Monthly Archives: July 2009

You guys don’t want it with Hov – NOOOOO!

jay-z

Running off to see Dirty Projectors, but wanted to throw this out into the ether before I forgot about. Somehow missed this piece last week on FPBlog that places The Game’s beef with Jay-Z into the context of global power relations and American foreign policy. It’s a detailed and intelligent analysis, even if I think it overestimates Jay’s ability to hold back from responding to those unworthy of his attention (see: Dig a Hole off Kingdom Come. Actually, just ignore Kingdom Come altogether)

Regardless, it’s worth a read. More thoughts on this later.

FP Blog: Jay-Z vs. The Game

FP Blog: Debating Jay-Z’s Hegemony

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I’m the one who’s in control here. Let me make it clear…

Fefe+Dobson+-+Sunday+Love+(original+cover)

Back in 2005, Canadian post-Avril teen-pop bubblegrunger Fefe Dobson was set to put out her sophomore effort, Sunday Love, when Def Jam unexpectedly shelved it after releasing two singles, and unceremoniously dropped her from the label. It leaked, and was a surprisingly heady mix of guitars and grunge and disco and odd songs about hair dye and gender-play and lesbian flirtation and child molestation and aggressive female sexuality. Co-writers ostensibly included Tim Armstrong, Courtney Love, Cyndi Lauper, and Joan Jett. American Idol Jordin “No Air” Sparks just released a cover of the lead single on her new album, and the changes, lyrically and stylistically, are intriguing.

Don’t Let It Go to Your Head – Fefe Dobson

Embedding disabled, but the video is totally insane. Fishnets and guitars and broken toilets in heroin dens.
WATCH THIS.

Don’t Let It Go to Your Head – Jordin Sparks

There’s a tendency in some strains of music writing to discredit R&B performers, remove their agency or suggest that pop music can’t be a setting in which strong, empowered women can exist. Suggestions to this effect are patently false, and I don’t want to be misread as making a broader statement about Jordin Sparks or R&B per se. (I quite like both!) That said, Jordin’s version softens the song, removes the guitars, and saps much of the desire and menace from it. The bridge in the original is all about Fefe’s ambiguity towards her own desire (had a porcelain doll / held onto it too tightly / but when it broke I swore / I’d never hold onto something so tightly again). While Jordin’s maintains a sense of agency and control, it’s a much more passive stance (well you think you can touch me / well I’m gonna let you). In media coverage of her early career, Dobson was very upfront about how as a woman of colour she felt pigeonholed by a set of expectations for her music and her image, grounded in both gendered and racial stereotypes – expectations that she consciously defied. Absent context, Jordin’s song is a passable pop power ballad. However, stacked up against the original, the softened, more submissive version backed by Stargate-esque drums feels like a surrender. Especially since four years on, Fefe’s career remains stalled.

Bonus: Take Me Away, Fefe’s only Billboard Top 100 charter.

I can be suburban (Dinner’s in the oven)

The-Dream, on girlfriend Christina Milian:

And to clear this up, “Oh, she fuckin’ for tracks” and this shit, I be like these muthafuckas must be stupid. It’s a recession ain’t nobody got to fuck for tracks. We basically giving them away

But if she was, I’d understand. Terius is on fire here. Chameleon is all I’ve been listening to for the past 24 hours.

This is an uncharacteristic turn for The-Dream. Terius and Tricky normally go very maximalist on production: as many layers as possible, as many harmonies as you can squeeze into a track. More, more, more. (See: Rockin’ That Shit, Fast Car, etc.) Chameleon is almost an exercise in excising as much as possible from a song until it approaches the limit of nothingness, while still retaining its inner core of pop. While this M.O. isn’t too far afield from the early days of crunk (esp. Ciara’s Goodies) and snap, something about this still feels out of place in the musical landscape of 2009.

Junebox.

Latest Jukebox pieces. Published pieces linked. Unused or heavily edited blurbs are published below in full.

