the first 6 months of 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007
1. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
2. Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
3. T-Pain - Epiphany
4. Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
5. Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
6. Ted Leo - Living With The Living
7. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
8. Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
9. Trans Am - Sex Change
10. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
11. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
12. Styles P. - The Ghost Sessions
13. Kelly Clarkson - My December
14. Rich Boy - Rich Boy
15. R. Kelly - Double Up
16. Redman - Red Gone Wild: Thee Album
17. They Might Be Giants - The Else
18. Consequence - Don’t Quit Your Day Job
19. DJ Khaled - We The Best
20. Ted Leo - Mo Livin’ EP

So far rap albums have been pretty unmemorable for me this year, although I'm entirely open to the possibility that I'm listening to the wrong albums. I think I'm comfortable in my stodgy preference towards indie rock bands I've already been listening to for 5 years or more. The new school indie shit getting a pass on Pitchfork/blogs generally scares the shit out of me. Seems like a decent year for popular music, as far as big hyped albums by folks like Fall Out Boy and Kelly Clarkson being pretty good. FOB's breakthrough album didn't have a lot going for it past the singles, but the new one's weaker singles are hiding some really ace deep cuts.

1. Swizz Beatz - “It’s Me Bitches”
2. R. Kelly f/ T.I. and T-Pain - “I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
3. UGK f/ Outkast - “International Player’s Anthem”
4. Kelly Rowland f/ Eve - “Like This”
5. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman and Lil Wayne – "We Taking Over"
6. Maroon 5 - “Makes Me Wonder”
7. Fantasia - “When I See U”
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Hump De Bump”
9. Amerie - “Gotta Work”
10. The Game f/ Kanye West - “Wouldn’t Get Far”
11. R. Kelly f/ Usher - “Same Girl”
12. Bobby Valentino - "Anonymous"
13. My Chemical Romance - “Teenagers”
14. Justin Timberlake - “Until The End Of Time”
15. Fergie f/ Ludacris - “Glamorous”
16. Kanye West, Rakim, Nas and KRS One - “Classic”
17. Daughtry f/ Slash - “What I Want”
18. Puddle of Mudd - “Famous”
19. Fabolous f/ Swizz Beatz - “Return of The Hustle”
20. Bow Wow f/ T Pain - “Outta My System”
21. Relient K - “Must Have Done Something Good”
22. Muse - “Starlight”
23. Paul Wall f/ Jermaine Dupri - “I’m Throwed”
24. Papa Roach - “Forever”
25. Mika - “Grace Kelly”
26. DJ Unk - “Two Step”
27. Fall Out Boy - “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”
28. Prodigy - “Stuck On You”
29. Natasha Bedingfield - “I Wanna Have Your Babies”
30. Paramore - “Misery Business”
31. Fergie - “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)”
32. Taylor Hicks - “Heaven Knows”
33. Diddy f/ Keyshia Cole, Big Boi, Yung Joc, Rich Boy, and The Game - “Last Night (Remix)”
34. Dashboard Confessional - “Stolen”
35. T.I. f/ Wyclef Jean - “You Know What It Is”
36. Young Jeezy f/ Keyshia Cole - “Dreamin’”
37. Nelly Furtado - “All Good Things”
38. Lil Wayne - “La La La”
39. Avril Lavigne - “When You’re Gone”
40. Young Jeezy f/ R. Kelly - “Go Getta”
41. Justin Timberlake - “What Goes Around...Comes Around”
42. Fall Out Boy - “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”
43. Three 6 Mafia f/ Chamillionaire - “Doe Boy Fresh”
44. Audioslave - “Revelations”
45. Saliva - “Ladies & Gentlemen”
46. Katharine McPhee - "Love Story"
47. Queens of the Stone Age - "Sick Sick Sick"
48. Lumidee f/ Pitbull - Crazy”
49. Vanessa Hudgens - “Say OK”
50. Incubus - “Anna Molly”

"Flirt" and "Bitches/Snitches" keep switching places in my top two spots and I'm not sure which will win the battle eventually, or if it'll be something else entirely. My soft spot for active rock radio has really gotten to me this year, enjoying singles by Daughtry, Puddle Of Mudd, Saliva, and Papa Roach more than I expected to. The biggest revelation I've had lately is "Anonymous," which for months I dismissed as too similiar to the one TimbaHandz track I really loved, "My Love," without much else going for it. But it finally cornered me on the radio after only half-listening to it on MTV, and it's pretty fucking great, one of the first times that I've actually felt like Timbaland's recent hype hasn't been just belated acknowledgement of earlier masterpieces. R&B is completely murdering rap on the radio this year in general, though, so I shouldn't be surprised that even lame-ass Bobby V.'s got jams.


