The resurgence of electro-pop music on VSS by the likes of Strings, Shamoon Ismail and an electrifying cover of the late Nazia Hassan’s ‘Boom Boom’ by Meesha Shafi, has fans in jovial spirits.
Sounds change every decade or so. It is how music has evolved. There are always listeners who do not enjoy newer shows because they feel like an imitation of the west. Some are purists who do not enjoy covers.
However, the purpose behind Velo Sound Station was to take pop music back to listeners around the country and beyond, and it did so digitally. The response (going by the numbers alone) is an acceptance of the show. Corporate-fuel music was a reality when releasing records on cassette was the norm as pop music began in Pakistan during its early days. It is happening again as independent artists are getting a slot in the same shows as ubiquitous artists who collectively makeup the top tier of the music scene. And that is the thing to celebrate.
The new always has the novelty factor so on with Velo Sound Station that counts Bilal Maqsood (of Strings) as executive producer and co-director (with Yasir Jaswal) of the digital music series. It shows the former’s courage to let others carry out his vision, whether as co-director or as song producer, especially when it is his composition and/ or additional words. And he is letting younger acts produce; another thing to celebrate.
Velo Sound Station has moved towards building an identity and it is getting there. In its first season, it has tried it with Aima Baig. Bilal Maqsood has attempted to create an identity for the singer beyond being known as a thrilling playback singer. She has sung for a multitude of films as a playback singer as well as gained millions of views on work beyond Coke Studio (where she has appeared on a number of occasions to success) and yet when you think of Aima Baig, playback singer comes to mind.
With her VSS release, ’Te Quiero Mucho’, the audio-visual is binary that is matching the flower she is wearing and though she isn’t live, her lip-synced performance sees her flirting, almost in an intimate fashion, that make her look like a potential pop singer of the future. It is a different show with lip-synced performances but most of the songs in the show are new.
Shamoon Ismail’s ‘Confetti’ elevates things from get-go. Shamoon produced the song himself because as Bilal Maqsood noted in an earlier interview that his sound is so different, letting him produce seemed like a better idea. And it was. Shamoon didn’t disappoint. Among the rising stars of Pakistani music, ‘Confetti’ is playful, electronic lo-fi beats akin to Shamoon’s individual sound and matches his earlier, addictive work where he sings about a relationship.
‘Pyaar Ka Rog’ by Strings is the deliverance of their best song since ‘Raat Shabnami’ and that is saying something because the latter was their most experimental release on Thirty.
While the composition belongs to Bilal Maqsood, the song is produced by Aag, lending itself to a darker tone. Even as the song continues to hold us in its grip, there is a problem.
‘Pyaar Ka Rog,’ it has been suggested, is a copy of ‘The Dark Side’ by Muse. However, if you listen to both, you realize that while the opening sounds somewhat similar, the two songs are different.
The third episode is just as much of a surprise.
Sara Haider and Uzair attempt to pull a part-Broadway and part-Oscars (‘Shallow’ performance by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) and though it does make you want to revisit ‘Shallow’ from the Oscars, it is, at minimum, an effort that is distinct from other shows. The song is not as commanding as ‘Shallow’ and that doesn’t work in its favour, though.
Abdullah Qureshi’s ‘Tu Aaja’ makes it better. His is a song that feels like an Abdullah Qureshi song and in that lies the success of VSS, which is not turning contemporary independent artists into something they are not. The song is compelling much like Abdullah Qureshi’s earlier releases.
VSS flies to the next level with Meesha Shafi’s electrifying cover of Nazia Hassan’s ‘Boom Boom’. She boomed it to a stratosphere that tells you what a dynamic performer she is and just how much joy she has brought to people across demographics. Her opening in English, featuring two beating hearts as the backdrop (among other equally cooler visuals) take the song to a whole other level.
If an 8-year-old child is as joyed as a 30-something, you know you have something special in your hands. The late Nazia Hassan is a treasure rediscovered by some for the very first time due to Shafi’s ‘Boom Boom.’
The problems are never the covers; it’s the ratio of covers and how they are recorded and presented.
Apart from Strings, it has also been suggested that Sara Haider and Uzair Jaswal’s collaboration, ‘Mere Dil Ne’ takes more than an inspiration from Michael Buble’s ‘Haven’t Met You’? The decision lies in the ears of the listener and what you could consider plagiarism may very well sound like inspiration and nothing more.
Criticism, particularly when a branded show appears, almost always follows. For one, despite showing people in masks in BTS footage, what VSS got wrong was having an audience, standing next to each other, without masks. If nothing else, it provides symbolism. Symbolism gives context. Context is meaningful. Are we sending the message that the select audience knows more than say a Doctor Fauci, snubbed by Trump and yet, a consistent source on what it means even if vaccines have been rolled out (in Britain). Here, VSS fumbled and one does hope that such a gigantic mistake is avoided in future series – if it comes back with another season and it should.