The Singles Jukebox
An Acquired Taste



this'd be the week that Rick Ross is pushing it, then. We also get to introduce the non-Eurovision audience to the 'charms' of Lordi, the Scissor Sisters set their phasers to 'Erasure', Beyonce takes the passive out of passive-aggressive, and there's not especially welcome returns for I'm From Barcelona, Jet, and Robbie Williams. First, though, Iron Maiden, whose new single has gone to #1 in Spain, Finland, Sweden and Hungary. Can that many people be wrong simultaneously? Well...


Iron Maiden - The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
[Watch the Video]
[3.20]

Martin Skidmore: Seven and a half bloody minutes, for a single? By Iron Maiden? Hugely tedious.
[1]

Joris Gillet: It probably says more about my relationship with metal (or hard rock or whatever) than about this song, but the melody of this sounds a lot like the verse of Europe's “Final Countdown,” but about three times as long and without any preposterous synth lines or ace killer choruses or any point at all, really.
[1]

Iain Forrester: It creeps into life fantastically, all whispering doom and death, but it blows its big burst into roaring power within two minutes and has almost nowhere to go afterwards.
[3]

Peter Parrish: Essentially a monster guitar wank with a hint of a song bothering each end. As luck would have it though, I quite like monster guitar wanks. Plus, there aren’t many frontmen who rescue people from incomprehensibly insane warzones on their day off. That’s worth a few extra points, surely?
[6]


Jet - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
[Watch the Video]
[3.29]

Peter Parrish: If you turn the verse up to a pleasing level, it morphs the chorus into a mashed blob of distorted noise. If you take action to keep the chorus just about under control the verses practically vanish, leaving only an irritatingly squeaky gentleman to be made out properly. This is surely something of an error as it renders the whole thing basically unlistenable (of course, it was probably already ... well, you know). Good work there, chief mastering engineer producer-compressor levels mixer bloke.
[0]

Hillary Brown: Say hello to your newest ad that features young folk dancing in skinny jeans.
[4]

Teresa Nieman: How about you put your music where your mouth is, Jet? (I don’t know what that means either, and I’m not even sure if I like this or not.)
[5]

Rodney J. Greene: Jet are probably doomed to be a band that has one hugely fun, though highly derivative, single per album and shit else worth hearing.
[8]


Robbie Williams - Rudebox
[Watch the Video]
[3.83]

Joseph McCombs: I adore Bob’s willingness to go in unpredictable directions, but the results are often maddening. His narrative somehow evokes that of J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” but it’s hard to get behind these more syphilitic ditties—I’d rather hear him sing about stamps, actually.
[4]

Ian Mathers: No, Robbie, you do not bring a “jam so fresh,” in fact this is easily the worst single you have ever done. Have you not noticed that your best/most successful singles have been either ballads or what passes for classy pop these days?
[1]

Hillary Brown: I think perhaps it’s the overwhelming impression that it’s a big joke is what makes Robbie’s antics not only bearable but actually enjoyable. He’s certainly capturing the feel Timberlake is going for much better. Perhaps because he brings more gay to the tunes, which is to say that a more loose-hipped swinging sound really conveys the decade evoked.
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: The only way this could get any worse than the tired samples and sub-George Michael quasi-rap is for Mr. Williams to drop in a reference to Mandrax. Ah, there we go.
[2]


Lordi - Who's Your Daddy?
[Watch the Video]
[4.50]

Hillary Brown: We don’t want to know about how you cut yourself or what your parents did to you. We want pop wrapped in a very thin veneer of danger, which is just what Lordi does nicely.
[5]

Iain Forrester: The synth stabs at the start (over crashing guitars of course) are pretty awesome. And the catchy shouty chorus isn't bad either. Shame about the bits in between, though.
[4]

Mallory O’Donnell: Not an Aphex Twin cover. Rammstein with a drunk Steven Tyler and a sober Lemmy singing on top. Awesome in a completely laughable, forgettable way.
[5]