Friday, June 29, 2007
Kelly Clarkson - "Can I Have A Kiss" (mp3)

Lately Kelly Clarkson's been going through a lot of the fallout generally associated with a recording artist putting out a follow-up to a hit that doesn't live up to expectations: feuding with label heads, firing managers, cancelling tours. Thing is, that kind of thing usually doesn't happen until after the album's actually been out and had a chance to fail, but she's cycled through all of that before the CD hit shelves, even when it was moved up a few weeks. And even though I'll follow and speculate on pre-release developments just like anyone else, I hate all the lead-up. It's the same thing with the 50 Cent album: if it's destined to fail or disappoint like everyone thinks, then let's just get it over with and actually hear the thing and decide. My big music industry fantasy is that in the next few years, labels get so sick of leaks that they give up on the whole pre-release buildup for first week sales and just dump albums into the marketplace with no minimal advance publicity. Or at least, release singles and videos less than a month before the release date, like they used to.

I think My December is a thoroughly OK album and probably as good as Breakaway, whether it lives or dies on the charts. I think "Sober" is a beautiful, really affecting song, but it also seems like a weak single and I don't necessarily look forward to hearing it outside the context of the album. The harsher rock songs like "Haunted" and "Hole" don't really work, not so much because she can pull off that darker tone, but just because her vocal performances sound kind of strained and shrill. The stuff I'm really enjoying is the midtempo tracks like "How I Feel" and "Can I Have A Kiss," both of which I think Mike Watt played on.

I don't necessarily think sparer tracks like "Be Still" and "Maybe" are great songs, but I love listening to them because I love Clarkson's voice in that breathy restrained mode, where you can actually hear her inhale and exhale between words. Though Clarkson's a belter by trade, and that's how she won Idol, what I've really always liked about her voice is the dewy tenderness on the verses. I don't find her particularly sexy (huge ass aside), not a knock against her since that's not really what she's going for, she's just too girl next door, almost sisterly. But I find her voice incredibly sexy, in an era where most of the biggest sex symbols in pop music have thin, girlish, inexpressive singing voices. And even when My December's songs are so-so (see: "Yeah"), it's full of great vocal moments (see: "Yeah"'s bridge).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Senor Pants: EMI Music Marketing announced yesterday that it's releasing "Music From the Mound," a compilation of Dice-K's favorite tunes. The album will include one original track, "Gyro Ball," which will feature former J.Geils harmonica player Magic Dick, former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, and NESN announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy.
Senor Pants: lol magic dick.
Al: girl you know it's no fun without the magic dick
Al: lord help me but I kind of like Amusement Park
Senor Pants: 50 Cent's pleasure is pleasing you.
Al: Lots of activities and fun things to do!
Senor Pants: Dub Says:
June 25th, 2007 at 10:58 pm
I heard T.I.P did dat shit…. T.I ol punk ass wouldnt even around when da shit popped off.

