Pop has a tendency to renew itself. Just when it seems things have gotten very tame and predictable and all the possibilities are exhausted, something new comes along to redeem our belief that Pop will save us. Patti Smith saved us from the bloated arena rock of the 1970s and Kurt Cobain saved us from the corporate sounds of the 1990s, just as Little Richard and Chuck Berry saved us from the sexless, complacent radio that was putting America to sleep a generation before Kurt was born. Our Pop Saviors are always as inevitable as they are unexpected… we call them forth, from wherever it is that Art and Passion and Danger sleep together, and the world feels new and our ears (and our libidos) are gratified.
So gratified that we barely seem to notice that the New Music is never really so very new at all: Richard and Chuck were recycling basic templates of rhythm and blues, gotten from Jelly Roll Morton, that weren’t even young when Jelly Roll adapted them at the dawn of the 20th century. And Patti may have been accessing continental performance art and post-modern literary techniques in her work… but the essential form of her music was the good old Rock ‘n Roll she learned from Richard and Chuck, whose musical forms Kurt himself never strayed too far from… and which Ludwig van Beethoven himself wouldn’t have had much trouble recognizing (on paper). When the late great Michael Jackson sent an absolutely horripilating shockwave of teen-screams through the universe on the evening of March 25, 1983 (Motown’s 25th Anniversary Special), by Moonwalking… everyone quite ecstatically forgot that Cab Calloway had been busting that move since the 1930s. And Cab wasn’t even the first to do it.
So how can the Old become so New, exactly when we need it to? It’s all in the Alchemy of the Artist. The Charisma of (re-)Invention. Or, to paraphrase that old truism: Necessity is a Mother.
Ben Ivory is a walking contradiction of light and shadow, East and West, soul and intellect, melancholy and euphoria. It’s easy to forget Ben’s a human: he’s so easy to think of in abstract terms. But when he opens his mouth and the music comes out (it’s a little like having an Instant Opera boom from a movie star’s face), his humanity overwhelms the moment. Ben’s singing is a powerful, passionate and blood-warm experience in a world that feels otherwise dominated by the sterile, the cool, the pre-packaged and digital. A world dominated, most of all, by the merely average. Necessity is a mother, indeed. And into this world will come a Savior…
Born on the cusp between the Analog and the Digital, on the geographical boundary between Super Powers, and growing into an Artist who engages in the freakiest ongoing ménage-a-trois with the Sound and the Vision, Ben is the Singularity who feels inevitable. He looks a little more like an Android than a human, but inside he is almost too human to survive the condition. The sound he makes, onstage and in private conversation, is a perfect recording of both the world as it is and the world how it should be. That internal contradiction must hurt.
Ben’s music glows in the neon-blue hues of the New Wave and it purrs with the precision of sleek machines and Sci Fi futures… but his voice is deepest scarlet. His voice is a thousand years old. Is there any other young voice in the West with the unearthly power capable of standing alone on a minaret and calling the Pop faithful to prayer? It’s almost familiar, Ben’s voice… it’s Totally New yet strangely familiar, that soaring, gender-ambiguous, hero-strong call from the tower. That call across the sky for us all to really start caring about the music again. Who…?
And then it hits you: Bowie.
It’s the palest ghost of The Thin White Duke you hear in Ben’s powerful voice and you get those goosebumps and think: Was it really so long ago that someone stood on that tower and sang like that…?
In other words: get ready. Pop is about to renew itself.