Grading the iTunes Hits: Metro Station, Pussycat Dolls, Miley Cyrus

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Now if she does it like this will you do it like that

Lil Wayne and Coldplay are not safe. On Tuesday, Disney released the soundtrack to Camp Rock, their High School Musical-esque vehicle for their Osmonds/Hanson Tigerbeat behemoth Jonas Brothers. Right now, there's only one song from that soundtrack album in the iTunes top ten. Within a week, I wouldn't be surprised if half the songs on the list come from that album. These Disney people do not play. Witness, for instance, this column. Of the five songs I'm writing about here, two come from Disney-affiliated acts, and another one comes from an emo band who met on the set of Hannah Montana. Just like Rites of Spring!

Metro Station: "Shake It." Wow, this is one fascinating mess. Uber-clean post-Ocasek guitar-crunch over bubbletrance synths and Casio-preset drums, with Miley Cyrus's tatted-up alien-looking brother using a nasal MySpace-emo honk to yelp surprisingly nasty come-ons: "I was thinking of ways that I could get inside." (He's ostensibly talking about getting inside her front door, but, I mean, come on.) The chorus is a massive simplistic cheerleader chant. The video has a dance-off between dancing nerds and dancing mid-90s rude-boys, and there's krumping. At the end, everyone runs away from the cops. "Shake It" is now officially the most unapologetically trashy and poppy Fuse-bait emo song ever, taking the spot formerly held by Hellogoodbye's "Here (In Your Arms." It's also my favorite emo song since "Here (In Your Arms)," but that's not really saying much. 7.3


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Status Ain't Hood Podcast 43

Categories: Podcasts

Songs:

- Killer Mike: "Bang"
- Keak da Sneak: "That Go Remix [feat. Prodigy & Alchemist]"
- Wire: "One of Us"
- Nachtmystium: "Assassins"


8Ball & MJG's Moment is Coming

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Don't make don't make them kill them kill no motherfucking body in here

The Birthday Bash, Atlanta rap station Hot 107.9's big annual show, has always seemed like a baby version of the Hot 97 Summer Jam. But every account I've read of this year's Birthday Bash makes it sound like the Atlanta show might've equalled the New York one this year for both headline-seizing big statements and general dizzy pop thrills. The station managed to get every Atlanta rapper with a song currently in rotation on the same stage in the same day, including guys who have serious issues with each other: T.I. and Shawty Lo, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Jeezy made a big play for A-list superstar status, bringing out both Usher and Kanye West, a stunt that would've killed at Summer Jam. Shawty Lo made a big deal about how his set was going to be better than T.I.'s beforehand, and onstage, he did everything he could to further this ridiculous beef that nobody cares about. Shawty's big issue with T.I. is that he says he's from Bankhead but apparently isn't. Maybe that's actually a big deal to people in Bankhead (though I doubt it), but I can't imagine anyone else cares. But Shawty still brought out every other rapper from Bankhead, which meant D4L and Dem Franchize Boyz and D.G. Yola. (D4L and DFB had previously thrown shots at each other over which group had invented the snap-music dance. Shawty Lo gets in the dumbest beefs.) Shawty Lo also brought out Ludacris, who I guess still hates T.I., and he ended his set with "A new King has been born" flashing on the Birthday Bash screen. This guy should probably learn to string together a sentence before he tries to convince me that he's king of anything. T.I.'s response was suitably regal: during his set, he did Lo's goofy jogging dance, and then he let it drop. It must've been a whole lot of fun to see all this go down in person. But my favorite story from Birthday Bash is one that won't grab a whole lot of headlines. During that same set, T.I. unveiled his latest Grand Hustle signings: 8Ball & MJG.


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Country-Rap: A Secret History

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Cowboy Troy plays chicken with a train

