The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week in singles—Black Eyed Peas bring the phunk, Ashanti begs for mercy, Gorillaz show you the business, 50 squeezes another one out and Howie Day sets new standards for whiteness. All this, and say it with me everyone—Backstreet’s Back, All Right!.


Howie Day - Collide
[3.4]


Ian Mathers: This has been in heavy rotation on the radio station we all settle for at work for weeks now, and I haven’t grown any fonder of it. It’s not a bad song, actually – something about the backing vocals makes me imagine Neil Finn singing it instead, and with an engaging performer this wouldn’t be half bad. But Howie Day’s personal appeal is basically on a par with Ryan Cabrera (well, maybe a little less punchable), and he sings the song all wrong. He’s just trying too hard.
[4]

Josh Love: I wonder if Howie penned this earnest little lovelorn ditty before or after he locked that girl in the bathroom because she wouldn’t put out. You’ve gotta feel for the guy – he emasculates himself every night with flaccid sub-Mayer folk-pop, I assume solely to woo the young ladies, and then his own groupies won’t even be Band-Aids.
[2]

Anthony Miccio: The fragile falsetto, earnest delivery and pleasant swoon-groove would be enough to make this a minor Adult Contemporary classic (Savage Garden with extra American horseshit), but the titular imagery is far too blatant. CUM TO HOWIE.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: A saccharine sweet acoustic ballad, “Collide” is best described as “tasteful.” It glides in and out of the room without so much as raising an eyebrow. There was some strumming and some falsetto and some doot doo doo doo’s to break up the tedium, but what a chore it is to get through the rest of it.
[3]

Sam Bloch: It’s like a game. See How Many Different Ways a Bunch of Writers Can Say ‘Unoriginal.’ Somebody up there is laughing at us.
[2]


Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
[6.0]


Ian Mathers: Gorillaz’ best material has always resulted from the band sounding (deceptively) lazy and ramshackle; “Feel Good Inc.” continues the trend. You can’t really tell what Albarn is mumbling, the guy from De La Soul is laughing at him, somewhere a bass is being plucked – and it’s great. The chorus could have been in Think Tank, only Think Tank didn’t have De La Soul.
[8]

Josh Love: Could someone please point me in the direction of the hook here? That’s the only reason I liked “19-2000” but it’s conspiciously absent on this one. Somehow Damon’s sucked Dangermouse and De La into his whirlpool of ineffectual electronica, wallpaper-placid hip-hop, and arch, unsatisfying pop. Bring back Del!
[4]

Anthony Miccio: Guess they didn't need Dan. Now I wish they'd try one without Damon.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: God, the strummed guitar part on this is gorgeous. It fills out the melody hinted at from the onset. The raps seem a bit forced, like jamming a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite belong, but it’s negligible on the whole. Somehow, “Feel Good Inc.” successfully weaves the pretty with the bizarre.
[8]

Sam Bloch: I thought the point was that Gorillaz weren’t supposed to like Blur. Especially not Think Tank.
[5]


Backstreet Boys - Incomplete
[5.5]


Ian Mathers: It start out sounding like a Michael Nyman score, and when the first one (you expect me to keep track which is which?) starts to sing, it sounds completely different than the sound of their glory days. In fact, even with all five singing, their voices merge until they sound like two people, and we have a bona fide lighters-aloft power ballad. And it’s not bad, but some part of your brain is sure to be asking where the Backstreet Boys went, because this might as well be a new act.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: Trading Boyz II Men for Evanescence is a great idea, but without Amy Lee's emotional affect this song doesn't lift quite like it could. Skirts dangerously close to nu-rasp, but this beats all the string sweeps on Sea Change.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: I think “overproduced” can be a tiresome criticism. What’s inherently wrong with big flowery productions? Can you “overwrite” something? I wouldn’t think so. However, I do think you can “underwrite,” puffing up a mediocre or bad song to be something much larger than it actually is. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I give you Exhibit A, where “Incomplete” is dressed up in a full orchestral arrangement to hide what little there is to this tepid song. I miss “Backstreet’s Back.”
[2]

Sam Bloch: Kelefa totally fucked up his anachronistic Garbage review the other day. He was all, “Garbage is the only band possible that can bring us the sorely-needed 90s revival.” Looks like he forgot a certain five-star of hotties.
[7]


