In some ways it seems almost cruel that Romy has chosen the year of our Lord 2020 to release a song with mega-chops quite like ‘Lifetime’. This track begs to be blasted across sticky basement dancefloors – it’s something of a travesty that her debut track won’t get an early-hours airing at a debauched haunt like east London’s Dalston Superstore this side of the New Year.
She’s best known as one silky-voiced third of The xx, and Romy Madley-Croft’s career was built on artful minimalism and empty spaces – the band’s 2009 debut album ‘xx’ was expertly crafted, intimate alt-pop. Subsequent records saw the London trio gradually embracing dancier climes, a development largely credited to the creative leanings of their in-band producer Jamie XX and his clubby 2015 solo album ‘In Colour’. It led to a more outward-gazing and warmer iteration of The XX on their third album ‘I See You’: the Hall & Oates-sampling ‘On Hold’ and parping and skittering ‘Dangerous’ are easily among their best work to date.
And, pogoing along on a bassline that may as well be a mutant cousin of Vengaboys, her new solo song ‘Lifetime’ appears to draw liberal influence from ’90s Eurodance icons La Bouche, Haddaway and Culture Beat, and puts forward a message of togetherness that feels even more vital given the current global situation. A hulking slab of sherbet escapism, it’s essentially an end-times love song on a substantial quantity of pingers: “If this world comes to an end, I wanna be there with you,” she sings. Put simply: it’s a masterclass in pandemic pop, and an immensely promising taster of her forthcoming full-length album, which is out, she says, “soon”.
Though the beats are definitely heftier than that of her output with The xx, her voice has retained its confiding softness. As with Robyn’s ‘Honey’ or Jessie Ware‘s ‘What’s Your Pleasure’, this is the kind of dance music that simultaneously gives you a big cuddle; despite all its synthetic components, it sounds syrupy and warm.
On the evidence of this new single, you could speculate that Romy was another major driving force behind The xx’s directional shift to dancier material. Before joining the band, she was a 17-year-old DJ spinning tunes in a Soho gay bar. Last year she was on the bill at Homobloc, a new queer Manchester club night set up by the team behind the late ’90s Manc institution Homoelectric. Among all of this, she also does her fair share of pop-leaning writing for the likes of Dua Lipa, Rihanna and Mark Ronson.
In other words, everything about ‘Lifetime’ makes perfect sense (despite the mildly frustrating timing). Back in April Romy promised on Instagram that her new solo project would be upbeat and “fun” – and it turns out that was something of an understatement.