The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



either there’s something in the Stylus water cooler, or e-mail glitches are causing all sorts of numerical typos, or maybe it’s just that good a time of the year, but this week marks the first time in the history of this column where every song has received a rating higher than 5.0 (three even eclipsing the 7.0 mark). Love is in the air, so read all about it on this week’s Singles Going Steady!


Ciara feat. Ludacris
Oh
[7.3]


Ian Mathers: As far as I’m concerned Ciara’s first three singles have been near-perfect. I love the muted backing here, those lurking slightly fuzzy synthesizers, the constant restatement of lines, the general smoky vibe. Ludacris is pretty awesome too, more disjointed and repetitive than normal, which is perfectly suited to the rest of the song. On this as well as on “Goodies” and “1,2 Step” Ciara’s so laid back she almost sounds on the edge of sleep, which is surprisingly effective.
[9]

David Drake: Ciara is three for three! I love the bass-heavy groove, Ciara sounds so effortless on top - the contrast between the high of her voice and the bass grumble is unbelievably sexy, especially during the chorus right before Luda comes in, and her voice is double-tracked, doing little descending vocal acrobatics. Luda's verse on this is spectacular; he needs to keep himself over these dark and dirty masterpieces so he sounds like less of a cornball.
[9]


Erick Bieritz: Ciara’s a tease. That’s right, she says, Ludacris is coming up, and we’re giving him plenty of verses to stretch out on. No crowding him in with four other MCs on this one. The year is less than one-quarter through and Luda has already blown the seams off half a dozen singles. Is there any stopping him?
[7]

John M. Cunningham: The whole deal with Ciara is that she's supposed to be all poised and cool, but without the bare allure of "Goodies" and the sudden spark of "One, Two Step," she just sounds bored and glum.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: Ciara’s other singles have been growers, so I can’t say my indifference towards “Oh” will last. She has a way of singing that can be either dull or alluring, depending on mood. Right now, I’d opt for the former. Also, this may be the first recorded instance where a Ludacris guest verse has not improved the song.
[5]

Andrew Unterberger: A week of pleasant surprises. Who among us, upon hearing “Goodies” for the first time, thought Ciara’d have another two singles of this caliber in her? Not only is “Oh!” a wholly successful successor to her first two, but it rectifies their main problem as well, giving Ludacris enough bars on his guest verse to get a little breathing room. I’d be shocked if this didn’t sail into the top five.
[9]


My Chemical Romance
Helena
[6.5]


Ian Mathers: Before everyone starts cracking jokes about another emo song about tortured love, this is actually about Gerard Way’s dead grandmother. It’s thus necessarily more serious than “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” was, although no less loud. They make it work; for a three minute rock single this is awfully sweeping, mostly thanks to the way the guitars and drums temporarily halt the forward momentum during the chorus. It’s a little melodramatic, yes, but since when has that been antithetical to rock and roll?
[8]

David Drake: Vocals really don't click for me, they sound thin and lazy, and the melody is fairly forgettable. This song reminds of another song, the name of which I can't remember. I have a feeling that five years from now, I'll be saying the same thing about some new random rock track, and I will be thinking of "Helena." Only I won't remember its name either.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: This is what nu-emo and pop-punk need to do more often – be fast as hell and aimlessly angry, not whiny. It’s not perfect, and it’s no “I’m Not OK (I Promise),” but they’re still the best MySpace-worshipping pretty boy guitar jerks out there.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: I like the idea of this sort of screamo song (this is screamo, right?), but I'm disappointed when the energy of the whispered, stuttering intro and clenched, nervous verse eventually collapses into such a silly, straightforward chorus.
[4]

Matt Chesnut: I’m beginning to think that My Chemical Romance may be some standard bearer for emo singles. It’s like they take certain aspects of emo that it is derided for and make those things their strengths. The vocal histrionics and the chugga chuggas, not to mention the palm-muted guitars which almost sound like little electronic blips if you don’t pay too close attention.
[7]

