About ememon

I write. I dance. I love chocolate and kitties. I'm a kitten in person, but a wildcat on the page. Nothing is more important than a well-balanced perspective, and I for one don't believe your brain can fall out, no matter how open-minded you are. And a little lime and cilantro never hurt anything.

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Billie Eilish, #1 album of 2019 according to Billboard magazine

Welcome to the revival of goodmusicnotes.com. This blog was created a few years back as a reaction to the negative coverage of modern music, under the philosophy that music is a positive thing, not something to be approached with disdain or prejudgment.

My challenge to myself in this revival is to listen to the top 100 albums of 2019 and provide my thoughts on them in individual blog posts. My style is to start punchy and weave in some heart-felt prose, so forgive the more subdued prologue this time.

As I work from the top down, from insanely popular and possibly overexposed music to the less so, I find myself in the unenviable position of writing about music that has been subjected to countless critiques already.

So, to be trite, what is there to say about Billie Eilish’s full-length album debut that hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing, but here goes.

Visceral. Visceral. When Billie and her brother Finneas collaborate, they embody the concept of music as a gut-felt, living being. That’s what makes this album sing, so to speak. From the subwoofer-heavy bass bleats to the teeth-chattering vocal effects, you actually feel this album in your body as you listen. The surreal, atmospheric lyrical narratives heighten the effect of the music, making it seem more than gimmicky noodling.

But what anchors the bold production and the spooky lyrics are a trifecta of unbeatable ingredients: pristine melodies, jammin’ grooves, and naked vocals. Billie has a vocal gift, one that transcends the showboat-y criteria of diva worshipers. She emotes in a deft way that either reflects her youth or transcends it–I still haven’t decided.

The grooves here, with an obvious nod to the megahit “Bad Guy,” are the real unheralded bright spot. R&B is my musical home base, and my neck was working overtime as I appreciated the deep-dish grooves of “you should see me in a crown” and “bury a friend.”

I was in college when Tori Amos broke big, and Billie brings the same eccentric pixie-ish energy to her vocal performances. A whole generation of female vocalists have thrived in this emo-centric niche, so I’m not saying Billie is the direct descendant of Tori or that there aren’t a slew of other artists that take this tack to their recordings, but it’s a pleasant throwback reference for me personally.

Love, love, love this record and am excited about what the future holds for Billie.

Teddy Riley vs. Babyface

On April 20, there was a botched online DJ-style battle between Teddy Riley and Babyface, part of the evolving Verzuz beat battle series, with each hoping to assert the heft and grooviness of their respective discographies. As the story goes, Babyface did little more than hit play and effortlessly dispatched Mr. Riley, who did too both way too much and not nearly enough, succumbing to logistical and technical difficulties.

This is all hearsay–I don’t have the patience to go back and review video footage or biased recountings of what seems to have been not easy to watch when it happened the first time. I only bring it up as a pretext to delve into the fray myself–not the live battle itself, but the conversation about the musical legacies each legend was hoping to defend. These two guys overlap with the sweet spot of my pop music awareness, when I was old enough to absorb and critique music with some discernment, but no so old that life got in the way of enjoying music as a major pursuit.

In other words, these guys and I go way back.

I have a natural tendency to be team Teddy. I thrive in the world of groove and funk and dance. I bought Guy’s debut album as a cassette (yes, a cassette) and then their follow-up The Future as one of the first CDs in my collection. I played both records extensively (in between jamming Janet and Troop) and marveled at the deep grooves and the sparkling synths. I tolerated Aaron Hall’s gospel histrionics and found them to be a good stylistic foil to Teddy’s too-cool electronic modernism.

Then, when Teddy branched out and worked with Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson, I was totally on board. MJ’s Dangerous is a much-overlooked masterpiece, and Teddy’s work on the first half of the record is stunning. Stunning. Even though it’s clear to a Janet superfan like me that MJ cornered Teddy in the studio and made him promise to copy the template of Rhythm Nation but up the technical wow factor, it’s the best damn ripoff anyone’s ever attempted.

