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Track Review

When I first saw the video for La Roux's breakthrough single "Bulletproof," I thought, Whoa! It's 1982 all over again. And, indeed, it's hard to say what's more '80s about this British synthpop duo, its sound or its look.

Let's start with the latter. Singer Eleanor Jackson's fiery red hair—la roux is French for "red-haired"—sweeps up from her head into a prow-like wedge that begs for comparisons to Michael Score's dramatic do in A Flock of Seagulls' classic video "I Ran." Add in Bowie-esque smeared makeup and vibrant neon hues as Jackson promenades through hallways of shifting shapes and colors, and, well, it feels like a video that could have aired in MTV's infancy.

And then there's the sound. Catchy synth beats courtesy of keyboardist Ben Langmaid provide the backdrop for lyrics about a jilted woman telling off her manipulative boyfriend for the last time ("I'll never let you in again/ … I'll never let you sweep me off my feet/This time, baby, I'm bulletproof"). Homage isn't a strong enough word to capture just how uncannily La Roux has repackaged the that vibe of yore popularized by the likes of Erasure, The Human League, Depeche Mode and Eurythmics.

As for the remainder of the lyrics, mostly they involve Jackson reiterating all the ways she hopes to decouple from her soon-to-be-ex beau's emotional shenanigans. "I won't let you turn around/And tell me now I'm much too proud/All you do is fill me up with doubt," she tells him. "Tick-tick-tick-tick on the watch/And life's too short for me to stop/Oh, baby, your time is running out."

Mostly, then, La Roux's first big stateside smash delivers a confident, playful adieu to a guy who sounds like he's earned it. The only point at which things drift perhaps a bit too far lyrically is when Jackson informs him that she's having lots of fun—too much fun—without him: "Been there, done that, messed around/I'm having fun, don't put me down."

It's a superficial, synthesizer-infused anthem about a woman who's had enough. See? Just like the '80s.

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No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100.

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July 21, 2009

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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