“Glorious" by Foxes
This is the third Foxes song GNJ has covered, and somewhere between the fourth or seventh single she’s had, depending on how you count things. But I still feel like aside from knowing that she’s into Florence Welch and Sia and has huge, sad eyes, I don’t know anything about her. Foxes seems to be wearing a different look every time we see her - the attempted social commentary of “Beauty Queen,” the carpe diem partier of “Let Go for Tonight,” and now the motivational singer of “Glorious”: there’s no thread connecting these songs to any sort of coherent personality, they might as well be by three different artists. There’s a commonality to the production, admittedly, but not enough to distinguish them from any number of other songs with similar influences - they demand a singer who can fashion them into a believable reality. And Foxes, for all the strength of her voice, so far hasn’t been able to manage. Her lyrics tend toward vagueness, an obstacle her vocal can’t muster the personality to overcome. Her oeuvre flails wildly, searching for a compelling through-line. I remain hopeful that she’ll get there - she’s got enough talent that I can’t help rooting for her - but it’s impossible for me to believe in Foxes’ songs when I can’t believe in Foxes.
There are two problems with “Glorious” and they merge to create an infinity loop of forgettability. First, Foxes is a beautiful voice with no personality, she’s reliant on her songwriters and producers to create an identity around her. Second, “Glorious” is a fine pop song, but it, too, lacks definition. This could be filler on almost any pop album released this year, it has the sign o’ the times and little else. The conundrum of Foxes brings two satellite performers to mind: Beyoncé and Kelli-Leigh. As an uncredited vocalist for Duke Dumont, recreating Whitney Houston’s and Toni Braxton’s voice so precisely that most listeners and critics don’t even consider the possibility that Dumont isn’t using samples, Kelli-Leigh might aspire to have Foxes career. Her voice is so powerful, already so capable of mimicking R&B greats that a feature on an EDM single could be all it takes to end the days of #pray4kellileigh. But as talented as Kelli-Leigh is, a memorable single requires a more fully formed presence. During a recent Reddit AMA, songwriter Linda Perry complained about Beyoncé's longstanding policy of claiming songwriting credits non-commensurate with her contributions. Beyoncé, like Foxes and Kelli-Leigh, requires a team to sustain her career momentum, but she stands in no one’s shadow. A Beyoncé song is immediately recognizable as her creation no matter what collaboration occurred beforehand; it’s an incredibly rare quality that speaks to her sheer force of will. When Coldplay use Avicii as a producer or Ariana Grande teams up with Zedd, the resulting songs have ragged Frankenstein seams matching the two halves together, but Beyonce can move from Sia to Boots to Pharrell without ever tapping the brake pedal. We can recognize “Pretty Hurts” as part of Sia’s oeuvre, but it’s never a possibility that the song could slot it on her 1000 Forms of Fear or Katy Perry’s Prism. And “Pretty Hurts” is album filler for Beyoncé! Linda Perry may be right to gripe about Beyoncé's insistence on an unfair share of royalties, but she's wrong to think that Beyoncé would ever entertain the possibility recording a song that wasn’t already hers (another example of this is Rihanna’s rejection of “Go,” written for her by Grimes, but so immediately not a Rihanna song that her decision is not only understandable but commendable).
Foxes is no longer on the first rung of the pop ladder, but she’s struggling to advance. Despite DV’s observation that her singles all sound like fresh attempts to establish her persona, most of the album coheres around a remarkably small group of songwriters and producers, all with a CV similar to Foxes’. Though it looks broken on the outside, this seems a better strategy than jumping ship for a big, generic hit from Ryan Tedder. After playing it safe on her debut, the Foxes team are free to throw out the blueprint and invent a new pop star from whole cloth. There’s no guarantee that they won’t double down on what’s not working, but Foxes is in a better position to course correct than, say, the previously mentioned Ariana Grande.