Snoop Dogg's "My Medicine" is the goofiest, most engaging novelty song on an album full of goofy, engaging novelty songs. It's his country song, and it's every bit as ridiculous as that description might suggest. Over producer Everlast's workable chugging Tennessee Three rip-job, Snoop mumble-singsongs about weed and pimping, which is exactly what you'd expect him to do. But he also dedicates the song to "my main man Johnny Cash, a real American gangster" and says "Grand Ol' Opry, here we come." Cash once got banned from the Opry for getting drunk and kicking out the footlights, so I'd love to see what that venerable institution might do with a guy who's been banned from half the countries in Europe and who went through a period of six months or so where he couldn't seem to walk through a major airport without getting arrested for carrying guns. "My Medicine" is now Snoop's new single, and it'll be fascinating to see whether anything happens with it. Batshit novelty crossovers are a good look for Snoop now that Rick Ross inexplicably sells twice as many albums as he does, and country music is notoriously hospitable to any once-famous singer who deigns to court its gigantic market. Nashville is now paying bills for Jewel and Michelle Branch, and thanks to a Tim McGraw collab, Def Leppard are now in heavy CMT rotation. But this song? I don't know. Country radio isn't really used to having to bleep words, and I don't know how they'll take to explicit get-high talk, even if Brad Paisley and Willie Nelson show up in the video, Willie wearing a giant Snoop t-shirt and looking older than he's ever looked in his entire life. I hope it works. Country and rap have enough in common that they should really cross over more. Both tell specific and plainspoken stories, both purport to speak for broke everymen, both depend heavily on genius-producer assembly-lines. But as of now, the only country-rap song to actually cross over is Nelly and Tim McGraw's "Over and Over," which really wasn't either country or rap; it was pretty sparkly immaculately-produced acoustic-guitar R&B like Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" (which Sugarland cover live). Still there have been a few fun little curios throughout history. Like these:


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On the R. Kelly Not-Guilty Verdict

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Hey, I made it. I'm the world's greatest.

When the news came out this past Friday that R. Kelly's jury had found him not guilty on all counts of child pornography, the first person I told about it had this reaction: "What? Really? Awesome! Or, um, I mean, I guess. Maybe not. Fuck. I don't know." I'm paraphrasing here, but I do know that I watched a coworker cycle through about fifteen different reactions in three seconds. The second person I told had the exact same reaction. And if I'm being honest, so did I. For entirely selfish reasons, it's natural enough to feel good when a favorite musician wriggles out of a predicament that would've kept him from making music for a long, long time. Except that I'm pretty sure there's not one person on the face of the earth who honestly believes that some shadowy miscreants digitally altered the famous Kelly sex-tape, putting his face on some random dude's body the way special-effects people put Shawn Wayans's head on a baby in Little Man. It's basically impossible, considering the costs and logistics and the general pointlessness of such an enterprise. And yet that's what Kelly's lawyers claim might've happened. The press even called it the Little Man defense. Reading the daily trial reports, I was totally dumbfounded that Kelly's assuredly very expensive legal team couldn't have come up with anything better than that.


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Live: Isaac Hayes Fights Through It

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I'm talking about the power of love now

Isaac Hayes
Prospect Park Bandshell
June 12, 2008

Isaac Hayes co-wrote "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Comin'" for Sam & Dave. He played the Duke in Escape From New York. He recorded a ten-minute disco-funk epic about threesomes. He headlined the 1972 Wattstax festival wearing a vest made out of chains. He showed up on "I Can't Go to Sleep," one of the most hallucinatory songs in Wu-Tang Clan history, basically playing Ghostface's conscience. He wrote the euphoric "Theme From Shaft" and won an Oscar for it, becoming the first-ever black non-actor to win one. In the early 70s, he routinely turned Burt Bacharach pop standards into unrecognizable woozy endless psych-funk odysseys, which then became hits. At an age when most of his peers were either dead or fading away on the nostalgia circuit, he accepted a voice-actor role on a gleefully offensive cartoon about kids made from construction-paper cutouts, playing a character that spoofed his sexed-out persona, and he scored one of his biggest-ever international hits in character. Basically, Isaac Hayes is one of the most unfadeable badasses in pop-music history, and so it was an unpleasant shock to see that a stagehand had to help him to the stage at the Prospect Park bandshell last night.


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First Impressions of Coldplay's Viva la Vida

