Britney Spears—”Hold It Against Me”
I agree with those who say the middle-eight is the best music Spears has made since Blackout, but that’s not saying much, and it’s the merest echo of tracks like “Piece of Me”. The problem isn’t just that Spears is repeating herself, but lack of context. “Piece of Me” was about something that only Spears could understand, and her anger and desire to make others see what she had been going through was palpable. Now that the crisis is over and other pop stars are taking the public heat, she has nothing to do but make her presence known and do her best to assert her sense of continued importance. Except now, just as at the beginning of her career, she doesn’t really have anything to say and does nothing but repeat the usual romantic and sexual tropes. The resulting music is as blank as her message.
Avril Lavigne—”What the Hell”
This one is growing on me, I admit. The middle eight is great, and though it has more than it’s share of dumb bits, it holds together as a decent piece of modernized girl group silliness. Not as good as “Girlfriend”, mind you, but not bad. I just wish Lavigne wasn’t so intent on making herself sound like she’s still a teenager. There’s something unsettling in hearing a record about the desire for casual sex that sounds like the most virginal Disney pop.
Kanye West & Jay-Z—”H*A*M”
Is this intended as a parody of the cult of personality or the start of one? When two superegos meet, is a ghastly music echoing the dreaded Carmina Burana the only thing that can reflect their monstrous self-regard? Are the mediocre opera singers supposed to be Sirens luring our heroes to their doom, or just the white supermodels who give West such good head? Is there a single genuine idea behind this overblown piece of shit? And if there is, would anybody give a fuck if they figured out what it was?
Cage The Elephant—”Shake Me Down”
I liked this band’s last single, “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”, which was self-deprecating and philosophical without being heavy. This is all heavy, every last alt-rock-pastiche minute of it, especially the parts that sound like Oasis. What a jumbled mess.
Garrett Hedlund & Leighton Meester—”Give In To Me”
This is a good song, but it’s another cut from Country Strong, and it suffers from all the negatives that most movie soundtrack songs share: the arrangements are too studied, and the singers, though technically fine, sound too much like actors. I’d love to hear a couple of real country singers take a whack at this, though.
Mann featuring 50 Cent—”Buzzin’”
The featured sample, Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait”, of all things, makes me think that someone should start a betting pool on which white one-hit-wonder producer J.R. Rotem will appropriate next. Quarterflash? Modern English? Spanky and Our Gang? Other than that, the only notable thing about this record is that the old school bass line has prompted Mann to echo old school vocal rhythms, as well. Just wish he went all the way with it. Then this might be a welcome breath of retro air, rather than a curiosity.
The JaneDear Girls—”Wildflower”
The cutesy double pun of their name will give you an idea of how hard they’re trying (too hard), and why it’s probably best to avoid them. Not terrible, but ordinary.