The Singles Jukebox
Being Jacques Lu Cont



this week, George Michael continues to challenge social taboos through his music. Also, Slayer have had a hit in Denmark, Madonna's probably stretching it a bit thin now, Paula DeAnda's already stretching it thin and she's only one her first single, and using Google Image Search to look for pictures of Ze Pequeno is, to put it politely, inadvisable. Oh, and that Lillix single is really good. First up, though, Calle 13 have been watching the Karate Kid a bit.


Calle 13 - Japon
[3.71]

Rodney J. Greene: It's odd to hear someone speaking a foreign language adopt another accent. El Residente’s horrid Japanese inflections make his dry tone more lively, but quickly become a nuisance. I also get the impression there‘s at least latent racism within the lyric. The sampled eastern sonics are pretty, but the simple boom-bap doesn’t have enough forward momentum to drive the track.
[3]

Fergal O’Reilly If the plot of the excellent film Black Knight had involved Daddy Yankee getting transported to feudal Japan, with hilarious but slow-paced consequences, the soundtrack would’ve sounded like this.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: Slow Latin backing with added hip-hop beats and rapping that sounds humorous rather than hard. It's like a sweeter cousin of reggaeton, I guess. I like the sound of it, but without being able to understand, most of its value is moot.
[4]

Patrick McNally: Calle 13 might be from Puerto Rico and lyrically reference “Gasolina” but instead of reggaeton they, on this release at least, are sleepytime hip-hop, kotos lulling you like they’re the Japanese sandman. It’s kinda pleasant but who wants their hip-hop to be pleasant?
[4]


Paula DeAnda ft. Baby Bash - Doing Too Much
[Watch the Video]
[4.40]

Doug Robertson: In which Paula questions whether her constant texting, phoning, e-mailing, and generally obsessing over some guy means she’s ever so slightly clingy.
[4]

Iain Forrester: Appropriately, the endlessly saccharine music somehow manages to perfectly replicate the feeling of being smothered by unwanted attention.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: She's an R&B singer with an appealing edge in her voice now and then, but a lot of it is kind of thin. The tune is pretty enough, in a medium-paced ballady way. Baby Bash sounds pretty Texan nowadays, and fits in well, but his guest verse is a very brief appearance.
[7]

Ian Mathers: It's kind of noteworthy that DeAnda is sixteen because much of the content of “Doing Too Much” positively reeks of high school, of people trying to figure out what exactly this whole being in a relationship thing consists of. Sadly for DeAnda, in this song at least, she's miscalculated dreadfully; not only does it sound as if she has in fact been doing too much, but spending four minutes basically asking “So you like me, right? Right? Right? Right?” is going to send her intended, and possibly listeners, running for the hills. If the lazy, annoying Baby Bash cameo doesn't accomplish that feat first.
[5]


Juanes - A Dios Le Pido
[Watch the Video]
[4.60]

David Moore: I’ve been so conditioned by crappy Santana collaborations that my Pavlovian response to this is to stop paying attention immediately. Which is a shame, because he seems like a nice guy and it’s kind of catchy.
[5]

Patrick McNally: Spanish restaurant music and nothing more. (Well, except that it’s from Colombia. But I’ve never been to a Colombian restaurant.)
[3]

Joseph McCombs: For everything else that’s lovely about this track, I just keep listening to it for two things: the nervous two-finger organ playing, and the modulations into the refrains. Delicious.
[8]

Doug Robertson: Depending on whether you’ve ever suffered from a painful bout of food poisoning in Spain, the sound of the Spanish guitar can either be quite soothing or the sound of a million devils fighting amongst themselves. This example—from Columbia, admittedly, and electrified—definitely falls into the latter camp, all annoying flourishes and painfully forced jollity. I’d rather have my head down the toilet.
[3]


Nadiya – Roc
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Mike Atkinson: As a one-off appropriation of rock stylings by a predominantly R&B-based act, “Roc” invites comparison with “Free Your Mind.” Once again, all traces of anything approaching a funky groove have been mistakenly removed from the equation. What remains is a shrill, top-heavy rattle, punctuated by ugly power-chord guitar stabs and a puny, brassy keyboard refrain which—like the whole performance—falls well short of its triumphalist, anthemic aspirations. Not that any of this stopped the song from reaching #2 in the French singles charts, but what can you do?
[3]