Al: haha yeah that incident has really helped the T.I./T.I.P. concept take hold in the public's mind
Senor Pants: TIP punches Chaka Zulu, while TI straightens his tie and enjoys his club sandwich.
Al: lol
Al: T.I. cares about shit like Grammys, T.I. doesn't but still gets pissed at the rapper who wins the Grammy instead
Senor Pants: i donbt believe that uncle murda is really signed to def jam.
Senor Pants: he'll have to change his name to uncle uncle
Al: uncle ghostface
Senor Pants: Uncle Unintentional Manslaughter
Al: Uncle Inc.
Senor Pants: The Uncle
Al: Murder Unc.
Al: not "murder Unk," btw
Al: although I am sick of "Walk It Out"
Senor Pants: i am tired of all songs that boss me around
Al: seriously
Al: I need raps that are descriptive, not prescriptive
Al: Despite considerably less-than-planned involvement from Dr. Dre on the album, Eve says she's still on his Aftermath label. And Swizz Beatz was able to fill in quite nicely in Dre's absence. "The decision was to have Dre start off the album, but Dre is kinda busy," Eve said. "Swizz is my brother. He knows how to work with me. What was supposed to happen, [Swizz] was just going to do a couple [of tracks], but once we get together, we can't stop working. He knows me really well. We decided he might as well be one of the executive producers."
Al: wtf is Dre so busy with
Al: "oh sorry I did 3 beats for Jay-Z, i'm all spent for the rest of the year"
Al: "i'm way too busy right now, gotta have Detox ready by 2011"
Senor Pants: hahaha yeah
Al: although honestly guys like him and Axl Rose probably enjoy their wealth way more than people who are putting out albums all the time
Al: if i was that rich i'd never get shit done either


Monday, June 25, 2007
T-Pain f/ Teddy Verseti - "Church" (mp3)

I had pretty high hopes for T-Pain's new album, despite the fact that I hadn't really liked any of his solo singles to date (I only actively dislike "Buy U A Drank," am kind of ambivalent to "I'm Sprung" and "Bartender," and warmed to "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)" after the remix). Mostly the guy grew on me because of his increasingly great string of guest appearances on remixes, from his melodic twists and turns on "I'm A Flirt" to the evil robot "ah-AH" bit on "Pop, Lock & Drop It" to the scene-stealing "Two Step" verse. There aren't many artists in hip hop/R&B I have more disdain for than good rappas ternt mediocre sangas like Mos Def and Andre 3000, but T-Pain, who doesn't come off as being particularly good at either, pulls off the transition with charm and none of their pretension.

I talked a little about his self-deprecating sad T-Panda act on ILM a while back, and that brutal MTV interview: "For him to be calling me, he could have called anybody. He could have called Akon! But he called the dude that everybody says looks like the neighborhood weed man. Everybody is dissing me, they don't like my music, they don't like how I look, 'he can't sing,' and Bow called that person? You can't imagine how that feels." I hope having a #1 single and album since then have helped him get over some of that insecurity. The artist he's referring to, btw, is Bow Wow, and "Outta My System" totally would've been my "wow, T-Pain really can sing!" moment if not for the fact that it's actually Johnta Austin emoting on the 3rd verse.

But anyway, it turns out that Epiphany is a pretty damn good album (once you get past that intro where he reads the definition of the word "epiphany" out of a dictionary, which is like my least favorite way to explain an album's title ever, although I'm not sure who else has done it before). And surprisingly, he does a fair amount of singing (and rapping) without any Antares autotuning, which will hopefully help people get past his admittedly well-earned gimmick status. And that's why I'm really hoping that he follows through on his promise to make "Church" the album's third single, as he's said according to Wikipedia. I'd love for him to come out with such an amped-up, fast-paced, batshit crazy single after so many sleepy snap songs,and one in which he really raps, even if the raps are by one of his indistinguishable alter-egos (hopefully we won't get an ill-advised T-Pain Vs. Teddy Verseti Vs. Teddy Pain Vs. Teddy Penderazdoun concept album somewhere down the line).

The whole album is full of minor pleasures besides "Church," though, from the great Shawnna feature on "Backseat Action" (another one that sound be a single) to the wistful closer "Sounds Bad." I'm really impressed by the range of the production, considering that he did every beat on the album. I mused a couple weeks ago about whether someone as bland and earnest as Ne-Yo was fit to pick up R. Kelly's mantle as the dominant auteur of radio R&B. But it turns out that Kells has been trying to tell us all along that T-Pain really is funny and creative and weird enough to hang with him, and Epiphany is full of quirks and tricks that still feel fresh, where Double Up, even at its best, is full of material that can't help but feel overly familiar to anyone who's heard a Kelly album before.


