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Musical Things in Time for Spring: April Pop Music Reviews Part II

Another crop of new singles making their way onto the airwaves.  Personally? I’m waiting for a revolution.  Something to bring a bit of authenticity back to radio. 

Today’s lot is pretty much akin to one of those so-called ‘energy’ drinks: a dab of nutritional nonsense, a bunch of eye-searing neon colors, a dose of chemically inspired flavor, and a ton of sugar and caffeine. 

Empty calories, indeed.

Choke this down.

Fever – The Black Keys

This one surprised me.  This is not The Black Keys I remember.  On ‘Fever’, their first single from their latest album, ‘True Blue’, they’re aiming for radio play.  Sure, that vintage sixties vibe is still there, but the Hammond organ part is tweaked, sounding more like something an 80’s band would have played on a synth.  In fact, synths do come into the mix later, adding a hazy depth to the whole proceedings. 

This reminds me of what Franz Ferdinand and Phoenix served up in 2013.  That’s not a bad thing, just surprising coming from The Black Keys.  Whether it takes the duo where they want to go remains to be seen… things haven’t panned out well top-40-wise for the likes of The Artic Monkeys and Arcade Fire, or the aforementioned groups, but this is welcome relief from all the tween garbage currently taking up the airwaves.  

Weighted by the rich, full vocals of Dan Auerbach, the song is basic enough and good enough that at a future date it could be rescued from all its current production values that pin it to this specific time period, and be presented as the kick-ass song it really is.

You’re Mine (Eternal) – Mariah Carey

Released on Valentine’s Day, this single finds Ms. Carey in love goddess mode, cooing and whispering away in that feathery, lighter than air, croaky sound that now passes as her voice.  This is for fans only.  There’s nothing about this song that earmarks it as anything other than pleasant filler. 

There is a remix version featuring Trey Songz where Mariah ends up as little more than lace on the curtains, but that proves unsatisfying as well.  Vocally, a shadow of her former self, this diva is going to have to try a lot harder if she wants to maintain her status. This?  This is about as entertaining as a television holding pattern.

Give Life Back To Music – Daft Punk

Not a lot to going on here; some sped up Chic guitar action, a pleasant enough chorus and… that’s all she wrote.  It keeps a steady course, maintaining and going nowhere.  Yes, it’s a classic disco homage, but a little too on-the-nose and vacant to keep my interest.  Like marshmallow fluff, it’s fun, but not very filling and you certainly wouldn’t want to make a meal of this sort of thing.

Move that Doh – Future feat. Pharrell Williams and Pusha T (and Casino, on the extended version)

Originally titled, ‘Move that Dope’, this is the dumbed down title that makes it onto the Billboard 100.  We all know what they’re referring to, but in order to make nice and get it on the shelves at Wal-Mart, they have to ‘smiley face’ it up. 

Future makes like a mushy-mouthed Pitbull over a relentlessly busy assembly line beat with synth splashes which keeps the whole thing edgy and twitching.  That is until Pusha T arrives on the scene, delivering exactly what you would expect from someone named Pusha T; some nonsense about dealing drugs for life along with a bunch of other dull, predictable hype. 

Pharrell then manages some pretty trippy word flow, instilling life back into the scene, though I’m not exactly sure what doing naked yoga with a bunch of ‘girls’ has to do with anything.  Ultimately his contribution dissolves into that horrible ‘N’ word repeated ad nauseam, but by that point the phrase ‘Move dat dope’ has been mumbled a billion times by Future (that serves as the whole of the chorus), so repetition is not really the issue here (except, of cours, it is). 

On the extended version, Casino shows up, overstaying his welcome while contributing nothing of value, though I do admire his flow, which is at least unique and mildly interesting.

I assume Pharrell is on board to gain some of that all-important street cred, but he should hang his head in shame for being associated with this cliché-ridden tripe.  Damn embarrassing.  You all need to ask more of yourself.

Trophies – Young Money feat. Drake

Drake tries to prove something on this so-so track, and had me laughing from the get go.  See him in the video and you will laugh (for all the wrong reasons) even more.  He is such a total poser, lacking authenticity.

Young Money has the real skills and sound, but the clichés abound and overwhelm.

It’s a total wash making no impact whatsoever (though I do like the tiny bit of horns). 

Okay, I would like to hear a rap song that includes NONE of the following:

Designer names
Celebrity names
Brands of Liquor
Brands of automobiles
That nasty-ass ‘N’ word
References to money
References to ‘pimpin’
References to ‘bling’
References to ‘swag’
References to drugs
References to guns
References to murder
References to woman as: ho’s, bitches, skanks, gold diggers, or strippers
References to genitalia
References to sexual acts

Is that asking too much? 

