Jonah Bromwich also appreciates De Quincey.
As someone who doesn’t instantly spot all eight samples that today’s wunderkind producers are cramming into their songs, I’m thankful that Miami newcomer Madeaux’s new track “Opium” sounds as good as it does. There’s no personal gratification with easter eggs heaped throughout the track’s four minutes—I mean, I recognize the freakin Weeknd’s “High for This,” but the other samples (and there are definitely at least two or three) are a mystery to me. And though I could spend a lot of time googling songs that include the distinctive lyrics “Whoaaaaa” or “ooohhh ecstacy,” or poring through every song in my Itunes library, I really don’t think it’s necessary.
“Opium’s” altered, sampled vocals are so well incorporated into the track that they act as sophisticated instruments. They’re not Girl Talk samples to be recognized, acknowledged and forgotten. Instead, after the song ramps up slowly, with the kind of drugged-out vibe you’d expect, the sped-up Weeknd and screwed-down whomever form a high-low duet. It lends a heft that you might not expect a brand new producer to come with. A bridge three quarters of the way through the song breaks things up temporarily, but skittering keys splayed throughout the samples bring the track to a head just before it fades out entirely.
The critical community has become fascinated by influence hunting, sample spotting and other forms of showing off an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music. I think this has to do with the basic insecurity of many critics. The question “What gives me the right to judge the work of others?” is usually answered by “My expertise.” And if you’re an expert, you should be catching every last reference in any given piece of work.
But we need to relax. Good music is good music (and occasionally G.O.O.D. music) no matter what’s going into it. And in the case of “Opium” you wouldn’t need to recognize any single strain to know that it all adds up to something you want to ingest.