TV Diary

Saturday, June 23, 2007
1. "The Loop"
I feel really bad for this show, I liked it what I saw of the first season, which FOX only aired a handful of episodes of, back in 2006. But after it was picked up as a mid-season replacement, they ended up not airing it at all during the actual season, and decided to cancel the show last month before burning off the produced 2nd season episodes between Simpsons reruns on Sundays this Summer. I get the vague feeling that the show's been dramatically retooled since the first season, but I can't remember exactly how much has been changed, considering that I last saw those episodes a year and a half ago. It's still a pretty good show, though, a very fast-talking, absurd workplace comedy. Kind of reminds of Scrubs without the maudlin dramatic moments, or maybe the short-lived Fred Savage vehicle Working. Kudos for the hysterical guy in the elevator and the hot receptionist. And Philip Baker Hall is awesome, mostly because it's like a reprisal of my favorite role he ever did, as the library detective on Seinfeld.

2. "Hoodfab"
This is a weird little game show that they've started running on the MTV Jams channel in the past few weeks, hosted by Buttahman, who used to be program director at 92Q here in Baltimore a few years ago, before he went to work for MTV. The show is real low budget, with five minute segments where Buttahman quizzes rappers (Snoop, Eve) and random dudes on the street about hip hop trivia. It's kind of a cute idea, although it feels really slapdash, like they used cheaper cameras than they have access to on purpose, and for the most part I know the answer to every question. I'm curious if they're gonna try to expand the format into a full-on series at some point, though.

3. "The Riches"
I don't watch The Sopranos, so last week when the whole world was shouting at their TV about that, I was all pissed about this show's finale. I wrote about it favorably here a couple times and mostly stand by what I said, and I don't really mind an open-ended or cliffhanger ending, since they've been renewed for a 2nd season. But it felt like the writers just painted themselves into a corner with too many complications, and when they got to the absolute climax, they just ended it there to give themselves another year to figure out where the hell they're going with this. It just really pissed me off because it felt like there never was any arc to the show to begin with, that they were just making it up as the go along in the same way Eddie Izzard's character often rambles. I call bullshit.

4. "Kathy Griffin: Everybody Can Suck It"
Like most of the world, I've always found Kathy Griffin incredibly irritating and associated her with the shitpile that is "Suddenly Susan." But I've kind of come around on her actually being pretty funny because of her standup specials on Bravo. It occurs to me that she's probably always been doing this kind of catty, celebrity-obsessed comedy, but the world has kind of caught up to her now where that's what the whole comedy world is focused on. Anyway this new special was pretty funny, especially the bit about the Emmys, although when I try to give her reality show Live On The D-List a chance, I just get bored and switch it off.

5. "The Comeback"
It's kind of amazing that "Friends" has only been off the air for three years, and already half the cast have launched new series and had them cancelled (while Courtney Cox's horrible "The Dirt" gets picked up for a 2nd season thanks to the low expectations of basic cable). This show with Lisa Kudrow seems like more of a humble failure than "Studio 60" or "Joey," however, partly because the show is a whole meta thing about an aging sitcom star. I gave it a chance since HBO's been rerunning it lately, but it's really just kind of another lame single camera mockumentary that we're probably going to be saddled with for the next 10 years thanks to "The Office," where they're going for cringes and chuckles more than laughs.

In My Stereo

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
T-Pain - Epiphany
Styles P. - The Ghost Sessions
DJ Khaled - We The Best
B.G. - The Heart Of That Streetz, Vol. 2 (I Am What I Am)
Ying Yang Twins - U.S.A. Still United
Steve Newsense - A Baltimore Club Tribute To Disco D
Say-Wut - Club Chronicles: Level 1
Tha Profitt - Baltimore Entrepeneur
Stackz - No 2morrow

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This week in the City Paper I've got a feature on Los, the Baltimore MC signed to Bad Boy Records who I wrote about a little on Gov't Names after he first got signed. This article's actually been a long time in the making, I did the initial interview with him 8 months ago, but we were having a hard time getting him to do a photo shoot, so we ended up shelving it for a while. But when I saw that he was having that big event at Ram's Head Live earlier this month, I decided to revive the article and make sure it got published, so it's good to finally see it come out. I haven't done a GN post with multiple mp3's in a while, but since Los doesn't really have a lot of material readily available on the mixtape market right now, but should be doing big things in the future, I'll put up a few tracks:

Los - "10-Minute Million Dollar Massacre" Freestyle (mp3)
Despite the title, this joint is closer to 11 minutes, and he runs through about 20 different beats. He did the track for a mixtape for Owners Illustrated magazine, and a performance of this for Diddy is what got Los signed to Bad Boy. There's also a video of him performing the whole thing on his MySpace page.

Los - "Die Hater" (mp3)
This is the first Los track to appear on an official Bad Boy mixtape, last year's Don't Call It A Comeback.

Skarr Akbar f/ Los - "Gunshots" (mp3)
Los and Skarr always do hot songs together, good combination. This one has appeared on a lot of mixtapes, Da Bloc Radio: The Triangle Offense, The Hood Legend: The Best of Skarr Akbar, Part 3 and a Whoo Kid mixtape.

Los - "Lyrical Exercise" Freestyle (mp3)
This was the first track I ever heard by Los, on Real On Purpose's The Movement Mixtape Vol. 2 back in 2004.

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Monday, June 18, 2007
DJ Khaled f/ Beanie Sigel and Pooh Bear - "Before The Solution" (mp3)

I wouldn't call myself a DJ Khaled fan, but I definitely don't dislike him as much as a lot of people seem to. Even folks who will rhapsodize about the amazing talents and accomplishments of DJ Drama will hate on the dude, which I don't really understand at all (although I suspect the difference has something to do with all the racist-ass terrorist jokes that Nah Right fruitfly types crack about him). Granted, Drama probably feels weird about Khaled totally jacking the "on the run from the feds" theme that he has way more of a right to use for that "We Takin' Over" video. I gave Listennn...The Album a solid B grade last year, and by the low standards of hip-hop compilations by committee, that makes it damn near a masterpiece. So I figured him dropping a follow-up so soon was good news, another decent mix of new tracks to get me through the Summer.

Unfortunately, We The Best is pretty much worthless, not nearly as consistent as Listennn despite being a full 20 minutes shorter. Both albums are on Koch, so it's hard to characterize one of them as a cheapo rush job and not the other, but We The Best makes its predecessor seem like a big budget masterpiece by comparison. I don't even like "We Takin' Over" as much as "Holla At Me," and it's still by far the best song on here. Noone really needed lesser sequels to "New York" and "Born N Raised" (although Flo Rida's verse on "Bitch I'm From Dade County" is pretty incredible).

Part of the problem is that four of the ten (only ten!) full songs are produced by Cool & Dre. They're not nearly as ubiquitous as they were a year or two ago, and I'm hesitant to say that any producer fell off simply because they haven't placed as many tracks on major albums as they used to. But based on their contributions here, I think they fell the fuck off. The beats aren't all way below par for their earlier work, but they clinch it with the horrible R&B vocals mixed way too high on "Brown Paper Bag" and "I'm From The Ghetto." If I'd known that "Brown Paper Bag" was gonna get scores of 7 or higher on the Stylus Jukebox today, I would've thrown my opinion in there to bring the average down, shit is terrible.

The real shame of DJ Khaled's albums is that they constantly prompt the question "what does this guy even do?" because he farms out most of the production to more established beatmakers, and he doesn't have to. As Beat Novacaine, he's produced hot album tracks for Fat Joe, Fabolous, and Pitbull, but for some reason won't do more than a beat or two on his own projects. And by far my favorite track on We The Best, "Before The Solution," was produced by Khaled (according to the liner notes at least; this site says it was done by Beanie Sigel's frequent collaborators Dre & Vidal, so I'm curious who really did the beat). It's practically the only cut on the album with one MC, and Beanie absolutely murders it, as much as he has any track in the last few years (another bad R&B hook, but that doesn't detract from it too much). I haven't really been expecting much from Sigel lately, considering that he barely rhymed for the first year after he got out of jail, and I've since realized I kinda overrated The B. Coming. But if he can sober up long enough to focus like he does on this song and stop mumbling about how the dudes who produced half his singles are mad gay, then I'm ready to be excited about The Solution.