Fergal O’Reilly This induces a sort of musical Stockholm Syndrome, in that Nadiya beats you over the head with her repeated, demented command to ROCK with such vigour that it goes from being annoying to all you can think about in quite a short space of time.
[7]

John Seroff: “Roc” had a lot to live up to and, for the most part, it delivers. There's not much deviation from the original formula: 80s cheez whiz guitars and synthesizers, a “Billie Jean” beat, a quizzical tempo-shifting aside before the coda and loads of "get this party started" attitude. If I felt like nit-picking, I'd point out that this lacks the tempestuous build of a true club banger and that the slightly slower beat of its electric heart makes “Roc” an uneasy fit for dancing or running. Call it a weaker sister to 'Tous Cest Mots' if you'd like, but this is still surprisingly good, mindlessly trashy pop in a world that could use more quality in that arena. Vive la Nadiya!
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: If Nadiya’s previous single, “Tous Ces Mots” held a knife to your throat while attempting to suffocate you with the fumes of its roaring engines at makeshift speedways, the follow up, “Roc” is like watching motor racing on TV on a dull Sunday afternoon. There are a lot of powerful machines on display, and the whole thing is very noisy, but the spectacle has no involving factor whatsoever.
[2]


Slayer - Cult
[5.14]

Rodney J. Greene: There's nothing wrong with preaching to (or against) the choir when you sound this urgent and vital, but when you start yelling "666" at them, you just sound silly.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Dear Slayer,
I’m sure you guys are justifiably proud of your lyrics — “Jesus is pain / Jesus is gore . . . He’s all things dead” — yes, Zombie Jesus never fails on the comedy front, but musically, your strength lies less in frenetic riffing and breakneck solos and more in the all-too-brief sections where you slow down for some massive palm-mute pounding.
Your faithful Singles Jukebox Writer,
Jonathan
[4]

Joris Gillet: I don't think I have ever consciously heard a song by Slayer before in my life. Still this sounds exactly like I thought it would. A dreary, tuneless riff is kept company by some just as one-dimensional high-speed drumming. The occasional screeching guitar solos with far too many notes seem to compete with the 666-references in the lyrics for the biggest hardrock-cliche. It's not even silly, just plain ugly.
[1]

Patrick McNally: This is the first Slayer song since the reformation of the original, best line-up and it sounds, well, clunky. The parts are badly bolted together, rattling alarmingly when it should be a sleek killing machine. The anti-religion lyrics—“religion is rape, religion’s obscene, religion’s a whore”—probably took about five minutes to write, but it’s kind’ve warming to hear singer Tom Araya’s devotion to the metal cause; there surely aren’t many other born again Christians who would sing denying Christ’s crucufiction.
[5]


Ze Pequeno - Ze Phenomene
[5.20]

Jonathan Bradley: My cheesy coinage for this genre: Francehall. I’ll take all credit and kicks to the teeth. Actually, this is less like a Francaise Elephant Man and more like a French Black Eyed Peas (they even have their own Fergie, though she is much hotter than the American version), all light and frothy with feel-good rhythms but with not much grunt. Summertime bangers should have some bang, and this barely pops.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: More French rap, this over an accordion and strummed acoustic guitars (it sounds more Spanish than French, after the opening bars). I really like the lead voice: I think he's funny: a strong sense of irony is evident even with the language barrier. He sounds almost Shaggyish.
[9]

Patrick McNally: Lacking the killer instinct expected of a rapper named after one of the favela toughs in City of God.
[3]

Doug Robertson: It’s summer and, despite having been on the beach and ended up so badly burned I’m currently hiring myself out for lighting jobs in brothels, I’m still vaguely optimistic and happy about the world so this, despite being clearly one of the more irritating tracks to have ever ended up on record, is actually going down quite well. Funny thing, sunshine.
[6]


George Michael - An Easier Affair
[Watch the Video]
[5.29]

