The Singles Jukebox
Bo and Luke



so Rick Ross got to #1 in the US album chart, right, so what I thought I'd do is include “Hustlin’” in this list to commemorate that; even though it came out months ago now, I presumed the album sales might propel it up the charts a bit. Turns out he's got a new single out instead, so, erm, yeah. Anyway, this week's he's hustlin', and he'll be pushing it next week. OK? OK. There's a similarly belated nod for Julieta Venegas' hot air balloon fantasy, and we assess Cansei de ser Sexy's Mexican chums, The Veronicas make their umpteenth visit, and we shatter the mould by including not one but TWO country singles in the very same week. Will we survive? Stay tuned to find out. First, though: is there anything worse than Nickelback? Apparently so...


Five for Fighting - The Riddle
[Watch the Video]
[1.33]

Ian Mathers: Some sort of hideous crossover between Tuesdays With Morrie and “Cats In the Cradle.”
[0]

David Moore: “Here’s a riddle for you / Find the answer / There’s a reason for the world / You and I.” That’s not a riddle (it’s barely coherent) but here’s one: if lots of people continue to like this pap, will I actually have to listen to another one of these someday?
[2]

John M. Cunningham: Maybe it's just that dude's voice reminds me alternately of Chris Martin, Dave Matthews, and Adam Levine, but I think this would be a great song to play down at that lakehouse that Melissa's parents own. We could grill up some burgers, toss around the frisbee, right before we all have to pack up and leave for college next week. I'll miss you guys; it's been real.
[3]

Teresa Nieman: Gross.
[1]


Nickelback - Far Away
[Watch the Video]
[2.17]

Mallory O’Donnell: The "music" these animatronic chimps are performing resembles a rejected Nashville assembly-line tune coated in lurid, panty-moistening reverb and echo—except that even country-pop castoffs have more dynamics than this slop.
[1]

Rodney J. Greene: We all know the story. Man tells woman he's "loved her all along." Man gets down on his knee. Man chokes woman unconscious for his own sexual gratification. Oh, wait. I think I'm mixing up my Nickelback songs.
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: Nickelback certainly deserves its reputation as repulsive rock dinosaur, but tracks like this show why the band remains popular despite its long-standing aversion to doing anything of interest. The guys no one knows come up with a solidly constructed acoustic ballad sturdy enough for Chad with the long hair to wail along to, all the while making sure that he doesn’t sound like the sort of sissy who feels things and turns off his ever-so-manly audience.
[4]

David Moore: Still Nickelback. Point for reliability.
[2]


Stacie Orrico - I'm Not Missing You
[Watch the Video]
[3.33]

Joe Macare: So... Stacie Orrico's "Stuck" was the one about being pathetically hung up on someone, right? And this one is supposed to be about getting over that? So why is it that "Stuck" had several times as much energy and resolve and life, whereas "I'm Not Missing You" is lackluster and unconvincing? If I thought this was a deliberate juxtaposition I'd be impressed, but somehow I don't think that's what's going on here.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: Airy pop apparently aiming to be as trivial and unengaging as possible. Given the title, shouldn’t Orrico’s delivery have some emotion—anger, bitterness, relief, triumph—anything that would make those words mean something?
[2]

Joseph McCombs: She lost me with the predictable, paint-by-numbers guitar loop, and her voice is as devoid of personality as ever. So it’s hard for me to get wound up about her pronouncing “u-su-al-ly” with all four syllables or about how, like most pop vocalists her age, she still doesn’t know how to improvise anything over a coda except for repetition and wordless trills.
[3]

Iain Forrester: I’ve listened to this more than ten times now in an attempt to form an opinion on it. It still remains likable and kind of childishly sweet, yet thoroughly unmemorable in any way.
[5]


Dierks Bentley - Every Mile a Memory
[Watch the Video]
[4.80]

