Tim McGraw—”Felt Good On My Lips”
This sounds sexier than most country, and I like the way McGraw changes up the meaning of the title line as he goes along; all very professional. Like a lot of country, though, the lines that are supposed to provide detail and a bit of humor tend to sound forced and out of place; he devotes so much time and energy to describing a mixed drink it’s impossible not to snort. Then it all ends with nothing more than a goodnight kiss. It might make a good joke song if McGraw upped the tempo, or a good romance song if you got the feeling there was the least possibility of romance. As it is, it’s nothing.
The chorus, with its echoes of both classic girl groups and post-punk girl bands, is enough to carry the rest of the song, which is hedonistic without being greedy, a smart move. Is she trying to reclaim “sleazy” the same way the riot grrrls tried to reclaim “slut”? It didn’t work the first time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying again.
Nicki Minaj featuring Eminem—”Roman’s Revenge”
Oddly enough, this otherwise awful record appears to mark the return of Eminem’s sense of humor. Needless to say, it’s a highly offensive sense of humor, and the laughs aren’t boffo, but he sounds even more on top of things here than he did on Recovery. Minaj, meanwhile, is completely out of her league (Lil Wayne must have been taking it easy on her), and the only good thing about her fake British accent is that it comes after all of Eminem’s bits so you can turn the damn thing off without feeling you’re going to miss something. The less said about Minaj’s choosen name for her alter ego, Roman Zolanski, the better. Slim Shady she ain’t.
“We No Speak Americano” hasn’t come close to finishing its chart run, but that doesn’t stop Pitbull from jumping aboard, and good for him. His perfect timing and sense of humor make the song both more bearable and may even give it some meaning, though since yo no hablo español, I couldn’t say what that would be. Chances are he’s just trying to pick up a girl.
Kenny Chesney—”Somewhere With You”
There are hints of something deep and dark in the lyrics, maybe even a dose of reality, but Chesney delivers it all with his usual well-oiled aplomb, and by the end the record has turned into another one of his lady-pleasing “I wanna sleep with you tonight” songs. Even when he’s trying to be thoughtful the guy can’t resist shameless pandering.
T.I. (featuring Chris Brown)—”Get Back Up”
It’s a surprise that not only is T.I.’s latest apology (or would this be his first?) is so light-hearted, it’s also so lightweight in terms of sound. You’d never know he had a care in the world, a feeling Chris Brown, even with his own history, only enlarges (I’ve never cared for him as a lead, but he’s a great background singer). T.I. is still harping on the haters, but at least he’s picking out the right haters, and not throwing insults out scattershot. I suspect the softness of the sound is an attempt to make him look like a nicer and more thoughtful guy than he may actually be, but at least he seems to be thinking about it.
Ricky Martin featuring Joss Stone—”The Best Thing About Me Is You”
I bet this sounds better in Spanish. And I bet if I spoke Spanish I would think it sounds better in English. I’m glad Ricky Martin came out, but that doesn’t mean I want him to come back.
Wannabe teen sensations steal their song structure from “Creep”, their riffs from The Who, their lyrical ideas from Mudhoney, and their overall vibe from, uh, The Records? Not The Records of “Starry Eyes”, unfortunately. More The Records of “Teenarama”, which isn’t bad, but isn’t great, either. I could do without the hurling sound effect at the end, but this is growing on me. They may not have enough sense to know how tasteless the idea of this song is, but I bet they wouldn’t care if they did. Who says power pop is dead?
Reviewed in Bubbling Under, 11/7/10
Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson—”Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Good singer hooks up with great singer, and together they sing a terrible song and let the arrangement drown out their voices. I couldn’t care less about what Aldean does, but Clarkson deserves better, and there’s no reason to believe she’ll ever go out and get it or even realizes it exists. Her weakness for power ballads appears to be authentic, just like her voice. What a depressing combination.
Toby Keith—”Bullets in the Gun”
This is overwrought and too reliant on cliches, but it’s nice to know that there’s at least one guy in Nashville who’s willing to keep some sort of edge in his songs and doesn’t make pretty in the face of all the women who want to bash in his headlights and gun him down with a shotgun. Despite his jingoistic sins in the past, he make no apologies, knows his own strengths, and refuses to retreat from the masculine turf he’s been plowing his whole career. Hell, he may be the only real man left in town.
Rock Mafia—”The Big Bang”
A weird one. Forget their Disney pedigree for a moment and just listen to this thing: the vocals, Tim James electrically modified so that in some moments he sounds like Amy Winehouse and in others as if he were computer-generated, are odd enough, but the overall sound is an even stranger throwback to sixties movie music, albeit a little funkier. It could be a rejected James Bond theme from 30 years ago. The lyrics, which compare the jolt of lust to the creation of the universe, are out there, too. Then there’s the whistling. Maybe Disney provided them with the one thing many artists don’t realize they need: a leash.
Blake Shelton—”Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”
First line, over gentle acoustic guitar and light brushes on the drums: “My oh my, you’re so good lookin’/Hold yourself together like a pair of bookends”. After an opening like that the song has no choice but to get better, and it does, but not much better. I think I’ve asked this before but I’ll ask it again: what does Miranda Lambert see in this guy, anyway?