John Seroff: In which George reveals the shocking truth: he is not a family man! Sixteen years after “Freedom,” Mr. Michael's seeming endless stream of day-late-dollar-short defiance continues with his most plain-spoken show of pride yet... and only twenty years past when it would have actually mattered. At least he's still got that great blue-eyed soul voice; on a track this shallow and by-the-numbers, it's the only thing that keeps a minor diversion from being completely disposable.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: I shouldn’t dwell on whether the mocking line “I told myself I was straight” is the final bounce in a prolonged career suicide. I should dwell instead on the sad fact that George is coasting here, tossing out easy lines in disappointing contrast to the lyrical intricacies of “Praying for Time” and “Cowboys and Angels” (hell, even “Fast Love”). He used to scheme; I miss that.
[3]

Rodney J. Greene: Things have been better for George since his closet collapsed around him. He apologizes, unnecessarily, to all the girls who ever screamed for him, and gives his doubters the cold shoulder. With outstanding business resolved, he can now get to the more important matter of having fun, and sounds absolutely joyous in doing so.
[8]

Joris Gillet: “An Easier Affair” is, in essence, just another “I am what I am”-statement dressed up as pretty nice, funky pop-song. With the odd lyrical innuendo (“I got to be the bigger man”) and references about how outlandish and kinky and strange it is to be a homosexual popstar (“I'm dancing with the freaks now”). And apparently in 2006, it still is.
[7]


Beatriz Luengo - Hit-Lerele
[Watch the Video]
[5.67]

Ian Mathers: The acoustic guitar loop starts out like any other from modern pop, but adds in a pleasing stutter-step that goes with the beat to make the backbone of “Hit-Lerele” far more compelling than you'd think. And the same holds true for Beatriz's breathy performance of the “la-la-la-la-le” chorus—the actual singing (and the guest rapper) leaves a lot to be deserved, but that extremely low-key and soothing refrain makes for perfect summer listening. Perversely enough “Hit-Lerele” would work a lot better if it was less of a conventional song, but by leaning heavily on the loop and the soft vocals it gets by just fine.
[7]

Mike Atkinson: After squandering the initial promise of its sweetly strummed acoustic sample, this insipid, plodding piece of instantly forgettable Hispanic R&B is partially redeemed by Yotuel Romero’s guest rap, whose animated reggaeton/dancefloor inflections provide a welcome counterpoint to Luengo’s ineffectual simperings. Nevertheless, it’s still much too little, much too late.
[2]

David Moore: The elegant guitar hook and charming “la la la” (“le le le”) chorus are dreamy, and the whole song starts to float. But then the guest rappers crash the party and it plummets back to earth.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Please, do not attempt speech therapy to fix the lovely stutter in this song. I have this impression that this is Spanish R&B, and if that is the case, we might want to import a little of the tone, though I think our chicks can sing better.
[6]


Madonna - Get Together
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Iain Forrester: It’s hard not to feel that there’s another disco classic hidden under all of the electronic surface fuzz here that might be better served by being set free.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Of the Confessions on a Dancefloor singles released so far, this is the one most dominated by Stuart Price. He drowns the track in his dreamy filtertrance aesthetic, sending flood after great flood of semi-conscious synth rush, that too-far-in-to-a-late-night drift paired with that too-much-ingestion-of-something-ingestible wooze that he has spent years fine-tuning. But rather than allowing Price’s presence to crowd out her contribution, Madonna steps up to give a performance big enough to withstand such a dark dance monster of an instrumental. Ironically, she does this by adopting the same distant drugginess as the music, standing out by playing it low key. It is not the fantastic pop single that “Hung Up” was—it does not intend to be—but the dark undertone and subtle restraint means it does not need to be.
[8]

John Seroff: Always half a grey hair ahead of obsolescence, the voice of Grammadonna herself has proven to be the least interesting thing about her own music since, say, the turn of the century; so let's take a stab at the impossible and purposefully ignore the edifice-of-Madge in favor of listening without expectations. Taken on its own merits, “Get Together” is refried disco, derivative to the point of sounding like a cover (the SOS Band lyrical flourishes ain't helping). The throbbing synths, echoing fades, and metronomic bassline would've sounded only a notch above pedestrian on any dancefloor fifteen years ago. Entirely shrug-worthy.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Interesting in the way it works with every other single off the album, but she is running out of songs that stand on their own. This is mildly catchy on the repeated line, yet it can’t decide how fast we are supposed to dance. Is it a banger? A ballad? A head-nodder? We don’t know.
[4]


Ne-Yo - Sexy Love
[Watch the Video]
[6.25]

