Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady, Nelly goes all loverman on us, those damn Brits send more of their crashing bores overseas, we get a little assurance from Lil’ Scrappy, the B-Boys shock us with another old-skool throwback, and R. Kelly gets a new lease on life! All this and our highest-rated single in weeks!
Nelly f/ Jaheim
Matt Chesnut: And here comes reason #823 to therapeutically diss Nelly on a regular basis. It’s not that bad, but it’s not enough to convince me that a weekly “Nelly sucks” doesn’t do a body good. It’s a by-the-numbers R&B; track which makes it hard to hate. The flip of that is that it’s very hard to love, too.
Gabe Gloden: There’s absolutely nothing interesting about this song. Beat, concept and lyrics… all sub-par and barely worth a comment. Snore.
Ian Mathers: I wouldn’t have guessed this was Nelly if you hadn’t told me, because this is completely Jaheim’s show. And he does a pretty good job; Nelly has even smoothed out his voice to go along with the song. A surprisingly good if totally cliché smooth ballad, I honestly hadn’t guessed Nelly had this sort of range.
Josh Love: Sorry playa, you can't run a tip drill and then turn around and hit us with motherfuckin' HARPS?! It's hard to imagine a more cynical, contrived love ballad – not only is Nelly totally unreliable as a narrator, but this shit's treaclier than The Notebook.
Josh Timmermann: I love Nelly, and I'm proud to admit as much. St. Louis--represent! (Okay, it's two hours away, but, still, it's the nearest place to me to have produced a rapper of note.) He has yet to put out a bad single, and his albums aren't too shabby either. This one's pure velvet. It's not as charming as "Dilemma," but it's lovely enough in its own right.
Andrew Unterberger: So that’s it for “Flap Your Wings,” then? I don’t know whether to be relieved or not, but either way this is a fairly worthy successor. Kinda stupid—“yeah I screwed up, sorry, but let’s fuck”—but so schmaltzy I can’t help but smile and sing along. And it’s true, Jaheim totally owns this song.
Matt Chesnut: A Latin rhythm, a funky bass line, and some good ol’ fashioned scratching: yep, this is the Beasties as we know and love them. Say what you will about To the Five Boroughs, but at least they’re picking the highlights to release as singles. As long as King Ad Rock is still dishing out smart-ass lines like “What the Helen of Troy is that?” I can look past any ageism-related criticism for a minute.
Gabe Gloden: I know the Beasties intended these new joints to be fun, old-school throwbacks, but I doubt they chose that classic stylistic template based on market demand (how many times have we heard this kind of tribute before and done better?), and more out of an inability to evolve. Instead, they’ve regressed, making the same songs they pulled off more convincingly on License to Ill. The rhymes aren’t cute or funny anymore and it just all seems so… labored.
Josh Timmermann: The Beastie Boys didn't start sucking so much as they stopped evolving. Hello Nasty was no Check Your Head, by any stretch of imagination, but this new album is just plain shitty. Even their videos, which used to be cool, now seem so shockingly lame. This track is slightly less annoying than "Ch-Check It Out," but that's not really saying much, now is it? Same as it ever was. Just not nearly as good.
Josh Love: Can’t we just pass some kind of law that forces the Beasties to let Just Blaze produce all their shit? No seriously, hearing “Rapper’s Delight” by way of Chic’s “Good Times” is STILL HOTT, promise.
Ian Mathers: A few questions: What’s with the Mockney? Why is Mike D’s “this is like having a delicious meal” the best line here (barring Adrock’s “What the Helen of Troy is that?”)? If they wanted a single with three in the title, why not “3 The Hard Way”? For a song with such unsatisfying components, why is this so much fun?
Andrew Unterberger: I actually liked “Ch-Check it Out” quite a bit but I couldn’t make it through more than one listen of the whole album. It’s sad that this song—a redundant old-school throw back that sounds about a quarter as exciting as any of their other singles—is one of the most enjoyable on the album. Damn.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Matt Chesnut: Dissonance. Can you hear that? Yeah baby, listen to those guitars grind. I don’t even care that Karen O is doing her “I’m sexy, hear it?” business or that she’s doing that “repeat something thrice” thing she did for “Maps”. Okay, I care a little, but this is still good.
