Tuesday, July 8, 2008

burnin' up for you, bay-bee

The last five songs I downloaded were the last five songs from the soundtrack of Mamma Mia!, (which, by the way, is a whole lot better than I would have ever guessed, Pierce Brosnan's balladeering aside). So.

the last five songs Anna downloaded that weren't Mamma Mia!: a critical look
"Everyone Nose (Remix)" — N.E.R.D., feat. Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Pusha-T:
  This revamp substitutes the dominant percussion and brass of the original, not to mention downplaying its shouted subtitle  — "all the girls standing in the line for the bathroom" — and ironically makes it sound more club-friendly than ever. The bass line throbs, the synths don't do much interesting, and the lyrical tone, sadly, is set by the first line we hear from 'Ye: "Do you have any black inside you?/Would you like some?"
  Look, it's not as though the original track was some uber-mysterious, "In The Air Tonight" thing. But I did like that Pharrell Williams and co. were able to get their point — it's about celebutates doing coke — across without spelling everything out, all the time. Here, the verses vary: Mr. West gets a few good lines in,  Pharrell really scores with a comparison of a young lady's nose to Atlanta, GA, Pusha's lighting-fast flow is a welcome change of pace, if one that hits a bit too late in the track. Overall, though, this remix sounds forgettable and unnecessary; all the things Seeing Sounds, the album from whence the original comes, isn't.

• "Burnin' Up" — Jonas Brothers: 
  There are, first, some serious questions that arise in a music reviewer's mind when considering the Brothers Jonas (one unbiased enough to consider them at all, that is). How much control do they have in writing these songs, anyway? Is there some sort of shady, Lou-Pearlman-esque figure waiting to have questionable charges of pedophilia thrown at him down the line, somewhere in there? Does Nick, the littlest Brother at 15, really have any sort of
 experience with being struck breathless by a a combo of "High heels/Red dress"?
  What I can't really deny (and what I find questionable anyone else would be able to, either, for the record), is that "Burnin' Up" is a damn good pop song. I heard it for the first time, and it was, no joke, stuck in my head for the remainder of the day. Clocking in at just under three minutes, it's not groundbreaking subject matter — Nick and his brothers, Joe and Kevin just cannot get over this girl. They are burning up, in fact. So much so, it's like slipping into lava.
  If it has one lame misstep, it's the weak "breakdown" in the bridge from the "JB's" security person (?) "Big Rob".  But even that isn't enough to stop the juggernaut-style catchiness of that

• "Belief" (live version, from Where The Light Is) — John Mayer:
  You know, I'm sure John Mayer is thankful for every fan he gets and all his success in whatever form it comes it and whatever. But seriously. If there's one artist I could name that has the worst choice of singles (and it's easy to think of some sort of cruel record company execs forcing him to release the odious "Daughters," but what do I know), it's him. 
  Or, perhaps, he's simply had the bad luck of getting a certain kind of fame and branding early on in his career: dreamy acoustic "Your Body Is A Wonderland" balladeer (holy hell, still a terrible song, when all the radio play is gone). Or maybe I'm just a Mayer-switchover so incredibly late into things (thanks, roommates), that I can't really get why everyone isn't listening to the Continuum-era with the same giddy, over-zealous nature that everyone wanted to play "Why Georgia" with. 
  Whatever it is, the fact remains — do not write John Mayer off until you've heard him play live. "Belief," curiously enough, simultaneously contains some of his most understated lyrical work, with a few heavy-handed lines tossed in. But what doesn't vary is Mayer's ever-improving (probably the most exciting thing about him as a performer and songwriter) guitar work. Extra bonus — without watching the DVD that comes with, you don't have to endure the axeman's trademark weirdo faces while playing. Just sayin'.

• "Come On Over" — Jessica Simpson:
  Come on, I had to do her next, right? After John Mayer? Get it? Or has everyone forgot about their past romance, now that Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (perhaps the most awkward name in recent years?) has eclipsed her sister in tabloid eyes for the past few months? Either way, the older Simpson sister's most recent attempt to regain her career footing, which is shaky, to put it kindly? Country.
  Not the the most sensible of moves when seen in print, but the results aren't bad, if not stunningly original, either. The instrumentation sounds like it was all created by pressing the "Downhome sass" button in a studio somewhere, full of twangy guitars, yet curiously airless sounding somehow. Jess, meanwhile, needs her man just the way he is —  now. And she doesn't sound like a girl to be kept waiting. 
  Joe Simpson, the eternally creepy paterfamilias of this clan (Pete Wentz seal of approval aside), made a statement that those surprised by Jessica's move to country must have forgotten that she's from Texas. However much her father is involved in this single's existence, Simpson enjoys a strong vocal melody here, thankfully steering clear of too much of a countrified accent.   Gosh, I miss Shania Twain. Anyone else?

"Beautiful Nightmare" — BeyoncĂ©:
  I wouldn't doubt that somehow, Beyonce may have had herself outfitted with some form of extrasensory technology to let her know what Rihanna's up to at any given moment. Anyone remember when people thought that Jay-Z had had some sort of dalliance with the "—ella, —ella, —eh" singer? Exactly, because it's unbelievable. Beyonce wouldn't bother with paparazzi and media concerns. She would have just bitten off Rihanna's head and tossed it at Jigga as a warning for the future.
  That said, this single, coming to radio scant weeks after Rihanna's thematic and sonic twin, "Disturbia," has a distinct aura of panic to it. It's positively slapdash sounding, like they only had enough ideas for about half a song and ran with it. Bey — we can do better.
  Because seriously. You have the nerve to label this under the genre Dance/R&B, yet it's lifeless, not building to anything, the bridge pulls the oldest trick in the book by dropping out everything but the vocal. Now, Rihanna, who has always been at her best when she has dropped the act of attempting to relate to normal human beings (see the boring, terrible "Take A Bow" for more) has apparently finally turned into a robot completely in "Disturbia," her current what's-going-on-why-do-I-feel-like-this song. And it's ten times better than "Beautiful Nightmare," in that it actually inspires one to stand up and move, albeit to some pretty questionable lyrics.
  BeyoncĂ©. As much as I was leading the "Umbrella" charge a summer a year ago, I've always been in your corner. Go back, regroup.

— Anna

NOTE-- After doing further Jonas Brothers-related research, I stumbled across this quote related to "Burnin' Up": "This song was inspired by Jonas Brothers' unlikely appreciation for the work of babe magnet Prince," according to the May 30, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly. 
  I know that I'm not assigning stars here, but if I were, this quote alone might up the song a whole 'nother half a star just to praise the boys for having the good taste to enjoy Prince at such a relatively young age. Nice work, kids. 

No comments: