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2014/08/19

Overdue Music Reviews: August Singles, Part One



Overdue Music Reviews: August Singles, Part One

I am so tardy to this party.

Where did the month go?  August is rapidly coming to an end and I have tons of songs to review.  Still, based on what I’m sampling today, perhaps we’re not missing out on all that much. 

The sole exception?  Meghan Trainor’s breakthrough single, ‘All About That Bass’, which could end up being August’s saving grace and end up as one of the best songs of the year.   It’s infectious.  Joyful.  Brilliant.  Take a listen to it and I dare you not to get sucked in.

As for the rest?  Surely something to talk about, but nothing to make me wanna do ‘The Schmoney’. 

More like cheese and macaroni. 

Or day-old baloney.

Day-old baloney… you know, kind of like the sound of a steel guitar.

Lovers on the Sun
David Guetta feat. Sam Martin

What a frothy spew: spaghetti western synth-pipes and pseudo guitar, over the top vocals complete with war yodels, and lyrics that are only out-cheesed by the standard issue synths. 

At this point David Guetta is to dance what paint by number sets are to art.  It challenges you not, and you know exactly how the whole thing is going to turn out, even before you open the box.  

Burnin' It Down
Jason Aldean

The appeal of Mr. Aldean escapes me.  He’s a modern day Bubba.  I listen to his music and hear nothing charming, catchy, or ear worthy.  I listen to his voice and it’s so non-descript I want to go to sleep.  I read his lyrics and it’s like he has a day journal he jots thoughts down in and when he has so many words he decides he has enough for a song, so he strums some chords on his guitar and mashes it all up in there. 

Yep.  I don’t get it. 

This song could be any number of other country songs that have recently come before it.  It is indistinguishable.  It could be about anything.  It could be about nothing.  It doesn’t matter. It is simply so mind-numbingly dull. 

This isn’t music.  It’s wallpaper.  The kind they sell at Walmart.

One of the things I do like about him is that he isn’t so overproduced that he comes off as a cookie cutter country star.  However, that is exactly what he is packaged as.  He’s got the hat.  And knows how to set his jaw just right. 

He’s not all slicked up with the latest production techniques; no, his deficiencies as a performer are all front and center, despite the drum machines, and the layered treated vocals.  For in the end, he’s nothing more than a frat boy with a guitar who got lucky.  More and more I’m becoming convinced that modern country has nothing to do with talent.  It’s about obtaining a look, maintaining a non-threatening, relatable demeanor, and, above all else… having the right hat.

I like your hat, Mr. Aldean. 

I like your hat.

Don't Tell 'Em
Jeremih Featuring YG

Remember Snap!?  ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’?  That forms the basis for Jeremih’s latest offering.  It’s all slowed down and stripped bear, but he uses just enough of it to soften me up and get me all nostalgic.

Now, I assume Jeremih is about sixteen years old, because most of this song plays like an adolescent boys’ wet dream. 

There’s something charming about that.

Seems Jeremih’s got it bad for a girl, but he doesn’t want the love of his life telling anybody that they is doing the nasty, hence the title.   Unfortunately for this girl, the rhythm of her hips is the only thing she has of value to offer him.  Or, at least it’s all Jeremih’s interested in.  Yeah… she’s not so much a human being as a hot hole. 

And you know what?  I would be fine with this song.  It’s harmless enough.  But then YG comes in and porns it up big time, kind of ruining the simple summer love / horny boy scenario that Jeremih had going. 

The Jeremih part of the song?  Adolescent.  The rap by YG?  Way too adult.  So much so, that it causes the sweet tension that Jeremih has established and the whole thing collapses in on itself.

Pity. 

Yes.  It is a slight, bit of a song.  But it had something going for it.  That is until YG barges in there and hits all the obligatory rap song clichés: bitches, bling, and sex as a weapon.

This Is How We Do
Katy Perry

Does she really sample a Wynonna Judd song, here?  She sure do. 

It is subtle, but listen to that intro and you know exactly what I am talking about.  ‘No One On This Earth’ is a classic.  ‘This Is How We Do’?  Not so much.

Perry’s rap is fine (as in just okay), as is the chorus and the rest of the song on this sluggish fest.  And while the video is visually stunning, ‘This’ suffers from the same problem as the rest of her ‘Prism’ CD; a case of style minus substance and heart, polished to a high sheen. 

