Singles Going Steady
his week in singles: Gorillaz pick dare, Depeche Mode get all precious on us, Gwen releases her umpteenth single from LAMB, Madonna gets a dial tone, Mariah Carey pleads, and Ray J wonders where Aladdin went…
Gorillaz - DARE
Ian Mathers: It's good to have Shaun Ryder back, although if you never liked his vocal stylings this is going to be like nails on a chalkboard. Damon makes for a surprisingly good female vocalist, and what with the backing vocals, Ryder's delivery and the general sway of the music this sounds kind of like disco for very drunk people. You can't really dance to it, but your head keeps nodding, and sometimes what you really want is a bit of gibberish to make the morning sun go away for a couple of hours.
Thomas Inskeep: Oh dear sweet Jesus this is good. As someone who’s not particularly enamored with The Grey Album, I wasn’t expecting much from Danger Mouse taking over the DJ chair in Gorillaz. While I still find the album somewhat underwhelming, just like the world-beating “Feel Good Inc.” before it, this is an ace single, due in no small part to Danger Mouse’s excellent work behind the boards. But ultimately this comes down to the simple fact of THIS FEATURES SHAUN RYDER AND HE IS EFFING GODHEAD SO YOU MUST BOW DOWN BEFORE THE SHINING BRILLIANCE OF “DARE.” Any questions?
Alfred Soto: This unassuming side project is now responsible for two of this year’s best singles. With Shaun Ryder as irrepressible as he was during his days wheezing impassioned gibberish to fans bestooned in baggy, this track is almost intoxicating enough to make you forget there isn’t enough of him.
Erick Bieritz: If time travel was a reality, someone could go back to 1988, attend a Happy Mondays show, wait until Shaun was completely out of it on ecstasy and then tell him that 17 years later he would be singing an appropriately tweaked, catroonish R&B slinker, mixing his bluntly English voice with that of a sweetly mercurial cartoon monkey. Too bad time travel is impossible.
John M. Cunningham: As if two bonafide Reagan-era stars in this space weren't enough (not to mention Gwen Stefani in full-on Cyndi Lauper mode), here's a synth-bop confection to really put the cherry on the most I Love the 80s-ish singles jukebox ever. There's something regrettably detached and elusive about the song I can't quite figure out, but it sounds fantastic.
Mike Powell: Another Gorillaz song, another four minutes of moderately memorable hooks, aimless beats, and pop pastiche, this time “boosted” by a cameo from famed ex-narco priest, Black Grape frontman and (most importantly) Bez associate Shaun Ryder. Ryder once again cheats logic and reality by offering a half a minute of vocals recorded in about six seconds; which, ratio-wise makes some good sense insofar as this song should actually only be about 90 seconds long rather than 240.
Depeche Mode – Precious
Thomas Inskeep: It’s a Depeche Mode single, with everything that implies. At least they’ve given up those unattractive attempts at “rocking” and gone back to what made them rightly famous, i.e. darkly slinky electronic pop. Dave Gahan sings just like he should on a song written just like Martin L. Gore should be writing ‘em. If I was an alienated, non-Hot-Topic-patronizing non-fan of My Chemical Romance kind of teenager (do they still make that model?), this might be my single of the year.
Anthony Miccio: I like the way it builds, though it could stand to kick a little harder all the way throouuuugggggggh. There's too much treacle and slurring before the payoff.
Alfred Soto: On their best single since 1993’s “Walking in My Shoes,” this synth-pop corporation remembers that listeners enjoy melodies and riffs (love. the moody piano hook and processed guitar) with their goth melancholia, not self-consciously serious singing over drum programs. Speaking of singing, Dave Gahan has become one sexy frontman. Maybe the drugs don’t work.
Erick Bieritz: It would have been unreasonable to hope for something this good, this accomplished, this unabashedly equal to the music this group was making 15 years ago. But here it is, changing harpsichord-style key tremors into clanging train-crossing bells. “Precious” displays all the subtlety – all the clever implications that the group still has secrets to hide – that was so desperately lacking in their contemporaries’ “Krafty.” Brilliant.
