Something of a blah week, which is probably why it took me so long to get around to it (my apologies). It has, in fact, been a very slow year so far, even though there have been more records entering the chart than your average January, and one of them was from Justin Timberlake. I thought it was going to be a weird year, but now I’m beginning to wonder. So far it’s been tepid. I’m starting to get the feeling that in the future we’ll look back at 2012 as a year full of promise and then wonder what the hell happened in 2013. It’s still early, though, and that’s just a hunch. No predictions yet.
Lil Wayne featuring Drake & Future—“Love Me”
Mike Will Made-It is the hottest producer in rap right now, and the beat here helps to make Lil Wayne sound alive for the first time in months. Doesn’t sound like he’s thinking much, though: his raps on “Love Me” consist of one tired, unfunny sex joke after another, usually with a bad pun attached, and as you might expect he sinks into misogyny before he’s finished. Future provides the hook, and it’s a good one—wish they’d let him rap on it, too.
“Wild For the Night” (featuring Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam), #82
“Long Live A$AP”, #86
As much as I like the idea behind the A$AP crew—breaking down regional barriers and mixing and matching styles—the reality doesn’t yet live up to the hype. The Skrillex-produced “Wild for the Night” has a great vocal hook, and the chorus moves with a propulsion that’s rare in rap, but the repetitive synth squiggles are weak and corny, and they get worse as the track goes on. As for “Long Live A$AP”, all it proves to me is that the crew has been listening to Frank Ocean (the falsetto chorus is even built around the same word as the chorus of “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You”: “forever”). But everybody’s doing that, and this sounds more like cash-in than homage. Rocky raps well on both tracks, but doesn’t have anything special to say. A$AP has got a promising concept, but they may need a genius to pull it off, and I’m not hearing one on these records.
Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida—“Troublemaker”
“Troublemaker” is as readymade as they come, but it works. I hated Murs’s last single, which was so generic and soft focus it barely registered, but this is catchy and bouncy, with just enough personality to stick in your head. Flo Rida, who knows better than anyone how to jump start a hook, adds a little edge to the proceedings; it’s one of the few cases where a rap improves a record rather than making it worse.
Darius Rucker—“Wagon Wheel”
“Wagon Wheel”, which has been bouncing around Nashville for years, isn’t a great song, but it deserves better than this. Rucker’s only appeal is the gruff but friendly quality of his voice; he seems incapable of expressing emotion, or of knowing how to get at the root of a song’s meaning. He knows the chorus is about sex—at least I think he does—but capitalizing on that appears to be beyond him. I don’t know whether he doesn’t get it or he’s too tasteful, but whatever the case the song is stolid from beginning to end. The music doesn’t help: there are spots where the entire record seems so listless it’s almost dead.