Belgian singer/songwriter Milow comes to the US market with the deck stacked in his favor. Not too many artists have a trump card like his: Born in the Eighties‘ lead track, “Ayo Technology”, was a top ten single in a dozen European countries. Both Perez Hilton and Kanye West lauded the tune, an imaginative cover of a 50 Cent/Justin Timberlake/Timbaland collaboration. And the song’s official video, cleverly combining the hypersexual with the grotesque, has over 65 million views on YouTube. Mind you, this was all in 2008, and Milow’s clout has only grown in Europe in the interim– not bad for an American “debut”.
Born in the Eighties is an EP culled from Milow’s biggest hits over the course of his seven-year-old career, so the songs are already road- and fan-tested and radio-approved. But unless you’ve got your finger on the pulse of European pop music, you probably don’t know Milow beyond “Ayo Technology”, so Born in the Eighties consists of new music for most American listeners.
“Ayo Technology” needs little elaboration. It’s a gem, brilliantly reworking Fiddy’s raunchy original into something passionate, even tender (but still pretty raunchy). Although folk-y singer/songwriters covering hip-hop or rock hits has become almost cliché, this one is too good to relegate to the “been there, done that” pile, especially with its creative use of the dobro.
The rest of the album reveals the unfiltered Milow: catchy melodies, poppy arrangements, and a friendly, slightly strained voice. Like Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson, Milow has a strong pop sensibility; but that doesn’t preclude some naked moments, like the idealistic title track’s lyrics, “If this is my screenplay, I don’t like my role.” On “Canada”, a fun, countrified rock song, he dreams of rock stardom: “I’ll move to the US to be a sensational success.” Despite his music’s poppiness, Milow has a self-conscious awareness of his career and music that remains firmly grounded in his own artistic integrity, ironically singing, “If that’s what it takes then I’ll sell my soul/ As long as there’s something that I can control.”
He jokes about American superstardom, but it could very well be the future for Milow. Given the talent he displays on Born in the Eighties, perhaps selling his soul won’t be necessary.
Essential Tracks: “Ayo Technology”, “Canada”