John M. Cunningham: An elegant bit of morose pop -- in other words, very much in line with the Depeche Mode legacy -- and yet one that lacks a real chorus and on the whole sounds rather bloodless. For a leadoff single, this doesn't bode well for Playing the Angel; it's not bad, but it's the kind of nondescript album track the band used to bury between the hits.
Mike Powell: In our best hope:
Through the smoke-wound passages of my dreams was this verse divined, a tarnished halo; I held a candle to the face of my lover and it crumbled into the ever-growing darkness. In song we live, in silence we die.
In our most horrific reality:
livejournal entry, 3:05 AM: Today, I was sooo close to buying these really great black cowboy boots at that place on Franklin. Jamie thinks they looked awesome, but I’ve really been into the idea of getting a tribal tattoo on my back that my friend Laryssa designed. What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?
1 comments posted by
personal_jesuszero at 3:17 AM
Tattoo, especially between your awesome angel shoulderblades : )
Gwen Stefani – Luxurious
Ian Mathers: She just gets more vapid with every single, doesn't she (not to mention seeming more like having lost any knack for a good hook)? The perfect pop starlet for upwardly mobile Bush Republicans.
Thomas Inskeep: This has been one of my faves on L.A.M.B since I first heard it. Simply put, Gwen plus that hot Isleys groove, slowed down (as sampled famously by Biggie) equals great pop. That said, lyrically this one doesn’t quite add up for me; hearing stars basically say, “I’ve worked hard and now I get these spoils and I earned it” is a turnoff. But in this case, groove trumps lyrics.
Anthony Miccio: After piddling all over "Big Poppa" and "Between Sheets," that "ch-CHING" break is just cruel.
Erick Bieritz: It’s strange for someone who has easy access to the Neptunes to mimic what Snoop Dogg sounded like well before he ever met the Virginian duo, but if the results work, no one’s going to complain. “Luxurious” rocks a slow-motion Dre vibe that just begs for a Nate Dogg appearance. The “G” in g-funk stands for Gwen.
John M. Cunningham: This has all the hallmarks of a fifth single (!), more in keeping with the lush midtempo fluff of "Cool" than the hyperactive razzle-dazzle of her earlier hits, but I sort of like that about it -- it's like those overlooked but perfectly decent sleek ballads in the middle of Justified. (At the same time, I sorta can't believe "Bubble Pop Electric" hasn't been pegged yet; am I wrong to think that people would flip for that?)
Mike Powell: [Insert hilarious animated JPEG of Gavin Rossdale dancing gingerly to the Isley Brothers while Gwen sprawls on a king-sized bed with velvet curtains thumbing the latest issue of W and anxiously wondering how long it will be before she will cave for a No Doubt reunion]. The answer: a few more songs like this and I think we can start hoping.
Mariah Carey - Don't Forget About Us
Ian Mathers: Let me just put it this way: I heard this all the way through once without looking at my playlist, and I thought to myself, “Man, when did Brandy start doing shit ballads again?”
Thomas Inskeep: Mariah, honey: this kind of slightly undercooked, limp R&B track is part of the reason why we sent you away in the first place. You don’t want that again, do you? This is no kind of patch on “We Belong Together” nor on “Shake It Off.” Not bad, just unexceptional.
Anthony Micico: Very professional proof that her pipes remain intact. Docked a point because I don't like to encourage Jermaine Dupri's exhibitionism.
Alfred Soto: After the best one-two punch of her career, Mariah returns to tuneful evanescence. Rainbows, honeys, and charmbracelets – who needs’em?
John M. Cunningham: Right now this strikes me as strident and uninspired, but I had the same reaction to "We Belong Together" the first time, and I eventually warmed up to that one, so who knows. Then again, nothing about this suggests that it's in any way superior to the summer's biggest smash, either.
Mike Powell: “Don’t Forget About Us” is like a Tootsie Roll pop; you have to wait two and a half minutes to get to the really good part, but unlike Tootsie Roll pops, the outer layer isn’t chalky, sour disappointment made manifest in the pathetic megalomania of celebrity insecurities.
Madonna – Hung Up
Ian Mathers: Why don't more people sample Abba? Is it a money thing? Are Bjorn and Benny holding out for the big bucks? This isn't as awesome as “Frozen” and “Ray Of Light” (or even “Don't Tell Me”) were, mainly because it's not as sleekly futuristic as those productions. This feels more like a throwback – it could easily have come out in 1995 – but it marks a slight return to form after the last album. It's nice to have her back, even if we know she can do better.
