Kings of Leon—Radioactive
The music takes off from the title, the guitars and percussion echoing the sound of Geiger counters, but the lyrics seem to be about something else entirely, something vaguely spiritual. They’re so vague, in fact, that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on or what any of it means. All I can be sure of is that these guys really want to be Pearl Jam. So much so that I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t inspired by Eddie Vedder’s version of “My City In Ruins”.
Trey Songz—“Can’t Be Friends”
In which Trey regrets the fact that he’s irresistible to women and so good at sexing them up because he finds it impossible to be friends with a woman once he’s had her and can’t have her anymore. There are probably many women in the world who would be flattered by this self-serving horseshit. Until, that is, they realized it was just his way of talking them back into bed. Amazing what a throbbing, sympathetic string arrangement can do to hide your true intentions.
Keith Urban—“Put You In A Song”
Though I’ve heard some evidence that Urban can be better, this time he sounds like a one-man Rascal Flatts. His throwaway exclamations at the ends of lines are particularly irritating. He sounds like he’s already working the crowd in Branson.
Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup—“We No Speak Americano”
Cartoon music which may or may not have some political intent. Already a huge hit in Europe, where this sort of danceable pop candy has always been ridiculously popular. It gets old fast.
Miguel featuring J. Cole—“All I Want Is You”
I like the trip-hop beats and the ethereal quality of the chorus, and until J. Cole steps up to the mike this is a good record. But Cole ruins it for me by indulging in one the stupidest trends in current hip-hop: self-annotated raps. As soon as he says “Trying to celebrate my independence day (Will Smith)” he loses me, and even the good lines about his girlfriend forcing him to apologize twice don’t quite make up for it. Something else we can blame on Kanye, I guess.
Reba —“Turn On Your Radio”
Give her credit: Reba knows how to keep up with the times, and the vocal on this piece of feisty feminism wipes the floor with its inspiration, Carrie Underwood. What it lacks is Underwood’s brassy tastelessness (in country terms, that is), which implies not just youth but true anger. When Reba’s voice turns bitter she sounds like a long-time pro doing her best for the song, but you know she thinks it’s just a good joke and nothing else. Underwood’s lack of depth is part of what makes the basic emotions in her songs believable, but Reba’s too old to be that shallow.
Linkin Park—“Waiting For the End”
Musical craftsmanship matters, and whether it’s the band’s or Rick Rubin’s, it makes this record more listenable than it deserves to be. “This is not what I had planned” from someone who is either dying or expecting to be killed may be one of the dumbest lines to hit the Hot 100 this year, especially the way Mike Shinoda sings it. All that money, all that time and effort and yes, talent, and they still hold the intellectual point of view of a thirteen year-old. Either that or they’re intentionally pandering to thirteen year-olds, which would almost be better.
Eric Church—“Smoke a Little Smoke”
I’ve seen signs that Church doesn’t get much respect from country aficionados, but though the sound of his records is somewhat overblown (but then, in country, whose isn’t?) I like the throwaway quality of his lyrics and melodies, and his sense of proportion—at just over three minutes, compared to his earlier records this is almost an epic. He knows how to sneak ideas into a song, as well; it isn’t until the middle eight that you realize he’s blunting himself out because his girl dumped him. He’s also more blatant about dope than most country singers, at least the ones that get on the radio. There are even psychedelic echo effects. Good stuff.
Wiz Khalifa—“Black and Yellow”
Good hook, but then you expect that from a Stargate produced track. The rapping isn’t bad, either, but it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, and better.