Fix your face
If there’s one overarching reason why I write about music the way I do, it’s the Singles column that Charles Aaron wrote in Spin in the mid-to-late 90s, so assign blame accordingly. Back when the entire rock-critical universe had set up shop on Eddie Vedder’s dick, Aaron danced across the pop playground with total impunity, using that singles-review format to unload on whatever caught his ear. Given that there’s no one music thing happening today that really demands comment, I thought it’d fun to completely rip off Aaron’s column for a day. I might even make this a regular thing, unless Aaron tells me to stop or something.
Coldplay: “Violet Hill”
A hamfisted attempt at canyon-spanning big-rock catharsis that endears on the strength of its overbearing puppydog earnestness. These guys are totally going for it! Searingly meaningless lyrics! Impeccably manicured squalls of fuzzed-out guitar! Brian Eno organ-sustain, courtesy of the real Brian Eno! Overwrought, ambitious stadium-rock silliness like this is always a noble endeavor, especially considering that these guys could absolutely get away with soundtracking very special Grey’s Anatomy episodes for the rest of their lives.
DJ Khaled: “Out Here Grindin’ [feat. Akon, Rick Ross, Plies, Lil Boosie, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood & Lil Wayne]”
A loathsomely, loudly vacant non-entity in absolutely every other respect, Khaled is good for exactly one triumphant all-star synth-rap posse cut every summer. This latest one shortens verses and expands numbers, always a good idea. Trick adds grizzled authority, Wayne comes atypically coherent, and Plies incoherently yells at us from across the street, but Boosie’s Pixie Stix yawp steals the show, even though he devotes half his verse toward spelling out Khaled’s mantra too many times. Also: No Fat Joe! Can’t wait for the outrageously expensive helicopter-chase video.
Ting Tings: “Shut Up and Let Me Go”
British fashion-pop duo smirk brattily over sideways Maroon 5 vanilla-disco guitars and bouncing Teletubbies bass, more a playground taunt than a song. Electroclash will never die, at least not when its mutant offspring can be used to sell iPods. CSS wish they came up with this one.
Alfamega: “Head Banger [feat. Busta Rhymes]”
Scary Grand Hustle cameo monster and reanimated roid-freak veteran uncork insane fast-rap shop-class threats over squeaking spaceship beat: instant knucklehead adrenaline rush. The unexpected Busta Rhymes renaissance continues: “Now let’s get it popping like we fucking misbehaving / And I got a bitch with thirty-two shots, I nicknamed her Iron Maiden / And that little bitch got a twisted sister, she a little quicker to twist a nigga cabbage / She short but’ll leave a nigga hole-y so I call that pretty little miss Black Sabbath.” Even with T.I.’s “Hurt” as precedent, I didn’t see this thing coming. Pure evil.
Nelly: “Party People [feat. Fergie]”
Jay-Z onstage at MSG Tuesday night: “Only dudes moving units Em, Pimp Juice and us.” It’s a little bit funny but mostly just sad to see one of the commercial titans of the decade’s first half recruiting the meth-head Black Eyed Peas chick to join him in sub-DMX growly chest-thumping trance-rap mess and then actually letting her totally steamroll over him on the double-time third verse. Can’t he just go country full-time? “Over and Over” was the jam!
Ashton Shepherd: “Takin’ Off This Pain”
Vengeful neglected-wife putdowns delivered in uber-thick Alabama twang over surly but precise Nashville bar-rock. Possibly even more terrifying than Alfamega and Busta Rhymes. That exhilarated dizziness in Shepherd’s voice rings out like a pop-country take on righteous Bikini Kill bile. She doesn’t need you. Does that scare you?
Mountain Goats: Lovecraft in Brooklyn (Aesop Rock Remix)”
The original’s wriggling apocalyptic dread was John Darnielle at his most percussively wracked, so it makes sense that Aesop would see a bridge to that desiccated-warehouse Def Jux aesthetic, and plus these guys love each other, so this at least makes sense. The loping bloopy beat makes for awkward company, and I have no idea what Aes is talking about on his verse, but what else is new? Like last year’s Aesop/Darnielle collabo “Coffee,” this finds two forcefully evocative writers working in two very different aesthetic wheelhouses moving toward middle ground, something worth encouraging. Maybe next time it won’t even sound so forced. (Related: Read this right now, if you haven’t.)