Mike Atkinson: Doing markedly better in the UK than in the States, this—how can we put this delicately?—“affectionate tribute” to Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” is underpinned by a clappity-clappity Diwali-esque rhythm track, which duly evokes fond memories of Wayne Wonder, Lumidee, and the summer of 2003. Ne-Yo softens the song’s underlying sexual thrust with a gently yearning romanticism, the backing singers go “ooh-ooh” in all the right places, and the combined effect is one of teasingly understated seduction. Which, of course, makes it as sexy as hell.
[7]

Iain Forrester: “Sexy Love” is winningly ridiculous, right from the moment that the first words “my sexy love” are met by a unneeded insistent call of “She’s sexy!” It goes on to feature lines like “I erupt like a volcano and cover her with my love,” so things tread a bit close to being unsavoury but the disconnect between these and the overwrought sentiment leave it just kind of awe-inspiringly tacky.
[6]

Rodney J. Greene: The opening 808 bass and “They Don’t Really Care About Us”-style military drums are misleading. The harp signals the song to fly aloft, and it floats on its own pillar of mist. Eventually, Ne-Yo's cloud nine has to come back to terra firma, landing right where it started, at the line about her (hormonally!) charged presence. I won’t hear a better Michael Jackson ballad this year.
[10]

Doug Robertson: I hope that he shows a bit more passion and energy in the bedroom than he does in the recording studio. If this truly represents the strength of his raw, animalistic urges, we can only assume that he’s less of a tiger in the bedroom and more like a snail.
[4]


The Similou - All This Love
[Watch the Video]
[6.25]

Doug Robertson: They don’t make them like this any more. Well, unless you’re Jacques Lu Cont.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: Oh dear—I was really liking the bleepy electronica tune, then a hopelessly weedy male voice came in. It's almost camp enough to get away with the lameness, but falls short for me—maybe if the lyrics were less standard romantic fare.
[3]

David Moore: Ha, you guys thought you could make this track so much fun I wouldn’t even notice you couldn’t sing. Well, I still figured it out. But it was too late, so congratulations.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: The freshest, peppiest, friskiest, zingiest re-casting of funky 1980s electro-pop since Chromeo’s “Needy Girl”—but directed this time at a teenage rather than an art-school audience. The elastic bassline boings along like the Human League’s “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” while a dinky little “Popcorn” synth riff skips over the top, and a syn-drum occasionally makes its presence felt. The vibe is light, summery, and clad in shades of pastel, with a thin cotton jersey slung around its neck. The vibe has blonde highlights in its hair, trousers rolled up above the ankles, and espadrilles on its feet. The vibe is sipping a pina colada through a bendy straw. Fun and sunshine—there's enough for everyone. All that’s missing is the sea.
[7]


Bertine Zetlitz – 500
[Watch the Video]
[6.86]

Patrick McNally: Despite constant warnings to check out Bertine I never have, but I’ve probably been missing out because this is very good. Wistful and regretful chiming synth-pop that’s retro, but not too much so. Something about the reticence in her voice really hits home. Totally dismal and excellent.
[8]

Joseph McCombs: Zetlitz intrigues me because I have a thing for numbers. This is nicely vindictive and lyrically pretty left-field (is she really saying “$500,000 worth of clever”?), even if it musically dates to about 1985 and its awful accent stays on moi moind more than the tune itself. Not too many notes in this one, eh?
[6]

Hillary Brown: So jumpsuits with shorts are cool again, I hear, preferably in loud shades of polyester, because it’s easier than picking out a top and bottom that match and takes less time than pulling them on separately. This Zeitlitz tune appeals to efficiency in a similar way, but both contain hidden difficulties: using the restroom in a simple manner and enjoying this song unequivocally without doing coke.
[4]

David Moore: The verses are commanding and a little sinister, like she’s asking for ransom because she feels like it (she ends up just stealing your stuff). But then come those warm, meticulous harmonies and it’s like she really cares. About what or whom I couldn’t say; this song makes only slightly more sense than its amazing video.
[8]


Pet Shop Boys – Minimal
[Watch the Video]
[7.00]

