The Singles Jukebox
Obvious Necessity



big hitters this week, chaps. Shakira and Ludacris want to follow up their US number ones, Robin Thicke wants you to tell him how sexy you find him, +44 want the head of Tom DeLonge (or that's what the cover of Kerrang! seemed to suggest), Sel continues to find uninteresting ways to be photographed holding a pair of headphones, The Killers and Melody Club have a pomp-off, and Nelly Furtado makes her fourth appearance in the Jukebox this year. This week, it's her latest single for the European market; next week, her new one for the North Americans. We may include the one she's done with Juanes for the Latin American market too, but, to be perfectly honest, I'm getting a fucking migraine here. We kick off with The Cold War Kids, about whom we will apparently be hearing a lot more next year. Whoopee.


Cold War Kids - We Used to Vacation
[Watch the Video]
[4.00]

Mallory O'Donnell: Hence, the problem with indie rock—the ideas, the hooks, the composition here are basically fine. But everything that gives it its (for want of a better word) character is what sinks it—the phoned-in vocals, the drum mic in the drawer, the shitty-sounding guitar effects. Just play some pop, kids. Stop trying to sound "edgy."
[5]

Ian Mathers: Making the chorus the draggiest part of this song wasn't exactly a winning idea.
[4]

Erick Bieritz: There’s nothing wrong per se with writing outside one’s personal experience, but it’s a hard sell, and doing it in the first person raises the stakes considerably. The Cold War Kids’ story of an alcoholic father over a Maroon 5 piano vamp isn’t entirely convincing, but it’s not particularly annoying that they tried.
[4]

Kevin J. Elliott: These guys are capable of seeing five years into the future. Once the buzz has abated and the paychecks stop coming, at least one of the Cold War Kids will be singing this to himself, bottle in hand, wondering why he joined a band instead of going to grad school.
[3]


Shakira ft. Carlos Santana - Illegal
[Watch the Video]
[4.20]

Rodney J. Greene: Part two in the Shakira Featuring the Corniest People Ever series. Together, the duo sublimate any obvious Latin tendencies in favor of a smoldering barroom ballad. Shakira unleashes a slew of done-me-wrongs and Santana mostly avoids stepping on her toes, wisely constraining himself to the role of accompanist.
[6]

Hillary Brown: I'd just made my peace with Shakira this year, genuinely enjoying “Hips Don't Lie,” and here comes Santana, effing it up entirely with his wanktastic high-pitched guitar. Thanks, Carlos.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: I've always found Carlos an utter bore, but I really like Shakira's voice a lot—its mix of tones is not quite like any other I've ever heard. This would be rather better without his blues-guitar wankery (I'd even prefer Wyclef yelling "Shakira, Shakira!"), but it still isn't one of her best—I like her best at full pop force, not on restrained ballads.
[6]

Kevin J. Elliott: Would hipsters go apeshit if you told them this was Antony and the Johnsons?
[1]


The Wreckers - My Oh My
[Watch the Video]
[5.25]

Joseph McCombs: I guess they figured there’s still a market for Dixie Chicks music now that the Dixie Chicks aren’t making it themselves. Wonderful harmonies and the most effective bridges I’ve heard in a country song in ages; the genre’s hardly produced a better record this year.
[8]

Hillary Brown: For those who think the Dixie Chicks are just too darn tough.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: I really liked the last one from Michelle Branch's new country duo, and this is nearly as good. The tune is perky and pretty, as is the instrumentation (though it leans a touch too much towards AOR here and there), and it's well sung.
[7]

Doug Robertson: From a band called The Wreckers we were expecting a song that was, well, slightly more rock and not anywhere near as country as this track actually is. Indeed, this is so country that if you’re not listening to it while standing in Nashville, sizing up cowboy hats for the wearing thereof you‘re probably not really getting full enjoyment out of it. With that in mind, you’ll already know whether you like this sort of track or not, and our opinion that this is so derivative of the genre that it’s practically pastiche really doesn’t matter one jot.
[3]


Sel - Tik
[5.25]

