Alice Merton – Funny Business

Alice Merton will release her first album, Mint, on January 18. It already has a chart topping hit in 2016’s ‘No Roots’, as well as three previously released tracks, including ‘Funny Business,’ which hit airwaves in late November, and received a music video this week. In contrast to her first single’s head down, eyes-closed, push and pummel, which brought it to the top, the powerfully voiced German-French-Canadian displays her flexibility in ‘Funny Business,’ which may prove to be her strongest asset.

The phrase “funny business” has a cinematic quality in its own right. Bulky gangsters command the colloquialism in dusters and fedoras, guns pointed, just before their world gets turned upside down. In Merton’s track, those four syllables carry none such weight. They fly lightly about suggesting there is actually no need to worry. The video for ‘Funny Business’ does the same.

It’s a simple clip, one dancer – in this case a pale, young, white guy with a scruffy goatee and blond hair that looks distressingly like a German/Nordic Macaulay Culkin – twirls, gyrates, and pirouettes through a city. It’s a concept everyone still or ever interested in music videos is familiar. In the end there is a twist, but really it’s the twists, turns, and understanding of place presented by the dancer juxtaposed against the lyrics that gives ‘Funny Business’ a unique quality.

Merton took her first turn in the director’s chair while creating the music video, and in an interview with Refinery29, she explained, “I didn’t hire a choreographer, I asked him to think of three routines he could do for the verse and the chorus and the rest I ad-libbed with him. We experimented and saw what looked cool in different parts of Berlin that I had scouted with my cameraman.”

There is just so much fucking joy in Nikita’s – the dancer – dancing that it infectiously brings the mood up despite the dreary greyness of Berlin and his messy kitchen’s crumbling paint job – rarely is sipping a night old, luke warm beer a dance-worthy pleasure, but there is just no way to doubt his sincerity. Then there are those shots where he bends and poses as the tram goes by above, also top-hole. It all shows Merton’s knowledge of the German capital as it pushes opposites against each other throughout creating an exuberance that somehow really does exist in the city’s air.

The movement of words and how they line up and twist like the muscles of a dancer’s body, sometimes fluid, at others stiff, is at the heart of what makes ‘Funny Business’ and its corresponding music video work so well. “I don’t do funny business” is an odd twist of phrase, it doesn’t feel fluid, but it is earnest and that provides it with its own energy. The stumble of phrase is something that plays well into Merton’s upbringing, one that saw her bounce around Europe and North America to places that speak various tongues. On ‘Funny Business’, she delivers a visual as well as a song that works because of its energy and its verbal and physical flexibility.

‘Funny Business’ moves in twists and turns, binding the sonic and the visual. It’s the kind of pop that makes you want to move. Lyrically it dances, visually it does the same.

HURRY – BUY – ALICE MERTON MUSIC

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