Itâ€™s a tough gig, narrowing all the good music produced locally into one artist of the year. But my final pick is an act that stands alone in the region, in its gene, and in its taste for sparkly jackets: Wallpaper., the Bayâ€™s Lady Gaga on a budget.
Like Gaga, Wallpaper. is an over-the-top dance act thatâ€™s equal parts crafty songwriting and visual fantasy. Both artists blatantly homage their predecessors — in Wallpaper.â€™s case, thatâ€™s Bel Biv DeVoe, Michael Jackson, and Prince — while infecting pop fans with bubblegum tunes about celebrity, excess, and sex. These singers flagrantly use trendy tools in their songwriting: Wallpaper.â€™s 2009 release, Doodoo Face, is an unrepentant celebration of voice-alteration software Auto-Tune. And the songwriters hide their private selves behind outrageous, Macyâ€™s-parade-float-sized alter egos. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta has Gaga, the platinum-coiffed princess of pop, and Wallpaper. frontman Eric Frederic has Ricky Reed, the comedic dollar store douchebag. Live, they pull out all the stops at putting on multi-media extravaganzas — which, letâ€™s face it, is a huge plus when moneyâ€™s tight for concertgoers.
Of course, there are also glaring differences between Gaga and Wallpaper. Like Gagaâ€™s a glammed out art school kabillionare by now, while Wallpaper. exists on something lower than a burrito-a-week budget. And, while Gagaâ€™s a work of slick, gorgeous pretension, Wallpaper. is super silly, with the occasional endearing fumble in the delivery. But the bedroom music videos, the threads hanging off Rickyâ€™s sleeves, those little details only fuel the power Wallpaper. has at dance clubs around the city, momentum that should carry this duo even further in 2010. The world needs more artful pop that doesnâ€™t take itself too seriously, and Wallpaper.â€™s the Bayâ€™s best shot at loosening up from the thrift store to the dancefloor.
Jennifer Maerz is the Music Editor of the SF Weekly and All Shook Down music blog. You can follow her on twitter at @SFAllShookDown.