Andrew Unterberger: As “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” reveals itself more and more over time to be the modern rock classic it is (and that video, god) my expectations were high for this. They don’t let me down. Like the “Okay” video, the clip for “Helena”—which features synchronized dancing at a funeral—summarizes the song’s greatness perfectly. Dramatic as hell, but twice as fun.
[8]


Green Day
Holiday
[6.2]


Ian Mathers: The “seig heil” middle eight is a bit naff, yes, and I continue to insist that until they make one of the ten minute ones the single they’re giving American Idiot short shrift, but this is wonderful. Green Day’s rhythm section is consistently overlooked, but they’re one of the best on the radio these days (the part where the guitar drops out is more entertaining than it would be from any of their peers).
[8]

David Drake: What can I possibly say about this? Like a pop-punk version of "The Passenger," except not as good as it could be. I'm not sure how anyone could be excited about this, really; the definitive "OK" song.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: “Holiday,” in which Green Day disgorges some old Rancid records. The three-part “Ooh-ooh-OOH” is very fresh, but the extraneous breakdown weakens the song. The band’s politics are at their best when they’re the most subtle, and they spoil it a bit at the two and a half minute mark. Still good stuff.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: For an anti-Bush song, the lyrics are refreshingly oblique, and I can't complain too much about the borrowed Clash riffs that wrap around them and trudge onward. Plus, doesn't Billie Joe look kinda hot in that eyeliner?
[6]

Matt Chesnut: “The representative from California has the floor” is pretty clever, but Green Day is proving to be The Ramones of our time in that I have no opinion of them either way. They aren’t boring, they just don’t do it for me.
[5]

Andrew Unterberger: Good single, and doubt I’ll get sick of it quite as easily as the lst two, but damned if it isn’t a poor consolation prize for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”’s heartbreaking so-close-but-yet-so-far stalling at #2 on the charts. God damn you, Fiddy.
[6]


Bowling For Soup
Almost
[5.5]


Ian Mathers: I hated “1984”, but this is good, mainly because while they’re still trying to be clever (and half succeeding), it doesn’t feel as jokey as “1984”. But… look, the backing is perfectly fine modern pop punk, but could the singer’s balls please drop? I can’t stand those pseudo-adolescent vocals even when they’re coming from actual sixteen-year olds. Less annoying (and a better song) than A New Found Glory, but that voice is a major sticking point.
[7]

David Drake: This is much, much better than I expected from a band called "Bowling for Soup." Is there a video for this yet? Because its, like, made to exist with a video, and if there's no goofy video accompanying it, then it feels incomplete. I really do like it though. This deserves to be a minor hit, and it will be, and I'm OK with that. This is what critics of "high art" call a "trifle." Mm, reminds me of truffles. I like those. This is a keeper.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: Blink broke up, and even Sum 41 has gotten all serious. There’s nothing like a pop-punk power vaccum to warrant adding extra syllables to “breasts” to make it rhyme with other words. Pharoah Monch would be proud.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: Stock suburban pop-punk with the most tired chord progression in the genre and a snickering locker-room pronunciation of "breasts": no thanks.
[3]

Matt Chesnut: The bulk of the slinks along anonymously until the second chorus, where there are some nice harmonic ba-ba-bas that rise from the ashes. It’s like the one good scene from an otherwise forgettable movie.
[3]

Andrew Unterberger: WTF? “1985” was one of my ten least favorite singles of last year, easy, but this doesn’t suck at all. It’s got a fairly standard sort of pop-punk sound, but it’s more power-pop influenced than most of its peers, with ridiculously shiny chord stomping and some incredibly sweet harmonies on the chorus. Even the lyrics approach charming. Inconceivable.
[7]


Ludacris
Number One Spot
[7.3]


Ian Mathers: The fact that this sounds like it’s sampling Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” isn’t that a big a deal unless you’re a Canadian kid who heard “My Definition” by the Dream Warriors growing up, in which case: Holy shit, it sounds like someone sampled the Dream Warriors. Nostalgia aside, finally someone has made a backing as blaring and infectious as Luda’s delivery, and for once his potential is pretty much realized (Austin Powers references notwithstanding). It’ll probably give you a headache after a few listens, but that’s a pretty high recommendation right there.
[7]

