Category Archives: 2008

Maroon 5 – Call And Response: The Remix Album

Maroon 5
Call And Response: The Remix Album
December 9, 2008
A&M OctoneUMG
045/100
Maroon 5 - Call and Respond The Remix Album
1. If I Never See Your Fage Again [Swizz Beatz Remix] (feat. Cross) // 2. Wake Up Call [Mark Ronson Remix] (feat. Mary J. Blige)  // 3. Sunday Morning [Questlove Remix] // 4. Makes Me Wonder [Just Blaze Remix] // 5. This Love [C. “Tricky” Stewart Remix] // 6. She Will Be Loved [Pharrell Williams Remix] // 7. Shiver [DJ Quik Remix] // 8. Wake Up Call [David Banner Remix] (feat. David Banner) // 9. Harder To Beathe [The Cool Kids Remix] (feat. the Cool Kids) // 10. Little of Your Time [Bloodshy And Avant Remix] // 11. Little Of Your Time [Of Montreal Remix] // 12. Goodnight Goodnight [Deerhoof Remix] // 13. Not Falling Apart [Tiësto Remix] // 14. Better That We Break [Ali Shaheed Mohammed & Doc Remix] // 15. Secret [DJ Premier Remix] // 16. Woman [Sam Fararr Remix] // 17. This Love [Cut Copy Galactic Beach House Remix] // 18. If I Never See Your Face Again [Paul Oakenfold Remix] (feat. Rihanna)

Remix albums of conventional pop acts tend to age horribly and usually don’t sound very good to begin with.
Usually when greedy record executive commision one an artist’s back catalog is stripped of some or most of its instrumentals and thrown over beats that incorporates whatever EDM or hip-hop style is en vogue at the time of the album’s release. If the remixer of a particular track is a hip-hop producer usually a rapper gets called in to do one or two thowaway verses, and because there’s typically none of the artists that created the original songs around for quality controll and because appearing on the remix of the latest pop tart’s latest single, which you don’t necessarily fancy, an act with a fanbase that doesn’t necessarily fancy you, is an ungrateful chore usually said rappers can’t be blamed for not bringing their A-game to the table. And the same usually goes for the high priced EDM DJs that are called in to create club bangers.

As much as I want to like West-Coast hip-hop legend DJ Quik, East-Coast hip-hop legend DJ Premier, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Mohammed, music legend in general Pharrell Williams, hipster rappers the Cool Kids and southern stalwart David Banner taking on M5 tracks (being that I’m both a huge M5 fan and a huge hip-hop head and given that these are usually each very reliable producers) all they go to show is that yes Maroon 5 is very much a band and taking Adam’s vocal tracks out of their original band-surroundings completely takes away the appeal.
It also doesn’t help that especially the Pharrell and Premier tracks sound like some studio tool was given the task to unimaginatively create instrumentals that sounds like the work of the people they’re credited to on the back of this album.
Oh well, at least the Swizzy contribution sucks as much as I thought it would, which doesn’t make up for anything, but is reassuring nontheless. Who the hell is this Cross guy anyway, and who did he have to fellate to appear on a major label release by a succesful pop act?

The Oakenfold and Tiësto contributions at the very least should serve their purpose of getting some girls people to dance at the club, but it’s debatable whether any non-diskjockey would need to own these tracks, and whether those who would aren’t better off picking them up on EDM compilations where they appear alongside similarly minded stomping concoctions.

Then there’s pop heavyweights Bloodshy & Avant and C. Tricky Stewart’s contributions, which simply take away the organic feeling of the originals, replace it with crappy midi-music and call it a night. I hope Adam and co. just had these remixes lying around from varying single-releases and decided to compile them rather then commission them specifically for this album, because that would be a waste of time and.. well not really resources, the best thing Bloodshy & Avant ever did was Britney Spears’ Toxic.
The alternative rock band Of Montréal’s remix of Little Of Your Time sounds like someone fucking around with sound effects, keyboards, distorted guitars and fruityloops in such a horrible manner that these people should be dragged onto the streets and egged by a mob of angry villagers.
The Deerhoof Remix of Goodnight Goodnight, while not very good in and by itself, sounds like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles collaborating with Michael Jackson-good in comparison.

