With so many new big-name singles dropping this summer, I thought it was time to christen a new blog series devoted to capsule reviews. It won’t be limited to singles and videos though; as Slant’s music section continues to grow and reviews are delegated to different writers, I don’t always have the opportunity to comment about full-length releases, so I may post short reviews of current albums as well as older, recently discovered ones from time to time. For now, though, here are a few summer singles that are creating buzz:
Justin Timberlake, “SexyBack”: As expected, the beat is twerkin’ and Timbaland feels the need to make his presence known (though his hype-man routine here is better than his attempt at singing on Nelly Furtado’s ubiquitous summer jam “Promiscuous”). What’s unexpected is JT’s vocals, all affected (and effected) but never erupting into his familiar falsetto, exposing the track for what it really is: a tease. And you’ll eat it up until the second single drops this fall.
Cassie, “Me & U”: While Janet’s limp new single “Call On Me” continues to underwhelm (her label reps are scratching their heads as I type, wondering if they should have gone the retro ’80s route as originally planned), Bad Boy newcomer Cassie grabs the baton with her slinky debut single “Me & U.” The video, which wisely focuses on Cassie and her dance moves, even finds the singer striking a “Pleasure Principle” pose. Imagine, Diddy doing something right!
Fergie, “London Bridge”: What can one say about the Fergie’s debut solo single? From its “me love you long time” lyrics to its lack of a discernable hook (judging by the slow-burning success of Kelis’s “Bossy,” apparently atonal is in), “London Bridge” is absolutely revolting on every level. I’m still looking forward to Fergie’s album, but I was hoping that without her fellow success-hungry Black Eyed Peas to muddle the mix, the female voice of the group would focus on just that: her voice. Live performances aside, Fergie seems to have the pipes to go with all those platinum plaques, but “London Bridge” is bogged down with bells and whistles—literally. Lucky radio and press peeps got four mixes to choose from: with or without the siren and two alternatives to the irksome “oh shit” male chant, “oh shh” and “oh snap.” After careful consideration, though, I think “shit” is the most accurate.
The Killers, “When You Were Young”: Brandon Flowers with a beard? A more “American” sound? Screams identity crisis to me, but if the lead single from their fall album Sam’s Town is any indication, The Killers are poised to be anointed The Biggest Band in the World. Flowers’s vocals are a little overwrought (I’m going to ignore Rolling Stone’s Meatloaf observation, since, well, I don’t want to think about it) but the hook is present and accounted for (“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/But he talks like a gentleman” is some good shit) and, produced by Flood and Alan Moulder, it’s the kind of record tailor-made for rock arenas. At least we can’t accuse the boys of becoming complacent.
Jessica Simpson, “A Public Affair”: Amidst all the brouhaha surrounding Jessica Simpson’s new single “A Public Affair” and its similarities to Madonna’s early hits “Holiday” and “Lucky Star,” no one seems to be talking about the song’s other obvious influence: Janet Jackson. The track’s lightweight, nauseatingly cheery dance-pop vibe—not to mention those breathy vocals and that mid-song giggle—is reminiscent of Janet’s “Runaway” and “All For You,” among others. It’s a surprising move for Simpson, who originally started out showcasing her voice (she has a good one but just doesn’t know how to use it) and hinted that the new album would have a more urban edge. What’s more surprising is the public’s warm reception of the song. As for the cutesy Brett Ratner-directed video, it features cameos from a laundry-list of celebs including Eva Longoria, Christina Applegate, Christina Milian (?), Andy Dick (!), and Maria Menounos (?!), and takes the Xanadu influence of Madonna’s “Sorry” clip (yes, Jess has apparently been attending Madonna 101) even further. “A Public Affair” is mindless summer fun, but we much prefer Paris’s “Stars Are Blind” (that’s right, I said it) and the Passengerz remix of Nick Lachey’s “What’s Left Of Me.”
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.