David Drake: This isn't gonna make it to number one, which is rather ironic, and the austin powers thing is so unbelievably dated at this point, and Luda's on that "GET IT?" knowing wink-nudge clever ha-ha except I don't really laugh any more. The bass is pretty cool. I can't really get with this though.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: A throwback to the Austin Powers series is poorly-timed, but who cares when he drops “scheme scheme, plot plot” and “breaks the steering column of your Impah-la.” See, he’s a reviewer’s dream. Writers don’t need to review Luda songs. They can just quote verse after verse. “I’m worth a million gazillion fafillion dollars.”
[8]

John M. Cunningham: Apart from guest spots, I haven't been thrilled with Luda's output lately, which often just sounds like a lot of joyless ordering around. But here he fully embraces his cartoonishness, spouting hilarious couplets over the kind of orchestra sting you hear when the goons show up on a Batman episode, and subsequent trilling alarms. Well deserving of those gazillion, fa-fillion dollars.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: I have to wonder if this is not in some way Ludacris’ way of trying to maneuver himself into another Austin Powers sequel. If it was as inspired as his verses here, greenlight that summabitch. A casual dig at Bill O’Reilly (sidenote: Ludacris’ next album should be called Fuck A Bill O’Reilly), and a load of tired Austin Powers references squeezed of their last breaths. The best part of all may be how Quincu Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” has been manipulated from joyous to mean. Or how the song title may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
[8]

Andrew Unterberger: It’s about time for Luda to start overstaying his welcome, but dammit, he’s just so fucking cool. To reference something Ian once said about OutKast, I’ll stop giving him high scores when he starts releasing bad singles.
[8]


Snoop Dogg feat. Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson
Signs
[8.2]


Ian Mathers: Snoop telling Timberlake “you ain’t no G” is funny for all sort of reasons, but the latter holds up his end just fine anyways. Snoops verses are okay, but the good bits are those horns and the back-and-forth chorus. Hooking up with the Neptunes was clearly a good idea, although this isn’t quite a pristinely fabulous as “Let’s Get Blown”. Snoop should go to the disco more often.
[7]

David Drake: I like how Snoop's doing this laid back, blunted smoove rap thing now. This is even better than "Let's Get Blown," live drums and neat synth-horns and keyboard plinks, with Snoop talking about girls like he's seeing them for the first time in his life. I think this song is almost all chorus, and its unbelievably inoffensive, but I love it that way. Floating.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: And just as the nice weather begins to seep in, we get this, a legitimate jam. It treads dangerously close to packing too many cooks in the kitchen, but the Neptunes manage to fit Snoop, Justin, Charlie and themselves in four perfect minutes. Not to mention those horns, handclaps, prancing keyboards and that brilliant two-note bassline. Unbelievable.
[10]

John M. Cunningham: The minimal grind of "Milkshake" aside, I've always thought that the Neptunes' strength lay in the sort of exuberant disco bounce of tracks like Snoop's "Beautiful" and Justin's "Rock Your Body." And since those were two of my favorite singles of 2003, it's extremely hard for me to find fault with a production that effectively fuses them into one solid pop package.
[9]

Matt Chesnut: A proper follow-up to “Let’s Get Blown” because it uses the same rhythm, but this has Justin Timberlake singing “don’t fuck with me” in falsetto. So that’s really awesome. A fonky slap bass and something something about you ain’t no G, whatever, the Snoop/Neptunes collaborations are a goldmine.
[8]

Andrew Unterberger: How can The Neptunes get the 80s funk sound so utterly wrong on “Let’s Get Blown,” but so utterly perfect on this? This is just as smooth, soulful and addictive as LGB was sickly, saccharine and annoying. Like on “Beautiful,” Snoop’s verses are little more than window dressing, but “Signs” improves on that song’s verses by allowing someone other than Pharrell to sing the hook, namely JT. Good fucking choice.
[8]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-03-14
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