Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars—“Safe and Sound”
It’s time, I suppose, for Taylor Swift to tweak her sound, but working with T-Bone Burnett—the man who has ruined more good performers than just about any producer I can think of—wasn’t the direction I was hoping for. This isn’t bad, but it’s just an average alt-folk ballad, a genre placement that should scare anyone who cares about Swift’s career. This is a soundtrack cut, so it may not mean much in terms of Swift’s future direction, but it’s worrying all the same. Even at her worst she’s never sounded so ordinary.
Flo Rida featuring Sia—“Wild Ones”
Why did I never notice that Flo Rida has a lisp? No wonder he raps so fast. As for Sia, she seems willing to degrade herself in any way—first David Guetta, now this—if it means becoming the third-rate Robyn she’s always been destined to be.
Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z & Andre 3000—“I Do”
Not a great track; no one is in top form, but the difference in approach is interesting. Jeezy holds out the promise of marriage, but it’s just a ploy, because all he really wants is to get laid. Jay-Z, needless to say, takes the subject more seriously, maybe too seriously; he sounds as if he were holding himself back, trying to fictionalize his own situation to make it seem more gangsta. Andre 3000, meanwhile, is semi-serious but sounds like he’s still having fun, even while planning yet more headaches for poor Ms. Jackson.
Skrillex—“Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”
Reviewed in Bubbling Under, 8/20/11
Adam Lambert—“Better Than I Know Myself”
Lambert has real talent, but this is a mess. Not only is the arrangement ridiculous, but when he isn’t hitting impressive high notes Lambert’s voice sounds thin and out of place. He loves flash, but he doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself when he’s closer to the ground. And songs that are all flash are hard to come by.
Nicki Minaj—“Stupid Hoe”
A dis track designed to allow Minaj to show off as many of her voices as possible. It’s impressive, if not quite enjoyable, or even coherent. One question: if this is directed at Lil Kim, why does Minaj do a Rihanna impersonation (which finishes with a horrible flat note) near the end? Is there a separate target for each voice? That would be impressive.
Mac Miller—“Knock Knock”
Miller is an average rapper at best—when he talks about being deeper than the water Michael Phelps is in, he does realize that’s only about eight feet, right? But he has the one gift that all party rappers need: he knows how to put a hook together, and to make it unusual enough to get people’s attention in the first place. In other words, he’s an earworm menace. If he ever managed to get on the radio—for now his records are too quirky and filled with obscenities to qualify—he could be dangerous.
This is the sort of bubbly pop-rap I’m a sucker for, but it’s so mechanical it wears quickly, and instead of emphasizing the rhythms as it goes on it seems to downplay them, a mistake on any record that has nothing much to say lyrically. I enjoy its lack of pretension, but it’s still a miss.
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