lyrics, fitting with their party-like sound.
Production throughout the album is not overdone, but scaled advantageously to form an upbeat, contagious rhythm while embracing Lisa’s vocals to their full potential. Lisa’s voice is often layered with a deeper, masked vocal, more times than not, echoing chorus lyrics. The use of vocal tone and manipulation is used tactically in order to create a unique and memorable sound.
One of the biggest shocks, and first things a new listener will notice, may be the over-manipulation of Lisa’s vocals. There isn’t a song that unveils her true voice. This may be done intentionally as a way to shield her identity, as it has yet to be revealed. It also may be a purely aesthetic decision. Either way, production is designed masterfully to make the advanced auto tune sound almost as if it’s a part of the instrumentals themselves. The risk taken in disguised vocals gives Terror Jr a leg up on competition in bravery and creativity.
Kylie Jenner or not, Terror Jr are bound to find their way into the spotlight simply by the grace of their innovative musical independence. They have seamlessly bridged dance pop with something deeper, catchier and more meaningful than ever. Meaningless words are formed to create stunning verses and raw messages are embraced with vulnerability, a feeling, until now, omitted from music of the genre. The group has a talent for setting drug references and profanity alongside heartfelt lines, however conflicting. And that’s just it: Each line sounds like a perfect fit.
cover: Terror Jr © 2016