Seven Deadly Singles #34: Lips of a Wolf
Lupe Fiasco - "Kick, Push"
The swelling orchestral jazz swings at a lively pace over wonderfully old-school production. The hook marches "kick, push, kick, push, kick, push, coast" like Kanye's "Jesus Walks" even if it's both less majestic and less enduring. But Fiasco's in a proud tradition of new Chicago conscious rap, following the underrated Rhymefest and the established Kanye and Common, so I'd hate to steal his moment by comparing to him a giant like say, Jay-Z, who would've owned this beat way better than he owns his current mess. Much has been made of Fiasco's lyrical genius, which here amounts to an adorably miniature vignette about a skateboarding kid painted as some kind of rebel, who falls in love with the female version of the same thing. Cute, but strange. And while Fiasco's getting obvious touts for his lyrical talent, he's also getting a lot of accusations I can't deny that he's not very fun to listen to. A spark that I predict will give way to bigger explosions that the purists can pretend were never as good as this. B
Hinder - "Lips of an Angel"
Old news: A band who disdains everything on the charts makes a grassroots following of rockist philistines in red states and ends up in Billboard's top ten without "compromising" their sound with anything new/original/interesting/well-done. 3 Doors Down did it in 2000 to offer uncomfortable Godsmack fans an alternative to Eminem/OutKast/Nelly/Mystikal/Destiny's Child; Nickelback in 2001 for Pink/Missy Elliott/Jay-Z/Coldplay/Alicia Keys. So if 2006's chart reign by T.I./Nelly Furtado/Christina Aguilera/Justin Timberlake/Beyonce/Gnarls Barkley was in need of some white-bread overproduced rock crashing, Hinder's just the perfect batch of no-ones to do it. One reason they're rich is because they suck; Stone Temple Pilots lasted too long with only medium-sized hits, sometimes actually good or inspired, to pull off a takeover this massive and faceless. Gavin Rossdale was also too sexy and obscurantist to do an alt-crap ballad like "Lips of an Angel." Hinder is like Lifehouse: one-hit wonders with a singer who boasted about not listening to anyone else's music so as to not taint his flamingly original style. At least the other guys scored a "How You Remind Me" or "Kryptonite." That would be too compromising for these hacks, who owe more to Whitesnake than Pearl Jam. I mistook them for softies until I saw their badass album cover (cleavage, how provocative) or heard their other single, which recalls the nowhere-rock of Puddle of Mudd and promises better sex with an angry partner. Buckcherry revived this stuff better, but no one's come close to the wit or riffs of Aerosmith and AC/DC even still. D-
Jay-Z - "Show Me What You Got"
Raise your hand if you wanted to see the King of New York rise up from the dead, after his ultimate epitaph "99 Problems," to interpolate Flavor Flav over horns Public Enemy already used and shout quotables like "Give the drummer some/I already gave the summer some" and "I'm the Michael Jordan of recording/you might wanna fall back from [can't think of anything that rhymes, dammit]. . . recording [ouch]." I thought not. Jay's worst single makes previous worsts "Change Clothes" and "Justify My Thug" sound like "Cry Me A River" and "Into The Groove(y)," and not just because it's a lame comeback that no one asked for even after three years of Def Jam bizzing, but because it sounds like someone who's actually forgotten how to rap. The only thing Jay's the Michael Jordan of in 2006 is playing ironically overpriced shows for "charity" in Africa. Why does he apologize at the beginning? Is he aware of the falloff to follow? D+
Gwen Stefani - "Wind It Up"
TV On The Radio - "Wolf Like Me"
I'm gonna piss off the blogosphere now by comparing the focus cut from one of 2006's most acclaimed, and hideously overrated, records, with the focus cut from a record that is already being hailed as completely and total batsh*t. For one thing, both have an intro that features unnecessary a capella yodeling from a vocalist who doesn't deserve listeners who will put up with it. Tunde Adebimpe has less soul (and range) than Jack White, which no one wants to admit, and if Stefani has always been more renowned for her hooks than her range, neither of which is really apparent in "Wind It Up," a Neptunes pastiche so bad it makes "Monkey Maker" sound like "Shake Ya Ass." It should be noted that both songs feature extarordinary understanding of bass and percussion, with creeping fuzz bass and manic hi-hat seizures on "Wolf Like Me" and something like "Maneater" meets bad grime on "Wind It Up," with strange synth bass and Pharrell's usually hypnotic clicks and clacks. The lyrics on both tracks are the final straw though, as I can't decide which is worse: "Feel me/completer down to my core/open my heart/and let it bleed onto yours," intoned like a moaning zombie (sadly not howled like a werewolf a la the late Warren Zevon, who had way better jokes) ,or "You've got to open up, and let it all in/But see, once it gets in, the poppin' begins," rapped so awkwardly that Fergie wants to change bridges. And yeah, even Fergie had better metaphors, not to mention better jokes. Both: C-
Fergie - "Fergalicious"
Okay, maybe not. I'd prefer not to scrutinize a track called "Fergalicious," but if I have to, I'd counterdescribe it as "Fergadisgusting." Will.i.am is not a choice guest rapper (or producer) even though these two spawns of Satan have actually crafted fun singles in the past. This isn't one, except for Ferg's implication at a possible Nelly Furtado feud ("I ain't promiscuous"), which would be way more fun than actually listening to either Fergie or Nelly Furtado. As for her rapping, let's say in the Thanksgiving spirit that I'm thankful that bodies deteriorate and Fergie's "talents" aren't going to keep her afloat much longer. 2016 Playboy comeback pictorial yes. D+
Lady Sovereign - "Love Me Or Hate Me"
The S-O-V is nothing if not endearingly simple: all synth blips and 808s are on the four, all opinions go as follows: "if you love me then/thank youuuuu/if you hate me then/f*ck youuuuu." That's the hook, the one that follows every dare to have her deported cuz she's English. Other claims: "I can't sing," "I don't have the biggest breasteses/but I write all the bestestes," "It's officially the biggest midget in the game," "I'm fat/I need a diet," "I got hairy armpits" "I've never had my nails done." And she portrays all of the above as not only charming, but as boasts. A role model. A-
Note: Seven Deadly Singles was my weekly feature for the Beacon at William Paterson University and went on hiatus until this edition. It will now appear in this blog biweekly as Seven Deadly Singles and in the Pioneer Times as Kiss Out The Jams. Every column I dispatch seven recent singles with an analysis and a grade.