Then for his final lap in the limelight, Teddy headed up Blackstreet and churned out another few classics, most notably the chart bomb and best groove of all time, “No Diggity.” On the basis of that song alone, Teddy deserves to be in any music hall of fame that has every existed.

Of course, I’m leaving out a lot of his creative output. There’s much more–some I don’t even remember, and some I probably never knew. For instance, when he was about 16 or 17, Teddy helped produce the rap classic record “The Show” for Doug E. Fresh. Teddy virtually created New Jack Swing, the dominant sound of R&B for half of a decade, and a clear precursor to the Bad Boy sound that dominated even more resoundingly in the 90s. As if that weren’t enough, he profoundly influenced his fellow Virginian Timbaland and mentored a young Rodney Jerkins, who have since become equally formidable pop culture forces.

Teddy Riley may be the fodder for some memes over the past week, but he’s no joke.

People of my age are legally required to be Babyface fans. I looked up the federal statute. That universality aside, I do consider myself a free-willed supporter of his creative output. I loved, loved, loved some of the gems he wrote and/or produced and/or performed: “My Kinda Girl,” “End of the Road,” “Baby, Baby, Baby,” “Take a Bow” [Madonna not Rihanna], “Giving You the Benefit”, “Most Girls” [an early P!nk hit], “Ready or Not,” and OK, I’m getting exhausted. It is impossible to overstate the pervasiveness of his presence in pop and R&B music between 1988 and 2000. If they wrote a definitive book on how to write songs, he’d be the subject of two chapters and the author of the preface.

‘Face’s production tropes (with longtime partner L.A. Reid) are also notable and influential. My only issue with the LA & Babyface sound as it existed during their heyday as producers is that it’s the tiniest bit derivative. They were never explicitly focused on being innovators, and it shows in their music. The ballads are often tasteful and restrained, with no production personality. They’re about the music. (Think “Love Makes Things Happen,” a gorgeous cut Babyface duetted on with Pebbles.) The more production-centric cuts seemed to mix the New Jack-esque swing beats (courtesy of you-know-who) with the high-gloss production flourishes of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The only sound innovation that I credit Babyface with is the opera-style background vocals which crop up as a dynamic contrast on songs like “Dontcha Think” and “Most Girls.” No one else mastered the inherent melodrama of sparkly 90s pop and vaguely classical window dressing.

How do you compare these two? Well, you don’t, not really. That’s what makes it fun. If you actually pitted one apple against another, one apple would get its feelings hurt because it was clearly less flavorful and crisp than the other. When you pit an apple against an orange, everyone just ends up having fun with their confirmation biases and everyone goes home feeling superior.

Telling me I, as a fan, have to pick between Kenneth and Theodore is like asking me to pick between melody and rhythm, almost literally. Not gonna do it.

As a music critic, I reluctantly award my gold star to Teddy. I wouldn’t want a world without Babyface, but Teddy has served as a sound innovator and has influenced other sound innovators. It’s not lost on me that Teddy is a clumsy singer and songwriter when compared to Babyface, but his talent with crafting sound is (perhaps–I’m not sure?) more rare.

My Music Faves – Damita Jo – Janet Jackson

Posted on November 19, 2019

Reviewed: Damita Jo by Janet Jackson (2006)

I almost don’t want to review this album after revisiting this revisitation by Pitchfork from earlier this year. It’s a spot-on analysis from a relatively objective source instead of a ravenous fan.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/janet-jackson-damita-jo/

Shoving that thoughtful review at you absolves me of all the meta-analysis. I guess.

For my part, I think Damita Jo is a fantastic and unique record for Janet. It was the beginning of a three-album arc away from Jimmy & Terry, and while the other two records yielded decidedly mixed results, Damita Jo clearly benefits from the creative new blood. Dallas Austin, Scott Storch, Kanye West, and others pitched in to push Janet into new sonic territory. Jam & Lewis were never far, collaborating on most but not all of the tracks.