Now for the good. Mark Ronson brings the very best track with his remix of Wake Up Call which pairs Levine’s vocals with those of Mary J. Blige to good results. (Unlike all the previous pairings, bar Tiësto and Paul, this pairing, actually makes sense on paper.)
Just Blaze reimagines Make Me Wonder as a Elton John meets Justin Timberlake-ish ballad, which while not topping the uptempo disco original version does show some good imagination, and doesn’t sound like shit, which is awesome in the context of this album.
And the Cut Copy Galactic Beach house version of This Love has a nice percolating New Order-ish groove you can dance to, even if Adam’s vocal contribution is so edited-down that M5 might as well could have been credited as providing the source material for this track’s creators to have sampled, but certainly not as featured, let alone this song’s main artists. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s about as good as this album gets, but should be mentioned anyway.

With eighteen different remix outfits creating these eighteen remixes this album doesn’t even suck consistently, each track gets to regurgitate semen in its very own unique way. Also, they should’ve included the Kanye West remix of This Love because that would be track that fans might actually want to own, and perhaps Levine’s duet with mr. West Heard ‘Em Say, because it is essentially an alternate version to IWSBL‘s Nothing Lasts Forever (even if it is the original version.)

In short, this album is mostly a mixed bag of several flavours of uninspired, misguidedly created bullshit, made mostly from perfectly good original tracks. Everything sucks, except the below five tracks. Although in all fairness you could probably live a good, fulfilling  life without having ever heard those either.

Avoid at al costs.

Best tracks
Wake Up Call [Mark Ronson Remix]
Makes Me Wonder [Just Blaze Remix]
Not Falling Apart [Tiësto Remix]
If I Never See Your Face Again [Paul Oakenfold Remix]
This Love [Cut Copy Galactic Beach House Remix]

Recommendations
What the fuck do you think?

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Lady Gaga – The Fame

Lady Gaga

The Fame

19-8-2008

Kon Live/ Cherrytree/ Streamline/ Interscope/ Universal Music Group

So, Lady Gaga huh!?… She was born Stefani Germanotta in 1986. She got signed to the, to me unknown, record label Streamline Records as a songwriter in 2007 and held that job until a certain Akon thought she would make for a fantastic performer and signed her to his Kon Live record label. [Edit: I now know that Vincent Herbert, who is one of my favorite producers from the early ’90s New Jack Swing era runs Streamline records. Ain’t that some shit? Ah screw it… Y’all probably neither know nor care whom I am talking about…] Gaga got her record on with a bunch of producers with names such as RedOne who allegedly previously had been producing songs that were hits in Sweden and Canada, Rob Fusari who according to Whackipedia has been getting work since the mid ‘90s (but with no examples mentioned), Martin Kierszenbaum, who allegedly had something to do with producing Tokio Hotel (but I gotta be careful with this accusation… I haven’t fact checked it) and several others and then in 2008 she put out the single Just Dance, which is about being drunk in a club, and got a shitload of spin both in clubs, on radio, on music television and on iPods worldwide. Since then the hits kept coming, as have the favorable reviews, the controversies, the haters, the fucking works. Her debut album the Fame dropped in the summer of ’08 and as of this writing it sold 12 million copies, which is extraordinary for an album released in this era of stealing music off the web and would’ve been a gazillion copies in 1999, and got her compared to huge stars of yesteryear such as Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Gwen Stefani and uhm… Blondie, both because of her extravagant style, i.e. her wearing a dress made from meat, to an award show and because of her music, which is usually unfavorable to the new kid on the block, but for some reason wasn’t this time around. (Let’s hope she really is the new Madonna then the old Madonna can retire her pink spandex outfit for good and call it a day.) And since then all has been good.

Well, not really. An awful lot of people like to place comments such as “Fuck Lady Gaga! Don’t let real music die!”… on youtube video’s by artists ranging from the Backstreet Boys to the Notorious B.I.G. to the Rolling stones. Artists miss Germanotta ain’t got shit to do with. Although, to be fair, she is totally eclipsed in this aspect of twenty first century fame by you know who… (I’m not going to give this guy any more shine on this site by typing out his name, until he puts out another album for me to thrash review.)

So… extremely controversial and successful artist. Huge album.

(I apparently have the Canadian version of the album which lacks a song featuring rapper Flo Rida, as well as some other tracks.

Tough shit…)

*yelling with Lil’ Jon voice* LET’S GO!

1. Just Dance (feat. Colby Odonis & Akon)

This was a massive hit and the song which put Lady GaGa on the map and deservedly so. As far as soulless dance pop goes this is pretty much perfect. The grinding synthy, stompy beat could make a corpse get down on it, and our hostess’ singing admittedly fares a lot better under close scrutiny than I hoped thought it would. Akon’s cameo seems to only be there because at this point in time, the time of the release of her debut single mind you, he was a bigger star than GaGa herself. Akon’s metrosexual homeboy Colby Odonis’ cameo is the only downside to this one but he’s not obnoxious enough to sink this one. Now it should be noted that this song musically isn’t revolutionary or innovative whatsoever. It basically sounds like any Timbaland produced Nelly Furtado electro-disco stomper. But who cares about that shit, as long as you’re dancing?

