Head First (Goldfrapp album)

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Head First
Studio album by Goldfrapp
Released 19 March 2010 (2010-03-19)
Recorded July–December 2009;
Bath, Somerset; London
Genre Synthpop,[1] Italo disco[2]
Length 38:13
Label Mute
Producer Alison Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, Pascal Gabriel, Richard X
Goldfrapp chronology
iTunes Originals
(2008)
Head First
(2010)
The Singles
(2012)
Singles from Head First
  1. "Rocket"
    Released: 5 March 2010 (2010-03-05)
  2. "Alive"
    Released: 7 June 2010 (2010-06-07)
  3. "Believer"
    Released: 6 September 2010 (2010-09-06)

Head First is the fifth studio album by English electronic music duo Goldfrapp. It was released in the United Kingdom on 22 March 2010 by Mute Records. The album's lead single, "Rocket", was released on the iTunes Store on 5 March 2010.[3][4] The album received a nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards.[5]

Background and development[edit]

"I think we just wanted something really simple and that had a sort of euphoric-ness to it. A kind of slightly surreal but dreamy quality—pink clouds and [the feeling that] you can carry on forever. A sort of slight fantasy feeling."

Alison Goldfrapp talks about the album artwork for Head First.[6]

In July 2009, Goldfrapp announced that they had begun recording their fifth studio album.[7] A photoshoot for the album took place in November 2009. The duo hoped to have the album recorded by December 2009.[8] A press release issued ahead of the release described Head First as their "most powerful trip to date, a speedy rush of synth optimism, euphoria, fantasy and romance. With life affirming lyrics and stellar production it lifts off at full tilt and takes us on a journey to the heart of 2010."

Alison Goldfrapp described the inspiration of the album was to create something "a little bit like Supernature, but that had a warmer sound—maybe not as hard."[6] Describing their previous album Seventh Tree as an "intimate, dreamy, more introspective album" which was created in response to deep unhappiness with her personal life following the tiring Supernature tour, Head First was a reaction to wanting "to get out the synths again, put your hands in the air" and "set about making an ‘up’ album."[6]

In the following years, after re-signing to Mute after its split from parent label EMI, Goldfrapp expressed dissatisfaction with the recording process and final composition of the album. Gregory described a "schedule" provided by EMI which they felt "blackmailed into sticking to" despite needing "another six months on Head First really."[9] This rushed process was something which they specifically aimed to address when recording their next album Tales of Us.[9] In terms of the artistic direction for Head First, Goldfrapp described the process as "very nasty";[9] EMI had pressured them to create a more commercial sound which was at odds with their plans for the record and their image.[9][10]

Overall, Goldfrapp expressed "not [feeling] very proud" and "not [being] crazy about" the album, describing it as too "on the nose".[11] Whilst singling out affection for "Voicething" and "Shiny And Warm" and admitting that there were "some good tunes on there," she felt as though they "should have given them to someone else instead of us releasing them as Goldfrapp."[11] In discussing re-signing with Mute after its separation from EMI, Goldfrapp expresses pleasure in its independence "and a new management who are on our side, they're not trying to make a quick buck" and that "it did feel like a new start... 'we're going to do what we want to do'."[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 68/100[12]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[13]
BBC Music very positive[14]
Entertainment Weekly B[15]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[16]
The Independent 3/5 stars[17]
NME 6/10[18]
The Observer mixed[19]
Pitchfork Media 6.6/10[20]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[1]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[21]
The Times 3/5 stars[22]

Head First received mostly positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 68, based on 22 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[12] Heather Phares of Allmusic stated that the duo "explore the uber-glossy productions, staccato melodies, and dramatic key shifts that were the hallmarks of anthems that some might not want to admit they liked decades later", while noting the influence of Giorgio Moroder, ABBA and Xanadu-era Olivia Newton-John.[13] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B rating and wrote that "Head First sounds as if they've been commissioned to paint the inside of Olivia Newton-John's mind, circa 1980: all strobe-lit synths, feathery vocals, and goofy synonyms for sex."[15] In a review for BBC Music, Ian Wade raved, "Free of anything in the slightest bit terrible, Head First is amazing stuff."[14] Spin magazine's Lindsey Thomas commented that "Will Gregory creates a pitch-perfect neon-lit '80s wonderland with Hi-NRG bass lines and plenty of that fat synth sound made famous by Van Halen's 'Jump.'"[23]