Martin Skidmore: Country that has some of the now-customary electric guitars, but mostly wants to be Merle Haggard—this is his ordinary working man territory, and vocally Dierks tries. He doesn't have the depth or character or gravitas of Merle, and it'd be unfair to make comparisons to one of the greats if his voice and song didn't beg for it. It's okay, but I can't find anything to be at all enthusiastic about.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: “Every Mile a Memory” finds Dierks reminiscing about a lover, and though he very carefully describes each feature of the landscape that reminds him of his ex, we get no indication as to why we should care.
[5]

Iain Forrester: There’s probably an ok country-rock song in here somewhere, albeit a rather humourless one. But that song definitely doesn’t go quite so very slowly.
[3]

John M. Cunningham: This song's ostensibly about a woman, but the scenes that haunt Bentley (wild roses on a riverbank, old theatre marquee signs) could also double as a paean to small-town America. When it comes to country, I tend to prefer the songs about drinkin' and carousin' to the ones about misty-eyed stars-and-stripes nostalgia, mostly because I can actually relate.
[5]


Brooke Hogan ft. Paul Wall - About Us
[Watch the Video]
[4.83]

John M. Cunningham: This is a perfectly competent R&B/rap hybrid, one of hundreds in the last ten years and bordering on the generic: Paul Wall's pleasing Houston drawl is fairly distinct, but Brooke Hogan's icy diva moan could belong to anyone. (She's apparently inherited none of her dad's raspy, vein-popping bellow.) Which makes it all the more remarkable, perhaps, that everyone involved here (including producer Scott Storch) is white: it's like they've all learned how to pass.
[6]

Joe Macare: It shouldn't still be surprising when mixing the lightest, glossiest pop with a Southern rap drawl yields tasty results, but somehow it still surprises me.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: I respect Paul Wall. He's a complete and unfettered prostitute, and he makes no bones about it. Brooke Hogan—not so much. Cram your voice through the Beyonce filter all you want, hon, you still sing like a cracker.
[2]

Rodney J. Greene: This was a damn good song for Wall before Brooke started singing, in spite of the Storch-ly generi-banger backing. When Hogan enters, the quality exits, her voice oscillating between a shrill grate and an unsuitable coo.
[5]


JoJo - Too Little, Too Late
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Jonathan Bradley: The difference between being 13 and 15 is huge. But JoJo does not use her adolescence to expand into Avril-esque angst-ploitation, as would be more interesting, but instead becomes terribly dull and grown up, creating a prim, polite kiss-off with none of the personality of her more childish efforts.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: American R&B with some strong sweeping production here and there. She's a goodish singer too, with an appealing rough edge to her voice at times. The chorus is pretty good too, though it features her least appealing singing, higher and weaker. Still, an all-round pretty classy record, but it never quite takes that extra step to be something special.
[8]

David Moore: Like a subdued but musically embellished “Leave,” with a fuller arrangement but a less impassioned performance. Jojo’s vocals sound a little too processed, which weakens the overall impact, but it’s bittersweet and lush where “Leave” was angry and raw. I prefer raw (if it means they won’t filter her vocals so much), but this is good too.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: I’ve always found underage starlets singing about boyfriend troubles a little unnerving, and JoJo was even younger than most when she first hit the scene. Moral issues aside, she does have a decent set of pipes. This song is standard ballad fare that, admittedly, does complement her style well. It’s polished enough to be listenable, but too bland to be worthwhile.
[5]


George Strait - Give it Away
[5.80]

Ian Mathers: Strait's good natured pain and way with a story means that “Give It Away” is neither jokey nor depressing; it's touching, which is something far too little contemporary country manages.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Hmm. Maybe it's because I'm entrenched in a similar exchange / non-exchange of communal property right now, but this works on me. There's something about the naked vulnerability of Strait's position, how he's fenced in by property he doesn't care about, a resentment he's too tired to feel and guitars and fiddles that attack him like drunken thugs. He's so wounded he can't even be bothered to think of new possessions to describe by the third verse. Weakly apt and aptly weak.
[5]