Thematically, Janet meditates on the universality of love, a clear riff on the theme of The Velvet Rope, which was about acceptance. The theory is that all of us, but Janet in particular, cultivate different personas; these personas all take different tacks toward looking for that love (and, not incidentally, sex). Janet introduces us to Damita Jo and Strawberry, two of her shadow alter egos, in the early songs, but then allows us to infer what parts of her personality are at play as she lounges in the Caribbean, steams up the dance floor, and graphically narrates her amorous adventures throughout the rest of the record.

The music sounds different. But the tone is also new. Her five blockbuster albums from Control to All For You were diligently on the move at all times, from the fast side to the slow side, from the chorus to the bridge, from one mood to another, often with explicit directions included (“Get the point? Good, let’s dance.”) Janet got shit done on her records.

On Damita Jo, for the first time, Janet is unapologetically self-indulgent. It’s a post-IDGAF world for Janet. The new Janet/Damita Jo/Strawberry combo lingers and luxuriates. She performs two entire songs about highly specific sex acts. She gives a monologue about how much she loves dusk. She hammers home the same looping refrain on “All Nite (Don’t Stop).” And so on. After nearly two decades of trying to impress everyone, it seems to click for her that she’s an established artist who can actually meditate and fixate, and not worry who sees her staring.

There’s too many highlights to mention, so I’ll limit my mentions to a top two and a bottom two. “Strawberry Bounce” is a sneaky earworm that gets better with each repeat. “Truly” is a sparse, gorgeous Michael-esque performance filled out with Janet-esque harmonies. And at least five other tracks are as good as those two.

On the other end of the spectrum, “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex” just sounds like Janet checking Babyface off her bucket list rather than an inspired collaboration. It’s also a very safe arrangement on an otherwise adventurous record.

It’s followed by “Warmth,” one of the two sex songs mentioned above. It’s the only meditation of the bunch that stalls a bit too long on its fixation. Once you get over the oh-my-god-she’s-singing-about-THAT moment, there’s not a lot else going on sonically.

Of course, any review of Damita Jo has the duty to mention that its success was artificially stunted by the post-Super Bowl blacklisting and backlash. I won’t carry on about what could have been. Instead, I’ll mention what actually was–a fully realized Janet, comfortable on record as never before, having fun and taking names.

My Music Faves – 20 Y.O. – Janet Jackson

Reviewed: 20 Y.O. by Janet Jackson (2006)

“There’s something to be said for not saying anything.”

OK, Jan, if you say so.

This was the inauspicious opening of 20 Y.O., Janet’s comeback punch after the uppercut she was dealt with the media blackout around her prior release Damita Jo.

Janet could be forgiven for wanting a little escapism after the bullying and shaming of 2004, but deconstructing the foundation of her record-making ethos might not have been the right ticket. A Janet record needs a reason for being, a central organizing theme that tells you where Janet is in her life at the moment. 20 Y.O. found Janet rationalizing why she didn’t want to talk about it, any of it.

The thematic confusion doesn’t stop there. Ostensibly a celebration of the 20 years since her emergence as an independent and successful musical artist, the record failed to connect that theme in any meaningful way to the tracks. The interludes find Jan reminiscing with friends and reflecting on her career in a carefree, non-reflective manner. But the tracks themselves don’t carry the theme. They simply show up between the interludes.

OK, now with all the griping out of the way, it’s time to unearth the biggest secret about this much-maligned entry in Janet’s discography–this album JAMS. And to be fair, that is all Janet seems to be concerned with in the first place.

The energy in the opening tracks leaps from the speakers and drags the listener onto the steamiest corner of the dance floor. Jermaine Dupri was near the top of his game at this time, only one year removed from his astounding work on Mariah Carey’s comeback record The Emancipation of Mimi.

Of course, the hope was that he could accomplish the same feat with his then-girlfriend. A more forgiving media might have allowed it to happen, because these tracks are good enough. I mean, they’re not “We Belong Together,” but they’re pretty darn good. All six of the opening tracks, from the Herbie Hancock-sample assisted “So Excited” to the chopped, screwed, and rocked-out “This Body,” show Janet in fine form, affecting her vocals to match each distinctive mood as the tracks melt into each other on the record’s first half.

