The Singles Jukebox
Teflon Guitars



this week, Muse realize that what the US Modern Rock chart really needs is some synthetic horses, James Morrison may yet be the new Kristian Leontiou, Lyfe Jennings understands you better than your mother, and have you ever noticed how there's no interesting pictures of Rodney Atkins on the internet? No? You ought to try it sometime. Anyhow, we kick off with Cheyenne Kimball, who is allegedly having “the day from hell.” Allegedly.


Cheyenne Kimball - Hanging On
[Watch the Video]
[3.40]

Jonathan Bradley: In 1998, Britney Spears released “Baby One More Time,” and created the template for teen pop for the next four years. In 2002, Avril Lavigne released “Complicated,” and her bratty pop rock became the new standard for girls on the radio. Another four years later, having been through Avril, Kelly Clarkson, the Veronicas, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff, and a whole bunch of non-starters like Skye Sweetnam, Cheyenne Kimball wheezes the genre’s last breaths. We’re due for a brand new take on teen pop right about now and “Hanging On” suggests the reinvention cannot come soon enough.
[2]

Edward Oculicz: Cheyenne gives some stick to some overplayed self-assured cliches, especially in the verses which ooze class. The shift to a slightly slower pace in the pre-chorus and then the chorus doesn't do it any favours, and in fact, actually makes her sound less confident than she should to pull off the "Nothing's gonna stop me anyway" schtick. Slight, but enjoyable.
[6]

Iain Forrester: Sounds very much like the Avril Lavigne singles that everyone has forgotten (you know, like that next one after “Sk8er Boi”) if the she were to have even less charisma.
[3]

Joseph McCombs: Cloddy, ham-fisted empowerment sloganeering in a Sheryl Crow candy shell.
[2]


Panic! At The Disco - Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have with Her Clothes On
[Watch the Video]
[4.00]

Ian Mathers: Now instead of being annoying they're just boring, which is a far bigger sin no matter who's writing it.
[1]

Barry Schwartz: P!ATD manage to be both completely insufferable and excruciatingly likeable; this is no small feat considering that makes no sense. “Lying…” is textured, melodically arresting, structurally unconventional, and annoying as shit. These guys are onto something.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Outside a magnificent title that one would only describe as misogynistic absent a viewing of Natalie Portman in Closer, this track’s biggest draw is its tense, haltingly-delivered verse. It possesses the kind of restraint that should explode into a monster hook, but instead dissipates into a tepid chorus that has neither the lyrical nor musical distinctiveness required to elevate the track beyond the realm of adequacy.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: When the quiet verses, which sort of give off a doomed 80s ballad vibe, are significantly better than the chorus, there are problems. Muted pianos are not as good as silly string sections, either.
[4]


Janet Jackson ft. Nelly - Call on Me
[Watch the Video]
[4.20]

Martin Skidmore: It's very low-key, this, Nelly rapping/singing almost like R Kelly's vocal on "Ignition," Janet's voice high and rather thin. It has a nice sweet and summery feel to it (though the clicky beats are a bit too far forward much of the time), but I don't think it has enough mood or atmosphere to compensate for the low energy and lack of any hook.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Janet usually does well with these kinds of wispily insubstantial tunes, to go with her best-when-breathy voice, but both she and Nelly sadly cross over the line from gossamer allure to absent blankness.
[4]

Iain Forrester: Nothing about “Call on Me” is in any way dislikable. It’s rather pretty in fact, the music tinkling away nicely behind Janet’s breathiness and Nelly politely adding not much. There’s just a bit of a personality vacuum where a song should be.
[4]

Barry Schwartz: Why is she singing? Since when does she sing? She doesn’t sing. She janets! That’s what she does! “Call on Me” is just frustrating: it’s such a distinctly Janet Jackson melody but remains somehow all wrong for her. It’s too breezy, it’s not sexy, there’s no pulse to it. She’s slippin and JD ain’t helping. Nelly sounds damn good though.
[4]


Chingy ft. Tyrese - Pulling Me Back
[Watch the Video]
[4.33]

Rodney J. Greene: Jay-Z, SWV, Ashanti, and even Black Moon have all put in time running that Isaac Hayes sample out of gas, leaving Chingy stuck trying to push a dead vehicle uphill.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: According to the U.S. Census Bureau estimate, in 2004, the population of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area was 2,764,054. One of those people is Chingy. The other 2,764,053 are people whose relationships would make for a more compelling tale than this song.
[1]

