The most apparent aspect of Thrilla Killa is the shift away from 70s and 80s influences for a modern dance sound. Honestly, this feels like a serious misstep for VAV, as their throwback sound was something they did very well. “Thrilla Killa” is a perfect showcase for this, as it follows in that same old-school vibe. It’s got a magnificently dynamic bassline playing against deliberately robotic synths and incredibly slick vocals for a track that perfectly encapsulates the mood of a down-and-dirty grind.
The rest of the EP then pivots toward more modern trends. While these are executed to varying degrees, they are all weaker than “Thrilla Killa”. “Senorita” has VAV trying their hand at the current Latin craze, and its status as a cash-in shows. An already released single, it doesn’t match the dance-pop of the rest of Thrilla Killa. Moreover, it’s a very clunky song, lacking the perpetual shifts typically found in their discography. It’s repetitive and comes off as insincere, which is especially notable considering VAV’s skill with emotive vocal performances.
Compare “Senorita” to “I’m Sorry”, which shifts gears to the melancholy dance vibe. It comes together for the most part, VAV’s heartrending delivery being chief among the reasons for this. The build also works, providing a burst of energy before the heartbreak of the drop. The drop itself is really the weak link, squonky and shill. It’s genuinely unpleasant to the ear, which is a shame. It’s a track that otherwise nails the dichotomy of utter misery and production you have to dance to.
“Touch You” is another modern track, but one that is foiled by a sense of being disparate parts lumped together. The staccato drum beat that forms the foundation is a pure energy suck, straight from the playbook of Will.I.Am at his laziest. The track is just dark, the production a pure slog to listen to. Even the vocals aren’t enough to redeem this track, as they are either buried in the mix, used in a choral style that come out of nowhere, or in falsetto. A key element of falsetto singing is that mostly good falsettos are terrible, and here, VAV’s are mostly good. In the end, though, “Touch You” is forgettable, sliding in one ear and out the other.
Lyrically, “Thrilla Killa” sees VAV delve into darker territory, depicting a relationship built on danger and obsession. This is most apparent on “Thrilla Killa”. VAV portray the object of their attention as an unfeeling ice queen, which is precisely what they like about her. Moreover, they place her in a position of authority, referencing her as both their superior and queen. They also speak of having her, trying to claim her, which becomes more unsettling in the context of the ominous production and EP as a whole.
The implications of obsession show up in other tracks. “I’m Sorry” shows VAV pleading their case to win back their ex, but notably absent is an apology for any actions taken. Instead, they’re apologizing for their inability to get along without her, and seek to get her back rather than accept that it’s over. “Senorita”, the album closer, has them comparing their crush object to their first love, viewing her as a replacement and describing her as possessed. All in all, Thrilla Killa is genuinely unsettling to listen to. That said, if I thought the obsession and creepiness was intentional–a commentary on the entitlement some men have towards women–I’d respect that. But the obliqueness and burial of it behind more typical love songs makes me think it’s unintentional, and therefore much creepier.
Thrilla Killa is a letdown for VAV in every way– they’ve abandoned their signature sound, their new one doesn’t work anywhere near as well, and it comes across like an unintentional serial killer anthem. I can only hope that their next release is a course correction, because Thrilla Killa needs to end.
(Images via A Team Entertainment. YouTube)