The Singles Jukebox
Singles Going Steady



this week in singles—Ashlee Simpson didn’t steal your boyfriend, Death Cab gets spiritual, Common testifies, Teairra makes a strong case for being a bad ass, and Dem Franchise Boyztake advice from Stuart Smalley. All this and the Goo Goo Dolls, on this Friday’s Singles Going Steady!


Ashlee Simpson – Boyfriend
[5.5]


Ian Mathers: I'm sure after I hear this dozens of times I'll catch myself humming along, but that's not enough, since nothing other than the brute force of repetition would work--this is totally undistinguished. I wouldn't mind the incestuous circle of press and pop that seems to be happening down in LA these days if it made for good songs, but when the result is this lackluster the constant reflexiveness is intensely annoying.
[3]

Mike Powell: Car ad jeans-rock that nicks the fashionable angularity of neo-new wave like “Since U Been Gone” nicked moody indie dramatics, only with about half the style and a quarter of the feeling. It’s still not a terrible song, only, err, boring.
[5]

Anthony Miccio: The nu-wave verse is a chore, the disco-metal chorus is great and the bridge is horrible. Knocked up a notch because the good part is what gets stuck in my head.
[6]

Erick Bieritz: Almost treading into the sort of sassy feminism usually lodged in country, Ashlee proves to be a remarkably consistent singles producer, if not a terribly great one. The echoed “ha” works well, although most of the song doesn’t gel. Another decent effort from this utility player.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Kelly Clarkson would give back her “American Idol” trophy for the gold-plated guitar lick with which this song opens, but that’s how far she’ll go. Ashlee, on the other hand, goes farther than expected, channeling a patrician petulance that’s the only thing she understands; not only is Clarkson’s pathos beyond her, she’s not interested anyway. I doubt she’s got more songs like this lying around.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: Ashlee says it's not about Lindsay Lohan, but she has every right to be jealous when America's redheaded sweetheart stomps all over her in the teen-pop-meets-riff-rock department. On the overlooked "First," Lindsay sounds both more in charge and more, well, AutoTuned, as Ashlee flounders here with her occasional screechiness. And yet the chorus has this drab sing-song quality that sort of reminds me of the Killers, and you know deep down I love her, anyway.
[6]


Common – Testify
[5.2]


Ian Mathers: This is so low-key and short it feels more like an interlude than a single, but that's a large part of its charm. The chipmunk sample is well-used enough that you can understand how Kanye made his rep on this sort of thing, and Common... isn't annoying. But since that's pretty much all I ask from him, the cheap O. Henryisms of “Testify” are still tolerable at worst.
[6]

Mike Powell: Common takes the trick-trick ending out of Witness for the Prosecution and ends up with the single-trick scenario of Damsel Weeps In Court Only to Laugh when Her Man is Convicted. The story is predictable, the hook is predictable, the verses are predictable. What’s nice is the lack of drama, the unceremonious beginning and complete lack of filler—it feels like a good interlude more than anything else, but what’s wrong with applauding concision?
[6]

Anthony Miccio: Wow, a corny story AND a painfully shrill hook. Thanks, Common! Nice hat, btw. Very retro. It makes you look real smart.
[2]

Erick Bieritz: A textbook “we ran out of singles that actually sound like singles” track, “Testify” sounds neutered, despite its implied emotional weight. It doesn’t even have the intentional softness of “Go,” just a curbed sample and a courtroom narrative that has potential but doesn’t deliver. Oddly underwhelming.
[5]

Alfred Soto: He’s got most everything: looks, flow, timbre, beats. What he doesn’t have is humor, or the delicious bad taste of his producer Kanye West, who uses the chipmunk-soul-sample to better effect than he does on his own superior album.
[7]

John M. Cunningham: It's a neat sample, all dusty and fervent, but too often it seems intrusive within Common's softly grunting verses. Also, I didn't care about the story, and I don't like the sneaking suspicion that Common really wants me to care about the story.
[5]


Death Cab For Cutie – Soul Meets Body
[5.5]


Ian Mathers: This is as cleanly produced as Gibbard's Postal Service work, but ostensibly in a rock context--I miss muzzy, lo fi songs like “Bend To Squares” and “For What Reason”. The result of this style is even more boring; I'm not sure how people interpret this milquetoast broth as something that matters deeply to them, man.
[3]

Mike Powell: Bearing the flag for the highly suspect sub-genre of American MOR Sissy-Indie (like wallflower prom ballads with purported intelligence but totally drained of the possibility of foreseeable sex), Ben Gibbard & co. want to do dumb things, like send their thoughts off on Greyhound buses. Of course, it’s a perfect lyric for such a hopelessly hit-or-miss band: Greyhound is a notoriously awful service, and Death Cab’s moderately flimsy sentiments show up three hours late smelling vaguely like urine after you’ve already drank several glasses of Dewar’s and fallen asleep in front of Wings of Desire. Again.
[4]

Anthony Miccio: KleenexGirlWonder remixing a song by Breathe, so this is arguably better than a song by Breathe. If you know both these acts, give yourself a pat on the back.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: This is an example of craft over commotion, a song quite distant from the far-off roots of emo and much closer to the pop-rock savvy enough to occupy both modern rock and adult contemporary. That’s a backhanded compliment to be sure, but Death Cab have only taken the next logical step in making solid, accessible songs, and mom will certainly enjoy them more than those Rites of Springs the kids used to bug her with. Er, that’s another backhanded compliment, isn’t it?
[7]