Saturday, June 16, 2007
Lots of new stuff on the Stylus Jukebox, and I can't believe my highest score went to Taylor Hicks, but maybe that means I'll be spared by the army of Soul Patrol commenters:

R Kelly - The Zoo [4/6.6]
Hilary Duff - Stranger [5/6.17]
Lil Wayne - La La La [7/5.86]
Blake Lewis - You Give Love A Bad Name [4/3.6]
Ca$his ft. Eminem - Pistol Poppin’ [6/6]
Kanye West - Stronger [5/5]
Keith Murray ft. Tyrese - Nobody Do It Better [5/6.25]
Twista ft. Pharrell - Give It Up [4/4.4]
Natasha Bedingfield - Soulmate [3/5.4]
Paul McCartney - Dance Tonight [5/5.5]
Kelly Clarkson - Sober [7/5.25]
Avril Lavigne - When You’re Gone [6/4.5]
Taylor Hicks - Heaven Knows [7/4]


Thursday, June 14, 2007
Parts & Labor - "Ghosts Will Burn" (mp3)

Parts & Labor made my 4th favorite album of 2006, and so far they're the only artist from that list to make an appearance on my list in progress this year (although Styles P.'s already got something new out that I should probably check for). Anytime an artist, especially a rock band, puts out back to back albums in two consecutive years, I'm inclined to root for them, though, especially since Mapmaker is at least as good as, and maybe better than Stay Afraid. Covering the Minutemen is a pretty reliable way to get on my good side, too. The drummer posts to ILM and seems cool enough based on my limited interactions with him, but I don't really know the dude, so I'll praise his band without reservation.

The vocals are still kind of their weak spot, although they've improved somewhat from the last record (the froggier of the two singers belongs on this roundtable, but really I'm one to talk). I can't really focus on the lyrics even with the lyric sheet in front of me (the stream of consciousness-style lack of punctuation is just hard to look at), but they seem decent enough. My favorite part of the album is the midway stretch that begins with "New Crimes" and runs for the next few tracks, peaking with "Ghosts Will Burn." The latter begins with an loud, grinding noise that gradually reveals a melody, which sounds like it was played on a modified vacuum cleaner. My girlfriend's exact response, when I was listening to it yesterday: "what is that horrible noise? really, that's awful." It's kind of the apex of their whole abrasive yet beautiful aesthetic, although if I had to really pick the best part of the album, it would be the vaguely surf guitar-ish melodies on "New Crimes" and "Fake Rain."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The latest stuff I've had up on in the past month: The Club Beat with DJ Equalizer, some rap show reviews of Rock Da Mic Wednesdays at Club Taste, Hezekiah, Oddisee, E Major, Sean Toure, Ab-Rock and UnReal @ the New Turntable Club, and Even A Man Can Do This 2 @ 5 Seasons with ShellBe R.A.W., Jade Fox, B-Fly, G.E.M. and Symantyx. Also, some rock show reviews of Sloan @ the Black Cat, Elvis Costello @ Ram's Head Live, and 98 Rock's Noise In The Basement showcase at Fletcher's with Empty Gratitude, Armoreta, Gatsby Gets The Green Light and the Dangerous Summer.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007
R. Kelly f/ Snoop Dogg - "Double Up" (mp3)

The release of Double Up has kind of become the occasion for a public referendum on R. Kelly's career, specifically the element of humor in his music, and where everyone stands on him being a genius or a clown, or an ingenius clown. Last week in the City Paper, Jess summed up the different sides of the argument pretty well, including Rich four four's take, which is trenchant if more negative about the album than I'm willing to be. At the very least, Double Up is a much better album than his last one, TP3: Reloaded, which, aside from the polarizing "Trapped In The Closet" finale, had maybe 2 good songs, and a bunch of bad reggae/reggaeton/dancehall pastiches.

