Pop music has come a long way from the minstrel balladry of the 1950s and evolved into a much more elaborate entity in the 21st century that hardly resembles the simply structured framework that it was designed to maintain. Hardcore music enthusiasts have a lot to be excited about in the latest transformation that pop has undergone in the last year or so, as it takes yet another shape as we prepare to enter the 2020s, and you’d be hard pressed to find an artist who embodies the spirit of its new look as well as Cammi Summer does. In the new music video for her song “Stranger,” Summer dispatches intense melodies that crash into each other head-on with a gleeful thrust of percussion and an overwhelming sonic texture that wraps around her vocals like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. Her panache is inspiring, her work ethic unparalleled for her time, and her mission couldn’t be any clearer at this juncture in her career; she’s out to reinvent pop, and she’s starting from the ground up.
Cammi Summer is one of the most talented singers of this era, and I don’t think that I’m rushing to that conclusion in the slightest. In just a couple of singles, she’s already demonstrated that she doesn’t have difficulty setting up a mood for her listeners and seeing it come full circle over the course of a song, but her musical IQ doesn’t stop there. She’s able to read her listeners mid-song and adjust her tempered vocal to wherever the emotion of the music itself is taking us. In an ironic, almost existential fashion, she’s experiencing her music alongside us rather than preaching from atop a pulpit, and the results are one of the most intimately vivid listening experiences I can recall taking part in recently. It would be criminal not to also point out that Summer’s DIY-influenced attack style adds an additional layer of authenticity to her songs (especially “Stranger”) that you can’t find anywhere else on the FM dial right now. Who knows, maybe the ripple effect from this video will change that for the better.
After giving it some thought, “Stranger” is definitely my pick for breakout single of the year. There have been some pretty thought-provoking artists striking gold in the last few months, but it’s a challenge for me to think of one who has risen to the surface as quickly as Cammi Summer has, and that’s really the definition of what being a breakout pop sensation is. The future is wide open for her moving forward, and while I don’t know whether or not her forthcoming work will pack as much of a punch as this single does, I’m inclined to keep a close eye on whatever she does next just based on the inventiveness she shows off in this song alone. Pop music is always changing with the times, and its greatest heroes have been those who are able to keep up with its pace, but Cammi Summer isn’t just looking to keep up; she wants to set the pace herself.