British singer-songwriter Neon Hitch has been floating around the music circuit for about two years, shelling out back-to-back number one singles. Her official debut was the Sia-penned buzz single “Get Over U” which had a moderate impact on pop and adult contemporary charts in early 2011. After wading in the water for such a long time, the release of her first EP ‘Happy Neon’ is a great follow-up to the unfinished promo for her debut album ‘Beg, Borrow, Steal’. Serving as a proud representative of the LGBT community, Neon’s mainstream success has been keenly noticed by music critics, giving her a steady audience of #heavyhitter followers like no other new artist has had before. As she takes a slight turn towards hip-hop and ditches her #britpop roots, Hitch’s ‘Happy Neon’ is a brave, groundbreaking introduction to her artistry and overall Gemini persona.
“Pink Fields” explores notions of home and belonging, as Neon questions her place in her lover’s domain. She asks the open question “will I stay here or will I go home”, most likely due to a troubled relationship. The ethereal beat mixed with the pulsing drum backdrop displays Neon’s parallel with ease. Songwriting for Neon is more like metaphorical storytelling – you have to engage with the lyrics in order to truly grasp the artist’s message. The idea of “Pink Fields” is an ode to Neon’s #trippyhippy image – while fields are normally green, the unlikely color change represents euphoria to her – and adds a darkness to her somewhat happy undertones.
“Midnight Sun” follows the hip-hop trend with a seductive melody and a verse that’s bound to be quoted everywhere:
he wanna fuck me like a rock star
the Beatles said all you need is love
but I feel empty as this minibar
and in the morning I’m hungover you
As Neon’s metaphorical title implies, here the sun is indeed as dark at midnight. Fucking and emptiness go hand-in-hand, especially if one person has more feelings than others. Fucking is also usually done at night, so the “sun” emphasis is most likely a node to being “Wide Awake” like Katy Perry. The message here may be up for interpretation, but Neon’s vocals are cut and dry. Her effortless and near perfect higher register works well over the beat, and when the chorus pulses in, it’s like “Gold” all over again. While the song is much shorter than it appears (4:04) because of its sampled dialogue at the beginning and end, but the ad-libs after her two verses are definitely replayable. The Beatles reference is also superb, and plays on Neon’s overall image as an intellectual songwriter with somewhat unknowing sexual undertones.
“Believe” starts off with a sample from ‘The Wizard’ and rides a Dr.Dre-esque melody. As hard as the beat goes, Neon’s songwriting goes even harder. The song starts with (yet) another reference to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and the chorus cleverly interpolates the classic. Referring to the same Beatles song back-to-back is slightly problematic, but what other artist could do so with Neon’s level of credibility? Towards the end, the guitar comes in and adds a dramatic flair over the “I do believe, I do believe in…” sample. But for me, the penultimate moment of “Believe” is when she name-drops the #geminiholiday that we share (May 25) – a genuine moment in her #openbook songwriting.
“Jailhouse” brings comedy to the EP as Neon sings about her innocence and wanting to be free – but from who (or what)? Neon coyly sings “locked up and they lost the key, I’m mad as fuck / cuz right now I’d be on album three, I keep begging but no / they won’t let me go” as a bold reference to freedom from her major label (Warner Bros). The song continues and takes a slight reggaeton slant as she metaphorically reminisces on the many delays behind her debut album ‘Beg, Borrow, Steal’. While the subject matter is already questionable for #labelpolitics, Neon gets much more direct when she adds “I’m sick of sleeping on the shelf, I gave you ‘Gold’ but I ain’t giving you nothing else, so keep on moving slow, I’ll do it on my own” – ouch. It’s almost as if “Jailhouse” is her trial to her label to release her music. She’s given the mainstreamers three singles, two of which have gone straight to number one (“Fuck U Betta”, “Gold” featuring Tyga) on the Billboard charts, but still no album in sight. If I were her, I’d be pissed off too.
“Born To Be Remembered” is, without any question, the true gem of the ‘Happy Neon’ EP. Not only is it the biggest standout, it’s the song with the most commercial appeal as well. Here, Neon seeks to connect emotionally with her fanbase, and do so unlike any of her previous releases to date. The vocals during the verses aren’t perfect in any way, but the melodic chorus is one that…unforgettable. “Forget me not, when I’m gone, cuz I was born, born to be, born to be remembered” sings a powerful Neon to both her lovers and haters alike. The urban beat (definitely fit for more of a rap song) paired with its cleverly placed profanity throughout (“whatever’s your gift, use that shit wisely”) makes for an exceptionally strong closing to a collectively strong set.
As a whole (and ironically only five songs), ‘Happy Neon’ is better than most of the full-length releases in the last few years. Lately, it seeks that every #britEP showcases a unique genre of artistry. Whether it’s quirky songwriting, new-age vocals on vintage-esque tracks, or even risky genre-mashing, British artists always bring something fresh to their “American” plates. In Neon’s case, she’s shaken the table, put it back in place, and rode it into the sunlight with ‘Happy Neon’. Most artists wouldn’t dare publicly talk about their label drama, let alone put it “on wax” for the world to interpret. Hitch, who is openly gay, chose rightfully to not mention her sexuality on her latest EP. While other LGBT artists seem to bank by discussing their sexual minorities, Neon chose a more realistic route with ‘Happy Neon’, and it’s a route that’s sure to be praised by critics for many years to come.
Download Neon Hitch’s ‘Happy Neon’ EP HERE.