Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rating the songs of Summer 2006

Ah, summer. It's when the days are longer, skirts are shorter and jams trickle out of car windows and rooftops. I like to think I'm a connoisseur of good music, but like New York City girls and clothing, I shed my snobbery to adapt to the summer heat.

I'm okay with rocking out to J-Lo's "I'm Real (remix)", even singing alog to Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way". Because it's not about the songwriting or exploring new territory or virtuoso performances. It's about shaking asses. Good bye, Sufjan, hello Kelly. To the ratings, we go.

Rating system:
5 - I'd put this song on my MySpace Top 8
4 - So good, IKEA should name a bookshelf after this song.
3 - You know, like, yeah, it's all right.
2 - Not a fan. But if you like this stuff, I guess that's your opinion. A stupid opinion.
1 - i'd pee on this track but I don't want to get my urine dirty

Shakira "Hips Don't Lie" (video)
Does this count as a summer hit? I don't believe so and I don't care. You know, I actually liked Shakira more when she was asking where the thieves were, but you know, her English-language albums haven't been bad. And no native English speaker could bust out lines like "Lucky that my lips not only mumble/ They spill kisses like a fountain/ Lucky that my breasts are small and humble/ So you don't confuse them with mountains". Yay, girls with small titties!

But she hasn't had a crowd pleaser like "Hips", and not even the Verizon commercial or Wyclef muttering about refugees can ruin this track. If I were 10 years younger, this is the kind of track that would get my ass off the wall and freaking the first girl I see on the dance floor. But alas, the hips really don't lie, and that's way too much activity for a man my age.

Rating: 3.99 - it's not "good" by any reasonable means, but it gets the ass shaking. How can it not?

mp3: Smoosh - "Find A Way"

Nelly Furtado "Promiscuous"
A couple of months ago I was gushing about this track, how it's exactly the type of club banger that would've gotten me grinding on some unsuspecting sorority girl at Player's in Chapel Hill. Wait, I just said that about "Hips Don't Lie".

But what I'd forgotten was that just over a month before that post, I was discussing how diminished expectations might help Nelly. That's exactly what happened. It's not that good a song, and her disastrous SNL performance showed this is a song that simply can't be performed live. And unlike "Hips", the repeated Verizon wireless commercials have diminished the song's value somewhat. Still, it passes the ass shaking test and I wouldn't issue a fatwah on the DJ for playing it. It's a good, but not great, get-your-ass-off-the-wall song.

Rating: 3.49 - Is there anything more fun than whispering, "You're my promiscuous girl, girl," in a girl's ear?

mp3: The Crystals - "Then He Kissed Me"

Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"
I hate to be one of those blogger snobs who talk a band up like they're going to be the next Talking Heads/White Stripes/Simply Red and then as soon as the band starts to get any kind of press, talk about how they're "so over". But I will. I'm so over Gnarls. I was over Gnarls before the album came out. I'm so, so over Gnarls.

Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely, lovely track, even if Ceelo and Danger Mouse are overindulgent. There's a reason why hipsters and the TRL set love this song equally. Danger Mouse found an incredible sample to build upon while Ceelo paints the words like a pastry chef putting on the finishing touches on a cake.

I think people take to this song and Gnarls because what they do doesn't show up in pop music very much. Or rather, because of what they're not. They don't have a genre, they have no persona and no apparent agenda. They're just an idea, putting together music that's at once retro and post-modern. Which is cool, but the novelty wears off and you're just left with okay music.

Rating: 3.14159265 - Did I mention I was over Gnarls Barkley?
Just as I write that, they up and come out with this video. Yeah, it's Forest Gump '06 (speaking of which, will Haley Joel Osment be doing the FG sequel?) but shit is awesome, a music nerd's wet dream.

mp3: New Order - "Age of Consent"

Lily Allen "Smile" (video)
Another internet phenomenon who got huge in the UK. I've been talking up Lily for the past couple of months, so I'll be turning on her any time now. I like this song. It doesn't pass the ass shake test, but it does pass my drunken head bob test.

Unlike Gnarls, who has maybe 2 other decent songs other than "Crazy", the rest of the album is fairly strong. I actually prefer "LDN", which I assume will be the next single. Still, not a bad soundtrack for a lazy Saturday evening spent boozing. Oh, and her dad co-wrote New Order's only #1 single.

