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As 2010 draws to a close, one trend at pop radio looks set to only grow larger in 2011: female-driven electropop.
Blame it on chart-topper Ke$ha if you must, or perhaps the Black Eyed Peas, who scored an unprecedented smash in 2009 with “Boom Boom Pow.” But if you, as an adult, are looking for one act to blame for infuriatingly catchy songs you sing along to with your kids, look no further than Dev, The Cataracs and Far East Movement, who collectively scored a massive hit this year with “Like a G6.” Major labels are quickly realizing that sex-soaked female vocals over minimal “electro-hop” beats is a winning formula at radio and Universal is now getting behind their new signing, 21-year-old Dev, who delivers the hook on “G6.”
“There seems to be an underground revival of this sound and once it reaches that level of mass exposure [from “Like A G6”], that sound trends upwards,” says Kevin Weatherly, Senior VP Programming for CBS Radio. He’s pushing the rapper-singer’s latest single, “Bass Down Low,” on CBS’ AMP radio in Los Angeles. “Dev is still emerging but I think her sound has ‘cred’ and we are getting a fantastic response [to the track].”
To be sure, Dev’s futuristic, pulsing sound (crafted by hot producers The Cataracs) is not new. Artists such as Peaches (and more recently Yelle) won over underground music fans a decade ago with a mix of electro and rap infused with decidedly sexy female vocals in a movement at the time dubbed “electroclash.” But the latest iteration of the sound is now becoming mainstream: with California-based producers such as Dr. Luke, The Cataracs and The Stereotypes scoring hits with a fresh take on the genre.
According to Dev, it’s pop music but with rap roots that fans are responding to (and respond they are in masses…her video for “Booty Bounce” is at nearly two million views on You Tube after the buzz on her — via “Like a G6” — spread in 2010). “I’ve always been into hip-hop,” she told THR between stops on a recent East Coast tour of small clubs. “Eminem changed my life when I was younger.”
Expect her full-length, currently scheduled to drop by summer, to contain a few more pop-leaning tracks a la Ke$ha, who Dev is frequently compared to. “People like to compare me to her because we are both light skinned,” said the Tracy, Calif. native, before adding that she likes some Ke$ha tracks. “I’m confident enough in what I do that people will see me for who I am … I get why people compare us but once people see me live they won’t connect us as much.”
And while Universal is lining up Dev for 2011 (she’ll appear with Far East Movement for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve special on ABC during their performance of “Like a G6”), other labels are readying their female electro artists for next year. EMI is betting on one Los Angeles via San Jose singer-rapper, Jenae’ Williams, to win over fans of the still emerging electro-rap genre.
Williams, who already has a Twitter following nearly 20,000 strong despite no official releases and only one rap over a mix on her Myspace page, was recently signed to Virgin by Ke$ha’s old manager, Georgie McAvenna. “It’s an electro-poppy thing now with hip-hop undertones underneath,” said the busty 22-year-old beauty, who up until a few years ago was appearing on mix-tapes with more traditionally “hard” rappers from Atlanta. “It’s a futuristic sound that’s sonically correct. Some people do it better than others, but I’m influenced by a lot of Bay Area hip-hop that’s been futuristic-sounding for years.”
Williams (who’ll go by Ms. Williams professionally) is busy recording her Virgin debut, set for release later in 2011, with some notable producers behind the board, including the Stereotypes (already one electro/house-favored track, “The Music,” seems destined for both radio and club play). “My music is different because I’m not letting go of my rap roots,” she added with a smile.
Come next year, both Dev and Williams hope to ride whatever wave is currently cresting on radio stations such as Los Angeles’ AMP, and the undertow seems to be only swelling deeper as the New Year begins.
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