Kevin J. Elliott: While it starts as standard issue lounge music (circa 1994), it comes with a surreal centerpiece (a half-backwards dub rant) juxtaposed against all that atmospheric, space-age calm. I’ll have to re-listen to my Jega discs today.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: Sadly not a Scottish football song but some sort of Lithuanian electronia/techno with ambient wafting tendencies. It's kind of lovely in a minor spacey way, especially when the female voice joins in—I'm less keen on the lightly-processed male lead vocal and an awkward second man rapping.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: The gal singing the hook like she’s paid by the hour is fine, but everyone else is a lazy salaried worker here.
[4]

Ian Mathers: The kind of song that sounds as if no humans were involved in its creation—in the best possible sense.
[6]


Young Jeezy - I Love It
[Watch the Video]
[5.25]

Erick Bieritz: Thank goodness Jeezy has stuck with the idiosyncratically titled DJ Toomp (of “What You Know”) and not cashed in for some Styrofoam-packed New York hack. He’s going to be totally insufferable once he finally gives up the gritty street survivor shtick, but for now he can still sound heavy and fast, stoned-to-death, cool, and dangerous.
[6]

Hillary Brown: I, on the other hand, just think it's OK. Mr. Jeezy still kind of fails to impress, despite his better than average beats, my hometown (ATL) bias, and his pretty good flow. There's some kind of magic missing.
[5]

Mallory O'Donnell: Rule #1 of pop music: NEVER follow-up your breakthrough hit with a carbon copy. It might've worked for the Kinks, but it ain't working for you.
[2]

Rodney J. Greene: We’ve certainly heard triumphalist grandeur from Young Jeezy before, but not on this scale. On his previous efforts any radiance he might bask in was buoyed down by a (perhaps regrettably absent) sense of danger. But that was before he was on top. In one particularly potent moment, Jeezy welcomes damnation, laughing at the idea that even hell would deign to fuck with him.
[8]


Wisin y Yandel - Pam Pam
[Watch the Video]
[5.50]

Rodney J. Greene: I should learn to take light tunefulness in reggaeton for granted, but I always seem to dig in seeking hardcore stylings. Both reggaetoneros sing as often and as enthusiastically as they rap, and they scatter melodic G-funk synths and horny blips across the customary dembow. It’s probably much better than what I was looking for, anyway.
[7]

Kevin J. Elliott: En Espanol “reggaeton” translates to “derivative latin genre.” But if no one in Mexico cares, neither do I.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: Inexcusably tame compared to some of the absolutely frenetic hits that come from this sound.
[2]

Hillary Brown: Yelling not quite as much fun when filtered through current sinus pain, but surprisingly much so. Boom-chicka-boom-boom!
[6]


Ludacris ft. Mary J. Blige - Runaway Love
[5.50]

Erick Bieritz: While this isn’t much more compelling than “Keep Your Head Up” or the 1,000 other singles in the same vein, it’s a lot better than what a pessimist might expect from a punch line rapper like Ludacris taking on child abuse and teen pregnancy.
[5]

Joseph McCombs: I don’t think I like the socially conscious Luda. His rhymes lose all their imaginativeness when he puts himself “on message,” and though the backing track’s a good enough production, he’s much better when his waterfalls are of the splash variety and not the TLC kind. (PS: I’ll give him credit for acknowledging abortion as an ethical option if not a fiscal one in the pregnancy stanza, but the girl’s ELEVEN?!?)
[4]

Martin Skidmore: I like Ludacris a lot, and this is a really strong lyric, tough and emotive, about miserable, ruined lives. He delivers it superbly, avoiding any comedy vocal stylings, and Blige sings the chorus lines beautifully. The combination reminds me of Ghostface's autobio raps over old sweet soul tracks.
[9]

Rodney J. Greene: What the fuck? You are not Talib Kweli! Actually, credit due, this way better than, I dunno, “Black Girl Pain.” But still...
[4]


The Killers - Bones
[Watch the Video]
[5.50]

Doug Robertson: When The Bravery first launched their—mercifully brief—recording career, they were justifiably rounded upon on all sides for being little more than a Killers tribute band with some bad haircuts thrown in for good measure, but now it seems that The Killers themselves are getting in on the act, with this song being little more than, nice synthy horn stabs notwithstanding, the sort of thing you’d expect a vaguely talented band to come up with if they were trying to do something that sounded a bit like the Killers. It does the job, but surely “Mr. Brightside” isn’t that much of an albatross around their necks that it’s stopped them aiming any higher.
[6]

