With Pharrell in the producer’s chair, this was guaranteed to at least not be a rhythmic embarrassment. The acoustic guitar driven beat is a welcome change from the usual drum machines, Sheeran’s vocals are fine overall, and if “Sing” is only dinky-funky, at least it’s funky. But boy is it dumb. Sheeran honorably tries to avoid lyrical cliches, but what he comes up with to replace them is even worse. He sounds both naive and ridiculous, and the further he swerves from the basic beat the worse it gets (the bit about her bringing him tequila is embarrassingly bad). The funk would need to be a lot less dinky to make up for that.
Pitbull featuring Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte—“We Are One (Ole Ola)”
A made-for-World-Cup anthem with pre-fab stadium chanting and just enough flashes of energy to keep you listening. Things sag mightily when Jennifer Lopez slides up to the mic, but rebound thanks to Claudia Leitte, who even outdoes Pitbull in the energy department (wish they’d given her more space). Pitbull, in fact, sounds somewhat restrained. He’s much happier claiming to own the world than trying to unify its various peoples, though he does his best to sound interested. As World Cup anthems go, not terrible, though I know that’s not saying much.
KCamp featuring 2 Chainz—“Cut Her Off”
The shift back to the streets is almost complete. While the richest rappers, like Jay Z and Kanye West luxuriate in their mansions, collecting royalties and raising children, and while the second rank continue to brag about their foreign cars and their ability to still afford bottle service, a batch of younger rappers, their flow as jagged and stilted as their lives appear to be, rise up and try to reestablish the ancient rap values of dealing, pimping, and violence. They don’t seem as volatile as their predecessors, not as violent or headstrong, but their problems with women—not just particular women, but women as a concept—seem as impossible to solve as ever. The problem, of course, is in their heads, not in the women, but it would be almost impossible to make them understand that, much less admit it. At the same time, it’s that tension that makes their music worth listening to. This paradox is the real problem. Or a large part of the problem, anyway. Why would they give up a way of thinking that gives their life meaning and makes them rich, and makes their art, even if it causes them endless trouble at the same time? These are not new questions, but they’re no closer to being answered. Good record, though, even if it offends me.
For someone who claims to be offended by Miley Cyrus’s antics, Katy Perry sure does like to talk about her breasts. Or, rather, as she puts it here, her “big, big, big, BIG balloons.” I suspect her hypocrisy is the result of professional jealousy, though it could be a more personal form of jealousy, since Cyrus has managed to turn herself into a sexual beacon while possessing much smaller balloons than Perry’s. Whatever the case, Perry’s balloons are on full display, at least lyrically, on this piece of slick retro-disco, besides which Daft Punk seem packed with personality. It isn’t terrible, and it’s probably the best song I’ve heard from Prism after “Walking On Air”, but it’s empty and bloated, just like…well, you know.
I can do without the tribal chanting and the Tarzan yells, but at least here they signify something, i.e., the hold that childhood experiences and friendships and grudges can hold on us, at least into our mid-twenties. Once you get older, though, those things fall away, as these guys will learn soon enough. And then what will they think of this well-crafted, not particularly deep attempt at art? A little embarrassed, I bet, but not too much. After all, what it really expresses is a desire to be older and wiser and free of those childhood connections. All worthy goals. Maybe rock bands can grow up, after all.
will.i.am featuring Miley Cyrus, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, and DJ Mustard—“Feelin’ Myself”
This is will.i.am’s best solo record, a fact that you can credit to DJ Mustard, Miley Cyrus, even Wiz Khalifa, who sounds better here than he has in ages. Only French Montana fails to top his host, and even he comes close to a draw. will.i.am ran out of ideas a long time ago, and it’s interesting to find him abandoning his electro sound for something closer to current hip-hop. Maybe he’s desperate. The piling up of guests on this remix certainly suggests so. I bet he still thinks he’s the shit though. At least that’s what he keeps telling himself when he looks in the mirror. But even then he has to have Cyrus backing him up.
Ingrid Michaelson—“Girls Chase Boys”
When Michaelson had her one hit years ago, I thought she was smart and talented but too cutesy and shallow for her positive attributes to ever add up to much. But now, on “Girls Chase Boys” at least, she’s not only brought everything together, but has used her cute side to stunning effect: this is the sweetest, catchiest, most emotionally realistic piece of pure pop since “Call Me Maybe”. The sunniness is a neat trick, too, since in lyrical terms this is the polar opposite—a resigned kiss-off song that marks the end of a relationship rather than the beginning. The machine-like throb of the backing provides a sense of regret and here-we-go-again repetition, but it also confirms the one hopeful line in the song: “All the broken hearts in the world still beat”. Not as great as “Call Me Maybe”—it fades on repeated plays instead of expanding like Jepsen’s song did—but then what is?