Singles Going Steady
his week on Singles Going Steady: New Found Glory re-face the Stylus firing squad, OutKast try to turn around the karma from “Prototype” while Alicia Keys faces some karma of her own, Destiny’s Child shun potential suitors, John Mayer gives some fatherly advice and Linkin Park and Jay-Z contribute the most divisive single since “Just Lose It”.
Matt Chesnut: There are exactly two parts here: (1) high tempo, electro stomp and (2) super smoove soul jam with the greatest drum machine cowbell sound in the world. It needs more number 2.
Josh Love: I hate weeks like this, when our second best single is from an album that’s not only over a year old, but that’s also been critically fellated/dismembered to the point of irrelevancy. You know what that means: IT’S ALREADY PART OF THE CANON, FOLKS! Me, I’m just gonna sit over here and listen to Nelly and Tim over and over again and keep telling myself pop doesn’t suck in 2004.
Josh Timmermann: Finally, they're releasing this as a single?! After the one you hate loving, the one you liked alright the first hundred times you heard it, the one you thought was funny back when it was an album track but quickly realized sounded like boo-boo-boo once it starting stinking up the radio, and the one that barely even registered as a blip on the radar screen?! Good. It's ultimately the only thing on either of those two CDs that gives me hope that maybe they'll make another one as good as the two that came before them.
Nate De Young: I first heard this song about 15 months ago and it's held up surprisingly well. The pastiche through chugging dance, Patti LaBelle slow jamz breakdown and organ-rock still takes me by surprise. But the subtle touches like the sub-bass singer on the chorus or the robo backing on the slowjamz are what I still get giddy about. That, and the horrorshow solo at the end.
Ian Mathers: I'll stop giving them high marks when they start releasing bad singles. "Ghettomusick" veers easily from exhilaration to, well, Patti Labelle. When the track stops on a dime and becomes a slow jam momentarily it's awesome, even when Big Boi responds with what I call his muppet voice. Boi’s verse is great, the chorus is great, and don’t we all wish Grandma could see us now?
Andrew Unterberger: It’s weird getting to know this song all over again, and I think that the public in general is a bit too burned out on Big Boi and Dre in general to make this one that much of a hit, which is a shame, because if this song was released even half a year ago, it would seem almost as blazing as “B.O.B.” was in its prime.
Matt Chesnut: Proof positive that a singular stringed instrument, precious vocal harmonies, and a killer bridge turns me to jelly. Seriously, what is with this bridge? The rest of the song is good and all, but this bridge is the Michael Vick to the rest of this song’s Falcons.
Josh Love: Thanks Alicia, for taking the time to look up from your ponderous “Diary” and give us this muscular slab of Stevie Wonder-ish, hip-hop-informed orchestral funk. It almost pains me to hear how truly transcendent Alicia’s music could be if she wasn’t so caged-in by the grand tradition of “serious” auteurish bullshit. But she’s young yet, and hopefully she’ll realize sooner rather than later that we don’t need another Lauryn Hill.
Josh Timmermann: I've been off the Alicia bandwagon since her second single dropped, and I've hated everything else I've heard off her sophomore album, but this isn't bad. It doesn't hold a candle to "Fallin'," but it's the least embarrassing thing she's released since. Let's just leave it at that.
Nate De Young: The slinky violin arrangement nicely replaces normal Keys' piano exercises. It probably gets the award for best arrangement in pop music of the last six months and makes up for the generic breakbeat and then some. The horns cheekily lurk around the mix, and the bridge's collection of choral backing extends the space of the song perfectly.
Ian Mathers: The story of “Karma” is a bit predictable (he dumped her, see, but now he wants her back—and she’s not going for it! Burn!), but it’s got a great rising chorus and some excellent smaller touches: That little off-kilter string part in the background is perfect, and Keys’ emphasis on the confusion and hurt in “don’t play with me” makes the song better and less one-dimensional. Not spectacular, but slightly more than just another good single from Keys.