Martin Skidmore: More Dirty South rap, with Tyrese's high and sweet R&B vocal prominently added. This has a very good hook—the obvious comparison would be Nelly, I guess (except not so much this week), and I can see this grabbing some of that kind of success. Very good, indeed.
[9]

Ian Mathers: Surprisingly, ex-model Tyrese is easily the better half of this partnership. His chorus is softly low key but compelling, even when Chingy is muttering along, and it's hard not to wish Chingy would stop rambling so Tyrese could take over again.
[6]


James Morrison - You Give Me Something
[Watch the Video]
[4.40]

Jonathan Bradley: Oh no! James Morrison’s been lulled to sleep by the languid beat, and he’s dreaming that he’s James Blunt.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: James Blunt with a hint of a lisp, and if that isn't all you need to know I don't know what to say.
[1]

Joseph McCombs: His voice, a sort of Terence Trent D’Arby (er, Sananda Maitreya) thing, is far more pleasant than the James Blunt whinnying to which this will undoubtedly be compared. If Dusty Springfield were singing on it as a duet partner, I’d have to give it a 20.
[10]

Iain Forrester: It’s all very well saying that, despite peddling similar blandness, he’s better than James Blunt thanks to his amazing soulful voice. But when that involves sounding like Joss Stone (“youonlywaitingupfer howwwwwww-hers”), how is it possibly supposed to be a good thing?
[2]


Upa Dance - Morenita
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Edward Oculicz: Slick Spanish R&B dance reheated for a second time in the sun in the French charts. Intensely catchy, kind of half goofy loverman, half pining dumpee, though this might just be a divide caused by the difference in the voices of the male leads rather than anything to do with the song. It has charming wallpapered soul, a good beat, and you can certainly swing to it.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: Another week, and here we are with yet another Latin ballad. Except for a powerfully prolonged note at the end of the bridge, there‘s nothing worthy of note.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: Extremely elegant and sinuous singing, in a Latin American style, flicking through the words at high speed with total ease and real class. The musical backing is a touch ordinary, despite a bit of added rapping late on, and the song is nothing very special, but I do like the lead singer a great deal.
[7]

Joseph McCombs: I never warmed up to the fit-too-many-words-into-a-line school of delivery; maybe that’s why this doesn’t do a lot for me. Pretty pedestrian, especially the guitar-hook-by-numbers during the verses.
[5]


RIP SLYME & Quruli - Lovi
[Watch the Video]
[5.20]

Jonathan Bradley: The carefree strum is brisk enough to suggest there are good times to be had, but none of the multitude of vocalists is engaging enough to overcome the language barrier and make me understand why I want to join in their party.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: Am I imagining it, or is this more or less the tune from "mairzy doats" or however it is spelt? It's pleasant enough when I can ignore this, but I can't do it for long.
[3]

Joseph McCombs: This just kind of floats in space without arriving anywhere, a tack I should take for myself a little more often. Reminds me of the loose party vibe of Bran Van 3000’s Discosis album.
[7]

Rodney J. Greene: They attempted to create a summer jam, but this feels like that day in late September when the heat turns to meek warmth and you know the gig is up.
[5]


Rodney Atkins - If You're Going Through Hell (And the Devil Don't Know)
[Watch the Video]
[5.50]

Iain Forrester: I don’t think that I’ve ever heard anyone sing lines like ”things go from bad to worse, you think they can’t get any worse than that and then they do” in such an astonishingly jaunty manner. I guess that might by due to my somewhat limited knowledge of country, but it makes “If You’re Going Through Hell” both enormous fun and more authentically uplifting than its chorus of “hang-in-there” platitudes might suggest.
[7]

Ian Mathers: When did all male country singers get the same set of vocal chords, and can they please find something better to do with said set than singing entire songs crafted out of one line of old-timey wisdom?
[3]

Edward Oculicz: This song is so comforting, it's like a friend who buys you not just one drink, but an entire bottle of whiskey. The country touches are very sweet indeed, but the rhythm is pure driving rock of the highest order.
[9]

Jonathan Bradley: Singles Jukebox Challenge of the Week: Invite Rodney Atkins and Panic! At The Disco to swap song titles and pen a new song. Panic!, whose titles bear no resemblance to the tune they’re attached to, would deliver exactly the same track. Rodney Atkins, however, on the strength of “If You’re Going Through Hell (And The Devil Don’t Know)” would approach the topic with grating literalism and none of the humor or heart possessed by the best country music writing. Just as this song is filled with anonymous platitudes and fails to mine the possibilities offered by the titular metaphor, I dare say Atkins, armed with Teflon guitar and synthetic banjo, if he took my challenge, would do nothing more than tell me exactly why clothed girls enjoy mistruth.
[3]


