Under the Scalpel 03.05.09: Lilly Allen, 50 Cent, NASA
Posted by Mark Ingoldsby on 03.05.2009
Lilly Allen tells George W where to go and how to get there, 50 Cent is batting 0 for 2, and NASA gives Talking Heads fans a reason to "Byrne" up the dance floor. These heavily biased reviews are proudly brought to you by the sometimes humorous, always heartless guitarist of the rock band A Simple Complex.
"Under the Scalpel: Dissecting Pop Culture One Song at a Time" is a weekly column written by Mark Ingoldsby, songwriter and guitarist for the hard rock band A Simple Complex. For three free tracks that will rock your panties off, check out www.asimplecomplex.com
Lilly Allen – Fuck You
Sponsored By The Letter "F"
When I heard the beginning of Lilly's Allen's song "Fuck You," I knew I had heard the tune before but couldn't place it. After a few listens, it hit me square in the face like a moldy teddy bear pulled from a box in the attic. The main piano riff is extremely close to the Theme To Sesame Street.
But, Allen's song is definitely not for kids. The lyrics play out like a scene from Kill Bill, brutal yet comical, as she ungratefully escorts George Dubya out of the White House, ensuring the door doesn't smack him where the Good Lord cracked him.
Allen plays the puckish rascal as her sweet, polite vocals tenderly land several well-placed bitch slaps on the Bush Administration with lines like, "You say it's not okay to be gay. Well, I think you're just evil," and "Do you get a little kick out of being small-minded? You want to be like your father. It's approval you're after."
Although Allen denies the song was written for Dubya and his staff in a statement from her official MySpace page, "this song is not a direct attack at anyone," this track was originally titled "Guess Who Batman?" which easily becomes "G.W.B." So she's not fooling anyone. I have no doubt that Allen is telling Bush where to go and how to get there.
And it ain't how to get to Sesame Street.
The song's chorus adds a devilish twist to the phrase "thank you very much" with the word "thank" replaced by the F-Bomb. Allen goes on to say, "We hate your whole crew, so please don't stay in touch," a frank message to one of America's least popular presidents and his minions.
As Allen derides and curses over this familiar piano lick, the song practically evolves into a happy, danceable show tune like Monty Python's "Every Sperm Is Sacred" or "The Inquisition Song" from Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I, making it feel like a novelty song. At one point, the line "Fuck You" gets pitch-adjusted to the point of absurdity. One expects Dave Seville to fling open a door and scream "Aaaaaaaaaalvin!!"
This sweet-yet-vulgar song is catchy, but soon we'll all probably be dead sick of it. So listen to it a few times, but don't expect it to be in your music mix a few months from now. Like most novelty songs, the novelty wears off. How often do you listen to Afroman's "Because I Got High" these days? How about Rehab's "Bartender Song (Sittin' at a Bar)?" Yeah, me neither.
That being said, "Fuck You" would make an outrageous ringtone. Heads will turn when you're reaching for your cell phone on your way to where the air is sweet. Heck, Oscar the Grouch may even approve.
If You Like: Kate Nash, Tori Amos
Rating: *** (3 out of 5)
50 Cent – I Get It In
Curtis Keeps The Smokescreen Thick As Second Single Doesn't Explode
Wasn't 50 Cent supposed to stop releasing solo albums when Kanye West outsold him back in 2007?
Yeah, yeah. I know he started back-peddling on that promise immediately after losing the sales battle to West two years ago, but, personally, I intend to hold him to it. And, so far, so good. Fif, 50 Cent, hasn't released a solo album since his defeat.
His still-upcoming album was originally scheduled to be released back in 2007 before Curtis. But, after being pushed back again and again, Fif now claims the new reason for delay is the fact that Dr. Dre is currently handling Eminem's upcoming release Relapse.
"Right now I'm on the train and the Em choo-choo car goes first," Fif told the Associated Press. "Em will be completed entirely before we get a chance to finish up the pieces me and Dre did together.
Did he really just say "the Em choo-choo?"
No matter how he explains it, I still don't buy it. I think Fif and his team know his songs aren't good enough and, to try to hide it, he has been creating a media circus to keep his name hot while buying more time to fix a poor album.
This media circus has gotten absurd with Fif beginning to hit below the belt. Recently, Fif made a video suggesting he would kill DJ Khaled's mother.
He's made a video of himself interviewing Tia Kemp, the mother of rapper Rick Ross' son, who is embroiled in a child support/paternity suit against Ross. In the video, Fif also takes Kemp on a shopping spree and refers to Ross' mother as somebody "like the Nutty Professor."
And he has publicly questioned West's sexuality with terms like "try-sexual" and "sensitive." This coming from a man who says "Em choo-choo?"
