Five on it: Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul channel wit and wisdom on the savvy Topical Dancer
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul's latest outing is a time capsule of the 2020s. Plus new releases from Charli XCX, Priya Ragu and more.
There’s a lot to be said about the power of teamwork, especially in music. It is, perhaps, one of the most serendipitous of unions. Would any of our favourite artists sound as good without help? Who is Lindsey Buckingham without Stevie Nicks, or Paul McCartney minus John Lennon? Even the most astute of solo talents find new inspiration in the perspectives of another.
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s meet-cute was hardly serendipitous, but it was certainly fortuitous. The Ghent-based pair were originally introduced by their DEEWEE label heads Soulwax to collaborate on a song for cult Belgian film Belgica, and things went so well that they… just never stopped. Consider it the professional equivalent of a blind date – as is the case with artists meeting producers for the first time – but in this instance, something just clicked.
Charlotte recently stated that the first time they went into the studio, Bolis made her feel safe and that she couldn’t make any mistakes. “Anything I suggested he approached with an open mind, and encouraged me to express myself. I was looking for someone like that for a long time,” she said. It wasn’t long after that the pair went from recording one song to realising a whole EP, 2019’s Zandoli. New album Topical Dancer feels like the next logical step in the equation.
You’ve probably heard of Charlotte Adigéry; the French-born Belgian-Caribbean songwriter first caught keen ears with both her eponymous output and her more experimental efforts under the moniker of WWWater, the EP of the same name dipping into glitchy, dexterously-vocalled electro-pop. The progression between WWWater and her 2017 self-titled EP – her second outing with Bolis – is palpable; singing in English, French and Creole, Charlotte’s vision is invigorated by Bolis’ influence. The jump is again exacerbated when compared to Zandoli’s lead track ‘Paténipat’; with its stomping beat and point-precision rhythms, the title’s reference to the Creole mnemonic “zandoli pa té ni pat” (roughly translated to “the gecko didn’t have any legs”) captures a frantic air.
Charlotte and Bolis’ work on Topical Dancer is easily the most playful they’ve ever been; they are clearly, audibly, having the time of their lives. Previous singles ‘Blenda’ and ‘Thank You’ wriggle, squirm and stomp their way through themes less frivolous than their accompanying soundtrack would suggest, peppering sardonic barbs and wit through bouncy rhythms, and tackling rudeness and racism with tongue firmly in cheek. “And you discovered me, right?” deadpans Charlotte on ‘Thank You’. “You’re the Columbus to my America.” ‘Ce n’est pas une cliche’ reinforces their humorous tact; translated from French as ‘it’s not a cliche’, the track is composed entirely of lyrics chosen precisely because they are tried, tested and overused in song after song.
Topical Dancer is Charlotte and Bolis’ “snapshot of how we think about pop culture in the 2020s”. It’s a time capsule, and the album captures aspects of modern society and all its oversaturated glory, both wacky, throwaway, or regretfully ingrained. It begs the question, were someone to find your time capsule of the world some 50 years in the future, what would their impression be?
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul – ‘Esperanto’
Taking its title from the dead auxiliary language (that’s a constructed language of universal communication, fyi) of the same name, ‘Esperanto’ is Charlotte and Bolis’ reflection on political correctness and misguided comments. “Don’t say ‘I’ll have a black americano’, say ‘I’ll have an African American, please,” quips Charlotte, the track’s sludgy synths and giddy bass perfectly encompassing the confusion of the topic.
Priya Ragu – ‘Illuminous’
Returning on the back of her acclaimed mixtape damnshestamil, Priya Ragu makes a welcome return for 2022. Deploying the latest iteration of her signature “raguwavy” sound, new single ‘Illuminous’ combines sprightly R&B with shuffling beats, brass and a touch of continental heat for a euphoric moment that is – in Priya’s own words – a “turn up song” about realising your life’s purpose. “I believe that we all have this one true unique gift that could bring us back to our true selves,” she shares. “Once you have found that, the light within you shines so bright that you become invincible.”
Charli XCX – ‘Baby’
The CRASH era has, so far, been undeniably diverse, with Charli XCX’s comeback track ‘Good Ones’ delving into pulsating dance, and Rina Sawayama collaboration ‘Beg For You’ serving a September classic with a garage twist; however, despite its variety, Charli XCX’s new output is united in its slick sheen. Latest outing ‘Baby’ is no different; dipping into an icy 80-influenced tone, the track winds through sinewy guitar work and playful rhythms whilst waxing lyrical about “having good sex and just feeling yourself”.
MICHELLE – ‘Pose’
With a bassline catching the threads of Billy Ocean classic ‘When the Going Gets Tough’, MICHELLE have crafted an addictively catchy hit with funky new outing ‘Pose’. The latest track aired from their new album AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS makes good on the New York six-piece’s genre-blending promise, dipping its toes into stomping pop, bright disco rhythms and soulful melodies.
Mura Masa, Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, Shygirl – ‘babycakes’
No, your ears don’t deceive you – that catchy hook you hear is definitely familiar. The return of Mura Masa is a royal throwback to a 2004 garage classic by 3 of a Kind, albeit, with a dialled down BPM, laidback production and far less whipped cream. Enlisting Lil Uzi Vert, Shygirl, and 2022’s hottest star PinkPantheress, this rework is certainly cool enough for TikTok’s cohorts.