By now, if you have any passing interest in pop music and pop culture you’ll probably know that Daphne and Celeste have returned. You’ll also probably fall into 1 of 4 camps.
1. The excited ‘YES!!!’ camp.
2. The not so excited ‘NO’ camp.
3. The camp of ‘who the f*ck are Daphne and Celeste?’
4. The bemused and questioning 'why are Daphne and Celeste getting so much on line exposure?' camp.
This short post is for those of you in that last camp who are shrugging their shoulders and looking puzzled.
If you’re in the ‘who the f*ck’ camp, that is what Google was invented for.
We’re going to have a stab at explaining why we think there was a little bit of commotion yesterday about the duo’s ‘unexpected’ comeback with Daphne and Celeste and in particular why they were featured on sites such as Pitchfork, NME and Drowned In Sound, who you wouldn’t normally expect to cover such pop artists.
We use the word unexpected in inverted commas because we’re not that surprised about this comeback; after all Celeste put out a song with Kent Odessa back in 2013 (listen here). Therefore the chances of a reunion was always a possibility - pop hadn’t been completely shunned by the two women.
If you're one of today's internet generation who has a really short attention span, then we've made this post easy for you - all you really need to do is read the 4 headings below.
1. Nostalgia and the desire for more individuality in pop. (Individuality is easier to write about).
Right now a lot of people are pretty tired of the homogeneity of pop music. As Bob Stanley wrote in his thoroughly excellent book The Story Of Modern Pop: “The first flush of the pick ‘n’ mix digital era has led to many of pop’s biggest names appearing on each other’s records: Rihanna and Coldplay; JLS and Tinie Tempah; Katy Perry and Kanye West: David Guetta and Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj. Whilst the possibilities of merging R&B, hip hop, eurobeat and rave had seemed thrilling, the results have largely been a generic blur of unchallenging rhythms and predictable song structures – the Top 40 has never sounded more samey…”
It’s because of that tiredness that when a band from the past (be it an indie rock group like Sleater Kinney or a pop duo like Daphne and Celeste) make some sort of comeback, people who remember them get very excited, because they represent a time when pop music sounded more individualistic, both musically and also lyrically.
We now live in an age of political correctness where most people are highly aware of the way that their comments and opinions might affect others, particularly when published online. The consequence of this is that musicians have become too scared to sing about anything that isn’t safe and therefore potentially career damaging. It’s why we get a lot of songs about being ‘in da club’ and other such beige lyrics, typically along the lines of 'girl I want you...'. Daphne and Celeste come from a different era, when there was no fear in singing a song like U.G.L.Y “You're so fat and ugly with a belly full of flab, when you wear a yellow coat people shout out cab,” they yelped with glee. Unpolitically correct and hurtful? Yep – but with those sort of songs and their reputation for doing crazy stupid interviews that compared to today’s media trained pop bores seemed off the hook and ridiculously career damaging, it’s no wonder that on their return websites want to feature them, because they make good copy.
2. Their Reading Festival bottling legitimised Daphne and Celeste as having some sort of cool. Therefore it's OK for Pitchfork to write about them.
Daphne and Celeste were an anomaly in the world of manufactured pop. Somehow they got themselves on the bill of Reading Festival 2000 (apparently because they wanted to meet Eminem) and got bottled, which was unsurprising at that time given the partisan nature of the Reading crowd, a few years later they did the same to 50 Cent, giving rise to debate on if those who participated were sexist and racist. Although in no way was there same amount of debate that would probably occur if this happened now. If you’ve never seen the footage of Daphne and Celeste powering their way through the bottles do take a look here. This perseverance gave them some sort of credibility with the music press. Here were two young women standing up to a barrage of abuse from a bunch of (mainly) neanderthal men and not giving in. This indie credibility carried through to the end of 2000. The now defunct Melody Maker put Daphne and Celeste’s album in their end of year top 50 – higher in the top 50 in fact than the likes of Sleater Kinney.
3. They had a cheesy bubblegum pop sound that has become oddly hip over the last few years.
Daphne and Celeste’s songs U.G.L.Y and Ooh Stick You hit one of the most important buttons of pop on the head; they’re utterly memorable. Good or bad – that’s for your taste to decide, but you only have to hear the songs once for them to stick. But they were more than that. They set a template for a number of other pop acts with their cartoon sound.
Some of you will probably remember Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud - we got very excited about her debut album. Take a listen to the chorus of her song Beat Of My Drum. At the time we named it one of our singles of the year and stated “It’s both gleefully cool with its reference points (Justice, Diplo) yet unashamedly cheesy at the same time (Daphne and Celeste).” We weren’t the only ones to love the N-Robz. Even the likes of Sean Adams from Drowned In Sound spouted off about what a good record her album was. Now in the last 12 months we’ve had the chipmunk sound of Hey QT via PC Music (a record we’re not fond of) and the brilliance of Petite Meller’s Baby Love (with its lo-fi Lady Gaga does Children In Need video) both of which have some elements of the near childlike wonky playfulness that Daphne and Celeste displayed. Of course these records may not have been in any way influenced by Daphne and Celeste but there’s been plenty of discussion on websites (not just the pop websites, but the indie ones as well) about those records, so why shouldn’t Daphne and Celeste be subject to the same discussion?
4. Clever marketing – a Sunday release / embargo
But here’s what we think the main reason is. There was a clever bit of promo going on here. First their song is recorded with Max Tundra, his first production to surface for around seven years. In fact this is really a Max Tundra project featuring guest vocals from Daphne and Celeste. Second, it’s a half decent tune – very different from Daphne and Celeste of old. (We particularly like the footsteps beat). It's a bit artier and has no whiff of naffness. Next, the parties involved were all very willing to talk to the press about the song (keep in mind what we said about individuality being easier to write about). But most importantly, there appeared to be an embargo in place for releasing the song / interviews and that was for a Sunday - a day when hit hungry websites have very little new content.
Sunday is a very quiet day for hit hungry new content music websites – we probably get 20 or 30 emails on a Sunday about new music releases compared with the 150-250 / day we get on Monday to Friday. If this song had been pushed out on a Tuesday afternoon we suspect it would have only picked up coverage from pure pop websites. Timing for this release was everything.
Daphne And Celeste - You And I Alone