Sure, she gets in a couple of great lines, and granted, when it comes to Perry we aren’t exactly expecting Sondheim, but somewhere along the way the originality and zest that she brought to the pop scene in her early days has gone missing. 

In its place?   Product.  Competent product.

Oh, and kudos to whoever came up with “Mariah Carey-Okey”.  Best moment in the song.

Black Widow
Iggy Azalea Featuring Rita Ora

As pop/rap songs go, this is nothing new.  I like the toy piano.  However, this particular melodic swagger is now textbook stuff, with ‘Widow’ bringing little new to the table. 

Azalea is harmless enough and her raps come off as rather cute, in an old school, brat rap kind of way. 

It’s Rita Ora who anchors this sucker and continues to be something of a pop revelation.  Her ‘Never Let You Down’ is among the best songs of the year.  ‘Never’ is nothing much either (great production).  It’s Ora’s vocals that place it in the upper tier, a feat she accomplishes once more with ‘Widow’.

‘Black Widow is just a’right.  But Rita Ora?  She’s the real deal.

All About That Bass
Meghan Trainor

I defy anyone to hate this thing.  Yeah, it’s a novelty song, and they typically suck balls, but ‘Bass’s message is so amazingly positive, delivered in such a clever manner, and so incredibly needed in this plastic surgery / youth / perfect body obsessed culture – you cannot listen to this thing without a smile as broad has a buxom backside breaking out across your face. 

It’s fifties kitsch.  It’s bubblegum brat rap.  It’s pop with a calypso beat.  If John Waters wrote music instead of directing and writing films, this is the kind of thing he would come up with.

So, let’s all celebrate “bringing booty back”.

Now, I realize that novelty songs wear out their welcome pretty quickly.  But something tells me this is going to be on a lot of people’s best of the year lists come December.  It’s infectious.  And check out that video!  It’s a total winner.

And speaking of big butts…

Anaconda
Nicki Minaj

“Oh, my gosh… look at her butt.”

This is sort of a darker sided version of ‘All About That Bass’.  Same topic - only not very empowering at all.

Seems the faceless male protagonist with the titular beastie is dead set against doing it unless his woman got big buns. 

The rest of the song is a thug fairy tale of sort, where this ghetto Cinderella ‘s Prince Charming is a big time drug dealer.  She spends all her days high on “some dumb shit”, buying designer goods while waiting around to hop on her man’s ‘Anaconda’. 

But wait, she also knows this dude named Michael and he ‘slangs cocaine’.  He also won’t put it to no skinny-assed girl, so our heroine fits his bill, too.

Ummm… that’s about it. 

So Nicki is undeniably talented and this profanity laced bit of self-misogyny would seem unworthy of her talents.  But that is my perspective, as someone who thinks she has the ability to save rap from itself.  Unfortunately, here, she is simply choosing to go with the status quo, playing the same game the males in rap play – you know, the one where women are only valued for their physical attributes and what they bring to the bedroom.  That world where drugs and bling are essential to life. 

Musically, ‘Anaconda’ is much more interesting than what her male counterparts bring to the arena, even with the rather old school chorus as shouted by the male MC. So, props for that; we’ve come to expect nothing else from Ms. Minaj.  But that said…

Nicki?  You better than this, hon.     

Bang Bang
Jessie J, Arianna Grande, and Nicki Minaj

Hmmm.  Sounds like someone said, “Remember that time P!nk and Xtina and Lil’ Kim and that other girl got together and did a remake of ‘Lady Marmalade’?  Yeah, let’s do something like that again.

And somebody else said, “Oh, but that song is so played out.  How about something from the 80’s.  A classic sound?  Oh, I know… how about we reinvent The Pointer Sisters?  You know, in a P!nk and Xtina and Lil’ Kim and that other girl doing ‘Lady Marmalade’ kind of way?”

And ‘Bang Bang’ was born. 

The vocal runs are the same.  The clash of the titans atmosphere is, too, with everyone trying to out sing each other.  And if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine The Pointer Sisters doing a more mature, albeit laid back version of this song; it’s as if it was tailor made for them.

“Mmm hmmm.  Sounds like a hit to me,” said some lame ass record executive.

Sounds like a bit of a souped up, bloated mess to me. 

Catchy?  Probably. 

But then so are STDs.

Believe
Irina

A rather underwhelming dance offering from Irina Shapiro.  

Her vocals come off as flavorless as pre-chewed gum.  

The song itself is pleasant enough, but offers nothing to distinguish it from the run of the mill.  

