Taylor Swift—”Back To December”
The problem with most pop and country ballads isn’t that they’re slow and lugubrious (though they often are), but that they’re so damned predictable. You can see every turn in the melody and lyric (if there are any turns, which is another problem) coming before you’ve even gotten through the solemn piano intro. Not this one. Almost effortlessly, Swift generates the drama a good ballad is supposed to contain. She can pack more words into a line without sounding like she’s overdoing it than anyone in the business, and the melody, which bounces up and down like a heartbeat on the chorus, goes places no other country balladeer would ever consider. She constantly comes up with lyrical details that sound lived in rather than looked up, and unlike most of Swift’s previous records, the ending is ambiguous and avoids another fairy tale conclusion. Though how any man with sense could say no to her is beyond me.
“River Deep, Mountain High”, #41
“Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy”, #48
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, #50
“Le Jazz Hot”, #94
Nelly featuring T-Pain and Akon—”Move That Body”
Since Nelly has already made his comeback I can’t call this “three attempted comebacks on a single record”, but that sure is what it sounds like. Nelly is all right, and Akon is Akon, but T-Pain has never sounded duller, auto-tuning the only thing that makes him identifiable. Live by the plug-in, die by the plug-in.
Sugarland suffers from what I’ve always thought of as Jackson Browne Syndrome. Crafty, catchy, and intelligent as they obviously are, too often their music seems totally detached from their lyrics, and on a song like this, when the lyrics aren’t clear, it’s virtually impossible to discover what the damn thing is about. Feelings, I guess, nothing more than feelings.
Another ordinary celebration of the ordinary from the king of same. Though it’s possible to admire his consistency, if it isn’t a rut it sure ain’t a groove.
Trace Adkins—This Ain’t No Love Song”
Reviewed in Bubbling Under, 10/17/10
T-Pain featuring Rick Ross—”Rap Song”
It’s probably unfair to compare T-Pain to The-Dream—The-Dream is a kind of genius, whereas T-Pain is a guy who had one brilliantly inspired idea and whose inspiration is fading fast—but if I’m going to listen to a song about making love to other people’s music, I’ll stick to “Kelly’s 12 Play”. Aside from a clever, if somewhat aged, Kanye joke, and the tasteless suggestion of having sex to Straight Outta Compton, this contains nothing to distinguish it from a lot of other auto-tuned slow jams. And has Rick Ross ever sounded more out of place than he does here? Did they just lift his rap from another record and stick it in?
Lloyd—”Lay It Down”
Lloyd’s made some strong records over the last couple of years, but unlike Trey Songz, who was in a similar position until he finally broke a few months ago, Lloyd hasn’t been as lucky on the charts. And now it sounds as if he’s getting desperate, because this song is seriously insane. Vocally it’s all over the place, crooning here, yelping there, auto-tuned and stretched like a rubber band in the chorus, and ending, God help us all, with yodeling. He sounds like he’s having a great time, but the rest of us are left scratching our heads. It gets your attention, but where exactly is this all supposed to end? And will anybody else be around when it does?
My Chemical Romance—”Only Hope For Me Is You”
This is strong and catchy, but it goes on too long and gets dangerously close to Linkin Park territory. There’s such a thing as coming on too strong. Trust your sense of humor, guys, it hasn’t failed you yet.
The Black Keys—”Tighten Up”
Danger Mouse’s production makes this more than just a late-’60s funk/rock homage, but not much more, and the vocals and lyrics take you right back to Grand Funk Railroad territory. And if there’s any band who’s reputation doesn’t need a positive reassessment, it’s Grand Funk Railroad. Queen was bad enough.
Big Time Rush—”Til I Forget About You”
Catchier and more mature than their first single, but still nothing to get excited about, even if you’re thirteen. In fact, they may have matured just enough to put themselves into demographic limbo.
Hannah Montana featuring Iyaz—”Gonna Get This”
Despite the credit to Hannah Montana rather than Miley Cyrus, this is not Disney pop. Disney pop doesn’t exist anymore. Partly this is because Disney pop has become more mature and up-to-date, but largely it’s because pop music itself has taken a giant step in the direction of Disney. There’s now no noticeable difference between the two. No doubt this was Disney’s plan all along, though it does make you wonder how they’ll distinguish any stars they try to create in the future from the mass. As for this record, it’s pretty good, nearly as good as anything Miley Cyrus has put out under her own name, though not as good as the best stuff she did as Hannah Montana. Since there’s no real difference between the two anymore, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to end it.