The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week in singles, Paul Wall and Big Pokey lean left, Natalie & Baby Bash power up, Rob Thomas is still out of luck with the ladies, Jay-Z gets some pointers from Teairra Marie, and The Killers coin the most, um, distinctive musical catchphrase of the summer. All this and Mario’s hand at a Whitesnake cover (no, not really, but we still wish) on this week’s Singles Going Steady!


Mario - Here I Go Again
[6.2]


Ian Mathers: Well shit, at least now he’s admitting he’s a codependent pushover. He also sounds more like Usher than before, which isn’t exactly bad but does remind one that Mario is essentially the R&B world’s version of a discount brand. Using guitars isn’t really a plus or minus, as the production isn’t interesting enough in either direction to make a difference. Which seems to be emblematic of Mario’s problem.
[3]

Anthony Miccio: I really like the symphonic metal backdrop, but, hey, Mario...I KNOW WOMEN WON'T GIVE YOU A BREAK. For christ sake, take a hint. You're a dumbass who smart women don't want anything to do with - the only people who put up with you want your money. Stop whining and show a little self-reliance.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: Hip-hop dallies with rock often enough, and yet the last person I expected to join in was slow-jam king Mario. It's integrated nicely, too, as the dirty two-note guitar riff gives way to a free-floating, luxuriant string break, and Mario gamely croons throughout.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The wtf moment comes at the 2:20 mark when a celeste joins a guitar for a loop-de-loop, an apt reflection of Mario’s chest-beating.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: Mario is a pussy. As if sucking all the fun out of “Just a Friend” wasn’t bad enough, he returned this year with a song asking that the subject of his affection to let him love her. Bad move. After a few months of that she lets anther guy do the ghetto kama sutra and instead of being pissed as hell Mario just asks “How Could You”? Strike two. So now its July and he’s pissing and moaning about how this girl wasted his money and treated him badly after everyone told him she was bad news anyway. But for the first time he rips it over some boss guitar jabs and actually takes command of the beat and his dumb life for once, and then two-thirds of the way through he suddenly jumps into buttery strings and chimes, and the unexpected shift borders on genius. He’s still a hand-wringing wet blanket, but “Here I Go Again” seems to suggest he’s finally catching on to that fact, and getting pretty damn angry about it.
[9]

Matt Chesnut: Come for the bridge, stay for THE BRIDGE. One of those wait-wait-here-comes-the-good-part deals, it’s inspired by Michael Jackson’s disco time and for about 20 seconds is a terrific song. The rest: chug chug metallish guitar over “Caught Up.”
[6]


Teairra Marie f/ Jay-Z - Make Her Feel Good
[5.2]


Ian Mathers: I’m still a sucker for stuttered kick drums, and I imagine the lyrical bent of this song will be a relief for most reviewers (I know it is for me). It almost feels like a despairing response song to the milquetoast likes of Mario, or a less silly version of “Soldier”, but it’s better than that suggests. Nearly as nice a combination of the airy and the thumpy as Ciara’s singles. Also: featuring Jay-Z, my ass.
[8]

Anthony Miccio: Valid complaints, but I find the best way to get sympathy is to be sympathetic. How Jay-Z kept himself from adding an "I am rich and wonderful" guest rap is beyond me, but I'm grateful. I wish Eazy-E was alive to record an answer track, though.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: It's been a good year for Eric B. & Rakim: first, 50 Cent refs "My Melody" in "Hate It or Love It," then it gets sampled here. Unfortunately, Teairra Mari's own melody is mostly unremarkable, apart from conveying a sense of stark desperation. Oh wait, did I hear Jay-Z go "woo"?
[5]

Alfred Soto: Teairra asks a question of existential importance: can a chick from the hood find a homey who’ll do more than spend money on her? So what does she do? She phones Jigga for the answer. Of course, we know from “Girls Girls Girls” that he’ll probably reverse the charges on that collect call. The home girl got it right the first time: “every question brings another question.”
[5]