Ian Mathers: Why is this being released as a single now? This is off an album from April 2003. Still, this is pretty great; there’s something pleasingly louche about Karen O’s vocals, and as with “Maps” the repetitiveness of the lyrics actually works in the song’s favour. Not terribly memorable (and certainly not a patch on “Maps”), and therefore perfect radio fodder.
Josh Love: After the indie-rock slowjam success of “Maps,” I guess Interscope felt the need to remind folks the YYYs were first and foremost a shit-hot band of ballbusters. “Y Control” seems like a pretty safe choice for a followup, though it woulda been highly appropriate to hear “Boy you’re just a stupid bitch and girl you’re just a no good dick” in between Dashboard Confessional and Auf Der Maur.
Josh Timmermann: Over the course of the first eight tracks on Fever to Tell, Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase revitalized punk rock like no band since Sleater-Kinney, but it's the last three that made it last year's best rock record. If "Maps" is their unabashed love song, "Y Control" is something more cryptic and seductive. Driven by the contrast between Zinner's dark-tinged surf guitar and Karen's most bewitchingly mercurial vocal turn to date, "Y Control" inches with every note toward some sort of ecstasy (whether romantic, sexual, or otherwise).The genius of the thing is that it never quite gets there, but instead leaves you all hot and bothered, waiting out in the fog fog fog of the cold, cold night because (psyche!) she don't love you like you love her. Blue balls never felt so good.
Gabe Gloden: One more great single to add to the army they’ve released off their debut album. Over the same dirty, echo-y guitar sound they toyed with on “Maps”, Karen O rants suggestively about patriarchy and how she wishes she could “buy back the woman you stole”. This “you” uses something called “Y-Control”, as in the dominant sex chromosome in the male XY pair, perhaps? I don’t know, I’m stretching probably. The original point: this song is really good.
Andrew Unterberger: A more than worthy follow-up to one of the best modern rock singles in recent memory. I never really bought Karen O as sexy before, but hear she sounds like a genuine successor to Chrissie Hynde, which is pretty heavy praise. And those guitars sound just as heavenly. Maybe my initial suspicion of these guys was wrong after all.
U Saved Me
Matt Chesnut: The whole lyrical concept of this song was goofy enough, or at least goofily executed. But when R. sings “And the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry but you’ve got cancer,’” I let out a laugh that would rival Ms. Edna Krabapple. For that alone, I wanted to give this a 10 for comedic value. But my conscience got the better of me.
Ian Mathers: Whether or not Kelly is guilty of the accusations against him, this song is repellent. There’s a certain brute, bullying force to that choir, but there’s a dreadful hollowness underlying it. I’m so glad Jesus saved Kelly, and not anyone else, from cancer. And I’m sure if Jesus did save Kelly from dying while driving drunk it was for Kelly, not the other (innocent) drivers. I’ve heard many beautiful expressions of faith through music in my life; this, garish, egotistical and grotesque, is not one of them.
Josh Love: The reason R. Kelly's so unique is because of how informal and colloquial his lyrics are, how he never uses a single obvious trope or cliché. He'd always rather try something awkward, silly, or just plain moronic rather than fall back on an old standby, which makes a line like “praying up to God that someone will call me with a job opening” sound poetic in its completely artless lack of poetry. The little raindrop effects and gospel-derived piano chords don’t hurt either.
Josh Timmermann: Eh. It's no "Igniton (Remix)". Or "Thoia Thoing." Or "Snake."
Gabe Gloden: “I was in court one day… accused of statuatory rape… they were saying I peed on that girl, before her eighteenth birthday… Money, record sales, lawyers, I got plenty… but still you got it thrown out on a technicality. Jesus you saved me! You saved me!” I’m sorry, but I can’t get that image out of my head when I listen to R. Kelly emote on divine intervention.
