Singles Going Steady
his week in singles: Hillary Duff sounds the alarm, Franz Ferdinand extend you the invitation, Sean Paul wastes no time in lighting up, Avenged Sevenfold…exist, and your obscure references go over Slim Thug and Bun B.’s heads. All this and Bobby Valentino’s long overdue paean to the second holiest-of-holies, on today’s Singles Going Steady!
Avenged Sevenfold - Bat Country
Ian Mathers: This is weird – lots of metal touches but not nearly as orthodox as I thought it was going to be. Sort of a catchy chorus, in the first half, but then they go off into these extended guitar parts that sound a bit like the Buffy theme, and then a weird floaty quasi-psychedelic section. It's growing on me a little, but it feels weirdly polished, especially in the latter parts. The gold standard for this sort of thing is still My Chemical Romance's “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”, and this isn't quite up to that level.
Anthony Miccio: I swear the singer's voice was less nasal when I saw them at Warped two weeks ago. I wish the rhythm section was as inspired as the guitars. I also wish their concept of pop wasn't to play the song twice.
Matt Chesnut: The solos on this shred. Really, the middling first two minutes are intentionally boring so they could kill shit for the rest of the song, especially the instrumental middle passage.
Erick Bieritz: Well this is actually rather refreshing alt-metal that could certainly be slotted in with Queens of the Stone Age and System of a Down. The proximity to Hunter S Thompson’s unconventional services certainly helps as well.
Andrew Unterberger: Definite possibility for ‘05’s biggest “song we’ll look back on and just thinking of the title and band name will make us laugh about the 00s”. Not notable for too much else just yet.
Bobby Valentino - Tell Me
Ian Mathers: That sample is from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or something, right? It's pretty awesome – I could easily listen to the instrumental of this just for that incredibly sad sounding string sound. Bobby doesn't do badly singing over it, although the theme of the song is completely at odds with the feel of the backdrop. Given the title, I thought this would be some sort of break-up song after I heard the production, but instead it's a standard come on. Too bad – melodramatically milking all the pathos out of this sound could have given us something great.
Anthony Miccio: Tell me the entire album consists of passionate, string-festooned tracks dedicated to attractvie heinies.
Matt Chesnut: I don’t know what’s killing me more: the clipped bass hits, the sparse guitar licks, or that WEEPING VIOLIN LOOP. Total chills. It shouldn’t matter that he’s singing about filling them jeans. Everything about this song is beautiful.
Erick Bieritz: “Tell Me” is in exactly the same vein as “Slow Down” – Bobby eyes a tight waistline over pining-birds-at-dusk-in-China beats. The fact that this song sounds as good as it does while developing so little from the previous single indicates just how much room there is to stretch out in this brilliant R&B sound.
Andrew Unterberger: The fact that “The Thong Song” wasn’t just a historical one-off and actually set a precedent for weepy, soul-searching ballads about the gorgeosity of the ass is perhaps the greatest musical joke played on my generation. So we get not one, but two Bobby Valentino singles of the sort. It’s better than the last one and goddamn is that production hot, but…no. Is this what you wanted, Sisqo?
Hillary Duff – Wake Up
Ian Mathers: Duff continues to be probably the most annoying teen girl singing, even in the face of serious competition. The way she speaks the verses, the incredibly offensive constant focus on her and her fame in the lyrics, the anodyne almost-melody of the chorus (which, honestly, could have been pretty great with another singer) – the whiffs of paranoia and self-righteousness around “Wake Up” (and most of her material) might appeal to awkward teenagers, but they still come off as awkward and off-putting.
Anthony Miccio: Good reason to believe that Joel Madden - while a supportive, sweet boyfriend - hasn't given her an orgasm yet.
Matt Chesnut: If these guitars get anymore compressed, they’re going to disappear into the ether. They sure fucked that one up for a song that could’ve been so much more if the dynamic changes had been more pronounced. Like, when I get all climactic and loud, I like to be actually loud instead of only slightly louder than before! Maybe I’m nitpicking. P.S. – Lindsey Lohan wants her shtick back. OH HO HO SNAP. (There’s a very large part of me dying inside for making a joke about celebrity quarrels like this was VH1.)
Erick Bieritz: Because there were not enough songs about fame-weary starlets, there is now this. There are many problems with the lyrics in “Wake Up,” not the least of which is an abortive attempt to elongate the word “Tokyo” in the service of a chorus that’s on shaky legs from the start. The song also tries to begin as a dance stomper before morphing into stadium bluster, but it fails on both counts.
