Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady—the latino Dream Team takes reggaetron to the charts, R.E.M. gets jangly again, the guy from the chorus to “Why?” goes solo, Good Charlotte adds horns but retains that loveable angst, and hallelujah, Ma$e is back—again!
Breathe, Stretch, Shake
Gabe Gloden: Is that P. Diddy in the background doing a Lil’ Jon impression? “Yeah! For Real! Bad Boy! Haha! I like this!” It’s like having a friend at a party continually screaming his love for the song in your ear as it plays on the stereo. That’s right, it’s annoying.
Matt Chesnut: Hey, did you forget already? Mase is back! No, we mean it! This is sort of a club banger-by-numbers, but the digi-hook popping up every bar isn’t loud enough to get annoying (backhanded compliment?). The song’s bouncy enough for sure, but as for Mase, he’s back after five years and I can still barely understand a word he’s saying.
Ian Mathers: Well, it’s no “Welcome Back”, although that cheap little repetitive keyboard is kinda nice. It’d actually be half-decent without Big Shouty Man going off in the background. Yes, we know this is Bad Boy. And stop ripping off LL Cool J’s “Zoom”.
Andrew Unterberger: I didn’t miss Ma$e when he was gone, and his constant efforts to convince me that I had were endearing at first, but now they’re starting to get on my nerves. He’s got enough of my good graces to make this stomachable, but not for much longer.
David Drake: Its like the late 90s all over again! I like how leaving for a couple years has actually become a part of his mythology (finding religion is to Ma$e as being shot is to 50 Cent.) There's some pretty cool amped-up club production, although nothing that will redefine the dancefloor or anything. To be honest, P Diddy's "AS WE PROCEED" chanting made me feel both nostalgic and energized—much like this song.
Leaving New York
Gabe Gloden: Sounding like a return (of sorts) to their jangly days with an anthemic chorus that is begging for a drunken choir of sorority girls huddled arm-in-arm ‘round the jukebox at the local watering hole, “Leaving New York” just may be able to satisfy those die-hards who still have Automatic for the People tucked away in their CD changers.
Matt Chesnut: R.E.M. is one of those bands that I am, on the whole, still pretty unfamiliar with, so I can’t rightfully call this a return to form, but I can say that the chorus is pretty fantastic. Bittersweet and a bit twangy.
Ian Mathers: I fully admit my critical faculties are shot to pieces when it comes to R.E.M, but this is nice; I wouldn’t want to listen to “mature” music all the time, but there are some sorts of songs that you need a certain gravitas (the kind only provided by history) to pull off. Michael Stipe sings “I saw the light fading out” and I’m in love again.
Andrew Unterberger: Not a career re-invention or even really a return to form like people might have hoped, this will have to settle for being pleasant enough and maybe a little moving. I wouldn’t mind catching this on VH1 from time to time, though.
N.O.R.E., GemStar, Big Mato, Nina Sky & Tego Calderon
Oye Mi Canto
Matt Chesnut: With Pitbull coming up and the Fat Joe-led Terror Squad striking number one, Latin hip-hop is starting to get surrious airplay. Time to flex your high school Spanish muscle here. This is sweet. A steady shuffle of a beat with choppy snare hits, my girls from Queens, and an entire verse en Español (Mas despacio, por favor.)
Ian Mathers: Minus Nina Sky this would lose a couple of points. I actually quite like that I can only understand half the lyrics, it lets me focus on the sound of the other lines, the way the syllables bounce off the drums. And then that chorus comes in, and it could be Urdu for all I care.
Andrew Unterberger: The intro goes on far too long and the verses can get annoying, but the awesome Neptunes-gone-latino beat and the soothing sounds of Nina Sky on the chorus go a long, long way. I’d love to hear this on the radio in between Nelly and Terror Squad for the millionth time.
David Drake: Its cool to see Reggaeton make some inroads on the pop charts, and no one deserves it more than Tego Calderon. I don't think this song will be the breakthrough he's looking for, although he's certainly getting his foot in the door. This song is good, but not great—one gets the feeling that some great reggaeton is on the way, though.
