Benny Benassi. He's the man from Reggio Emilia who's been recently creeping his way into the mainstream flow, courtesy of collaborations with bigger names like apl.de.ap (of The Black Eyed Peas), T-Pain, and Chris Brown. Well, he's back with a whole new electro-house album called "Electroman". I wasn't a big fan of his previous album, "Rock 'n' Rave", though; it was a bit too bland for my taste (though pretty much every album with his name on it has felt that way). Surprisingly though, his work under the Benassi Bros. alias has been superb. But how does "Electroman" fare in comparison to previous work ...or by itself?
First of all, I have absolutely no idea why there's a constellation of a banana on the cover of this album. What does that have to do with anything? Seems like a sexual innuendo to me, although there isn't too much sexuality on the album. Maybe Benny Benassi just likes bananas. They ARE a good source of potassium AND manganese, after all.
I suppose the "second of all" is now the actual album, and after a couple of complete listens, I have to say that overall, I didn't walk away very impressed with the majority of the songs. There simply hasn't been much in terms of musical evolution in the house of Benassi over the past few years. There weren't enough catchy hooks and/or deep lyrics and concepts to declare this an amazing work of art. Instead, what has come about is a collection of orthodox electro-house songs. Of course, it's not as though I didn't see this coming. Granted, some of it SOUNDS good, such as the introductory track, Good Girl, but once you start really listening, you can tell that there aren't too many ideas being presented here; instead, the focus is on cool-sounding instruments. It's nice to sound good, but it's more important to have something worth sounding good, and that's where the album lacks its heart.
There are signs of inspiration, such as in Rather Be, which features the vocal talents of Shanell (and I use the word 'talents' loosely, because she's not actually a great singer). It's full of energy and it DOES have a catchy chorus, one that managed to burrow its way into my brain briefly. Similarly speaking is Spaceship, the lead single featuring Kelis, apl.de.ap, and Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately for this track, aside from Kelis' vocal hook, the song is a bit of a mess. Electro just doesn't work out for the best here; it was actually much better when remixed by EDX and given a more laid-back trance vibe. I suggest seeking out that version first.
One of the more surprisingly well-done collaborations is on Beautiful People, featuring the vocals of that worldly well-known R&B star, Chris Brown. Benny Benassi doesn't bring out his hardcore electro synths for this one, being content with holding back with a relatively more subdued set of instrumentals, and the benefits of this are immediately apparent. Not only do the vocals of Chris Brown make this song shine (though they don't sound much like any of his other works), the aforementioned relaxed background music is actually the most mature thing from Benassi in a while. Easily an album highlight. My House, again featuring Jean-Baptiste, follows this up, but it doesn't seem to spark much pleasure in the synapses. It reminds me of the album filler David Guetta used to make... and probably still does.
Next, we're kicked directly in the ass muscles by the surprisingly loud House Music. Though cheaply produced, it may just be the catalyst to make a crowd get up and shake some fannies. Or it may just be the most annoying and monotonous track released this year. There's no middle ground here: it's either one or the other. But after four minutes of experiencing that audio monster, we're met up with a demon of another sort: Cinema featuring Gary Go. If you like music made by a band of clean-cut men in argyle vests with slicked hair, you'll love the sound of "Cinema". It's basically a clash between an electro-house track and that weird indie rock that's currently in style. I don't get it. I don't want to. It's not "wuss rock"... it's whatever Franz Ferdinand was. What was that? ..."Art rock"? Seriously? ...anyway, do I like the song? No, I think it's rather dull by comparison. It only became a single because of the relative popularity of Gary Go in the UK.
This album has also grabbed the attention of hip-hop enthusiasts, not only for the inclusion of Chris Brown, but also for an appearance by auto-tune afficionado T-Pain in Electroman, an electro-trance tune that makes you feel like you're floating in space. After the first listen or two, it lost its edge entirely, and now I don't care for it anymore. Quite frankly, any song in which T-Pain's vocals are prominently featured eventually becomes little more than a novelty, and that's what has happened here. And so we move on...
Automatic B starts right out of the gate with an obnoxious beeping noise and fails to really get rid of it. In fact, the entire song is based around a grating and irritating high-pitched synth that never goes away when you need it most. In fact, when Benny layered multiple beeps on top of each other, you just want to slice your own ears off right then and there. This track should've been removed from the album and left floating in a toilet bowl. Damn, this is bad. There's also no cohesive transition to the next song, Control, which sounds more like a gospel recording mixed with pretty standard dance beats. I guess I'll recommend this one to people who like to... dance in church? Oh, and this one also features Gary Go, but he's slightly more approachable here.
Benny Benassi then collaborates with long-time buddy, the Italian singer, Dhany, as he has done many times over with his Benassi Bros. moniker, for Leave This Club Alone. Unlike the Bros.' productions, however, this one is surprisingly bland. If generic electro-house music is what you seek, look no further than this one (though there's plenty out there). Close To Me featuring the vocal talents of none other than Gary Go is yet another splash of electro-pop similar to that which we've already seen a few times over on the album. Still, I feel that there aren't any major elements to really differentiate this track from any other. Man, Benny Benassi sure loves that Gary Go fellow. Don't know why, though; he sure doesn't sound any different than most other male pop stars. To close out the album, we have Cinema (Skrillex Remix), which really twists things up with a variety of neat audio effects, trance influences, and stuttering breakbeats. It's definitely an improvement over the original and another recommendation on the album, if I have to make them. Also is a "live" track called All The Way featuring the Ying Yang Twins. It's goofy hip-hop that barely uses any of Benny Benassi's talents. That is all.
While there are a few good tunes on this album, ultimately it's a trip through tedium. Such has been the way with all other albums under the "Benny Benassi" name, though not as much as his debut album, "Hypnotica". Now THAT was the pure definition of tedium. If I have to recommend anything, it would be to skip this one unless you're a severe Benassi and/or electro-house fan and seek out either Benassi Bros. album, though preferably the second one entitled "...Phobia". That one contains pretty much the best that the Benassi boys have ever released, and they are proof that Benny Benassi (and his producing cousin, Alle Benassi) DO have the ability to create a wild record. They just didn't try hard enough this time... and they used WAY too much Gary Go.