Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady—Bowling for Soup waxes nostalgic, 8 Ball & MJG bring it back to the church, Yellowcard swear eternal devotion, Ludacris & Shawnna shake shit up, and Christina & Missy cover a 70s classic for the kiddies. All this, and at last—a new Usher single! I know, it feels like it’s been forever!
Bowling for Soup
Ian Mathers: It’s kind of touching to find a bunch of (relatively) young whippersnappers expressing sympathy for a mother of two who wishes it was still the eighties. Sadly, that doesn’t negate the thickly layered pop culture references and the sub-Fountains of Wayne music. But hey, at least it’s not emo.
Akiva Gottlieb: Capitalizing on the mass-marketed canned nostalgia fed to the “I Love the 80s” generation, “1985” is about as cut-and-paste and opportunistic as hit singles get. Even so, the song is belligerently catchy, and Bowling For Soup has the good sense to reference populist standbys and not The Jesus and Mary Chain. This song won’t last three weeks, natch.
Josh Love: Fountains of Wayne, meet your non-union equivalents, your Steven Spielbergos if you will. Truth be told, an MTV-created, corporate rock FOW isn't half as bad as you might think, as the Soup's lack of subtlety is a point in its favor. Never trying to sound smarter than their subject, "1985" gives you Stacy's mom's side of the story.
Kareem Estefan: “1985” is a delightful, catchy piece of pop culture nostalgia VH1 fans should be all over. Who among us doesn’t love to hear lyrics like “She rocked out to Wham! / Not a big Limp Bizkit fan”? Bowling for Soup certainly doesn’t contribute anything new to the age-old theme of lost dreams, but one can still appreciate “1985” for what it is: a fun song with a great chorus and lyrics that’ll temporarily make you wish it was twenty years ago.
Matt Chesnut: I find it odd for a nostalgic song that the four acts remembered in the chorus are all still active. Wouldn’t Cyndi Lauper and Rick Springfield be more appropriate than Madonna and Bruce Springsteen? I’m finding it very hard to enjoy this song when there are so many things wrong with the premise. I wouldn’t think that people hang onto these pop culture banalities, at least not into their 40’s.
Andrew Unterberger: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like my nostalgia mass-marketed, but something about this still bothers me (besides that “line” / “fire” non-rhyme). It’s just so precious and grating, just like “Stacy’s Mom” was. Plus, everyone knows that 80s nostalgia is dead as fucking dead. Call me when they get to “1995”.
Christina Aguilera feat. Missy Elliott
Ian Mathers: Whether this song ever needed to be remade is debatable; whether it needed to be remade for a new kid’s film (Shark Tale, bizarrely enough) is even more dubious. Yeah, Aguilera still has a good set of pipes, but Missy’s verse is pretty rote (for her) and I think the only people that are going to get something out of this are those who haven’t heard the original.
Akiva Gottlieb: A pretty unnecessary and lifeless redux. Though Missy is always a highlight, I wish she’d worked in some nasty double entendres to please horny parents who drag their kids to “Shark Tale”. I mean, didn’t they show the dude getting a boner in “The Little Mermaid”? I’m not a sick guy, really.
Josh Love: I thought it was common knowledge that if a song gets played over the PA at major league baseball games, it's been sufficiently commercialized and sapped of any stand-alone power that NO ONE should ever attempt to cover it. Well, I heard "Car Wash" at a Braves-Cards game last month, so take that how you will.
Kareem Estefan: This is very obviously on the soundtrack to Shark Tale.
Matt Chesnut: As per Dreamworks animated film policy, you must finish with a rousing rendition of a well-established party song. Shrek had “I’m A Believer”, Shrek 2 has “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, and the up-coming “Shark Tale” has this update of the Rose Royce classic. The remake is about as fun as soggy bread until about the bridge when it starts to sound like the soul song that it is. Missy’s contribution doesn’t hurt. Eh.
Andrew Unterberger: This is almost made slightly worthwhile by Missy’s gleefully self-referential “This. Is a Shark Tale. Exclusive”. Almost.
Usher feat. Alicia Keys
Ian Mathers: This is just interminable. There’s the heart of a great pop song buried in there: Check out the first time Keys sings the chorus; it’s great and bafflingly it’s never quite repeated. The rest is just Usher and Keys crooning, which is pretty tiresome. A seriously missed opportunity.
Akiva Gottlieb: Though lacking the vitality of Usher’s last two exemplary singles, “My Boo” is still an affecting, nostalgic trip down memory lane. It certainly makes business sense to follow up a vaguely amoral song about self-loathing in the face of unwanted pregnancy with a sugary sweet tale of childlike, decade-spanning unconditional love, and Usher pulls it off without seeming like too much of a jackass.
Josh Love: The success of any superstar duet depends largely on the believability of the pair as a couple. Unfortunately, Usher and Alicia mix like patchouli and Cool Water. A nice middle school winter formal jam, but it can't touch the exquisite hearbreak of "Burn."
Kareem Estefan: There’s nothing special about “My Boo”, lyrically or musically. It’s just standard R&B;, and I don’t mean that in the good “Burn” kind of way.
Matt Chesnut: Usher and Alicia love each other very much. Saccharine-sweet lovey-dovey middle school dance floor fodder. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but this one is grating at times. The little snippets of what I’m assuming are sped-up soul samples are so buried under the mix that any attempt to jump on the bandwagon is foiled by the obscurity of the samples.
