The thing that catches you off guard about “On Hold” by The xx is how not them it is.
For someone who didn’t know much about The xx before listening to the new album I See You, like myself, “On Hold” is a decent song. It’s got the kind of beat I look for, something easy and fun to listen to. But for people who know The xx, who have listened to them before and know their sound and who they are as a band, this album, and in particular, this song, is a change.
It could be argued, of course, that this track is the new them. With Jamie xx branching out and doing new things, it is entirely possible that the band wanted to expand what they were doing before and change this album up. It’s the first album they’ve released since 2012, and so fans were eager to hear new stuff.
“On Hold” is easily one of the most catchy songs in the entire album, and it was the first single released, but it isn’t something we’ve heard from them before, which is perhaps the most jarring aspect of the new song. In fact, while the song’s almost pop-like sound is new, the same mellow voices aren’t. There isn’t anything that stands out in the song, nothing that makes you think wow.
If anything, Romy’s voice is the most interesting part of the song. The emotion in her voice at the beginning of the song, the lyrics she sings at the beginning are the most powerful part of the song before it delves into a techno beat. The use of strong beats and the background singing took me out of the song, and while I appreciate them coming out of their comfort zone, I’m not sure it was necessary.
It’s nice that they’re changing things up, interesting that they are focusing on doing different things and trying new sounds, but the thing I found most interesting about their previous albums was the instrumentals and the stories they told; “On Hold” doesn’t do that, and the more I listen to it, the more it sounds like something made for the radio.
Listen to the song here.