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2014/08/28

Overdue Music Reviews: August Singles, Part Three


Overdue Music Reviews: August Singles, Part Three

Ah, just time enough to sneak one more set of reviews in before August 2014 becomes a thing of our past. 

They say imitation is a form of flattery, but so many of the brown nosers I review this week are phoning in something someone else has already done, the music studios of this fair land must be overflowing with gushiness. 

But then, everything old is new again.

Unless it’s not.

Mediocrity?

Now that seems to be something that never goes out of style.

Which help explains the popularity of…

Shake It Off
Taylor Swift

Debuting at number one this week, ‘Shake’ is Taylor’s (long expected) way of saying “so long” to country music, shaking its dust off her boots once and for all. 

Produced and overdubbed for maximum power, the vocals come across as pointed and a tad shrill, but that’s so Taylor can compete with the likes of Ariana Grande.  That sound will also get her on the radio, which currently seems obsessed with sounds that irritate as a means of grabbing our attention and breaking through the static in our lives. 

It’s radio’s way of saying “pay attention, dammit”.  You know, as opposed to actually giving us a reason to listen by providing any actual content.

‘Shake’ is a simple upbeat empowerment anthem with an ancient fifties R&B vibe rumbling beneath.  The nice thing about it?  It’s very high school, playing to her core audience, and it’s rather refreshing to hear Taylor behaving like someone their age, rather than morphing herself into a mini Faith Hill.

Be sure to check out the video, where Taylor tries on all sorts of borrowed personas, including Lady Gaga, and demonstrates once and for all that she cannot dance (which is the vids intent) - to hilarious ends. 

It’s cute. 

It’s so Taylor.

It Was Always You
Maroon 5

Even by Maroon 5 standards, this song is slight, and ripped right out of the playbook of Duran Duran (listen to their ‘Come Undone’ and play spot the similarities).

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it will be a big hit, eating up huge blocks of quality radio time.

But that doesn’t mean, as songwriting goes, this qualifies as much.

Adam Levine and the boys seem aware of this, so mega production values (a la Depeche Mode) are brought in to keep things interesting.  They also hedge their bets by not doing the expected: holding back from the big bombast everyone expects at the 1:20 mark. 

That strategy ultimately dooms ‘It Was Always You’ from ever truly taking flight. 

Mired in 80’s synth / machine drum pop dreck, ‘Always’ never manages to get where our ears want it to.

The Promise (Original Mix)
Kissy Sell Out feat. Holly Lois

This is dance via the early 1990’s.  Robin S. mined all the gold out of this sound long ago. 

The vocals – edited and looped, are pitched high and tinny, working in harmony with the slight, hollow pipe backdrop that drives this thing. 

If it’s a new sound to you, I can understand being seduced.  But back in the day, this stuff was everywhere and, for me, at some point, wore out its welcome.  So, I’m not too excited about ‘The Promise’ – it simply doesn’t seem to hold much.

Chasing The Sun
Hilary Duff

Hilary Duff is America’s Kylie Minogue.  Just check out her latest video and see if you agree.

I’ve only listened to Ms. Duff in dance mode, all whipped up by some ambitious re-mixer, so ‘Chasing’ caught me off guard.

I guess timing is on her side; we’re on the downside of summer, sliding into fall, so in a way we’ll soon be chasing the sun.  But I’m not sure if that is enough to put this one into rotation. 

Her voice is fairly average (in a kewpie doll way) and the song, which could just as well be a country song, asks very little of her.  It is also fairly average in a Colbie Caillat / Sara Bareilles, bouncy / happy manner. 

But she sure is still cute as a button. 

Somebody needs to put her back on the television – where she belongs.

Gonna Get It Right
Nikkole

Where ‘Gonna’ is concerned, familiarity breeds a kind of fondness.

On the whole, this is pretty by-the-numbers diva dance music.  The all-too-familiar thump is in place, and the synths alternately rev things up and cool things down while filling in space as needed.   

The song is okay, too – catchy enough, I guess.  At first, I wanted to dismiss it, but I have a feeling it will wind up on my nano.

Maybe it’s Nikkole’s voice.

I’m not sure what it is, but vocally, she reminds me of Kathy Dennis (remember her?), and I always liked her.

So, ‘Gonna Get It Right’ receives a passing grade; sweet little homage to a time I recall fondly.  

