In this “super critical world,” it’s hard not to overanalyze vocals when it comes to the Ting Tings. Their third album, Super Critical, is an eclectic assortment of songs that disclose someone’s personal frustrations, and how those frustrations conflict with the world’s perception of them. With their Motown meets Kesha sound, the album radiates through funky, old-school compositions and the fun persona of lead singer Katie White.
While Katie fights with herself about who her life’s critic is in contemporary pop vocals, the band is back in the 1950’s playing funk bass lines in a studio filled with people. This quickly becomes the norm throughout the album, especially in the introduction to “Daughter.” It started with distorted electronic drums, but quickly switched back to the funk. The vocals are sexy, and the lyrics are very suggestive, which clashes with the songs title in a sinful way. In the song, Katie sings “God help ya / Wait until you get home.”
Apparently, whatever happened when he got home wasn’t enough because they had to “Do It Again.” This song opens with a slightly altered loop from one of the band’s first and most popular songs, but the vocals make a statement that it is something far better. It’s surprising that this song wasn’t chosen as a single.
The next song fades in and excites with dance-floor sounding production and vocal runs that make you want to hit the roller rink. Cleverly, the lyrics describe frustration about not fitting into the modern idea of how people should be. She sings, “Oh, I’m in the wrong club / Listening to this shit / Oh, hey, I’m in the wrong life / someone get me out of it.” The simple yet loaded lyrics are followed by a stripped bridge and vocal chanting of the lyrics that work together perfectly.
The fourth track is a song with limited lyrics, but conquests with its smooth sound and relatable song meaning. It is a tribute to an imperfect relationship, which, in many cases, is what people need. The lyrics state, “I like everything that’s wrong you / I like everything that you don’t do.” This song, like track two, has a strong old school feel. The background vocals give a feeling of vintage recording, when background singers were actually on the album, and not just breath-catchers during a live performance.
“Only Love” is a more up-tempo song about temptation. The chorus’ melody is beautiful and simple like so many other melodies found throughout the album. The sounds include male vocals that respond to Katie’s vocals in a distant way which suggest that the song is not meant to be a duet. The strings take the lead after the first verse, and the ultimate finish is a understated bass line.
Electronic drums introduce the tangled thoughts of a traditional person stuck in a modern relationship. “Communication” is truly a cultural time stamp, as the lyrics portray an internal battle with the way relationships are labeled in contemporary society. Katie sings, “I’m not with it, you’re not with it / But I know that I know / You’re not with me, I’m not with you / But I know that you know.” The song ends with a trance-like, synthesized cluster of sounds that, in a way, are preparation for the next track.
“Green Poison” is a mid-tempo ode to marijuana. Like previous songs, it has a Motown feel and repetitive lyrics that make it clear the music is the main attraction in this album. The song fades out, and a surprising change occurs in the last song as a piano takes the stage. A looping melody plays throughout the song as the pop vocals are chanted. At this point, the overall message becomes clear. Everyone’s worst critic is themselves, and apparently her critic thinks she’s a “Failure.” Perhaps Katie White and her bandmates have had failed attempts in love and happiness, but the album passes.