Rodney J. Greene: The Killers are from Las Vegas. I mention this because this song perfectly capsulizes the essence of that city: glitzy and pompous, with big money lavishly strewn everywhere, but ultimately empty and exhausting.
[5]

Hillary Brown: What happened to the lace and the glitter? This sounds fine but even with all those horns, it's a bit laid back and manly.
[5]

Ian Mathers: The Killers seem able to make a career out of being foolish enough to be uncool in increasingly impressive and effecting ways. Get this song a stage show and some dancers, stat.
[6]


Nelly Furtado - All Good Things (Come To An End)
[Watch the Video]
[5.60]

Rodney J. Greene: With its lush Andean sonics and moony-eyed romanticism, "All Good Things" could easily be from either of Furtado's two earlier albums. It lacks the whiz-bang-pow-this-is-Timbo effects marking her other recent singles, which allows Nelly to crack her sheen of ultra-confidence and betray vulnerability.
[6]

Ian Mathers: There is no conceivable way this should be this good. Nelly as new pop goddess on “Promiscuous” and “Maneater” and even “Glow” and “No Hay Igual,” sure—but putting out a ballad as good as all of the above? The production is gorgeous and lush and suit the vocals to a T, Furtado's performance is fantastic, managing to inject some genuine pathos into cliché. When I saw this was five minutes long I dreaded hearing it, but I was won over instantly.
[10]

Hillary Brown: Pointing out the irony of the title in a song that seems to go on and on and on is admittedly obvious, but sometimes obviousness is necessary.
[4]

Mallory O'Donnell: People knock Nelly F. for her chameleonesque qualities, but her changes are no more or less convincing than Bowie's ever were. In fact, it's a charming pattern—the pop star as sonic windvane, creaking hither and thither with each transition in the musicultural landscape. The song itself, unfortunately, marks little new ground. Time for a jazz re-invention?
[3]


+44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating
[Watch the Video]
[5.75]

Ian Mathers: It's almost sad how predictable the post-Blink split has been; overbearing Tom Delonge made the overbearing and unsuccessful Angels and Airwaves, and the briskly competent (once he stopped with the poop jokes) Mark Hoppus, with Travis Barker in tow, makes semi-anonymous but catchy radio fodder as +44. It's no “Adam's Song,” but it'll do.
[7]

Joseph McCombs: Surprisingly indistinct, which of course means it’ll be on the charts for the next 30 weeks.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Not even a whole lot of nothing. More like an unobtrusive pile of it.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Calling it mature is a bit of a misnomer, as they’re not pulling out the acoustic guitars and jamming together in the dull way that such a thing normally implies, but Mark and Travis have come up with a half-decent slap of rocky punk which doesn’t appear to have a single knob gag. Well done! Maybe “I Miss You” wasn’t just a one-off after all.
[7]


Robin Thicke - Lost Without You
[Watch the Video]
[6.00]

Joseph McCombs: Poor guy’s in a no-win situation: He’s too greasily Kevin Federline-ish to be a sex symbol and he’s vocally too Justin Timberlake-ish to be credited with a distinct musical identity while JT’s on a hot hit streak. Without either of those he hasn’t got much—except for a well-done song in a nonexistent Curtis Mayfield loverman mode with a nice twin-guitar groove that actually sounds live. This territory isn’t mined often enough.
[7]

Rodney J. Greene: Robin Thicke attempts something like tasteful depravity, which, as unlikely as the concept sounds, is a regular pop hobbyhorse. However, he doth protest too much, and comes off as merely deprived.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: Very gentle sweet-voiced R&B over a rather subdued, laid-back Brazilian rhythm. It's very distinctive and lovely, and I like it very much, but I wonder if it's maybe too diffident to grab much attention.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Ever since Thicke decided to double the length of his name by readopting the “Robin,” he's basically cut his awesomeness in half, which is a terrible shame. Nonsense is totally acceptable if you say it loud enough, but this is much too soft.
[4]


