Jack Johnson—”You and Your Heart”
Jack Johnson hates haters. Ooh, he hates those haters. He hates haters because they do hateful things like have standards and because their hearts are somehow disconnected from their bodies. (Jack Johnson’s heart is connected directly to his body, and he’s got the song catalog to prove it.) He hates haters so much he lets his guitar distort—just a little, not too much—and convinces his band to play like they hate haters, too. He almost sounds angry. If those haters keep hating he might just go insane. Let’s try it and see.
Jamie Foxx Featuring Justin Timberlake & T.I.—”Winner”
Like all of Foxx’s hits, this one gets the credits wrong—it should be “T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake and some other guy”. I’d give Foxx credit this time out for rapping in his own voice, except he doesn’t have one (he doesn’t dare imitate anybody who can actually sing or rap without technological aid). He is skillful at getting good material out of his “guests”, though. Timberlake actually sounds interested, and T.I. walks off with the record, which he treats as if it were his latest comeback single. Considering how his first comeback single is doing, it may well be.
B.o.B.—”Don’t Let Me Fall”
Aside from the fact that B.o.B. can’t sing, isn’t it a little early in his career to be trotting out the rap equivalent of a demographic-widening power ballad? That’s the third single, dude. Second single’s supposed to be the damn!-look-at-how-famous-I-am record. You’re getting everything out of order.
Tempo-wise, these guys have only one gear, second, but they seem to think that being loud and gruff makes up for this. It doesn’t. This is all about chilling on a sunny afternoon, but it doesn’t chill, and it isn’t sunny, and it forces me to the conclusion that their deliberate lack of subtlety isn’t a stylistic choice or commercial calculation–they honestly lack the ability to play any other way. I’d almost feel sorry for them if I thought they were smart enough to recognize it.
Miranda Cosgrove—”Kissin U”
For it’s latest foray into the Disney-owned tween pop universe, Nickelodeon brings out the big guns, hiring Dr. Luke to produce what sounds like a Kelly Clarkson reject sung by a teenage girl who’s been listening to too much Ke$ha. Not that Dr. Luke isn’t constantly trying something new; here he experiments with the idea of a chorus that is actually more sluggish than the verses. Needless to say, this isn’t a good idea, but no one involved with this record seems to have noticed that, or to care.
Alicia Keys—”Unthinkable (I’m Ready)”
Wait a minute—how old is Alicia Keys? She must be old enough to not consider sleeping with somebody as “the unthinkable”. Is this written from a teenager’s perspective? The music, all slow-grind and heavy percussion, certainly doesn’t sound like it. If it’s about cheating there’s no sign of that either. Does she have any idea what she’s doing at all?
Breaking Benjamin—”Give Me a Sign (Forever And Ever)”
I’d have a lot more respect for Christian metal if what I heard of it wasn’t so one dimensional. It’s all about suffering and pain, the sonic equivalent of The Passion of the Christ, with flagellation and crucifixion replaced by headbanging and bleeding ears. I suppose it’s meant to be cathartic, but how can it be when they do the same thing over and over again? Apparently, as that model Christian, Jacqueline Susann, put it, once is never enough.
Kelly Clarkson—”All I Ever Wanted”
God, I wish Kelly Clarkson picked better material. She sings this perfectly, but it isn’t much of a song, and though I don’t expect masterpieces four singles into a Clive Davis-managed pop album this should be better than it is. As a more subdued version of the stuff she did on My December I suppose it could be considered a step in the right direction, but the real problem with that album wasn’t musical overkill (though that was a problem) so much as the weakness of the material. Maybe this will grow on me the way “Already Gone” did. But “Already Gone” stayed in one place and drove its point home. The greatest singer in the world couldn’t save a song as confused as this one.