The record briefly bobbles midway through. “With U” is the only partial misstep on the album. It probably felt like a special moment between JD and JJ in the studio, but it comes across a bit formulaic on record. It’s a pretty song, just not a sonic zinger in the Janet tradition. The bright first single “Call On Me” quickly picks up the slack afterward. It’s largely been forgotten that this was a huge R&B hit in 2006, although even many Janet fans felt like she was resorting to uncharacteristic mainstream concessions, namely a duet with Nelly and an extravagant Hype Williams music video production.

Jermaine Dupri suffered much unfair criticism and grief from Janet’s fans over his work on this record. He did a wonderful job. Unfortunately, Janet’s musical soul mates Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis decided to produce a few tracks for good measure. The results are four should-be-legendary tracks that end the record and almost close the loop on the 20 Y.O. theme.

The Jam & Lewis tracks evoke the magic of the two decades of their work together in a vivid way. “Daybreak” is a teeny bop delight. “Take Care” is “Come Back to Me” on vitamin E, all dramatic crescendos and clever vocal arrangements. “Love 2 Love” is a Prince-forward falsetto-fest and one of the more dynamic vocal performances of Janet’s career.

But the best of all is “Enjoy,” which gets my vote as Janet’s finest song–ever. On a different record, at a different time, this could have been a huge hit. It’s a meditation on living life to its fullest, but also comes across as diligent and melancholy. The joy on the record is palpable, but there’s also a sense that it’s well-earned and thoughtfully considered. A complex and layered song, it’s almost too fine a composition for this otherwise carefree, say-nothing record.

My Music Faves – Discipline – Janet Jackson

Reviewed: Discipline by Janet Jackson (2008)

Discipline was a necessary evil. It was an other-side-of-the-mirror exercise, with an unintentional premise. What if Janet had played by the rules and allowed herself to be carried by superstar writers and producers instead of staking out her own identity?

In that respect, Discipline is a clear throwback to her pre-Control work. Both her eponymous debut and the somewhat dismal Dream Street consisted of queues of star producers, all lined up for a go at the production slingshot that would catapult Janet to stardom. Notably, the then-red-hot Giorgio Moroder (of Donna Summer and Flashdance fame) produced some real duds on the latter album.

This time around in 2008, a quarter-century later, Def Jam Records again hatched the “brilliant” idea of lining up all the hottest producers to bring Janet back to the effortless commercial viability of 1986 to 2001, during Janet’s unprecedented chart run across five multi-platinum albums.

The production and writing heft was considerable and exciting. Stargate! The-Dream! Rodney Jerkins! Jermaine Dupri! Ne-Yo! Babyface!

Listening to the sheer pop, dance, and R&B-ish craftsmanship of the tracks on Discipline, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were successful. The hooks are solid and the production glistens across the record.

Problem is, they forgot to bring Janet along. Much as with her first two albums, the producers and writers seem so absorbed with crafting hits that they did not properly pause to consider whose name was on the wrapper.

Granted, Janet didn’t give them the most material to work with. As the story goes, Janet wanted to go on tour to support 20 Y.O., her 2006 effort and first attempt to rebound from the PR debacle that was Super Bowl 38 (sorry, not typing out all those Roman numerals). Def Jam was ready to take a big L on 20 Y.O. and wanted to get Janet right back in the studio to craft a guaranteed blockbuster album. Janet, against her better judgement, went along with the idea.

However, she didn’t have a story to tell this time in the studio, and it really showed. This left her entirely in the hands of a bunch of musicians whose names didn’t start with “Jimmy Jam” or “Terry Lewis.” Janet’s vocals are fine but mostly unremarkable. Everyone seemed OK using Janet as a melody-reciter instead of a song interpreter. The result: Discipline is an exceptional Britney Spears record but a comparatively two-dimensional Janet Jackson record.

