The electronica of the 1990s, as critically reviled as it may have been at the time of its release, has become a staple influence over most of the subgenres that dominate popular music today, from hip-hop and urban music all the way over to solo singers and even rock bands. Just look at the song “No Mirrors,” which is catapulting Mariel Darling to the forefront of American pop culture. It’s born of that mid-90s Europop boom where sonic intensity and purist harmonies finally came together in a divine marriage. Artists like Mariel Darling are keeping electronica’s eternal flame lit and adding her own color to the fire in the process.
Darling knows how to be poignant with her words and cut loose in her rhythms, and that’s part of the reason why I think she’s one of the best examples of the vitality of modern electronic pop. In “No Mirrors” alone we see so many signs pointing to an incendiary bottom end that could erupt from under our feet at any time. She’s careful not to yank the rug out from us all at once though; for Darling, tension and anticipation is everything, and she uses both to her gain brilliantly.
There’s a lot of self-control in “No Mirrors,” and personally I would really like to see how Darling does live when she doesn’t have to be so toned down. When you’re on stage, there’s nothing there to separate you from the audience, and more often than not four studio walls create a mountainous barrier between an artist and their listeners that can only be crushed in the flesh. She obviously has to develop the rest of her repertoire, but the sooner this girl gets out of the studio and into a professional touring environment the better her style will become.
Unlike most 16 year olds who have a hard enough time just balancing school and a couple of extracurricular activities, Mariel Darling has the schedule of a thirtysomething. She’s hammering out her music, refining her craft, studying and acting more professional than everyone older than her along the way. I don’t think I could have managed her routine, but it’s just more proof of Darling’s exceptionality. It takes a lot of hard work, charisma and attitude to make it in the music industry, but luckily enough for her, she’s got all that plus a whole lot of youthful spirit to push her.
The future of pop music will be shaped by artists like Mariel Darling, and to a greater degree by Darling herself if she continues to produce songs as sterling in design as “No Mirrors.” There’s a big vacancy towards the top of the pop music food chain, and it’s going to take everything she’s got if she’s going to apply for the position and fill it with any legitimacy. Her next couple of releases will likely be more telling, but for now “No Mirrors” will have the be strong enough to get her name onto the international scene so that she can start making her case to be the one.