2. Lovegame

“Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick, I wanna take a ride on your disco stick.” I’m not sure whether that’s one of the best or one of the worst hooks I’ve ever heard, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I definitely like, sans doubt, how, when some interviewer at Rolling Stone Magazine asked what the lyrics meant (some people are truly fucking stupid…) she answered that “disco stick” is a metaphore for “cock”. This straightforwardness steers Lovegame right around the hipster, which is, off course excellent. It might just be my admittedly negative bias against that stainless steel electro-R&B sound which has been so dominant as of late, but I didn’t find this song remotely sexually arousing. But I probably should keep in mind how girls on the dancefloor in [insert generic club name] react to it, before definitively making up my mind about that, so yeah, in that respect it hits it’s mark.  Commenting on this song in particular, our hostess for the evening said something about her music being a movement which is the typical megalomania resulting from an artist being simultaneously high on success and narcotics. In stead of sounding like the spearhead of a movement, though, this come across as a overly calculated replica of Gaga’s preceding hit singles, it is what it is

3. Paparazzi

This reminded me of Robbie Williams’ She’s Madonna both because of the instrumental, which is similar, and because of it’s singlemindedly stalkerish lyrical content. I’d have to say that comparing herself to a paparazzo and comparing her love object to a stalked superstar is original so yeah, cheers to that. But this could’ve been a lot better, via the use of some form of humour or irony. In stead it comes across as a misguided attempt at writing a clever song that would fit well into the fame theme but falls flat in stead.

4. Beautiful Dirty Rich

This is the first cut on the album which could be called funky, relatively speaking off course. This reminded me somewhat of Madonna’s Die Another Day off the soundtrack to the James Bond movie of the same name, which is all to the good as I fucking love that song. Subjectively speaking, this one is in fact some super ironic hipster shit, which is not my cup of tea but… it is ironic hipster shit par excellence, which, for the stupid people among you, means as much as that this reviewer can’t imagine that there’s any better music of this genre around.

5. Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)

This overly optimistic, simplistic piece of audio confection sounds like one of Madonna’s early 80’s cuts or one of it’s ’90s eurotrash rip-offs. It should be noted that this lady is a much better singer than Madge, not a big accomplishment but still. However, this song is in no way in the same league as Borderline or True Blue when it’s catchiness or cutesiness that’s concerned, two ingredients which are vital to this type of song’s shelf life.

6. Pokerface

You know this song. You love it. You shake your ass whenever this electronic stomper comes on in the club, if you’re drunk enough and if you claim you don’t then you’re a lyar. I will say that I find it hard to take this song seriously, if ever I did, after hearing South Park’s Eric Cartman’s cover of it, but that probably made me like it more, if anything. And really, taking shit serious is besides the point here as I’m not listening to Bob Dylan a.t.m.… Anyway, this, boys and girls, is what a pop classic sounds like. Gaga’s distorted vocals on the verses and natural ones on the hook create a nice contrast and the beat bangs. There’s no reason to get sick of it already because this will pack dancefloors until the planet explodes. Why? Because the instrumental and the hook are catchier than ebola. Simple as that.

7. Fame

Even though Stefani is best known for riding stompy computer generated beats (and disco sticks) she sounds decent over stuff at least partially played by actual people too, it seems. This features some rather groovy guitarplaying some drumming that could be done by an actual drummer (not 100% on that) and just a hint of those grinding synths that have been on every song on the album so far. Gaga sounds a lot like Gwen Stefani on here but since I happen to be a fan of Gwen Stefani I don’t have any problems with that.

8. Money Honey

Like so many tracks off The Fame this starts off with a grinding, extremely catchy synth-line and then builds up to pounding ‘80s influenced dance music. While this isn’t a bad song per se, it can’t keep up with the previous similar but bigger and better material, but that’s forgivable. They can’t all be winners.

9. Again Again

Miss Germanotta is in fact a pretty good vocalist, it seems, and only just now it hits me that she hasn’t used autotune for the entirety of the album. On Pokerface she used a different vocal effect but she hasn’t used autotune, which should be applauded. On Again Again she takes the Amy Winehouse route of singing a clever-ish love song, except more optimistic, but ends up sounding more like Gwen Stefani again.

