Singles Going Steady
his week in Singles: Gwen Stefani writes another ballad dedicated to that dude who isn't her husband, Gavin DeGraw goes Ben-Hur, The Game and R. Kelly get exclusive, and Beck brings us his least weird single yet (with title to match). All this and Natasha's crack at the U.S., on this week's Singles Going Steady!
Natasha Bedingfield – These Words
Matt Chesnut: If you can get past this song’s subject matter (writing a song, bleh), you might enjoy the cut-up stabs of strings and bass, which jerk around a deceptively straight forward beat.
Alfred Soto: Talk about anxiety of influence! Avril Lavigne has been around long enough to inspire lots of young women with vague nonconformist instincts as attracted to mild guitar raunch as they are to skater bois. Bedingfield mixes the vocal hook from Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?’ with turntable scratches from Sugar Ray’s “Fly;” her call-and-response harmonies and raspy tenor signal an experience with love that would make Michelle Branch regret hooking up with Carlos Santanta. Harold Bloom, are you pleased as punch?
Josh Timmermann: OH MY GOD! I don't even know who Natasha Bedingfield is, but--"read some Byron, Shelley, and Keats / recited it over a hip-hop beat"-- I LOVE THIS I LOVE THIS I LOVE THIS! This narrowly edges out Kelly Osbourne to snag my vote for best single so far this year.
Akiva Gottlieb: In this meta-journey through the arduous task of pop songwriting, Natasha goes so far as to consider throwing down Byron, Shelley, and Keats over a hip-hop beat. I'm glad she decided to forego that experiment, because she's a better poet than all three combined. Maybe a little eccentric for US radio, but "These Words" has a really inspiring conceit: why waste so much intellectual energy on a love song that should be three words long?
Anthony Miccio: Is this Robbie Williams' Camille project? As far as melodic meta goes, I prefer Jason Mraz's "Wordplay." More honestly dorky.
Beck - Girl
Matt Chesnut: Well, it’s summer, which means it’s time for Summer Girls and songs about them…oh, fuck it, let’s make more Scientology jokes. You think this song is about Xenu?
Alfred Soto: With lovely chorus harmonies as ironically sincere as he (probably?) intended, this is one of the highlights from his excellent Guero, an album full of unexpected minor pleasures. He’s a more convincing love man when he’s noting that his girl spits on the sand where the bones are bleaching than when he admits to being a lost cause. Has he finally accepted that Prince’s “Do Me, Baby” is beyond him?
Josh Timmermann: I pawned Guero a week after I got it, but thought, hey, maybe Beck's getting his Rubber Soul on or something, and, really, you know, I liked Sea Change plenty at the time, even if it hasn't aged particularly well. But, ah, I remember this now; it blows. 
Akiva Gottlieb: Beck seems kind of irrelevant in 2005's pop landscape, but here's another fine single from an album I don't care to hear. "Girl" starts off sounding like LCD Soundsystem before seguing into twangy California country-boogie. A late-afternoon driving song if I've ever heard one.
Anthony Miccio: Beck's voice just feels insufferably sleepy these days. I listen to pop radio, I don't need Droopy here as my hot beat surrogate. This is pretty good for indie similacrum though, Bleach Boys chorus, Mellow Gold blues break and everything.
Gwen Stefani - Cool
Matt Chesnut: Gwen jumps to nu-new wave and succeeds. At this point, I’m ready to take back anything bad I have said about Gwen solo. “Rich Girl” and “What U Waiting For” have totally grown on me and I will take any spot on the “‘Hollaback Girl’ is amazing” bandwagon. The musical persona of Gwen Stefani is amorphous and she’s one single away from reaching Usher levels of big.
Alfred Soto: Coming on like she wishes her former band’s “Ex Girlfriend” had sounded like an outtake from Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Gwen couches her “mature,” L.A. self-help sentiments in glistening synth-sparkles – sorta like “All Through The Night” sung by Stevie Nicks – and her way with the demotic. I liked the directness of the line, “You call me by my new last name.” I’m reasonably confident that Tony and Gavin are good drinking buddies.
Josh Timmermann: Less grating than "Rich Girl," but as I'm still not sick of spelling 'bananas', this just seems kind of unnecessary.
