Hi. I haven't been here in a while.
Here's some singles blurbs from the last few weeks that didn't make the cut:
Lil Mama, "Lip Gloss"
For the same reason I like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” better than “Wait (The Whisper Song),” I prefer “Hollaback Girl” to this song—musically, it needs something sweet or lush to counteract that relentless drum cadence. Still, it’s cute that it’s about lip gloss, which also makes it a more plausible jump-rope song than Gwen’s.
The Stooges, "My Idea of Fun"
I've never had much use for the Stooges' crude blues-derived proto-punk, so the fact that this new single only harkens back to the glory years in its playful nihilism, but otherwise resembles Dirty-era Sonic Youth (Iggy even seems to mimic Thurston Moore's flat sing-song), is a nice surprise.
Kanye West, Nas, KRS-One, and Rakim, "Better Than I've Ever Been"
Since the all-star team assembled here had me worried at first that the track would be an overblown mess, I'm pleased that it's so lean, giving each rapper plenty of room to represent and rhyme alongside the beat's stylish glide. I just wish there was a hook, though, since that same restraint also makes it lapse into monotony.
All of these reviews, to varying degrees, reveal the extent to which I prioritize sonic elements over lyrical/thematic ones, which sometimes troubles me. I mean, it's not as if it's a conscious decision, it's just what I notice first. One of the first pop songs I ever reviewed on this blog (Lil Kim's "Magic Stick") focused almost exclusively on the melodic structure of the chorus and dropped the term "major triad." These days, I try to avoid more egregious displays of music theory, but my tendency to isolate individual instruments, in describing how they contribute to an overall mood, is what led me to wonder if this approach could be classified as formalism.
It sort of strikes me as New Criticism-influenced, not dissimilar to the way I examined contemporary poetry in Conrad Hilberry's class in 1997: picking apart how each semi-colon, each use of consonance, contributed to the whole. (I had a lot to say about the anapestic meter in Stephen Dobyns's "The Music One Looks Back On.") And all of that is fine, except in cases like that song with all the rap legends, when surely it might've done me good to force myself to pay attention to what they were actually saying. (There's a potential tangent here about why I'm able to pay attention to words when they're on paper and not when they're in my headphones, but I'll skip that for now.)
Somewhat related: I don't think Timbaland's "Give it to Me" is worth much more than the 7 that I gave it last month, but realizing that it's a Scott Storch diss track makes me appreciate it on a whole new level. The presence of Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake as guest vocalists always seemed like a show-off move ("I'm so great, I can get two of the biggest pop stars in the world to do cameos for me"), but now it just so seems so much more in-your-face, and I like that it makes Nelly and Justin complicit in the beef. Even if Storch wasn't likely to work with Timberlake again, anyway, there's a riskiness to it that's attractive.