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Gruel Britannia

Coldplay's "Chinese Sleep Chant" is one of the more blatant My Bloody Valentine rips I've ever heard on a major-label album, all heavily processed guitar-swirl and Chris Martin singing in a glassy girl falsetto through tons of reverb. The words are hard to make out, but it turns out they're actually just stuff like "fall asleep" and "sleep satisfied" repeated over and over, mantralike. The song could easily be self-conscious parody of shoegaze, at least if anyone was willing to put enough money and craft into recording a My Bloody Valentine parody. As it is, though, it's basically just a rip-off, and it's a fairly credible one at that. And if Coldplay was ever going to straight-up bite My Bloody Valentine, now would be the time. They started out as a pleasant and earnest hybrid of Jeff Buckley and Bends-era Radiohead, but by their second album, they were doing celestial big-budget new-age waiting-room music better than anyone else on the planet, finding ways to enfold dizzy house-music textures and proggy sweep into their low-impact exhalations without awkwardly stapling them on. But Coldplay takes forever between albums, and their last album, the unbelievably meh X&Y, basically proved that they wouldn't be able to get away with rewriting "Clocks" any longer. So of course Viva La Vida is the moment where they want to be taken seriously, and they've used just about every bell and whistle at their disposal to reach that goal. That means they hired Brian Eno to produce, they found themselves someone to play kettle drums, and, yup, they recorded a shockingly faithful My Bloody Valentine bite. None of this surprises me. But this is an interesting time for their art-move, since a whole lot of people are counting on Coldplay to save their jobs.


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Status Ain't Hood Podcast 42

Categories: Podcasts

Songs:

- Jay-Z: "A Billi"
- Lil Wayne: "Whip It"
- Coldplay: "42"
- Deerhunter: "Nothing Ever Happened"


Wale's Mixtape About Nothing: Best Seinfeld-Related Mixtape Ever

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What can you even say to this?

So Wale made a mixtape about Seinfeld. This is a weird thing for a rapper to be doing. Or maybe The Mixtape About Nothing isn't strictly speaking a mixtape about Seinfeld, but it's definitely centered around the show. The cover spoofs the show's logo and DVD covers. Every song title starts with The: "The Freestyle," "The Skit," "The Cliche Lil Wayne Feature," etc. Nearly every song comes with a sampled snatch of dialogue from the show attached, and at least a couple of them seem to spring directly from those samples. On the first track, Wale raps over the show's bass-popping theme music and riffs on Jerry Seinfeld's standup comedy: "What's the deal with these ringtones?" Julia-Louis Dreyfuss, who played Elaine, shows up for a drop: "I am here on this mixtape to tell you that he's awesome, and don't you think that makes me the coolest person ever? Don't you think my kids are gonna think I'm so cool I'm on this mixtape? Mothafucka!" And, maybe inevitably, there's a "Sucka Nigga"-type meditation on race and language built on Michael Richards's racist comedy-club meltdown rant from a couple of years ago. As formalist exercises go, I can't really imagine anything more absurd. And if The Mixtape About Nothing accomplishes nothing else, at least it's blown the door wide open for rappers making entire mixtapes about specific sitcoms. I'm eagerly awaiting the Plies mixtape about Dinosaurs, the Jadakiss mixtape about Ned & Stacey, and the Crooked I mixtape about Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.


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Miss Rap Supreme: Not That Great, Ultimately

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Lady Twist got robbed

Miss Rap Supreme ended last night pretty much the same way that The (White) Rapper Show, the ego trip crew's previous foray into reality TV, ended last year. In a head-to-head song-contest held in some generic club with a cameo from some demented cult-rap figure (R.A. the Rugged Man last year, Kool Keith this year), the relatively calm and unshowy candidate, the one who kept her head down and nailed all her challenges all season, defeated the more commercially-minded drama-addict personality who was lucky to get as far as she did in the first place. And so there's a sense of final justice there; the ego trip types seem happy to reward their more workmanlike figures even as they depend on their fight-starters for whatever ratings they might get. (Though, to be fair, the second season of Rock of Love ended exactly the same way earlier this year, and if I watched more reality shows, I could probably think of plenty of similar examples of journeyman triumphs.) Last year, it was Shamrock, the really pretty great Atlanta rapper with something weird going on with his lip beating John Brown, the catchphrase-spouting monotoner who I think must live in Park Slope because I keep seeing him on the street. This year, it was Reece Steele, the girl who looked vaguely like a lion and who rapped like a female Freeway (sort of a weird thing to shoot for, but it worked) beating Byata, the white hipstery chick who talked way too much and who I saw lose on 106 & Park's Freestyle Friday a few years ago, back when she bleached her hair. That ending was just the last way that Miss Rap Supreme couldn't quite match up to its predecessor. Last year, there was a real sense of something at stake, and John Brown and Shamrock hated each other at least a little bit. This year, Reece and Byata were totally best friends all season, Reece even sort of playing sidekick to Byata throughout, and I couldn't, in the end, believe that either of them particularly cared who won.


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