The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week in Singles—Bobby Valentine puts on the brakes, Cassidy tries to prove that he’s more than “that dude in the video where R. Kelly wore a Zorro mask,” Trent Reznor takes a bite, and Mario teaches everyone a valuable lesson about the Ghetto Kama Sutra. All this and self-help lessons from Audioslave, this week on SGS!


Audioslave - Be Yourself
[4.3]


Ian Mathers: Not only does this have a surprisingly good chorus, it actually doesn’t resemble either original group much at all. Except for that part in the middle eight when Tom Morello’s guitar smacks you over the head going “hey, I’m Tom Morello!”, only more impressive. Unfortunately by the time that’s over the chorus has worn its welcome, but at least this is beginning to sound like a band.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: After briefly striving to be the sort of slow-burning grunge ballad that ruled the charts 10 years ago, “Be Yourself” gives up and dives into a big schlocky chorus worthy of Coldplay. This turns out to be a bad move.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: They sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers of late. In other words, bored. For a band that once relied so much on revolutionary evocations, the remnants of Rage Against the Machine continue to play it safe in this still profitable idea of a band.
[3]

Akiva Gottlieb: More like, “Be U2.”
[5]

Anthony Miccio: I said it once and I'll say it again. Rod Stewart should be the singer for Audioslave. Cornell is a horrible singer, devoid of nuance, a joyless David Coverdale. This song needs the humanity and spirit Stewart could provide. The band is as strong as ever, aside from a dippy solo that's wonky even for Tom "Woop-Woop" Morello.
[4]

David Drake: There's too much anticipation and not nearly enough payoff. The song is limp and the lyrics are bland and directionless. Listless, clenched teeth over-emoted vocals. I do like the guitar during the verses, but "To be yourself is all that you can do" as a chorus? Come on now. Van Halen told me to jump and I jumped, Audioslave tells me to be myself and I want to be someone else. Someone who isn't listening to Audioslave.
[3]


U2 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
[4.2]


Ian Mathers: If they’d just ended it at the three minute mark, a few verses, a few choruses, low key, this would be the best U2 single since… actually, I’m not going to try to figure that out. But no, U2 had to tack on an extra few minutes and try to rock, because they are The Greatest Rock Band in the World, dammit. So the drums crash in and things get loud and crunchy and generic, and what was good about the song is completely lost. If only they’d faded it out after that second chorus.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: “Vertigo” was U2 by the (incorrect) numbers, and “All Because of You” just stank to high heaven. So it’s nice to see that the Bono Dadrock Band can take a break from dismantling nuclear devices to bang out a song that sounds pretty good, even if it does so by shamelessly pillaging their past.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: Trying for full and epic and reaching, the latest single from the very important band with the future prez of the World Bank forgets that in order to blow something up mega-size, you must have something to blow up. The end result is an empty exercise in what’s mistakenly referred to as overproduction, but is really underdeveloped.
[4]

Akiva Gottlieb: A soul-searching slow-burner in vintage U2 fashion, this single doesn’t sound like a potential radio hit, but it’s twice as rewarding than the rote rocker “Vertigo.” Nobody does epic earnestness better than Bono and Co., and this should appeal to the same crowd that’s made Coldplay the world’s new U2.
[7]

Anthony Miccio: Try to imagine this song without the Edge doing those pro forma two note riffs all over the place. Is it better or worse? Less pandering? The "climactic" bridge is weak either way. Song still limps to the finish line.
[4]

David Drake: Is this over yet? The U2 ballad is like my least favorite thing ever; I know "One" is well-loved but for me it’s just unbearable, and every subsequent U2 ballad has dropped the bar even further. Next album they'll just title it "Inspiration" and include John Tesh on keys.
[1]


Cassidy - I'm a Hustla
[5.5]


Ian Mathers: When your sample of Jay-Z overshadows your performance on your single, you’re in trouble. When that sample is most entertaining during the first thirty seconds of your song, you’re in more. And when even the sample gets overused by the end of the track and becomes boring? Just give up now.
[2]

