In doing a bit of background research into ‘I Miss You’, the newest from the group that I don’t think anyone in their right mind thought was going to extend its career beyond first breakout smash, the impossibly addictive ‘Rather Be‘, I came across a brief review describing the track as a “largely forgettable” release from the group. That description got me thinking. Is there a market for forgettable music? Isn’t all pop music, ultimately, forgettable? The rebuke strikes me as a lazy one given the 24/7/365 churn of the entertainment industry and the fact that it’s not clear whether Clean Bandit ever intended to be memorable. Instead, they found a niche (pop music with strings – perhaps first exploited by The Coors and arguably even earlier by The Beatles), tapped into a rich vein of underestimated British vocalists (not unlike Jess Glynne), and have done their utmost to flog that horse until it is dead, or beyond. ‘I Miss You’ might be forgettable in the long term, but it is important for what it represents, now.
Why launch such a defense for a band I saw at a festival circa 2014 and was deeply underwhelmed, you might ask? Chiefly because, for reasons I will seek to unpack here, ‘I Miss You’ has worked its way into my head this week in a way that ensures that, even if ultimately forgettable, it hasn’t left a particular part of my frontal lobe for some time. That result is thanks, in large part, to Clean Bandit’s commitment to staying front of mind. Despite a strong commitment to cello (a third of the Cambridge, UK trio is cellist Grace Chatto, after all), on ‘I Miss You’ we get the sort of tropical house vibes championed in the recent Bieber resurgence and by Norwegian wunderkind Kygo. The band wears these influences on its sleeve, perhaps acknowledging that it exhausted its original content play with the out-of-left-field ‘Rather Be’ (released in 2013, if you can believe that), and is now content picking up on trends in a timely fashion and giving the people more of what they want.
One of the women at the top of a lot of pop listeners’ ‘want’ list is Julia Micheals who irritated the hell out of me with her plucky ‘Issues‘ but seemingly captivated millions of others. Less overnight sensation than long-time-coming star, Micheals is actually the songwriter behind Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, a bunch of Selena Gomez and Maroon 5, and a veritable boatload of pop names I’m aware of but only distantly familiar with. This track is telltale Micheals, whose debut LP this year was called ‘Nervous System’ and features plenty of personal insight and soul-searching but reflects maybe the most derivative version of this introspection we’ve heard (rhyming ‘ended’ with ‘end’, for instance). Never mind, she has the capable musical chops of Clean Bandit to distract us. True, the track rarely lifts out of second gear and lacks the straining chorus that made ‘Sorry‘ such a monster hit (‘I miss you’ is a fundamentally less evocative battle cry than was Justin’s apology), but without that urgency, it is also less wearing and might have a longer half-life. If making good, middle-of-the-road pop that caters to contemporary tastes is a crime, lock up Clean Bandit and throw away the key. Just make sure they have a sampler in their cell.
Clean Bandit – I Miss You Ft. Julia Micheals