Raiders of the X-Crossed Ark
Here are some of my recent blurbs from The Singles Jukebox, which continues to inform and delight. Click on over there and read what other people wrote, too!
Bon Iver - "Holocene": Nice drumming, I guess. Justin Vernon seems like an upstanding Wisconsin homesteader, but his fans speak a different language, or are ruled by different physical laws, or something. I learn from Pitchfork that “Holocene” is a “virtuosic vocal performance”, when in fact Vernon sounds like Peter Gabriel trapped in a cistern. Christianity Today loves his “rich soundscapes” and impressionist poetry, his “palpable vulnerability and reliance on love’s redemptive power”, but I’m pretty sure they hear that stuff everywhere, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t move me even if Vernon suddenly learned to enunciate. “Hydroponics lifestyle” mag Rosebud says the Bon Iver album makes you “stop what you’re doing and just let your jaw hang” — well, that makes sense. Teen Vogue says the album’s “incredible”, if you can believe it. Most endearing is my wife’s fraternal magazine Pan Pipes, which called the album “a recommended listen if you’re looking for something new and relaxing”, but did complain that the song “Wash” is “a bit too much at times”, with “many things going on at once”. I eagerly await their feature on K-Pop.
Rihanna - "Cheers (Drink to That)": It’s about time somebody captured the depressing slog that is obsessive barhopping. Your mind’s always on your money, everybody just sits around complaining about the bastards at work, and some idiot keeps singing the same line from that stupid Avril song OVER AND OVER. Cheers to the freakin’ weekend. (CONTROVERSY!)
X-Cross - "Crazy": During my first hapless attempt to transcribe “Crazy” I became convinced I’d uncovered a murder, John Travolta Blow Out style. Coming out of the first verse I heard Mr. X-Cross say, “Hey girl, sexy girl! Dehdehdehdeh deh- deh- DEAD girl!”, and suddenly everything became clear. THAT’S why people are getting shot in the prechorus, and why that damn Crazy Frog voice keeps mocking X-Cross’s lovelorn entreaties as “CRAZY!” It especially explains why X-Cross hit their lovelorn peak singing, “We can make it out, baby, you and I” — the only way they escape this song together is in a closed casket. The lovely pop!gasa website informs me my transcription’s a little off, but even the pop!gasa translation features eyes getting wider, legs shaking, hearts exploding, people turning into dynamite. In 1981 movie terms, it’s the next-to-last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. So, yeah, bom-bas-tic.
Pitbull ft. Marc Anthony - "Rain Over Me": So many good lines! Not in this particular Pitbull song, mind you, but in Mikael Wood’s wonderfully droll Pitbull article in June 17th’s Billboard. He really takes you behind the sausage. “‘We wanted somebody to embody our brand who’s one of a kind — who’s a real pioneer,’ Dr. Pepper director of multicultural marketing Olivia Vela says,” right before Wood lists Pit’s other partnerships with Kodak, Zumba, Sheets Energy Strips (??), and “Voli, a line of low-calorie vodkas” prominently name-checked in “Rain Over Me”. Says one DJ of Pit, “This guy is printing money.” But lest you get too cynical about the music, Pit’s manager assures you, “This was never about calling up RedOne and scheduling an appointment to hook into the RedOne sound.” Yeah — that’s why RedOne’s track for “Rain Over Me” sounds so LATIN. On the other hand, it’s sort of impressive that this inevitable smash, featured on The Today Show, is the bilingual tale of a diet-vodka pitchman who has a threesome with his buddy, recently separated and desperate, and some anonymous but classy broad. It’s the kind of surreal scuzz Warren Zevon might’ve gotten away with. How far we’ve come.
Ke$ha - "Shots On the Hood of My Car": This starts as standard-issue, if pretty, transgre$$ion — K goes joyriding with her friends and jumps the fence to the Hollywood sign, just like when she snuck into the Stones concert with Harold. Only this time — what else? — she’s consumed with a vision of Garveyite apocalypse. She’s 10 miles (or wherever) from the city, watching (Hollywood) Babylon burn, just like Louie Culture and Capleton and U-Roy before her, only with no hint of judgment; she’ll be blown into oblivion with everybody else. All the burbling polyphonic euphoria at the end sounds so communitarian, it’s easy to forget all those suffocating suckers downtown who aren’t blessed with friends and Scotch. But that’s OK — this is the apocalypse from inside the Scotch-haze, and as such, it chokes me up. And here’s the other me-choker: How long can she keep this up? Where “this” equals “exploring wildly different facets and implications of a coherent persona”? I suppose the end-times imagery might be a portent that she’s running out of ideas, because where can you go from there, but at this point point I’m holding my breath with every new Ke$ha song, and “Shots” makes it feel really good to exhale. (ALSO CONTROVERSY!)
HyunA - "Bubble Pop": The beat is hard and severe like a row of brick walls, and HyunA’s job is either to squeeze between each pair of walls or, if she’s on a roll, to soar over the top of the walls and contain them, as though she’s being unfurled by Christo. Also there’s a dubstep interlude. None of this adds to the beat’s forward momentum, but all of it adds to the song’s energy, by turns invigorating and herky-jerkily frustrating, not unlike a real game of Bubble Pop! with a child who INSISTS on always being the bubble-blower and never the bubble-chaser. You know the contortions you gotta put yourself through to contend with one of those bubble guns? “OOH! AHH! OOH-ah-ooh-AH! ooh-AH! OOOOOOOHHHH” sounds pretty close.
Blake Shelton - "Honey Bee": I’d say he misunderstands the particulars of honeysuckle fertilization, but he backs off: “That came out a little Country / But every word was right on the money.” Of course, that contradiction flies in the face of the recent Corbin-Paisley hypothesis that Country Must Always Speak Truth About True Things. My sensible and, it turns out, eight-months-pregnant wife is now explaining to me about poetic license. Herself no stranger to lies about bees, she once suffered a debilitating sting WHILE HOLDING STILL.
The comments thread for Blake's nothing of a song erupts into a conversation about country music and The Voice, largely between Anthony and Brad and Katherine, that is one of the most entertaining things I've read this year.