The video plot: After a few weeks in a coma, a duo, wearing pristine bedazzled jackets and Dalmatian-print leggings, emerges to find the world in chaos.
In this case, though, the afflicted aren’t compelled by a virus to devour human brains. They’re spurred to dance uncontrollably by the song, propelled by its rave-ready synth squelches and interminable hook. Clad in matching, sequined attire?crafted by LMFAO’s in-house clothier, Party Rock (partyrockclothing.com)?the entire world has transformed into voracious dance zombies, motivated by the desire to “have a good time” and “lose your mind.” LMFAO?the Los Angeles duo of DJs RedFoo (Stefan Kendal Gordy) and Sky Blu (Skyler Husten Gordy)?known for its high-octane serenades, and, basically, for going bananas, based the colorful video for their “Party Rock Anthem” on 2002’s “28 Days Later” and any number of other de rigueur zombie flicks. RedFoo and Sky Blu are the son and grandson, respectively, of Motown record label founder Berry Gordy. They are uncle and nephew.
And, as it turns out, the virus analogy wasn’t off-point.
Originally a track envisioned by RedFoo and his longtime friend, producer GoonRock, an early version of “Party Rock Anthem” was rejected by Flo Rida before the act revamped it for itself. The song was released to DJs on New Year’s Eve 2010?a grass-roots effort to reach their hardcore fans first. After debuting a week later at No. 1 in Canada, “Party Rock Anthem” has gradually climbed to the top of the charts in 18 countries?including the Billboard Hot 100, where it’s locked in at No. 1 for a fifth week. “The goal was always to go to No. 1,” longtime manager Ian Fletcher (@ifletcher19) says, “but we didn’t realize it would be 18 countries. I don’t know if anyone could have imagined this record would be as big as it actually is. In a very humble way, it’s satisfying to finally get there.”
Beyond a savvy, gradual rollout, the track’s rap-rave hybrid and Euro-house twerkiness hit all the right pop notes?and the choreography in the video immediately connected dance fans to “Anthem.” Officially known as the “Melbourne shuffle”?since its invention at the start of the rave scene in the late 1980s?the dance is recognizable to anyone who has been to a neon-hued Euro party in the past few decades. It’s a somewhat rigid take on the Running Man, and it makes dancing to high BPMs possible, if a little spastic. Part of LMFAO’s appeal is that the members are both fantastic dancers, and they’re not afraid to inject a little Janet Jackson-style V-formation into their videos. “Partying is definitely one of the main things we’re into,” Sky Blu says. “Dancing goes hand in hand with that.”
And, after love, there are few topics in pop music more universal than partying. LMFAO has dedicated its albums and its music to a singular evocation of celebration?often with the assistance of booze. Who can forget its 2009 “Shots,” featuring Lil Jon, which climbed its way to No. 68 on the Hot 100 almost solely by screaming for shots over a juiced-up Baltimore club beat? In the “Jersey Shore” era, when people like to get soused, dance and lose their brains, there’s nothing more culturally relevant than pop music that exalts said activities. And if you’re sober? Get loose on the adrenaline and vibes, for not only are LMFAO’s members party animals, they’re also exceedingly positive.
The act’s second album, Sorry for Party Rocking, chronicles its best nights ever (“Best Night”) and its sexiest moments in the club (second U.S. single “Sexy and I Know It”), all over tightly produced, hip-hop- and funk-influenced house. Even its sad love songs are full of optimism. “Instead of saying, like, ‘Damn, I wish I could get this girl,'” Sky Blu says, “We’ll write a song like ‘One Day,’ which says, ‘One day I’m gonna get you.'” It’s as much celebratory pop music as an ode to the Internet’s hyperbolic memes.
Since the group’s emergence in 2008 with the aggressive viral single “I’m in Miami Bitch,” which landed it a deal with RedFoo’s junior high school friend Will.i.am, it has been gunning for club play, hoping to spread its party gospel by blending two of the most popular genres in the world. Before the FM dial’s current taste for hip-hop and R&B blended with Euro techno, LMFAO’s members were hip-hop heads experimenting with rave sounds, rapping over producers like Justice after their friend, the influential DJ AM, introduced them to club music. “I remember he was like, ‘You need to hear this,’ and played us M.I.A., Crookers, a whole lot of stuff I wasn’t that up on,” says GoonRock, who until then had sold some beats to Dr. Dre but hadn’t had a hit of the magnitude of “Party Rock Anthem.” “That’s when I started going to the clubs.”