Rodney J. Greene: George Strait's wife has left him, and is letting go of all the things that remind her of him. He advances the story in spoken asides, while a rambling lope maintains strong momentum in spite of its slow gait. The ending is the most heartbreaking moment, the beat dropping out so Strait can detail one last item his woman has told him to give away: her ring.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: George Strait shouldn’t sing. He should do the whole thing spoken word. His narration at the start of each verse sounds drawn straight from Dukes of Hazzard, and I’d much prefer Strait replaced the singing about his divorce with tales of Bo and Luke running moonshine or whatever it is they do.
[4]


Ludacris ft. Pharrell - Money Maker
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Ian Mathers: Distance-fogged horns like call-and-response elephants, low-key organ, a recurring sound that could be a ghostly orchestra busy tuning up. And then Ludacris says “Let me give you some swimming lessons on the penis / Breast stroke, back stroke, stroke of a genius.” So I guess Release Therapy isn't going to be that much more serious-minded, huh? Gorgeous production, though, and the least annoying Pharrell's been in ages.
[8]

William B. Swygart: “Took your momma nine months to make yuh / Might as well shake what she gave yuh”—pity’s sakes, that’s practically Anthony Kiedis-level innuendo. Impossible to give a shit about, will be his biggest UK hit ever. So it goes.
[4]

Joe Macare: I think it's safe to say at this point that Ludacris has established that there's nothing that can detract from the charisma and likeability of his style. Not the recent dodgy Austin Powers pastiches, not the presence on this song of a man whom we all keep reminding to take a holiday, and certainly not his ever-increasing reluctance to rap about anything except the ladies. This is Ludacris by the numbers, business as usual. In other words, it's good shit.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: Even if he sucks "Number One Spot" clean of Austin Powers jokes, it's still the worst Luda single he could have chosen to remake. Couldn't he, with Neptunes onboard, have at least done a "Southern Hospitality" retread or something?
[4]


Julieta Venegas - Me Voy
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

John M. Cunningham: My girlfriend, who once lived in Buenos Aires, informs me that Venegas is hot shit in Argentina, although this song seems pretty lightweight to me, coasting along on sunny guitar strums and lazy accordion lines. It's also more traditional-sounding than a lot of the Latin American pop that I usually hear—a waltz rather than a riddim—and while that's refreshing, it slips away more easily, too.
[5]

Joseph McCombs: The melancholy accordion opening fully prepares us: It’s an elegant, poised sadness here instead of a desperate one, and how gorgeous are those chimes (glockenspiel? triangle?) and those layered harmonies (even the sighs!).
[7]

William B. Swygart: Included here by virtue of having basically bossed the Spanish-speaking parts of the world for the summer. The language barrier robs it of a bit of its charm, I suppose, but I am something of a sucker for a nice bit of accordion, and this… this is a very, very nice bit of accordion.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: Aside from Venegas’ soaring voice, this was rather grating. The accordion (which is usually a failsafe instrument!) sounds more like a cheesy children’s keyboard sample. My husband liked it, though.
[5]


Pink - U + Ur Hand
[Watch the Video]
[6.40]

Mallory O’Donnell: Pink has an uncanny knack for making songs that sound exactly how you think they will when you see the title in print. Thus, lame hip-hop-"esque" and 80's cod-synth-metal doohickeys whirr and spin while Pink deflates some dude's scrotum.
[4]

Joseph McCombs: This may be Pink’s last chance at a full commercial resurgence, and I hope it pays off, ’cuz this Pat Benatar makeover is the best song she’s had since “Get the Party Started.” You know if Kelly Clarkson had recorded this it’d be Top 5 in two weeks.
[9]

Joe Macare: This is back to basics for Pink in some ways, and all the better for it. See, the particular type of pop that she makes is the kind that nods in the direction of several 'edgy' subcultures but in reality never moves out of mainstream, for better and for worse. And that kind of pop usually gets into all kinds of clunky, cringe-inducing trouble when it consciously tries to do social commentary about big issues (see "Stupid Girls"). But when it does songs about cool-ass girls telling loser dudes where exactly they can shove it, that's another matter. More like this, please!
[8]