Peter Parrish: Good, clean, wholesome tune about degrading and objectifying women in some kind of sexual-domination power game. With a guitar solo. Wait, hang on ... that could be considered quite unpleasant. Are Lordi just playing up their “we’re evil demons, grr!” role or are they actually twats? If it’s the former, their BDSM theme is overplayed; they should be singing about underrated acts of depravity, like sealing the lids on jars far too tightly or casually pulling away from a bus stop while people are still running to catch it. If it’s the latter, serious action is necessary. Yep, strip them of the Eurovision title and present it to Lithuania.
[3]


I'm From Barcelona - Collection of Stamps
[Watch the Video]
[4.71]

Ian Mathers: It starts off like a twee oompah band aping Art Brut—he has stamps from a lot of places, see, and he will list them for you! Luckily enough the singer starts talking about all those countries and places to escape to, and by the thunderous (by these guys' standards) conclusion “Collection of Stamps” has actually turned into something pretty cool.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: The best twee, from the Field Mice to Architecture in Helsinki, has always had an undercurrent of sadness to it, a sense of encroaching adulthood that counterbalances the music’s childishness with some emotional depth. “Collection of Stamps” is one-dimensional and purposeless. You like this? Go listen to fucking Up With People.
[1]

Teresa Nieman: I’m From Barcelona seem so well-meaning, it’s almost hard to give them negative criticism. But that won’t stop me. This track ceases to be harmlessly melodic after a minute or so, and starts to hurt the ears. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt—they’re clearly not talentless—but from this song alone, I’m not feeling it.
[4]

Rodney J. Greene: I want to hate these twee fuckers. I want to hate their cloyingly childish song too, but this puts a ridiculous grin on my face.
[7]


Tanya Stephens - These Streets
[Watch the Video]
[4.80]

Joseph McCombs: The patois’s an acquired taste I have yet to acquire. But that shouldn’t let me underrate a smartly written lyric about the desire to be appreciated, and I’m rooting for her by the end.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Relaxed Reggae & B reminiscent of TLC’s “Unpretty,” and like that song, its relaxed charm holds back the schmaltz. Pleasant, but inessential.
[5]

Joris Gillet: Tanya here has quite a pleasant vocal style but is sadly accompanied by an incredibly mediocre funk soul session band, whose only exposure to reggae appears to have been “No Woman No Cry.” It probably tries to be a reggae-Macy Gray or Angie Stone—organic, real, with proper instruments and stuff—but it is just very very dull.
[2]

Rodney J. Greene: So Jamaica has its own equivalent to boring neo-soul? That sucks.
[4]


The Rapture - Get Myself Into It
[Watch the Video]
[4.83]

Ian Mathers: The backing track here, complete with soft porn sax, sounds just like the title music for a not especially interesting CityTV arts and culture show of the mid 90s.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: They do a better job than most of reviving post-punk—Gang of Four with a touch of funk and poor singing, and all that—but that's not something I want revived, and if I do want to hear that kind of thing there are lots of good old records in that style. This reminds me of the less interesting parts of what may well have been NME's first compilation, C81.
[3]

Peter Parrish: I swear parts of this sound like a sped up “Walking On The Moon”, but with less Sting (potentially good) and more terrible lyrics (not so good). In other news, a memorable anagram of The Rapture is “Repeat Hurt”. Just sayin’.
[2]

Mallory O’Donnell: It's unclear in what universe a Rapture single serves a purpose—they craft fine radio-ready songs that will never trouble the FM dial, and on a dancefloor it's their longer edits and remixed versions that get rocked. It's nice, however, to hear touches of the Go-Go influence they displayed live and the growth of Jenner's voice as an instrument. The album will surely die a quiet death.
[7]


Rick Ross - Push It
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Teresa Nieman: I can’t tell what this sample is (if it is, indeed, a sample), but it sounds very 80’s, very passive and somewhat clashes with the dramatic rapping. Eh, it’s not bad, but for song called “Push It,” it really needs a kick in the derriere.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: Rawce should go back to his other vocation. His barely competent effort does its best to bankrupt the coke-rap genre; good thing for him every word rhymes with itself.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley: From the unbelievably weak first line (“Port of Miami, importing the candy?”) Ross acts determined to sink this magnificently glossy Moroder-sampling beat. He dribbles his incompetence over the sort of tinkling keys and cheesed-out vocals that someone like Cam’ron would turn into a classic. Fortunately, Ross is just a tool in a larger scheme he can’t control. Def Jam could have found a better cipher for such a beast of a beat, though.
[8]