Rating: 4.57 - This is the song you put on at a cookout and don't care that you look like an idiot dancing by yourself.

mp3: Lily Allen - "Oh My God" (Kaiser Chiefs cover)

Christina Aguilera "Ain't No Other Man" (video)
I don't get it. What's the big deal with this song? It's not like I don't like Christina. I want to like Xtina. I liked "Genie In A Bottle". "Beautiful" is rocktacular. But for every banger, she puts out about four absolute drecks. I have a friend who absolutely loves this song but he's gay so I'm not going to judge him. What's your excuse?

Rating: 2.53 - Why? I'd pick it apart but I simply don't see what people find in it. Guess it's kinda interesting.

mp3: Nina Simone - "Love Me or Leave Me"

Beyoncé ft Jay- Z "Deja Vu" (video)
The song starts out promising enough. Jay comes with "I used to run base like Juan Pierre" and spits some of his better rhymes post-"retirement". The horns make you think this is going to be "Crazy In Love Part II". Then B starts singing.

Seriously, this is the lead single from someone who's attempting world domination? Weak, weak sauce. Jay puts in another decent verse, but what's the point? The song is shit, no matter what you've read.

Rating: 2.020 - Really, what the fuck? Beyonce's supposed to be able to sing? Really?

mp3: Freeway ft Jay-Z - "World War III"

Paris Hilton "Stars Are Blind" (video)
I was ready to hate this song. I don't find Paris Hilton attractive. And I think her celebrity is a clear indication that we as a society aren't exactly where we need to be. And her sex tape is just some tedious ass shit.

So imagine my surprise -and my disgust- when I listened to "Stars are blind" and found myself enjoying it. It's like UB40 and Gwen Stefani got together and wrote an album. Well, if you took the song that was rejected from the UB40/Gwen Stefani album, you have "Stars Are Blind".

She doesn't have to do much because the hook is so catchy and the drums are just right. And it's a good thing she doesn't do much, because the breathy singing is perfect.

Rating: 4.495 - Just forget that it's Paris singing and pretend it's just some anonymous girl pop singer with millions of dollars of voice processing technology.

mp3: Au Revoir Simone - "Stay Golden"

Justin Timberlake "Sexyback" (not the video)
I'm not going to lie, I kinda liked Justified. The kid may not be Michael Jackson, but he can sure sing Michael Jackson songs, which "Like I Love You" was before Pharrell realized Justin was going to sell more than MJ. You liked "Rock Your Body" and "Cry Me A River", I did too. And I don't want to sound queer or nothing, but if I were gay, I'd totally do him.

But what the fuck. I thought "Deja Vu" was bad, but at least it's somewhat redeemed by the horn sample and the Jay-Z verses. what the hell is going on here? I'm willing to believe Bol here - Timbaland didn't produce this shit. Utter, pure shit. And my shit just instant messaged me saying how shit this song is.

Can he go back to doing his Michael Jackson imitation? Or better yet, get JC, Lance, Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick to beat some sense back into him.

I apologize, second Kelefa Sanneh link in the same post, but this deserves a mention (good looking out, Stan):
Mr. Timberlake isn’t the new Prince, not by a long shot. Unlike Prince, Mr. Timberlake hasn’t made a career of acting as his own object of desire. And there’s no particular reason to think that on his forthcoming album, “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” due Sept. 12, he will continue the fight on behalf of “sexy” boys everywhere. (Though it seems his assault on the lowly space bar WillNotEnd/AnytimeSoon.)
Rating: 1.01 - Wow. Just wow. Wowy wow wow this sucks.

mp3: Justin Timberlake ft 50 Cent - "Cry Me A River (Remix)"

By the way, I heard Bloc Party's "Blue Light" in a car commercial. At least I think I did. My reaction was twofold:
1. That's so awesome.
2. That's so uncool, from a snobby, selfish, indie-nerd-blogger perspective.

Granted, indie acts getting car commercial paydays isn't exactly news (see: Spoon, The Walkmen, Pas/Cal, Grandaddy, M.I.A.), but there's something unsettling -I don't mean this in a good way or bad- about the alliance between multinational corporations and artists who drive their own vans and lug their own gear, no matter what you think of artists "selling out".

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