New this week—3/7/10

Ludacris featuring Nicki Minaj—”My Chick Bad”

Notable mainly for containing the first Tiger Woods joke to make the Hot 100. When Ludacris is doing his rapid fire spitting over something loud and boisterous, his tastelessness goes down fairly easy. When he slows himself down like this, his crudity—not just in his humor, but in his flow—shines through.

Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris—”Break Your Heart”

Already a number one in the UK (and now in the US), and it’s easy to see why. The rough formula appears to be a mix of Akon and Chris Brown over a euro-techno beat, with the lilting tenor vocals that are so popular right now (i.e. B.O.B, Jay-Z-s “Forever Young”, anything by Drake). Ludacris adds nothing, but he doesn’t detract either. In commercial pop terms, it’s a classic. It’s sheer fluff (the music has nothing whatever to do with the lyrical message of the song), but it goes down easy, catchy enough to get your attention, short enough that you’ll want to hear it again once it does, and after a third listen it will be playing in your head forever. And when it does finally fade away, there’ll be something just like it to replace it with.

Kris Allen—”Let It Be”

I suppose I could give Allen points for trying to make something new out of this warhorse, but removing the melody is not the way to go about it. I know everyone’s tired of hearing it, but there is something majestic, yet humble, about that tune, and without it the lyrics are close to meaningless. Not that anyone notices what “Let It Be” is about anymore, anyway. Why else would they use a song about peaceful resignation as a call to action?

Trey Songz—”Neighbors Know My Name”

I tend to think of this as a follow-up to J. Holliday’s “Bed” or Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex”, but it’s more polished, and its humor is more intentional (I think) than those two. It’s also funnier—and sexier. If you never thought the day would come that you’d laugh at a soul singer crooning the word “headboard”, you were wrong.

Matisyahu—”One Day”

Well-meaning pap, and limp well-meaning pap, at that. Produced by the same team who created B.O.B.’s “Nothin’ On You”, who turn on the bland this time around, and co-written by Akon, who’s trying to collect as many well-meaning karma points as he can before his next album comes out. But the real weakness is the singer, who has all the technical gifts and none of the force or spirit of the Jamaican dancehall singers he imitates so assiduously (Barrington Levy would eat this guy for breakfast). Though I hesitate to suggest it, this comes perilously close, in my mind, to minstrelsy.

Yo Gotti featuring Lil Wayne—”Women Lie, Men Lie”

Another attempt to recreate that “A Milli” magic with an endlessly repeating, weird-sounding vocal hook. Almost works, too. But this is the only record I can think of where Lil Wayne simply disappears from memory once the track is over. The best joke is when Gotti starts exaggerating his list of possessions—he doesn’t sound that different from most other rappers. Of course, I always assume they’re lying, anyway; it’s hardly necessary to drive the point home.

Joe Nichols—”Gimmie That Girl”

This is catchy enough and fiery enough near the end that it could almost be mistaken for some alt-country track from the early 80s. Once you hear that Moore likes his woman barefoot and in the kitchen, though, you’ll know you’re still in good-ol’ traditional Nashville (where the early 80s is about as far into alt-country as anyone cares to go). Thank the Lord for small favors: at least she’s not pregnant (yet).

Justin Moore—”Backwoods”

Having covered the small town USA cliches on, er, “Small Town USA”, Moore heads out to the backwoods for another hootin’ hollerin’ mess o’ stuff you’ve already heard too many times before. I assume “I Love My Wife and Kids”, “Have I Told You About My Personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Who Doesn’t Mind If I Get Rowdy Once In a While)?”, and a cover of “America, Fuck Yeah!” are just around the corner.