The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week on Singles Going Steady, Ashanti and Blink-182 swear eternal devotion, Good Charlotte bemoan their fame, Jadakiss gives Mariah Carey a second lease on life, Ludacris commands listeners to back the fuck up, 50 Cent burns down the disco, and you know Usher, John and Luda had to do it again—all this and more on this deluxe edition of Singles Going Steady!


Ludacris
Get Back
[6.6]


Akiva Gottlieb: Luda catches me with an uppercut and kicks me in the ay-ass with this highly nefarious variation on Britney/Lindsay’s latest leave-me-the-fuck-alone memos masquerading as hit singles. The MC’s end-of-song proclamation that “we in the red light district” strikes me as a maddeningly impertinent non sequitur, but Ludacris is not a man you want to push for answers.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: Lately Luda has sounded better dropping guest verses on other singles than leading his own, and he still sounds ill at ease on violent tracks. He doesn’t even like to fight: “I don’t want to do that, I wanna have a good time and enjoy my drink.” Hopefully he will, and he can rap about that instead, because despite a few trademark twists “Get Back” sounds a bit cursory.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: Damn, this is fun. The old saloon piano sold me. This just jumps with energy. Honestly, it reminds me most of the music at carnivals, only less dirty and more durrtay. And though normally a fierce opponent of keyboard horns, I’m making an exception today. If this doesn’t become a fixture at parties, it’ll be too bad.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Well, he’s not as entertaining as elsewhere, but Ludacris has the good sense to make a song about the annoyances of being famous that work just as well if you’re not. Don’t you every so often want to tell that dickhead who’s hassling you to “get back motherfucker, you don’t know me like that”? Also, you have to love the fact that when he says “beep beep” somebody else makes beeping sounds rather than just sampling a car horn.
[7]

Josh Love: Luda normally makes it look so easy that it just baffles me when he comes up short, first on the ponderous “Diamond in the Back” and now here. Just listen to him kill shit on “In Da Club” off Lil Jon’s latest and you’ll know for sure he’s far too talented to just settle for the title of World’s Greatest Sixth Man.
[5]


Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz feat. Usher and Ludacris
Lovers and Friends
[5.4]


Akiva Gottlieb: The divergent sensibilities of Usher and Ludacris mesh surprisingly well is this prurient slow jam, although Luda clearly wins the game of one-upmanship. His verse is nastier and more memorable, and he belittles the freshly-scrubbed pop star by calling him “Ursher”. I await Ursh’s retort, but I doubt he’ll win me over.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: The same team that brought “Yeah!” comes back for a slow burner. It’s an area that Jon has only briefly engaged with in the last few years, and his production here is competent at best. Luda tries to carry the song on a typically effortless guest verse, but the Eastboyz crunk growling at the end of the track is completely out of place.
[4]

Matt Chesnut: Lil Jon tryina be sweet? In the words of Lil Scrappy, “What—the fuck—is go—ing on?” This is probably better out of the context of Crunk Juice, but the first time I heard “Lovers and Friends” was following a room mosh incited by The Bearded One(s), so it was unsettling to hear Lil Jon screaming hoarse to the backdrop of Rick Rubin guitars, a brief appearance by Chris Rock, and then an Usher slow jam.
[6]

Ian Mathers: I’m still trying to assimilate the idea that this smoove jam is Lil’ Jon (which says more about my knowledge of his work, I’m sure). Yeah, Usher acquits himself well on the chorus, and Ludacris continues to be extremely entertaining as long as he’s guesting, but this is maybe too laid-back. Lil’ Jon’s verse proper is strangely respectful, although his voice seems more than a little out of place.
[6]

Josh Love: Starts off almost comically neutered and vanilla, then Lil Jon drops some truly improbable sweet talk that tests all previously accepted parameters of believability. Seriously, it would have been much better if he’d have just yelled “Skeet Skeet!” instead. Of course, now that Luda’s in another guest-starring role, he delivers the game-saving line—“you all grown up like Rudy Huxtable”
[6]


Ashanti
Only You
[6.4]


Akiva Gottlieb: Sentiment sentiment sentiment. I can’t handle this.
[3]

Erick Bieritz: The hardest working chorus hook girl in R&B is blessed with a squelch bomb beat on “Only You,” courtesy of Murder Inc. journeyman 7 Aurelius. To her credit she sounds uncharacteristically urgent and carries this one without any assistance from her many vocal collaborators. A pleasant surprise.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: Ashanti is the reigning queen in the category of Most Boring Pop Starlet, so her contributions amount to little more than “backing female vocalist.” And just what is she backing? Why, it looks like someone found the distortion filter on Cakewalk. On the surface, most everything appears pretty standard “sexy R&B”. But this fuzzed-out bit is absolutely killer.
[7]

Ian Mathers: So there’s a pretty pro forma strings and whispered vocals intro, and then… what the fuck is that noise? An extremely distorted violin? And then clap beats and this watery, echoing siren… since when does Ashanti get interesting production? I don’t care what she’s singing, but I could listen to that sound for hours.
[7]

Josh Love: What’s this, Ashanti with a gully beat? Damn, I may just hafta put Concrete Rose on my must-hear list after all. She sounds more confident, no more of that “baby baby” shit that even Talib Kweli can clown on, maybe the girl’s finally ready for some next-level Aaliyah-type shit.
[8]


Jadakiss feat. Mariah Carey
U Make Me Wanna
[5.4]


Akiva Gottlieb: When the word “kiss” is a part of your name, wooing the women is second nature. Nobody should be shocked to hear Jada and Mariah getting it on (musically). Rather, let’s be shocked to hear that Mariah is now stable enough to spell a four-letter word.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: It’s a year of deep introspection for Jadakiss. “Why” unloaded a ballot box full of confused but well-intentioned political-social issues, and “U Make Me Wanna” is a thoughtful ode to his woman. “I would play a song for you and you would let me know exactly how the ladies would respond from a woman’s point of view.” It’s well-delivered, but the heavy-handed flute arrangement is bothersome. Oh, and Mariah’s on here too, but just barely.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: We can rebuild her. We have the technology. We can make Mariah Carey sound like Ashanti. Look, no one is debating that flute loops are great pretty much everywhere…at least I’m not. And I’m not saying breathy vocals aren’t also sweet. But when you’ve got Charmbracelet’s traditionally gutsy vocals sounding like a gas leak and the same loop running without interference, it doesn’t really help your cause.
[4]

Ian Mathers: It might as be another anonymous RnB diva (or is that what Mariah is these days), but the song gets points for avoiding about half the clichés for a thug love track. Yes, there’s plenty of material goods on show, but love is actually mentioned, and treated as if it was something both real and desirable. Plus that little Indian flute riff is one hell of an earworm.
[6]

Josh Love: “You make me wanna leave the one I’m with / Start a new relationship with you.” Oh wait, that was Usher. Damn, I should really check these MP3s before I review ‘em. As far as do-right monogamy jawns go, this one’s not nearly on the level of Chingy’s “One Call Away.” Plus, I think there’s a reason Mariah doesn’t portray the love interest in the video--the few seconds where she does appear are just painful to watch, homegirl is fucking GONE.
[6]


Good Charlotte
I Just Wanna Live
[6.2]


Akiva Gottlieb: Yet another leave-me-the-fuck-alone memo masquerading as a hit single. Like those aforementioned hits, Good Charlotte’s waggish variation on a theme is pretty good and disarmingly funky--in the same way that 311 and Maroon 5 are “funky”, mind you--signaling a low-key reinvention for a band that should have been weeping in a gutter ages ago. In one of pop music’s very very minor triumphs, Good Charlotte has left mall-punk also-ran’s Simple Plan in the dust.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: Strings! Strutting vocals? A funky beat? Fake-ass girls?! The pop star embittered with the bounties of fame has been done absolutely to death in 2004, but if these fools can bring some charm and wit to such a played-out subject I’ll suffer them gladly.
[8]

Matt Chesnut: Add this to the list of evidence that meta-pop needs to go hiatus for a while. Okay, we get it, being a celebrity is pretty lame. Though I dig the suits verse, there’s nothing really noteworthy. Oh, except this doesn’t sound emo at all wtf Joel?!
[4]

Ian Mathers: I think this may be over- or under-valued because it’s such a shock to hear Good Charlotte playing anything other than pop-punk. It’s a decent enough song (with surprisingly good falsetto on the chorus), certainly better than “Predictable”, but hamstrung by the cliché “oh no, we’re famous!” content and the fact that while the whole canned-strings-and-guitar setup is kind of neat, it’s not as great as it should be.
[5]

Josh Love: Now that we’ve apparently lost Blink-182 to “respectability” (read: mediocrity), it’s nice to see at least one of their pop-punk progeny gay it up a little bit. Not even Miccio could persuade me to actively listen to these guys before, but now I’m sold. Bonus points for topical Ashlee Simpson diss in the video.
[8]


Blink 182
Always
[6.0]


Akiva Gottlieb: Am I alone in thinking the chorus is kind of a letdown?
[5]

Erick Bieritz: Drummer Travis Barker is the secret weapon on “Always,” and like some of the most successful pop-punk groups, Blink knows how some flash drumming can turn an ordinary song into a good one. Another solid testament to the rare band that improves when it makes its “mature” album.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: So this is wonderful in spite of Tom’s voice. I don’t understand it really. In the spectra of emo, his voice registers at least a 9.2 in its sheer snot-nosedness. But after this and the sublimity of “I Miss You”, I’m beginning to think I should’ve checked out that album of theirs.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Blink-182 are swiftly becoming my textbook example of why you should never automatically discount it when stoopid bands go all “mature”. Listen to that chorus! It’s no “I Miss You”, but out of this wave of punk bands I never would have picked Blink to be the Green Day. What a pleasant surprise.
[8]

Josh Love: I haven’t heard last year’s self-titled in its entirety, but wasn’t it supposed to be Blink’s best album? Maybe I read that in one too many dreaded “rockist” publications, maybe it was their watershed moment as a Serious Important Rock Band, but if this shit and “Down” are any indication, it was the absolute death of “What’s My Age Again?” and “Dammit” and “The Rock Show.”
[4]


Maroon 5
Sunday Morning
[3.2]


Akiva Gottlieb: I love how when this guy sings, I can hear a little inhale of breath after every line. That is passion. This song sucks, by the way.
[3]

Erick Bieritz: Tasteful to a fault. A very embarrassing, scarring fault that lasts for years. The arrangement is as smooth as “This Love,” without the modest tension that song provided. It may not be fair to lump the Maroonies in with Groban and Mraz, but… I’m going to do it anyway. About as exciting as an average Sunday morning.
[3]

Matt Chesnut: That’s so necessary: organ, girl singing, handclaps (yeah yeah, that’s SO 2003, but it works). That’s not necessary: wicky-wah guitar, that bridge. For a song as instrumentally involved as this, I would hope it’d be more involving. I can imagine this playing during the closing credits of a romantic comedy starring Julia Stiles.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Okay, I will credit “Sunday Morning” with helping me realize that “She Will Be Loved” does in fact possess a sort of loony, cheesy glory. At least it was over the top. This sounds like Peter Cetera-era Chicago (I think? Soft rock always confuses me) and is complete, painful crap.
[1]

Josh Love: “She Will Be Loved” tipped me off, but this one’s proof positive--lightning ain’t striking twice here, boys. It was a thin gimmick anyway, just be glad it worked once, now go off and do whatever it is people do until they re-emerge for I Love the 00s.
[4]


50 Cent
Disco Inferno
[4.5]


Erick Bieritz: Presumably thrilled over the re-release of D.I. Go Pop, 50 accents his muttering with a stutter: “Shake – sh-shake that ass.” The less intelligible he gets, the better his songs sound. Have another spoonful of oatmeal, Fitty.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: I can’t put my finger on it, but something is missing. It’s a good Dre beat and the whistling bit is nice, but I’d hesitate to call this fiyah. It’s like that episode of The Simpsons where Bart sold his soul, but not that drastic. Way to breathe, no-breath.
[5]

Ian Mathers: If you liked “On Fire” (and what’s with the G-Unit picking names for singles that have been already used?) you’ll like this. I hated “On Fire”. Would it kill 50 to pretend he actually cares?
[2]

Josh Love: If Get Rich didn’t convert me to the Fiddy camp, this lukewarm jumpoff sure ain’t gonna do it. At one point it sounds like Fiddy just gives up and goes into nu-Snoop speak-n-rap mode, but unlike “Drop it Like it’s Hot” there’s no trunk-rattlin’ beat to prop him up.
[4]



By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-12-03
Comments (6)
 

 
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