Pop Playground
US Singles Jukebox: Singles Going Steady

his week in singles: Akon takes us back to the early 60s, Garbage plead for validation, R. Kelly takes the George Costanza sensuality trifecta to its logical conclusion (minus the TV, anyway), Mike Jones checks back in to let you know what he’s been up to, and you might think you know the Ying Yang Twins, but shawty, you don’t know the Ying Yang Twins. All this and The Bravery, this week on Singles Going Steady!

Why Do You Love Me?

Erick Bieritz: Is it too late for Garbage to get some role model points for whatever small part they played in inspiring the current crop of female hard- and semi-hard-rock songs? The weak-ass chorus in “Why Do You Love Me?” isn’t helping, but it has a solid guitar riff.

Akiva Gottlieb: In what galaxy is Garbage still relevant? Since the band's mid-90s heyday, the grunge-grrl sound has been co-opted and burnished by pop starlets from Avril to Kelly, with varying results. Garbage politely declines to break the mold they helped to create, and this repetitive number sounds a lot like an outtake from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtack.

Ian Mathers: It’s sad that the quiet middle-eight bit is the only part of this song I care about either way (I like it, but I’d like it more if it wasn’t interrupted by the pro forma “loud” “guitars”). That should be a song. The rest? Meh.

Andrew Unterberger: Celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album, Garbage’s new single is a return to roots, or at least a respite from the mediocre electro-poppery of their last album. They’ve got the hooks back, but they lost the personality, and damned if I wouldn’t want to listen to “Vow” or “Stupid Girl” 20 times before I listened to this once more.


Erick Bieritz: “Lonely,” in which “Ghetto” crooner Akon duets with a sped-up Bobby Vinton sample. If “Ghetto” sounded like it came from 1994, “Lonely” sounds much closer to its 1964 source material than the modern age. Pleasant but undistinguished.

Akiva Gottlieb: Having deposited every shred of masculinity at the door to the studio, Akon's latest is almost too sweet to listen to. Akon's song presents his former female companion with no reason to return to his soft embrace, and one suspects that he'll be listening to Sea Change for quite some time. Another suggestion: Roy Orbison.

Ian Mathers: Goddamn the Alvin shtick is getting old. Three singles in and Akon has become one of the most reliable minor pleasures out there; This isn’t as good as either “Locked Up” or especially “Ghetto”, but the lack of affect/slight drone as he sings the “Mr. Lonely” bit is compelling. I’m not sure if he’s showing potential or if this is as good as he’s going to get, but for now at least Akon is solidly in the middle of the pack.

Andrew Unterberger: You never see anyone resurrecting the old-skool balladeer style like this anymore. Maybe there’s a reason for that, but this song isn’t it—it’s lovably dorky, charming as hell, and ever so slightly grating. Ultimately a good deal.

The Bravery
An Honest Mistake

Erick Bieritz: The Bravery may be rightly or wrongly dismissed as Interpol knock-offs, but the sped-up drumming and forlorn chorus give “Honest Mistake” the kick that parts of “Antics” lacked. Mousetrap!

Akiva Gottlieb: Ingenious concept: let's take our MOR Strokes rip-off and lay it over a Fischerspoonery backing track. Obvious result: feel good hit of the spring. Mash-up con artists or not, The Bravery prove that derivative kids have more fun.

Ian Mathers: Yes, I am a sucker for the sped-up New Order of the intro. But the rest of the song delivers (in ways the Bravery’s other single doesn’t). The best paced single I’ve heard in a while, especially with the “my old friend” parts and the cheesy mini-solo, which is great. I’m deeply leery of the hype, but here at least they’re working well in an idiom I thoroughly enjoy, and so I’ve had this on repeat for a while.

Andrew Unterberger: I almost hesitate to say anything positive about this lest it make me doubt my utter hatred for their first single. This is better, actually—it’s second-rate everything (Killers, Interpol, Franz) but you can’t have an a-list without a b-list, and it’s very dutiful of The Bravery to be more than willing to fill that position. In the meantime I’ll take out my rage on the Kaiser Chiefs.

R. Kelly
Sex in the Kitchen

Erick Bieritz: In case the idea behind the song isn’t obvious, R identifies particular landmarks in the room that will prove that, yes, he is having sex in a kitchen. I don’t know if any of Kelly’s detractors can come up with a good way to parody a song that announces “GIRL I’M READY TO TOSS YOUR SALAD!” over a horn fanfare. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Akiva Gottlieb: Is anyone else really disturbed by that computerized dripping sound? What's it meant to symbolize? The leaky kitchen faucet? The sweat rolling off R. Kelly's smooth torso?
[CENSORED]?! I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder. Regardless, nobody steps in the name of lust like Kelly, and this understated gem is his sexiest track since "Ignition (Remix)". Like Mel Gibson, dude's at his best when he isn't trying to sublimate his sex addiction into Jesus worship or some-such.

Ian Mathers:

Ian Mathers: He really just is a self-parody at this point, isn’t he? One bonus point for “Girl! I’m-ready-to-toss-your-salad!”, and two more points for the neat little almost-subliminal guitar part, which I could gladly listen to for hours.

Andrew Unterberger: You remember when you were a kid, and you’d get into an argument over something stupid that kept going back and forth, until you suddenly reversed your position and confused your opponent into dropping the argument altogether? This is the musical equivalent of that, and if it isn’t R’s best single, it’s certainly his most ingenious.

Mike Jones feat. Paul Wall and Slim Thug
Still Tippin'

Erick Bieritz: Mike Jones still seems to have writers’ block. Who is Mike Jones? Rinse, repeat. Paul Wall’s got the Internet going nuts and that may be the first actual rap song thank you to bloggers and message boards. Guaranteed 7+ on Stylus.