Club, they do?every song on Sorry for Party Rocking is autobiographical, they promise, and their celebratory habits are only amplified by the success they’ve had between “Party Rock” and this album. For instance, Sky Blu says the inspiration for their second international single, the decadent roof-raiser “Champagne Showers” (currently charting in Australia and across Europe), came partly from a particularly wild time in Cannes with rapper Rick Ross and around 60 bottles of bubbly. “We’ve had a lot of experience as the party starters, the life of the party, that we didn’t when we released ‘Party Rock,'” Sky Blu says, “like being able to spray champagne all over everyone and they love it and don’t want to fight you. When people expect that from you, it’s a whole different experience. So that really led us to write this album.” (Incidentally, the counter-chorus to “Party Rock Anthem”?”Every day I’m shufflin'”?also paraphrases Rozay’s 2006 hit “Hustlin.”) The title of LMFAO’s latest album is its personal missive toward neighbors who have called the cops to make noise complaints. “I’ve had the police called to my house nine times, Foo’s had the police called to his house. We just party and we’re always making music and just having fun with our friends,” Sky Blu says. “So we just basically say, ‘Hey, sorry that our party might be keeping you from falling asleep. But at the end of the day, we’re not gonna stop.’ We are nice people, so we will apologize. But we’re going to keep the party going.”
It only stands to reason, then, that a group known around the globe for inspiring parties has its own personal positive motivator?namely, “The Secret,” Rhonda Byrne’s best-selling, Oprah-approved self-help book based on the law of attraction. “I’m so into it. I mean, I can probably write my own book at this point. Everything that I imagined since I’ve been doing ‘The Secret’ has basically come true,” RedFoo says. “I’ve trained myself to only think about what I want, and when you do that, something happens and you just get the energy to do whatever it takes [to get] what you want. I’d been writing it down, and telling everyone that. They knew the goal was to be No. 1, to be the biggest band in the world.”
Yet creative visualization was only part of its current success, and while LMFAO’s amplified party lust defines its music, it doesn’t totally define the duo’s lifestyle. By all accounts, Foo and Blu are hard workers, from their current 31-day U.S. tour with Ke$ha, down to one of the best songs off Sorry for Party Rocking, “Hot Dog,” in which RedFoo apologizes to his trainer for taking a day off and eating, yes, a hot dog. “It’s all about what’s going to get us to the top,” he says.
“We created our life, we envisioned it. We wanted to be on top of the Billboard charts, we wanted to be touring around the world playing for sold-out shows. The energy we have onstage is representative of that. Every show is different but it’s all the same energy. It feels great to be able to put the mic out and 40,000 people all sing the lyrics back at you,” Sky Blu says.
Indeed, LMFAO fans are a tight and dedicated army. The act’s 213,000-plus Twitter followers emulate its wild, animal print uniforms, perhaps to their parents’ chagrin. They flock to RedFoo’s post-show DJ gigs and embrace party rocking as a lifestyle. LMFAO was able to cue into its younger fan base in part thanks to its collaborations with Audiobot, a 19-year-old producer and fan who linked with the act through SoundCloud and ended up helping with Sorry for Party Rocking. “This record is more global and more popular because it has the mind of a 19-year-old kid that goes to raves every week,” RedFoo says. “That, with GoonRock, it has melodies; he loves singing songs and loves R&B.”
Martin Kierzenbaum, chairman of Cherrytree Records and the A&R rep who, with Will.i.am and Neil Jacobson, initially signed LMFAO in 2008, puts it more succinctly. “LMFAO has a great barometer for what’s happening culturally,” he says. “These guys have a really well-honed radar?they put their antennas up, and when they applied what they learned to their skill and talent, it elevated their songwriting. They connected with the zeitgeist.”
Now, it seems, LMFAO is poised to create the zeitgeist. After the Ke$ha tour subsides, the pair will launch its own global headlining tour, and it has a slew of licensing deals on the table, including the genius placement of “Hot Dog” in ESPN’s coverage of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Collaborations are on deck with Ke$ha mastermind Dr. Luke, while GoonRock is working on his first producer’s album. He’s also in the studio with, ironically, Flo Rida. “We’re all friends and family; part of Sky’s crew is his mother and his girlfriend,” RedFoo says. “Part of my crew is my mother, and all the girls I’ve ever dated.” Berry Gordy is supportive as well. “My dad said that when we jumped to No. 1 on Billboard,” RedFoo says, “the person that was No. 1 went to No. 2 with a bullet.”
Manager Fletcher thinks this is only the beginning. “The consensus is that Sorry for Party Rocking has five singles. That’s superstar mentality. Like a Katy Perry,” he says. “Some people get one or two singles and they’re on to the next. The label feels we have five.” Neighbors be damned?this party isn’t likely to end soon.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (@jawnita) is culture editor of Alternet.org and former executive editor of the Fader.