OK, that was the bad news. Now the good news: the album, considering it was assembled using a lot of flavor-of-the-month producers, has aged really well so far.

Also good news: while most producers failed to work properly with Janet, Ne-Yo (whom I also adore as an artist) distinguished himself by pulling the two best vocal performances of the album out of Janet. (Not a coincidence.) “Can’t B Good” is a jaw-dropping mid-tempo tribute to Michael Jackson. There’s even a YouTube video where the audio is slowed down to lower the pitch, and Janet’s vocal intonations sound remarkably like MJ.

The other Ne-Yo standout is the title track. Critics at the time bristled at the kinky overtones, dismissing it as more pointless Janet-sex-kitten schtick. A few years’ perspective on the song, though, reveals a slinky melody, a relatively restrained S&M lyrical narrative, and an inspired erotic delivery from Janet.

Other highlights include first single “Feedback,” which has showed real staying power in Janet’s live shows in the ensuing years, growing more lean and mean with each interpretation; second single “Rock With U,” a deceptively simple lazy disco romp, surprisingly well-produced by Janet’s then-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri, and fleshed out by an outstanding music video (JD’s other contributions here, however, are underwhelming); and likely single candidates “Luv” and “Rollercoaster,” both of which feature rollicking, catchy production hooks.

I had hopes in 2008 that this hook machine of an album would grant Janet her commercial renaissance, but the media blackout, still only four years old, held sway. Even in the absence of an overt refusal to play Janet’s material, the break in momentum proved to be insurmountable.

Even without millions in sales and multiple hit singles, Discipline serves as an interesting  experiment in alternate-reality Janet, the reality where she didn’t take control, she ceded it.

 

My Music Faves – Unbreakable – Janet Jackson

Reviewed: Unbreakable by Janet Jackson (2015)

By way of getting back into practice, in my return to music blogging, I am going to go back through the catalog of my favorite musical artist, Janet Jackson.

Unbreakable came out four years ago, and the perspective I’ve gained on the record since it came out has been valuable. Elsewhere on the internet there’s a breathless review I wrote proclaiming this Janet’s best work. Now I can be a little more objective.

Actually, what I said was that this release was a deep, thoughtful, clever record that may come to rival The Velvet Rope as Janet’s magnum opus. So I kind of gave it a close second.

The proverbial tree in the forest that no one is around to hear fall comes to mind. Between 20 and 30 years ago, every moment on a Janet record was a heralded cultural tick of the collective clock. By contrast, only a few hundred thousand die-hard fans bought and digested Unbreakable. It’s impossible to compare apples and really popular apples.

And Unbreakable is one tasty, if less popular, apple. Janet poured herself into this project  in a way she hadn’t since Damita Jo in 2004. The two intervening releases, 20 Y.O. and Discipline, were stifled a bit by her failure to own up to the seismic shift in her career that happened after the 2004 Super Bowl. It’s understandable that she wanted to move past it, but Janet albums are always confessional–we all knew it hurt her to be so unfairly targeted, and yet, the Janet that appeared on record ignored that it happened at all. Then, after her brother passed in 2009, I suspect that grief was too much for her to ignore. She took a break from recording at all for five years.

Unbreakable was Janet coming clean: “I lived through my mistakes/It’s just a part of growing/And never for a single moment/Did I ever go without your love,” she opens on the record’s title track, revealing more about her inner dialogue in ten seconds than she had in the previous decade. She spills her guts over the 17-track sprawl (with no interludes this time!) about her brother, her crush on her hubby, her Michael-like distrust of the media, her disillusionment with her own social idealism, and her spirituality, among other topics.

The album seems remarkably organic given this potential laundry listing of topics. It’s just like an old friend that you haven’t seen in years catching up with you about everything important they’ve been pondering and dealing with. She’d never waited as long as 15 years to tell us how she really feels, and she was just about to burst, it seems.