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian noted that "Head First returns Goldfrapp to commercial waters—this time the glossy, optimistic 1980s pop that provides the playlist backbone of Magic FM", but "there are instances when the songwriting isn't that exciting, when the choruses don't ascend quite as stratospherically as they're supposed to, and you're left listening to what is, in essence, an MOR pop album."[16] Rolling Stone '​s Will Hermes also gave the album a mixed review, arguing that Head First "may be the most lovingly detailed synth-pop album since the golden days of Yaz and Kim Carnes. Yet expert execution doesn't always signal a good idea."[1] According to Peter Paphides of The Times, "[t]he best moments on [...] Head First—'Believer' and the title track—also double as its uncoolest ones."[22] Marc Hogan from Pitchfork Media remarked that "[b]ringing 1980s roller-disco synth-pop motifs out of mothballs has given the UK duo their most immediately entertaining album since 2005 electro-glam juggernaut Supernature", but felt that the only problem is that "[t]hey fail to give each song a face as memorable as the overall album's Jane Fonda workout-video get-up."[20] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine opined that "Head First is a brief trip, but it's saturated with enough hi-NRG motifs and sounds for countless sweaty workouts at Jack LaLanne."[21]

The album also received criticism for following the musical directions of artists that are said to have been influenced by Goldfrapp. Andy Gill of The Independent noticed that "Goldfrapp now suddenly effect a complete volte-face on Head First, heading back to the electronic pop of their three previous releases", which is "a curious, circuitous trajectory which gives the impression that Goldfrapp are in the invidious position of playing catch-up to all the Gagas, LaRouxs [sic] and Little Boots upon whom they must surely have been a major influence."[17] Barry Nicolson was emphatic in his review for NME, saying, "Once the source of pop inspiration, now it seems they're content to follow." He added that the album "is basically an upbeat electro-pop record with one foot in the '80s, much like roughly 85 per cent of music made in the last two years."[18] Kitty Empire from The Observer agreed, stating, "Having pre-empted the wave of womanly electro, they appear now to be behind rather than ahead of the curve." She also called the album "decent but unsurprising".[19]

Commercial performance[edit]

Head First debuted on the UK Albums Chart at number six on sales of 23,000 copies[24]—around half of the first-week sales figure of predecessor Seventh Tree. Nevertheless, it earned the duo a third successive UK top ten album. Head First also became Goldfrapp's third release to chart on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States, debuting at number forty-five, a career peak. By 20 December 2010, the album had sold 70,000 copies in the UK.[25]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory

No. Title Length
1. "Rocket"   3:51
2. "Believer"   3:43
3. "Alive"   3:28
4. "Dreaming"   5:07
5. "Head First"   4:30
6. "Hunt"   4:34
7. "Shiny and Warm"   3:58
8. "I Wanna Life"   4:13
9. "Voicething"   4:44

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2010) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[26] 14
Austrian Albums Chart[27] 33
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[28] 35
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[29] 49
Canadian Albums Chart[30] 33
Dutch Albums Chart[31] 47
European Top 100 Albums[24] 10
French Albums Chart[32] 70
German Albums Chart[33] 28
Greek Foreign Albums Chart[34] 4
Irish Albums Chart[35] 17
Italian Albums Chart[36] 27
Mexican Albums Chart[37] 95
New Zealand Albums Chart[38] 18
Norwegian Albums Chart[39] 19
Polish Albums Chart[40] 28
Spanish Albums Chart[41] 47
Swedish Albums Chart[42] 49
Swiss Albums Chart[43] 14
UK Albums Chart[44] 6
US Billboard 200[45] 45
US Dance/Electronic Albums[45] 3
US Independent Albums[45] 4
US Alternative Albums[45] 6

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label Formats
Australia[46] 19 March 2010 EMI CD, digital download
Germany[47]
Italy[48]
Netherlands[49]
Ireland[50] Mute Records
United Kingdom[51][52] 22 March 2010 CD, CD+LP, digital download
Poland[53] EMI CD, digital download
United States[13] 23 March 2010 Mute Records
Sweden[54] 24 March 2010 EMI
France[55] 28 March 2010
Brazil[56] 21 May 2010

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hermes, Will (23 March 2010). "Goldfrapp: Head First". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Studarus, Laura (22 March 2010). "Goldfrapp: Head First (Mute)". Under the Radar. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Dombal, Ryan (1 December 2009). "Goldfrapp Announce New Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Rocket by Goldfrapp". iTunes Store UK. Apple Inc. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Nominees And Winners". Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Daw, Robbie (24 March 2010). "Goldfrapp: The Idolator Interview". Idolater. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Goldfrapp, Alison (18 September 2009). "Hello Nowhere Boy x". goldfrapp.com. Retrieved 13 November 2009. 
  8. ^ Goldfrapp, Alison (15 November 2009). "Hey Long Time No Speak x". goldfrapp.com. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
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  10. ^ Hubbard, Michael (1 November 2013). "Interview: Goldfrapp". musicOMH. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
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  13. ^ a b c Phares, Heather. "Head First – Goldfrapp". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
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  17. ^ a b Gill, Andy (19 March 2010). "Album: Goldfrapp, Head First (Mute)". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
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External links[edit]