Having any expectations about music is usually a messy road to take. It can build your hopes too high, or colour your opinions. But when you hear of a collaboration between a Hollywood star turned oddball writer and art nerd and a cross dressing performance artist, you know it should be something out of the ordinary. Enter Turn It Up, the three song (and one remix) debut EP from Kalup Linzy and James Franco, with DJ /Rupture and his cohorts in the producer’s chair. Sadly, for all the weirdness gone into the EP, it comes out a fairly benign affair.
Opening track ‘Rising (Both Sides Now)’ is a promising start, a soulful R&B groove with defiant lyrics, as Linzy declares with determination “I’ll keep on rising”. Its stop start pacing and haunting background effects only add to its sleek vibe. Cardopusher’s remix of the track adds little, robbing it of what makes it great to turn it into a generic house number.
The other two tracks try to take similar leaps, but fall short. ‘Turn It Up (So We Can Turn It On)’ is a paean to the dance floor over a pulsing beat and funk bassline, while ‘Fly Away’ is synth led dance-pop with falsetto vocals and spoken word mumbling. The duo’s clumsy, amateurish vocal delivery and lyrics built on pop tropes (“DJ turn it up!”, “What if I told you I didn’t love you?”) heavily recalls the outsider pop of Ariel Pink. And just like with Pink, it’s impossible to know how serious to they should be taken. Are the music’s quirks genuine expressions of some artistic urge Franco and Linzy share, or are they mere affectations? That’s the million dollar question of this EP. Whatever the answer, its still an underwhelming first effort for a pairing with significant potential to so something not just weird, but also wonderful.