For a classic shoe brand that appears to be losing its foothold on the music market, the the PR guys over at Converse Inc are doing a remarkably good job of getting their foot in the door with their ’3 Artists. 1 Song’ campaign. That it should probably be renamed ’3 Artists. 1 Shoe’ so that the venerable Chuck Taylor can reclaim its position in the zeitgeist (pushed out, over recent years, by the convergence of hip-hop and the Nike/Adidas/Reebok sneaker movement alongside the stunning re-emergence of the Vans Authentic) is besides the point as Connies leadership has demonstrated in the four years this campaign has been running that they’re still iconic enough to pull big names and produce big songs. Inaugurated in 2008 with the Pharrell-produced ‘Drive Thru‘ (and featuring a nascent Santogold and a revered Julian Casablancas), the brand roped in Kid Cudi, Best Coast and a quarter of Vampire weekend in 2010 for ‘All Summer‘ and then had LCD Soundsystem, Andre 3K and The Gorillaz onside in February this year for ‘DoYaThing‘. The musical knowledge over at Converse HQ in Andover, Massachusetts is beyond reproach but good names don’t always equal good songs.
Surprisingly, ‘DoYaThing’ was not a misfire or ‘All Summer’ a slow starter because of Converse’s overbearing commercial imperatives. If anything, it’s astounding just how much the company is able to infiltrate channels of cultural consciousness usually instantly weary of capitalist interests without even the slightest rebuke. All of the ’3 Artists. 1 Song’ tracks to date have been warmly welcomed by the listening public in spite of their commercial origins – perhaps because they showcased artists who release material slowly in Outkast’s Andre, The Strokes’ Casablancas and Vampy Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. As a marketing exercise, though, this ability to cut through usual scepticism and jump straight to the adoration stage is laudable. But it hasn’t stopped a couple of tracks from sinking before they could reap the benefits of a popular swim. Choosing wisely and getting three relevant, influential and respected acts onside is only half the battle. Getting them in a studio to produce something that merits airplay after the novelty wears off is something entirely different.
For all of these noted trials and tribulations, ‘Warrior’ comes off sounding like something that could well have charted on its own strength without the marketing might of Nike (Converse’s parent company and a notable cashed up bastion of cool in the advertising world) pushing it. On the back of the world-annihilating run of ‘Somebody That I Used To Know‘, New Zealand girl made good Kimbra has the perfect, honeyed vocals to frame a tale vaguely premised on strength in relationships (hardly tarnished by the fact that she apparently recorded them suffering from tonsillitis) while Mark Foster obviously has a thing for writing hooks and, while his input here is less clear bar thickly layered synths, A-Trak’s involvement in anything is as much of a tick of approval as I need. There has been criticism leveled at the song since it (and its stunning lucha libre-inspired clip) dropped a few weeks back regarding overproduction but that appears an excusable consequence of making something out of nothing with three very different artists. For once, though, you can distinctly hear the input of all three and the whole almost matches the sum of its parts. Enough to get that shoe tapping in any event.
Kimbra, Mark Foster & A-Trak – Warrior