Erick Bieritz: I’ve heard three versions of this song, only one featured a rapper, and it wasn’t Jay-Z. It probably wouldn’t make much of a difference, though, as Hova himself would have a hard time rescuing Marie’s flat repetition of the vanilla chorus from yogurt mediocrity.
[4]

Matt Chesnut: Note to producer: learn one new trick. If you’re going to use this sub-Neptunes beat and Exorcist keys, at least make the hook interesting. Totally joyless.
[3]


Paul Wall f/ Big Pokey - Sittin' Sidewayz
[6.5]


Ian Mathers: More than a little reminiscent of “Still Tippin’” as far as basic flow and chorus goes (although with the horns replaced with a farty synth melody), “Sittin’ Sidewayz” mostly suffers from the fact that Paul Wall doesn’t seem to be having as much fun as on the former. He’s rhyming faster and with more focus than before, but what I liked about his verse on “Still Tippin’” was the way he seemed like such a goof. If Slim Thug hadn’t already beaten this one cold I might be a bit more impressed.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: This is not as fun as a screwed "Ice Ice Baby" should be. I'm guessing that's why people respect him.
[5]

John M. Cunningham: I have a feeling that I'm going to get tired of this Houston scene eventually -- there's not much about the key players that I find exactly thrilling -- but right now, that sparse, creeping production is still new enough to sound refreshing.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: Paul Wall’s personalized introduction to the mainstream by its nature almost has to be a greatest hits of lines from his years of mixtapes, but it’s all new to most of the people hearing it, and there’s plenty to love. Big Pokey turns in solid support with some shop talk, and “motor like a snot nose” is very quotable.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: Houston’s coming out party continues and the city continues to capitalize on its just weird enough to stay on the radio productions. Bass squelches that sound like they come from another planet and a beat that does not quit, this is fantastic.
[9]


Natalie f/ Baby Bash - Energy
[5.8]


Ian Mathers: So I guess “Goin’ Crazy” really was a fluke – Baby Bash is pretty good, Hall & Oates shout-out and all, and the song proper isn’t horrible, but it’s a bit bland. Her voices just grates on the chorus this time, for some reason. It’s not as smooth as “Goin’ Crazy” was, and given that the smoothness was it’s prime virtue, “Energy” is left with nothing much.
[5]

Anthony Miccio: "Goin' Crazy" is one of my favorite singles of the year - but a drop in vulnerability turns her into yet another caterer. Baby Bash, who seems to be a cross between Pitbull and Ma$e, proves himself more worthy of a melodic massage than that guy with the funny hat in the Destiny's Child video, but I need more raw sexuality and humor to be moved by these kind of submissive love letters. This may say more about me, I admit.
[5]

John M. Cunningham: Natalie sorta reminds me of Janet Jackson when she plays sweet instead of raunchy. This one never really takes off, but it's pleasant and dreamy, with the kind of bright, noodly guitar licks I thought I'd grown sick of in modern R&B. I guess not.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Evoking Aaliyah’s “I Miss U,” this is sweet without being mawkish. The wah-wah guitar adds unexpected chunk, as do the allusion to Hall & Oates. However a rapper who calls himself Baby Bash is not my idea of a guy’s guy (we know he’s fo real cuz he drinks Hennessy and says “offich”), and I’m getting bored of girls digging on a guy’s energy while said power plant swaggers and growls in the background.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: Reggaeton has been the Latin buzz genre for the past year, but it’s a Mexico/Texas R&B axis that has grabbed the spotlight this summer. Latino kingpin Happy Perez has nailed an ideal formula, and while he could be criticized for sticking too closely to slow, breezy arrangements for his hits, the watery guitars in “Energy” make it one of his best and guarantee critics will hold their tongues for the time being.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: For once, an acoustic guitar employed in R&B does not sound tacked on, but rather very pretty. Baby Bash is awfully…useful. It seems like if you can’t get s a big star to guest rap/sing on your love song, Baby Bash is becoming an obvious choice.
[7]


Rob Thomas - This is How a Heart Breaks
[6.2]


