It figures that it would take the combined forces of Janelle Monae and B.o.B. to make me like something touched by Vampire Weekend. “The Kids,” which samples Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” is vastly better than its source material:
Where VW’s vocals stay, typically, sort of languid and thin, B.o.B. has a nice bounce over the music, and Monae sends these loopy, gorgeous spirals around and through the bass and drums. And I really like sci-fi imagery, whether it’s a cry of despair: “We’re trapped inside the Matrix / Forced to play our hand / We’re filled with so much hatred / The kids don’t stand a chance.” Or a way of explaining being a kid alienated from the normal ebb and flow of social life and school: “I abandoned my old planet / And I landed on earth / As a kid I never understood what I observed…Always in detention / For the lack of my attention / You can call deficit / Really I just didn’t listen.”
I realize I’m going nuts over these two. I’m genuinely sorry if I’m boring anyone out there. It’s been a long time, I have to admit, since I’ve felt like there was this much new music out there that I was insanely excited about, and I’ve become the toddler who opened her Christmas stocking and kind of can’t fathom that there’s a whole tree with presents under it. I’m really invested, as a critic and as a listener, in the conversation between hip-hop and pop. Efforts like this make me feel like I’m not just crazy, but that I’m seeing the emergence of something exciting, a genuine step forward for both genres.