Pusha T & Kanye West—“New God Flow”
West, like he always does, runs away with this record at the end, when his chant promoting G.O.O.D. Music takes over (doing a call and response with himself is not only funny but powerful in a way I can’t quite explain). But Pusha T comes close to being his equal, and gets off a great opening line: “I believe there’s a God above me, I’m just the god of everything else”. He also sums up their pairing better than I ever could: “A hot temper matched with a cold killer”. Near perfect, and my favorite G.O.O.D. single so far.
2 Chainz featuring Kanye West—“Birthday Song”
Those who argue that West is lowering himself by appearing on this record ignore his desire to prove himself the master of every kind of music, including slow grind car bangers. They also ignore the fact that his presence forces 2 Chainz to up his game. 2 Chainz isn’t a genius, but he does better here than he usually does, and if I were the sort of person who spent their time driving slow through the hood I’d be playing this a lot.
Nicki Minaj—“Pound The Alarm”
A sound-alike follow-up to “Starships”—same production team, same basic structure and formula—less daring, but more enjoyable. Of course, that might just be my ears adjusting to the style, if it can be called that. Still hard to tell whether there’s any real point to this sort of hodgepodge other than making hit records. Minaj is too smart (I think) and too sly not to have something up her sleeve, but other than cutting sampling artists like Girl Talk off at the pass (or making their job easier), I can’t quite hear what it is. Unless the cut and paste is the point, in which case we’ve heard it before.
Miranda Lambert—“Fastest Girl In Town”
Back in the days of “Kerosene” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”, songs like this seemed fresh and daring, but now they’re as expected (and not just from Lambert) as patriotic songs are from Toby Keith or truck songs are from everybody. It’s not bad, and almost anything from Lambert is better than 95% of the rest of the country chart, but this is the sort of record she could make in her sleep, and there are moments where it sounds as if she did just that.
Rascal Flatts—“Come Wake Me Up”
I still swear that Rascal Flatts have gotten better since their old label closed up and they moved to Big Machine, but that belief is founded on “Changed”, which is easily the best record they’ve ever made, and not on this, which is more of the same old oversized power-balladry. There are a couple of smaller-scale moments where they sound almost human, but the chorus, and the orchestra that accompanies it, are designed to knock you over with the intensity of the singer’s pain, and unless he’s accidentally cut his hand off or got his penis caught in his fly it just isn’t worth all that noise.
A wasted opportunity. The change-up in the first verse from celebrating the beautiful colors of the flyover states to celebrating the glow of beer signs is a great idea, but Young is too timid and tasteful a singer to capitalize on it. Once he gets that gentle, swelling groove going he doesn’t want to lose it, so even when he sings about getting a buzz on he sounds like he’s drinking ice tea at a church picnic. Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, hell, even Scotty McCreery would know what to do with an idea like this, but Young is too busy being smooth and elegant and emphasizing his craggy lower vocal range to get the point.