“Dog Days Are Over”, #22
“Hey, Soul Sister”, #29
“(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, #38
“Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, #97
Even with Brian Eno producing, they’re still a bunch of pretentious boobs, and this sounds like what might have happened if Genesis had tried to rewrite The Pogues’s “Fairytale of New York”. Except this version focuses entirely on how sorry the guy is feeling for himself; it never dares to suggest that he might deserve his lonesome fate. Maybe that’s because it’s too busy trying to sort out its pseudo-poetic lyrics: “I took my feet down to Oxford street”. Really? Did you carry them in a sack?
Flo Rida featuring Akon—”Who Dat Girl”
Flo Rida’s presence is so minimal in relation to everything that makes this record worthwhile you’d barely know he was on it if you didn’t read the credits. If you did, you’d realize how much this record owes not only to Akon, who sings the hook, but also the omnipresent Bruno Mars, who co-wrote it, and Dr. Luke, who produced it. Makes you wonder what Mr. Rida’s actual contribution is. How about being the guy who knows what sells? That’s always enough to make you look like a supreme talent.
Victorious Cast featuring Victoria Justice—”Freak the Freak Out”
This is the first of the Nickelodeon singles that comes close to the level of the Disney-pop they hope to cash in on, and it arrives just as Disney-pop itself is beginning to fade into memory. There will always be a market for clean-as-a-whistle, bouncy pop, and maybe Nickelodeon can cash in on the next generation (these things being counted, as they are, in five year intervals). This record, which is more Selena Gomez than Miley Cyrus, though nowhere near the best of either, sounds like a good place to start.
Did I say Coldplay were pretentious? They are, but only if you don’t compare them to The Killers. Lyrics that shift through time and space, suffused with regret and nostalgia; churchbells and thundering martial drums; a clip of Jimmy Stewart praying in It’s a Wonderful Life layered over opera and someone singing in Spanish; melodies swiped from Neil Young and cover art referencing Citizen Kane—this is their idea of a Christmas record. It’s as if they came from a planet where confusion is considered the highest possible art form (oh, I forgot, they’re from Vegas). Still, I like these guys a lot more than Coldplay because they at least partially justify their pretension. This is a mess, but the hooks soar the way they’re supposed to, the emotions, though difficult to sort out, are palpable, and Brandon Flowers sings like a human being. A confused one, I grant you, and one with delusions of grandeur, but human nonetheless. How many of those do you usually find on the pop charts?
Birdman featuring Lil Wayne—”Fire Flame”
Wayne sounds like his old self, if not at his highest level (judging by the sound of “6’7″”, this was just a warm-up). Birdman sounds like his old self, as well, at a level that’s a little easier to reach. The result is perfectly fine, but nothing special.
Far*East Movement featuring Ryan Tedder—”Rocketeer”
At this moment in time, it may look as if no one can lose with a Bruno Mars hook on their record, but that only applies if Mars is singing it. Tedder does a pretty good imitation, and no doubt this is a worthwhile break from writing “Halo” yet again, but this lacks both Mars’s sense of humor and his sense of reality. The rest is even worse, an indicator that Far*East Movement may be another one of those groups whose guests are better than they are. Maybe it’s time to check out that Dev & The Cataracs record.
Fantasia—”I’m Doing Me”
This is right up with Monica’s “Love All Over Me” in the “do they really know what they’re singing about?” sweepstakes. I get the feeling, though, that Fantasia has a better sense of what’s going on than Monica does. Which doesn’t save this from being ordinary in almost every other respect. Fantasia’s last couple of singles had a good neo-soul vibe to them, but this is tepid. You don’t suppose they pegged it as a single just because of the title, do you?
Chris Brown—”No BS”
In which Brown promises a night of perfect sex (the condoms are in the dresser, darling) over a rhythm track that sounds like giant insects are trying to break into the room. The whole thing makes me feel itchy, and not in a good way.
Charlie Wilson—”You Are”
After “There Goes My Baby”, I was hoping that Wilson would be able to mount a real comeback, but this is retro in the worst possible way. That is, it really does sound old, and it makes Wilson sound old, too.
Jamie Foxx featuring Drake—”Fall For Your Type”
Jamie Foxx is a smart, talented guy, but he thinks he’s a lot smarter and talented than he actually is, and he overreaches and fails over and over again. This record is a complete conceptual disaster, its tempo too slow for its subject, its subject too light for its pretentious heaviness, its flashes of ego unleavened by humor or sense. Drake is more bearable than usual, but that’s all that can be said for it.
Jerrod Niemann—”What Do You Want”
Niemann is good at what he does, but too much of what he does seems to be focused on nothing more than demonstrating how good he is. He’s a country classicist, and though there’s nothing wrong with that—it’s something of a relief, actually—it isn’t enough. This is perfectly crafted and absolutely empty.