Shaan - Chand Sifarish
[6.00]

Rodney J. Greene: It’s hard to judge this within the context of a pop single because, other than an electric guitar, it falls squarely within folk traditions. The power chords seem like they should be at odds with the traditional instrumentation, but mesh well. Shaan’s voice has a dour, melancholy edge to it, counterpointed by the bright and deceptively catchy whistle hook.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I like the voice early on, rather in the background, that sounds almost qawwali in style. The foreground lead is more typical Hindi music, sung with a smile and some over-egged romantic expressions. It's okay, vaguely likeable though too polite, but I didn't engage with it at all after the lead vocal took over. And I've always hated whistling, with only very rare exceptions.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: I appreciate so many of these Indian pop records texturally—it's almost impossible to not see the colours of glamorous Bollywood actresses—and I like the vague hint at rock in the intro—very redolent of the way R&B tackled the stuff in the early 90s—and even the whistling, but there's nothing much on top of it here. Kind of meandering, but there are enough distracting bits to almost work.
[5]

Joseph McCombs: A great melody, and though it takes a little while to pick up steam, it warrants the slow build. And the only one of the aural conceits that wears thin after a few listens is the “Hoy! Hoy!” (ask me again in a week about that whistling and I may answer differently).
[7]


Lyfe Jennings - S.E.X.
[Watch the Video]
[6.20]

Iain Forrester: An advice song to young girls centering on how men are awful and only interested in them for their body. It could easily come off as preachy or leering but is actually kind of sweet: Jennings is very serious and determined to do his bit to help out.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: Coming-of-age concerns as hyperbolically constructed drama (tympani, even!), which I suppose makes this a not-so-distant cousin to the Shangri-La’s. “They just want relations, they don’t want relationships” is representative of the perfect poetry throughout this track, and Lyfe’s ragged voice is ideal for this unsolicited-advice letter.
[9]

Rodney J. Greene: Hey, Lyfe Jennings! What’s the matter? Are you gonna have to go back to prison? Did someone die? No? You're just mackin' on some broad? Then why sound so glum? Oh, look, she just went off the other way. I think you scared her.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: I like this a lot—dramatic though restrained production, big strings, and very strong soul singing, a little reminiscent of the very great '70s Hi Records singer, O.V. Wright, who I always loved. Husky, thoughtful, pained, and intelligent—who else wants to hear a collaboration with Ghostface Killah?
[10]


Lisa Miskovsky - Mary
[6.25]

Iain Forrester: There’s a great dramatic twang to the guitars that start this (which very much make me think of Firefly…) and all of the intensely hummed backing vocals work very well indeed. Eventually it gets just a bit too overpopulated with conflicting ideas, but its lightly gothic pop still sticks to the right side of melodramatic.
[7]

Ian Mathers: I'm pretty sure no-one else can boast both appearing on an In Flames song and writing one of the Backstreet Boys' hits (“Dead End” and “Shape of My Heart,” fact fans!), but sadly “Mary” avoids those kinds of extremes. Instead we get competently sweeping midtempo, MOR that stays on just the right side of the line separating bombast from power.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: There's a rather annoying 'mm-uh' background vocal thing, but she is a warmly likeable singer, in an adult pop mode, somewhat folky. Then some almost-metal guitars come in, and suddenly the background vocals sound okay in comparison. I like it, but it doesn't really catch me in a big way.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Sounds very much like a more girl-rock version of a mid-period Kent song to these ears. The transition into the bit which has drumming and more pronounced guitars seems a bit botched. Terrifically well-arranged verses, though, the way the backing vocals and the strings float around each other is very pleasing on the ear. She's done better than this before, but this is perfectly good Swedish guitar pop.
[7]


Margaret Berger - Samantha
[6.33]

Ian Mathers: It'll sound great in a club, sure, but those vocals make “Samantha” just as satisfying if not even more so in more reflective moments. The frosty yet hands-in-the-air cousin to “I Will Survive,” if Gaynor had been singing for someone else instead of herself.
[8]

Iain Forrester: Margaret Berger came through Norwegian Idol, apparently, which comes as a bit of a surprise as “Samantha” is almost the epitome of effective but faceless dance.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: This makes me think of what it would sound like if Fischerspooner had written "I Feel The Earth Move". The girlish oohs and the intensely throbbing bass are a good combination, though the chorus doesn't have much in the way of a catchy tune, this wins on texture and rhythm anyway.
[8]

