How two Los Angeles club brats defied the critics and built a Party Rock empire.
The rise (and rise and rise) of LMFAO
Neither Stefan Kendal Gordy nor his nephew Skyler Austen Gordy are what you might call household names. But in their guise as DJ Redfoo and SkyBlu, the bling-flashing “party pimps” at the helm of LMFAO, they constitute one of the most successful hitmaking outfits of recent times.
Although they recently announced a hiatus to pursue solo projects, to date, the Gordys have released two wildly popular albums: 2009’s Grammy-nominated Party Rock and 2011’s Billboard chart-topping Sorry for Party Rocking. The critics, however, have generally not warmed to them. The British music magazine NME called the group’s second album “soul-destroying”, noting its “aggressive misogyny” and “imbecilic” songs, and giving it a pretty unequivocal 0/10.
The general public, though, have decided they rather like LMFAO. Consider the view counts on their YouTube videos – Party Rock Anthem has had 487 million views and Sexy and I Know It 249 million, although Sorry for Party Rocking currently lags behind with a mere 123 million and counting. Their influence on international pop, too, has been unmistakable: it’s difficult to imagine that the K-pop icon Psy’s Gangnam Style, in September hailed by Guinness World Records as the most liked video in YouTube history, could have happened without Redfoo and SkyBlu laying the foundations.
Notionally, LMFAO’s club-friendly electro-pop seems to fit pretty neatly into the genre Americans are currently defining as “EDM” (electronic dance music, to you and me). But whereas the sound’s leading lights, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, appear to consider themselves rock stars with all the big-stage pomposity that implies, there is something of the circus to LMFAO. The stagewear – gold chains, novelty sunglasses, zebra-print leggings – is simultaneously a celebration and a caricature of club fashion. The music cribs from the crassest and silliest corners of electro-pop and hip-hop. Their videos feature cameos from the likes of David Hasselhoff and Ron Jeremy and are packed with props such as inflatable zebras, colourful afro wigs and a dancing man with a cardboard box on his head – more a 13-year-old boy’s idea of a wild party than P Diddy’s VIP room. The songs are risqué, but in a silly way: “I work out!” raps Redfoo on Sexy and I Know It – the joke being that the pigeon-chest and worryingly skimpy Borat-style speedos he displays in the flesh-flashing video suggest otherwise.
However it might appear, though, LMFAO are far from a pair of doofuses who got lucky. Stefan is the son of Berry Gordy, the Detroit record producer behind the 1960s hit factory Motown; Skyler is Berry’s grandson. They grew up in Los Angeles’ wealthy Pacific Palisades district, home to many of Hollywood’s great and good and the filming location for shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm and Baywatch. The pair cut their teeth as DJs about town, but hedonistic tales filtering back from Miami’s annual dance expo, the Winter Music Conference, -inspired them to piece together their first song. Stefan’s friend will.i.am, of The Black Eyed Peas, made the introductions to the Interscope chief executive Jimmy Iovine, and suddenly LMFAO were a band.
On Friday LMFAO’s SkyBlu brings his Who Came To Party? tour to the Atelier/Festival at Meydan Racecourse. Such solo tours, backed up by talk of a split from Redfoo, have fanned rumours that LMFAO are drawing to a close. But, SkyBlu insists, they are not. “It’s kind of like, let us get our wind up, let us kind of show the world who we are as individuals,” he told MTV. “And then we come together stronger than ever.” This party isn’t over yet.