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EP Review: Sky Ferreira – As If!

When it comes to pop music, post-Rebecca Black, “we’re through the looking glass here, people.” The viral video hit takes teen pop to its logical conclusion: mind-numbing simplicity. But while Ark Music creations pump out the pop equivalents of pre-teen beauty queens, some artists have bigger things in mind.

Since featuring her in the Verge last August, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the debut album from Sky Ferreira. While that record has been indefinitely postponed, the LA lolita released the As If! EP this week. For reference, Ferreira was three-years-old when Clueless popularized that totally 90s catchphrase.

Lead single “Sex Rules” is a bouncing, glittery ball of 80s mall pop. The frank sexuality of the lyrics (don’t worry – she’s 18!) is kind of jarring at first, only because of the source. But in all fairness, the sex-positive lyrics are relatively tame to what kids her age (and younger) are actually doing.

“99 Tears” is more of the same, replacing sex talk with a broken heart. Another milestone in the dubstep-pop crossover is “Traces,” the wobble-filled ballad penned by Colin Munroe and Neon Hitch. It takes a page from BAR9’s luvstep-approved remix of Ferreira’s “One.”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-Traces.mp3″ text=”Sky Ferriera – Traces” dl=0]

“Haters Anonymous” has a schizophrenic duality to it, with a synthpop chorus and spoken word verses. In the age of Facebook bullies, the lyrics resonate with her target audience – even if they come from someone deep in the LA social scene. As If! closes with its lone misfire, “108,” a song held back by its strange lyrical premise.

In another nod to 90s pop culture, Ferreira and “Sex Rules” are featured in the new ad campaign for ck one. Tired of Dr. Luke (or Ark Music) produced, derivative garbage? Sky Ferreira does slut-pop right.

The Verge: Sky Ferreira

Meet LA’s dirty little secret, singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira. On her resume? Her singing made Michael Jackson tear up, she’s worked with Linda Perry and Dallas Austin, and she corresponds with ch-ch-ch-cherrybomb / ex-Runaway Cherie Currie. Oh, and she turned 18 last month.

The Los Angeles lolita has been making Internet waves for a few years now, and it looks like she’s finally catching up with the hype. Her grandmother was a hair dresser for the King of Pop, who encouraged her to develop her voice; she sang gospel and opera from an early age. At 15, she reached out to the producers behind Miike Snow (and Britney Spears’ “Toxic”), Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant. With no money but a promise of being “better than Britney,” the producers agreed to work with her. One of their first collaborations is her single “One,” a slice of futurist, robotic pop. (The song was given the luvstep treatment by BAR9.)

Her closest comparison is to Lily Allen, as she precociously mixes innocent pop melodies with dark and dirty lyrics. Unlike her frenemy Katy Perry, though, this isn’t focus-group tested, “good girl gone bad” bullshit. There is an honesty and maturity absent from most of her stateside peers, with a better sense of pop and celebrity than UK counterparts like Ellie Goulding and Marina and the Diamonds.

Speaking of Marina, Ferreira’s “17” hits the mark better than Ms. Diamandis’ “Seventeen;” the video does Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” better and more realistically, as well. The chorus is very glam, and the verses reveal her lyrical talent, painting an accurate picture of teen girls living beyond their years: “We don’t know what to do with her / shes from a different world / and its apparent now this girl is hiding / something in the way she gives a confident excuse.”

While she was born in 1992 (!), she has a reverence for musical icons of the past. She names David Bowie, the Runaways, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot among her influences, and her cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is superb (especially when mixed with “Still DRE” by Skeet Skeet).

For American pop stars, it seems as if the dialectic is between Ke$has and non-Ke$has, Gagas and non-Gagas. Sky Ferreira is proof that you can do both.