Andrew Unterberger: Hot off of three consecutive #1 singles, Usher goes for #4 with “My Boo”. Getting Alicia Keys was a good start, and their harmonizing is something to behold, and that little Kanye-esque hook is pretty nice too. The rest I’m unsure about, but it still might be enough to keep the winning streak going. Best of luck.
8 Ball & MJG
Straight Cadillac Pimpin’
Ian Mathers: After a few listens, you realize that the key to this track is the constant low crowd moan. It gives the rest of the track a hypnotic sway that the rapping alone can’t provide; parts of the chorus even mirror it. Other than that rather neat touch this is straight predictable thugging.
Akiva Gottlieb: Haha, oh man. Well, if this is Straight Cadillac Pimpin, we can only hope the gay version is better.
Josh Love: Memphis-based living legends sign to Bad Boy, prove you can take the thugs out the country but not the country out the thugs. The ultra-slick hook betrays some of the newfound uptown influence, but don’t be fooled: this track’s still headed straight down-south to church.
Kareem Estefan: I’ve listened to this song about ten times and still don’t remember it. But it’s pretty all right when it’s on.
Matt Chesnut: This is one of the busiest songs I’ve heard all year. The din of crowd noise is inescapable and the gospel choir slays. Spitting rhymes about Jesse Jackson and the H.O.P.E. coalition (another potential “1985” namedrop missed), revivals and Mack trucks, this is like “Jesus Walks” without the preachiness.
Andrew Unterberger: Gospel rap? Hell yes! This is seriously good stuff—not too hooky but still awesome—soulful and hot and yeah, way better than “Jesus Walks”. Guys, could you bring back Kirk Franklin and God’s Property while you’re at it? Thanks.
Ludacris feat. Shawnna
Shake That Shit
Ian Mathers: Backed by a deep guitar sample that sounds like it comes from Super Furry Animals’ “Check It Out”, “Shake Dat Shit” is miles above everything else this week in sound and delivery. Nobody stretches vowels quite like Luda, even if he only does the chorus here, and Shawnna is, on the basis of this single at least, a revelation.
Akiva Gottlieb: Pretty offensive in myriad ways, “Shake That Shit” will still get the hordes moving in the club. Ludacris’ ubiquity in the world of the feat. is second only to Petey Pablo, but thank God for that, because his nasty drawl of “shake dat shiiiiiiiiiit” is as tasty as food.
Josh Love: Timbaland throws shit out there just to see what sticks (nicely filthy nonetheless), Luda's underused and wholly negligible, while Shawnna comes off puffed-up and too-hard rather than totally in control like Ciara, muscled out by Petey Pab's tease in the New Nasty Diva department.
Kareem Estefan: A minimalist beat, unassuming strings, and a guitar so repetitive it barely manages to croak out its final notes make for one of the most original and modest hip-hop singles of the year. Aided by Shawnna’s top-notch verses and Ludacris’ catchy chorus, “Shake Dat Shit” achieves a groove awesome enough to last months of radio play.
Matt Chesnut: Fulfilling an unspoken “you guest on my song, I’ll guest on yours” promise, Ludacris drops by for a bit, while Shawnna raps about, um, Shawnna. I’m not sure why I like this song--the Eastern string business has nearly run its course, if it hasn’t already. But still, there’s something to be said about a Ludacris chorus. And that something is “every song has room for improvement if Ludacris is not on the chorus.”
Andrew Unterberger: God, these two really belong together. Shawnna sounds exactly like what you’d expect a female Ludacris to sound like, with equal chemistry and flow—and that’s about as much of a compliment as I can give. Add to that Timbaland’s best beat in ages, and good lord is this fabulous.
Ian Mathers: Why is there so much despair in our love songs these days? I know being a teenager is hard and stuff, but I just want to sit these kids down and play them that Matt Stone segment of Bowling For Columbine (you know, the “high school is not the end” bit) on an endless loop. The rockin’ violin is a nice touch, though.
Akiva Gottlieb: Based on my track record of losing my objective shit over every post-Blink anthemic emo-pop single, it’s pretty obvious that I’d at least like Yellowcard, right? Yeah, it loses steam by the end, and the guitar solo breakdown is pretty pathetic, but I’d still put it on a mixtape. Also, life is sad and feelings are important.
Josh Love: The song itself is fine, suitably screamy emo breakup fare, but the video, much like an onion, reveals myriad layers of meaning and eye-watering pain. Apparently, war is a microcosm of the lead singer's shitty angsty relationship rather than the other way around. Mall-punk pacifism is tolerable, but in this context it just seems the rest of the world and all its wars revolve around Yellowcard and their annoying girlfriends.
Kareem Estefan: With lyrics like “Made my mistakes / let you down” and “You are my only one”, Yellowcard’s “Only One” bears more than a passing resemblance to Hoobastank’s “The Reason.” There are gray shades of cliché, though, so however much it struggles to justify its existence, this song remains far, far better than Hoobastank. At least the guitar effect’s cool.
Matt Chesnut: After a promising intro, the YC grind their emo axes. Oh yeah, and that guy who plays violin does something, too. I’m imagining that in some futuristic world, SNL (as if you had any doubts that it’d still be on) will have a sketch about the guy who plays violin. Will Ferrell will be the violin player and Christopher Walken will be the producer. Walken will repeatedly request the presence of more violin.
Andrew Unterberger: The question that everyone isn’t asking—does it match “Ocean Avenue,” one of the best modern rock singles of the year? Well, it’s still got the same emo urgency—emorgency, if you will—and I’m a sucker for that, and it’s got a cool intro and more awesome violin business. Not quite as powerful as “Ocean Avenue,” but they’re going through the right motions.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-09-10