Saturday, November 15, 2003

I love Ashanti's "Rain On Me" for its well-used (and well-placed) sample from Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By," and for Ashanti's breezy, light kiss of a voice. I really would love to see her leave the vicegrip of Murder Inc. (oh, wait, it's just The Inc. now) and do something more original than she generally does. C'mon, Chapter II was just that, a retread of her debut album. I'm rooting for Ashanti against all odds, because she does have a lovely voice - not incredibly strong, but that could change over time, and it's got a lovely tenor to it - is beautiful and confident, and has a charming prescence about her. Alicia [Keys], please, give the girl a call.

Mya's "Fallen," however, I like for much more than its Pharcyde sample (from "Runnin'"). This girl can most definitely sing, dance, and is more than a woman. Why isn't she a superstar? I mean, she wipes the floor with Ashanti. Watch this Balto girl nab an Oscar nod within 10 years or so; she's in it to win it, and will.

Well, well, well, if it isn't the return of Nelly Furtado. "Powerless (Say What You Want)" is a multiculti anthem in the waiting, both lyrically and musically, jamming together banjo, tablas, hip-hop beats, and Arabic sounds - here's the key, of course - successfully. Let's hope this success extends to the meat of her soph album, Folklore, out 11/25. Yes, "I'm Like a Bird" got run into the ground and quickly got annoying, but let's not forget that it's actually a good single. And the remix of "Get Ur Freak On" she contributed to was masterful (as was her part in Ms. Jade's "Ching Ching"). I hope for more rapping, I hope for production from Timbaland, and I hope folks notice if she pulls it off.

OK, OK, OutKast's "Hey Ya!" is starting to grow on me. But it definitely rides the coattails of its brilliant Bryan Barber-directed video. "The Way You Move" is still by far the superior single.

Usually, when an artist retools a classic for a greatest hits record, the results are to be feared - the lone exception, I feel, being the Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86," which I actually prefer to the original. Accordingly, I was worried when I heard that Underworld were rejiggering their grandest commercial moment, "Born Slippy NUXX," for their forthcoming Anthology 1992-2002. I needn't have worried; these are professionals we're talking about. Member Rick Smith stripped the track down to its vocals and, for the first 1:00 of the song, laid them atop nothing more than a piano (!!) playing the song's melody, slowly building in bassline and keyb effects. "Rick's 2003 Edit" is marvelous.

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