I'll admit that I can live without the rote metaphor tracks like "The Zoo" and "Sex Planet," although, as I said on the Stylus Jukebox, R. indulging in that formula on his worst day is still better than 50 Cent comparing his dick to Six Flags. Most of the best stuff on the album still works on the level of plain old R&B, although it still occasionally works when he gets high concept. I mean, I don't think it's possible not to find "Leave Your Name" at least a little funny, whether or not it reminds you of George Costanza's outgoing message. But that song's autotuning, and the subtle vocoder textures on the backup vocals on "Double Up" that might be my favorite sound on the album, make me wonder whether the guy is hanging out with T-Pain just to make him feel okay when he bites his style.

Ultimately, it's about whether the music's good, and lately with R. it has been, although it seems like he's going for the same Mr. Song-Of-The-Week status he attained in 2003 and matching that year for quantity but not so much in quality. He's still got a few months to try and top it, though. I'm torn on whether I even want to hear the umpteen new chapters of "Trapped In The Closet" that he's supposed to drop next month, though. I have to admit I got pretty caught up in the excitement of that stuff in 2005, but even in my City Paper piece, my approach was kind of dry and clinical, if only to avoid most of the hysterical snickering that was going on around it at the time. Unless he miraculously pulls the "Trapped" plotline off the rails and fulfills the promise of its initial chapters, or makes some remix appearances that are better than the overrated-ass "Make It Rain" verse, I'm thinking it'll be the straightforward tracks like "I'm A Flirt" and "Double Up" and "Hook It Up" that will have made him one of my favorite R&B artists of 2007. I mean, who else is fucking with him, as an auteur/songwriter or as a star? Who else we got, Ne-Yo? Dude's hitting a sophomore slump and just reinforcing that he really is as boring as he initially seemed, despite all the "no, really, I'm a sex addict" lyrics insisting otherwise. R. Kelly doesn't have to try nearly as hard to come across as the endlessly creative, hypersexual superstar that he is, but he works so much harder at the actual music that he'll be cracking the code of his 40th songwriting gimmick while Ne-Yo is merely writing the 40th version of "So Sick."


In My Stereo

Friday, June 08, 2007
The Police - Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings
R. Kelly - Double Up
Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
Lil Wayne/DJ Drama - Dedication 2
Leo G/DNA/Celo - XM 66 RAW All-Stars
K-Swift The Club Queen - Jump Off Vol. 10: We Fly High Edition
Ab-Rock - Rock Mics Volume 1
Skarr Akbar - The Warning Shot: Believe In Me
The Deep End - The Soul Has Left My Building
E. Joseph - Absinthe Minded

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TV Diary

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
1. "Scarred"
When I heard that MTV had a new series about injuries incurred by people while skateboarding or playing other unconventional sports, I thought it was a great idea: finally, the network that's been glorifying 'extreme sports' for 15 years showing the downside of shit like snowboarding off a cliff. I thought it might be one of those "MTV Docs"-type serious shows, but nope, it's just as obnoxiously scored and edited as MTV Sports was back in the, except instead of Dan Cortese screaming at you, it's the singer from Papa Roach who used to call himself "Coby Dick" until he realized that his real name, Jacoby Shaddix, was actually weirder and cooler. It's also fitting that he's an MTV host now, since he basically looks like Chris Hardwick from Singled Out with guyliner. The actual parts where people talk about their injuries are pretty cool, though; usually the incident is caught on camera, and they show the footage over and over and slow it down to point out the exact moment where you can see or hear a bone crack or a limb bend back in some painfully unnatural position. It's kind of greusome and awesome, although the show would be ten times better with less IN YOUR FACE-type editing.

2. "On The Lot"
I was kind of interested in this show before it debuted, but then I missed the first couple weeks and didn't see it at all until the other night. Just as well, though, since the word of the mouth's been uniformly negative, the ratings have been terrible, and the first host has already been fired. The new host is even kind of incompetent. It's a shame, too, I would've liked for a reality show about aspiring filmmakers with this format to work well in prime time. Of the small number of short films I've seen on it so far, most were pretty lightweight, although I liked "Dough: The Musical." I kind of wish there weren't so many directors aiming for comedy, though; obviously humor is one of the best ways to pull in an audience in a film that's too short for much plot or emotional development. But I think I'd be more impressed by someone with a good visual sense than just someone who has only really proven that they can write and shoot a comedy skit.