David Moore: Pink’s version of the Dr. Luke/Max Martin template doesn’t really work, in part because she resists the formula—she’s too aggressive in the verse (“that’s when dickhead put his hands on me”; “midnight, I’m drunk, I don’t give a fuck”), so the chorus has nowhere to go, no notch to kick up to; it’s just louder than the rest of the song.
[5]


The Veronicas - Revolution
[Watch the Video]
[6.50]

William B. Swygart: So their angst’s about as cookie-cutter as their video (tour footage, revealing that the Ronnies bounce up and down a lot on stage and are generally about as spontaneous as Swindon), and their sentiments are the stuff that Fame Academies are made of, but the way they put them across has this delicious kind of brutality to it; the way they play up the Australian vowels on “like a heart without a home,” the way they veer into a quiet piano ballad bit then pull it back after one line because bouncing up and down a lot in a mildly choreographed manner is much more fun, and the general air of two girls yelling “Our LIVES are a token rock number, MORON!” while slapping the rest of the world on the back of the head repeatedly. It’s quite good, that.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Some people I respect are huge fans of the Veronicas, but I've never really seen it. They strike me as an indie rock band edging into Avril/Kelly/Pink territory (a good move, obviously) and making a decent-ish fist of it without the quality of song.
[4]

Iain Forrester: “Revolution” sounds as if someone’s taken every Lavigne/Clarkson/tATu song ever and stitched together only the very best parts to create a song in which no single second is anything less than massively, immediately enjoyable. When The Veronicas cry “I am! I’m a revolution!” over the chorus’ enormous barrage of guitars, I’m sure not going to argue with them.
[9]

David Moore: This wouldn’t be my top choice for their next single, especially when “Leave Me Alone” continues to languish in the middle of the album. I like how Jess/Lisa’s accent slips out in parts but then I don’t like how they cheat and rhyme “again” with “explain.” I like the initial build to the chorus, but I don’t like how they coast on that energy for the rest of the song. I like the harmonies and melodic detours, but it also sounds a little careless, like there are a few too many ideas all fighting for space.
[6]


Maria Daniela y su Sonido Lasser - Miedo
[Watch the Video]
[6.83]

William B. Swygart: Maria here is possessed of quite probably the worst singing voice we’ve witnessed in the Jukebox this year, the kind of tuneless dither that makes one long for the technical brilliance of, say, Lumidee. As such “Miedo”’s allegedly light-hearted charms take a bloody age to actually start being charming. Once you get there, though, it’s all lovely and bouncy and nonchalant, and your hair flops from side to side just so, and you start gabbling along with her because you realize that every line ends with a word ending in “ahhhh,” and it’s all very jolly indeed. It’s just that, before you get there, you might have decided to chop your ears off instead.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Putamayo can eat my fuck. This is world music. J-Pop by way of Scando-Latvian shimmer and break gorging itself on 80's moonboot disco, but it's (apparently) Latin? In the year 3000, when the space-robots come to enslave Earth's one brown race, this will be the "Planet Rock" we all groove to. While punching holes in their galactic donut factory.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Could be an even more dull'n'draggy CSS. Which, since everyone around here seems to love them, I guess is a good thing. Having never drank that particular Kool-Aid, I'm kind of bored.
[4]

Teresa Nieman: Perhaps the only song this week I find myself wanting to listen to outside of “work.” The chanty vocals are very charming—and they hug the looping beat perfectly for the entire, decidedly repetitive song—masterfully voiding the fact that it’s pushing five minutes and never really changes course. It feels like that Sherry Lewis/Lambchop puppet nightmare, “The Song That Never Ends” (yes, it goes on and on, my friends), but is a billion times more pleasant.
[9]


Omarion - Entourage
[Watch the Video]
[7.00]

Rodney J. Greene: Gliding mid-tempo R&B driven by a funky guitar riff and ascendant swirls of synth strings. It's not perfect, weighed down by one of those awkward lyrical conceits that seem to be disproportionately favored by male R&B crooners, but that doesn't bother me too much.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Perky enough boy-bandish R&B, quite pretty and fun, but I really dislike his voice—it strikes me as extremely nasal and whiny.
[4]