Thomas Inskeep: Madonna: Huge! Sampling ABBA (and not just any ABBA song, but “Gimme Gimme Gimme”!), hitting the dancefloor, and not worrying herself with lattes nor pilates these days means that Madonna is back. If this is a true harbinger of what’s to come on her forthcoming album, we are in for one helluva treat. This throbs and bodyrocks like nobody’s business, but I’m making it my business. You should, too – this is one of the year’s best.
Anthony Miccio: Apology accepted, but this won't take you off probation.
Alfred Soto: The decision to sample the best ABBA song of all time may smack of desperation from the producer of this year’s most haunting remix (that’s Stuart Price and “Mr. Brightside”), but the source material becomes putty in the hands of the greatest dance artist of all time, whose silly accent and ever-more-irrelevant lyrics are no longer encumbrances. It’s clear now that Madonna embraces Kabbalah because it provides her with so many fungible mantras and taglines; and since great dance music is composed of nothing but mantras and taglines she sublimates her once-considerable charisma into pure will-to-power – an evolution that would have been a horror if it had happened to Whitney Houston. It can’t last forever: as a dance artist approaches 50, time goes by so slowly, slowly. Even so, I’m relieved she loves bass sequencers as much as she loves God.
Erick Bieritz: The first buzz I heard of this came with the “Oldfrapp” joke already attached, and I found the pun so amusing that I’ve been loathe to give it up even though its only half accurate. Madonna here seeks her nth reentry into popular taste making with assistance from the Thin White Duke himself, Stuart Price. Stuart recycles his ticking alarm clock from the “What You Waiting For” remix and gives Madonna filter-wrapped flourishes to play with here, and while she is the weak half of the song, she’s more than competent.
John M. Cunningham: To be fair, ABBA's marvelous, grandiose strings do a lot of the work here, but producer Stuart Price also grafts on the driving electro of his "What You Waiting For" remix (with the same tick-tock, even) as well as some modern filter-disco effects for Madonna's most vital song in some time.
Mike Powell: With almost as many truly awesome WTF moves in her portfolio as Kim Jong-il—whose birth was purportedly heralded by two simultaneous rainbows—it’s a little disappointing to hear Madonna groveling to the Nordic pop monolith of ABBA for the best part of “Hung Up.” Let’s not forget that this woman created one of the most bizarre, compellingly racialized videos in history, had a phase where she dressed up as a dominatrix with cornrows, and declared the supremacy of the Kabbalah while dressing up in white jean jackets and cowboy boots. “Hung Up” is actually pretty damn good; the only thing it seems to be missing is MADONNA.
Ray J - One Wish
Ian Mathers: “I couldn't be alone, because without you I'm sick” is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. About the most interesting thing about “One Wish”, musically, is the prominent use of the humble shaker on the verses, but other than that this is therapy-bound R'n'B by the numbers.
Thomas Inskeep: Dear Brandy, please ask your little brother to stop making indentikit R&B records. Thank you. Love, Thomas.
Anthony Miccio: The whiny whinny of the verse is addictively ridiculous. It's possibly the least macho male R&B vocal I've heard ever, devoid of weight or confidence. Unfortunately, the background vocals distract from his memorable delivery - a whine this absurd demands a self-parodistic spotlight. More spirited than Frankie J or Mario, but dust on Usher's shoulder, nonetheless.
Alfred Soto: Sounding like Michael Jackson rapping like Twista, Ray J is another contemporary smoothie: tender, likeable, and forgettable. He clings to his affectations because that’s all he’s got. But in that he’s not charmless.
Erick Bieritz: Ray J says he only needs one wish, but the desires on his list are not entirely co-dependent, which could cause him problems. For example, just because she’s his boo doesn’t mean she’s also going to marry him. Genies and other wish-granting creatures like to twist this stuff around. They may be momentarily impressed by the way Ray J holds the song together with his high pitched stop-start vocal doodling, but they will eventually stab him in the back. That’s just the way they are.
John M. Cunningham: I really hope ol' Ray's wish gets granted, if it means sparing us his injured yelp and terrible off-pitch falsetto.
By: US Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-11-07