Rhythm and Bloops
Pop music is something often under-appreciated in the nerd community. Perhaps it’s because of some attempt to buck the mainstream or a wide sweeping personal taste thing, but I have the hardest time trying to find people who can appreciate the genre sometimes.
Lucky for me, Professor Shyguy is one of those appreciators.
I’m going to be honest here on the forefront: I’ve known Shyguy for almost three years now. I met him at a gig where The Extraordinary Contraptions and his band The Aeronauts were playing together. My first memories of him are giving him his first Square reader, him forgetting the words to ‘Rolling In The Deep’ during The Aeronauts set, and playing the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World video game with him and David of The Contraptions the next day. He’s a pretty cool dude.
He’s also talented as hell.
He’s a fantastic tenor, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and showman. His title of “The Poor Nerd’s Justin Timberlake” is not an exaggeration. I know I sound biased, but even if I didn’t know him, the stuff he does with chiptune and his live show energy would be enough to draw me in.
Lucky for everyone, he brings the energy and chiptune awesomeness to his latest album: a mostly 90s R&B cover album titled Rhythm and Bloops.
Oh yes. As the first line on the cover of ‘No Diggity’ goes, “This is really happening.”
The basic idea of the album is to mix two essential tenants of 90s nostalgia: the iconic R&B songs that we all bust out at karaoke and classic video games. And by god, it works. It works really well. Maybe it’s because Shyguy has the voice to pull it off or that the chiptune is integrated really well, but it takes something that could appear to be done as a joke (especially with the cover) to a level of serious appreciation of the genre. Even with the nerdy references added to the songs by both Shyguy and the whole swath of guests he brought along, it just flows effortlessly.
Well, mostly. There are still some points at the beginning where it feels white. Not often though and it slips back into feeling into a nerdy tribute fairly quickly once the album really gets rolling. Really, I think it’s mostly Brentalfloss. Sorry dude.
Of course, when I say “tribute,” I don’t mean straight up cover. Shyguy is mostly straightforward except with a few changes to include Nintendo references, but the guest rappers change whole verses to fit their own style. Which, again, it works. For me, I hadn’t heard of most of the artists featured on this album and they get to show what they’re all about while still fitting into the groove of the song perfectly. I know that I’m definitely going to be checking out Sammus and My Parents Favorite Music more after this album. It also features my favorite nerdcore rapper Adam Warrock on a Michael Jackson cover. Aww yeah.
My two favorite songs though are the covers that aren’t 90s: ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Do What U Want.’ Shyguy and I have had discussions about the awesomeness of Janelle Monáe before, so I don’t know why I was surprised by the appearance of ‘Tightrope’ on the album. It’s an AWESOME cover too and the verse Tribe One drops is pretty excellent. I wish I had something more to say about it, but it’s an awesome cover from someone who truly appreciates an awesome artist.
(Sidenote: If you haven’t heard Tribe One’s ‘The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z,’ do yourself a favor and listen to it now. I’ll wait.)
As for ‘Do What U Want,’ it’s sort of the pinnacle of interesting gender references on this album. ‘Are You That Somebody?’ changed all the pronouns, but ‘Red Light Special’ stayed the same in a very ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ kind of way (which TLC covered on CrazySexyCool, the album ‘Red Light Special’ is on). The genders are swapped on ‘Do What U Want,’ which would be whatever if it wasn’t for the fact the song is basically about willfully surrendering your body to someone else. Which isn’t often sung from a male perspective in pop music, which is why Ali Spagnola taking R. Kelly’s part and Shyguy singing about letting her do what she wants to his body. Which then makes me start thinking too hard when I remember it’s Lady Gaga’s song of defiance to the press who keeps making digs at her body.
However you want to read it, it’s just a badass cover and I love the way Shyguy and Spagnola sound on it.
Final Thoughts: If you’re a fan of pop music and/or chiptune and nerdcore, Rhythm and Bloops is right up your alley. By another artist, this album could have been something of a joke, but Professor Shyguy’s appreciation of the genre and choice of guests make it a really fun tribute to the 90s and other great songs. If you’re not sold, check out his cover of ‘Wrecking Ball’ on Bandcamp before listening to the rest of the album.