“The boy is a liar Pt. 2″ Shows how the pulse of pop is changing

One of the most popular songs in the world right now presents a musical conundrum: Are you supposed to dance or sleep? “Boy’s a Liar” by PinkPantheress Pt. 2,” featuring rapper Ice Spice, sounds fast and slow, new and old. It’s undeniably catchy and yet feels as fleeting as a soft dream. Another disturbing fact: Liar pronounced, in the chorus, “lee-yah”.

Actually, the No. 3 song on the Advertising sign The Hot 100 is the culmination of a few trends, driven by technology and taste. In many enclaves, the music becomes faster and more edgy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he becomes more energetic or outgoing. Welcome to the age of lo-fi beats to get high on.

Understanding the new atmosphere requires understanding the old. About a decade ago, pop music seemed to thicken and slow down thanks to the influence of trap, dubstep and loose playlists on streaming platforms. Heavy bass lines and military hats gave many songs a dull heaviness, and electronic dance music became middling, cafe-friendly wallpaper. These developments shaped all kinds of scenes—R&B and country alike—for years.

Violent uprisings against the tumult of the 2010s have emerged in recent years, no doubt also reacting to the gloom and isolation brought on by COVID-19. The disco revival embodied by Beyoncé Renaissance is an example. The ever-increasing influence of dembow, an intense variant of reggaeton, is another. In many dance clubs, the lightning drum and bass has made a comeback. The over-the-top electronic sound known as hyperpop continues to pervade. “The boy is a liar Pt. 2” brings together a few other pulse-quickening phenomena: club rap, drill, and TikTok’s encouragement of couch-bound hyperactivity.

PinkPantheress, a 21-year-old British musician, first gained recognition in 2021 with a fresh musical formula. Her beats sampled vintage dance tracks that, decades earlier, had struck ravers using intricate, explosive percussion. But her production made those ferocious beats feel thin, bland, and tired. He sang dishearteningly in the goofy tone of a helpful AI. String together short, simple phrases to form elegant melodic sentences. No song was longer than three minutes and most were under two. TikTok loved this, for obvious reasons. Amongst the endless distractions of the platform, “speeded up” song remixes are good because they are effective at being interesting. But PinkPantheress songs didn’t need juice. Each a miniature of an emotional world, matching the heartbeat of the TikTok hummingbird.

For “Boy’s a Liar” (both the original version of the song, released in November, and last month’s “Pt. 2”), PinkPantheress succumbed to the beat of a dance-rap subgenre called “Jersey club.” The style has a fast pace and a pulsating rhythm that creates the illusion of constant acceleration. Steady yet frenetic, Jersey club is linked by complex footwork and choppy, hypnotic vocals (as well as the crazy sound effect at the end of “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2”). And even though the Jersey club originated more than 20 years ago in Newark, it’s hot right now. Songs that catch the attention of Drake, Lil Uzi Vert and newcomers like Bandmanrill are contributing to a wave of so-called club rap.

At the same time, a related explosion is happening for the style of hip-hop called “drill”. The signature drill has snares that bounce with the irregularity of a downed electric wire and synth bass that dips and drops with drone-like softness. Each measure of the music is minimalistic, defined by a few basic elements, but also full of action because these elements move in clusters. Although now everywhere, the drill was perfected in London, Chicago and New York: cold, crowded places for a cold, full sound.

Fittingly, one of the most important drill avatars right now goes by the icy name of Ice Spice. A Bronx-raised 23-year-old, she uses her husky voice with methodical focus, delivering each diss or brag like she’s going through a checklist. With her conversational yet clear voice and signature red curls, she quickly became a social media celebrity after her song “Munch (Feelin’ U)” went viral last year. But ‘Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” is both her and PinkPantheress’ first appearance in the upper echelons of the Hot 100.

The team of these two women is somehow shocking. Lyrically, ‘Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” is a bit emo, which makes sense because PinkPantheress is a huge Paramore fan. In the song, she worries aloud that her crush will find her “ugly,” a crudely relatable fear in the age of Facetuning. In a dirtbag verse, Ice Spice drops her invulnerable attitude in a revealing couplet: “But I don’t get enough sleep without you / And I can’t eat enough without you.” That the track is pitted against artists like SZA for a spot near the top of the Hot 100 suggests that vulnerability—especially from women, especially black women—is as in-demand as ever.

What’s most notable about the song, however, is simply the feeling of heaviness. On paper, a club-rap song about anger and inadequacy might seem intense and jarring. But PinkPantheress (and producer Mura Masa) wraps this firecracker in felt. The track features cute keyboard sounds reminiscent of DVD menus from the early 2000s. The song is velvety and quiet. The song’s popularity is reminiscent of other DIY-sounding hits like Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” which (especially when sped up on TikTok) buries the emotion it’s nurturing under distortion and turmoil to divisive effect. If life moves fast these days, it’s not like the elegant zoom of a sports car. Rather, it’s more dizzying and surreal: The clock is ticking at the same rate as always, but our minds are racing again.

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