“Empire State of Mind”, #21
“What I Did For Love”, #51
Yet another “I Gotta Feeling” rip, only this time not from someone directly associated with the original record, which is a relief. Akon’s voice may have changed, but his gift for hooks remains, and here he strings enough together to make for a bearable dance record. My only question is whether this is intended as a tribute to Lady GaGa, who has guaranteed Akon a comfortable living even if he never has another hit. Maybe he should just go into promotion and forget this whole making records business. He wouldn’t be the first.
Update: Whoops, there I go forgetting to check the credits again. This was produced by David Guetta, so just ignore that first sentence.
Catchier than their previous records off the new album, but in its own way just as stiff and claustrophobia inducing. Their clockwork groove is like a wall they build between the music and whatever emotion is supposedly generating it. Which means they’re either trying too hard or are too tasteful to get really funky. Working with a producer other than the tireless careerist Robert John Lange might help.
A few years ago, Jesse McCartney was the equivalent of Justin Bieber, only with a little more funk and without the hordes of screaming girls. Now he seems to be in limbo. His voice has matured, but his material still has a teenage quality to it (doesn’t everybody’s?) that doesn’t quite match with his voice. I like the telephone gimmick leading into the chorus, and this is catchy and almost funky enough to get by, but the song’s slightly Bieberish quality throws me off. He’s like a solo version of Maroon 5: his heart is in the right place, but his music is too stiff to catch up.
Diddy – Dirty Money featuring Drake—”Loving You No More”
This goes down smooth and easy in the background, but like most muzak, once you get up close you notice how barren it is. And that’s even before Drake clears his throat and starts to rap.
Mike Posner—”Please Don’t Go”
Pleasant but forgettable, which is a step up from his last record, which was brainless (often mistaken for pleasant) and irritating. I like the random electronics on the last verse, but the rest of it is sap. With guys like Posner and Owl City on the scene, the hipness quotient of electronic music is going to nosedive fast, if it hasn’t already.
Zac Brown Band featuring Jimmy Buffett—”Knee Deep”
When Zac Brown sings by himself, he sounds like James Taylor. When he sings with Alan Jackson, he sounds like Alan Jackson. Guess who he sounds like now? And no, despite the presence of the original inspiration, this is not as good as “Toes”.
Bon Jovi—”What Do You Got?”
Ann Powers swears that Bon Jovi is a great arena band, and though I’ve never thought of that as a distinct genre, I’m willing to take her word on it. All the same, should I ever find myself in an arena with Bon Jovi, this song is when I would seize the opportunity to find a bathroom.
Maroon 5 with Lady Antebellum—”Out of Goodbyes”
Apparently anyone who comes in contact with Lady Antebellum turns immediately into another version of Fleetwood Mac, and though the voices don’t blend as magically as Buckingham’s and McVie’s, this has its moments (the line about the “storm brewing in his eyes” is perfectly set). But moments is all it has, and though the playing is as precise as you’d expect, Fleetwood Mac was both precise and passionate, and that makes all the difference.
David Guetta featuring Kid Cudi—”Memories”
Never, ever listen to a song called “Memories”. It’s guaranteed to be sentimental, even when it comes on with garish, hard-edged dance beats and features a vocalist who sounds like he’s coked himself hoarse. In fact, that might be even worse.
Bruno Mars featuring Damian Marley—”Liquor Store Blues”
This doesn’t work, largely because Mars’s overdeveloped pop instinct undercuts whatever sense of “the blues” he may possess, but I’m fascinated by his attempts to show a serious side, or at least some sort of social conscious (this, “Billionaire”, maybe even “Fuck You”). It’s not the sort of thing you find in most masters of lighthearted melodic hooks, and it suggest that if he can ever manage to balance the two, he could become a major artist, instead of just a highly successful one.