Erick Bieritz: Jay-Z is like an unstoppable hip-hop monster—without actually releasing a big single, there are still not one, not two, but three songs on the radio prominently featuring his voice (“Bring ‘Em Out,” another Swizz Beatz creation, and Linkin Park mash-up “Numb/Encore” for those keeping score). Cassidy can’t help but impress with lines like “I could sell raid to a bug / I’m a hustla / I could sell salt to a slug” in the wake of something like his last airy pop-friendly single, “Hotel.” This isn’t quite as good as “Bring ‘Em Out” and Swizz isn’t at his manic best but it’s still tight.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: A so-so showing from Swizz Beats. His patented Exorcist piano is the single highlight as Cassidy rips through a lot of rhymes about nothing in particular. As far as rappers who lack personality, Cassidy doesn’t have the good sense to do anything memorable like be as irritating as Chingy or fat as Fat Joe.
[5]

Akiva Gottlieb: This chunk of braggadocio is the most addictive minimalist hip-hop track since "Drop It Like It's Hot" (with which it shares an affinity for the perfunctory synthesizer lick). Cassidy seems to relish his ability to swindle the naive, but with "I'm a Hustla," he's selling the listener the prime goods.
[8]

Anthony Miccio: I wish they'd turn the annoying loops down so I could hear him brag about what craven, unethical capitalist he is. I don't like having to listen hard for the scoop.
[3]

David Drake: Swizz is still in love with Jay-Z's voice and Cassidy sounds dirty and funny, selling raid to bugs and salt to slugs. In the last verse he just throws it down, gives it all he's got, hustling Genesis games in 5th grade! A hot line to a hot song! This is like some of that pre-Blueprint Jay-Z rap, a hustler's anthem. Jay threw up the baton and Cassidy's trying to grab it. (I'd still give it to T.I.)
[8]


Mario - How Could You
[4.3]


Ian Mathers: To think I once disparaged “Let Me Love You,” which is actually distinctive and kind of catchy next to this. This could be literally dozens of different singers without the song necessarily changing in any non-superficial way. Your woman did you wrong, dude? No shit! That never happens! Still, I wouldn’t mind getting a look at this “ghetto Kama Sutra” you keep talking about.
[3]

Erick Bieritz: I wonder if the “ghetto karma sutra” is part of a ghetto-themed splinter sect of Hinduism. My mind wanders among these kinds of thoughts while listening to a song this dull.
[3]

Matt Chesnut: It begins promisingly with a sound-effects laden backbeat and steers into standard R&B fare from there. The digi fills provide personality to a decent but otherwise indistinguishable ballad.
[6]

Akiva Gottlieb: If any new r&b song is ripe for an ironic emo cover, this is it. The cover, performed live by Brand New, would improve upon Mario’s template, because pathetic moping is only effective with the ladies when masked by a thick layer of tastefully distorted guitars. I predict Brand New is gonna have a ball with that “ghetto Kama Sutra” line.
[4]

Anthony Miccio: Look Mario, I'm sorry. I know you're hurt. I know you don't understand. I know you cared about me. It's just...I just don't love you, ok? You're ok and everything, I just can't pretend, alright? You're, fuck, alright, you're just NOT THAT SPECIAL, ALRIGHT?! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR!? YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW I COULD PICK SOMEONE ELSE? CUZ YOU'RE BORING, ALRIGHT?! DEAL!!! I need somebody to give ME the ghetto karma sutra, ok? Plus you kind of look like Chris Rock.
[4]

David Drake: This clearly isn't as good as "Let Me Love You" but for straightforward modern R&B it's got an interesting melody (hear that, Reznor?) and Mario talks about the "ghetto karma-sutra"! Yes it’s a bit MOR, but the last chorus is sort of godhead; the melodies are sublime enough to superscede the rather minimal and unremarkable production. Much like his first single.
[6]


