Nadia Oh burned bright for a brief moment.
The general public largely ignored or dismissed Hot Like Wow but the internet as well as new attitudes toward music critique allow it to live on a forward-thinking piece of late-‘00s extravagance.
Combing through stan Twitter brings you to forgotten portions of the internet and pop culture. Though certainly a source for some of the online community’s worst behavior (*see the Barbz), it also serves as a rich hotbed of music history, especially for distinct and often hilarious deep cuts. Come across the right account, and you’ll see testimonials to the musical genius of Brooke Hogan, “Stars Are Blind” and flashes in the pan like Jordyn Taylor. Especially in the case of someone like Taylor, stan Twitter offers another source of legacy, a brief spike of recognition ideal for a pop star to make an imprint. Even if for a second, the star’s voice captured people’s attention, thereby associating her with a point in their lives.
One such figure is Nadia Oh. In fact, she boasts her own faithful stan account dedicated to documenting her influence in the decade since her debut album Hot Like Wow. Accounts like these reminded me how much I loved “Hot Like Wow” and how much I underestimated it as a piece of songwriting
For the uninitiated, “Hot Like Wow” romps along an oriental keyboard riff while rubbery club beats add a bit of bounce. Tonally, it’s a song that sounds contemporary and classic at the same time; Oh’s sing-talk delivery brings to mind Kesha while the keyboard brings a bit of a retro disco element. “Hot Like Wow” exudes the steamy passion of an erotic relationship without describing much in detail; the titular phrase does most of the heavy lifting to set the scene, repeated no less than 24 times. It is also used as a placeholder, since neither of the two verses rhyme at all. Ms. Oh gives listeners her best Kilo Kish impression, only slightly invested in the words she says. They’re more a placeholder for you to follow the rest of the record’s productions, all crafted by Space Cowboy.
Remember Space Cowboy? Emerging in the midst of the electropop movement of ‘08, Nicolas Dresti seemed poised to enter a prosperous musical career. He produced some of Gaga’s best songs (“Starstruck,” “So Happy I Could Die” and “Monster”) and showed his knack for harnessing electro and Eurodance. He’s since disappeared, but when Nadia was his muse, they crafted Hot Like Wow, an album that arrived with little fanfare but now holds a place of distinction among many music fans. What other record incorporates electroclash, Arabic instruments, “The Streets of Cairo” and Bach?
As an album, Hot Like Wow draws influence from earlier ‘00s innovators ranging from Timbaland (“N.a.d.i.a. O.h.”), FannyPack (“City Nights”) and Uffie (“Rip It Up”) and sends it all through a vocoder. In terms of sound, Oh and Space Cowboy beat Kesha to the jump by two years, and PC music by half-a-decade. Its overproduction foretells a sound heard today in Hannah Diamond, Tommy Genesis, early Kero Kero Bonito and Slayyyter. Even still, Hot Like Wow stands apart because of Dresti’s unabashed use of synthesizers and, inexplicably, Oh’s deadpan delivery. By showcasing little-to-no personality, Oh gives off a cool, robotic charm, a glamdroid guiding you through the digital workings of Dresti’s production.
Unfortunately, people took Hot Like Wow as seriously as Nadia Oh took her own lyrics; it felt more a form of amusement than a serious record. But as poptimism took hold over the past decade, it let listeners reflect more thoughtfully upon the songs they consume, including the Millionaires and Amber Portwoods of the world. Nadia Oh, debuting right before poptimism really kicked in, possibly missed career longevity by a few years.
Since Hot Like Wow, Oh has released one other full-length album, Colours, three years later and then dropped off. But for a brief moment, she popped up in beloved TV shows, “So You Think You Can Dance” routines and fanmade MVs. To take a line from The House Bunny, another ‘08 gem, “that’s a meteor. It flashes by and burns bright, but then it disappears.” Nadia Oh too burned bright for a brief moment, but her afterimage burned the retinas and memories of stan Twitter, who refuse to let her go.