Derek Webb may be the most dangerous man in the music business.
At a time when major labels are struggling to reinvent themselves, and artists are desperate to hold on to a rapidly shrinking audience that doesnt always pay for its music, singer/songwriter Derek Webb continues to make iconoclastic, irresistible, radio-ready pop records about love and war and social justice. However, unlike most pop artists on the scene today, Webbs engaged, committed fan-base is constantly expanding in part because Derek Webb has a tendency to give his music away for free.
In 2006, Webb convinced his label, INO Records / Columbia Records, to give away over 80,000 free downloads of his critically acclaimed album, Mockingbird. This widely publicized promotion more than doubled Webbs concert audiences and eventually paved the way for Webb to launch a revolutionary, new online music distribution system, NoiseTrade. In less than a year, NoiseTrade has put a small army of independent artists in direct contact with fans around the world who have downloaded over 1,280,000 songs from its website: www.noisetrade.com.
Now Derek Webb is making his most controversial move yet with the release of Stockholm Syndrome, an album about race and sexuality that proved so provocative, Webbs record company removed one of the albums key tracks (What Matters More) because of its strong language.
In response, Webb composed a series of coded emails directing listeners to a secret website where they could piece together the missing track by playing an elaborate alternate reality game. The ARG became so popular that INO Records was forced to embrace Webbs decision to leak the track as it succeeded in making Stockholm Syndrome one of the most anticipated releases of the year.
Over two years in the making, Stockholm Syndrome delivers everything listeners have come to expect from Derek Webb: indelible hooks, soaring choruses, and lyrics as politically incisive as they are emotionally revealing.
Sonically, however, Stockholm Syndrome is a radical departure for Webb, who has left his acoustic, folk/rock roots behind for a sound he describes as intentionally inorganic.
Ive always loved folk music, Webb says, because of its ability to tell the story of the times were living live in, in a timeless way. But for me, the best folk music on the scene right now is hip-hop. So with Stockholm Syndrome I wanted to incorporate the more urban and evocative elements of hip-hop.
To do that, Webb reunited with his former Caedmons Call bandmate Josh Moore, who has since become one of the most sought-after writer/producers on the hip-hop scene, helming tracks for such artists as Bun-B, Slim Thug, Scarface, and Z-Ro.
Together, Webb and Moore have succeeded in creating a dense, richly absorbing sonic vernacular that pays homage to an entire century of Black American music from 1920s jazz to 1950s doo-wop from disco and dance music to old-school R&B as a means of exploring issues of race and sexuality through the central metaphor of Stockholm Syndrome illuminating the ways in which a society can fall in love with an oppressive culture and become enslaved by it.
Citing writer/producer Danger Mouse (The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley, Dark Night of the Soul) as an influence, Webb says he and Moore made the record Gnarls Barkley-style: Instead of writing a dozen songs and then trying to figure out the best way to record them, Josh and I spent a year collecting sounds we loved beats, loops, odd bits of programming then weaving those elements into tracks that moved us and made us feel something. Only then did we even begin to think about song structures and melodies and lyrics. It was the total reverse of my usual process and by far the most fun Ive ever had making a record.
That sense of fun is palpable in every track from the sexy strut of Black Eye and Cobra Con to the glammy electropop of Jena & Jimmy and Webbs ironic Fred Phelps-inspired love song, Freddie, Please.
Stockholm Syndrome is Derek Webbs most soulful and subversive album yet and the most dangerous and thrilling pop record of the year.