Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Single file:

Upon a tip from Andy, I sought out "Throwback," a Just Blaze production for Usher, on his brand-spankin'-new Confessions (early word now says it'll top 900K+, first week - that's big). And as is generally the case, Andy's so right. Working a funky, fuzzed-out late-era Motown sample to perfection - and with Usher showing his usual, well-advised restraint as he bends those fine pipes he's got (one of the things that puts Usher over and is never mentioned, to my frustration, is the fact that he doesn't overdo his singing. He knows he's got a voice, and so do you, so he doesn't feel the need to show off) - this rocks the mid-tempo house. His ballads (and ballad-ishs) often tend towards the drippy and reheated, but this one, by going in an unconventional direction (i.e. Just Blaze behind the boards), succeeds greatly. And Andy's also right in saying that this needs to be the third, post-"Burn" single. It could rule Summer '04 with ease. A

Twista's "Overnight Celebrity," coming on the heels of the nation-conquering "Slow Jamz" - and featuring, again, the involvment of the man of the moment, Kanye West - is a guaranteed smash. And I've yet to tire of Kanye's julienned-femme vocal trick. But it seems to missing a palpable something; it's good-not-great. Better is the deliciously slithery groove of the R. Kelly-assisted "So Sexy." I mean, either you like hearing Twista spit at 140mph, or you don't, so ultimately, his appeal comes down to his tracks and collaborators. And right now, the world is his oyster, so the hits will likely keep on comin'. Even Robert's refrain about "the girls that be ridin' the 'D'" doesn't detract from "Sexy"'s - duh, sexiness. [And an aside: does R. Kelly ever sleep? It's only late March, and it already seems like he's working at making the Neptunes look like the ultimate slackers.] "Celebrity": B+, "Sexy": A-

"You're Fit But You Know It" is another single by Mike Skinner, a/k/a The Streets, talking about annoying people. But the appeal of his previous singles is missing, I think 'cause he's working a circa-1980 postpunk guitar groove instead of stutter-stop electronic bumps. It's not working. C

What with the Donnie Darko-utilised cover of "Mad World" topping charts worldwide (albeit a couple years late), the time is ripe for a splashy return by Tears For Fears. So why is "Closest Thing to Heaven" so ready-for-A/C limp? The melody's there, Roland's vocals are same as they ever were, but it all sounds pretty paint-by-numbers snoozy. Shame, really. B-

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