Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady: Jessica Simpson covers another slow song, Badly Drawn Boy keeps us updated on the zodiac, and mothers, lock up your daughters, ‘coz Petey Pablo’s back in town! All this and the not-a-moment-to-soon reformation of Creed—there is a god!
Open Your Eyes
Ian Mathers: Sad to say, “Open Your Eyes” actually makes me miss Scott Stapp. At least when he was paired with Alter Bridge to make Creed (it’s like Voltron!) they were so ludicrously bad that their singles approached humour. Now they’re just boring – same faux-uplifting sentiment, same overuse of a chorus that really can’t take the strain, but no big slabs of ham. Whatsisname the new singer just can’t compete.
Matt Chesnut: Shit sandwich.
Josh Timmermann: When word got out that Creed had officially called it quits, glorious rainbows shone down from the heavens, birds sang their sweet songs once more, and Switchfoot expanded their evil plans for complete domination of modern rock radio. Not so fast there. What? What's this? Alter Bridge, you say? They're baaaack.
Gabe Gloden: Traditionally in the music world, it’s difficult to point to a day in your life that was improved and enhanced by the knowledge of a band’s break-up. Yet, I remember Creed’s break-up like it was yesterday. I remember spotting that Yahoo! Music news story out of the corner of my eye on my browser and rejoicing for popular music. Ding Dong, post-grunge is dead! That is, until I realized that it had just been chopped in half, Fantasia-style, only to grow into Alter Bridge and whatever Scott Stap is going to do now. The same shit, just more of it.
Akiva Gottlieb: I now believe in God, Jesus, and whomever else.
Andrew Unterberger: When you get down to it, musically Creed isn’t that bad, it’s just the semi-pretentious and totally self-righteous lyrics that are so terrible. So with Creed pulling an Audioslave, you hope that maybe like what unfortunately happened with Rage, what made the band so distinctive will be neutralized, which is pretty much the case. Now they’re ignorable instead of outright terrible. Whether that’s a good thing or not is arguable.
Ian Mathers: Maybe I hate this version of “Angels” so heartily because I liked the Robbie Williams original, but I think there’s more to it than that: Simpson just tries too hard on the vocals; the chorus was already soaring without her trying to break glass. Also, it’s so predictable that she would switch genders, officially making this a song about God. Between this and R. Kelly, if I was God, I’d be pissed.
Matt Chesnut: The first two and half minutes are a piano ballad with Jessica using a little more air this time and it’s a bit meh. But then at about the three-minute mark, there comes what The Sports Guy Bill Simmons calls The Chill Moment. The strings swell and Jessica goes, “I’m loving angels insteeeeeeee—“ and it’s great until she growls. The Chill Moment ends and it’s because she couldn’t hold that note without growling.
Josh Timmermann: You know, this really isn't all that bad. Once you get past its inherent insipidness and all the cheesy histrionics, it's certainly listenable enough. If I happened to be feeling extraordinarily sentimental (I'm not, at the moment), hell, I might even go so far as to call it sort of moving. On the other hand, this is shit compared to the heights reached by Jess's little sister on her surprisingly great debut record. A five it is.
Gabe Gloden: The original Robbie Williams song was sappy, but Jessica dares to sap it up even more… to predictable results. I can’t believe I’m trying to write review of another one of Jessica Simpson’s karaoke performances.
Akiva Gottlieb: The most immediately disheartening thing about this cover is that I recognize it. So much for my I-don’t-think-I’ve-ever-heard-Robbie-Williams pickup line. Regardless of the source material, Jessica isn’t winning any points with me with her vanilla--no, tapioca--pop. If Jessica doesn’t start getting her groove on--remember, Britney moved on from sentimental claptrap albums ago--she’s doomed to suntan in Ashlee’s shadow.
Andrew Unterberger: I was always torn on the Robbie Williams song—I liked the anthemic chorus, obviously, but part of it always nagged at me. Obviously Jessica Simpson doesn’t do the song any favors, but the power is still in tact, as is the annoyingness. Eh.
Taking Back Sunday
A Decade Under the Influence
Ian Mathers: Todd Burns is right – this is state of the art emo. And the singers don’t sound like twelve-year-olds, so that’s a plus. “To hell with you and all your friends” and “anyone would do tonight” are both angrier than I expected, which is also good. It’s not great, but “A Decade Under The Influence” is just generally better than it has to be.
Matt Chesnut: There’s a lot to love about this song. The opening chords jangle with the best of them. During the verses, there’s this chunking guitar in the left channel that I can’t take my mind off when I hear it. The two mantras that stick out the most, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” and “To hell with you and all your friends”, are so wonderfully teenage. The screams aren’t unleashed haphazardly: this time, they actually accentuate those parts of the song. If I were 14, this would be anthemic.
Josh Timmermann: The arguably unprecedentedly abysmal state of rock & roll as we know serves to make the precious few great, fresh new rock bands around sound, by comparison, like nothing short of small miracles. For example, I just listened to Blueberry Boat in its entirety for about the 416th time, and then I played this and Alter Bridge. I rest my case.
Gabe Gloden: By-the-books contemporary emo makes me emo for the old days. I’m going to go listen to Diary. Sob.
Akiva Gottlieb: For populist radio anthems, emo is the new hair-metal. Taking Back Sunday is the only band all my angsty friends love unequivocally, and this single, passionately recounting the history of renegade cinema of the 1970’s, is the most intellectually rousing thing they’ve done. Suddenly, two of my friends want to borrow my copy of Easy Rider. The synthetic/intense throat-scream outro is wholly unnecessary, but the rest of the tune is so fist-pumpingly melancholicatchy that it buys emo another five years of street cred.