10. Boys Boys Boys

Not a cover of Sabrina’s hit of the same name, nor a female response to Jay-Z’s Girls Girls Girls but yet another inferior version of Just Dance. [Edit: Apparently this is  a female response to Mötley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls.]

11. Brown Eyes

A piano ballad reminiscent of Queen, a band which Lady Gaga at some point was rumored to go front. While at this point of her career, and probably in any point, she most likely couldn’t hold a candle to the late great Freddie Mercury, both in showmanship and in musicianship she does come a hell of a lot closer than Paul Rogers who joined drummer Roger Taylor and guitar player Brian May for a “Queen +” tour a couple of years ago. Still, it would probably be for the better if there were no more “Queen” tours until Freddie rises from the grave, because anyone who dares to attempt to stand in his shoes will make a mockery out of him/herself as well as Fred.

Oh, and about this song. It’s not too bad, actually.

12. Summer Boy

An excursion into indie rock territory. A musical genre, which I know very little about. I will say that this switching up the genres helps the Fame go down smoother. Also, the inclusion of varying amounts grinding ‘80s synths in every song on the album, as well as Gaga’s consistently on-topic songwriting (the Fame is exclusively about partying and fucking), help create some feeling of consistency throughout the album, even if they don’t necessarily make the individual songs sound better.

13. I Like It Rough

Yeah, this I could figure out by myself, without the aid of this song’s title, by now. And I like my music a little more varied and a little less gimmicky. Well… Not really. It’s just that some gimmicks click with me better than others. And this 1985 synths + sex crazed, coldly sung lyrics one had me bored rather quickly. Oh and there’s our friend autotune! Hey man! Just die out already! pretty please!?

 

Best Tracks

Just Dance, Beautiful Dirty Rich, Fame, Poker Face, Again Again, Brown Eyes

Concluding

Lady Gaga has gotten a lot of shit, mostly on youtube discussions, for not making real music, although one could argue, quite successfully, that the people placing those comments speak without thinking. “Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Common elements of music are pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture.”

Source: en.wikipedia.org

So clearly they are wrong. And not only is what she does real music but it’s made pretty professionally, too. GaGa is a gifted singer-songwriter who adapts pretty well to whatever music her producers toss her. And her producers do a pretty good job, too. In fact they supply her with the best glittery dance beats money can buy. Off course there are those who hate popular music by principle, but those people should stay clear of that kind music, unless they are masochists or are looking specifically for something to bitch about. So, yes she writes and performs catchy pop songs with little substance but, ladies and gentlemen, so did Michael Jackson and Prince most of the time. People need that in their lives and that’s simply what a pop star does and does best. Pop music isn’t the right place for serious messages. Punk rock, hiphop and such are, and if you want proof of this thesis go listen to MJ’s Heal the World a couple of times. It’ll relocate tonight’s dinner from your stomach to the floor. So Stefani doesn’t make terrible music, no matter how often you tell yourself the opposite. Then there’s those who think she’s the best thing since sliced bread. That she is a legitimate, innovative, creative force. Those are also, for the time being, utterly and completely wrong. Because, don’t fool yourselves, rowdy, hypersexual electro pop has been around long before Stefani Germanotta was even born and, besides she often sounds like she is imitating Gwen Stefani and/ or Madonna rather than she’s being this instantaneously identifiable original musical entity. So, you shouldn’t get mad at the Fame’s singles when they get spin in the club or on the radio because it is tailor made for those things. And if you don’t take them too seriously you can have a lot of fun with them. You should however get mad at an artist trying to sell you an album filled with slightly altered versions of the same song, with a few deviations in the name of artistry. Honestly, every song, except for Beautiful Dirty Rich, Eh Eh (Nothing More I Can Say), Fame, Again Again and Summer Boy is another take on Just Dance. And that might not be a problem in the club, but it is a problem when you sit down and listen. So in the end Lady Gaga isn’t what she’s made out to be by her detractors (Motherfucking Ke$ha is what Lady Gaga is made out to be by her detractors) but with the Fame she has made an album that has some pretty good club and radio songs but is best not to be listend to in its entirety. But that’s okay, the fame is only her debut and she just might drop that classic album in the future, the best songs do hint at that, or she might run out of idea’s and become as much of a bullshit artist as some claim she already is.

Recommending

Everyone already has an opinion on every gas Gaga passes but if you’ve been living under a rock the last three years and are now in the mood for some gloriously thrashy pop, go get the tracks in the best tracks section off iTunes or Amazon. Don’t buy the entire album though, despite most of the filler not being entirely awful it’s not worth the cash.