Music: Pussycat Dolls, Jenny Lewis, Justice, MGMT, The Hives, and Natasha Bedingfield
My iPod is running a triathlon of musical genres as the moment. One moment I'm listening to Justice's brilliant DVNO (I'm late to the party, I know), then MGMT's "Kids," and next it's the Pussycat Dolls craptastically listenable "Bottle Pop."
Or is my iPod just a--hold on, this is seriously bringing the lols right now. There's an effeminate jock sitting near me on the couch listening to Avril Lavigne's "Fall To Pieces." He's eating Quiznos and his iPod is waaaay to loud. But I mean...does he really want the world to know his iPod playlist??
The Pussycat Dolls. Off their new uber-engineered pop manifesto, Doll Domination, two songs stand out as fantastic radio singles. "Bottle Pop," featuring a rap by Snoop Dog that is undoubtedly the highlight of the track, is a fun, accesible club song with dirty dancing the obviou provocation. The chorus is fine ("Bottle Pop" is sexual enough without explanation), but the writers have tried to add meaning to the lyrics--something about skinny models and the Dolls, who have "asses in the back." Because models have asses in the front. The other track, "Who's Gonna Love You," is so sugary I'm sure I'm gaining weight just by listening to it. Irreverently bouncy--almost rapturous--the chorus explodes in candy fireworks, complete with dancing babies in makeup and cats with glittering whiskers. It's messy, though, as if the producers took every saccharine Garageband sample and slapped them together in hopes of redeeming, well, every other dirrrty track.
Okay, the jock just played "Fall To Pieces" again. Srsly?
Jenny Lewis. Lewis has an almost God-like following, and it's strange considering how little she caters to the whims of fans. (I suppose that's a strength. I know emos that would sacrifice themselves for Fiona Apple) "Black Sand" is an interesting mix of melancholy and cheerful, similar to Rilo Kiley's latest effort, with "Carpetbaggers" a country track that's probably too country for country radio. Acid Tongue's title track is predictably beautiful, and much better than anything Lewis wrote for Rabbit Fur Coat. Lewis' gentle falsetto peaks as she croons, "I'm a liar!" over soft guitar strumming and an odd-sounding chorus of anonymous male voices. If this sounds familiar, it's because the title track of More Adventurous is nearly identical.
MGMT...is phenomenal. So many bands try to capture the simple emotions that come so easily to MGMT: fragility ("Kids"), sensuality ("Electric Feel"), authenticity and that only-in-music paradox of complex simplicity. The message behind "Time to Pretend" takes twenty-six seconds to communicate. Independence is a feeling, not a tangible state of being. MGMT understands this, and no where is that more artistically delivered than on the excellent latter track.
Jem. What happened to you? The reggae-electronica-sex soundtrack songstress of 2004 has clearly left the building, leaving a derivitave diva with a serious lack of direction in her place. The genius of Finally Woken's sexual-without-slutty "Save Me," sexual and slutty "Come On Closer," and apocolyptic "24" is certainly not to be found on the ironically titled Down To Earth. The only track coming close to gre--decency is "Crazy," which is still a bit too Sheryl Crow circa 2003 to really stand out. If you're going to create a pop record, at least do it right; when an artist like Jem changes her iTunes genre listing from "electronica" to "pop," she better be sure she'll get a radio single. Unless "Amazing," which is actually kind of okay, starts getting some spins from the men upstairs (a.k.a. New York and Chicago DJs), I'm afraid this album is a lost cause. She shore is purty, though.
Natasha Bedingfield. Thank freaking goodness. I'm not a particular fan of Bedingfield's work, but I adored Unwritten's best track "Single" for its scrumptious bass line and empowering chorus. "Angel," off Pocketful of Sunshine, while definitely not falling into the category of "empowering," is the single "Single" never was. The addictive post chorus chant, a Fergie-inspired spelling of "A-N-G-E-L," will never leave your mind once it's hip-hop tentacles have popped and locked their way inside. The single answers two questions left open by Unwritten: Bedingfield can most certainly do hip-hop, and no, she's not the feminist everyone thought she was. Your life is, sadly, all about pleasing men. Deal with it.
...and the jock has fallen asleep.