Andrew Unterberger: Ah, that violin! With “Ocean Avenue,” “Overnight Celebrity” and now this, string instruments appear to be the cowbell of ’04, and with hooks as blazing as this I couldn’t be prouder. And really, isn’t it nice to see Alicia showing some gosh-darned backbone for once? Big smile for this one.
Jay-Z vs. Linkin Park
Numb / Encore
Matt Chesnut: We’re well past the novelty of Jay-Z being matched up with anyone. There’s a Tony Orlando and Dawn/Jay-Z mash-up somewhere around here. Well, no matter, it sort of works here. Sort of. The guitars, the weird little computer hook, the Jay-Z verse all fit nicely in this context. The beat is too busy and Chester, not so much.
Josh Love: Danger Mouse > Kno > Kev > 9th Wonder > Kardinal Offishal > Metallica > Pavement > Weezer >>>>>>>>>>>>>>Linkin Park
Josh Timmermann: Imagine Christina Aguilera (circa '99) fronting the Strokes (c. '01). Well, of course, we can do a little more than just imagine thanks to the aptly (re)titled "A Stroke of Genie-us," though, still, the chances of the song ever being performed live are virtually nil. Now, imagine the once and future king of hip-hop miraculously reborn over the moodiest, rockingest thing yet produced by the Poor Man's Radiohead. Voila! THE FUTURE IS NOW!
Nate De Young: This mash-up could be the most disappointing backing track I've heard to “Encore”. The faux-sensitive electro-tinged rock makes Jay-Z sound wallowingly indulgent. Well, only until Chester Bennington brings his schtick into the mix and in comparison lets J-Hova sound as stoic as Keanu Reeves. I guess if bootlegs are going to be pillaged by MTV, they might as well set the bar low now and this track definitely fulfills that.
Ian Mathers: If "Encore" hadn't been one of the best tracks on The Black Album this would be a lot more tolerable, but stripping Kanye West's excellent production (especially that trumpet) and replacing it with Linkin Park doesn't do Jay-Z (whose vocals sound like the same take from the original just plopped into this out of context) any favors. It sounds mostly like an amateur mashup, which could have been interesting but just comes off as sloppy.
Andrew Unterberger: Being a fan of both the Linkin Park and Jay-Z songs, it’s kind of hard to reconcile the differences between the two at first, but it’s actually a fairly phenomenal mash-up. Perhaps the closest thing to a moment of contemplation on The Black Album, “Encore” was a good choice to complement the gorgeous ache of “Numb”, and even though the song it’d be more effective cutting out Chester’s verses entirely, Jay-Z and Linkin Park still pull off what could be the first crossover mash-up in U.S. history.
Matt Chesnut: John Mayer’s goofy face antics can’t be recorded in a studio, which is better for all of us. Terribly sweet, terribly good acoustic ballad about raising your girls right.
Josh Love: It’s almost perversely admirable that a comically over-earnest slimeball like Mayer would write a song urging daddies to be good to their daughters, just so he can swoop in and pop their cherries before they pack on that freshman fifteen.
Josh Timmermann: I actually didn't know this was John Mayer until I streamed this just now. I'd heard it on the radio, and just assumed Eddie Vedder was becoming a huge pussy in his old age.
Nate De Young: If music could be described as blue-eyed, Mayer would have no problem living up to the title. ACK. Alright—I apologize, I really have nothing to say about this song.
Ian Mathers: The adjective that springs to mind when I hear John Mayer’s voice is “wood-paneled”, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. The minimalism of ‘Daughters” (just voices and guitar) is nice, but there’s something vaguely unsettling in his delivery of some of the lines (“Girls become lovers who turn into mothers / So mothers be good to your daughters too”); and mostly this is just forgettable.
