Originality in pop music remains overrated. Pop ebbs and flows whether every new song attempts upheaval of the status quo or merely maintains it. Flo Rida’s entire career embodies this, er, dark secret. Rather than push forward, he aims to give music fans what they’ve already wanted. Last week, he did it again, breaking into the Billboard Top 10 with “My House.” It's a hip-house song so obvious it feels like you've heard it 13 times before the second chorus closes, or like you know all the words within 40 seconds. That instant familiarity can produce a glaze of uninterestedness, but this slickness is what has given Flo Rida a decade of market-approved bangers.
His first No. 1 hit, “Low,” featured the pop-vetted T-Pain and production from DJ Montay that repurposed Lil Jon’s biting of Eurodance for pure pop ends. The final creation felt slightly crunk, a bit trance, but 100 percent Flo Rida. The song effortlessly caught the waves of two different styles cresting and crashing and remains the rare moment of Flo Rida’s career being forward-looking while mining pop’s past, hitting just as EDM-styled pop was about to take over America.
That repurposing of pop’s past for personal musical gain is pivotal to the Flo Rida musical experience. His second No. 1 single, “Right Round,” featured a then-little-known Ke$ha, but garishly used a sample of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record).” Where “My House” subtly samples Jaheim’s “Put That Woman First,” “Right Round” feels closer to a forgotten late-night Ibiza cover than to an original song. The same rule applies to lesser songs of the Flo Rida canon, like “Sugar” (only a Top 5 hit), which re-creates one of Eiffel 65’s classics, “Blue (Da Ba Dee).” The track was not an homage to the original; it existed to eliminate any reason for a DJ to play the classic over Flo Rida’s 2009 update.
The Swedish progressive house star Avicii scored a major hit in 2011 with “Levels"; weeks after its release, when it had yet to attain worldwide domination, Flo Rida, Dr. Luke, and Cirkut released “Good Feeling,” which used the same Etta James sample to beat the lesser-known act to club speakers. The song evoked “Levels” but was its own franken-pop creation; it’d be easy to confuse the two tracks, except that only one -- Flo Rida's -- landed on Top 40 radio. These Duchampian actions are those of a musician ready to repurpose any beloved sound into a ready-made hit.
Not all of Flo Rida’s hits feasted on the souls of pop past. The other coast of Flo Rida is pop songs so brash that they all ring with the same continuous sub-bass thump. Those include “In the Ayer,” “Who Da Girl,” “Wild Ones,” “Where Them Girls,” and the pinnacle of his career, “Club Can’t Handle Me.” Flo Rida’s hit-making ear gives life to his earnestly vapid club boasts, as the production induces a Molly high on Top 40 radio listeners. People might not enter the club wanting to throw a grip of cash in the air, but Flo Rida tells you this could be your life -- and, for three minutes, it is. Bless Flo Rida and may he continue to give us the songs we know and (already) love.