Andrew Unterberger: I really wish R. Kelly would stop all this faux-earnestness and just embrace his public reputation—he’s certainly not convincing me with this shit. More “Down Low,” less “I Believe I Can Fly,” please.
Matt Chesnut: Lil Scrappy probably has the least intimidating alias of all Lil Jon’s clients. You’d think all this aggro would inspire a tougher name. Oh, but the video for this rules. The whole Training Day theme is cool and it’s the first time in a while I’ve seen Snoop do anything hip-hop related. My favorite part is when Scrappy’s playing cards and he flips the table and starts waling on some vatos. At the end, he ditches Lil Jon and cranks up “F.I.L.A.” Toughness intact. Touché, Scrappy.
Gabe Gloden: He’s little and he’s SCRAPPY! And on “No Problem”, he lives up to his pugnacious name. He’s here to educate everyone that the club is a multi-faceted environment where one not only dances with hoes, but where one can also “get stomped”. He also reminds us that he’s “got big balls and bullets like baseballs.” I suppose that means he’s packing a small nautical cannon, so I’d steer way clear of that fucking guy next time you’re in the club.
Ian Mathers: This song is like a crunk hangover. Would those guys in the back please stop chanting “hey”, please? I’m getting a headache. This is too methodical to get you excited, but too slight to be menacing. Maybe if you sped it up to double time it’d be worthwhile, but as is it’s just boring.
Josh Love: I don’t know if the repeated chants of “OKKK” are some kind of post-structuralist bid to reclaim those hated letters for the oppressed minority party - it'd be really great if that was the case. Otherwise, this is pretty standark crunk, not nearly as viscerally thrilling as most of the genre’s other recent singles, kind of sluggish compared to the Lil’ Jon norm.
Josh Timmermann: Fuck yes, this is good. The beat is down-right eerie! It's like the crunk Twilight Zone. Turn it way up: Can you feel that b-a-s-s bass?
Andrew Unterberger: Sigh. Each one’s a little less memorable than the last, isn’t it?
Somewhere Only We Know
Matt Chesnut: Scientist #1: Damn it, we just can’t let Coldplay wreck havoc on the public like this. It’s too dangerous! Scientist #2: Well, my team and I have been working on a new project that would make Coldplay safer. Scientist #1: Go on. Scientist #2: Well, as you can see, we’ve got the pounding piano chords, Gentle Male Falsetto, the reverb guitar and the tasteful drumming. But we’ve taken out 25% of the angst and Gentle Male Falsetto has yet to make any political outbursts or sire any children with celebrities. We call it Keane. Scientist #1: You’ve diluted the angst even more? By Jove, I bet it’s safe enough to use on my grandmother! You’ve done it again, Scientist #2!
Ian Mathers: Speaking of brute force, no matter how much I really don’t usually like Keane, the massive chorus for this works regardless. There’s a pleasing hint of the apocalyptic (“This could be the end of everything”) underlying the song, but it’s probably not supposed to be literal, worse luck. The verses are crap, and the singer tries far too hard to imitate Thom Yorke, but “Somewhere Only We Know” is still the best Keane single ever. Take that as you will.
Josh Love: I never thought I'd have cause to use the phrase "Travis lite," but here we are. Those perpetual Coldplay comparisons don't really hold water based on this one, perhaps it’s because of the emphasis on piano, but Keane sounds much more "English" than Coldplay, and therefore more like Travis in that respect.
Josh Timmermann: Coldplay: take 'em or leave 'em. What else is there to say, honestly?
Gabe Gloden: Ladies and Gentlemen, Coldplay will be on hiatus for a few more months recording their follow-up album. Yes, I know, I’m disappointed too. Luckily, we have plenty of chart stand-ins to satiate your post-brit pop urges until then. This week we’ll be featuring Keane. Remember Starsailor? You liked them, right? No? Oh… well… how much time do we have to kill again?
Andrew Unterberger: I’ve been fighting the good fight against Coldplay’s destruction of our artistic standards for years now, the presence of these guys isn’t helping me one bit. God help us all if this gets seriously popular.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-08-06