Owl City & Carly Ray Jepsen—“Good Time”
Adam Young, better known as Owl City, should not try to be David Guetta (especially if he’s going to sing), and Carly Rae Jepsen, who, despite “Call Me Maybe”, still needs to establish herself as a career artist, shouldn’t be trying to help him. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a record that sounded like such an obvious cash-in on the part of everyone involved. From Young I don’t expect anything better, but “Call Me Maybe” is going to be in the top ten for the rest of the summer, and it’s way too soon to indulge in such an obvious ploy to keep Jepsen in the public eye. I also hear she’s working with Ryan Tedder. In a recent article in Billboard, Jepsen’s manager, Scooter Braun, was quoted as telling her that her life wasn’t going to be much fun for awhile. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be much fun for her audience, either.
Maroon 5—“Wipe Your Eyes”
Despite, or perhaps because of his second career as judge/mentor on The Voice, Adam Levine has become the most irritating, if not the worst singer of our time. Here, with the assistance of producer J.R. Rotem, he emphasizes this fact by singing, via sample, with one of the best vocalists in the world, Mariam Doumbia of the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam. Rotem and Levine compound the mistake by using one of the duo’s greatest songs, the ethereal and mysterious “Sabali” (co-written and produced by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz; it may be the best piece of music he’s ever been connected with). The result is almost sad. Levine is so outclassed he doesn’t even try; his voice is hoarse and he sounds exhausted and depressed. If, by some chance, this results in “Sabali” getting the attention it deserves, then I guess this record’s existence will be good for something. But otherwise it’s not much more than a sour joke, one that even I can’t bring myself to laugh at. (Note: At least according to the Billboard listing, Doumbia, her writing partner Marc Antoine Moreau, and Albarn aren’t given a songwriting credit for this record; so maybe Levine’s vocal comeuppance is exactly what he deserves.)
More pop than Skrillex (who has done a remix), but still identifiably dubstep (whatever that means by now), this is notable only for the fact that it’s a real song, and not just a beat with some vocals thrown on top of it. They may even have written the song before they came up with the beat, but judging by the way it stops and starts and stalls as it stumbles along, I assume not. It’s not a very good song, and if it wasn’t for the music (and the record’s placement in a TV commercial) no one in the U.S. would have noticed it. It did debut at number one in England, but it was a slow week.
Wale featuring Rick Ross, Meek Mill & T-Pain—“Bag of Money”
What a generous guy Rick Ross is. Here, after giving Wale a brief guest spot on one of his many tracks, Ross turns around and allows Wale to release it under his own name, letting a little of that Rozay magic rub off on him as he struggles to establish a career (based on his rap here, he needs all the help he can get). Mind you, Ross knew this wasn’t a great track, and that it wouldn’t be a huge hit, even with T-Pain autotuning (or T-Paining I guess it’s now called—not to be confused with trepanning though the effect is often the same) in the background. Generosity has it’s limits.
Linkin Park—“Lost In the Echo”
For Linkin Park, not bad. The lyrics lack their usual vague generalization and overbearing pretentiousness, and the music continues to modernize their sound without turning it into novelty dubstep. Not great, of course, but at least it isn’t laughable.
Nickelodeon has tried every way to make Big Time Rush into real stars rather than just tween faves. They’ve given them top production and decent songs, got Snoop Dogg to do a guest spot, dressed them up in suits like Il Divo, everything. Here, they get modernized, their name shortened to BTR (already the name of one of their albums), and pointed roughly toward the same musical territory as The Wanted and One Direction. It doesn’t work, largely because the song is too busy and complicated (is anything on the radio simpler than the stuff The Wanted sing? They make nursery rhymes sound baroque), but also because, as singers, the members of BTR are undistinguished. You can’t create pop stars out of nothing, after all, or at least nothing but looks.
Zac Brown Band—“The Wind”
This is better than most of Zac Brown’s stuff not only because it’s fast, but because it’s so loose. He lets the band show off in the best possible way, and the record not only zooms but swings (maybe Brown’s been listening to some Kentucky Colonels in between the Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor). And, for the first time I’ve heard, Brown sings like himself instead of one of his heroes. Turns out he doesn’t have much vocal personality of his own, which explains a lot.