The Singles Jukebox
Falling Tramps



and so this is where we leave you for now, kids. The Jukebox is at the end of its journey for this year, so what treats have we lined up for the curtain call? Well, there’s one of those Sean Paul guest spots where you sense that he has never actually made eye contact with anyone else involved in the record’s production, a Swedish girl worrying about the implications her wanking will have for her chances of getting into heaven, a hitherto unprecedented THREE country singles in the same week, and two big-name comebacks in the form of Nas and Fall Out Boy. First, though, Avril. Oh dear.


Avril Lavigne - Keep Holding On
[2.25]

Jonathan Bradley: While it is true, and regrettable, that Lavigne has lost much of her angst, she retains her ability to work a big, emotional chorus into unexceptional radio rock, and most importantly, she can make stale lyrical tropes like “We’ll make it through / Just stay strong” resonate with genuine feeling.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Where did it all go wrong Avril? You hooked up with Sk8ter Boi (I guess since he packed the music in we can call him Steve now), bought a nice place and settled down. Sure, Steve had to put in some extra hours at the office, but it’s tough for everyone these days. If he says there’s nothing wrong when you find gambling slips in the car, you can trust him. I’m sure he didn’t mean to start drinking so much, it just helps to take the edge off the day, you know? Keep holding on, you’ll make it through. Maybe you can sell some more jewelry to cover the mortgage this month. Oh Avril, you’re putting on a brave face, but we can tell you’re dead inside.
[3]

Doug Robertson: Despite all the obvious reasons for not having one, we’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Avril, and will happily argue the case for “Sk8r Boi” until the sun goes down, although, not perhaps, with any representatives of the National Literacy Program, but even so even we can’t really find much good to say about this song. Um, the drums sound quite nice and crisp, we guess.
[4]

Mallory O’Donnell: Canada, whatever else one might say about it, apparently has no shortage of reverb pedals.
[0]


Nas – Hip-Hop Is Dead
[Watch the Video]
[3.25]

Erick Bieritz: Yeah, if Nas is reduced to springing clumsy rhymes over a less interesting version of the same dumb beat he used for “Thief’s Theme,” then for him, it may as well be dead.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: The subject matter is nowhere near as compelling as he assumes it is, though, and the song only works because Nas comes up with intricate lyrics even when he is not saying anything very interesting. He lifts a line from Dem Franchize Boyz at one point, and for the duration of that particularly enjoyable moment he sounds like he doesn’t need to be bitter and curmudgeonly to make music. He should try it more often.
[7]

Rodney J. Greene: Nas revisits the "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" v. Bongo Band beat of "Thief’s Theme," this time with a possibly dubious conceit. Nas sounds by turns reinvigorated and asleep at the wheel, and, despite the many tricks and turns producer will.i.am unpacks, the track never gains any immediacy.
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: On the basis of sample choice alone, I'd say the verdict was overly optimistic.
[3]


Keith Urban – Stupid Boy
[3.80]

Joseph McCombs: He’s the straight one, right? Rats. This marginally sung weepie (and its unearned rock-out coda) would be a whole lot more interesting if he’d gotten married to Tom Cruise and the album was called Love, Pain, and the Whole “Crazy” Thing.
[6]

Patrick McNally: Here's an exceptionally ugly country track that tries to invest its moronically clichéd lyrics with meaning by stretching them out over six long, looong minutes. Does the story of a girl wild and innocent "like a flower" ever need to be heard again? Not with a minute-and-a-half guitar solo performed by someone evidently in love with Brian May's solo work, that's for sure.
[2]

Doug Robertson: Dull, boring, uninspired and pointless. If the B-side for this is a cover of the “Dad’s Army” theme then this can get an [8], otherwise it’s getting a very well deserved:
[2]

Martin Skidmore: I read in a bio that Keith was a fan of Dolly Parton, Jimmy Webb and others—and then discovered the music of Dire Straits... To be fair, and thankfully, there is far more country than Knopfler on this, bar some nasty late guitar. Still, its long-distance aspirations (he's from New Zealand) don't sound as if they are after Webb or Parton, and seem more focused on someone like Garth Brooks—smooth and rather bland mainstream country-pop ballads. It's OK, but I can work up no enthusiasm at all for any part of it.
[4]


Chris Cornell – You Know My Name
[Watch the Video]
[3.80]

Patrick McNally: An utterly aneamic and flatulent anthem that even a collaboration between The Scorpions and Shirley Bassey couldn't out-kitsch.
[1]

