Flo-Rida

Dispatches From The Mainstream: 2/26/2013

Austin Mahone feat. Flo Rida – “Say You’re Just A Friend”

Newcomer Austin Mahone is the latest artist to build a song around an interpolation of Biz Markie’s greatest contribution to pop culture, and even though it comes out as 100% cooke-cutter Top 40, “Say You’re Just A Friend” gets a pass for the huge nostalgia buzz it gives me. Not because of Biz Markie—man, I wasn’t even born until 1989—but because “Just A Friend” by Mario was a hit when I was twelve years old and just getting into pop music. Most things that remind me of the seventh grade send me spiraling into self-doubt and confusion, so that should give you an idea of how much I liked that song.

But the real noteworthy part of this song is Flo-Rida, who continues his transition from rapper to singer with a guest verse that relies more on melody than lyrics. His work here is closer to rapping than his section of “Troublemaker,” but the melody is too prominent to be ignored. Hey, do you think people will buy it if I start referring to Flo-Rida as a “one-man Bone Thugs-N-Harmony?” Probably not, right?

Lyrically, this might be some of Flo-Rida’s best work ever. He plays the Ludacris to Mahone’s Bieber, reminiscing about a young love that went sour. When has Flo-Rida ever sounded this relatable? Even when he’s listing off a bunch of his singles, it comes off as genuine enthusiasm rather than self-aggrandizing. Maybe that Biz Markie interpolation just makes anyone seem charming.

Another thing: I don’t want to be mean to Mr. Mahone, because dude is only sixteen, but I think he and Flo-Rida are about on the same level of singing ability. It sure sounds like they’re equally reliant on auto-tune.

Will.I.Am feat. Britney Spears, Diddy, Hit-Boy, Lil-Wayne & Waka Flocka Flame – Scream and Shout (Remix)

Right, because the original wasn’t awful enough, why don’t we make it longer and even less fun? “Scream and Shout” was a club song that failed on every conceivable level: not only did the low-key, repetitive music have zero chance of getting anyone on the dance floor; it makes being in the club sound dull and irritating. That’s an accurate impression of my clubbing experiences, but I doubt it’s what they were going for. And now the official remix is out and I had trouble getting through even two listens of this six-minute song. That’s twelve minutes that I could have used to watch an episode of Adventure Time or go on Tumblr or listen to this one Morrissey song I’m really into five more times. A little gratitude would be nice, that’s all I’m saying.

Will.I.Am’s post-2008 musical output is across-the-board annoying, but it can sometimes be interesting to hear him try to shift pop-music towards low-fi chiptune. Anyone who remembers “The Hardest Ever” knows that it’s never interesting to hear him rap, and the fact that he gave himself such a prominent verse in this remix feels like a straight-up insult. I don’t know which part is more annoying: the blatant plug for his tacky iPhone add-on IAm Foto Sosho or his drastic misapplication of the term “rock ‘n roll.”

How does everyone else do? Even though he’s a thousand miles from his sonic home-turf, Flocka gets the best verse by far, and that’s coming from a late-period Lil Wayne apologist. Yeah, he’s been on auto-pilot ever since he got out of prison, and his verse here adds to our dangerous national surplus of “All Eyes On Me” references, but you can almost catch a glimpse of that old-school Wayne charm. If you squint.

Hit-Boy uses up the only semi-clever line he’s ever going to have, so I hope it was worth it, and Diddy’s contribution is laughable where it’s supposed to be exciting. His hype-man persona is surprisingly awful for someone who’s done little beside hype people up for decades. No one has ever made me want to “turn up” less. And then he ends the song by repeating the phrase “This is a super black man remix” over and over. I don’t know, man, this whole thing’s just a mess.

Maroon 5 – Daylight

Maroon 5 is going through a lot of trouble to distract you from the fact that “Daylight” is a dull song, musically listless and lyrically far too reminiscent of “Save Tonight” by Eagle-Eye Cherry. And I hate to admit it, but they’re doing a bang-up job.

The version that the band put together with the reliably awesome Playing For Change is especially successful at tricking you into enjoying a Maroon 5 song. Their best decision is keeping Adam Levine and his whiny voice off-stage for a full minute, and their worst decision is bringing the whole band in for the rest of the song. It’s not enough to totally ruin the song, but I do flinch whenever the video cuts from someone doing their thing with a cello or a didgeridoo to some cell-phone quality footage of those doofuses playing in a crowded arena.

The nine-minute “Daylight Project” version is less of a musical achievement, but anyone interested in seeing a cross-section of humanity represented through vlog should check it out. The breadth of the human experience this video contains is limited by the fact that it’s made up of Maroon 5 fans (a demographic that tends towards the young and female), but it’s still a fascinating glimpse into the lives behind the fandom. This song is a bizarre fit for the two world-spanning videos propping it up, but if you can ignore the extra-long instrumental playing behind this version, you’d be stupid not to be just a little moved.

And since it’s been a while since I reminded everyone what a mushy, emotional wuss I am, I’ll just say that I got choked up at what happens at 7:48.