Gabe Gloden: This is the type of longing, contemporary R&B ballad that nicely fills the void D’angelo left when he decided to take his sweet-ass time between albums. All the same ingredients are here: a bucket full of tears ladled over a broken heart served up with some sweet potatoes and cornbread. Comfortable, familiar… you know the drill.
Matt Chesnut: Anthony’s voice is the breadwinner here. It’s just not like the average smoove crooning. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it raspy, but it’s dry enough to truly stand out. And towards the end, he cracks “Sometimes I cryyy” and it’s genuinely affecting. Definitely a slow jam worth noting.
Ian Mathers: Anthony Hamilton injecting a bit of anguished soul into Jadakiss’ “Why” = great. Hamilton on his own with a generic “baby come back” quiet storm-ish track = not so great. Not unpleasant by any means, but pretty undistinguished.
Andrew Unterberger: The guy whose soulfulness provided just the right balance to the self-righteous rants of Jadakiss on “Why?” comes out with his own “come back and stay” ballad. Nothing too exceptional, but I’ll take his Al Green approximation over Sleepy Brown’s Barry White any day.
David Drake: This guy has one of the greatest voices in current R&B—incredibly powerful and smooth. It really makes me wish that he was working with some more interesting music, because this just sorta floats along—pleasant while it's on, but I keep thinking about what Hamilton would sound like if he was recording with Timbaland or something.
Gabe Gloden: It starts off like Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore”, but makes the mistake of not being “The Battle of Evermore”. Instead, it’s a kind of boring grunge ballad.
Matt Chesnut: So this is where the acoustic guitar has been hiding! It’s like modern rock has been afraid to pull out the old hollow body. For years, the emphasis has been on big sludgy guitars and to hear some picking and strumming is downright refreshing. The fact that there is a white guy with dreadlocks in this band isn’t enough to dissuade me from its greatness.
Ian Mathers: At first I was put off by the fact that one of our Canadian also-ran rock bands had put out a cheesy ballad that sounded kind of like Peter Gabriel. Then I remembered how shitty all of Finger Eleven’s other singles were, and that I actually like Peter Gabriel. This makes this generic slab of yearning altrock the best thing the band has ever done, obviously.
Andrew Unterberger: Finger Eleven proves what hard rockers seem to have recently forgotten—you can get more mileage out of an old acoustic guitar and a legitimately anthemic chorus than 1000 watts of sludge-y guitar angst. I don’t think anyone’s really nailed that since the halcyon days of grunge.
David Drake: I refuse to criticize these boring navel-gazing mope-rock songs any longer, so instead I'm going to talk about the state of nu-metal. It really has disappeared, hasn't it? Oh happy day.
Gabe Gloden: It’s so tempting to just sink my vindictive critic fangs into this song, exploiting its unfortunate title and use it as a metaphor to illustrate the irony of the whole “alternative” rock genre, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s ridiculous for anyone over the age of 18 to critique these songs. They’re just not made for us.
Matt Chesnut: Everything’s pop-punking along pretty normally then…shouted word! And some ooh-woah-woah behind it. Then a breakdown with, um, piano? And more strings! Is this Best Week Ever worthy? Nothing is bad, thus setting a new world record.
Ian Mathers: Much like “Breathe, Stretch, Shake” this is marred by Big Shouty Man, but this time he’s angsty. Bollocks. Not a patch on the mallpunk greatness that was “Girls And Boys”, it gains two points for being blessedly short, but loses one for awful synth strings (and I like synth strings).
Andrew Unterberger: This is shockingly tolerable—Good Charlotte have taken a page or two from older brothers Blink-182 and added surprising musical sophistication to their standard pop-punk attack (plus the minor chords and shouty guy!) And at under two minutes, it doesn’t stay long enough to grate. Bravo, you phony motherfuckers.
David Drake: They really want to be Linkin Park, don't they?
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-09-03