Sean Kingston & Justin Bieber—”Eenie Meenie”
This is more Kingston than it is Bieber, and just enough of both to render it meaningless. Peeling back the garishness that has decorated Kingston’s more recent singles only reveals how lacking they are in anything resembling a hook, and mixing in Bieber’s usual pablum provides the final push toward total mediocrity. Any charm Kingston may have possessed is gone; now he’s just another dancehall-pop hack. As for Bieber, he’s never been charming. Being charming requires a personality.
I can understand why people write T-Pain off, but more and more I’m beginning to think he’s some kind of genius. This isn’t his most insane record (that’s still “Chopped ‘n’ Skrewed”) but it may be his funniest, and it’s at a level of musical sophistication that jokesters like 3Oh!3 and LMFAO can only dream of. All its best jokes are musical rather than lyrical (he was beaten to most of his rodeo metaphors a long time ago, anyway), and without a single swear word it’s dirty as hell. Based on the title alone, I can’t imagine it will get much radio play, but it’s bound to be a ringtone favorite. Yee-hah!
Young Money—”Roger That”
The best Young Money track so far, and the second best hip-hop comedy record of the week, and that’s not a put down. Nicki Minaj does a killer Lil Wayne impersonation, while Wayne himself spends a good deal of his time giggling. The guy in the middle (do I really need to waste my time looking up his name?) is at least tolerable. The beat is insane, the raps as dirty as they want to be, and if the whole isn’t a as great as its parts, at least it doesn’t waste them.
Jaron And The Long Road To Love—”Pray For You”
From the first organ note you can see the joke coming, and though keeping the music country-lovesong straight is probably intended to be satirical, in reality it drags the humor down. It doesn’t help that Jaron didn’t bother to write a third verse, either. Jokes are supposed to build, not just repeat themselves.
Luke Bryan–”Rain Is A Good Thing”
Because it leads to sex, of course. Doesn’t everything in uptempo good ol’ boy country? This is better than most, though; catchy as hell, and doesn’t throw in too many cliches. I could, however, do without the self-satisfied chortle; sounds way too calculated.
Justin Bieber—That Should Be Me”
This awful record makes me wonder if Bieber isn’t, in reality, Usher’s revenge on all the fickle teenage fans who have turned to younger pastures over the last couple of years. But then, those are the fans who have put this record on the chart—it isn’t being promoted as a single, it’s just an album track that the Bieberfreaks (or maybe their mothers) have decided to give extra attention. Maybe I’m just being cynical—but not half as cynical as Usher.
Martina McBride—”Wrong Baby Wrong”
This isn’t bad: nice Stones inspired riff at the beginning, and I like the idea of a mother’s advice song from the mother’s point of view. It gets too tame about halfway through, though, and it goes on too long. McBride should pay more attention to Eric Church or Luke Bryan: for a song like this, three minutes is all you need. The rest is just showing off.
Miranda Lambert—”The House That Built Me”
I’m always wary of this sort of country sentimentality—when country singers talk about “finding” themselves, it almost always means a return to their smalltown, family roots, a confession of their sinful, straying ways, and a nostalgia that’s sure to turn into bathos, usually accompanied by a healthy dollop of strings and some whining steel guitar. But even taking those reservations into account, this is a perfect record. There are no strings or steel guitar to be found, and Lambert’s understated vocal drives home more real emotion than any amount of Nashville oversinging. It helps that the song is the best example of its kind you’ll ever hear: the two-part chorus is stunning in its impact, and if the verse about mama and papa building their house doesn’t bring you close to tears, nothing ever will. Lambert didn’t write this, but it proves that even when she’s not falling back on alt-country standbys (Patti Griffin, John Prine, etc.), she has an unerring ear for good material. Which means she’s going to be a star for a long, long time. Boy, do we need her.
Colbie Caillat—”I Never Told You”
I’ve badmouthed Caillat a lot in the past, and this isn’t a great record, but it’s made me realize who and what she really is: the twenty-something, SoCal version of Taylor Swift. She’s not as lyrically inventive as Swift, too often she falls back on cliches, and despite the title of her first hit, she’s nowhere near as bubbly—but her point of view, her romantic sensibilities, and her sense of taste and (if I can use this term) musical decorum, are almost exactly the same (there’s a reason Swift performed with Stevie Nicks, after all). The main differences are of age and geography. While Swift optimistically negotiates the fresh hell of a Nashville high school with fairy tale visions of romance, Caillat faces the ages-old Southern California disconnect of the messiness of emotional and sexual reality while living in a physical paradise. Both seem almost untouched by the real world, when the truth is that both know it all too well, and are shaping their own version of the perfect escape. Swift is the greater artist of the two, but Caillat may very well surprise us somewhere down the line.