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411 Music Buy or Sell 03.14.13: Recovery Through Mirrors
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.14.2013

Greetings and salutations, Music Zone readers! Welcome to your top choice in music single opinion columns, 411 Music Buy or Sell! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas, and each week we'll look at some of the hottest new and hit singles and a couple of our esteemed writers will decide if they want to keep the song (Buy) or drop it like it's hot (Sell). Our listeners this week are the man behind Music's 3Rs, Sean Comer, taking on yours truly, Jeremy Thomas!

All right, enough of the introductions and rules…let's hop to it!

1) Frank Turner - "Recovery"
From Tape Deck Heart (Xtra Mile/Interscope)
Released March 4, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

"It's a long road out to recovery from here," British former Million Dead leader Frank Turner passionately croons on "Recovery". It's the jubilant, jangly singer-songwriter pop single heralding Turner's upcoming fifth solo album, Tape Deck Heart. For a tune that finds Turner playing a fallen lover who's seemingly put his life nearly back together again after storms of addiction and debauchery. From the sounds, he feels a need to reclaim just one more lost piece: the heart of the lady from whom his vices drew him.

There's an optimistic jig in Turner's step that's not always as pleasantly obvious as this song makes it. Sure, he's a personally flawed narrator, but he sings with the liberation of one who's come to grips, admitted his weaknesses and knows his way forward. The simplest of songs can sometimes be the very easiest to love, and from Turner's enthusiastic-but-authentic delivery to his localized, true-hearted lyrics, it's a tune I'm hard-pressed not to love.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

The first thing I thought when the song kicked off was "Well, this was bland." But as the song progressed it picked up very nicely and I found myself digging it. Obviously there is a very radio-friendly sound to it but I've never had an inherant problem with that; radio-friendly and quality are not mutually exclusive no matter how many bad songs try to convince us otherwise. Turner is earnest here--again, not a description that I consider to be an inherently bad thing--and it doesn't hurt that the song is catchy. Not my first choice for a listen, but I enjoyed it.


2) Wale (ft. Tiara Thomas) - "Bad"
From TBD (Maybach/Atlantic )
Released December 10, 2012
Sean Comer: SELL.

"Yep, I'm going to f*** around on you, but I'll rock your world until it's rubble when I'm with you, and I'll at least be honest about getting some strange." That about as much substance as "Bad" manages. Tiara Thomas delivers the hook led with "Is it bad that/I never made love/No, I never did it/But I sure know how to f***…" with a sultry, husky alto that just makes it sound like a lazily-written chorus delivered by a vocalist who's not especially memorable. Putting a finer point on it, she sounds quite dime-a-dozen. A passionate, exceptional singer can sometimes offset lackluster writing. In this case, cocking up both elements just makes this boring from Jump Street.

Wale should really be advised to pursue any other career path except rapping. He's not much of a lyricist at all, despite a competent flow. He's not even spitting over exceptional production, just a slow-jam Trillville sample that sounds about as off-the-rack as Thomas' chorus. His writing doesn't necessarily stick out as being necessarily incompetent, but on a mic-skills scale of "Trinidad James"/"Chanel West Cost" up to "Kendrick Lamar"/"Lupe Fiasco", Wale achieves the rank of "Flo Rida".

Jeremy Thomas: SELL.

I didn't had this at all, but it's certainly not good. The generic R&B melody doesn't do it any favors and while Thomas has a solid hook Wale just lyrically treads water here. The whole thing is competantly put together and the production values are sharp, but that doesn't make up for generic rhymes even if they do have a solid delivery. This is the kind of song I would click off if I heard it on the radio for something more interesting, and that's the epitome of a Sell.


3) She & Him - "Never Wanted Your Love"
From Volume 3 (Merge Records)
Released March 7, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

You can't avoid it. You love Zooey Deschanel. Nobody forever sidesteps falling for Ol' Doe-Eyes. She's the gooey-sweet cuteness center of New Girl, and if you clicked the link to the She & Him debut-album single "Never Wanted Your Love," you now understand beyond a possible shadow of a doubt why Loretta Lynn herself tapped Deschanel to portray the country legend's Academy Award-nominated life story "Coal Miner's Daughter" under the stage's hot lights.

M. Ward's production of strings, handclaps, understated bass and all the bounce of Turner's "Recovery" or Spoon's "The Underdog" complements lightly twanged, never overpowering voice to compose 3:15 of sunshine disguised as a gentle tell-off and admission that some fellow's really gotten to her. "I never wanted your love, but I needed it all," she confesses, all while telling him, "I'm not talking to you anymore/I'm makin' my bed so I can lie in it forever."

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

I'm not even the biggest Zooey fan and I loved this. Don't get me wrong, folks: I like her just fine as an actress but New Girl's "Hey, look at me, I'm ADORKABLE!" nature immediately turned me off and even after giving it multiple tries, I just have to acknowledge it as one of those shows other people like and I personally hate. (Side note: I also loathe the word "Adorkable.") As an actress she is usually good outside of that; as a singer I was skeptical of how obsessively hipster she would go. Against my better judgment I found myself drawn in and charmed by this single, its sounds and the lyricism. It's great work by a group I will be checking out more often.


