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 411mania » Music » Columns

Under the Scalpel 03.13.09: Morrissey, K'naan, Soulja Boy Tell Em
Posted by Mark Ingoldsby on 03.13.2009

"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

Morrissey I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
The Pope Of Mope Is Off To Gay Pah-ree

The best way I've found to describe my initial reaction to hearing Morrissey's latest single is as follows: Imagine Kermit the Frog belting out a showtune-style medley of Duran Duran's "Save A Prayer" and U2's "Beautiful Day" with the vocal stylings of Liza Minelli.

Does that make you want to hear it?

Tell you what. I'll throw in a clarinet solo. How about now?

While writing this review, I initially felt I should apologize for whatever visual my previous description may have created in people's heads. That was, of course, until I realized that any picture my description may conjure pales in comparison to what I stumbled upon while doing research for this review.

The photo on the cover sleeve of this song's vinyl single reveals five men completely naked, including the almost 50-year-old Morrissey (Moz), with their seven-inchers fully displayed for the world to see.

And by seven-inchers, I'm referring to the 7-inch 45s that have been strategically placed over each man's tallywacker. Seems Moz is getting a bit cocky as of late.

Not only is viewing this scene something nobody should suffer, but, in the buff, Moz looks like that over-zealous, freshly-released-from-prison uncle who always offers his house as an easy place to crash. It's like the last thing you might see shortly after Uncle Moz and a few of his buddies have slipped you a roofie.

With this latest single, Moz continues his tradition of naming songs as if he were blogging. "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" could easily be mistaken for his latest LiveJournal entry, listed alongside "I Don't Mind If You Forget Me," "Honey, You Know Where to Find Me," "My Life Is a Succession of People Saying Goodbye," and "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?"

This song's lyrics are dreadfully simplistic and vapid. Moz is terribly blasé as he tells his partner "you made yourself very plain" and "nobody wants my love." Then, he yammers on about how "only stone and steel accept my love." The solution for all of this inhumanity? A trip to Paris.

Might I suggest San Francisco instead?

The song's music is as bland as its lyrics with its tolerable yet predictable melody. Even the inclusion of clarinet can't make this track interesting. For somebody hailed as a groundbreaker and a legend by his fans, this tune is remarkably generic.

Whereas I don't necessarily agree with the Meatmen (who once sang that Moz should be slapped with a toe tag), this song is definitely uninspired, trite and a waste of sound waves.

Unless you need another four minutes tacked on to end of the mix tape for your upcoming holiday in Provincetown, don't bother downloading this single.

And no matter what side of the fence you land on, steer clear of Moz's seven-incher.

If You Like: Beautiful South, Billy Bragg, Bob Mould, Old 97s, Pulp
Rating: ** (2 out of 5)

K'Naan Wavin' Flag
The Dusty Foot Philosopher Spreads His Message Of Hope

Canadian rapper K'naan spent the first half of his life in war-torn Somalia. In the capital city of Mogadishu, warlords ruled the land and the people were not bound by laws.

In his 'hood, children grew up carrying firearms openly, and the 'cool kids' were the ones who bragged of never having touched a gun. At the age of eight, K'naan had not only fired his first gun, he discovered a live grenade in his school. At 11, he witnessed the slaughter of several of his friends.

When he was 13, he and his mother escaped the escalating violence of their homeland to New York City where his father had fled prior to his birth. Later, K'naan would settle in Toronto.

His name may mean "traveler" in Somali, but he has certainly not forgotten his roots. In "Wavin' Flag," K'naan's first hit song in America, he brings the story of his people's struggle to the masses.

"I have been sort of considered widely by Somalis in Somalia and Somalis abroad as someone who has been instrumental in bringing attention to that region," K'naan told The Source.

His musical and lyrical influences range from fellow hip hop artists Rakim and Nas, to the legendary storytellers Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. This diverse roster of musical influences allows him to take a different approach to songwriting and singing than most of today's rap artists.