Ian Mathers: I will give Rob this: Given the title, I was expecting a truly dire ballad. This does have its share of bad lines, but at least he’s staying up-tempo. Thomas should definitely stay solo – the production actually has a few neat little touches (I like the opening drums and the softly phasing sounds and horns during the chorus) and even though his songwriting is very similar (although he again has slightly weirder lyrics than I would have expected) the actual song feels less boringly worthy. Surprisingly catchy and durable, even if you never liked Matchbox 20.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: Each Matchbox 20 single has shown more musical ambition, and at least singles-wise Thomas is really making the most of his freedom to explore un'band'like melodrama. Utilizing innovative techno / R&B details in the name of adult contemporary sassy-blando, Linkin Park for yuppies...the man is a super-villain. Dresses like one too!
[7]

John M. Cunningham: Wow, okay, so I underestimated Rob Thomas: his impressively limber voice guides this song from its claustrophobic, Hail to the Thief-outtake intro to a dense, horn-packed chorus, and finally happens upon an agile comedown section where he somehow manages to echo both Sting and Usher. An unusually great performance.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The more synthetic and manufactured his voice sounds, the realer Rob Thomas gets. I mean, at this rate he’ll get me wet by singing like a fax machine. Here he rumbles like a souped-up Bentley just off the assembly line, waiting for one of those girls who graced the covers of Cars albums to rev’em up. He still can’t understand why chicks won’t do what he tells them to despite his money and the smooth moves he learned from Carlos Santana and Tom Cruise. Maybe because “life is a mean machine.”
[7]

Erick Bieritz: Things begin with an odd, driving locomotive percussion and break into crunchy guitars for the star of the all-new Matchstreet Boys, but the track’s overcooked melodramatic flight into hysterical trumpets and supporting vocalists strains the song to the breaking point. It’s not “Lonely No More,” but it’s still a welcome change for the milquetoast poster boy of ‘90s rock ‘n’ roll.
[6]

Matt Chesnut: The intro sounds like Thomas is on some “There There” trip and then it builds into the song that was all too ubiquitous during the NBA playoffs. In this, there is something pleasing-by-association with this tune as my Spurs did win the title. But taken out of context, it’s a fairly limp song, lacking some dynamic change or any moments of excitement.
[4]


The Killers - All the Things I've Done
[6.7]


Ian Mathers: There are five good songs on Hot Fuss. If this lacked the whole “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” part, there might be six, as the chorus here is pretty great. But that coda just ruins things completely. Also of note: Of those five good songs, I believe at least three of them have been singles. If they’re down to releasing this, maybe it’s time for a break? Or at least “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine”?
[5]

Anthony Micico: All it takes is a young man's passion for dramatic new wave to sell a million copies or two. OK, and a halfway rockin' band. My point is that you've don't actually have to make much sense.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: Like a languid rewrite of the Strokes' "The Modern Age," featuring one of the most insipid lyrical hooks I've heard in some time (there's not really any excuse for the gospel choir, either). After three nearly perfect singles, I should've known it couldn't last.
[5]

Alfred Soto: With its bold guitar, confident drums, keen sense of drama, and use of the hoariest of soul signifiers (a black choir), this song finally realizes The Killers’ ambitions. Mormon pseudo-poof Brandon Flowers still can’t lick the sweat off Simon Le Bon’s leather pants, but the world needs more assertive frontmen who can declaim twaddle like “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” like they’re issuing marching orders.
[8]

Erick Bieritz: Oh goodness, Monsieur Flowers and his Killers are having their Spiritualized moment. At least as a songwriter, he certainly understands the power of a memorable line, and “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” is just begging to be used in a documentary about Iraq, or a teen coming-of-age story, or an anxiously hip Christian youth recruitment video.
[7]

Matt Chesnut: Four years after the expectations of rock domination were hoisted on the Strokes, the Killers have broken out and gone effin’ double platinum. This is probably their best single yet, Brandon Flowers sounding like he’s trying to channel Freddy Mercury (and in the music video, his mustache attests to this).
[8]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-07-22
Comments (2)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews