28
Nov 17

My Pop Year: SYD – “Know”

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On first listen I liked Syd’s Fin mainly for its Spartan vibe: low-key, late-night R&B synths. Moody and pleasant. My second listen was like my eyes were adjusting to a dark room – songs emerged as ultraviolet blooms. The one that jumped out most was “Know”. How could a track this full of tension and subtle incident have seemed just part of a whole?

Syd sings this cheater’s ballad in her highest register, her anxiety first cushioned by billowing synths, then underlined by the skittering, stuttering drum line. On the chorus Syd’s voice drops out for the title word – “As long as he don’t – as long as she don’t –“ – and a robot finishes the line for her, a hollow “know”, queasy and mocking. (So many great songs about infidelity imply a death-drive longing for discovery: this is no exception.)

The whole track is deliberately backwards-looking, but it’s looking back to one of the times pop sounded most like the future. I hear the cool vocal stylings of Aaliyah (or Cassie, more closely), the rhythmic mesh of Timbaland. “Know” is a kind of belated cousin to “We Need A Resolution”: who wouldn’t be tempted by such a dalliance?

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