Dispatches From The Mainstream: 1/16/2013

Ludacris feat. Usher & David Guetta – Rest of My Life

Is someone trying to turn Ludacris into Pitbull? Because “Rest of My Life” is basically a remake of “Give Me Everything”—complete with the rallying cry of partying as a life-affirming act—with Usher standing in for Ne-Yo and the original breadwinner for D.T.P. in the place of Mr. Worldwide.

I’m not even complaining, really. Ludacris has enough personality in his voice alone to still be fun in the measly eight-line verses that Pitbull has restricted himself to, and a team-up with Usher is always welcome if just to hear Ludacris call him “Ursher.” A David Guetta-produced “here’s to life”-anthem just seems like an odd fit for a guy who once released an album called Chicken-n-Beer and whose two best songs are about getting into fights for no reason. Then again, one of Luda’s biggest hits was the uncharacteristically dramatic “Runaway Love,” so I guess most people are just looking for a different version of Ludacris than I am.

Whether this song is a case of executive meddling—entirely possible, as Luda’s recent singles have not been charting well—or just an artist exploring his secret love of European dance music, it’s not that bad. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the friction between Luda’s low-brow “Women, Weed and Alcohol”-based persona and D. Guetta’s unabashed pursuit of epic highs . The music video is especially bizarre, since Luda’s videos have historically been a little less “slow motion, emerging from the smoke” and a little more “giant cartoon hands” and “Austin Powers homage”. It’s a fun kind of bizarre, but I hope that Luda’s next single has a little more Luda.

Olly Murs feat. Flo-Rida – Troublemaker

Olly Murs is fine. He made a nice little career for himself in the UK before breaking through in America with “Heart Skips A Beat.” His only crime so far has been inadvertently tricking me into listening to Chiddy Bang. But I don’t want to talk about Olly Murs, I want to talk about Flo-Rida.

I don’t know if Flo-Rida has ever enjoyed rapping. The best things about his songs have always been the beat and the chorus. The chorus usually features a guest artist, but the weird thing is, Flo-Rida sings along with the chorus. He’s been doing it since “Low,” and while that sort of thing isn’t unusual for a singer, it’s kind of weird for a rapper. It’s there, though, if you listen closely: somewhere in the mix of every Flo-Rida chorus is the man himself, drenched in auto-tune and wailing along with whatever pop star/sample he’s built his song around.

Even in what we’ll charitably call Flo-Rida’s “lyrics,” the actual words have always taken a backseat to the rhythm he delivers them in. “Club Can’t Handle Me” is a fantastic song, but Flo’s verses are only good in the way they enhance the beat underneath. Then there are catastrophes like “I Cry,” which veers between condescending and disrespectful. Oh, really, Flo? The mass shooting in Norway made your whole day go sour? That’s rough, buddy. Not to mention the bridge: “When I need a healing, I just look up to the ceiling/I see the sun coming down, I know it’s all better now.” Flo is (probably) trying to tell us that his faith helps him through hard times, but it’s like he doesn’t know quite how to put the words together to form a coherent thought.

And now, in Troublemaker, Flo-Rida abandons rapping entirely. He’s just singing. It’s not as out-of-place as it would be if he featured on a rap song, but it’s still strange that he doesn’t even pretend to do the thing he was hired to do. Thing is, it’s not actually a bad bridge, even if it falls apart on close inspection: Flo, that’s not what Wyclef Jean was talking about when he said he would be gone ‘till November. It turned out better than it would have if he had tried to rap.

At this point, Flo needs to fully commit. He should go full-on 808s And Heartbreak (or, let’s be honest, full-on Rebirth) and just do an album full of straight singing. The vocals may be processed into oblivion, but at least it’ll be catchy… though the lyrics probably won’t make sense.

OneDirection – Little Things

In the morally deficient world of the “pickup artist” there’s this thing called “negging,” which basically means insulting a girl in order to lower her defenses, leaving her vulnerable to your lame, gross advances. The way I understand it, an effective neg has to be part of a longer, less overtly creepy conversation. After all, just walking up to a woman and insulting her isn’t going to get you anywhere; you have to at least say something nice so that she’ll have a reason to keep paying attention to you. Anyway, that’s what I think is happening in the new OneDirection song.

I’ve complained before about the darker side of OneDirection, and I understand that I’m being a little sensitive, but here’s the thing with boy bands: their songs are made to appeal to teenage girls. It’s different from a genre like hip-hop, which is highly problematic and often attracts a young audience, but at least isn’t built from the top-down to appeal to 12-year-olds. When you listen to the lyrics of an OneDirection song, you need to hear them the way a young girl would hear them.

And yeah, I get it: most girls are going to listen to this song and take it the way it was meant to be taken, as a proclamation of devotion in which the smaller, flawed things about a person are part of what make them special. I’m not against that in theory, but some of the things that the song singles out—“You still have to squeeze into your jeans”—seem less like little quirks and more like things that a guy points out to make his target feel self-conscious. Not letting your girlfriend know that she talks in her sleep isn’t cute, it’s actually kind of creepy. The worst part is the bridge. “You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you”, like the chorus of “What Make You Beautiful”, is only sweet on the surface.  It suggests that if the girl ever gained any self-worth, the guy would split. It’s about 5% adorable and 95% manipulative. In fact, that pretty much sums up the entire band.