Snoop Dogg featuring Bruno Mars & Wiz Khalifa—“Young, Wild & Free”
Half good-time dope song, half, thanks to Khalifa, public service message on behalf of marijuana as a mood stabilizer, all charming in its way, but too sleepy and boring in parts. I assume Mars or his pals in The Smeezingtons wrote the hook, though he appears to have buried himself in the mix—a smart move, since Snoop and Khalifa’s rougher, less trained vocals make more sense in this context than Mars’s trademark croon. Hardly a hallmark in any of their careers, but pleasant fluff all the same.
It’s a no-brainer that Kings Of Leon would have imitators, but somehow I never expected it to be an already established act. Guess the sloppy vocals and even sloppier ideas seemed like such a perfect fit that The Fray just couldn’t resist. They might have covered their tracks better, though; some of this sounds so much like “Use Somebody” that when it comes up on shuffle I keep thinking it is Kings of Leon. Sometimes I even hit skip before I realize my mistake. Not that I wouldn’t skip it anyway.
This is as brilliant musically as everyone says it is—even Beyonce’s over-brassiness works in this context—but I’m getting tired of her confusing brand of feminism, which largely consists of the old saw of being a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom. Though she would probably phrase it more along the lines of being a powerful woman in public and a skilled lover in private. Whatever the case, her belief in ultimate sublimation to her man, which goes back to her earliest Destiny’s Child days, is unquestioned. She got out from under her father’s domineering hand in her business life, isn’t it time she got out from under his tired old ideas, as well?
Tyga featuring Drake—“Still Got It”
Though he’s more talented as a vocalist, Tyga strikes me as being a lot like Jamie Foxx: whoever he has guesting on his track, that’s who he sounds like. Drake’s hook is far more interesting than anything Tyga has to say, and the track as a whole is mediocre at best.
Roscoe Dash—“Good Good Night”
Dash is basically a second level version of Soulja Boy—less aggressive, less daring, and far less interesting—but every once in a while he comes up with a good hook, and this is one of them. You’ll forget all about it once it’s over, but at least you’ll enjoy it while it’s on.
Though it points in a totally different direction, I enjoy this more than anything Spears has released since “Piece Of Me”. It’s very smart to play down the melodramatic cliché of loving a bad boy with music that sounds not just peaceful, but almost blissful. As “physical” as her love may be (a word that, in this song, covers a lot of emotional ground), it isn’t the rough and tumble that you’d expect, but something more like a day at the spa: both fulfilling and refreshing. Spears may not be the brightest singer in the world, but she does understand sex, which is more than most pop stars can claim.
Katy Perry—“The One That Got Away”
Six singles in, Perry is starting to scrape the ordinary, at least musically. The lyrics, though, are something else. Everyone’s least favorite pop maven presents us with what is essentially an indie-rock romance: they make out to Radiohead and think of themselves as a modern June Carter and Johnny Cash. As it happens, though, she’s the one who’s more forward thinking, which turns her into a pop star while he ends up busking the blues on downtown street corners. Any regrets are nothing more than the usual lip service (Perry is nothing if not a master of formula), but in its way this is more honest than most indie-rock love songs, even if she doesn’t mean a word of it.
A lot of people have been comparing Jessie J to Katy Perry, and not in a good way, but this is the first time the comparison has seemed totally apt. The sound and sensibility is a straight rip-off, but J doesn’t have nearly as much charm as Perry, or as much sense. She doesn’t seem to understand, for example, that being a domino just makes her one of the many women who are lined up to be used by this guy. You have to think about metaphors and similes; you can’t just toss them off because they sound good.
Drake featuring Nicki Minaj—“Make Me Proud”
This isn’t nearly as sexist and condescending as some people have suggested it is, but it is something of a borderline case. The big problem is the title: saying that somebody makes you proud is much more self-directed and self-absorbed than saying that you’re proud of them, which can be a simple compliment. The former suggests that you had something to do with what makes the person so wonderful. But that isn’t the case here. Drake never utters the title line, and instead says “I’m so proud of you”. I’m assuming he changed the title to avoid confusion with The Impressions’ “I’m So Proud” (nobody with any sense dares comparison with Curtis Mayfield). Still, he does go overboard in his praise, to the point where he sounds condescending, and since Minaj is playing it safe—her rap is good but not particularly memorable—he comes off looking something of an ass (what else is new?). I’d be much more forgiving if she had smoked him. But he means well, I’m sure. Also, the music is great, which makes up for a lot.
Evanescence—“Lost In Paradise”
“What You Want” made me hope that Amy Lee was stepping away from the melodramatic bombast that has been her stock in trade from the beginning, but this songs dashes those hopes in grandiose style. It’s all so obvious: from the first notes of the piano you wait for the crash of guitars and orchestra, and though it gets held off longer than usual, it’s exactly like you imagine it, overwrought and dull. And then it goes on for another three minutes.