Akiva Gottlieb: Easily my most-played mp3 of the past month, and the mixtape song of the summer. "Cool" describes not only the track's nostalgic new-wave sheen, but the admirably restrained emotions on display. It's the subject matter of "Don't Speak" crossed with vintage Cyndi Lauper, without the achy lovelorn theatrics of the No Doubt track. Gwen's not trying to wow anybody with Neptunisms or girl power here; of the four singles from L.A.M.B., "Cool" is the one we'll karaoke to in ten years, when the term "hollaback" sounds as dated as "cowabunga".
Anthony Miccio: Ah, now we're back to the mawkish new wave singer-songwriter Stefani from yore. Sounds like "Don't Let Me Down" from Rock Steady with a lot less energy. I'm assuming this is the last single off the album.
R. Kelly f/ The Game - Playas Only
Matt Chesnut: I’m going to try and work “Throw the pussy like Elway” into my personal lexicon.
Alfred Soto: Surrounded by players and thugs, the girl goes wild in the club, presumably for Kells and The Game, who are both at the top of theirs (their game, that is; who or what Kells is on top of is the prosecutor’s business), I guess. Depends on your tolerance for their bullshit. Both sound like they’re not at the same club, let alone the same track. Yet another entry in the fertile hiphop tradition of collab-as-homoerotic-duet; Lord knows what kind of playas are allowed in that club. Does Fitty know?
Josh Timmermann: Not as heady as "Trapped in the Closet" parts 1-83--but, right, what is?--and I'm still rooting for "Put You on the Game" to make it to a radio near me, but for now, I guess I'll take this.
Akiva Gottlieb: Like most red-blooded Americans, I like my R. Kelly insane, gun-toting, and sex-crazed, and while "Playas Only" covers these subjects in cursory fashion, it doesn't ooze salacious intrigue like "T.I.C. (pt. 1-5)" or "S.I.K. (single and remix)". This single might work better in the context of the album, as an invitation into R. Kelly Wonka's factory of delights, but for the already initiated, it's tame stuff.
Anthony Miccio: This guy at work left a bible verse on the computer the other day saying that the wicked walk freely when evil is celebrated by the world. This might help explain the exuberance of Mr. Kells. One thing I'll give the Game: when the beat's great and the other vocalist is a bonafide entertainer, he doesn't sink the track. I will admit that Scott Storch is at 12:32 if not 14:59.
Gavin Degraw - Chariot
Matt Chesnut: Scene: Panning a major urban city. It is the weekend; well-dressed white people are enjoying REASONABLY PRICED BREW in a number of locales. One MALE smiles at one BROAD. Cue: Gavin DeGraw’s “Chariot.” MALE and BROAD inch closer to each other. Caption: “REASONABLY PRICED BREW. Sex might be happening.”
Alfred Soto: Duncan Sheik! How’ve ya been, dawg? Didn’t I see you with Amy Grant at the Pete Yorn show?
Josh Timmermann: Didn't Ashlee's man do this song last year? Or is this dude Ashlee's new boyfriend? (Sorry, I haven't watched VH1 in a while). Either way, the Gretchen Wilson track of the same name kicks this shit's ass. Downgrade.
Akiva Gottlieb: Remember how good that Evan and Jaron single was? Seriously.
Anthony Miccio: Too much Train, not enough Maroon 5. If you hate both, then don't bother. If you love both...wtf are you doing here? 
Boyz n Da Hood - Dem Boyz
Matt Chesnut: The production is really similar to a lot of T.I. latest singles. The clicking triplets almost sound like they’re there by accident. Hearing them on my TV (whose sound leaves something to be desired), they can be irritating. Luckily I’ve got decent enough computer speakers to hear them buried under the throb of the bass. It should be noted that Dem Boyz are NOT the N.W.A. of the South.
Josh Timmermann: Is that the Halloween theme? If so, why did Eminem not come up with this already? Actually, even if not, why did Eminem not come up with this already? Too busy sampling Heart?
Akiva Gottlieb: A concoction of Dirty South syntax and N.W.A-ttitude that sounds less inspired than tired, "Dem Boyz" proves only that P. Diddy should leave the Southern rap to those who've already earned their stripes, rather than lending his proteges a copy of "Crunk for Dummies."
Anthony Miccio: Guns, money, respect, the streets, decent beat, popular friends, alright, here's your BET rotation and platinum record. Clap clap.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-07-15