Pop Song Review: Duke Dumont – “Won’t Look Back”

Oh boy, guys, we’re doing an EDM track today, because EDM is just so hot right now. Yippee. Anyway, today’s review is Duke Dumont’s “Won’t Look Back”.

Note: Here’s the actual music video if you want to check it out – I would have embedded it here but for some reason it kept freezing up my browser. I think Chrome might have been trying to tell me something.

First impressions: Yikes, lady, lay off there.

The music: There’s a fairly interesting piano riff at the beginning that I quite like which resurfaces every now and then. Other than that there’s not much to write about in terms of musicality. It sounds like a pretty simple structure to me with a fairly generic production job and a familiar beat. The “won’t look back” hook jabs into you repeatedly like the Nudge Nudge guy from Monty Python, starting out catchy but quickly growing tiresome – and honestly now, those vocals are just ludicrous. Yes, she can sing – that’s obvious – but for crying out loud it’s just a club song. It’s a soundtrack for drunk strangers to grind each other to and, while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it hardly warrants the emotional investment this woman is giving this performance. Don’t they raise a song’s pitch when it’s played in a club as well? Jeez, it must sound like a buzzsaw.

And that’s all I have to say about the music, really. I guess if you’ve heard one of these songs there’s nothing more for me to tell you about it. It’s the same brisk, gloopy beat, the same OTT, spasmodic melody, the same hysterical vocalist and the same shimmering, weirdly dated production that all the other club-bangers use. It’s emotional and passionate because that’s what this sort of song is supposed to be – when you’re in the club you want to feel as if you could fall in love and take over the world that very night. It serves its purpose.

That’s the major problem I have with this song, actually. I’ll admit that I don’t exactly get EDM because I’m not a fan of the genre; as a result of that, I don’t listen to much of the music and, as a result of that, I haven’t had the exposure necessary to understand the various elements and subtleties of structure, musicality and production that each performer might bring to their craft. That said, even if I was a fan of EDM I think I’d still find this song generic and tired because it feels as if it’s been put together specifically to fit in with everything else that’s in the charts these days. There’s nothing in “Won’t Look Back” that you won’t find in any other EDM track on the market and, unfortunately, I think that’s the point.

If you think about it, when a DJ is switching tracks in “duh clerb” they need a seamless transition and that’s made a lot easier when everything sounds the same. So really, Duke Dumont is just performing a basic function for these people, which is at best a fair cop and at worst a cynical, short-term move. “Won’t Look Back” is not a song – it’s a product designed to earn as much money in as short a space as possible, then be forgotten about forever, and that completely sucks. I can listen to a song like Soundgarden’s “Blow Up the Outside World” whether I’m feeling sad, happy, lonely, nervous, anxious or calm because it’s such an amazing, well-written song that not only can it can appeal to any and all frames of mind, but at nearly twenty years of age it also transcends the context of time and place it was written and recorded in to appeal to anyone anywhere at any given time. The only frame of mind I can imagine listening to this song would be enjoyable in is “considerably sozzled, guv’nor” – which is fine, I guess, but what’s interesting or meaningful about that?

The lyrics: Oh come on, this is a club-banger pure and simple – does anyone really care about the lyrics here? Chances are if you’re the target audience for this track you’re probably too drunk to know what’s being sung anyway. But you know what, I’m better than that. Let’s give this a try: how does the chorus go?

“Love comes close to you / your love, it makes me stronger / no matter what we’re going through / I won’t look back.” Are you kidding me with this? Well, the person in question is explaining the power of love to their beloved, describing how it makes them stronger when it comes close to no I’m sorry, I can’t even carry on with this.

Let’s try the verse: “You make me wanna live forever / you’re my remedy to yesterday.” So basically it’s all about how love makes us feel renewed and invincible… and that’s about it. I guess I’d be naive to expect anything else from a club-banger – I mean, that’s what it’s about, right? “Living it up,” like the song says – it doesn’t have to be difficult. Can I fault that? Well yes, I can actually: just because you don’t have to put effort into your writing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. But I guess that, being the product that it is, people aren’t looking for complexity and sheer emotional depth in a club-banger. It’s all just about having a great night with your friends, maybe your guy/gal at your side, feeling as if this wonderful euphoric sensation of freedom and happiness will never end.

But then the song chimes in with, “life ain’t a party.” Huh? Isn’t this antithetical to the entire purpose of club-bangers? I thought their existence rested on perpetuating the illusion that life was nothing but a party. What’s this reality check all about? It doesn’t come up anywhere else in the song either: apparently the pre-chorus is dedicated to raining on your parade while the rest of the song builds you up like a Greek temple. I wonder where I’ve seen that before?

Red Dwarf: explaining Duke Dumont twenty-six years early.

Verdict: I don’t know what to say, really. “Won’t Look Back” is perfectly servicable as a club-banger. Heck, I haven’t been to a club in a little while – maybe it’s absolutely incendiary? Maybe there really are people falling in love to this song every night all over the country? I kinda hope there are, too, because that would be lovely. But if you’re not in a club when this song comes on, I honestly don’t understand what you’d get out of it. I guess it’s kinda catchy, but once you strip away the histrionics and the up-in-your-face production there’s really nothing worthwhile to talk about here. Generic and hollow, “Won’t Look Back” gets a 2 out of 5 from me, though that’s if you’re sober. Adjust accordingly to your state of inebriation.

Today’s double-up is… well, I would use “Blow Up the Outside World” again because sweet mercy that is a good song, but the point to these double-ups is that they run a similar theme to the song I reviewed. Problem is, though, that the lyrics to “Won’t Look Back” are so meaningless and vapid that it’s hard coming up with a song to match it – really, the only thing I could go with is a song that’s as equally stupid and as equally about nothing. Therefore today’s double-up is The Beatles’ “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”. I could have gone with “Revolution 9”, but you’ve already had to put up with a Duke Dumont single – you’ve suffered enough for today.

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