3. "Saul of the Mole Men"
I'm kind of resigned to the fact that I'll take what I like from Adult Swim ("Venture Bros.," "Home Movies," etc.) and leave the aggravatingly nonsensical shit to the weed smokers. But now and then at night I'll flip over to check out some unfamiliar show and see bullshit like this. This doesn't seem as outright horrible as, say, "Tom Goes To The Mayor," but I kind of have a huge pet peeve about the Cartoon Network airing anything that isn't straight up animation, even if there's puppetry or some combination of live action and animation. It's Cartoon Network, motherfuckers! There's enough cartoons out there for you to show just that 24 hours a day, you don't need "Saved By The Bell" and "Pee Wee's Playhouse" to pad out the schedule, and you don't need puppetry bullshit like this.

4. "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"
Maybe it's because I'm feelingly sentimentally pro-Sorkin after Netflixing "The West Wing," but I've kinda opted to stick with this show 'til the end, now that NBC's cancelled it and is burning off the last few episodes during the Summer season. I'm mostly relieved that they put this show out of its misery, because if it'd been renewed, I might keep holding out hope that it'd improve, when it was mostly getting worse, but at least now there's an endpoint. The last couple episodes have been better than some of the truly dire midseason ones, if not great. Also, much in the same way I was annoyed by the subtle 4th-wall busting in Knocked Up, that episode where Allison Janney was the guest host really irritated me. It had the same problem as the pilot where Felicity Huffman was the post, but at she's better known for a show other than the one she did with Sorkin, whereas they had to acknowledge that Janney is known primarily for "The West Wing," and had her interact with the actor who played her love interest on that show, Timothy Busfield. They may as well have had Jennifer Aniston walk in and tell Matthew Perry's character he looked like Chandler.

Monday, June 04, 2007
My latest blurbs for the Stylus Jukebox, even worse stuff than the last batch:

USDA - Corporate Thuggin’ [6/6.75]
The Fixxers - Can U Werk Wit Dat [5/6.25]
Lumidee ft. Pitbull - Crazy [6/6.2]
Kelly Rowland - Come Back [3/5.5]
Avril Lavigne vs. Lil Mama - Girlfriend (Remix) [3/6.17]
Smashing Pumpkins - Tarantula [6/5.67]
Jordin Sparks - This Is My Now [3/2.86]
Tank - Please Don’t Go [4/4.25]
They Might Be Giants - I’m Impressed [2/3.5]


Saturday, June 02, 2007
1. Knocked Up
This has been pretty much my most anticipated movie of the year (right ahead of Transfomers), so I was glad J.G. and I were able to see it on opening weekend. And it pretty much lived up to my expectations, although I won't really know if it's as good or better than 40 Year Old Virgin until it's on HBO every day and I'll see if I feel like watching at least 5 minutes of it every time it's on. Seth Rogen was one of my favorite cast members way back on Freaks & Geeks, and in a recent interview Judd Apatow even pointed out one of my favorite episodes (the one where he dates "tuba girl") as the one that convinced him that Rogen could carry a movie. It ran a little long for a comedy, and probably could've been trimmed down a bit (for instance: one laugh line featuring the word "vagina" would've been funnier than 4 or 5), but it also allowed for some interesting divergences that weren't really necessary to the plot but ended up being my favorite stuff: the shit in Las Vegas with the mushrooms and the chairs in the hotel room, and the bit with the doorman at the club. And as funny as some of the E! channel stuff was (Kristen Wiig has been my favorite part of SNL lately, and her bit part is possibly the funniest part in the whole movie), I was a little annoyed by the 4th wall-busting move of having James Franco and Steve Carrell cameo as themselves, when practically every other Apatow repertory player was already in the movie in character.

2. The Break-Up
After watching a great comedy that featured some uncomfortably realistic bickering and relationship problems, it was pretty easy to see exactly where this movie fails. There are just unforgiveably long stretches of conflict and arguing that never really get to a laugh, or even seem to be trying for one. Vince Vaughn usually seems effortlessly funny, and when he's interacting with someone other than Jennifer Aniston in this (especially the video game scene), he is. But for the most part this fell flat, and I barely felt compelled to keep paying attention until the lame ending.