Mallory O’Donnell: Wait, did this guy usedta deal drugs? Look, all-tension-no-release only works in two genres—gabba and porn soundtracks. Sadly, this is neither, being yet more plug-and-play Casio doom drool.
[3]


Klaxons - Atlantis to Interzone
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Teresa Nieman: Boy, English accents sure can be charming. Especially when layered upon each other and echoing over crunchy riffs and vintage sirens.
[8]

Peter Parrish: The first sound you’ll hear is (no ... but yes!) some klaxons. Do you see what they did there? Regrettably, this piece of stunning literalism is pretty much the highlight of the piece—unless you’re a fan of inexplicable vocal slips into enigmatic regional dialect, or ever found yourself dedicating serious time wondering what the bastard offspring of the KLF and Art Brut might sound like. Adjust the score accordingly if you did do that and concluded it would be a smashing jape.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: Damn, the start made it sound like it might be lively dance music, but then it turns indie, still with bits of dance beats, but generally it's a bit of a mess, trying to touch lots of bases. I like it when they throw the klaxon effects in, but otherwise I can't get a handle on it at all.
[3]

Iain Forrester: The Art Brut go rave sound of most of this song makes for passable, if slightly obnoxious, fun. Let's talk about the beginning though, with its wailing sirens and sampled diva "UHOHUH"s and pounding bass. I swear I made that exact song playing around on an old keyboard in music lessons at school once. Except that mine was better.
[5]


Danity Kane - Showstopper
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Rodney J. Greene: I was completely unimpressed the first few times I heard this, before I noticed the gloomy underpinnings tugging toward a sad corner opposite of where the song wants to go. I still haven’t figured out exactly where the song about showing out and strutting your stuff intersects with the melancholy track, both elements existing on separate planes, never acknowledging the other’s existence.
[6]

Ian Mathers: The way these girls elongate the end of Every. Single. Line. of the chorus sounds both over-rehearsed and tentative, too eager to ingratiate and clumsy.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley: So this is what beat Outkast to the top spot? Diddy creates a snap Pussycat Dolls, and they’ve churned out a single that makes Yung Joc look talented simply by virtue of the vacuum surrounding him. It’s a void of a different sort that provides the hook here; that eerie, spacey synth turns this into a cut-rate “Me & You” (which was itself a cut rate “Make Her Feel Good”). With Labor Day been and gone, the industry’s heading into the business end of the year, and these sort of cheap cash-ins, the flipside to the simple charm of summer’s best songs, already seem like relics.
[4]

Joris Gillet: This is so personality-free that only until I googled for some additional info I realised this was a 'band' with multiple vocalists instead of just one singer.
[6]


Stefy - Chelsea
[Watch the Video]
[5.20]

Joseph McCombs: The “Sweet Dreams” similarity is a bit obvious to point out, no? I can only enjoy it if I hear the lyric as “when I left you alone in Chelsea. Boys in Chelsea are like boys in Lynn, Lynn, city of sin: They never come out the way they went in. Stefy knows better now.
[4]

Teresa Nieman: There is perhaps no song in the history of music that has been cut, mixed, and sampled as much as the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” (Although, for the new millennium, “Bucky Done Gun” is coming close.) The new pop group Stefy makes it work relatively well on “Chelsea.” The song is bright, shiny and fun, and skews the synth just enough to make the “Sweet Dreams” shadow cooperate, and not upstage.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell:This is about Bill Clinton's daughter, right? While there's nothing wrong with a "Sweet Dreams" hijack with new lyrics in theory, this one makes me wish Annie Lennox would jump off the cover of Touch, grow those red spikes out into a proper Ziggy mullet and slap Stefy around with the riding crop. Pointless.
[3]

Rodney J. Greene: Even though the dance beat and plundered synth riff keep this angst-pop out of emo territory, this is intended for similar effect. Stefy is mad at her cheating boyfriend, mad at her mankiller of a friend, and, most of all, mad at herself (that’s the heart of emo/emo-not-emo, right?) for letting the two be alone. The broken tone her voice takes on during the tagline adds a welcome extra layer of hurt.
[6]


Anais - Mon Coeur, Mon Amour
[Watch the Video]
[5.33]