Ian Mathers: “Minimal” gets by on atmosphere and context (i.e. A decent pop single from one of the greatest pop acts of all time), and those of us who adore the very sound of Neil Tennant's voice will be satisfied. Everyone else may justly wonder what the fuss about.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly There’s something about the way that Neil Tennant’s first line in a song always manages to ramp the pathos up to hairs-on-neck levels, and here is no different even though he’s singing a bunch of vague abstract shit about minimalism. Admittedly by this stage everyone’s been conditioned to the TENNANT = TREMBLING LIP thing so he could pretty much be reading his shopping list, but it still impresses me. The rest of the song rapidly relinquishes any claims to minimalism in quite glorious fashion, concluding with a bout of Peter Hook Chorus Bass and rising strings that reach a kind of absurd, brilliant melodrama that few other bands in the world are capable of.
[10]

Rodney J. Greene: Urban disillusionment set to a frigid groove, topped by an incomprehensible vocoder hook. The Pet Shop Boys reserve their best trick for the finale, covering the cold Detroit techno with a safety-blanket of strings.
[8]

Joseph McCombs: I’m sorry to have to say it, but the PSBs have kind of settled into a rut, their keyboards emitting more or less the same sounds and Neil Tennant doing about the same. This could have been on any of their albums since ’93, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. (Points for the “Papa Don’t Preach” violins at the coda, though.)
[4]


The Knife - We Share Our Mother's Health
[Watch the Video]
[7.50]

John Seroff: The Knife take old sounds and squeeze them to make clockwork orange juice; menacing electronic squeals and lusty tin man orgasms that are simultaneously organic and metallic, sweaty and hollow but most importantly, undeniably new. Though The Knife sound a little like any of a thousand other bands, there's no one else who sounds quite like The Knife. Relentless and violent, “Health” is a layer cake of beats and rhythms, nonsensical rhymes and endless crescendo. Having made do with almost a half a decade of pop minimalism, The Knife's lusciously dense songcrafting is a breath of ozone sharp fresh air.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: Like everyone else, I loved the Rex The Dog mix of "Heartbeats," but frankly I've been tepid about everything else by the Knife. It's been suggested that perhaps the Knife makes tracks good for remixing, but not necessarily particularly terrific in their own right. I like the bleepiness of this, but I don't care for any of the singing.
[5]

Fergal O’Reilly One of the more frenetic numbers from the Actually Pretty Great Silent Shout, the careening rhythm and plinky synth melody make it feel a bit like being on the waltzers on the verge of puking. Of course, this being the Knife, you soon get various pitch-shifted vocal interjections that push things into the realm of being on the waltzers on the verge of puking because you’re IN A NIGHTMARE DEMON WORLD while on ACID and you’ve JUST REMEMBERED YOU LEFT THE GAS ON and shit. That the Knife are able to do this while making it still seem vaguely within the realm of pop music is to their credit.
[7]

Iain Forrester: “We Share Our Mothers Health” makes you wonder why anyone would bother developing a proper guttural death metal scream (one of those things must take time, right?) when a simple bit of pitch shifting can produce so much of a scarier result. Far from the best or even most unsettling track on Silent Shout, this is a very enjoyable blast nonetheless, like some kind of twisted and sped-up fairytale.
[8]


Lillix - Sweet Temptation
[Watch the Video]
[8.50]

Joris Gillet: The ultimate in modern drawing table pop. It's Avril Lavigne/Kelly Clarkson et al's teenage glam-grunge with an added dose of Killer-esque retro-modern sounds. Big guitars, bigger synths, biggest chorusses, nervous new-wave drumming. I doubt whether the real kids will abandon their 50 Cent mp3's for it, but I think it's great stuff.
[9]

Joseph McCombs: Like watching anime action-adventure.
[8]

David Moore: The Killers’ best song to date, and Lillix’s best song, too. I still wonder what this would sound like with Hilary Duff on vocals, since Lillix sort of playfully shout around the high note in the chorus that Hilary could have hit yawning—but she already had her chance to sing the Killers’ best song, which is now only their second-best song.
[9]

Patrick McNally: This is as catchy as The Sweet or The Runaways or Cheap Trick and as rocking as, well, the three bands just named. If I don’t get to leap around to this drunk and sweaty by the end of the year, then this year will have been wasted. A snot nosed, boot-stomping triumph.
[10]


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


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-07-25
Comments (1)
 

 
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