The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady

this week in singles: Rob Thomas unleashes his inner pop diva, Britney Spears chastises your laziness, Will Smith and Amerie make a better case for seeing Hitch than the million fucking previews featuring that dorky white guy dancing, and what is most likely The Game and 50 Cent’s last moment in the sun together. All this, and Beck’s biggest rock hit in over a decade, this week on Singles Going Steady!

Will Smith - Switch

Ian Mathers: Given Smith’s dismal record with singles since he became a movie star, this is an unexpected pleasure. It’s all clap-and-stomp, chant-and-wail, and even Smith’s rap isn’t as horrible as it could be (although it remains clear that DJ Jazzy Jeff was the real talent in that partnership). I could even believe this would be capable of airplay without an attendant movie. [7]

Josh Love: The enthusiasm, dedication, and sheer insidiousness Will Smith exhibits in his role as a corporate shill is frighteningly admirable. If he had done Ray instead of Jamie Foxx, I’m guessing he would’ve just scrapped the Genius’ classics in favor of a dozen originals incorporating the phrase “wiggy-wild” as frequently as possible. [4]

John Cunningham: The Fresh Prince thinks people are surprised to see him gettin' jiggy in da club because he's all Hollywood now. Really, though, it's because he's so careful to preserve his image as a family-friendly rap star that he's taken to unsolicited moralizing while he busts a move, telling women to put some clothes on and randomly admonishing downloaders. Lame. [4]

Sam Bloch: As always, there are a few reasons to laugh at the new Will Smith single: his constant reminders that he is really bad-ass rapper (“y’all be lookin like / “ooh, he a movie star” / but wait, y’all forgettin’ / before the scripts were written / first one in, last one out,”) his feeble attempts at starting some sort of dance maneuver, the misguided bids for reinforcing his heterosexuality. But that other one, the one about the crappy beat--that one, not so much anymore. [7]

Matt Chesnut: First, I’m glad this song isn’t about his son. Second, this is exactly what I have come to expect from Will Smith at this point in his career. It’s fun in a very innocuous way. Clap along and sing the group vocal hook. Can’t forget this bit, though: “But don't download, go out and buy the record.” Now you get neither, Mr. Smith, you shill. [6]

Erick Bieritz: Will gets a half-decent refrigerated Kwame beat that Missy and Tweet probably turned down the night before. He makes some milquetoast attempts at sexiness and takes time out to admonish file-sharers. The “oh-la-la-la” and “hey-ay-hey” in the chorus are dreadful. Voters will probably like this more than the Rob Thomas song, and that’s a bit of shame. A club whimper for people with an early bedtime. [5]

Beck - E-Pro

Ian Mathers: If you’d told me years ago (circa Mutations, maybe) that I’d one day rate a Will Smith single higher than one by Beck, I would have refused to believe you. But this suffers from what I’ll call the curse of Sea Change; it’s boring. Bog standard guitar grind and a few half-hearted “na na na”s are not what I call a comeback. Only “Hell Yes” gives me hope now… [4]

Josh Love: Are you sure we can’t trade this out for the gringo rapper’s delight of “Que Onda Guero” or the blissfully sunny “Earthquake Weather” instead? This is a solid return to form for Beck as a singles artist, but compared to the other stuff I’ve heard from Guero, it’s probably destined to be filler (which is really just a compliment to the rest of the album). [6]

John Cunningham: Not my favorite cut from Guero, but not a bad choice for a first single. With that scuzzy garage guitar, it's like "Devil's Haircut," minus the wacky samples and dada wordplay, but plus a welcome jump-rope breakdown. [6]

Sam Bloch: I could berate Beck for not trying any more, but when the Iggy rips are this loud and those laconic raps of his are this blatantly satisfactory, am I really disappointed? Naw. He gets it, I think. If there’s ever been pure pop for now people, this is it. [7]

