Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Last Week in Jukeboxing

Les biens:
Tye Tribbett -- "Fresh" 
(my pick!) 
The parts of “Fresh” that make it gospel — addressing God, quoting the Bible — feel like afterthoughts; this is really a song about Tye discovering the joys of Auto-Tune, or whatever voice-manipulator he used (apparently you can use it “straight out the box”!) He seems blissfully unaware that secular R&B has been doing the same thing for many years now, and that blatant Auto-Tune isn’t even unheard of in Christian circles — Marvin Sapp, a more traditional gospel singer, used it on a couple songs earlier this year, and the icky tobyMac has had a big A-T hit. So CCM’s lagging behind secular music again, what else is new? But apart from the synth-arpeggios and strutting beat and chord changes, all great, I love this song because Tye uses his new toy with such unbridled enthusiasm, mutating his voice in a variety of ways I don’t think I’ve heard outside Ke$ha. During the choruses he sounds like a whole P-Funk army. And if it weren’t for their chronology, Tye’s coda could be a minimalist riposte to Kanye’s overwrought Vocoder solo.

After School -- "Bang!"
Brings me back to the heady days of the Bring It On soundtrack, which I was convinced would illuminate some nascent bubble-underground and usher in a euphoric age of insanely shiny global pop supremacy. (Though I think B*Witched was as “global” as the made-in-USA BIO ventured). Probably my “euphoric age” will remain perpetually out of reach; probably it’d feel more oppressive than euphoric. But if history tells us anything, it’s that trying and failing to live up to such impossible ideals can produce some nifty side-effects. Speaking of: my word, is that a harpsichord? And then, after all the hot-stepping percussion and the smooth breakdown, we get ACTUAL STEPPING SOUNDS. I have no idea what this song’s about, but it SOUNDS like hot cheerleaders flipping through the air, competitively. It’s an image that might look oppressive to that portion of the student body who aren’t hot and can’t flip. But one of the joys of pop is that you don’t have to pass its practitioners in the halls.

...le mal:
Luca Brazi -- "Wake Up"
Despite my weakness for Christian rappers who can actually rap and cuss and quote Jay-Z (are there others?), I may be even more prejudiced against underground rap with sucky beats and no hooks. What to do? Well, it turns out the words aren’t much either. He’s more smug than prophetic — correct me if I’m wrong, but Brazi’s totally raging against ALL THOSE OTHER PEOPLE who worship greenbacks and whatnot, without acknowledging the same tendencies in himself, like Kanye did in “All Falls Down”. This oversight makes him sound petulant, but more to the point it makes him less interesting than (say) “All Falls Down”, because there’s no way into his music. My heart’s probably not pure enough for him, so we couldn’t stand together against the infidels; but I don’t recognize myself as one of the people he’s railing against either, since, devoid of specifics, his attacks don’t really stick. The industry may well be full of “boot-clickin’ ass-kissin’ house niggas”, but absent any way of identifying with either Brazi or his strawmen, I don’t know or care whether that’s true. And, watery lyrics aside, that beat’s not gonna wake anybody up.
...et le mot juste:
Kanye West ft. Pusha T -- "Runaway"
Way to show the Primitive Radio Gods how it’s done! Although I will say this: if you title your song “Runaway” it’s bound to be good, sort of like if you call your song “Do It Again” (the conflicting implications of these phenomena will be fully explored in my forthcoming EMP paper, Should I Stay Or Should I Stay Somewhere Else?: Primitive Radio Gods and the Ineluctable Modality of the Transitive). Speaking of which, does anybody remember the Pearl Jam song “Who You Are”, which according to my copious research followed “Waiting To Use the Phone Except I Don’t Have Any Quarters” at #1 on the Modern Rock Chart? Well, don’t look it up. ‘96 was bleak, man.

The Tallest Man on Earth -- "The King of Spain" [8]
Ke$ha -- "Cannibal" [8]
(review and comments include wonky choir director stuff) (and wonky K fan stuff) (it's really out of control at this point)
The Greenhornes -- "Saying Goodbye" [6]
Right Said Fred -- "This Love" [4]

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