Here are some unofficial requirements for crafting a summertime pop hit:
1) Give it a four-on-the-floor rhythm bright enough to give you sunburn.
2) Considering the current Top 40 climate, it should probably involve some surging synths.
3) A sense of escapism is key.
Just make it something like Dragonetteâs new single, âLet it Go,â really.
âWe donât need a cure for the weight of the world, âcause itâs floating âround in the universe,â coos frontwoman Martina Sorbara on the chorus. âJust swing it like itâs tied by a string that you hold, and let it go,â she continues over a cresting wave of keys. The tune, released online last week, is the first single off the Toronto/London, UK dance-pop actâs third album. (Title and release date info have yet to be announced, though itâs expected before the warmer months are through.)
âIt just feels summery and carefree,â says Sorbara over the phone from Manhattan, explaining why âLet It Goâ is the perfect first taste of Dragonetteâs new album.
Thereâs one more reason, too. âIt just kind of sums up a bit of the mind-frame going into the album, and then coming out of it, starting with the writing of this record,â she says. âThe end of making this album just felt really good, breezy. But something had to change. â¦ I think that song is about making that change, changing your mind.â
The âweight of the world,â so to speak, was heavy on Sorbara and bandmates Dan Kurtz and Joel Stouffer about two years ago, when the group began writing the follow-up to 2009âs Fixin to Thrill. âAll of a sudden we were excited to write, and then all of a sudden it just kind of stopped,â Sorbara explains.
âWe had a good excuse!â she laughs -- that excuse being âHello,â the hit collaboration with French DJ Martin Solveig. Released in the fall of 2010, the band picked up their first Juno this month for the tune, winning Dance Recording of the Year. We bet you a lift ticket and a pitcher of Kokanee Dragonette will play it when they hit Whistlerâs Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival for a free outdoor show April 19 -- a date theyâll play between the back-to-back weekends of the 2012 Coachella festival.
As âHelloâ producer Solveig told Billboard earlier this year, the hit -- which sold 1.1 downloads in the U.S. -- âprobably got me to work with Madonna.â (He contributed to three tracks to the pop queenâs MDNA, including lead single âGive Me All Your Luvinââ -- though Sorbara says Dragonette never received a call from Madge, in turn. âMartin tried to get me in on the first single,â Sorbara says, revealing she recorded a demo of the song with her friend, Solveig. âI sang the part that Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. sing before they did,â she continues, âbut [Madonna] said I sounded too much like a child.â Sorbaraâs OK with it, though. âIf I was Madonna, I wouldâve chosen Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. too, probably, because theyâre really cool,â she laughs. âTheyâre more on the level, if you will.â)
And when it comes to the perks of being involved in âHello,â Sorbara says, âItâs brought our band and our voice all around the world. There has been virtually no downside -- apart from going into the album, and trying to write the record.â
About that: âHelloâ proved a bigger distraction than your average ear-worm. For one, a surprise hit brings an uptick in demand -- which led to an erratic schedule of short tours and one-off performances for much of the last year. âI think it would have been foolish of us not to go out with some of the opportunities that song created for us,â she says, âbut it meant not sticking yourself in studio in front of your computer and writing.â (She and husband/bandmate Kurtz recorded album no. 3 from home. âNo big, fancy studios. Thatâs not how we roll.â)
âHelloâ also meant good-bye to modest expectations. âOur manager was like âCOME ON,ââ Sorbara recalls, laughing, âAnd the labelâs like âSo, whatâs Dragonette up to?ââ And then there was the pressure coming from within the band, never mind the demands of Team Dragonette.
âI think after âHelloâ came out and was just kind of like everywhere, it just made us -- maybe it just made us be more conscious of what we were doing, and it just kind of changed the energy and maybe stressed us out a bit more,â says Sorbara. âWhen we started writing our record it was, âOK! That song was really good so, like, this next stuff better be good!ââ
No good came of setting that goal, though. âYou have to just turn all that off for a second, and just think about the album that you want to make,â says Sorbara. âOr not! Or just think about nothing and just write a f*cking song!â she adds with a giggle.
That moment came -- though not until eight or nine months ago.
Sorbara says sheâs a long-time Paul Simon fan. âI listened to Graceland obsessively, trying to think, âWhat if all these songs were dance songs?' â¦ I just thought of that album, imagined if it was rewritten as a dance album.â
Frankly, âLet It Goâ isnât exactly an homage to âDiamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.â (âI donât think I really ever executed it a tiny bit,â admits Sorbara -- though thereâs a melody featured in an online preview of album track, âGiddy Upâ that sounds like a straight up Simon-ism -- or at least a little something like the âdoo-doo-doosâ employed in âYou Can Call Me Alâ or âMe and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.â)
What Sorbara hit on was more of a mood -- one that wound up guiding the new record.
âI distinctly remember kind of feeling a little bit bored of the darkness and the dark club-ness of dance music -- in da club, gettingâ drunk -- just this kind of mentality of dance music being really, not seedy, but all about the nighttime, and the nightlife,â she says. âAnd I just thought, wouldnât it be amazing to write a sunshiny, synth-y, kind of dance record. Like, I donât even think that what we do is really pure dance music, but I just thought, wouldnât it be nice to bring this kind of music out into the fields. Out of the clubs and into a nice, green, meadow,â she giggles.
Certainly, the bubble and squeak of âHelloâ didnât evoke meat-market sleaze -- or even the prowling, man-eater persona of earlier Dragonette tracks like the spare, nymphomaniacal synth-pop of 2007âs âI Get Aroundâ or the brash, electro-pop come-ons of âFixin to Thrill.â
âI think weâve pushed it into a little bit of a different direction,â she says of the âchipperâ pop fans will find on Dragonetteâs third album. âThe mainstream has been tugging towards this, you know, electronic side of pop and now itâs even getting really heavy. F*cking Skrillex up for like 25 Grammys? Itâs amazing! The mainstream pop world is sounding more like the stuff we were doing then,â she says. âItâs like what I was saying about taking the dance music out of the club because itâs kind of boring. I think thatâs the place itâs in now, and I think thatâs how weâve moved on: by bringing it to the flowery meadow.â
Dragonette plays the The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival April 19. For more festival info, visit www.dose.ca/whistler