Matt Chesnut: Welcome back, Fun Beck. I’ll assume that you’re just knocking some rust off. Aside from the chorus’ “nah nah nah’s” and the riff, it’s not entirely noteworthy. However, “E-Pro” is not totally without merit. There is a Nintendo’d remix of this song that owns it. [5]

Erick Bieritz: Queens of the Stone Age: “Alright, we finished the instrumental track for our new single. Rock! People will totally love our new groovy sound.” Beck, descending from the ceiling in old-timey burglar outfit: “I’ll take that. Yoink!” Queens of the Stone Age: “Oh, drat… now we’re going to have to release ‘Little Sister’ instead…” [7]

Rob Thomas - Lonely No More

Ian Mathers: “I don’t wanna be lonely no more / I don’t wanna have to pay for this.” Well, kudos to Thomas for tackling the touchy topic of those poor schmucks who rely on ladies (and lads) of the night for their gratification, but that and the fact that this is oddly similar to Will Smith’s entry this week can’t make it any more memorable. [4]

Josh Love: Apparently Rob’s trying to get back some of the burn he lost to Maroon 5. Or Enrique Iglesias. Or maybe Prince. The interweb insists he’s saying “Open up to me / like you do your girlfriends,” but if someone can verify it’s really “Open up to me / like I do your girlfriends” (which is kinda how it sounds anyway), this song gets a two point bump. [6]

John Cunningham: Compared to this post-Santana concoction of thin, tacky brass, piled-on backup soul singers, and various "funky" licks, the earthy growl of "Push" doesn't sound that bad. Neither does Maroon 5. [2]

Sam Bloch: Sorry, Rob. Six years later, “Smooth” still isn’t catchy. But hey, whatever: here’s to another crossover smash success! [3]

Matt Chesnut: Like Gwen Stefani before him, Rob Thomas has ditched his band for the time being to go contemporary pop. Problem is he stinks at it and seems really out of his element. Whereas Ms. Stefani drops silly lines like “Take a chance you stupid ho,” Rob drops…nothing! [3]

Erick Bieritz: Sometimes a week of Singles Going Steady has a sort of magic to it. It’s the kind of magic that can make even Rob Thomas sound pretty good. He was inspired to record this song after he went on a bender and woke up in an alley with no pants and JC Chasez’s solo CD on his Discman. [7]

50 Cent f/ The Game - Hate it Or Love It

Ian Mathers: Both 50 and the Game are underwhelming MCs, but this is an amazing production and that pretty much redeems the whole track. The duo chorus should be pretty boring, but it fits so nicely with that clicking drum track and the lush stutter of the keyboards. Anyone have the instrumental? [7]

Josh Love: A tender, bittersweet farewell that marks the inevitable but still lamentable end of one of music’s most compelling and fractious partnerships. Wait, you mean Game didn’t even exist until like three weeks ago? And this collabo’s only at the end of 50’s record because the preceding 21 songs are straight garbage? Well at least their courtship ended on a high note. [8]

John Cunningham: It's a shame 50 Cent kicked the Game out of G-Unit, because they have such an easy interplay on this sly, soulful number, which I like better than "How We Do," as well as either of 50's current chart hits. Now that she's on Interscope, my brother jokes, maybe M.I.A. will be recruited to take the Game's place. [7]

Sam Bloch: The tablas and strings in back are fabulously smooth. 50’s assured typically assured hauteur is laced with a genuine, self-deprecating narrative from the first line (“coming up I was confused / my mom kissing a girl”). Two vaguely similar tenors manage to carry a distinct back-and-forth on the chorus. Cue more Marvin Gaye shit. And an Eric B reference. For once, dude, that smirk is well-deserved. [8]

Matt Chesnut: Inspired sampling and inspired verses from both parties. The icy beats of most G-Unit singles are exchanged for a soul-laced beat that clicks. There are a lot of small things to enjoy, like hi-hats going into double time or when there’s a flourish of voice or synth. [8]