M.H. Lo: Spare a thought for David Arnold. He signals his love of Bond themes with a covers album featuring ace leftfield singers like David McAlmont, Martin Fry, and Shara Nelson, and on the strength of that gets tapped to score actual Bond flicks. He’s like the Tim “Ripper” Owens of the film scoring world! He’s a step away from being played by Marky Mark! Alas, little did he know that the gig requires him to sell his soul, beginning with his having to pick Sheryl Crow over Pulp and Saint Etienne, and now culminating in the indignity that is Coyote Cornell shrieking his otherwise-OK song. (For David’s sake, let’s hope this is the “culmination.”)
[4]

Ian Mathers: Bond movies and themes tend to hang out between high camp ludicrousness, overwrought lumbering, and unjustifiable but potent baddassery; thankfully, “You Know My Name” shares with Casino Royale a significant slant towards the latter quality.
[7]

Peter Parrish: A Bond theme so uninspiring that it has to be buried in the end credits and doesn’t even appear on the soundtrack release.
[3]


Chuck Fender & Cherine Anderson – Coming Over Tonight
[Watch the Video]
[4.25]

Jonathan Bradley: You know, rubbing a hint of dirty synth bass against painfully generic reggae… actually sorta works. Anderson and Fender are equally uninteresting and disinterested—neither party sounds like they’d be particularly upset if the answer to the refrain “Are you coming over tonight,” happened to be “’Fraid not”—but at least they’ve bothered to include something to upgrade this track from painfully generic to forgettable.
[3]

Hillary Brown: Umm… I have to wash my hair.
[3]

Erick Bieritz: It’s a balanced duet, and the isolated bursts of instrumentation over the steady beat work well. Fender’s overemphasis of some syllables is the only glaring flaw.
[6]

Tal Rosenberg: I swear I heard this song in Weekend at Bernie's II.
[2]


Fall Out Boy - This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race
[4.60]

Jonathan Bradley: A dance beat doesn’t make up for the lack of all the things that made Fall Out Boy enjoyable, like clever hooks and relatable lyrical concerns. The titular chant does gain some appeal through its incessant repetition, even if it does refer to something almost entirely mythical. Is this scene the same suburban post-hardcore collective about which Fall Out Boy has spent their entire career writing gossipy tracks, or is this an arms race pursued by their new celebrity associates and described in breathless detail by Spin and VH1?
[5]

Rodney J. Greene: The stomping New Jack Swing beat and deranged background vox were something nice and unexpected, even if the lyrics seemed calculatedly edgy. Alas, it got to the chorus, where it sounds more like Fall Out Boy.
[6]

Patrick McNally: If this is an arms race, fighting with sticks and stones is suicide.
[3]

Mallory O’Donnell: Wow, a "clever" title about relationships and/or rock bands, a choogling Limp Bizkit-style intro, and a pretty-boy singer with a high register. If emo wasn't so completely inventive and unpredictable, I'd suspect they were going to start playing really fast any minute now.
[1]


LeToya - Obvious
[4.75]

Rodney J. Greene: The most perfectly normative of R&B ballads; the sort that plays at 11:52 every Monday morning on BET and is never heard anywhere else.
[4]

Erick Bieritz: Producer Bryan Michael Cox is a young ace when it comes to this very classy breed of R&B. Like his “Shake It Off” and “Confessions, Pt. 2,” it truly is R&B that has shed the last of its uptown grittiness for upper-crust glitz.
[7]

M.H. Lo: The fit between words and music is awfully clunky in the chorus of this slow jam: “Sometimes we want things that may not be right for us / But when you're in love, you tend to look over the obvious.” Just count the number of syllables in each line of that alleged couplet to get a sense of how non-adroit the chorus is. (Twelve and fifteen, you lazy bastards.)
[3]

Joseph McCombs: LeToya didn’t bring much to this session. It would take a special performance to stand out before the busier-than-it-needs-to-be backdrop, and this wasn’t it.
[5]


Linda Sundblad – Oh Father
[Watch the Video]
[4.80]

Hillary Brown: Wow. This both reminds us of how much we miss Madonna and fills that need pretty well at the same time. Sundblad’s less aggressive, but it’s surprisingly close.
[6]

M.H. Lo: For a song that revolves around the eternal dilemma of whether self-diddling disqualifies one from the other pearly gates, “Oh Father” is surprisingly sweet and innocent. This is largely because Linda sings as a teenage girl, with a lack of self-consciousness or irony, and…I’m sorry, I’m so ashamed of my tacky opening double entendre that I simply can’t go on. Oh Father, it’s me who’s sorry.
[8]

Ian Mathers: I think I'm supposed to be impressed or entertained that “Oh Father” is about a religious girl who feels ashamed of masturbating, but instead I'm just mildly depressed. You mean sex-negative religious zealotry is a big problem in Sweden, too? Or is she just shooting at the proverbial fish in a barrel? And if “Oh Father” was more exciting, would I be wondering about all this?
[5]

Mallory O’Donnell: If twenty-five year old women are still worried about going to Hell for masturbation, this is indeed an even scarier place than previously suspected.
[1]


1990s – You’re Supposed to Be My Friend
[Watch the Video]
[4.80]

Patrick McNally: John (sorry 'Jackie') McKeown's former band, The Yummy Fur, were one of the UK’s best throughout the, well, 1990s, their obsessive word-spew and guitar-shards predating any post-punk revivals, while simultaneously making them unnecessary. Which makes the ironically lumpen classic rock of the 1990s a grave disappointment—“You're Supposed to Be My Friend” sounds like a tramp falling off a bus and comes complete with a fake-American accent and the type of guitar solo that only an ex-junkie could love.
[4]

Peter Parrish: Fairly weak parody of the most pathetic kind of secondary school emotional blackmail. Unless it’s supposed to be serious? God, let’s hope not. Here is the plot: boo hoo I thought you were my pal but you won’t return my calls so maybe I’ll just ramp up the passive-aggression until you notice me again because that’ll definitely regain your interest. That’s going to need some pretty impressive backup to sustain it. Oh, it’s some stop-start semi-fuzzed guitar and pedestrian drumming? No wonder everyone is ignoring you.
[2]

Doug Robertson: Like a box of instruments falling down a set of particularly tuneful stairs with the singer following swiftly behind.
[7]

Tal Rosenberg: Dude, Nada Surf totally did a song like this ten years ago. It was called "Popular." It sucked then, and it still sucks now. But singing mock-sleazily, "Spend some time taking drugs…at a bar…or at home…in a jar," followed by singing mock-achingly, "Friends," is pretty fucking funny. The guitar riff is sort of a Roxy Music/Mott the Hoople rip, but it's a decent enough B-side to its aforementioned companions.
[6]


Rihanna ft. Sean Paul – Break It Off
[5.00]

Rodney J. Greene: Sean Paul rules this song with an iron fist. As grating as Rihanna's parts are, when Sean's mesmeric drone takes over, everything feels right. Unfortunately, the Rihanna to Sean Paul ratio = 2:1.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Rihanna slops her flimsy vocal all over the eerily percolating production here, once again confirming her ability to make water out of even the sweetest wine. Sean Paul, too, is a rather unengaging personality, certainly not someone interesting enough to stand out against the array of bleeps assembled by producer Don Corleon.
[3]

Tal Rosenberg: The first thirty seconds are pretty hot. The beat's kinda bumping, the chorus is pretty catchy, it's a party. Then Sean Paul starts rapping. Then the song goes on for another minute. Then I reach for my gun.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: The risk in featuring someone as dynamic and commanding as Sean Paul is that you can get overwhelmed—and seem as if you are guesting on your own single. This lively, summery number ends up pretty even I think, probably because Rihanna saves the refrain for herself.
[8]


Pussycat Dolls ft. Timbaland - Wait a Minute
[Watch the Video]
[5.20]

Joseph McCombs: I’m starting to get sick of that suddenly increasing vocal go-to, the Timbaland hook shot. And fembot pop wasn’t the most growth-oriented genre to begin with. The combination here is a glimpse of what will happen when the robots take over.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Perhaps it’s an early dose of festive cheer, but is it just us or do the Pussycat Dolls get better and better with each release? Despite “Don’t Cha” being one of the worst debuts in recent memory, it seems they’re actually beginning to turn into the sort of band the pre-release hype promised. They’re sexy and sassy, confident and cool, and generally everything you’d want a band called the Pussycat Dolls to sound like. Finally!
[7]

Tal Rosenberg: This track is pleasant enough without being too annoying, and Timbaland's goofy vocodered singing is kind of lovable. But if he's behind the boards (which I'm assuming he's not), then this production is pretty chintzy and blah.
[5]

M.H. Lo: Timbaland: human after all. Pussycat Dolls: still a bit shit.
[4]


Faith Hill – Stealing Kisses
[Watch the Video]
[5.80]

Doug Robertson: Faith tells us all about a marriage that’s gone to shit, and how we should all despair as it’s going to happen to us as well, all over the sort of guitar playing that can clearly only come from someone who’s just been forced to watch the drowning of seven exceptionally cute puppies. With a couple of kittens thrown in for good measure.
[5]

Ian Mathers: So Faith Hill's response to the whole CMA Awards show brouhahah is to put out a single that includes the line “don't you know who I am?” OK, sure, she's playing a housewife who is trapped in a soul-crushing existence, but still. It's more interesting subject matter than Hill tends to tackle on the big singles, but more of a chorus would be nice, as this feels more like an Important Statement (or the country equivalent of Oscar bait) than much of a song.
[6]

Martin Skidmore:We're back to real country here, away from the Shania-style crossover pop. More importantly, we have a really terrific song, and she delivers the fine lyrics with care and strength and superb judgment. It's a moving performance of an exceptional song, a near-flawless piece of modern country record making, and one that rewards close listening.
[9]