Fireball
Pitbull Featuring John Ryan

I’ve come to realize that the reason Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Bailando’ has become such a big success is because Pitbull is nowhere to be found on it.

Yes, it seems my tolerance for all things Pitbull has reached its limit.  I find this man more and more insufferable.  It’s how flagrantly he flaunts his laziness that irritates the hell out of me.  

Although, musically, ‘Fireball’ possesses a sassy authenticity to it (shored up by John Ryan’s turn), the flow of the verses reminds me too much of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’.  That said, I’m not sure if he’s actually copping to ripping it off or just giving us a sly wink when, at the break, he stops and drops “And walk this way”.

Dude’s got balls.

It doesn’t matter.  His previous two hits, the awful ‘Timber’ with Kie$ha, and  the boring ‘Wild, Wild Love; with G.R.L, sealed this man’s doom and, much like Tonneloke before him, Pitbull has worn out his welcome and shall, too, quietly fade away.

That said… I’d still do him.

No Flex Zone
Rae Sremmurd

Rae Sremmurd = Drummers Ear.  Clever, huh?

Sigh. 

Remember Musical Youth and ‘Pass The Dutchie’?  It was a song that aped an adult musical genre but was issued from the mouths of babes.  It was funny, because little kids singing about smoking weed?  Oh, yeah, that’s funny.

No.  No, it wasn’t.

But there really wasn’t anything horribly offensive about it.

‘No Flex Zone’?

Oh, yeah… super offensive.

This is bottom of the barrel stuff.  Totally upsetting.

Kids that don’t even have pubic hair dropping rhymes that are normally issued from adult mouths, worshiping  bling and designer goods, and referring to women as ‘ho’s’?  Yeah, I don’t even know where to begin.

Thing is... the vid starts out with them dissing traditional rappers for doing exactly that.

But if this is culturally relevant – and not a joke?

Then it’s time for a new culture.

Because this?  This is nothing to inherit.

Stolen Dance
Milky Chance

This one has been on my nano since the end of spring.  Released in November of 2013, I would not have given it a chance in hell of ever charting, but guess what?  In its fifth week on the Hot 100, it’s at #66.  A slow climber, to be sure, but you never know what might happen.  Songs have certainly lingered longer before breaking as big. 

With its friendly guitar strumming and weird, mush toned vocals, ‘Stolen’ strikes me as something of a novelty song, perhaps a holdover from the heady days of Shawn Mullins (Yes, it seems everybody reminds me of someone else today).

It could break big, if it gets tied into an episode of some popular television show, but on its own?  I don’t think it’s direct enough to get radio play.  Charming enough, oh, hell yeah.  But these days stations only seem interested in piercing through our texting/sexting/cellphone fog, penetrating our ear drums with surgically precise, computer enhanced vocals.

I’m not sure the duo Milky Chance has much of one.

Riptide
Vance Joy

Just as quirky as ‘Stolen Dance’, chart-wise, ‘Riptide’ is in the exact same boat.   But where Milky Chance goes all mumbly, Vance is all earnest throat yodeling, a style I find annoying.

‘Riptide’ is just all right.  Annoying, but harmless.  No great shakes.

Of late, there have been a number of acts mining this same field with great success.  Blame it on the success of Mumford and Sons and Jason Mraz.  They opened the door for a whole bunch of quirky, indie, D.I.Y. folky pop to sneak in (Passenger, Of Gods and Monsters, et al).  The genre, as a whole, does little for me, though it does find its way on the radio - primarily, as an antidote to all those Pitbull songs.

Roller Coaster
Luke Bryan

See Luke Bryan, looking all constipated in his latest video.

When this song begins, I kept thinking it was going to be a commercial for Folger’s Coffee, or maybe some erectile dysfunction medication.  

But, no…

 “She wears a cross around her neck”, are the first words he sings. 

Yep, you know you are in for a special, special time.

You, know… like that first cup of coffee in the morning, as the sun is coming up?

Yep, it’s Folgers in your cup.

And like coffee, I bet this song will eventually help Luke Bryan poop out a good one.

Yep, this song has a lot in common with coffee…

…and other brown things.

The day country music gets real and stops spinning tales about a time that never existed except on ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’, is the day I start taking it seriously again.

Until then? 

It’s just so much brown stuff.

And I’m not talking coffee.
















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