Erick Bieritz: After Minimal Dre Beat #429, they needed this, badly. They needed horns and a closed-fisted soul “Oooooh” and drums that show up late and some heartbreak. Fitty shows some depth and the Game, well, doesn’t get in the way. It’s like coming home after a weekend away and finding Thursday’s answering machine message from a friend who is no longer a friend after the events of said weekend. It’s suddenly irrelevant and terribly bittersweet. The finest hour comes right before the collapse. [9]

Britney Spears - Do Somethin'

Ian Mathers: Recently Britney’s club tracks are pretty great, but this is a stinker. It gets points for the impressively synthesized whirr of the chorus, but the lyrics thereof are so divorced from reality I can’t hear it without remembering that Spears is heading for Norma Desmond-hood. This wouldn’t matter if this was as good as “Toxic”, but all we get instead is the rather funny idea via the video that Britney is haranguing hipsters for not dancing. [3]

Josh Love: In theory I should like this because it sounds exactly like Gwen Stefani and I loved most all of her album, but shouldn’t we expect a little more from Britney than to shamelessly rip off someone who just got her career off life support like ten minutes ago? [3]

John Cunningham: La Brit gets tough and chirps challenges over toothpaste-coated synths, but in the end it just sounds like a Bally's commercial, featuring one of her least memorable melodies ever. Also, as far as critiques of cowardice go, "take a chance you stupid ho" is way funnier. [5]

Sam Bloch: This song sounds like it should have been released in 2000--you know, during the advent of “Do Somethin’”’s whack-ass guitar squelch overdrive thing and the popularity of Britney’s request for her detractors to get out of her grill. But mostly, it just seems out of place with her career trajectory--I guess I just didn’t expect Brit Brit to bust out the air guitar right before she retires, you know? [3]

Matt Chesnut: The chorus is especially bland and the beat is copped right from “Toxic” only put into a very flat song. Now that I mention it, it does cop a lot of “Toxic”’s style, but very little of its substance. Did I mention that this is a touch dull? [4]

Erick Bieritz: “Toxic” studio pros Bloodshy and Avant deliver another set of fake little guitar breakdowns, perky bridge beeps, snake-scale patterned vests and acid washed jeans to Chez Ferderline. If the trailer’s a rockin’, it probably means Brit is on another marathon kick with “Dance Dance Revolution.” [8]

Amerie - One Thing

Ian Mathers: On the basis of this single Amerie’s backing band is pretty good; it’s got a definite “live in the studio” feel but unlike most recent examples it doesn’t drift into jazzy languor. Instead the constant prod of the music and Amerie’s aggressive vocals makes this one of the feistier singles in recent memory. It’s actually a bit too repetitive (which is saying something coming from me), but quality nonetheless. [6]

Josh Love: It’s so wonderfully improbable this is even a single--it doesn’t even really sound like a song at all, no build, no payoff, just a nasty two and a half minute groove, and I swear Amerie is almost on some Jackson 5 shit with her singing, all squeaky and too-high but absolutely perfect here. [9]

John Cunningham: Oh man, I haven't heard Amerie's earlier singles, but this is awesome. Imagine a mashup of Michael Jackson's circa-1970 gritty soprano with some chopped-up sixties rock track, mixed by, like, Jason Forrest or Caribou. And I swear there's a part where she sounds like a melodica. [8]

Sam Bloch: Soulful overemoting over a funky live groove. Uh, next. [4]

Matt Chesnut: Nothing but clattering live drums and chopped up guitar stabs, and Amerie is left alone to sound very much like she is in PAIN by singing quite high. And then we are introduced to some strings, some gorgeous and lush strings to counter the choppy quality of most everything else and then the melody becomes that much more compelling. [9]

Erick Bieritz: Limber drums, two syllables, all chorus, repeat ad infinitum. [8]

By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-03-04
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