Andrew Unterberger: Despite the fact that she speaks the terms “dancefloor” and “DJ” as if she was utterly unfamiliar with the concepts, this is actually Duff’s first single even slightly worthy of the dance connotation. It’s got a legitimate beat, the same sort of new-wave touches that made “Cool” so nifty, and one hell of a chorus. Duff is still sorta lacking in the personality department, but it’s still enough to inspire hope that maybe she could be a legitimate pop icon one day.
Sean Paul – We Be Burning
Ian Mathers: I think marijuana prohibition is as stupid as anyone else does, but can we have one song about pot without the constant “legalize it!” cries? The best thing to this by a long shot is the vaguely Eastern plink during the chorus (not the cycling tone of the rest of the song), and that combined with the constant rhythm is satisfying. It's just as well you mostly can't make out what Sean Paul is saying, though – this is a “Burn One Down” for the pop set, and just as annoying (albeit with much better music).
Anthony Miccio: What impresses me most about Sean Paul is his emotionally expressive voice and inventive, surprising songwriting. He never settles for generic club filler, ever.
Matt Chesnut: So, Sean Paul is back. The crazy carnival organ loop is memorable, if nothing else. But the rest leaves me kind of nonplussed, even the Eastern-ish elements during the chorus (it takes a lot for me to be nonplussed by Eastern-ish elements!)
Erick Bieritz: Sean sounds more traditionally dancehall and less pop than he was during his 2003 breakout year: Perhaps America is now so accustomed to the sound that he doesn’t need an R&B collaboration to make it work. This is not the best set of verses laid out on the Bubble Up template, and its no “Like Glue,” but it works.
Andrew Unterberger: It wasn’t that long ago since Sean Paul’s breakout album spawned four top 20 hits and stuck around for a year and a half, but it feels like forever. And it’s great to have him back—though this one isn’t close to as immediately infectious or unmistakable as “Like Glue” or “Get Busy,” the dude’s voice still sets off bells in my brain. Good bells.
Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To
Ian Mathers: Terribly, terribly disappointing. Seriously, what were they thinking? Shit lyrics, no chorus to speak of, random digital farting noises throughout the track – is this a joke on those looking for a pre-album leak? I wasn't terribly hopeful that we were going to get another “Take Me Out”, but at this point I'd settle for a “This Fire”.
Anthony Miccio: Finally, a new song to Wang Chung to.
Matt Chesnut: “Do You Want To” “Take Me Out”? The intro sounds like British invasion and the coda where it like the Jeopardy theme fashioned for a guitar group. You’ve heard them do the middle before, but without doot doo’s (it was good before, so I’m not angry!)
Erick Bieritz: Less Bloc Party, more Killers, and an all around a cagey move. Like the Strokes, Franz tap the deep well of early ‘80s pop rock for the first single from their sophomore effort. Now that they’ve established themselves as important, they get to be fun, and they’ve certainly earned it.
Andrew Unterberger: Woah, guess who now has genuine expectations for the second Franz album. I had pretty much figured that “Take Me Out” would be their sole legacy in my book, but this is really almost as good—confident, sexy (homoerotic?), catchy and fun as hell. Maybe the boys are more Duran Duran than Josef K after all—it remains to be seen, but I look forward to finding out. ”You’re lucky lucky you’re so lucky!!”
Slim Thug feat. Pharrell and Bun B – I Ain't Heard Of That
Ian Mathers: So good, I don't care that Bun B gets a verse (although yeah, he's no Slim Thug). I don't care Pharrell takes up way too much of the track with his “Star Trak Riders” shit. I don't care about anything bad anyone else says. Slim is absolutely hypnotic, and the chorus is addictive. The best Neptunes production the mainstream has gotten to hear in, what, years? - And one of the best singles of the year. Can we introduce “I ain't tryin' to fix your weave” into the lexicon?
Anthony Miccio: Inventive percussion tracks aside, it's pretty remarkable that Pharrell can still get his godawful Mayfield impersonation played on the radio. I guess we really need more tracks from nondescript ho trainers.
Matt Chesnut: This rhythm is too infectious to ignore. BOSS HOGG OUTLAWZ.
Erick Bieritz: Houston’s success stories so far have mostly kept it in house, or at the most gone no further than Atlanta, so Slim Thug’s choice to jump on the Star Trax train is a novel one. Time will tell if that was a smart move, but it certainly works admirably for this single, with a solid Neps classic rock production job.
Andrew Unterberger: OK, that’s it, Pharrell’s falsetto is officially great. I don’t get the bitching about it, the dude’s no crooner but he knows a fucking hook, and he’s provided great ones to countless Neptunes jams. What’s this song without “gonna MAKE you move if you want to?” Well, pretty great—it’s Slim Thug, Bun B and the Neptunes, after all—but I still say it’s the creamy falsetto that seals the deal.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-09-02