Lupe Fiasco - I Gotcha
[Watch the Video]
[6.50]

Erick Bieritz: Chicago rappers need gimmicks. Rapping about Jesus, rapping real fast, rapping about… soap? And skateboarding too. The beat’s OK, and this just narrowly avoids sounding 15 years old.
[6]

Mallory O'Donnell: Lupe's sparring style still has training wheels on it compared to his storytelling raps, but that's fine—the real star here is the taut, punchy Neptunes beat, marking their stylistic shift towards live-sounding drums and rubbery souljazz and away from their tired template of skeleton funk.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: His flow is OK, bright and bouncy, and the production is slick and quite likeable, quite Latin and piano-heavy here—but somehow it doesn't hook me or excite me. Maybe it's his rather mechanical almost sing-song flow.
[6]

Kevin J. Elliott: Fiasco is indicative of modern hip-hop; no matter how pleasing and playful this song is, it has me pining for something from the past. Here it’s a Tribe Called Quest reunion, as the piano is lifted straight from the Low End Theory. Even pre-Gap commercial Common would do. Forget Kanye, join the Native Tongue family.
[6]


Melody Club - Destiny Calling
[Watch the Video]
[7.20]

Joseph McCombs: This song would have been more fun in 1987, when it would have been the accompaniment to the large-project-completed-in-moments montage in a teen-aimed flick.
[5]

Ian Mathers: A concise, gleaming slab of triumphalism and, well, melody, “Destiny Calling” gets by mainly on the uplift of the backing vocalists proclaiming “I am, I am, I am, I am!” in the chorus. There are many worse ways to make a song so memorable, although it's hard not to wish for a little more personality or nuance.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: The ensemble builds it up, the chimes bring it back down. Polyphonic Spree choruses, Ash verses. An audio sun lamp for the SAD set.
[7]

Kevin J. Elliott: Hey Sweden, you can have the Killers, if we can keep Melody Club. Would’ve made my summer so much sweeter.
[8]


T.I. - Top Back
[7.25]

Rodney J. Greene: Mannie Fresh nicks his own stylistic trademarks back from T.I.'s in-house man DJ Toomp, and Tip rides dirty all over them. His intimidating snarl, combined with the creeping pizzicato strings, provide a lowdown menace in counterpoint to the soaring fanfare.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: This doesn't have as great a hook as the last couple, but it's strong anyway, and bounces along very nicely, with some particularly fine use of strings. There's something about this medium-paced head-nodding roller that I like a lot—it reminds me a bit of Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty."
[8]

Erick Bieritz: As always it’s not what he says but how he says it: he doesn’t just have an accent, he’s got a whole separate dialect with a twisted enunciation that has a logic all its own. It’s best demonstrated in “Top Back” during the final series of verses, as he alliterates his way from shredded legs to stitched hips.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Wow, so that formula from “What You Know” really does have diminishing returns, huh?
[5]


Marit Larsen - Only a Fool
[7.40]

Joseph McCombs: Goofy-ass banjo swing and calliope fairground horseplay that’s more fun than the first minute foretells. I’m not a big fan of her voice but her playfulness with this material is infectious.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: I had hoped this would be the next single. It's a totally beautiful song, and Marit sounds adorable. The chorus is completely irresistible, sweet and bitter, sad and confident, and the arrangement is very original, with more than a hint of Dylan added to the smart and bouncy teen pop.
[10]

Doug Robertson: Jingly jangly, jingly, jangly, pleasant, pleasant, pleasant. Oh for some sort of edge or excitement or, well, just something more than what’s here. She could be singing about the cornflakes she had for breakfast for all we care and, indeed, the whole is about as appetising as a soggy bowl of cereal that’s been left out on the counter just a little bit too long.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Marit sounds awfully young here, until the chorus; then she manages to channel the kind of warmth and humanity that takes the sting out of the lyrics (which in lesser hands would come across as kind of bitchy) and makes her sound far wiser than her years. The country touches become charming rather than affected, and it's difficult not to fall rather hard for “Only a Fool.”
[8]


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


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-11-28
Comments (2)
 

 
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