Andrew Unterberger: It upsets me when people out-and-out dismiss emo as a genre, because they miss great singles like this one, as powerful as anything on the radio these days. Taking Back Sunday know their 70s cinema and their staggering riffs, but more importantly, they know how inspiring a mid-verse chorus can be, especially one with a sentiment as striking as “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. This is really a brilliantly constructed song, to not be able to get past the emo vocals…well, you’d really be missing out.
Badly Drawn Boy
Year of the Rat
Ian Mathers: I hate to toe the critical line here, but dude, the children’s choir was a mistake. Other than that this song is okay, kind of drowsy and low-key, but the children give it this air of whimsicality that, paired with the pretty awful lyrics, just doesn’t work. Hopefully there’s a “Disillusion” or “The Shining” lurking in this album for Gough to pull out.
Matt Chesnut: A children’s choir, church bells, and Badly Drawn Boy’s beard are all on display. In the words of Mr. Hanky, “Golly, it sure does feel all Christmasy!” There’s a timpani and gong in there, too. Damn it, he’s so earnest but I hate kids and church and shopping and having my younger brother wake me up at the ass crack of dawn so we can unwrap useless crap. Bah, humbug.
Josh Timmermann: This guy did the songs for About a Boy, right? I was under the impression that I liked them, but maybe they just fooled me by working nicely within the context of the movie (I don't think I've ever listened to him aside from that), because I'm not digging this very much at all.
Gabe Gloden: I guess it’s too much to ask for another “Once Around The Block” from this bloke now. Shame, because I thought he had at least a few more great songs in him. But this is just blandness, plain and simple.
Akiva Gottlieb: The sudden demise of Damon Gough’s one-man twee orchestra is made even more improbable by the modest pleasures of this new single. As an arithmetic devotee, I thought I’d be angered by Gough’s assertion (to impressionable children, no less!) that one plus one is one. And yet, I just grin, drool and nod. Such are the transcendent powers of a soaring, optimistic chorus.
Andrew Unterberger: Where’s the personality, Damon? Without the bizarre playfulness that was abound on his first couple singles and albums, this stuff really isn’t that different from Keane, is it? Normally I’d be thrilled to be seeing Badly Drawn Boy on MTV, but I’d really rather see that new Nelly video for the 20th time than this. That’s upsetting.
Ian Mathers: Wow. On first listen I thought “Locked Up’ was being disingenuous, but a closer listen and a look at the lyrics shows that he’s not arguing that he shouldn’t be punished, he’s berating himself for his stupidity and lamenting the soul crushing conditions in prison. Which makes this a pretty sad song when you pay attention – by the time Akon sings “Can you please accept my phone calls?” it’s hard not to feel sympathy.
Matt Chesnut: Akon! Get it? A con! The song is about being in prison! And there’s the sound effect of the prison door closing! And the song’s title is also directly involved with incarceration! Sorry you were in the joint, but do you think you could whip up some better rhymes next time?
Josh Timmermann: This starts off superbly, that beat and and those ominous piano notes. And then dude starts rapping, and while perfectly okay, it's all just sort of hip hop deja vu--been there, done that--until the other guy with that sad, high, haunting voice takes over and nails it square on. So, which one's Akon anyway?
Gabe Gloden: What Styles P lacks in lyrical ability (offering up silly lines like “the walls is gray the clothes is orange, the phones is broke, the food is garbage”), is made up for with the creative use of a sample of a prison cell door slamming shut as a percussive element. It becomes the hook that saves the rest of this flimsy song from mediocrity.
Akiva Gottlieb: A little simplistic sentimentality never hurt anyone--remember Mister Rogers?--and Akon is no exception. “Locked Up” is pretty affecting, but let’s not push this song on the jail bound; its message is universal. We’re all locked up--Akon’s just the first to admit it.
Andrew Unterberger: Good tag-team action from the soulful chorus guy and the guy who spits out the verses—which one’s which is beyond me. But they both hit their mark strongly, with about double the impact of Jadakiss’s “Why?”. Solid stuff.
Ciara f/ Petey Pablo
Ian Mathers: The more I hear Petey Pablo the more I like his voice, and combined with a pretty awesome backing track (I love that sliding whistly sound) and a slinky performance from Ciara that rides the backing sounds perfectly, we get a fairly inconsequential but massively fun track. The sparse synthetic instrumentation is subtly catchy and the vocal performances fit it like a glove – what more do you need?
Matt Chesnut: Consider this “Freek-A-Leek: Tha Redux”. The beat has pretty much been used to death and so has that synth setting and that squealing noise. It’s been done and it’s been done better.
Josh Timmermann: "Goodies" isn't nearly as fun or clever a euphemism as "Milkshake," but that's my only real complaint here. This should be a staple at "gentleman's clubs" nationwide in no time.
Gabe Gloden: This is different: hushed crunk. Some shit that’ll either make you freak, or drift off. This is dope. Simple beat and a soft, whining synth line pulsing over Ciara as she cock-teases, “Lookin’ for the goodies? Keep on lookin' cuz they stay in the jar.” It’s one of the best choruses I’ve heard and it succeeds in being what it tries to be: damn sexy.
Akiva Gottlieb: Female empowerment doesn’t usually sound this hott. Petey Pablo is a pretty ubiquitous presence on this jukebox, and the succulent way he says “shawwty” and “bada-boom-bada-bam-buh-bam” is the reason why. I wish the musical backing was less quotidian, but it’s a minor quibble with a jam that has decent playlist potential in my club.
Andrew Unterberger: This is one step down from “Freak-a-Leek,” which was one stop down from “Yeah!,” which was one step down from God. Three steps away from godliness—that’s pretty good, right?
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-08-13