Hillary Brown: An impressively executed poem.
[4]


Ashley Monroe ft. Ronnie Dunn - I Don't Want To
[Watch the Video]
[6.20]

Joseph McCombs: I’d be such a sucker for the Broooce-ish keyboard fills if they weren’t so relentlessly alike (looped?). The tune’s sweetly sung, but Ashley needs to work harder, and needs something more powerful musically in order to do so—someone could have a hit with this nice song, but it’s not her.
[6]

M.H. Lo: The subject of the song isn’t distinctive: it’s the old story about being able to want, need, and sleep with “somebody other than you,” but, Bartleby-like, Ashley would prefer not to. Even so, the backing vocals from Ronnie Dunn add a lovely layer of complexity: instead of turning the song into a male/female call-n-response, Ronnie simply sings the chorus along with her. (Except, hilariously, he doesn’t echo that line about being treated like a queen. Cause that would be gay.) He may therefore be Ashley’s “you”—but he could also be another stubborn lonely soul who feels the same way she does, thereby making the song feel universal, and us root for these crazy kids to someday meet.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: Monroe is a new name to me. She's a very sweet-voiced country singer, or maybe countrypolitan if that term still means anything. It's a wonderfully catchy chorus lyric, and her voice is just about irresistible, despite the occasional thin higher note. I could have done without the tenth-rate electric guitar break, and I'm not sure that the second voice on the chorus adds anything very useful, but otherwise I like this very much.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Country duets are best when breaded in sass and delivered quickly. Monroe has a nice amount of country in her voice, but Dunn seems to be choking on something. Pair her with someone more impressive and we’ll see next time.
[4]


Lily Allen – Littlest Things
[Watch the Video]
[7.00]

M.H. Lo: My poor brain gets so confused, because it knows that Lily has a song on her album about her ex having a small dick. But that’s the track called “Not Big,” not this one. This one, built as it is around a tinkling piano riff that may or may not intend to evoke The Streets’ “Weak Become Heroes,” is instead a meant-to-be-poignant weepie about how the “littlest things” remind Lily of an(other) old boyfriend. And it might have worked too, if my brain could stop associating the song and its title phrase with that other guy. THE ONE WITH THE MICRO PENIS.
[6]

Patrick McNally: At the beginning of the year I listened obsessively to the Lily Allen demos and mixtape, a time that seems like a dream that I can't quite recapture now. The Emmanuelle beats still sound good, but I just can't connect to the emotions of any of her songs any more, whether it’s through overplaying or just from seeing her mug in the The Sun's Bizarre column everyday I'm not sure.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Carried along on a jaunty roll of piano which seems slightly reminiscent of (“nothing at all, because it’s completely original and superb”), the stage seems set for another (“breathtaking piece of genius courtesy of House Allen”). If only Lily didn’t sound so (“divinely angelic and groundbreaking”) as she reels off (“piercingly intelligent observations on the subject of love”), maybe it would (“be possible to avoid glimpsing the face of God through the power of her incredible works”).

The Sheriff retains full editorial rights over all published works.
[9]

Mallory O’Donnell: Lily does cute about as well as she does snotty—it's still a tenuous bid whether or not her lifespan will last past this year, but it's not for want of trying. The overfamiliar sample only weighs her down in this case.
[7]


Fantasia ft. Big Boi – Hood Boy
[Watch the Video]
[7.20]

Erick Bieritz: This is the sort of beat “Hip-Hop Is Dead” needed. Anyone coming from the “Am Idol” camp better sound hungry or angry or something besides MOR right away, and Fantasia acquits herself nicely by slamming her lyrics rather than singing them.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: A slice of post-Rich Harrison horn funk that isn't as energetic as it supposes, in spite of Fantasia's spirited performance. She completely inhabits the song, hollering for all she’s worth, but the tune isn’t necessarily deserving of the effort.
[5]

Tal Rosenberg: It goes without saying that the Blueprint-era Just Blaze throwback beat is pretty bonkers. If Fantasia didn't spend so much time hogging the spotlight instead of taking solace in the outstanding production, this song could be a "Crazy in Love" type banger. But then Big Boi comes straight out of leftfield, drops a nasty verse, and saves the day, letting Fantasia know that singing anymore'll just be suicide.
[8]

Mallory O’Donnell: A jump-up jazz sample cut-n-pasted to outline a rowdy yet clean club stomp, Big Boi's laziest guest verse in at least a week, and horns caked with layers of mud. All these things add up to a glorification of a specific cultural stereotype I've grown weary unto death of. We take what we can get these days, I suppose.
[6]


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


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-12-12
Comments (1)
 

 
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