Most "skank" tracks don't really survive the transition from homemade youtube craze to proper crossover phenomenon. Fr3e's "Tribal Skank (Skank Calm Down)" being a case in point - when it was the soundtrack to a dozen amateur dance-offs it seemed like the best thing ever, but the eventual slick pro video clip immediately transformed it from gimmick-good to gimmick-bad, and it's hard now to hear it with the same enthusiasm and fondness I once held (the annoying extra vocals didn't help, admittedly). Why does "Stick Up" work in the opposite fashion? Well maybe it's because the video is just awesome, a weird and unexpectedly successful melange of high-tech alien futurism, high street humour and dance instruction class. Such a triumph of little details: the girls dancing in the shiny tops with the overexposed lights streaking across them is maybe my favourite music video visual this year.
Its glittery video also helps "Stick Up" pass some credibility test that I didn't even think I believed in. Skank tracks - with their basic "nursery grime" chants and rudimentary or outright pirated grooves - attract all the kinds of criticism you would expect: made in 2 minutes, no soul no feeling, blah blah blah. I don't truck with this, but nonetheless it's difficult not to feel like their cheery populism is slightly wasted when the tunes are too literally cheap to appeal to a pop audience weaned on high-tech production values and glamorous photo shoots. "Stick Up" as a tune could go both ways. On the one hand, with a homemade dance routine video it sounds like a defiantly unprofessional mishmash of R&B signifiers, funky beats and the tune from Faithless' "Insomnia". Plus as near as I can tell the accompanying dance routine is rather too straightforward.
On the other, it really is impeccably produced: there's such a widescreen vibe to it, the bass when it drops is just so lugubrious and doom laden, and in this context the Faithless synth riffs sound exotic as much as anthemic (plus it's made me go back to "Insomnia" itself - better than I remember!). The mixture is kinda inspired. Funky is probably the only house-related sub-genre in which sampling "Insomnia" wouldn't sound obvious as well as corny, and where its corniness might become a strong point in the song's favour. If "Stick Up" does well in the charts (highly unlikely as that prospect may seem) it would be a vindication for that disaster-courting magpie tendency. If, as is more likely, it doesn't do well, it'll still be a glitzy and glamourous minor classic in my book. Plus how cool is it that Dotstar looks a lot like Green Velvet at times.