"A lot of rappers will follow the kick and snare. It's how their rhythm pattern works," K'naan explained to rapreviews.com, "But because of how musically I was raised, I can follow a melodic line. My rhymes can follow a guitar line or chord."

One thing that stands out immediately is the passion with which K'naan's sings. With each statement, he makes an earnest plea for people to become aware of the oppression and violence that has had a stranglehold over his homeland for decades.

The juxtaposition of his childhood stories, the feel-good music he creates, and the melodious vocal style he utilizes makes his grim tales more palatable to a mainstream audience.

"So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we'll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It's not far away, so for now we say,
When I get older, I will be stronger,
They'll call me freedom, just like a waving flag."

Damien Marley, son of Bob Marley, told K'naan, "You will take the most innocent and really lovable melody and you will just doom it with lyrics. You just doom it with harsh stories, but all the while, people think they're just listening to some sweet, catchy melody."

Singing along to K'naan's lyrics can be somewhat of a euphoric experience. Its dark subject matter, laced with words of hope, creates a mix that combines the catchy-yet-dismal feel of the James Taylor classic "Fire and Rain" with Johnny Nash's inspirational "I Can See Clearly Now."

This song is instantly appealing, almost making you feel like a soldier in K'naan's army as he rallies his troops. If you're the type of person who jams out to Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and then dives right into Arrested Development's "Tennessee," this track will be perfect for your music collection.

Plus, anybody who publicly states that Lil Wayne has "ridiculous lyrics" and calls out 50 Cent as someone who is not "painting the hood in a way that if I had never been to it, I would see it" deserves two thumbs straight up. Natch!

If You Like: Arrested Development, Bob Marley, Fugees, G Love & Special Sauce, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Soulja Boy Tell Em Turn My Swag On
The Opposite Of Profound

In his latest single, "Turn My Swag On," Soulja Boy Tell Em appears to have taken Jackie Collins' first rule of writing write about what you know to a new level. I find myself squeezing my skull at the ear cavities as he painstakingly details the humdrum events of his typical day.

Apparently, Soulja hops out of bed, puts on a team shirt, looks in the mirror, and tells himself he's "gettin' money." Then, according to the song's video, he puts on enough jewelry to rival Mister T, brushes his teeth, eats cereal, hits the studio for a couple seconds and then plays Xbox.

So fucking what.

If I wanted to hear someone brag about getting dressed, then watch him brush his teeth and eat cereal, I'd get a job as a special needs counselor. One part of the song, however, did grab my attention the line "I gotta question why they hatin' on me."

I just happen to have an answer for him.

First, in the singing department, Soulja gives Reh Dogg a run for his money. With the abundance of pitch-correction technology used in pop music today, it's amazing to hear a rapper who actually under-utilizes it. He continually goes off-key, hitting bum notes as if he's too lazy to do it right.

Next, "Crank That," his debut single that consisted almost entirely of orchestral stabs, hi hats, steel drum notes and a clapping noise, hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 largely because of its minimalist approach and unique sound. The music in "Turn My Swag On," however, could not be more ordinary.

Lastly, Soulja says nothing interesting in this song whatsoever. It's a total waste of time a self-congratulatory wankfest about the most trivial events of his waking hours.

In sharp contrast to a day of patting himself on the back for getting dressed, Soulja had a very atypical morning last December. When he returned home late with some friends, he was robbed at gunpoint. After the incident, he contemplated suicide. He told Sirius-XM's Angela Yee, "After (the robbery), that was the first time I thought to myself: 'If I die right now, all of my problems will go away'."

Obviously Soulja decided not to indulge those ugly thoughts. Instead it seems he took the high road and continued celebrating his fame by releasing the brag-heavy "Turn My Swag On" to radio, perhaps as a public statement of his ability to bounce back in the face of negativity.

Should we all ignore how vacuous and pretentious this song is, be big-hearted, and embrace it as a proclamation of Soulja's renewed appreciation for life, fame and success?

Nah. Let's tell him the cold, hard truth. This song sucks.

If You Like: Shawty Lo, Ying Yang Twins, Young Jeezy
Rating: * (1 out of 5)


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