Nipple and eyebrow piercings, creepy music videos, baggy jorts, grunting—this is what I remember about Nu Metal, along with how much the whole enterprise—and what a lucrative enterprise it was—scared me. To be fair, though, everything scared me when I—a pasty, Power Rangers obsessed dweeb—was in elementary school.
I guess Kam Franklin’s memory of Nu Metal is different from mine. Her new solo EP is a tribute to this estranged bastard child of hip-hop and grunge, this goateed offspring of a regrettable one night stand. Franklin, that Bayou City bohemian with the titanic voice, covers four Nu Metal classics on her EP Nu Metal: “Change” by The Deftones (which Franklin released as a preview in December), “3 Libras” by A Perfect Circle, “Freak On a Leash” by Korn, and “Voodoo” by Godsmack.
Culling these hits from the annals of radio history, Franklin transforms them into moody, electronic goth ballads. Its eclectic palette of beats and synth sounds gives Nu Metal an exploratory feel, as if Franklin were gleaning new meaning from these singles.
She recreates our listening experience of them. In her hands, they are not merely samples of a peculiar phenomenon that kicked off the millennium, but rather intriguing compositions and thoughtful interpretations of some, in my humble opinion, not so thoughtful, frankly embarrassing musical experiments.
One of the major appeals of the EP, if you’re not nostalgic for Nu Metal, is its enveloping atmosphere, the way it cocoons and crystalizes over you, but only if you surrender to it, let it act upon you. You’d have to resist, actively resist the gravity of Nu Metal. “Change” and “3 Libras,” the first two tracks, are especially entrancing, with their droning effects that still our rattling nerves and drown out the chaotic din of our moribund post-postmodern world.
“3 Libras,” in particular, is a mellifluous whisper, a dark lullaby sung under a witch’s breath. Franklin’s spell pacifies our paranoia, and the simple beat looped throughout “3 Libras” takes us back to childhood, when the whole world was a joyful object of curiosity, and the wobbly cadences we tapped out in our highchairs with plastic spoons opened us up to music itself.
But that’s not to say that Franklin’s covers don’t resemble the originals. A Perfect Circle’s “3 Libras” and Franklin’s take on it, for instance, are both drab. But perhaps it’s her rendition of “Freak On a Leash” that best retains the character of the original. Both iterations move with the same distinct groove and lull you into complacency, into just going along with all the weirdness of Nu Metal.
I dislike Nu Metal. Listening to some of these songs again after so many years made me nauseous. I had to turn off Korn’s “Freak On A Leash” because I actually felt ill. But Franklin somehow redeems this hideous hybrid genre. She never ceases to amaze me.