The musicality is just as exciting as ever. She’s certainly not trying to keep up with the current crop of chart-toppers, or straining to outdo them with innovation. The production matches the songs, and Janet’s multi-tracked harmonies are just as dreamy as you remember. The joy of reuniting with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who hadn’t worked with her for a whole album of material since 2001’s All For You, is palpable.

The most fun parts of the record, in fact, are the clever self-references. The instrumental track of “BURNITUP!” is nothing but a sped-up version of “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” On “Dammn Baby,” Jan launches out of left field into the breakdown of “I Get Lonely,” and it works.

The most poignant lyrical moments, though, are the personal references in the two ballads that appear in the album’s second act.

[As a reference point for the non-fan, Janet always seemed more comfortable making veiled, coy, or fictionalized revelations in her songs. I mean, we all knew that her ex-husband Rene Elizondo was the “stupid bitch in my beach house” on “Son of a Gun,” but she paired that zinger with a sample from Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” so that he couldn’t try to prove it without seeming like the jerk she was saying he was. Well played, Janet.]

On “Shoulda Known Better,” Janet directly name-checks “Rhythm Nation,” bitterly casting it off as a silly, idealized fantasy. It’s sort of like her brother breaking down and admitting that Billie Jean was in fact his lover. The line is devastating, though ultimately it’s reverse psychology–we know she wants to inspire us to prove her wrong.

On the following track, “After You Fall,” Janet gives perhaps the rawest, most personal vocal of her career. Though it’s couched in the indirect second-person, you can hear the pain and loneliness in her voice as you imagine the isolation she felt after her career was sabotaged in 2004, or as you imagine her sympathizing with what MJ dealt with in his agonized celebrity bubble.

Unbreakable is the Janet record we needed in 2015. It was epic, it was personal, it had Jimmy and Terry, and while reflective, it wasn’t the work of a lady in the twilight of her career–it was (and is) a vibrant piece of pop music.

 

 

 

Back again!

If anyone out there was truly waiting on me to post again, I appreciate your patience. I want to continue my project of reviewing the best albums of all time. But I also want to review new albums, favorite albums, and maybe even some old albums. Oh, and singles, too.

The first record I want to go on–er, record–as reviewing is the most recent release from my favorite artist. (You’ll find out.) I’ll be titling the posts from here out according to the “project” I’m working on, along with the title and artist. So look for a wide variety of editorializing in the following projects:

My Music Faves

New Releases

Singles

Best of All Time

… and maybe some more. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Good Music Notes is back.

Hey, reader or two. 🙂

After an extended dormancy, I have decided I need to give my inner music lover another chance to speak. Pop music has undergone a massive transformation in the past seven years, and yours truly is starting to feel a bit in the dust. Staying engaged with music past and present is my directive. Join me.

One logical direction that I will pursue is familiarizing myself with the so-called greatest albums of all time. Because music is nothing if not logical. So today I will be offering my take on the #1 album of all time per the site besteveralbums.com. I hope to get a little further down the list in the future. But, one day at a time.

Album: The Dark Side of the Moon   Artist: Pink Floyd   Released 1973

This legendary record was released in the year of my birth. Which means we’re both… still pretty current-sounding!

I had never listened to this album before today. I think I’ve heard “Money” a handful of times, presumably because it’s the closest thing to a regular, catchy rock song one will find in the ten-track listing. I’ve rather studiously avoided the album because music only became real to me in 1983. Anything prior is old and brittle. Or so I imagined.

I tried my hardest not to approach my first Floyd listening party with any predispositions. This is just a collection of songs put together by some British band that will always live in the shadow of the Beatles and Zeppelin, no matter how many bazillion copies it sells or how many lists it tops. Right? I was prepared for it to be dated, or boring, or mediocre.

No such luck. You don’t get everyone to kiss your album’s butt for absolutely no reason. The album exudes an air of confident epic-ness. Brilliant, vibrant sound effects punctuate free-form song structures, and the lyrics, where they exist, simply encapsulate the Big Themes in life without coming off as pompous or forced.

