‘Bop City': Terror Jr Makes Dreamy Pop Bops for Dark Times (Review)
"Someone got shot on the TV / But it don't feel like a movie / I think this world's 'bout to leave me..."
It all does sort of feel bleak at the moment. Be it the unbelievably exhausting election cycle, violence around the globe or our increasing dependence on digital interaction (with cyber attacks threatening to shut it all down at the same time), there's one common lingering feeling threading all this together: we're f--ked.
Even pop music, often a crucial sugary-safe distraction from the headlines, feels like a mirror to society lately rather than an escape: the output from most major superstars for the past year has been, in large part, super serious, downtempo and even grim.
Enter Terror Jr: a mystery musical outfit that fits in seamlessly with The Way Things Are.
The trio arrived on the scene in arguably the most impactful way one possibly could in 2016, at least among the pop culture savvy: a Kylie Jenner Lip Gloss commercial, which was soundtracked by their shadowy opus, "3 Strikes."
The song remains one of the very best of the year. As for the group's appeal beyond just "3 Strikes"? Mystery, a dying art in today's age of social media.
Immediately after the track surfaced, the Internet erupted: was that...Kylie Jenner singing?
The unidentified female voice — stretched and Auto-Tuned at great length — provides just the right amount of anonymity to spark speculation. To this day, we don't actually know know: what we're told is that She is simply called "Lisa."
And while word on the inside is that the Lip Kit entrepreneur is indeed preparing to record something, that doesn't mean this particular project features the voice of Miss Jenner. Would it be incredible if it were? Of course. Is it? Unlikely, but keep the dream alive — just don't look to Lisa's social media presence for real clues of anything more than emojis.
But who are They? The producers behind Lisa, Campa (otherwise known as David Benjamin Singer-Vine, formerly of The Cataracs) and Felix Snow, are the same duo who worked with Kiiara on tracks like "Gold," "Feels" and her debut, low kii savage. It makes sense, then, that Terror Jr sounds exactly like Kiiara, but with a different singer — and with a slight spring in their step.
Bop City, released yesterday (Oct. 21), is true to its own name: a cohesive, bouncy 22-minute set of addiction-driven pop bops timed nicely for the darkest of days. (And, apparently, only the first in a trilogy, so world, hold on a little longer.)
Like The Weeknd's own sadness-and-strippers brand, Terror Jr find their exit in excess, as with opener "Little White Bars" a bouncing blend of Xanax bars, high-speed drives and existential crises.
Sex is a constant escape, from their moody masterpiece "3 Strikes" to the finger-snapping, trap-tinged "Pray," one of three tracks co-produced by Lincoln Jesser, which sounds like what would happen if Selena Gomez's "Good For You" got a lyrical makeover inspired by Pornhub commenters — or, uh, Donald Trump on a bus. "Preach for me, daddy / Pray for the p--y," Lisa coos across the shadowy beat. "I can be your daddy, hook me like a caddy."
When Lisa and company aren't getting down beneath the sheets, they're flying high: the super-blippy "Sugar" sees the singer sailing away in a drug-addled trippy fantasy ("Playing in the snow like it's Colorado"), reminiscing about getting out of her mind with her other half. "I ain't a model, you ain't no GQ / I guess we hit the f--kin' lotto."
Like PC Music, Terror Jr is a post-social media collective, which is more than likely why most of the bops clock out before the 3 minute mark. (The children, their attention span is shot.) Their lyrical references also often lie in the technology at our fingertips: "You need my power like a Mophie / I give you hours just to hold me," Lisa breathily boasts on the all-too-short "Say So," one of the most boppable bops on Bop City.
The group's most well-known song after "3 Strikes," "Come First," is also their most empowering: "I got my own, don't need to roll me a blunt," Lisa assures on the track, which plays like a deconstructed, weirder take on the winning beat behind "Fancy" (and/or "Pretty Girls").
But make no mistake: the subject matter within Bop City isn't necessarily aspirational in a traditional sense, if you haven't gathered...which is actually refreshing.
Like Lana Del Rey and her side sugar daddies, cash and diamond lust, biker gangs and Florida Kilos, Terror Jr makes music from a different, less blindingly positive perspective for the depressed, the disillusioned, the misbehaved — but there's still an underlying sense of hope.
"Overdose on your wet skin, it's better than textin'," Lisa croons on the echoing closer, a rare piano-tinged moment of vulnerability even through the vocoded delivery — which doubles as an ode to logging off and indulging in human interaction. "Tell me I'm your best song, singing out of tune / When we lie together, it's the truth."
There's still something to believe in, even at the bleakest of times in the prison of Lisa's mind: it's you.
Bop City was released on October 21.
The Evolution of Kylie Jenner: