Singles Going Steady
his week in singles—Brooke Valentine throws down with Lil’ Jon and Big Boi, Lifehouse extend their life expectancy another couple of weeks, A Perfect Circle play mind games with us, Nas and Quan call a TO, and Tweet and Missy set the mood right. All this and the bane of Nick Southall’s existence, this week on Singles Going Steady!
A Perfect Circle
Akiva Gottlieb: Just as Velvet Revolver sounds nothing like Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle lacks both the aggressive homoeroticism of Tool (“Stinkfist”, people) and the epic balladry of the Smashing Pumpkins (“Tonight, Tonight“, people)…despite cribbing a member from each band. “Passive” is MOR, DOA and LOL.
Josh Love: I’m pretty I know how A Perfect Circle happened--someone told Maynard James Keenan he’d sound good singing the phonebook, so he decided to do that theory one better and find a project even more boring. Damn if it almost doesn’t work too.
Erick Bieritz: The clean, crisp production is a welcome change from the sludgy feel of many modern hard rock songs, and this rocks well. Nothing too remarkable beyond that.
Ian Mathers: So isn’t A Perfect Circle just a normal band with Maynard James Keenan in front instead of a prog band with him singing (Tool)? This builds nicely, although the piano really isn’t needed, and by the end as he shouts “You disappoint me” he sounds like, I dunno, an abusive dad or something. And maybe you want that from your pop, if you’ll pardon the pun.
John M. Cunningham: For a song that ends with the whispered refrain "passive aggressive bullshit," they've got the passive part down -- but I'd honestly been hoping for more aggression. Especially from the chorus, which could use some full-throttle screaming or monster riffs and instead just sounds lifeless.
Matt Chesnut: After spending about three minutes in the musical wilderness, “Passive” hits its climax. But by then, I’ve already lost interest. It’s a nice climax, though, 30 seconds or so of big guitar glory. Shame about the rest of the song.
Brooke Valentine feat. Lil’ Jon and Big Boi
Akiva Gottlieb: The backing track here reminds me of “Streets of Rage 2” for Sega Genesis, in which a girl (whose name I can’t place) certainly did fight Alright, so I’m a sexist for not remembering the girl’s name, but so is Lil’ Jon, who responds with a shocked “Whaaaat?!” when Brooke Valentine announces the idea of a harmless little girlfight.
Josh Love: God bless you, Lil Jon. Between you and Dave Chapelle, hipsters have an arsenal of catchphrases to last us well into our 30s, when we’ll wake up one morning and suddenly decide Tracy Morgan is funny. Get in on the ground floor now--for the next eight months, anytime females are heard to be quarrelling, you can be sure to hear, “it’s about to be a what? -- a girlfight!”
Erick Bieritz: It’s another solid, competent workhorse single from King Jon. Big Boi drops some down-south charm into the song, rhyming “sucurrity” with “purrty,” but then blows it on an unfunny boob pun. It doesn’t have the simmering sauciness of “Goodies,” nor the epic sweep of “Yeah!” but it’s enough to keep listeners eagerly waiting for Jon’s next effort.
Ian Mathers: Lil Jon’s customary shouty nonsense doesn’t actually do better with a woman doing it instead of a man; I like Ciara and Nivea so much because they don’t just try to act tough. Valentine’s performance is a lot more one-note, and about the best thing I can say about this song is that it makes me miss Big Boi all the more. He should do a solo album.
John M. Cunningham: I'm totally in favor of more songs about women scraping and tussling with each other, and Brooke does what she can, but the crunk-by-numbers production here just seems muddled and uninspired. Big Boi's ringside announcer cameo is the highlight, but it's too little, too late.
Matt Chesnut: So where do you go after you’ve done testoterone-pumping crunk anthem, crunk’n’b, and bubblecrunk? Put all of them together, plz. Combining two of my favorite things, girls and fighting, Lil Jon has once more proven to be God’s gift to the 00s.
Akiva Gotltieb: Kasabian is riffing on vintage Madchester and Achtung Baby-era U2--not bad spots to crib from, if you‘re into being derivative, “Club Foot” is like walking into a drug den and realizing you’re on a movie set. The dope is fake, but look, there’s Val Kilmer.
Josh Love: I’m sure Southall has every reason in the world to hate these guys with such fury, but has he listened to (read: been subjected to) any American chart rock lately? Compared to Lifehouse and A Perfect Circle, this is Kelly Clarkson-worthy, though the bullshit faux-gritty video suggests I may loathe ‘em as much as Southy before it’s all said and done.
Erick Bieritz: This band has a reputation as another horrible stain on rock ‘n’ roll spawned by British music weeklies, but “Club Foot” doesn’t sound too bad. It seems too wrapped up in being gritty and gutter-dwelling to fully develop its hooks, but it’s a decent song.
Ian Mathers: I can understand all the hate being directed at Kasabian (and they do seem truly annoying people), but the worst you can really say about this single is that it is craft and outright photocopying over energy, ideas, intelligence, and passion. Actually, that’s pretty bad. This is the aural equivalent of indie McDonalds; vaguely reminiscent of far better things and probably bad for you, but temporarily satisfying if you’re in the right mood.
John M. Cunningham: I guess I'll have to hear the full album to understand why all of Kasabian's press references DJ Shadow--but this track is surprisingly tight, hanging on a stoner-rock riff I can sing the top of "Immigrant Song" along to, and buoyed by some rising atmospheric synths. Soundtrack advisors, take note: It's the part in the movie where Colin Farrell, in a bomber jacket and Diesel jeans, swaggers out of the swarming club, climbs into his Jaguar convertible, and speeds off.
Matt Chesnut: The noisy bookends of this song might be onto something, but the middle leaves something to be desired, sort of a generic rattling guitar line without any variation. So, when is Britain going to start exporting some better singles? First The Music, now this.
Tweet feat. Missy Elliott
Turn The Lights Off
Akiva Gottlieb: Missy seems all pumped in the intro, but “Turn The Lights Off” only offers low-key agreeability. My grandma might dig it.
Josh Love: Tweet: Hello? Missy: What’s up girl, it’s Missy. Tweet: How come you never got back at me? It’s been three years--people gonna start thinkin’ I’m a one-hit wonder! I got a bottle of Drano under the sink and I will totally drink that shit if you don’t hook me up. F’real, I’ll stick my finger in a light socket if I can’t get a hot beat! Where you at? Missy: Look, chill the fuck out, I got this nice slow burner from Kwame got your name written all over it. Try and steer clear of any tall buildings ‘til I get it to ya, got me?
Erick Bieritz: Sure, it’s good--but what an odd single. Tweet’s last high-profile appearance (in the very good “Oops! (Oh My)”) was straightforward. “Turn Da Lights Off,” with its bent string beat and trippy, backward structure, sounds more like a weird b-side remix than a single. Not that anyone is complaining.
Ian Mathers: There’s something old-fashioned in the vocals here, but at the same time something airless and futuristic; I don’t mean that as an insult. This is easily my favorite production of the first couple of months of 2005, Missy’s verse is just fine (the slowed down, slightly menacing drawl fits the song, even if when she’s shouting at the beginning she sounds like she wants to be Lil’ Jon), and Tweet really makes the most of the backing. “Oops (Oh My)” was a good song, but this beats the hell out of it.
John M. Cunningham: The most charming thing about this song is how in love it is with its fake vinyl effects, from the pervasive crackle to the way Tweet's vocals mimic the down-pitched tug of a slow warp. Tweet doesn't even start in earnest for nearly a full minute because Missy's too busy admiring how that staticky violin track gets scratched and shuffled. As well she should: these tricks lend the tasteful dusties nostalgia a refreshing sense of playfulness. Wicked, indeed.
Matt Chesnut: This is too insane. The entire first minute is Missy and some samples jumping all over the place, record scratch, slow down, skitter, go backwards some more, “Wicked!” And then Tweet. Two hooks trade off. The first sounds like a looped tin pan alley string section, the second is some old wave piano bit. And the beat bounces like a drunkard’s head on toilet porcelain.
Nas feat. Quan
Just A Moment
Akiva Gottlieb: Nasty Nas sounds a lot less nasty these days, and “Just A Moment” is a thoughtful pause in a storied career. Nas knows the game is about forward progress, but the veteran is still so far ahead of the pack that he can afford to look back, reminisce, and give thanks. Now if only he’d recall how to stagger us Illmatic style.
Josh Love: Street’s Disciple is actually a really bracing album, but you’d never know it from the treacly singles Nas has put out so far, first the muddy, hookless “Bridging the Gap” and now this perfunctory, pointless requiem. Just in case you missed last month’s memo--Left Eye is still dead.
Erick Bieritz: This is Nas’s “important” single. It’s about soldiers in Iraq and the African diamond trade and gang violence. The hubris gets a little heavy-handed, and the shout-out to dead rappers is sure to draw the ire of at least one of my fellow Singles Going Steady writer. But Nas wears the weary street philosopher hat better here than he has on some of his frequent trips down this road in the past, and his rhyming is tight and sharp.
Ian Mathers: I definitely like the stop-starting of the production and the layer of fake vinyl hiss. The strings sound a bit sickly, but they’re okay; the real problem is that there’s no real progression in the sample. Quan does a good job on the chorus, but of course the highlight is Nas’ verse. He sounds like he could keep this up that steady pace for hours.
John M. Cunningham: The strings loop is pleasant but simple, the overall sentiment is even simpler, and both of them wear out their welcome too soon. Also dud to the literalized sound effects: yeah, I wasn't sure what you meant by "children" until I heard that two-second clip of a gurgling baby.
Matt Chesnut: I’ll say this about Nas: as bloated as Street’s Disciple is, he’s managed to pick some solid material for the singles. I’ll bet that when all is said and done, you could buy all the singles, put them in a playlist, and it’d be a better value then the entire double album.
You and Me
Akiva Gottlieb: “I’ll be your crying shoulder/I’ll be love suicide/I’ll be better when I’m older/I’ll be the greatest thrill of your life.”
Josh Love: Hangin’ by a moment since 2000, I guess someone finally decided to cut Lifehouse down. We’re talking a whole lotta decomposition here. Not pretty.
Erick Bieritz: Fun factoid: The UN is investigating Stylus for possible human rights violations after learning writers were asked to listen to this song.
Ian Mathers: Lifehouse have had two half-decent moments, and if this is all they can come up with now they should be thankful for those two (especially “Spin”) and retire quietly. This kind of Dawson’s Creek style teen angst love ballad is not what we need more of. It is utterly undistinguished and so it’s hard to find anything to say about it.
John M. Cunningham: Every high-school prom needs a waltz to confuse the clumsy kids trying to slow dance.
Matt Chesnut: I can’t help but feel I’ve heard this song already. “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, maybe?
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-02-25