Side One (or what I imagine was Side One when this was an actual LP–I purposely did no extra research, FYI, so as not to bias my reactions) paints a stark picture of the cycle of life, and Side Two covers our complex and dark dealings with our fellow humans and how those turn back on ourselves. There’s no fluff, yet there’s wide open spaces of sound where the album breathes and emotes in the form of guitar solos, sax solos–no, not the cheesy 80s kind–and plaintive soul vocalizations. The songs bleed easily into each other and are yet each singularly evocative.

Given the landmark nature of DSOTM, it would be very easy for the many riffs on its conceptual structure over the years to have bled it dry for newbies like me who have only heard the derivatives and not the source material. It’s a real testament to the strength of this record that it doesn’t sound cliche, dated, or passé.

Random observations:

  • David Gilmour reminds me of Don Henley. It’s a minor disappointment that his casual, almost offhanded vocal delivery is paired with such pristine instrumental and production craftsmanship.
  • “Us and Them,” in its structure, melody, and lyrics, reminds me strongly of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which was released two years earlier.
  • Gilmour’s vocals, the frequent vocal and instrumental swells prior to the start of their choruses, and the extreme gravity of their subject matter would seem to make Pink Floyd ripe for parody. Yet, I’m not aware of a single Weird Al version of any part of their catalog. Go figure.

My humble rating: 9.0/10.

 

 

Good MusicNote 10.2 timber PITBULL FEAT. KE$HA

Because “It’s going down” is becoming passé.

single: “Timber”

artist: Pitbull featuring Kesha

So… if Eminem and Rihanna are like the Halloween version of Jay Z and Beyonce, these two are like the high school talent show version.

“Timber” is much, much greater than the sum of its parts.

First, there’s Pitbull, who has made riding the coattails of hooks practically a science. His flows are just barely cohesive, remarkably similar to each other, and bereft of meaning. The most interesting thing he has to say here is an awful, awful gaffe: he opens the first verse by name-checking Miley Cyrus, who’s not only a stronger vocalist than Ke$ha, but would have made an infinitely better guest artist, given the country slant of this record. Way to make your vocalist feel inadequate.

Then there’s Ke$ha, whose bad-girl schtick has been rendered practically impotent by Miley’s 2013 antics. But she’s quite good at delivering hooks, whatever other deficiencies she may have.

Then there’s the concept: a Cuban rapper paired with a naughty pop diva, delivering an uptempo club stomp with a country-bluegrass arrangement. Unfortunately, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” beat them to the punch by about two decades and was so insanely irresistible that it is almost futile to even try to recreate.

But guess what? Many if not most contemporary pop consumers don’t even remember the Rednex dance smash (back in them days, dance songs where ghettoized and were barely heard on radio), so this track probably sounds wildly creative to them.

And even to haters like myself (and I readily admit to a bit of hate in this review), it’s a fun, catchy, danceable, accessible song. I’m just not dying to hear the unplugged version.

P.S. I apologize for briefly violating the spirit of this blog, but I’ve had a bad day. In addition, despite my love for all music, there are certain artists who push my buttons: Dionne Warwick, Jimmy Buffett, and Pitbull are right there at the top of my list. If the three of them ever get together and perform “That’s What Friends Are For” at the Grammys, I’m pretty sure I’ll snap.

Good Music Note 9.2 the monster EMINEM FEAT. RIHANNA

So, after a month away, I have to deal with these two again?

single: “The Monster”

artist: Eminem featuring Rihanna

 Does it even matter what this song sounds like? Putting Rihanna and Eminem together is as predictable as pairing chocolate and peanut butter.  The most bankable, accessible singer and rapper (respectively) of the past decade meet again (after their first monster song, “Love The Way You Lie”) for another dark-ish collaboration that snaps and resounds in the usual way that their respective singles often do.

 I like to think of these two as the Halloween version of Jay-Z and Beyonce. That gives me a giggle. It kind of illustrates the nature of their artistic compatibility, as well.

 But mainly it gives me a giggle.