I am normally all for stuff like this, but ‘Believe’ has me doubting a whole lot.

Hot Boy
Bobby Shmurda

Jailhouse yard sirens and static with a click beat open up this one.  It is currently the buzz track of the late summer, even though it’s actually from 2013.  The actual title?  ‘Hot N-Word’, and yes… it is another one of those horribly lazy tracks that use the menace of that word in order to obtain cred while repeating  it and the words ‘shawty’ and  ‘bitch’ as filler when needed.   I guess that is a good stand-in for actual style.

It’s a shame, because Bobby Shmurda actually has some talent.  ‘Hot N-Word’ actually demonstrates quite a bit of skill and a smidgeon of originality.  It feels highly authentic, as in fresh off the streets, even though the song itself is pretty standard rap crap, as in: he’s shot people, is familiar with numerous slang words for various guns, is gun and revenge obsessed, been selling crack since the 5th grade, would take the money he made selling crack to buy crack… ummm, yeah, you know the drill.

Based on how Shmurda looks, he’s probably never actually done crack (his teeth so white and pretty), so I’m thinking this is all a marketing gimmick.  But, much like the music itself, that kind of corporate manipulation doesn’t matter.

The thing that has people tuning in is the dance craze this song has kicked off, ‘The Schmoney ’, which, to be honest, doesn’t appear all that new to me, but Bobby has enough charisma to make people think so… so... good for him?  In the vid he’s dranking juice and smoking something.  Umm… how old is he? (He’s 20 years old.)

I guess this represents a sort of culture, you know, when you are bereft of one.  I guess this is a way to make a living.  I guess this is a great way to serve as a role model for youth – and keeping in mind the going-ons in Ferguson, Missouri, that really should matter a whole lot more than it currently does. 

(The community may have turned on old Bill Cosby because of what he said… but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.)

And that is why ‘Hot N-Word’ ultimately makes me very sad, because it’s part of a bigger picture; one which makes me even sadder.

As for Schmurda? 

I have a feeling this is a one-off by an artist we will never hear from again, except as a featured artist on some Drake and Chris Brown singles.  He sounds destined to self-destruct.  But before that happens, some label (Epic) will sign him and make a bank roll off of him, for sure.  

I don’t see him as something long term.

You know, unlike the aftermath that ‘Hot N-Word’ and songs of its ilk leave in their wake. 

Dirt
Florida Georgia Line

Man!  There are a lot of words to this song.

‘Dirt’ is a rather sincere effort on the part of the FGL boys to do an actual country song.  I would say it is a cut above what they have brought to the table in the past.  No, it’s not original.  No, there isn’t a hook to be found anywhere.  But there are all those words; words hung on a literary device that works well.   And they bring to mind images of a simpler time, a sweeter time, a time that doesn’t really exist except on reruns of ‘Friday Night Lights’ or ‘The Andy Griffith Show”. 

And then there is that lovely, lovely steel guitar.

And that lovely, lovely steel guitar is the reason ‘Dirt’ gets a passing mark from yours truly.

I’m a sucker when it comes to rewriting personal histories and waxing nostalgic for things that never existed. 

And horribly sentimental when it comes to the sweet, sweet sound of a wistful steel guitar.

Sigh.

I Don't Dance
Lee Brice

Lee Brice looks like a douche. 

He wears his trucker cap backwards, so that stupid window frames his forehead and that plastic strap with the little nodules so you can fit it to your head is right in front.  Damn, I hate that look.

But, shucks, goll darn it, dag nab it… I must be a fool in love, because I can’t listen to this song without big old tears welling up like some stupid, saucer-eyed hound dog.

Yep.  This is some highly effective sappy music.  Brice’s stance is that of a tough man who has never known love before – never allowed himself the prize.  He don’t dance, but he is head over heels, and therefore, willing to do anything just to be with the love of his life.

And then the steel guitar kicks in and… I am lost.

I don’t know if Mr. Brice is the genuine article or a marvel of manipulation.  My critical filter is shot when it comes to this one, so I am just gonna go lay on the floor and bawl like a big old baby.

A big old baby who is terribly, horribly, hopelessly in love.













1 comment:

mistress maddie said...

I'm all about the dance music in the summer. I really like the Meghan Trainor song. I do like me some Nikki, but not sure about this latest. I am still in love with her Roman Holiday. Around her Miley Cyrus is strong with her dance/folk song 4X4! Have you heard it? I can't generally stand her but love this song!