Joseph McCombs: O lets off a few great “whoo!”s in this brilliant recapture of the sound of Heatwave and the Invisible Man’s Band. Fun to hear so much plumbing of 1980 R&B aesthetic lately, between him and Ne-Yo. (I’d rate it a point higher if I didn’t hate the title.)
[8]

Mallory O’Donnell: Between this, "Kick Push," and that leaked Snoop track I just heard, it's turning into the summer where Black pop takes it back to the disco breaks. It’s a love song, and it's not about that new TV show. Really, that's all you need to know—just lay back, sip a mint julep or something and let Omarion rub your shoulders with this banal late-summer beauty. "I'll let you be Lieutenant, if you let me be Captain." No crass comments about who gets to be Rear Admiral, please.
[7]


Rick Ross - Hustlin'
[Watch the Video]
[7.60]

William B. Swygart: A chorus that makes you feel like you have the cojones to rhyme “Atlantic” with “Atlantic”; a verse that makes you realize that rhyming “Atlantic” with “Atlantic” is a rubbish idea regardless of whether or not there is a synth-line eating the right-hand side of your brain.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Even now that we know for sure that Ricky Rawwsss can’t rap for shit, it matters not a whit when those sweltering keyboards come rolling in like storm clouds off the Miami coast. It’s as if the humidity in the atmosphere seeped into the track while it was being recorded. Ross, for once, doesn’t let the side down, giving a performance good enough to fool you into thinking he actually has talent hidden somewhere in that beard.
[10]

Mallory O’Donnell: The thing that keeps it from being completely obnoxious is the (admittedly minimal) sense of humor—the likes of T.I. and Jeezy usually turn this kind of Korg plod-along into screwface soup, but Ross at least has the decency to rhyme "Atlantic" with... "Atlantic" and "whip it, whip it, real hard." Hey it might not be much, but when every crack-rapper stares out of magazine covers like someone's giving them an enema, I'll take what I can get.
[6]

Ian Mathers: A hypnotically bad collection of catchphrases and refrains, you can absolutely see why this is huge, as it'd be tremendous fun out at the club. Plus, spooky organ. Spooky organ always wins. 100% fun, 100% stupid, probably bad for yo—let's split the difference.
[5]


Basement Jaxx - Hush Boy
[Watch the Video]
[7.80]

John M. Cunningham: On an album full of boisterous Balkan shouts and gypsy flair, the first single nods toward a gently simmering Afro-Cuban beat. In fact, when those congas show up, beneath Vula Malinga's appeal to "just take it slowly, boy," it sort of sounds like "Oh My Gosh" as performed by the Miami Sound Machine. (Both songs are also about the fluttering nerves of new love.) A retread, maybe, but also a recipe for fantastic pop. Another margarita, por favor.
[8]

William B. Swygart: Their decision to base the hook around them grunting “Iv yoo want me for yore GURRL-FRIEND!” nearly works; problem is that it doesn’t quite. It’s a great noise, certainly, but it’s a great noise that’s making a misbegotten attempt to try and carry the whole song, which it just can’t do. As a sequel to “Oh My Gosh”, this works; as a big noisy slab to keep the feeling going on an album, this will probably work wonderfully; as a discrete, single unit, it just hasn’t got the big, central hook to make you come back out of anything other than a sense of duty.
[6]

Joe Macare: This is the point at which sonic maximalism stops being exhilarating and becomes just an over-egged mess. In some ways it feels as if Basement Jaxx's entire career has been about investigating where that line exists—how far can you push it, how many sounds can you cram onto a track before it stops making any kind of enjoyable sense. Well done lads, you've found where that point is. Now back away from it, slowly...
[6]

Joseph McCombs: Whee! My new favorite party record of the summer, what’s left of it anyway. And inspired that they got Animal from the Muppets to sing along on the hook.
[9]


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


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-08-29
Comments (2)
 

 
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