We first got a glimpse of the marriage of Vula Malinga's light and agile yet powerful vocals and Ben Jones' clean, funky, '80's/'90's-inflected production style on Vula's solo EP, 2008's If You Want It, but it would be another four years, and a new name, before we got to fully embrace the musical mastery of DivaGeek. Both Vula and Ben are well known names on both the UK and international music scenes, with Vula having provided vocals for the likes of Bugz In The Attic and Basement Jaxx, as well as touring extensively with Sam Sparro, and Ben has played on some of the best (and most slept on) UK albums to be released in recent years. He Said, She Said saw the duo freed from the shackles of making the music others wanted to make, giving them free reign to do them, on their own terms.
The album kicks off with "Mr. Gingerman's Intro," a manifesto of sorts, where The Diva (Vula) and The Geek (Ben) set out who they are and what they intend to do on this album. And their intentions are clear: They are crafting an album that everyone from the young hipster set, to the more mature soul crowd, can nod their heads and move their feet to. From there they go on to deliver stone cold soul-pop jams ("Mr. Happy"), electro-soul party starters ("Money" and its "£900" intro, "Oh La Laa"), laid-back grooves ("Can't Take The Heat," "Lil' Longer") and a pair of outstanding covers, Michael Jackson's "Can't Help It" and Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go For That." The former is the freshest take yet on the oft-covered track, while the latter transforms the '80's classic into something almost unrecognizable and, dare I say it, more soulful. I said it in my original review, and I'll say it again here, their reading of "I Can't Go For That" should go along with the tagline "a masterclass in how to do a cover version." The arrangement is slowed down, the instrumentation updated for a new generation and Vula delivers her best vocal to date. Seriously, if you don't have the album yet, listen to this one track and you will be sold, I promise you.
At first glance the album, at 15-tracks in length, could have outstayed its welcome, but thanks to the duo's eclectic style and use of sub-three minute songs, your ears are constantly bombarded with fresh sounds that should keep even the most attention-defecit amongst us more than happy. It's a shame that DivaGeek didn't get to release He Said, She Said with a full-on, major label promo budget as it really could have become a summer smash, both in its native UK and the US, but we will have to console ourselves with the fact that He Said, She Said will go down not only as one of the best albums of 2012 but an underground soul gem that will be listened to by those in the know for many, many years to come.