I see all of this nonsense as a desperate attempt to generate new interest in himself in the public eye, especially since the first single from his still-unreleased album debuted and peaked at #44 last October, only to fall off Billboard's Hot 100 nine weeks later.
Fif's latest single, "I Get It In," is repetitive and wearisome. He rhymes the word "chump" with "what" and fills the song by repeating insipid lines like "I need a drink. Give me a drink. I need a drink. Shorty, give me a drink" and "Now me, I get it in. I get it in. Me, I get it in. I get it in" until the listener is lulled into a coma.
He goes on to mumble more uninspired claptrap like "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday." And then feels the need to clarify, "That's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday …"
I've never understood the appeal of this mumbling rapper who sounds like he never removed the cotton balls after a dentist visit. I agree with rapper Rick Ross who said, "(50 Cent) depreciates the value of Dr. Dre's production... He smears Dre's legacy."
And honestly, the music for this song sounds like Dre didn't want to put any real effort into producing it. A bland "b-bm bm tat" takes up the entire boring three minutes and the rest of the tracks are uninspired and humdrum. When I press the headphones to my ears, I swear I can hear Dre yawning at the console.
I see Fif's media whoring as an act of desperation; a sad attempt to regain popularity while indefinitely delaying his next solo album – the one with which he will welch on his bet with Kanye West – in hopes of placing a new bet that it can be turned into something worthwhile. There is no doubt his new album will sell a ton of copies based on his prior fame. But "I Get It In" proves that this mushmouth has nothing worth saying and he can't find an interesting way to say it.
"I Get It In" hit the chart last week at #53 and then fell sharply to #78. Hang on tight to that "Em choo-choo," Fif. It might be all you've got left.
If You Like: Rappers with cotton balls in their mouth.
Rating: * (1 out of 5)
NASA – The People Tree
Byrne Up The Dance Floor
If you haven't seen the outstanding music videos for "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys and "Buddy Holly" by Weezer, it's fairly safe to assume that you've been living under a rock. But if you knew that Being John Malkovitch director Spike Jonze was at the helm of both, you just earned yourself a cookie.
I bet you didn't know, however, that Jonze has a brother who goes by the pseudonym Squeak E. Clean who is not only an award-winning producer, but one half of a music group whose album landed on Billboard's Top Independent Albums Chart this week.
If you already knew this, take that whole box of cookies.
Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon, two music producers collectively known as NASA, enlisted over 30 artists who appear on their debut album The Spirit of Apollo. The roster of guest musicians reads like a virtual who's who of rappers including Kanye West, Chuck D, KRS-One, Ol' Dirty Bastard, RZA, and Method Man, as well as a diverse list of musicians including George Clinton, Tom Waits, Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist John Frusciante, and many others.
The album's opening song, "People Tree," features Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne, Jurassic 5's Chali 2na, Blackalicious' Gift of Gab, and DJ Z-Trip. The song's lyrics, written by Byrne, were based on the artwork of Canadian postmodern artist Marcel Dzama, as was the song's animated music video.
"Marcel (Dzama)'s artwork is literally 20 percent drawings of people trees," the music video's animator/director Syd Garon told flux.net. "David Byrne wrote the lyrics about the people tree and I found out he is a fan of Marcel's work."
Byrne's lyrics match Dzama's surreal art as he creates an intriguing conversation between God and man. The dialogue is handled as a call and answer between different vocalists.
"Tell me what the purpose is for creating the Earth.
Maybe we created the planet as man's habitat.
Be fruitful and multiply across the planet's back.
Well, why does hate exist?
The war and AIDS and shit?
If we're to be fruitful, why can't poor people pay they rent?
'Cause love and hate, both sides are conjoined.
Physical forms have to deal with both sides of the coin.
Why do we die?
So you can live!
Why do we strive?
So you can win! But why did you defy every truthful word I recommend?"
NASA aims to bring people together through music and art through "unexpected collaborations" of very different artists and this has been accomplished with "The People Tree." Byrne's signature vocal style paired with a children's chorus supplies a melodic hook while Chali, Gab and Z-Trip provide raps and spoken words for the song's verses and interludes, creating a fascinating contrast that makes this song instantly appealing to both modern rock and hip-hop fans.
The music has an upbeat, funky 1970s vibe best compared to "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Yet, despite its soul-inspired groove, the song displays a modern sound with its beat that is reminiscent of songs by alternative hip hop artists like Arrested Development, El-P, etc.
This pairing of professional beat maker and skateboarder Zegon with Clean, a man who claims to be "funkier than a colostomy bag with cross-color shirts covering it," is definitely worth adding to your collection.
The added genius of Byrne in the mix makes this jam sure to get both modern rockers and hip hop fans burning down the house.
If You Like: Aesop Rock, Arrested Development, El-P, Gorillaz, Talking Heads (for David Byrne's lyrics and vocals)
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)