The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week in Singles Going Steady: Missy Elliott loses control, The Killers smile like they mean it, the Pussycat Dolls ask “don’t cha,” Pretty Ricky asks you to grind with him, Shakira does/is/wants (?) “La Tortura,” and Dave Matthews talks about an “American Baby”…

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From: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
To: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 23, 2005 8:23 AM
Subject: SALVO

I sent this e-mail to Andrew by accident last night, drunk off my ass. Here it is, verbatim.

'Yo John, so I've been hearing this Pussycat Dolls bullshit on the radio for a while now, and while I definitely detected that this sub-Fantasia shit wouldn't get on the radio without ultra-commercial bolstering, this is pretty sad sack. Missy and the Killers are basically what you could expect from them. Shakira might make more sense if I knew how to speak a language other than English and “American Baby” is fucking dusting. If you're going to suggest that one "stay American, baby" you better spend a good 15 minutes explaining what 'American' means to your South African expatriate self. But anyhow, Hi John! American pop radio is complete horseshit, how are you???

Anthony

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From: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
To: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 23, 2005 8:28 AM
Subject: Re: SALVO

Haha, do you want this to count as part of our dialogue?

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From: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
To: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 23, 2005 11:24 AM
Subject: Re: SALVO

oh definitely. To clarify, I actually enjoy the Pussycat Dolls track a little bit. It feels very amateurish, which is why I assumed it might be Fantasia or some other American Idol newborn diva. It's like when a local person makes a 'pop song' and you tell them it sounds just like a real song that would be on the radio. It's amusing but I wouldn't miss it for a second. BTW, I wish our peers would shut up about "Smile Like You Mean It." While I'm amused at how Brandon Flowers attacks an I Love The 80s comp the same way Hanson did that Time-Life comp (there's such innocence to his pomposity—those “oh no”'s at the end!), I think I'm at T-six months to finding nu-wave officially stultifying.

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From: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
To: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 23, 2005 9:26 PM
Subject: Re: SALVO

Anthony,

I like "Don't Cha" as well, although I'm not sure I agree that it sounds particularly amateurish. In fact, Philip Sherburne had a blog entry recently where he compared the subtle spookiness of its production to microhouse. What do you think? Or were you the guy who claimed your first exposure to Kompakt was through the Kompakt Kittens site? I'm no dance expert myself, but I can kind of see what Sherburne means, especially with that distant horror-organ.

But I'm actually more interested in the fact that the Pussycat Dolls have remade a song that's not even three months old, for reasons that have apparently not been publicized. Though the original version was by a solo act (Tori Alamaze) and the Dolls are six Vegas showgirls, the vocals sound remarkably similar. After that, it's a tradeoff: I like the back-and-forth trumpet-and-sax on the Dolls' rendition but wish Busta Rhymes, who's not on the original, would stay out. His rap not only lacks a sense of dynamics but it also sounds like he's desperately trying to keep up with himself. Weak.

As for Das Killers, I seem to have missed all this supposed discourse surrounding "Smile Like You Mean It." What are people saying? Me: It's no "Mr. Brightside," but I dig how they use the synth as a hook for the first time, sort of like "12:51" but with way more melodrama. And then that flash of an Edge guitar solo, all spacious and intense! I dunno, when I listened to the full album once last summer, nothing really registered, but I've liked all three singles. Maybe it's just that I can't take all that moodiness at once.

But let's talk about Dave Matthews for a moment, whom you describe, drunkenly, as "fucking dusting." Which I kinda love. I'm going to admit, however, that I don't hate this song. Yeah, it's totally idiotic. Yeah, Dave's a simpering douchebag. But I'm quite drawn to that fragile acoustic-guitar figure at the song's backbone: it's rhythmically propulsive, and it sort of sounds like a dulcimer. (In fact, on my way home from work tonight, I kept playing the first 15 seconds, right before Dave starts groaning, and then recueing it, and imagined it was a Four Tet remix.) Also: big Max Weinberg drums. Help me.

John

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From: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
To: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 24, 2005 10:13 PM
Subject: Re: SALVO

Haha, yeah, the only microhouse I've heard since the Kittens is Justus Kohncke. The production on "Don't Cha" is charming but aside from Busta-as-Luda, which is barely noteworthy, the song just feels kind of personality-free. No wonder the technoids dig it, ho ho. Yeah, I knew the roots of the Pussycat Dolls but not the specifics about their line-up as a pop act. More burlesque than American Idol stuff but still cross-promotional spin-off music. I had no idea Tori Alamaze was somebody who would sing lyrics like that. Whenever I hear ILXors and only ILXors talking about an act I assume its chilly art stuff.

