Best New Music: Aluna, Prettyboy D-O & Kooldrink’s “Nowhere to Hide” is resonant & buoyant
A supple 'Piano jam
A supple 'Piano jam
Maybe Dance music is really enjoying a moment of mainstream revitalisation. Maybe it’s all a kneejerk reaction to the latest releases from two of music’s biggest stars—Drake’s vaunted dance album and Beyoncé’s instant return to ubiquity with a NOLA Bounce slapper. Whatever the case, perhaps the most important part of the current dance music hype is the proper recognition of its roots, as a sonic form pioneered by black, queer musical inventors.
Due to its widespread co-opting and, to be a little blunt, whitewashing, the foundational contribution of black musicians to dance music, and its undying significance to queer folks across the world, has been obfuscated over the decades. For those in the know, though, that history is unimpeachable. Speaking to Vogue, British singer, producer and DJ Aluna detailed her reverence for the early heroes of dance music, stating that one of the objectives of her 2020 debut LP, ‘Renaissance’, was to “champion the Black women who were the foundations of dance music, and who were either exploited or forgotten.”
Aluna achieves that intent by taking up space as a solo act, after years of being part of the dance-fusion duo AlunaGeorge. Across the fourteen tracks of her debut album, the singer centres herself and her expansive musical tastes, with dance music as the foundation but also taking on several rhythmic forms across the Black diaspora. That global outlook and obvious curiosity extends to Afropop: Rema made an appearance on ‘Renaissance’ standout, “The Recipe”, and Aluna tapped Tekno for last summer’s remix of “Don’t Hit My Line”.
On her latest single, “Nowhere to Hide”, Aluna collaborates with Nigerian rap/dancehall iconoclast, Prettyboy D-O, and South African producer Kooldrink. Together, the trio unite for a glossy and bubbly cut musically defined by Amapiano. In the last three years, the South African-originated dance subgenre has become insanely ubiquitous, holding the attention of listeners in (and beyond) its local country, forming the basis of experimentations across Afropop, and proving to be consistently intriguing as producers add new elements or unveil older layers to the sound. Aluna’s novel foray into ‘Piano, as a vocal artist and producer, wholesomely plays into this offshoot of dance music.
Kooldrink, the song’s co-producer, is, amongst other credits, widely known for helming Tyla’s Amapiano-pop smash, “Getting Late”, and his touch here is unmistakeable. This time around, he shares production duties with Aluna and Jaydon Lewis, but the template is clear. “Nowhere to Hide” is a rendering of ‘Piano at its most supple: the wide baseline, thudding bass, tantalising bass guitar riff, soft piano chord, and several electronic synth chirps, all uniting for a head-turning, shoulder-twisting groove. The lush arrangement perfectly pairs with Aluna’s porcelain voice, as she mulls over expressing romantic sentiments with the fear of unrequited love loudly lurking around.
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In addition to the euphoric high it provides, dance music has always been a form for singers express and work through relatable emotions, especially the complicatedness of yearning for romantic connection. With an established preference for bracing sincerity, Aluna sings of a feeling that’s immediately familiar, her first person perspective writing and wondrous voice perfectly capturing that oscillation between confessional desperation and stopping yourself from being desperate. “Nowhere to Hide” is a Cinderella story, though, where being expressive leads to reciprocity.
Prettyboy D-O, who’s fashioned himself as the occasionally tender and raunchy heartthrob, plays his role to perfection. He offers companionship with commitment, stating his readiness to give up “some loving or that S-E-X.” In his remarkable appearance, he switches his vocal delivery a few times, playing it straight down the middle at first before entering a double-time flow in that trademark, patois-inflected cadence, then rounding it out by mirroring Aluna’s melody on the hook.
Thematically, “Nowhere to Hide” is resonant; musically, it’s a buoyant jam. It hits all the right notes in a time where many of us are romantically jaded—for the fear of “breakfast”—and also relish the (somewhat) post-pandemic opportunity to take to the dancefloor.
Listen to “Nowhere to Hide” here.