Kanye West ft. Mr Hudson – Paranoid
On an album that is 50% majestic melancholy and 50% tuneless burbling, Paranoid stands out. Upbeat and danceable, Kanye’s rap-adjacent verses have strut and ire, and the occasional quotable (Heartbreak Hotel). Truthfully, it’s the only song on the album that SOUNDS anything like a “radio-friendly single”. But Mr Hudson’s sing-along chorus is mediocre, boring and undermines what is otherwise a solid piece of disco fluff.
[6]
Tinchy Stryder ft. Amelle – Never Leave You
Lethal Bizzle ft. Donae’o – Go Hard
Micachu and the Shapes – Golden Phone
Mary J Blige ft. Drake – The One
MJB doesn’t need autotune. I don’t object on principle, but I miss the unmistakable tones of her voice. Average post-T-Pain production with some nice off-kilter drum fills ensures this will be at least a midlevel hit. Its existence is justified by Drake, who I might have written off unfairly as a Canadian, Jewish, actor-turnt-rapper. “While my brother Wayne rockin’ out like a White Stripe / Ima kill the game / I’m the Young Money white knight.” Indeed.
[8]
The Dead Weather – Treat Me Like Your Mother
Aiming for Courtney’s growl, but landing somewhere around Stefani. Guitars can’t decide if they’re funky or grungy. While I admire the attitude and swagger, it never pulls me in.
[2]
(Note: I somehow had no clue that this was Jack White’s new band when I wrote this. Not sure if this would affect the score, at any rate, for better or for worse)
Paloma Faith – Stone Cold Sober
Full horn section, with a touch of menace, and Paloma’s accent stuck halfway between Winehouse and Stackhouse, Duffy and Dusty. Southern Soul via Northern Soul via Kate Nash. I grew tired with this meme somewhere around Adele, but the chorus has some punch and she enunciates “stone cold sob-ah” with relish, so it escapes a [0] and instead gets a
[4]
Ciara – Like a Surgeon
R Kelly ft. OJ Da Juiceman – Supaman High
Marit Larsen – If a Song Could Get Me You
Keri Hilson ft. Keyshia Cole and Trina – Get Your Money Up
The Mars Volta – Cotopaxi
Make The Girl Dance – Baby Baby Baby
Sway – Mercedes Benz
Spinnerette – Baptized By Fire
Richgirl – He Ain’t With Me Now (Tho)
Cobra Starship ft. Leighton Meester – Good Girls Go Bad
Pat Green – What I’m For
Shakira – Loba
Major Lazer – Hold The Line
Booty Luv – Say It
Paperboys – Lonesome Traveller
Jamie T – Sticks ‘n’ Stones
Nelly Furtado – Manos al Aire
Speech Debelle ft. Micachu – Better Days
Appropriately enough, in my iTunes library, this immediately precedes Take Me Home, the Spice Girls’ attempt at trip-hop circa 1996. Better Days has a similar vibe to it, and pleasantly drifts in and out of your consciousness without leaving much of an impression. Micachu is far more tolerable submerged under the murkiness. The bittersweet past embraces the tonal darkness of the genre, but the overall hopefulness of the song seems at odds with its texture.
[6]
Bisso Na Bisso – Show Ce Soir
Dizzee Rascal ft. Chrome – Holiday
50 Cent – OK, You’re Right
MPHO – Box ‘n’ Locks
Chicane – Poppiholla
Colbie Caillat – Falling For You
Despite the ubiquity of ‘Bubbly’, I never paid attention to Colbie until her feature on Taylor Swift’s Breathe. Therein lies the key to Caillat. Her light, frothy AM radio fare is the inverse of Taylor’s: pop tending towards the edges of country. Melodically, musically and even vocally, there are Taylor-adjacent moments here, but where Taylor takes cliche and transmutes it to painful realism, Colbie has the unique ability to leech a situation of all specificity.
[5]
Bashy ft. H-Boogie – Your Wish Is My Command
Mr Hudson ft. Kanye West – Supernova

This bunch are a marked improvement over my earlier Jukebox pieces. Start to find my voice properly somewhere around the Keri Hilson. The Cobra Starship blurb might be the least serious piece of writing I’ve done lately, but it was the most fun to write. Also, Good Girls Go Bad remains a totally killer summer jam.

Oh, Canada!

Over at Poptimists, we’re in the midst of a massive Best of the Decade POLL-a-thon. Conspicuously absent from most nominations are a bunch of songs that were inescapable back in the early days of the decade, when I was young and impressionable and listened to the radio a great deal. On reflection and a bit of research, I realized that CanCon is to blame for this.

Essentially, legislation exists in Canada to promote Canadian culture by mandating a certain percentage of music played on the radio must be home-grown talent. Of course, at the height of mass-produced pop music (late 90s/early 00s), this often resulted in the pimping of Canadian artists groomed to reproduce current American pop trends. Massively popular in Canada, but most never broke in the States. Thus, non-Canuck music aficionados of my generation remain blissfully unaware of its existence. Some of the music is terrible, but most is as alright/bad/weird as mainstream American pop at the time. As we poll forward through the decade, I feel as though there is a vague responsibility to dredge up these songs from the waste-bin of Canadian music history, dust them off, and expose them to the light, if only for three and a half minutes.

More substantive treatment of it later, as well as some genuinely good music, but for now, one of the most egregious offenses caused by CanCon (besides Nickelback, of course). Chuckle away. Dance. And cringe.

Get Down – B4-4 (1999)

They’ll make you come tonight. (Over to their house.)

Desperation Tentacles, Part II.

Attempt #3 at a proper online presence, now on wordpress. First few posts will archive earlier music-type writing all in one place, for convenience. New-ness to follow.