Available on: Colombia 12″
At some point in the last year, The Powers That Be decided that Magnetic Man, the trio of dubstep veterans Artwork, Skream and Benga, would become big, if probably not quite huge. NME editor Krissi Murison claimed this would happen in an interview given weeks after taking that post last year, long before her or anyone had the chance to hear Magnetic Man’s forthcoming album for Colombia. And you’d think if any journalist would have inside information from The Powers That Be, it’d be the editor of the NME.
‘I Need Air’ is the first single from the aforementioned Magnetic Man album, and there’s one major problem: I just don’t see how it gets big. I mean, I won’t be surprised if it does, but I can’t find a basis for it. You don’t need me to run through the past resumes of Skream, Benga or Artwork – each of them left a unique mark on the recent history of UK dance music, and they’ve each been responsible for some of the best dubstep and garage singles of the last decade. And you probably don’t need me to tell you how good past Magnetic Man material’s been, particularly the grinding ‘The Cybermen’ and the buzzing funk stomp of ‘Is Everything Cool?’ But this? I don’t see where the appeal lies.
Magnetic Man’s target audience clearly stretches beyond a dubstep crowd, and beyond the individual audiences of Skream and Benga’s solo work. And good on them for reaching a point in their careers where they can do that. But ‘I Need Air’, a track that owes far more to trance than it does to dubstep, just seems like a weak introduction to a group that could represent something genuinely new to a lot of people. Musically there’s nothing fresh about it: the drums are feeble compared to say, Benga’s recent ‘Baltimore Clap’ single, and the melodies feel like chart trance without ever really going for it in the same way that big trance chart toppers do. There’s no climax or catharsis to ‘I Need Air’, it just bubbles, and it’s not particularly interesting while doing so. The vocal’s okay, nothing more.
Maybe the problem at the heart of ‘I Need Air’ is that Magnetic Man are trying to make a chart-topper without trying to be crude about it, without going Hell for leather like chart-topping dance music does. As a result, we’re left with something that’s neither subtle, smart and thrilling, as the best Skream, Benga and Artwork tracks are, nor seismic enough to give people who’ve never heard of dubstep a new end of the night favourite.
Of course, chances are I’m wrong, and ‘I Need Air’ spends Summer of 2010 completely ubiquitous. But I’ll still be slightly confused about how it did it, when the infinitely better ‘Wearing my Rolex’ didn’t make number one.