Andrew Unterberger: I really wanna like John Mayer. The guy seems nice enough, he had some good comments on I Love the 90s, and his “Kid A” cover is shockingly excellent. But should he be really allowed to seem so old so early on in his career? I really dunno—it’s a pretty song and all, but yeah, it’s a little creepy.
Destiny’s Child feat. T.I. and Lil Wayne
Matt Chesnut: I was expecting more from this single, but I’m mostly disappointed. The beat is good for two minutes, then it starts to get repetitive. The Children’s respective verses are probably the only other things more redundant. “Known to carry big things / If you know what I mean.” Oh Beyonce, what would Jesus think?
Josh Love: Apparently after “Lose My Breath” and this, it’s all downhill on Destiny Fulfilled. I can’t say for sure but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case, cause this one’s only unique for its wonderfully disorienting lack of fluidity. It sounds like DC was doing a McDonalds commercial, only T.I. and Lil’ Wayne crashed the shoot and started wilin’ out, and they just ended up keeping the results.
Josh Timmermann: I'm relieved that this song is in no discernible way a recruitment pitch, and I'm down-right delighted to hear confirmed what "Lose My Breath" had strongly suggested: The girls have still got it. Quick! Give them a big hug and hope they don't dissolve into molecules! You take Kelly--I've got B.
Nate De Young: Gangster love has been discovered over the last couple months by these former choirgirls. I'm not sure if I'm convinced, but at very least they're taking bubble-crunk to its bare skeleton. While it sounds really underwhelming at first, the stark backing lets each girl get her own spotlight. It doesn't really hold up against any of their earlier singles, though: “Survivor” just runs circles around it.
Ian Mathers: Apparently I’ll never go out with any of the ladies from Destiny’s Child, ‘cuz I’m not street enough (and I was so close otherwise!) The idea of basing love on socioeconomic status seems kind of silly to me, but I suppose it happens all the time. Of course, I wouldn’t be spending so much time on the idea if this was one-tenth as exciting as “Lose My Breath”. And there’s no way, even with two guest raps, that this song needs to be five and a half minutes long.
Andrew Unterberger: Does DC’s insisting on their suitors’ being “street” remind anyone of a certain cred-obsessed J-Lo disaster? Really, aside from the three of them this is an excellent song—the beat is almost as hot as “Lose My Breath”, and T.I. and Lil’ Wayne both contribute excellent cameos, but with them, not quite so good. Call me when they cut out DC’s parts and re-release the single—god knows the song’s long enough to weather the loss.
New Found Glory
I Don’t Wanna Know
Matt Chesnut: Regular ballad + orchestral section = maturity. The first ten seconds are great and then it starts to spiral down into mature pop territory (read: watered-down a bit).
Josh Love: Come back, Mario Winans, all is forgiven. The hope that maybe this was a Winans cover was the only thing compelling me to even press play, but instead we get a mewey make-out ballad that somehow out-creeps John Mayer.
Josh Timmermann: It was all downhill from the moment he started singing. The eight seconds before then were nice enough, I guess.
Nate De Young: While the nasal-emo-croon is supposed to express the quivering earnestness of Jordan Pundik, it just sounds like the echoes of a cliché. Not much else is going for this clunker, with lame arrangements, an ineffectual anthemic chorus and a stoopid biting of Smashing Pumpkin's "Today".
Ian Mathers: Surprisingly, the power ballad form kind of works for New Found Glory, even if Jordan Pundik continues to have what may be my least favorite voice in all of music. And the lyrics are, to be kind, a minus. But this will be soundtracking many a teary teenaged evening, and for good reason; this artfully constructed to tug the maximum number of heartstrings.
Andrew Unterberger: Somehow I knew I was gonna be stuck with the task of defending this one. Anyway, it’s really quite nice—the lyrics are sweet enough, and the backing is more blissfully grandiose than most pop-punk bands seem to be allowed to get away with these days. Jordan Pundik’s voice is still intolerable but with “I Don’t Want to Know,” New Found Glory have their first great emo anthem.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-11-19