Have you been reading Swygart’s column? Thought I’d run through some quick thoughts on the Billboard Top 20 for you and see if you think it could actually work as some sort of American counterpoint to it. I think we’d have to do it monthly, though, since the charts don’t change that much over here. Maybe you can hit me back soon with your own- that is, if you’re tuff enuff. Oh- and if you’re looking for a random Italo Disco tune, check Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts.” Absolutely essential to the furthering of your musical development, I swear.
01- Beyonce Knowles featuring Jay-Z- Crazy In Love
Ed hit the nail on the head. It’s one long introduction. This is the exact problem that I found I initially had with the Streets when I first heard Original Pirate Material. Here, though, most people can ignore it because the simplicity is covered up by glorious horns and an easy sing-a-long chorus. I’m still not buying it.
02- Chingy- Right Thurr
It took a while for America to catch up, man, but you were exactly right: this song absolutely kills in terms of completely fun and disposable summer bounce. I find it to have tons more personality and panache than “Crazy in Love” but, as I basically said to Leon when he questioned me about it, “I suck.”
03- Ashanti- Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)
We need to talk about the possible S & M implications of Murder Inc. records sometime soon. This is easily Ashanti’s best single, which for a lot of people isn’t saying much. I, however, have enjoyed her work since the beginning and excited that we’re finally seeing Chapter 2. The poetry book, though? Girl needs an editor. I’m sure either you or I are up to the task.
04- Lil’ Kim feat. 50 Cent- Magic Stick
Apparently the re-emergence of Lil’ Kim means a ton of new slang. Magic Stick? Jump Off? This girl is a linguist’s wet dream. Maybe not just because of her talent for the popularizing of words, though... I’ll get into this later on this mail, but something really rubs me the wrong way about 50 Cent, preventing a true appreciation of this song. Never fear, though, her next single is a collab with Missy. It’s much better than even “The Jump Off,” which I know you had your doubts about.
05- matchbox twenty- Unwell
Far be it for me to trash the first non hip-hop entry, but this song doesn’t really touch me in any meaningful way. Never thought I’d say this, but could we get another Default single or something? OK, halfway through and it’s getting bearable. I like how he uses a dramatic pause before uttering “with me.” The bridge, though! The chorus, though! Ugh.
06- Lumidee- Never Leave You
Finally we’re back to hip-hop! Just kidding. But, at the very least, we can never have anyone tell us that rap and hip-hop isn’t pop music. It’s basically the entire chart. The third single in short order that uses the Diwali riddim and I’m STILL not tired of it. Keep ‘em coming. I think to top it off we need a Sean Paul-esque fast paced female one, as this one mines the same kind of territory as Wayne Wonder.
07- 50 Cent- PIMP
You know I’m not feeling this. The steel drums, I understand. But it’s absolutely the only thing this song has going for it. The video is clutch work, though- the one with Snoop Dogg. I feel I have to elucidate my 50 Cent ambivalence. It’s like...here’s a guy that was billed, and I know you don’t buy the whole hype debate but bear with me, as the next big thing. And to me that means changing the game. And he’s a mediocre rapper with frequently good production. I think it comes closer to the American Idol self perpetuation of celebrity. Everyone kept saying he was going to be the next big thing, so he had to be. No matter that every single after “In Da Club” has been fairly boring.
08- Black Eyed Peas- Where Is The Love?
I don’t think we’ve talked about this one before.
It’s your worst nightmare:
Guitars on the chorus
Orchestral stabs to denote seriousness
Diva coming in near the end for one big “where is the love?”
Generally non-danceable instrumental
09- Ginuwine- In Those Jeans
I’m sure you’ve seen this one. Seems like a nice slow-jam that will go up to maybe even 8 and then fade gracefully into obscurity. Has a nice guitar line, though, which is reminiscent of Usher. Really, is there that much more to say about it?
10- Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins- Get Low
This might be my favorite song of the summer. I am increasingly in love with drum machines, sure, but there is a certain type of personality that is coming up out of the South right now that is just ridiculously fun and engaging. I’m not sure who it is, but he’s doing the second verse and his voice wavers as runs through his lines and it’s absolutely amazing. God. So many hooks!
11- Fabolous feat. Ashanti- Into You
Seriously, besides the fact that he bought the best beats, how is this guy still around? If you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you the name of one of his songs, besides this one, or sing a line or a melody. I do remember that video where the two girls see each other in the restaurant and Fabolous looks vaguely unapologetic and then another song starts immediately, which is far better than the actual single. That’s all I can remember about this guy. Completely disposable. Ashanti, on the other hand, awwww baby can she sing a hook!
12- Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee- Shake Ya Tailfeather
Speaking of hooks for the third time in a row: this song is basically one long anthem for the Atlanta Braves, isn’t it? Should’ve been called “Shake Ya Tomahawk.” The verses are unremarkable as John mentioned in the last Pop Playground, but when the chorus is this good you can write checks instead of rhymes and get away with it. Favorite moment? P. Diddy yelling out “Bad Boy, Dirrty Entertainment Collaboration” at the end, which SO obviously needed to be followed up by “2003, all rights reserved.”
13- Kelly Clarkson- Miss Independent
Listen, I know you’re not a big fan of American Idol but close your eyes, think of your favorite Britney Spears video and listen to this thing with open ears. Yes, a few years too late, but I’ll take it. Girls got a great voice, but I think the album is spread a little too thin towards covering all bases, as you might expect. I really like the bridge, especially. Very vampy.
14- Uncle Kracker- Drift Away
Remember this guy? Me either. It’s a cover, though. A sure-fire way to revive that fledgling career, champ.
15- Pharell feat. Jay-Z- Frontin’
Don’t know if I’ve written this before, but I know we’ve talked about it- the key, absolutely and totally, to the Neptunes are key changes. In almost every single track that begins slightly mediocre by these guys the key change always, without fail, makes me go “whoa!” and then the entire song becomes justified. I believe I read that in an interview with Chad Hugo, which makes me believe that he is the one responsible for them. Finally I can imagine him contributing in the studio.
16- Evanescence- Bring Me To Life
See: William Swygart’s comments from the past few weeks on this. That about sums it up for me. I’m sure you hate it, though. Your loss. Also, new Linkin Park album? Not that bad.
17- Sean Paul- Like Glue
It always takes me two listens to get his songs. This one was no exception and now that I’ve got it, I’ve been on the hunt for any track with the Buy Out riddim. Could this be the new diwali? I wonder when over-exposure will kick in and people will start to get really sick of this guy. Hopefully not soon. We’ve got a new crop coming in to keep up the cross-over- Tim Finney and Scott Pl. have been hyping that Elephant Man album a bit in recent days.
18- Monica- So Gone
“New Monica!” Maybe you like Mya better, but I’m a Monica man, myself. God, the production on this is ridiculously slinky, making me feel dirty and voyeuristic. Did Missy do the production on this? I didn’t know that she was on that tip, lately. Either way, her contribution is understated and invaluable. It’s almost too much, the strings, by the way. They get really close to one another before the second verse almost toppling each other.
19- Michelle Branch- Are You Happy Now?
Thankfully I can like some rock ‘n roll on this list, I was beginning to think I was some sort of reverse racist. This song is hardcore shemo (honestly, Gavin, we can make this term work if we just insert it in every review or piece we ever do) and is basically the perfect pop construction. I understand why you wouldn’t like this- but I think, at the very least, I need you to admit that its construction is air-tight, no holes, simply perfectly put together. Or at least let me keep it on when we’re in the car together. Jerk.
20- Sean Paul- Get Busy
Still on the charts? Amazing.