Comparing Amanda Blank to M.I.A. and Santigold is as obvious as it is incorrect. Sure, Switch and Diplo produced the bulk of Blank’s debut album, I Love You, and she has been known to pal around with Santi and Maya. But Blank shares a more obvious, not to mention more fitting, comparison to Spank Rock, the ribald Philadelphia rappers who gave Blank guest spots on their mixtapes a few years ago. I Love You isn’t a post-pop distillation of the sounds of the world or New Wave (like M.I.A. and Santigold’s latest albums); it’s a raunchy Spank Rock album about — what else? — getting ur freak on, but from a woman’s perspective.
It’s tempting to trumpet I Love You as a subversive album, because it presents a rapping woman as the purveyor of over-sexualized lyrics rather than the subject of them. But it plays out like a less bawdy and thought-out Peaches, or often worse: a purposefully un-shocking album that desperately tries to awe you with its alleged risqué lyrics. When Blank delivers lines like “If I wear a dress, he will never call/ So I’ll wear much less/ I guess I’ll wear my camisole” (like on the turgid “Make-Up”), or “Tryin’-a get up in my pussy and smash” (on the boom-bap by-the-numbers of “Let Me Get Some”), she’s less like a bomb-throwing gender revolutionary proving women can be just as sex-oriented as the fellas than that kid you knew in second grade who started saying “fuck” all the time just to get attention.
There’s absolutely no hidden subtext to any of Blank’s lyrics: When she says “I might like you better if we slept together” (a phrase she lifted from Romeo Void) on “Might Like You Better,” she actually means it. It’s not a clever look at human pairing; it’s a toothless way to get people to pay attention by sexing things up. I Love You is all winking sensationalism with nothing underneath.
The album isn’t just undone by Blank’s well-worn playbook of sexualized shtick, however; the tiresome music is just an egregious. Diplo, XXXChange and Switch seem hell-bent on doing the least amount of work for the most money by recycling what worked in the past. The maxed-out synths, the rushing, club-heavy drums, and synthetic handclap breakdowns of I Love You’s 11 tracks bleed together to the point where only Blank’s new catchprase differentiates them (“hottest motherfucker on the whole damn block” on “Something Bigger, Something Better,” the titular phrase of “Shame on Me,” etc.).
Blank’s partially grating performance is given a respite on “A Love Song,” a re-writing of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” with a great Santigold sample, and the Lykke Li-featuring boyfriend tell-off “Leaving You Behind.” On those two songs, Blank lets the cracks in her carefully constructed façade of a winking booty rapper show. It’s a shame that didn’t extend to the rest of the album.