Ian Mathers: The most important thing about this song is that when Anais sings “Mon coeur, mon amour / Mon amour, mon coeur,” she has this immensely annoying breathy-lilt-thing to her voice on the last word of each line. It's hard to describe, but you'll hear it immediately, and it stops the song in its tracks with preciousness.
[4]

Joris Gillet: Happy-go-lucky French beatpop ditty. Melodically it's a bit schoolish but mademoiselle's playful vocals and casual asides makes this quite a cute song. The fact that it sounds like it's a bit lost in 2006 only adds to this effect.
[8]

Peter Parrish: It’s a perky enough chunk of pop, but I can’t shake the sense that the interesting part begins and ends with it being sung in French. Although this smoke and croissants effect may well be masking something rather forgettable, there’s a middle section which is pretty much just flirty Gallic giggling. If you don’t enjoy that part, you’re probably dead inside.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: Mon dieu. Je suis fatigué, je m’ennuie.
[3]


Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
[Watch the Video]
[5.40]

Joris Gillet: Not bad. Not bad at all. But I can't help being a little bit disappointed. This sounds exactly how you would expect a Scissor Sisters single to sound and to be honest, they gave the impression of being a band who didn't just live up to expectations but exceeded them. I didn't want them to be totally different on the second album just weirder and bigger and wilder. With tigers or trapeze artists or something.
[7]

Iain Forrester: More of the (pretty fine, ridiculously catchy) same to such an extent that it's difficult to believe that this song hasn't existed for at least ten years already.
[6]

Mallory O’Donnell: Dear Jake: please give me my cocaine back. Love, Elton.
[4]

Joseph McCombs: Three parts Erasure’s “Victim of Love,” two parts Andrea True Connection’s “More More More,” and one part Elton’s “Sad Songs Say So Much,” and inferior to at least eight of their debut’s 11 songs. Still ... I kinda like it.
[6]


Beyonce - Ring the Alarm
[Watch the Video]
[6.14]

Hillary Brown: It’s a pity Beyonce can’t keep the energy she has at the beginning of the tune (hell hath no fury like a woman imagining she’s been scorned), but at least it’s there to begin with.
[6]

Teresa Nieman: Beyonce says this song was written “in character” for her role in the upcoming flick Dreamgirls. I’m ignoring that, because I like it ten million times more when I think it’s about Jay-Z cheating with his freshly-legal protégé Rihanna. B looked a bit rattled in the “Déjà Vu” video, but “Ring the Alarm” is full-blown, hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned insanity. Good stuff.
[9]

Ian Mathers: “She gon' take everything I own if I let you go”—once again, for Beyonce it's not love or art or anything else, it's economics. Yes, it's impressive that this is that rare angry pop single that actually sounds furious (the last example this furious would be “Caught Out There”), but the calculation and avarice practically wafting from everything she does continues to disqualify Beyonce from anything beyond the odd fluke moment of connection.
[3]

Mallory O’Donnell: As close as the not-soon-to-be Mrs. Carter will likely get to true yardage—a roughneck anthem with, yes, an actual alarm and insistent curlicue synth figure. What makes this one "Ring" true is it's a virtual duet between an unexpectedly-rugged B and the super-sassy B we already love.
[8]


Lemar - It's Not That Easy
[Watch the Video]
[7.40]

Martin Skidmore: Smooth soul—he was born a few decades too late really. I like his voice, especially when it strains a little, but his style would have suited early '70s soul better than the modern kind. He puts a foot wrong here and there vocally, I think, but most of this is lovely, stylish and emotive, and it's a more than decent song.
[8]

Ian Mathers: You'd be better off checking out the people Lemar is careful to name drop, but if you're looking for more of the same this is high quality stuff.
[7]

Iain Forrester: A good reason for being glad that I don't have to listen to local radio at work anymore: something as pleasantly smooth and unobtrusive as this would become intense mental torture within a couple of weeks of regular forced exposure. But, for now, it's really rather nice.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: What a pretty song. Then again, I adored James Morrison last month. Still, I’m fascinated by the implications of the word choice “What am I meant to do without your love,” and if he’s not quite Teddy Pendergrass vamping over the close, he’s close enough.
[9]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-09-05
Comments (4)
 

 
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