With 'mellow' beats and ghostly vocals on a very slow, very average (albeit atmospheric) five-plus minutes of synthesizers and strings, this is one for the bath, ladies and gents, not the gym.
Dubbed as trip-hop, Bristolian two-piece Massive Attack’s latest single showcases the very trippiest of hop, featuring singer Hope Sandoval. Opening with a thudding beat and ghostly synthesisers, Sandoval’s haunting vocals waltz in a minor whisper, snakily intertwining as the backing synths transition into waves before letting her take over for the first chorus. That said, it does take a few listens to pinpoint where exactly the choruses are, as crescendos and changes of pace are scarce in ‘The Spoils.’ There’s no getting away from the fact that, as odd as it is, it does work, especially when the strings are brought in about three-quarters of the way through, which only heightens the sort of soft-wave feel about it.
Whilst that throbbing, thudding beat makes itself scarce almost immediately as the lead vocals take hold to leave the song without much integrity, Sandoval’s vocals are, indeed, just about enough to carry ‘The Spoils’ through to the end. With a haunting power reminiscent of any Lana Del Rey song, it fails to succumb to high pitched wails or guttural groans, instead choosing to remain ‘mellow,’ staying within the confines of ‘mellow,’ refusing to even redefine ‘mellow,’ and that’s totally fine. But, for me at least, undefined ‘mellow’ finds itself warily on the edge of the incredibly mundane, so why is this song so long?
‘The Spoils’ isn’t an amazing song – far from it. It neither pushes any boundaries nor makes any statements. The only stand out aspect of ‘The Spoils’ is the only thing external to the group – the vocal – which is a shame, I guess, but that’s what Massive Attack is about. No labels, no changing the world, no extremes. The song isn’t pretending to be something it’s not, and I appreciate that. With it, Massive Attack clearly stands its rightful ground in the realm of trip-hop, because, like, the song is just, like so deep, man. Like, so far out.
‘The Spoils’ is out now via Virgin Records