P!nk—”Glitter In the Air”
Even aside from the impressive aerial ballet on the Grammies, this song has a lot of things going for it, all of which P!nk somehow manages to subvert well before it’s over. It’s frustrating to see an artist of such obvious intelligence and craftsmanship constantly fall back on cliche in order to get through her songs, but that’s what she does, time and time again. Whenever she gets close to a real emotion she stops and whips out some tried and true piece of schtick. It’s almost as if she’s afraid. Either that or she’s not as smart as she seems.
“Knockout” (featuring Nicki Minaj), #44
“Fuck Today” (featuring Gudda), #76
“American Star” (featuring Shanell AKA SNL), #91
On first listen these seem a big step up from the Lil-Wayne-goes-metal tracks that have appeared off and on over the last year. The sound is brighter, the tempos have more snap to them, the songs even seem to be about something besides the usual rap bragging. But they wear thin fast, and though I’m fascinated by the sense of racial frustration that permeates them (especially “Fuck Today”, which is a far better version of the same idea than “Drop the World”), the simple fact is that these records don’t work. He may love it, but metal doesn’t do Wayne any favors: it slows him down and constrains his natural gifts, and leaves you wondering exactly what he’s trying to get at. I’m not even sure that Wayne knows. Does he think that metal will allow him to delve into a deeper and more profound form of rage than rap (since when?), or is he just bored? Someone should remind him that twenty years ago Ice-T pulled the same trick just as his own interest in rap was fading. After that his music career was pretty much over (and the Body Count album was a lot better than this). What a perfect time to go to jail.
Dave Matthews Band—”You and Me”
For all his much vaunted skill and musical sophistication, it’s amazing how easily Matthews falls into cliche—hitting a high note on the word “fly” is about as old-fashioned and hackneyed as you can get—and all the rhythmic trickery in the world won’t cover up the fact that this song has virtually no melody; it’s just a collection of riffs strung together. I can understand why musos like him—I just don’t see why anyone else would care.
Kevin Rudolf featuring Birdman, Jay Sean, and Lil Wayne—”I Made It (Cash Money Heroes)”
I find it hard to believe that anyone from New Orleans (I mean Lil Wayne, not Rudolf, who’s from New York), could ever find this sort of plodding, lugubrious mush appealing, but obviously that’s a regional stereotype I’ll need to reconsider. The chorus isn’t terrible, but it isn’t exactly fresh, either, and the raps are meaningless. Why would anyone, from anywhere, think it’s a good idea to play hair metal slowly?
Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli—”Bridge Over Troubled Water”
I missed Blige and Bocelli on the Grammy Awards, but I read somewhere that Blige appeared intimidated by Bocelli’s voice, to which I can only say “Huh?” Even forgetting for the moment that Bocelli can’t sing (not in English anyway, and I’m not sure about his Italian, either), Blige walks all over him. Not that that’s a good thing, since she walks all over the song, as well, but “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has a long and glorious history of being oversung, and I’d be the last to deny Blige her shot at it. I just wish she’d done it on her own—she might have taken it even more deeply into church.
This is the most interesting Gucci Mane track I’ve heard, and easily the most eccentric. I haven’t been able to parse out enough of the lyrics to decide whether he’s saying anything worth hearing, but the music, especially the chorus (are those children singing or women’s voices electronically raised a couple of pitches?) holds my attention well enough even without being sure about what’s going on.
Shiny Toy Guns—”Major Tom”
This record, which sounds like a bunch of semi-talented suburban middle-schoolers playing in a three car garage with two of the doors open to annoy the neighbors, provides further proof that with enough exposure in TV commercials—especially during the Grammy Awards—anybody can scrape into the bottom reaches of the Hot 100 for a week. That we already knew. What I want to know is how anybody could have dared to complain about Taylor Swift’s vocals with this blaring out of their TV every ten minutes?