The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week on singles—Mariah tunes in to the radio, Nelly figures out that people only want him for his word slurs, Mudvayne lay on the sarcasm a little thick, Squeak E. Clean and Karen O. provide the soundtrack to your footware-related nightmares, and My Chemical Romance and The Used take on that song that sort of sounds like Vanilla Ice. All this, and the return of Kanye West (remember him??) on this week’s Singles Going Steady!


Mudvayne - Happy?
[4.0]


Ian Mathers: His ProTooled voice sounds like everyone else, and so do his lyrics. So does the music. Why does pop metal always have to be processed to death rather than, you know, produced? I’m not asking for low fidelity, just a little life and spark in the sound. This does not make me feel happy, no.
[2]

John M. Cunningham: I could do without all the screaming, which gets messy and tedious, but there are some moments of jagged charm here. Eh. I'm feeling agreeable.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: These guys went #2 on the album charts, so they must have some fan base. I wish alt-metal didn’t flirt with soft melodic verses so much. I think these detours derail the aggro momentum, effectively neutralizing what could be a really heavy neck-ruiner. As it is, this is harmless enough to hear over a PA.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: This one actually could have gone somewhere as it intones “the dead are rolling over” in ominous deadpan in a guarded little passage behind the intro. But the chorus is too blocky, too overt, too clumsily struggling for le angst. Blown opportunity.
[4]

Anthony Miccio: I couldn't decide if I was happy these guys sold out until I saw the video. I'm not. They're still dressed funny, but not "ha-ha" funny. Coherency only reveals how little they have to say.
[4]

Andrew Unterberger: It’s hard to remember sometimes with all the exciting things happening in alt-rock that the majority of radio standards are still songs like this. Not that it’s that terrible, but it’s unexciting enough to explain the state of crisis the format is currently dealing with.
[4]


Nelly - Errtime
[6.3]


Ian Mathers: Ah, here I’d assumed this was a distortion of “airtime”, not “everytime”. Still, Jazze Pha does it again—I can’t explain why I like this stomp but didn’t like “Hollaback Girl”’s, but I do. That sliding synthesizer part will probably get tiresome soon, but for now it still hits the sweet spot. Everything “Shake Your Tailfeather” could have been and wasn’t.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: A prototypical Nelly single, in the sense that the beat and general vibe don’t depart too much from tracks like “Air Force Ones” or “Shake Ya Tailfeather.” But it’s got spirit, and I like that Jung Tru pre-empts any accusations of them stealing that slick “Goodies” whistle by shouting out to Ciara in his verse.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: Jazze Pha turned in another gem. The worm from “1, 2 Step” gets more airtime, this time next to an arena-rap stomp beat. And Nelly’s not bad either. That is if you’re no inherently opposed to his sing-song raps. Add this to the running list of great 2005 soundtrack songs (“1 Thing”, “Switch” on a good day).
[8]

Erick Bieritz: Fun, but a placeholder for both Jazze and Nelly, particularly compared to the team’s “Sweat” banger “Na-Nana-Na.” Nelly’s here to set the stage for “The Longest Yard,” a film which will surely launch his acting career, forcefully, um, into the turf; but if in some roundabout way “Errtime” is going to put some cash in Cloris Leachman’s pockets we’ll let it slide.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: I love Nelly's sing-song flow enough that I enjoy his rote party tracks. This is one. Docked a point for having practically the same keyboard hook as Mariah Carey's "It's Like That" with a touch of "Goodies" at the tail. Distracting.
[5]

Andrew Unterberger: Part of me’ll always hate the dude, but he knows his producers and he knows his hooks. It’s hard to really enjoy, but it’s damn near impossible to deny.
[6]


The Used and My Chemical Romance - Under Pressure
[4.8]


Ian Mathers: I love you, My Chemical Romance, and it’s nice that you recorded something out of sympathy for the tsunami, but why would you pick possibly the most perfect song ever? You can’t improve on it, and to your credit it doesn’t sound like you really tried, you just played it with louder guitars. Bert McCracken kind of stinks the joint up, though. Pick your covers, and your partners, more carefully next time, please.
[3]

John M. Cunningham: I’m sort of embarrassed I like this as much as I do. I mean, it helps that it’s a cover of fucking “Under Pressure,” but the bands also convey a welcome sense of ridiculousness by making the line “pray TO-MOR-ROW takes me HIGH-ER” sound like there’s two dozen vowels in it. Actually, you know what, this is just really awesome karaoke.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: There is a very apt “Unda pressha!” imitation. Unfortunately, this is subject to Standard Cover Song Criticism: doesn’t hold up to the original, etc. The bright electronic opening hints at something different, but it mostly cleans up its predecessor for modern rock. Which isn’t a bad thing: the build-up to “this is our last dance” still moves me and convinces me that this dude from MCR might be onto something.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: And so what’s the point? Bowie and Mercury certainly mined it for everything it was worth, and figuratively falling on his knees and bleeding into the microphone, Mercury knew it was Queen’s last dance. And what sort of soul-barring melodrama can these young pups bring to this desperate howl? Nothing, and so it is reduced to less than even mere reference, a cover that has less reason to exist than, say, a tossed-off novelty stab at “She Blinded Me With Science.”
[2]

Andrew Unterberger: This sounds a whole lot like The Used and My Chemical Romance covering “Under Pressure”. There’s something a little bit disappointing about that, but there’s also something to be said for two bands at the height of their powers taking on such a classic and being able to do it justice in almost every aspect—which really isn’t that easy. So props.
[6]


Mariah Carey - We Belong Together
[5.3]