Because, if that is what you want to define as a ‘culture’, then honey, it is time for a revolution.  Life truly ought to mean more and you all need to be bringing something fresh to the table at this stage in the game.

Please leave your submissions in the comment section. 

Anything with Macklemore does not count.  Nor does MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice.  Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean I am already aware of (and celebrate).

She Looks So Perfect  - 5 Seconds Of Summer

Sounds great on the radio.  Edgy power pop which could have meant something had anybody bothered to infuse the lyrics with anything other than most harmless of tween preoccupations.  Those pseudo-menacing sounding guitars can’t mask the fact that the melody of the chorus is a carbon copy of billion other Taylor-Swift-ish songs currently flooding the pop and modern country markets.

And all the guitar poses, stupid piercings, skunk-punk do’s, and skinny jeans can’t disguise the fact that this is merely another manufactured quartet of too-cute tween boys who want you to ‘heart’ them with your credit card. Given the age of those singing this piece of glop, I have a hard time imagining them having lived long enough to ‘work too damn hard to just it give up now’ anything. 

Kudos though for inclusion of the word ‘underwear’.  As in, she’s standing there wearing yours…yeah.  Edgy, huh?  Roll eyes here.

Fancy – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

Hmmm.  Her rhymes are fine.  No complaints, really.  Yes, she presents herself as a pleasure object, dropping low and all that crap.  Apparently she takes her liquor straight which is… something to brag about?   And of course there is swag and shopping and money thrown in the mix, because without that it simply would not be ‘real’ enough, or speak to whoever her target audience might be.  Sigh. 

The repetitive bass riff that powers the whole thing wears on me just a bit, but there’s enough going on to keep my interest.  Charli XCX, last heard on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, does no harm with a slight, sing-song-y chorus and bridge.  Call this Brat Rap.

Stay With Me – Sam Smith

Another pudgy, pale brit with enough vocal tics to pass as something original.  Put Boy George, F.Y.C.’s Roland Gift,  Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, and Level 42’s  Mark King in a blender and you have Sam Smith.  That he’s a talent cannot be argued.  Along with John Newman, this could be the tipping point of another British blue-eyed soul invasion.

This song?  We’ve heard it a million times before, right down to the overpowering gospel-like choir.  The lyrics are clever, fine and heartfelt, as is the performance.  This is Mr. Smith’s third entry on the Top 100 in as many weeks and his first as a solo artist, so it looks like he may well be the next big thing.

Play It Again  - Luke Bryan

Baseball cap wearing, good-time charley, Luke Bryan continues his winning streak with country loving frat boys and the like.  What is the appeal?  His weighty baritone goes down as smooth as expensive bourbon while his songs hit all the right buttons – pick-up trucks, listening to the radio, gentlemanly courtship, sweet-as-pie dewy-eyed girls… ugh.  So boring. 

I’ve looked at pictures of this dude up close. With those bags under his eyes and that weird twinkly smile, he looks like he smokes a ton of weed, as in, he is to country music what Matthew McConaughey is to movies.

‘Play It Again’ lopes along pleasantly, taking it’s time, and acting like it has no place to go, quickly or otherwise.  It’s harmless… and deadly boring.

Ride – SoMo

This boiler plate, slow seduction jam sounds like the many others that have preceded it.  The treated vocals are annoying as fuck – dude sounds like a tinny bleating goat.  It detracts what could have been a very nice, if unoriginal entry to the genre. 

Prince has done it better.  So has R. Kelly.  It’s that whole treated vocal thing that robs SoMo (that’s a name?) of the opportunity to establish a personality; something vitally necessary for this kind of track to click with the listener.  Not that it matters though… his passable poster boy ready looks (and incredible abs) pretty much guarantee him a place on the walls of teenage girls everywhere.

Sing – Ed Sheeran

Another surprise.  This syncopated slice of dance infused pop moves with a propulsion unexpected.  He catches the listener totally off guard with an odd acoustic first verse before the back beat lands, filling out and anchoring this little juggernaut.  Then, once he breaks into his crooning falsetto for the bridge to the chorus, a total revelation, there’s little doubt he’s got the listener hooked. 

Coming from the man who last was heard crooning moon-June stuff with Taylor Swift and playing it all acoustical with his ode to a crack whore, ‘Sing’ feels like it comes from out of left field.  No doubt about it, Mr. Sheeran is here to seduce and, for the most part, he succeeds, in a peppy Dave Matthews kind of way. 

With his eye on the prize and hungry for more mainstream success; something tells me that ‘Sing’ is just the ticket Ed needs to board that train.

1 comment:

whkattk said...

Oh, my... I feel so out of it this time. lol. I better turn on the radio and catch up!