Pulses, the duo’s debut album, is a showcase of what this YouTube sensation can do in the studio. With a major label behind them, and great producers at the helm including Nate Motte (3OH!3) and Grammy Award winning duo, The Messengers (Justin Bieber, Shakira and Pitbull), the Berklee Music College graduates and real-life couple are in a prime position to deliver a great pop album.
In 2010 Karmin became a Youtube sensation, performing their unique covers of Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown hits on TV across America. From their first release in 2011, much has changed for Karmin. They have moved from YouTube covers to releasing their own music, signed to major label Epic Records and Amy is a blonde. One thing is still the same, big pop hooks and big voices.
With an acapella intro, Pulses pulls you in and reminds you that Karmin is a powerfully voiced duo with raw talent. However, the first half of the album is a repetitive, blah as one song blends into another. However, singles ‘I Want It All’ and ‘Acapella’, are highlights, the quirky pop/hip-hip hybrid and clever songwriting (“thought he was gluten-free, but all I got was bread”) is what could make Karmin a pop powerhouse.
Karmin are at their best when there is great production behind them and a catchy chorus, ‘I Want It All’ (co-written with Esther Dean, writer for Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj) and Puppet (co-written with electro-pop duo 3OH!3) come to mind. Nick Noonan becomes more than the face behind the keyboard on this album, he has pipes and they are finally put to use on this album.
Common pop themes of heartbreak, such as ‘Neon Love’, and partying, ‘Night Like This’, are in full view from beginning to end. Still, there is something missing from the album as a body of work, aesthetic unity. Most songs rely on repetition and lacklustre lyrics, clichés of “you know what I mean” are dropped consistently.
Despite Amy’s rap skills being what sets Karmin apart from most pop entities, her weak bars and Nicki Minaj-like tone become annoying after few songs yet it is present in most. As it goes on, it seems that the music gets louder and loses focus. The boredom sets in fast and then there are only weak tongue-in-cheek party tracks and ballads void of emotion left.
While there are a few highlights, this Flo Rida pop is ultimately hollow and dated. Pop is an ever-evolving genre, and they struck while the iron was cooling down. This album should have been out 18 months ago when Karmin was on every news outlet and their singles were still charting well.