By peers I probably meant Andrew and maybe one or two other Stylus folks who think "Smile Like You Mean It" is THE Killers song. I do like the song, but my troth is pledged to "Mr. Brightside." I get cranky when people prefer one of the other two singles.

"American Baby" is one of those songs that get an F from me just on principle. I prefer his adult contemporary side to his jam side but I'm not gonna be able to tolerate a song whose hook is "Stay beautiful, baby. I hope you stay American, baby" unless the song lyrics are fucked up and literal enough to add a little irony a la "Born In The USA" and "Rockin' In The Free World" (who also have infinitely superior hooks). Matthews references losing faith, God's grace lost, the devil being proud, and losing the way. It's the pinnacle of purple state bullshit—be patriotic about whatever you're patriotic about, mourn whatever side you see as being anti-God. Video makes a case for melting pot, but so does the Bush cabinet. Matthews should have to lick the shit off that boat his busdriver defiled. The saxophone player should merely be fired. In case its not clear to the folks at home, I meant to type "fucking disgusting" originally.

Btw, "Lose Control": Missy talking about how great she is over a beat that's both old school and eccentric. That I don't feel like saying much about it implies it’s not as noteworthy as some of her earlier hits. It also means that she remains a reliable source of fun.

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From: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
To: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 25, 2005 12:20 PM
Subject: Re: SALVO

Yeah, I like "Lose Control" a lot—that and "Smile Like You Mean It" are my two favorites of this week. Part of what I like is how it balances its three distinct voices, as the barking of Fatman Scoop (Lord, what a name!) recedes into the distance as Missy steps forward, and then Ciara weaves in, cooing on cue. I've never been as over the moon about Ciara as some—she seems so charmless, although maybe that's the point (and I have to say, "Oh" has grown on me quite a bit since I panned it). But she and Missy seem like such a natural team, and I hope they keep working together.

"Chilly art stuff": you don't like Junior Boys, then? ;-)

(Actually, speaking of which, I hear more of an electronic dance influence on "Lose Control" than on "Don't Cha," but it's probably more of an old-school sound, as you suggest. It sometimes reminds me of the ersatz-techno of "Ghettomusick." I've also been frustrating myself trying to describe the loop that tilts and sputters throughout the whole song, but all I can think of is a blinking pinball machine.)

You're probably (at least somewhat) right about Dave Matthews. As much as I hate to admit it, I fear that sometimes being a musician makes it easier for me to forgive pop songs that show the slightest bit of musical complexity. Probably the worst sin a song can commit for me is just being boring. And "American Baby," despite its lyrical inanities, is still sort of rhythmically compelling.

Lest everyone think I'm being a total booster this week, I can't really get excited about either Shakira's "La Tortura" or Pretty Ricky's "Grind With Me," the latter of which we haven't even mentioned yet.

Shakira first hit the airwaves when I was barely paying attention to pop music at all, so unless I'm mistaken, this is the first song of hers I've heard. It's not bad, but I'm surprised at how traditional it is, considering she's had so much crossover success—i.e., it's no different from most of the Latin pop that seeps out of cars in my neighborhood. As for Pretty Ricky, I give up. Thoughts?

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From: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
To: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 25, 2005 8:00 PM
Subject: Re: SALVO

Junior Boys is the reason I bother paying attention to the scene at all. Occasionally pigs find a truffle.

Does this Pretty Ricky track have any actual success behind it? Cuz while the countdown is neat and it sounds like he demands you "exterminate your eyes," the melismas are murder, the rap is pretty aggro and obnoxious for an R&B slow jam and the beat is dragass. I don't even feeling like going into it. Anyone who cares enough about R&B to be offended by our terse indifference to this generic groan probably doesn't read Stylus. As far as Shakira goes, it's pleasant but as I have no idea what she's singing about I can't get too involved. The hook isn't strong enough to grab me without context. The video is though!

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From: john_cunningham@stylusmagazine.com
To: anthony_miccio@stylusmagazine.com
Date: May 26, 2005 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: SALVO

I haven't heard "Grind With Me" on the radio yet—which could maybe just be because my new car has a CD player—but it jumped to #18 on this week's Hot 100, so it seems like people are into it. But I think I mostly agree with you!


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-05-27
Comments (3)
 

 
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