The curious case of Porcelain Black…

We admit to a genuine fascination with Alaina Marie Beaton. Even just trying to figure out what kind of artist she is has been a brain-squeezer. She formally recorded under the name Porcelain and the Tramps (a moniker we happened to love), but difficulty with her record label meant an album was not forthcoming and we were left with just an assortment of odd tracks. But damn if a great many of those tracks weren’t incredibly compelling. “Fuck Like a Star”, “Redlight District” and the wonderfully bitter “My Leftovers” were provocative and catchy. Beaton’s razor-blade-ravaged voice screamed over dirty electronics and jagged guitar it was industrial-flavoured yet had an oddly accessible pop mentality that was genuinely confusing. What kind of artist was she attempting to be? Even her image was an exercise in contradictions. She is beautiful. Alt-geek-fantasy-chick beautiful. A mix of dirty, angry, yet extremely polished and very self-aware. Tats everywhere, hair colour and style changed to suit the day, leather, fetish wear, she was the whole goth fantasy girl cliché, but she seemed more than that…

Flash forward to 2011 and she has switched labels and released a new single, “This Is What Rock N Roll Looks Like” and there is talk of an album – finally – in January. But the new single reveals a lot more about Beaton, now known as Porcelain Black (so as not to confuse listeners even more into thinking the recordings were made by a band instead of this one talented woman). She talks about her fandom of Britney Spears and hip hop and sure enough the new song is poppy as hell and features Lil Wayne. Wait, Lil Wayne? What? Yes, she has done the now-almost-mandatory-in-chart-pop collaboration with a name hip hop artist along with having crafted a very clever bit of pop confection designed to get radio play. The angry scratch of her voice is still front and centre and the combination aggro guitar/greasy electronics is still right there in the mix, but the pop sensibility has leaked all over the place (someone get a mop!). She has even appeared on David Letterman complete with backup dancers, doing a more-alt-than-Gaga version of a Lady Gaga performance (and causing Letterman no end of awkward reaction to the whole thing)

To listen to early tracks one would have thought the melodic side was the secondary interest to the electro-punk industrial side, but one would have been wrong. This new direction is not at all what we’d have expected and we’re not sure how well it works. Still love her voice – she sounds like no one else out there – and dig the inherent sound she’s going for but something seems so…contrived. Before, when she was “…and the Tramps” there was an earnestness there that seemed prepared to carve out something new. We’re not sure that this is all that new. The hip hop collaborator (and seriously, can we give this a rest? Must every song recorded feature a hip hop cameo? We enjoy a lot of hip hop but must it be awkwardly jammed into every single song recorded by every rock or pop artist on the planet?), the high school setting of the video, the “I’m dangerous but so, so pretty so you can wink away any sense of danger that may lurk in my proximity” schtick – it’s all so carefully thought out that the spontaneity of this artist that so appealed to us a few years ago seems missing. That said, we’re still very interested to see how she walks this line. She’s taking the fetishy-angry-alt-girl thing to a place no one has really succeeded in since maybe the Runaways decades ago. This song didn’t exactly burn up the charts, which is what is was clearly designed to do, but we’re still listening, and yes, this blogger is a straight male who enjoys the alt scene, so yes, looking too. So let’s see where it all goes…

Watch: This is What Rock N Roll Looks Like


2 Responses to “The curious case of Porcelain Black…”

  1. […] Credit: […]

  2. Yeah, I’m with you. I wrote a post saying pretty much the same thing on my old blog a few months ago. I’m still going to buy her album, but she seems to be becoming yet another of those manufactured pop artists. I really hope this isn’t the case, though, because she’s got a lot of talent. I like Porcelain and the Tramps much, much more than this, “naughty, naughty, naughty, we like to party” crap.

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