Pulses * Karmin * Pop * March 25, 2014

Meeting at the Berkley College of Music in Boston, Amy Renee Heidemann and Nicholas Louis “Nick” Noonan teamed up in 2010 and began performing together under the moniker Karmin.  Karmin got its major exposure on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.  This led to the group’s cover of Chris Brown’s Look At Me Now being the topic of major discussion on Reddit and that led to major label deal with Epic records.  Their first album, Hello, underperformed (based on the buzz surrounding them), but that could have been due to the limited digital release of the album.  Still, the album spawned Brokenhearted, which reached the top ten in New Zealand and the United Kingdom and the top twenty in the United States.

Now, after a brief hiatus, the duo reappears with their second major label release, Pulse.  Can it live up to the potential that many saw in their YouTube covers?

1.  Geronimo Intro – This acapella intro really lets you know what you are in for when it comes to the totality of the album.  Well-sung harmonies draw you in, but immediately upon listening to what they are saying, you will be let down.  Catchy phrases like Get on with the dum-dum-diddy and Everybody get low make up the bulk of the lyrics but seem to only be filler phrases to make the song more memorable, which it is not.

2.  Pulses – We immediately get into what Karmin got the bulk of its notoriety for, being able to rap well, and well…they don’t.  While Heidermann has a knack for imitating the flows of rappers Busta Rhymes and Nicki Minaj, she has no rap identity of her own.  The other downfall of the nearly three-and-a-half minute song is that it repeats the same lyrics over and over again.  There are, at max, a total of 16 non-similar bars in the entire song.  For a song that is about how Karmin’s music is meant to get the listener hype, it fails miserably.

3.  Acapella – The song is supposed to be about a woman that has unsatisfying relationships and has decided to move on alone.  While the concept is good, one verse focuses on a relationship about money with no love and the other the opposite, the execution is majorly lacking.  Heidermann attempts the sing-songy flow style of rappers like Ty Dolla $ign and Drake, but it doesn’t come off well, sounding more like she is making fun of the genre than paying homage to it.  The song is lyrically lacking as well, with many of the lines sounding like they were put in to sound cute and, instead, coming of unabashedly shallow.

4.  I Want it All – Definitely one of the better songs on the album, it is obvious why this song served as the first single from this album.  The production here shines with a danceable, 70’s-esque beat and Heidermann isn’t sounding like she’s smirking throughout her vocals.  By no means memorable, the song serves it purpose as being something to get people to on the floor and moving.

5.  Night Like This – The first song to feature vocals by Noonan, this song is about the perfect party night.  Unfortunately, again, the lyrics here range from predictable to bad: So watch me do my dance/My liquid confidence/Has got me bumping/Got me jumping out my party pants are an example of what awaits the listener.  The production of the song itself doesn’t help, the guitar that accompanies the bulk of the verses forces the listener to pay attention to what they are saying and the rock/pop styled beat seems at odds with the content overall.

6.  Neon Love – A ballad about ending love, there is nothing memorable about this song.  The production and lyrics simply…are; they exist for the five minutes that the songs plays and leave nothing behind when it is over.  If you can accuse the other songs of the album of trying to wedge memorable lines into songs to make them catchy, this song does the exact opposite.  The verses themselves are only about four lines apiece, each consisting of a haiku-ish poetry delivery that doesn’t quiet work with the long lines of the bridge and chorus.

7.  Drifter – A song about not being tied down, this song has one of the oddest productions I have heard in a long time.  Stuttering synth beats teamed with reggae/rock riffs are a little confusing to the ears.  There is an overzealousness that seems to take over the track and you start wondering if it, and Karmin, are trying too hard.  The lyrics are atrocious: If the world can be my oyster/Then it’s high time to explore/I’ll be soaking up my problems/As I leave them at the shore.  While this song makes serviceable poppy dance music, it is really nothing else.

8.  Tidal Wave – A mid-tempo ballad, I’m not exactly sure what this song is about.  While at times the song seems to be about enduring the turbulence of a relationship, other times it sounds like two people explaining why their love has ended, with the fist verse not really focusing on either proposition.  Again, laced with oh-oh-oh’s to grab the ears of the pop audience, parts of the production sound too upbeat for the subject matter and other parts sound as if the beat stepped out for a cigarette.

9.  Gasoline – With a production that sounds like a leftover from one of No Doubt’s older albums, the song is about two people being hot of each other.  The chorus is undoubtedly catchy and Noonan’s vocals are good change of pace from the previous tracks, but just like I Want it All, the song is nothing memorable despite being one of the few listenable tracks.

10. Puppet – Another confusing production choice, this song is memorable because it’s so bad.  The lyrics, in what is obviously a constant for this album, are all over the place.  What could have been excused as too much adherence to pop choruses and lines in other songs goes completely off the rails here, with vocals that will make passersby think you’re having a stroke if you listen to it on your headphones because of the faces you’ll be making: Don’t gotta be so hard to handle/Why you puttin’ all the games on me/No I don’t wanna do it Rambo/But you know I’ll do whatever/Cut you off the first offender.  This song will have you grateful that this experience is almost over.

11. Hate To Love You – A confusing title choice, since the metaphor for the song is being locked away in someone’s love, but I will admit there is better consistence to the lyrical content here than on any other song on the album.  Noonan does a good job on the verses (although the first note he belts out is a little off) and Heidermann does a passible Nicki Minaj impression on the bridges.  What takes this down a notch is the production; it’s very generic.  There is nothing about the beatwork that makes it seem like this was not something that someone tossed their way and they just wrote some lyrics to.  On a better album, this song would be seen as filler to round out the tracks; on this album, it leaves the listener perplexed about the obvious talent going to waste.

12. Try Me On – At first listen, I swore that this was a remix to a song that I heard earlier on this album.  About halfway through the first verse, I realize it was because it was a remix of all the songs on the album.  Heidermann imitating Nicki Minaj’s flow, the hey-hey-hey’s in the background, and the overeager drums are all elements that appear multiple times throughout the album to the point where it’s starting to sound like it’s repeating itself.  A song about taking a chance to get to know someone, it is danceable-and not much else.

13. What’s In it For Me – The last song on the album, this sounds a lot like Acapella in concept and execution.  A harken back to the 90’s hip-hop/pop songs that were better than this, the lyrics are (again) littered with catchy phrases that mean anything and repetitive phrasing that makes you tune out.  The production is not bad here, just nothing new (even for this album).  Again, danceable but forgettable.

This is what we are left with: this album is awful.  Bad lyrics, off-kilter production, uneven vocals, if you have a chance to get this for $1.99 during an Amazon MP3 sale, you would probably still want your money back.  It is a shame, too, because Heidermann and Noonan seem as if they have something to offer, but for now it seems like what they are best at offering is imitations of better artists.

Rating: 1.5