4) Justin Timberlake - "Mirrors"
From The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
Released February 19, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

I really hoped I'd dig this one more than I did. Not that he's necessarily already exceeded the King of Pop's artistic brilliance or global-icon status, but pound-for-pound in terms of crafting his uniquely personal vision of artfully crafted, R&B-affected pop, Timberlake is his generation's Michael Jackson. He reaches beyond the mold with a smoothed-out strut to bring a natural musicality back to pop that's become broadly synthetic and sterile. As Jeremy Thomas and I agreed when talking the other night, it feels awkward, given his established persona of creativity among the radio-pop landscape, to acknowledge that this cat was once one-fifth of a late-‘90s Boybandasaurus Rex named NSYNC. He's proven conclusively that he might just have been underestimated way back when.

That being said … I had the hardest time with "Mirror". I made no bones way back in December that I loved horn-flavored swagger of "Suit & Tie," especially the emphasis upon a mature direction in production and vocals that reflected how much TLC and exploration Timberlake poured into the seven years between his FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience. I'm hard-pressed to be as nice here. Mirror has an excellent chorus of Timberlake desperately confessing to his lady that for her to leave him would be to strip away some vital part of him as she walks away. What's more, Timberlake sings it in his inimitable gentle timbre that somehow smooths out all the more around the four-minute mark amid a perfect break-down chorus.

That's unfortunately part of the problem: CRUNCHY PEANUT-BUTTERY JESUS, JUSTIN, 8:06?!?!?! A song stretching that long has to be perpetually dynamic. It needn't always be fast, hard and cacophonous, but that had better be eight minutes without a wasted motion or a second of dead air yearning for a verse, a tastefully layered transition, or some brief, apropos instrumental filler like Jimmy Page's between-verses riffing on "Stairway to Heaven". There's nothing quite so tantalizing here. Timberlake's production never swells into some overly-busy, distracting mess, but even the well-placed strings can't distract forever from the awkwardness of a beat that farts its way through a ballad. Even for as up-in-the-air as I was over this, it's barely worth having. To be honest, I'll just say the same for very explorative The 20/20 Experience as a whole. Sure, the songs aren't all a radio-friendly length, but they don't all drag unnecessarily forth quite as much as this one either. For the most part, the remaining nine songs avoid feeling quite as much like songs that just never, ever end.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

I'm more more of a fan of this track than Sean. Yes, it's incredibly long and there are moments where it threatens to drag but all in all it's an example of why I am ecstatic to see Timberlake back in the business; he's injecting a new energy into a genre (R&B) that has been very tired for a long time. There are of course strong pop elements in Timberlake's work and that's not a particularly bad thing, especially since it's not particularly dance-pop oriented which is what has flooded the market lately. Timberlake gets a bit indulgent in the second half of this song but that doesn't significantly hurt the track in my eyes, making for a strong Buy.


5) Bon Jovi - "Because We Can"
From What About Now (Island)
Released January 8, 2013
Sean Comer: SELL.

This is far and away the laziest, most through-the-motions, John Mellencamp-sounding Bon Jovi I have ever heard. I shall remember them as they were, not as the thing they've become.

Jeremy Thomas: SELL.

Jon Bon Jovi could piss on a CD and he would turn it into gold sales at this point. The problem is, he knows that and that's basically how much he cares about his music. This is paint-by-numbers stuff at its worst; the lyrics are generic in the extreme and the sound makes Nickelback's blandest songs sound edgy. The song should be titled "Because We Can and You'll Still Pay For It." Pass, thanks.


6) Mindless Behavior - "All Around the World"
From All Around the World (Streamline/Interscope)
Released March 1, 2013
Sean Comer: SELL.

This is not a song. No. This is the aural equivalent to being repeatedly bashed in the temple by a 600-pound shrieking mental patient wielding a synthesizer running a generic looped beat that David-f***ing-Guetta wouldn't pass off as his own. The resulting brain hemorrhage then results in hearing for 4:14 what I can only describe as a cover recording of (intentionally) lost, embarrassingly bad Backstreet Boys lyrics for the album quickly scaling the charts in Hell, The Chipmunks Sing Through Puberty.

Jeremy Thomas: SELL SELL SELL.

Another song that should be presented as evidence that I don't just cherry-pick the best songs for my own time at bat. This is tortuosly vapid pop crap and makes One Direction sound deep by comparison. I'm just going to call Mindless Behavior the Rebecca Black of boy-band pop music and leave it at that.


We split it up as Timberlake, She & Him and Frank Turner get Buys while Wale, Mindless Behavior and Bon Jovi get Sells. Thanks to Sean for his participation this week; that will do it us! What do you think of the singles we covered? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!


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