Akiva Gottlieb: "Back then ho's didn't want me/Now I'm hot ho's all on me."

Ian Mathers: Slim Thug and Swishahouse own this track; the former is “Boss Hogg on candy”, he likes the Nintendo Gamecube, and he practically sounds screwed and chopped already. The latter just produces and serves up a laid-back chopped horn sample and a compulsively repetitive chorus. Jones and Wall aren’t bad, but they can’t compete.

Andrew Unterberger: An almost impossibly slow-and-low jam whose screwed & chopped version serves to remind us that the song essentially sounds S&C;’d as is. It’s nothing short of brilliant, really. The song’s essential question—Who is Mike Jones?—is actually the least engaging thing about it. Frankly, I’m far more interested in hearing how similar to an ant Paul Wall is.

Ying Yang Twins
Wait (The Whisper Song)

Erick Bieritz: The rap “Come Together,” as seen through “Beat That Bitch With a Bat.” The Twins drop the jet plane bombast and war cries of “What’s Happenin’” for a slinking, completely corrupted menace. The chorus may be the most edited since Mystikal’s “Shake Yo Ass” and the song may be the most evil-sounding thing on the radio.

Akiva Gottlieb: This song is so obviously the work of sexual deviants that I'm almost afraid to associate with it by signing my name to this blurb. So, in the next sentence, when I say "disgusting" I really mean "hott hott hott." This song is disgusting, the whispering is disgusting, and the implied objectification of females is doubly disgusting.

Ian Mathers: The radio edit is by necessity not quite as bad as the album version, but it’s pretty close. I like minimalism and bone dry clicks in my rap music but “Wait” just doesn’t work, and I don’t think it’s just the misogyny (which is hard enough to take in a good song). The idea of someone rapping in a whisper is already pretty dubious entertainment, and “Wait” capably shows it’s even more tedious than you’d expect. Utterly odious, and boring to add insult to injury.

Andrew Unterberger: Reminding us that it’s been a whole decade since “Cotton Eyed Joe” and “Short Dick Man,” here come the Ying Yang Twins to take the art of OMGWTFLOL to a whole new level. Trying to isolate favorite parts (in the album version or the radio edit) would be about as fruitless as trying to guess what Lil’ Jon’s favorite breakfast cereal is, but needless to say, words like “got a sexy little body and yo’ ass looks soft / mind if I touch it and see if it’s soft” have known to be the stuff of revolutions. Can’t wait for the response single.

By: Stylus Staff

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Posted 03/18/2005 - 09:03:53 AM by IanMathers:
 I'm pretty sure any response song to "Wait" would have to include Mace (no, not Ma$e) and a swift kick to the genitals.
Posted 03/18/2005 - 11:41:05 AM by ddrake:
 Akiva shockingly on point w/r/t the R Kelly single, Erick surprisingly off the ball. Its weird how we're just reviewing "Still Tippin'" now, but Andrew is OTM with that one - guys, the "Who is mike jones" thing is like his gimmick, its how people remember him. It works too! The 'sexism' of "Wait" is pretty overanalyzed here, people are a lot quicker to jump to 'sexism!' when we're talking about rappers.
Posted 03/18/2005 - 12:05:00 PM by IanMathers:
 Believe me, David, if I heard that the singer was going to "beat that pussy up" in an indie rock song, I'd revile it just as much. But again, for me at least the real point is that even separate from the misogyny I just don't like the track. They could be rapping about rainbows and cute little bunnies, and it would still be boring.
Posted 03/18/2005 - 02:02:26 PM by ddrake:
 I found it exciting, and i think it sounds like tom waits! But re: the sexism, I don't think "beat the pussy up" is inherently sexist, they're not advocating sexual assault or something.
Posted 03/18/2005 - 02:52:48 PM by Slumberlord:
 Nothing surprising about me trashing the R song. Dude needs to take a songwriting class. I suppose it has some so-bad-it's-good cache. I'm more surprised Akiva was so neutral on Wait - I would think that would push him one way or the other in its weirdness.
Some of the imagery in the Ying Yang song is stretching the metaphor pretty far, especially "but it depends on the swing of the baseball bat." I like the song but it's pure evil, I don't think the massively violent metaphor is purely that.
At this rate Mathers is going to use up all his zeros by May... ;)
Posted 03/19/2005 - 09:47:46 AM by IanMathers:
 I thought this was my first zero of the year, actually (did I forget a couple?). I guess my point would be that to me at least he _sounds_ like he is advocating/planning sexual assault (that was my visceral reaction, in any case) - and the fact remains that using such violent metaphors for sex are at the least problematic. But it's not as if I think people who like the song are automatically horrible or anything (also, Tom Waits? really?).
Posted 03/19/2005 - 11:22:15 AM by nicotine.killa:
 Singles just aren't the same as they used to be.
Posted 03/19/2005 - 02:52:15 PM by Slumberlord:
 You gave J Lo's "Get Right" a 0 too, Ian. I think those have been the only two zeros of 2005. It's cool, I just thought it was kinda funny that you had the 0 market cornered.
Posted 03/20/2005 - 10:38:39 AM by anthonymiccio:
 I guess the Ying Yang Twins and R. Kelly will have to settle for the fact that the Bravery will be kaput the second the promo budget dries up (I have a feeling - or at least a hope - that they're the Pete Yorn of nu-wave). "Honest Mistake" has a decent beat but otherwise wtf.
Posted 03/20/2005 - 05:14:49 PM by AUnterberger:
 Pete Yorn. I remember that guy.
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