Black Eyed Peas - Don't Phunk With My Heart
[5.6]


Ian Mathers: Another limp, interminable nugget of crap bereft of hooks, style or heart, only this time Fergie tries to sound like Gwen Stefani! This one takes me back to high school, when I reflexively hated all chart pop. It’s that bad.
[2]

Josh Love: Apparently the Peas want a piece of that Big and Rich country-rap crossover love, throwing a thigh-slapping “yee-haw” breakdown into the middle of the song for no discernible reason. Self-consciously “edgy” Whitney and Bobby reference aside, it almost goes without saying this is the best thing they’ve ever done, and it’s nice to know they’re still keeping 8th grade wordplay (let’s get retarded! y’all) on the charts.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: Disappointing. I hope this was picked as a first single for its annoying hook rather than stand-out quality. Bizonkers moments like "I'll play Bobby, you'll play Whitney" and the most ridiculous whinny since "Like I Love You" keep things entertaining, but the singles off Elephunk were more substantial on every level.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: File under “Exceeding Expectations” by a fucking country mile. Accept that Will.I.Am’s raps are corny and there’s more fun to be had. A slice of pop in the vein of “Toxic” with vocodor! Gone are the half-assed politics of “Where’s the Love?”; here are the days of uptempo dance tracks.
[7]

Sam Bloch: I imagine this will draw the ire of every panelist. Will.i.am slyly drops the “urr” a few times, the backbeat comes with regards from the Chemical Brothers, Boyllwood co-opting is still hot as ever etc., etc. The aural equivalent of a Livestrong bracelet in Wicker Park. But I don’t care. I was working on the organ sounds with much patience.
[8]


50 Cent - Just a Lil' Bit
[5.8]


Ian Mathers: I like the way this sort of flute sound gets used in rap, but could we have a little variety? It’s not the same sound as “Candy Shop” or “Magic Stick”, not quite, but it’s close enough that flute fatigue is setting in. The song is mostly saved by 50’s chorus, which has his best vocal performance on one of his own singles since probably “P.I.M.P.”, even if none of the rhymes are terribly exciting.
[6]

Josh Love: It may be hard to believe, but there actually are a couple (emphasis on couple) of decent cuts scattered amidst the messy hackwork that is The Massacre, and some of them weren’t even released already by The Game! Like “Outta Control” and “Ski Mask Way” and “Ryder Music” – but not this one! In theory the austere backdrop should suit 50’s mumbles to a T, but the lack of any real variety or dynamic shifts here renders it an absolutely crushing bore.
[3]

Anthony Miccio: Yer tho thilly.
[7]

Sam Bloch: Now that 50’s changed his flow (upgrade!) he can do whatever he wants. Same dumb lyrics, many tabla and sitar solos, pump his well-deserved cash into G-Unity, “get his drink on.” What he does is his business.
[7]


Ashanti - Don't Let Them
[5.8]


Ian Mathers: I’m guessing this sort of neo-soul track is the same type of naked credibility grab as a pop punk band suddenly doing a solo acoustic ballad. Still, nicely simmering organ, awesomely understated bass and piano purring along in the background, a fine if undistinguished performance by Ashanti – my goodness, we no only have two good singles in a row from the former Ja Rule groupie but she’s managed to do a restrained slow burner without being boring. Alert the media.
[7]

Josh Love: Not nearly as much of a drop-off as I would’ve expected from “Only U,” but far from acceptable at a time when R&B divas like Teedra Moses and Brooke Valentine are taking the genre in highly individual, emotionally compelling new directions. It does have one thing going for it: reminding me of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” for some reason.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: "You gotta tell me you need me," huh? Makes me want to play Franz Ferdinand's "Cheated On You" next. I like that they're using those OK Computer sound effects from "Happy" in the background.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: The follow-up to the surprisingly great “Only U,” Ashanti is starting to make ways towards establishing herself as something other than a Beyonce clone. This isn’t earth-shattering, but the old church organ, dub-ish bass and whooshes make for an enjoyable if solemn fear-of-separation tune.
[6]

Sam Bloch: Isaac Hayes is the new cowbell, apparently. But Ashanti still manages to ruin a pretty decent organ bed with her signature croon. And the ubiquitous windchime, of course.
[4]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-04-22
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