Ian Mathers: Momentary flashback to Anita Bryant at the beginning notwithstanding (the horror, the horror), this is better than most of her ballads. Because it has a beat. Nice verse about the perils of listening to the radio with a broken heart (and the lyrics are generally much better than her heyday), but the real charm are those backing vocals on the chorus, especially when they take over the last line of it. Smoove.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: This seems like the kind of pretty lite-R&B that the chameleonic Carey should be able to tackle with ease, inasmuch as it doesn’t thrust her head-on into some futuristic crunk-diva makeover. But her voice really seems shot, and I just feel sorry for her.
[4]

Matt Chesnut: This is more like the Mariah I’m familiar with, a slow piano ballad with Mariah’s range roving albeit updated with its deep bass hits and digi handclaps. Instead of wasting her breath by going for the top of her voicebox early, she waits for the last 45 seconds or so for the climax. A subtle touch and keeps it from getting too tedious.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: Well, it’s confident, and solid, and those are virtues, albeit small ones here. Heartbroken, searching the radio for a sympathetic song, the listener momentarily syncs up with Mariah and thinks perhaps this is good; and then a moment later they move on down the dial.
[5]

Anthony Miccio: Tell her again...that you'll be lovers & friends. Try yelling "SHORRDAY" at the end of each line—it's fun! I have a hard time connecting with Mariah's voice emotionally (news), but I like the way the song builds and the employment of Eric Roberts in the video. If only the young dude was Brandon Flowers!
[6]

Andrew Unterberger: If MiMi was truly emancipated, “It’s Like That” was poor evidence of it—it sounded like Mariah going through the motions, which isn’t a bad thing, except they weren’t her motions she was going through. This is what Mariah-by-numbers should be, her voice as vulnerable as ever, firing on all four cylinders on the chorus like all her best ballads do. It’s like that.
[6]


Squeak E. Clean feat. Karen O. - Hello Tomorrow
[5.8]


Ian Mathers: I love the intro and outro, and not just because those are the bits with Karen O actually singing (although I do like the fact that she sounds like she’s trying to pull a Cat Power), but the middle is a bit… anonymous. Enjoyable—I have a thing for echoing, clipped snare hits, and it’s all very well constructed, but faceless. I’m actually a little surprised something like this is on the US charts, but it’s a nice change of pace.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: Like Jon Brion arranging Cat Power, except neither put much effort into it. It’s still an amusing two-minute trifle, though like the Adidas commercial it scores, it seems more interesting than it actually is.
[5]

Matt Chesnut: For a song for a Spike Jonze (WHO?) Adidas spot, “Hello Tomorrow” makes good use of Karen’s quiet, dry delivery and some glockenspiel to spice up what would be a routine guitar strummer.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: …or “jonzeing for some music to buy shoes for your old lady to.” It’s a trippy little skip-hop song scattered with fragments of Karen O. that don’t even sound particularly like her. Has Sofia Coppola started a shoegaze band yet?
[5]

Anthony Miccio: You know how you tend to forget your trippy little dreams about an hour you have them?
[5]

Andrew Unterberger: It could’ve been even better—think Aimee Mann in Magonlia—but it’s still quite lovely. Is this on the radio? Hope it manages an MTV2 coup, at least.
[7]


Kanye West - Diamonds
[7.0]


Ian Mathers: Shirley Bassey, yes, that’s good, but the pisstake on “Mrs. Jackson” and “Vegas on acid” lines are what my mind seizes on. Great use of the sample, some neat grainy synths, and it turns out that the reason I didn’t like much off of his last album except “Jesus Walks” is because what Kanye does best is larger-than-life arrogance. ‘Cuz after all, the rock is still alive every time he rhymes.
[8]

John M. Cunningham: When I first heard this, the inevitable “state-of-affairs” single to introduce the sophomore release, all I could focus on was the brilliant OutKast swipe that Kanye rides into the stratosphere all paranoid-like. But check all the other tricks, too: that supple, sinister synth-bass, the trickling harpsichord arpeggios, the gorgeous Shirley Bassey sample. And after the recent Ludacris tribute to Austin Powers, I’m totally ready for the cosmopolitan 007 sound to take over hip-hop.
[8]

Matt Chesnut: Kanye's back ("Already?" you say) and this time he's biting Andre 3000. The tribute to "Ms. Jackson" is okay at first, but the trail of "eva eva"'s could grate under the wrong circumstances. Otherwise this is a promising lead-off. Let's hope Late Registration doesn't close with a 12-minute long story of how he conquered Bono as music's biggest blowhard.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: Darling-not-darling Kanye sweeps in on an imperial E-Taylorian carpet and he’s bitter, self-righteous, spitting bile; bulimic, even. He preps his production perfectly on this one with the good sense to go mine a deep sound, not a high-pitched one, on the sample. It’s lyrically sharp but fumbles a bit on the chorus when he chooses the cute “forever-ever.” The angrier he gets the better, and a smashed armoire and tumble down the staircase with mascara running would have put this one up another point, but regardless the clever twist from romance to loyalty and humbleness to outrage is appreciated.
[8]

Anthony Miccio: Chorus opens with the suggestion that I throw my diamonds in the sky and ends with an Outakst interpolation that breaks the Geneva convention. Nostalgia about the glory of Jay-Z leads to the song's thesis: Kanye is the new Jay-Z. I can't fathom how Kanye forgot to chipmunk the Bond sample—it’s not like one detects much restraint here. Chalk my mild approval for this song up to the enjoyable backdrop and an eternal fondness for OMGWTFLOL.
[6]

Andrew Unterberger: I’m officially ready to start unreservedly hating Kanye. Luckily, this song doesn’t sound like it’ll be a hit—to be reminded that he’s human is probably the best thing that could happen to him at this point.
[5]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-04-29
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