Singles Going Steady
his week, Jimmy Eat World do their 9 to 5, Trick Daddy rhapsodizes like a kid in a candy store, The Zutons let you in on their weak spots, Omarion makes sure his name is remembered (or at least one letter of it), and Twista and Faith Evans keep their heads up. All this, and the return of J-Lo, on 2004’s second Singles Going Steady!
Trick Daddy feat. Lil' Kim & Cee-Lo
Ian Mathers: “Sugar On My Tongue” was early Talking Heads at their twitchiest, and when I heard Trick Daddy had taken the refrain from the song I really hoped/expected he would have just sampled David Byrne amongst his effort to make as many rhymes about sex using the theme of candy as possible. Instead he gets Cee-Lo to smooth it out, and while it’s a good song I can’t help wishing I could hear the more jittery version.
Erick Bieritz: If rockers were surprised to hear Ozzie Osbourne on lead single “Let’s Go,” they should be downright stunned to hear Trick rocking the Talking Heads of all things for this adaptation of Byrne’s “Sugar On My Tongue.” Who needs mashups? Trick is way ahead of you.
Matt Chesnut: It starts innocuously enough with some soft strumming and beatboxing. But before you hit the first verse, it’s whipped up into a sweet car ride jam. Thick bass cuts over an unassuming beat and an easily sung chorus hook.
Akiva Gottlieb: Remind me why it took so long for Dirty South rap to sonically copulate with David Byrne (…well, I guess Byrne is tangentially related to Tom Tom Club’s “Wordy Rappinghood,” but whateva, the T.T. Club wasn’t Dirty South). “Sugar” lacks the immediacy of Trick’s “Let’s Go”, but makes up the difference with a sweet, buoyant chorus. You can imagine the MC and his guests smiling, arm in arm, relishing quality time spent with good people.
Andrew Unterberger: At last, a candy-themed pop hit that’s sweet without being even the least bit sickly. Probably won’t pack half the crossover appeal of “Let’s Go,” but I’d be more than happy with this staying a minor pleasure. Great video, too.
Jimmy Eat World
Ian Mathers: Hmm. Well, “Pain” seems a lot more exciting now. I admit to liking even the sappy bits of Bleed American, but that’s because their verses weren’t as bland as this. The chorus is nice, and I still think these guys shouldn’t get half the shit they do, but I’m still not tempted to check out Futures.
Erick Bieritz: The great thing about “The Middle” was that for years after drifting around as a decent band ignored by their big label, Jimmy Eat World simply stepped over the edge and pumped their emo full of pop. “Work” has a neat chorus buried in its heart, but wastes too much time with slippery verses and canned chords. If anemic rockers are the best the band can offer up now, they’ve clearly drifted too far past the clever balance between emo heartbreak and teenage strip party that made them important in the first place.
Matt Chesnut: It begins appearing to be a by-the-numbers emo slugfest. A number of times, a chance to change everything tries to pop its head out from underground only to be thwacked off by the, um, Wheat Thrasher of Predictability. The lesson being, of course: don’t try. Ever. Or, no, it’s that Jimmy Eat World has lost its identity.
Akiva Gottlieb: Still the best mainstream rock singles band of this young decade, Jimmy Eat World tosses off another possible hit that’s slightly below the par of their best output. “Work” steals the theme of every great suburban emo song--we’re young, we’re beautiful, we gotta get out of this place—and masks the sweetness with loud guitars and meticulously diagrammed oh-oh-oh‘s. Definite modern rock radio hit, but it won’t be their biggest.
Andrwe Unterberger: Rock isn’t much for shining these days, but luckily Jimmy Eat World are still holding it down. I gushed a little prematurely about New Found Glory a couple weeks ago, but this is the real deal—the dudes still know their hooks and choruses better than any of their emo brethren, but what seals the deal in “Work” are those post-chorus “oh-oh”s. Rock hasn’t sounded this life-affirming in years.
Ian Mathers: This is the first time, I think, that I’ve looked at a song for Singles Going Steady without ever hearing of the act before. I actually assumed Omarion was some sort of ornate, progressive metal band (don’t ask me why), but instead we get a sub-Usher track dedicated to making sure the ladies finish first. Which is admirable, but the quasi-robotic backing vocals don’t go far enough into “Southside” territory to be appealingly artificial and the lead is similarly lackluster.
Erick Bieritz: Archeologists have found evidence that many centuries ago, in the early 2000s, Americans believed in a mythical beast called an “Omarion.” This creature was apparently best known for serving something or someone (historical records are unclear on this point). According to legend, the Omarion had six arms, three eyes, could breathe fire, and sang drippy R&B ballads to people until they moaned his first initial.
Matt Chesnut: So what’s a crooner to do when Usher has cornered the market? Man, you keep going to work. Maybe you’ll end up with an almost-gem like this. The disco hits are a sweet touch to the swerving electro bass line. And there’s a girl moaning in the background. Hee hee hee.
Akiva Gottlieb: See, girl, it’s a sign. You just sighed “ohhhh.” And that’s my name. O. Well, actually, Omarion. But, anyway, you’re calling for me. You’re coming home with me. Whoa, really? Shit, I didn’t expect it to be *that* easy.
Andrew Unterberger: Yes, O is the first letter in Omarion. No, that’s not enough to make this song the slightest bit memorable.
Ian Mathers: I’m not surprised that this is the Zutons single that even Swygart doesn’t rate. I remain open to the rest of their catalog should it be better, but this is unmemorable crap. I literally can’t remember what it sounds like to describe it, and I just heard it 30 seconds ago. But at least it’s not so bad I can’t forget it.
Erick Bieritz: The Zutons are an odd rock band from Europe or some such place who will never sell very many records in the United States because America only listened to weird rock bands from 1994 to 1997 and isn’t about to start that again any time soon. This would sound a lot better if it stuck to tight, clammy simmering and lost the silly guitar solo.
Matt Chesnut: Ha-ooh, hoo hoo. The muted guitar picking battling the saxaphone is a welcome touch. But the lead vocalist isn’t helping matters. I know saying “pressure” repeatedly is supposed to express urgency, but I’m not feeling it, dude. And yes, this song was used for some TV spot for a some car or insurance or pregnancy tests or something, which possibly takes away some of the novelty of that nice vocal harmony break.
Akiva Gottlieb: Does anyone, at least in America, go for this retro psych-garage rock bullshit? The Zutons (along with the similarly grating The Coral) are a strange anomaly, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hear this song on the radio. It would be obnoxious enough without the falsetto. Are we feeling nostalgic for The Animals? Anyone…?
Andrew Unterberger: That Song from That Pretty Good Jeans Commercial is starting to get some radio action as well, and why not. It sounds a bit too much like Philly ex-favorites G. Love and Special Sauce for my tastes, but it’s catchy, insistent and fairly memorable. Plus, a little variety never hurt anyone. The only really annoying thing about this song is that it adds yet another The ______s band to our modern rock vernacular. Can’t you guys at least pretend to try?
Ian Mathers: It’s Fuck Off Friday, so J-Lo: Fuck. Off. FUCK OFF! I’d forgotten how bad her voice is; definitely not a voice for singing, the guest rappers are shit, and that overactive little whiny horn thing makes me grind my teeth – who thought it was a good foundation for a backing track? More self-aggrandizing bullshit, of course, but even if she was singing about something interesting this would be painfully awful.
Erick Bieritz: Finally realizing that it’s a good day and age to sing over interesting productions, J Lo borrows producer Rich Harrison from the Destiny’s Child camp and rides a squeaky horn sample around for close to four minutes. She sounds overeager at first, but gradually eases into the song as it hits its stride in the last minute. The barely-audible noises behind the chorus and the expert chorus construction are particularly impressive. The breezy drift and gorgeously long coda make this a deliciously cool single stranded in the wrong season.
Matt Chesnut: What’s this we have here? It just might be the first line of defense of Jennifer Lopez’s singing career. A big honking and squawking sax hook. Two minutes in, the entire identity of the song changes, revealing a plaintive R&B sidebar to this thumping beat. Think of it as a proper response to the call that was Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”.
Akiva Gottlieb: Somebody needs to stop tooting that damn horn, or at least tinker with the loop machine (computer?). The only thing that could make this song semi-exciting would be a sub-textual analysis: why didn’t she get right with B. Aff?
Andrew Unterberger: That sax riff sounds surprisingly early-90s east coast (well, maybe not surprisingly—after all, she still is Jenny from the Block). That should be enough for me, but it’s not—the sax gets annoying pretty quickly, and J. Lo isn’t exactly doing her damndest to make an impression. I’ve already heard this song enough times this week to never want to hear it again. Unforutnately, I doubt I’ll have that option.
Twista feat. Faith Evans
Ian Mathers: “Hope” has an awfully nice message, but like a lot of positive songs come across as a little anodyne. The Cee-Lo chorus is nice (though not as nice as “Sugar”), but Twista himself sounds even more out of place here among the gentle acoustic and bucolic backing vocals than most rapper. Not lyrically, just sonically – the speed of his delivery gives his songs a tension that the rest of “Hope” willfully deflates. It’d work better if the song didn’t have to try so hard, but points for effort.
Erick Bieritz: After an album’s worth of girl-booze analogies and thug-on-speed riffing, Twista, like many rappers, felt compelled to drop a track like “Hope” -- an alternately touching and preposterous attempt to sound concerned about current issues. Picking it as a single makes sense after the relative success of the similarly well-intentioned “Why?” Of course, Twista did have to change a line wishing “super-homie” Christopher Reeves could walk again. It’s spirited, but Twista rhymes smarter when he’s not so obvious.
Matt Chesnut: Smarmbracelet. Talks about “issues” and such, but it’s not Twista’s foray into social commentary that ultimately fails. It’s the wimpy guitar picking, the “uplifting” chorus, and the totally useless pops and clicks making up the percussion section. This is like eating a jarful of Splenda in one sitting with an ice cream scoop.
Akiva Gottlieb: I’ll be honest. “Hope” is not a very good song, but it’s so well-intentioned and, unfortunately, timely (despite the reference that makes it seem that Christopher Reeve is still among the living) that I wouldn’t want to risk the asshole factor of dissing it. Kind of a Jadakiss’ “Why” coupled with “We Are the World”.
Andrew Unterberger: This song may or may not sound better in the context of Tough-Teacher-Teaches-Inner-City-Kids-Discipline future classic Coach Carter, the movie it so heavily pimps, but I really don’t much care for it at the moment. Ironically, I seem to hear R. Kelly’s “I Wish” almost every time after I hear this song, and I’m reminded of what a better song that is—not that it’s much of a gold standard itself.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-01-14