Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seven Deadly Singles #36: Everyone Is Olddd

Even great rappers get old and delusional. Old rockers get older. One-hit wonders get annoying fast. Tom Waits remains immortal.

Chris Cornell - "You Know My Name"

Audioslave got off to a good start that played to Tom Morello's strengths with the Zep-riff-roar of "Cochise" and Chris Cornell's with the haunting power ballad "Like A Stone." Then they began to repeat themselves, not for the better, and their debut album wasn't even over yet. The follow-up was so dull I didn't even listen to the follow-up to that. But now I might. Caught off guard by this sleek new Bond theme over the gorgeously animated opening credit sequence in Casino Royale, this sexy espionage rocker is a far better comeback than 007's. Cornell's best song in years plays to his wonderfully operatic strengths without toning down the riffage, and I would've A-listed it if he delivered the punchline as well as the build-up. Ain't the singing's fault; "Shaken Not Stirred" would've been a less stupid title to climax a mammoth chorus with than "You Know My Name." Maybe hook the guy up with Meat Loaf or Tenacious D to teach him how to keep those sweet decibels flowing out his larynx without having to rely on a hook he can't write. B+

Tom Waits - "Lie To Me"

Tom Waits' new triple cd set is so awesome that I wanted to review the focus track in a true singles context just for fun. Even if you're not part of his cult, "Lie To Me" is catchy if you can stand the wheezing you're likely unaccustomed to. It's two minutes of asthmatic rockabilly, with some creepy harmonics thrown in as the musical center like a two-note stab looped in a Neptunes track. The percussion's more alive and jaunty than his usual tribal bangbang. You might actually hum this, though to the converted, it's business as usual. More fun than your average cult artist's routine material, though. A-

U2 & Green Day - The Saints Are Coming"

Two junkies, one a veteran and one a n00b to h00bris, enter a Grammy detox clinic together to cure their addiction to dinosaur awards, but have a change of willpower once they find themselves rooming together, and they get to talking. This is their escape plan. Operation: Grammy. Bono makes another pass at restoring credibility he never had when the same old fogies who lined up for "Beautiful Day" lined up for "Vertigo," this time with a real live Punk Band covering an Actual Punk Song juicing his chances. Since anything Bono touches gets nominated for six or seven Grammys, this is new buddy and recent convert to mystical crap Billie Joe Armstrong's chance to replenish his fix, which he had a taste of for a good two years. The song is just bland enough to make U2 fans feel hip and just driving enough, thanks to the unsinkable Tre Cool, to maybe fool American Idiot fans into taking that extra step towards a John Mayer purchase. Cross-marketing genius that Nelly and Tim McGraw couldn't manufacture. The geriatric circle jerk must've come (n.p.i.) to a screeching halt today when the song scored exactly one Grammy nomination. Reality: "Vertigo" was better. Punker even. American Idiot had more universal appeal. What a coup. D+

Akon feat. Snoop Dogg - "I Wanna Fuck You"

This asshole got annoying fast. Charming after his jail stint as a kind of confession-booth loverman, his debut album had a bunch of good tunes. Strike one for his sophomore slump was speeding up Eminem's decline before the Re-Up made the Shady brand name even cheaper. Strike two is doing a song as crass as this one with the head of the crass; Snoop's verse makes his Pussycat Dolls feature look like it was recorded in the same room as the girls. It probably was, too. A private room, that is. With this song blasting on the stereo. Then Snoop reached over the Doll fellating him to switch the radio dial to a sexier song. C-

Akon feat. Eminem - "Smack That"
Eminem feat. 50 Cent - "You Don't Know"

Let's talk about Eminem for a minute, but first I'll finish up with Akon. What's sexier than the "I Wanna Fuck You" guy and the constantly-threatens-to-murder-his-wife guy on the same song? Anything, of course, and didn't Eminem's "Ass Like That" go out of its way to denounce these kind of bullshit lothario songs? If not Em's whole catalog anyway, which has a history of hating R&B, boy bands, sissies, and in general anything that diminished from his dangerous persona (except his daughter; he luuuuvs her).

So naturally I have no idea what attracts Em to G-Unit synth-bullshit tracks like "You Don't Know," or rather, anything about G-Unit at all. At least D-12 had offensive prankster charms Marshall could run his creative horror-schtick fantasies by. Hanging around 50 Cent too much is actually starting to threaten his rapping abilities. Honestly, when's the last time you could describe an Eminem track as forgettable? This isn't the first, those new tracks on the best-of were trash. But this is the first we're supposed to take seriously. I don't know why the best year for hiphop has the world's two best rappers copping out so badly. Maybe they feel threatened by all the worthy competition for once. Maybe they're just getting old. Or maybe they're so out of touch they forgot what made them tick in the first place. Jay-Z certainly never bragged about being Gwyneth Paltrow's buddy in his prime, and Eminem was certainly never a mixtape underdog like 50 Cent, whose level he's trying to lower himself to for cred he shouldn't want. The Game is cleaning both their asses as we speak, and he sucks. Both: D

Amerie - "Take Control"

Ten seconds in, it ain't "1 Thing." Thirty seconds in, I no longer think she's lost her beat-riding magic. False intro aside, here comes a conga groove, bendy surf guitar licks, and oh snap, horns on the hook, how "Deja Vu!" So maybe she didn't completely ignore her blog-prone fans who wanted more weird rhythmic elements. But actually, the hook's got a kind of annoying jittery call-and-response thing. What kind of R&B jam has a better verse than its chorus? Biting Beyonce doesn't really help when all she's ever aimed for is a Timbaland-less Aaliyah. Four minutes in, it ain't "1 Thing." B-

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