Nine Inch Nails - The Hand That Feeds
[5.2]


Ian Mathers: When I say the best part of “The Hand That Feeds” is the part where Trent Reznor isn’t singing, don’t take it the wrong way—I just love what he does with that buzzy little synth and wish he’d do more with it. His lyrical milieu still seems to be mid-high school, but this isn’t bad at all, if a bit perfunctory for a big comeback. I mean, at least “We’re In This Together” was big, you know?
[6]

Erick Bieritz: The tinny live and demo versions of this song that I’ve heard sound like a bad college hard rock band playing the townie bar. The actual radio single may be quite a bit better but this sounds like a dreary hard rock song with clumsy rhymes wedged into turgid guitar chords.
[4]

Matt Chesnut: Calling all goths: you are hereby advised to get into the groove. Trent Reznor making more dance music for the bleak set, yyyeah!
[7]

Akiva Gottlieb: Angst by numbers doesn’t really suit NIN, and neither do lousy attempts at goth rhyme scheme poetry (“Will you bite the hand that feeds? / Will you chew until it bleeds? / Can you get up off your knees?”). Guileless and disposable.
[4]

Anthony Miccio: These guys are sort of a more emo version of the Fever. I like the beat and the keyboard hooks, but the singer's got to go. His lyrical imagery is hokey from the start ("the blood which we dine?" how old is this guy?) and his voices gets ever more shrieky and monochromatic as it progresses. Hard to say no to distorted keybs, but this is pretty amateurish overall.
[5]

David Drake: Holy crap does this sound 90s. Propulsive, and the little instrumental solo is fun, but on the whole "The Hand that Snoozes" is totally flat and unmemorable. Melody please?
[5]


Bobby Valentino - Slow Down
[7.0]


Ian Mathers: The backing has a very nice slink and sway to it, especially when one of the vocals start doing counterpart. The hand drums, claps and that gentle synth string in the back is just awesome—I’d love to find the instrumental for this. And the fact that he sounds like Smoove B for most of the song is a plus. But that “beauty/cutie” rhyme irks. More Smoove, less wince inducing couplets, please.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: I was sorta hoping this wouldn’t come up here because I have the sinking feeling that it will be stomped by my fellow writers as what-goes-around punishment for all my waggish mockery of those bum R&B tracks they like. But that doesn’t take anything away from Valentino’s willowy midnight bamboo-garden crooning.
[8]

Matt Chesnut: For every goofy lyrical step, there is an equal but opposite musical touch. For “Now turn around and bless me with your beauty, cutie,” there is a moaning orchestra and gentle harp plucking. For every tired “I was blown away by your sexiness,” there are throbbing bass stabs and tablas. If Bobby Valentino was worth a damn, this could be instant classic crooning. Settling for great is not too shabby, though.
[8]

Akiva Gottlieb: “Bless me with your beauty, cutie” is a pick-up line for the ages, but Bobby Valentino’s passionate plea for male-or-female affection (he doesn’t specify) lacks Usher’s hooks and R. Kelly’s frankness.
[3]

Anthony Miccio: Sometimes you see an ass on the street that's so nice you just wanna go up and MARRY it! I'm tempted to knock it up a notch for avoiding the obvious inclusion of Ludacris rap (he's even in the video!), but a Luda verse would probably make the track even better ("watch you walkin'/ Past Sbarro / Past the Jiffy LUUUUBE / Gotta stalk / Gotta follow / Gave me stiffy PUUUUBE").
[7]

David Drake: OK so he's sort of an amateurish cipher but this is gorgeous, atmospheric, sexy, wooshing, woozy heat-wave slow-motion music. The summertime girl-ogling song might be one of my favorite sub-genres ever, and when it floats by this elegantly, I'm in love. "Cupid hit me already...DAMN! Now I can't leave...til seven digits are in my hand!" So overly earnest, balanced out by the trembling production, light bongos and shimmering waves of scintillating sound. Future classic.
[9]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-04-08
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