Joseph McCombs: Spacey bloops and equally spacey vocals. A good thing. And a whole lot more convincing on the empowerment theme than the Cheyenne Kimball song.
[7]


Justin Timberlake - SexyBack
[Watch the Video]
[6.40]

Jonathan Bradley: I’ve been listening to this for about a month now, and I still can’t work out if I actually like it or not. I certainly get the feeling that with this song, Justin aims more at grabbing attention than creating a fantastic pop single and in that regard he succeeds; this is not “Rock Your Body,” but it remains a captivating listen regardless.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: A potent, crunchy sound, and catchy in a funky Prince/George Michael kind of way. I guess the Timberlake/Timbaland combination remains pretty irresistible.
[9]

Barry Schwartz: Disappointed? I guess. Confused? A little bit. Growing on you? Not sure, yet. Still psyched? FUCK YEAH! Though clearly lacking, this song is absolutely fascinating in its construction. If you really think about it, the reason Timbo says “Take ‘em to the bridge” and then “Take ‘em to the chorus” is because if he didn’t you wouldn’t have any freaking clue where you were in the song. “Sexy Back” is basically three choruses. That’s ridiculous!
[5]

Rodney J. Greene: (Horse trot wood block, bee sting synth stabs.) TaAaAaKE 'EM TO THE BRIDGE! (Rockwellian warble, dirt cheap microphone.) TaAaAaKE 'EM TO THE CHORUS! That's where we reach a problem. As wonderful as the rest of the song is, Justin needs a strong hook to go for the knockout.
[8]


Muse - Knights of Cydonia
[Watch the Video]
[6.60]

Martin Skidmore: This is easily the best thing I've heard by them for two minutes, then this weedy, lifeless singing comes in and weakens it to an almost fatal degree. Later on they go for a Black Sabbath style, rather less successfully. Take the middle section out, where they tragically sound like Muse, and I'd give this a pretty high mark, as long as I'm not expected to include points for originality.
[5]

Barry Schwartz: Just when you think Muse couldn’t possibly get more over-the-top they go and do something like this … and completely redeem themselves! 1,000 Matt Bellamys howling at the moon, riding an army of broodwich-eating trumpets and linguini western guitars. Wouldn’t want it any other way.
[7]

Edward Oculicz: Right, this is just completely insane. Half rock opera par excellence and half chugging, thrilling driving song, bolted together as if the fusion was the most logical thing in the world. Matt Bellamy has always seemed like a demented sci-fi writer who just happens to have decided to be a band, and this is exactly the sort of thrilling epic that suits his stentorian snarl and theatrical bent.
[10]

Ian Mathers: How can something be so overblown, so tumescent, so filled with the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and yet be so ignorable?
[3]


Veronica Maggio - Nöjd
[7.00]

Rodney J. Greene: Nord-pop of the cutesiest variety. The tinkling toy piano in the intro sets a jovial mood for the tune. The bounce is infectious, and Maggio’s airy vocals are alluring, but somehow this isn’t quite heavy enough to stick to the ribs.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Her voice is still enjoyably light and delicate, but “Nöjd” seems more like a song and less like a daydream than her last effort. Thankfully it's just as winsomely charming, enough so to make this non-Swedish speaker wonder about an album.
[7]

Edward Oculicz: Her previous single "Dumpa Mig" has grown on me recently, but this sounds like a complete winner on listen one. The twinkling piano promises quirky pop, but this is more than just quirky, the bass is springy and perky and the words run by so quickly the fact that I don't know Swedish doesn't matter a jot. That chorus is like a completely gorgeous sigh that could go on forever.
[9]

Jonathan Bradley: I’m getting pretty damn sick of this. Swedish kids make perky pop all bright-eyed and sugar-sweet, and us English-speaking critics go nuts and start swooning like schoolgirls asked out to prom by the big man on campus. It is getting ridiculous; all we’re doing is fetishizing clichés of fresh-faced Scandinavians who are alleged to be geniuses at making irresistible Euro-pop just because they can kick out a hummable tune. Well, I’ve had enough. I’m making a stand. Next Swede who gets all cutesy and eccentric round these parts gets a [0]. I’d make an example out of Veronica Maggio, really I would, but… I can’t. She’s um… she’s… well, she’s actually good.
[7]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-08-01
Comments (4)
 

 
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