Alfred Soto: Lines like “In my head there’s a Greyhound station” suggest that Ben Gibbard is still competing with Paul Banks for the Bernard Sumner Award for Most Spectacular Lyrical Howlers--the difference here being that Gibbard really takes this shit seriously. Still, it helps immeasurably that the other riders on the Death Cab set his doggerel to the music to Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” suggesting correspondences of which Gibbard is no doubt unaware. If he could twirl his fat ass on stage like Stevie Nicks I might stop tormenting my students with the truth that Death Care are N’Sync reconfigured as a college guitar band.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: A perfect first single for Plans: we've got fiercely jangling guitars, Ben Gibbard's sweet wordless croon, and a part right before the second verse that I seriously want to mash up with Bloc Party's "Helicopters" (trust me: "bra-va-do!"). But what really makes this take off is the drums, as sturdy and determined as the machine used on last year's skeletal "Title and Registration," and with even more of a propulsive force. For as much as Death Cab is dismissed as a sadsack emo act, this is practically danceable.
[8]


Teairra Mari - No Daddy
[5.7]


Ian Mathers: Verrry nice distorted string loop (?), and Teairra makes a strong case for being a bad ass. The beat/handclap is nicely unobtrusive, and this walks a compelling line between reportage, boasting and empowerment. Although I'd be much more impressed if, when she tells kids from broken homes to call her she pulled a Nike Jones and gave us her number.
[7]

Mike Powell: It’s hard not to feel like the Jr. Destiny’s child/Little Orphan Annie hardassedness of this song isn’t a little prefab, especially when you know Hov is lurking in the background with all that money (though there’s something nicely dark about the shout out to girls from broken homes, even if it’s a bit “urban” community help-line). Ultimately, another step in the (ascending? descending?) spiral staircase of “Yeah!,” which I’ve become convinced will very soon reveal its final destination: a timely death and a wealth of fond memories.
[6]

Anthony Miccio: Her style and themes are eerily similar to that found on Limp Bizkit's Results May Vary. Durst's aggro whining was funnier, more memorable.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: Fathers don’t let your babies grow up to be easy. The muddied message seems positive and the effort to address an overlooked subject is commendable, but every other aspect of this song is gummy and dull. Zero for two for Mari.
[5]

Alfred Soto: A crunk empowerment epic even Dr. Phil could love, although Tearri’s too harmless for Phil to imagine what she looks like underneath those jeans she’s quite eager to give up, protests to the contrary. Don’t be fooled by the beats that she’s got, she’s still Teairra from the block.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: The chorus of this song makes absolutely no sense. First Teairra seems to brag about her loose, devil-may-care ways, and then suddenly she scolds us for assuming she'll give it up because she's cute and her jeans fit. I mean, not only is the line a major non-sequitur, but c'mon: who has ever claimed a woman was asking for it because her pants were the right size? I kinda like Teairra's sassiness, but girl is confused.
[5]


Dem Franchize Boyz f/ Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat & Bow Wow – I Think They Like Me
[2.6]


Ian Mathers: Man, fuck Jermaine Dupri. What was the last good song he was involved with? This just makes me tired. The baseless cockiness of the terminally unobservant.
[2]

Mike Powell: This song belongs in a mediocre movie that will be made in 4 or 5 years about a young thug trying to break the burden of his meager upbringing with a successful recording career. It’s got that overwhelming feel of aesthetic lateness and irrelevance that only Hollywood knows how to properly articulate (who else but a lazy screenwriter could pen almost vapidly anti-rap rap lines like “you betta do the right thing like Spike Lee”?) Of course, our hero soars to the top, and a large part of America gets this song lodged in their brain under “Southern Rap” next to “Hey Ya.”
[3]

Anthony Miccio: I'm very happy for you.
[3]

Erick Bieritz: An awful name, a terrible hook and undistinguished guest work. Dupri should have given the entire five minutes to Da Brat and made everyone else wait in the minivan.
[2]

John M. Cunningham: It's nice to hear Da Brat spitting in a cameo verse, inasmuch as the sudden female presence creates a more interesting overall dynamic, but that doesn't change the fact that I find much of the track fairly irritating.
[3]


Goo Goo Dolls – Better Days
[2.7]


Ian Mathers: Sub Bon Jovi circa “Have A Nice Day”, if you can believe that. It's like an old Goo Goo Dolls ballad, only times (you guessed it) Coldplay. There are “ten million” kids who could save the world, “if we all just stopped and said a prayer for them”. Like fuck. Nice strings, though.
[1]

Mike Powell: To a certain extent, yeah, there’s a song like this about every week or so on the Singles Jukebox, and there’s always a requisite level of piss that gets beaten out of it, but seriously, this is the kind of orchestral, staid God-rock balladry replete with enough foaming comets and ill-trained horses galloping in the background to force us to look a ashamedly on our lovers, consider the colic of our children before the wonder, and swear of sentimentality for just a little longer. Like Creed with lacquered acoustic guitars, candelabras, and handsome pinky rings.
[1]

Anthony Miccio: The Calling are back! And they've been listening to Coldplay! Lucky us.
[4]

Erick Bieritz: So is this about Jesus, or Katrina, or what? The Goo is certainly known for its acoustic hits rather than its punk roots, but no one expected them to be this soft. Any modest tension the song could build up in the orchestral swells is diffused by the mild lyrics like a wet blanket falling on an already-fading flame.
[4]

Alfred Soto: They’ve never topped “Name,” a Replacements ballad in sound if little else, and still better than anything Paul Westerberg’s coughed up since 14 Songs. Ten bucks this isn’t the love theme to a Meg Ryan film about angels.
[4]

John M. Cunningham: An earnestly dull song dressed up with gloopy, obvious orchestration. Snooze.
[2]


By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-10-14
Comments (9)
 

 
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