Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Now these goodies... are they like Skittles or more like Twizzlers?

Or Ciara's "Goodies," remixed by Richard X and featuring M.I.A. (from the "Goodies" single)

The Lil' Jon-produced original was damn good. The tweaky beat that could have been "Freak-a-leak" as heard while scanning through ham radio frequencies was irresistible, and Ciara's breathy vocals and salacious delivery just sold it. Leave it to Richard X -- whose production helped to put Anniemal on the next level of greatness, I might add -- to craft something wholly more interesting and involving. The essence of the original is still present, although chopped a bit to resemble a dubby, electro-dancehall, complete with gun-cocking clicks. Ciara's vocals are given a bit more room in the remix, allowing her voice to sound lusty and powerful instead of just misty. M.I.A., the perfect addition to the track, delivers her lines with grimy aggression that's the nasty sort of sexy. Richard X's version is entirely more danceable and driven; where Lil' Jon's version would have you swaying (or leaning back, as it were), this remix will have you Harlem shakin' your shit.

Did you get his number? (No) Did you get his name? (Uhh)

Or "Oh My Gosh," the new single from Basement Jaxx's upcoming greatest hits collection

I know the feeling, and you probably do too. You're sitting there with your hipster best, trying to catch the eye of that cutie sitting one table away. Trying to make eyes at him without being caught or considered creepy. Finally he looks up and laser beams burst forth to connect you two and it's fucking intense. When the gayze ends, you quickly relate to your effervescent friends the details of the exchange almost breathlessly. "Oh. My. Gosh." Next step: saying hi.

Though the cockney-inflected lady vocalizing this track does a good job narrating one of these moments, this song is a disappointment. When I think Basement Jaxx, I think of instrumentals buzzing with energy and crammed with oddly meshing nuance -- plenty of melodies to spare. "Oh My Gosh" relies on a number of older samples and played out ploys (blips, guitar strums, whirring synths) and falls entirely flat. This is a pretty gutsy move for them to include this new and untested track on a collection of tracks that are practically untouchable. Maybe that was the point -- to include it as an afterthought to their ass-shaking best. For shame, boys; if you're going to give a song about something we can all relate to (in some capacity), why not make it one of your best too?

Free fuzz pedal with every fur coat

Or "Little Sister," the debut single from the Queens of the Stone Age forthcoming album, Lullabies to Paralyze

Josh Homme is a fucking badass. I've heard about the fights this guy gets into, and they usually end with his foe licking venue floor. His war of words with ex-bassist Nick Oliveri was nothing short of rough and tumble either, telling magazines that his friend was such a dumbass that he practically needed to be babysat. Oh yeah, and he's also created some of the better stoner rock in both Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. And since heaviness becomes Homme, my expectation for new QOTSA was that it would be brimming with sweet riffs and a deafening kick in the pants (my true inner-stoner comes out every once in a while, you can see). "Little Sister" by comparison, then, is rather diet. It's fuzzy and moves along at a good clip, but is dull and lacks any parts that your dealer could call the riff of the century (it comes up more often than you would think). The track is also rather short -- clocking in under three minutes -- which gives the group (whomever it's made of these days) little time to really get a good groove going. I better shut my mouth about the whole thing, though, because I heard Josh reads blogs now.

The Game -- The Documentary
Aftermath/G-Unit/Interscope; 2005

At first glance, the story of The Game's transition from street hustler to legend-endorsed rapper isn't all that unusual. Like his mentor 50 Cent, Game (known as Jayceon Taylor to his mom) is a product of a hard life on the streets that included gang banging, dope peddling, and being a veritable human target for his adversaries (a survivor of five gunshot wounds). Despite his street cred, The Game is still a relative newcomer to the genre, rapping for the first time only a few years ago. Spending a year and a half learning the ropes and studying rap's quintessential records, Taylor's skills emerged, catching the eye of the venerable Dr. Dre. The Game's debut album, The Documentary, is an introduction to an artist, an ode to the glory days of the West Coast, and a call for Compton to reclaim its title as leader of the pack; some objectives fare better than others.

The Game's grizzled style of rapping is fitting of his appearance and his brags. His coarse, bassy voice (akin to 50 and the rest of his G's, coincidentally) pushing out incredibly enunciated lyrics, there's little doubt he believes every syllable. His lines are hardly technical, favoring simple but brutal lyrics like "If I die for one of my statements / then break up the streets of Compton and spill my blood in the pavement," ("Church For Thugs") and "Stunt on me I'll leave you with ya' chest open, vest broken" ("Put You On the Game") to pound out his message. He even does a little bit of the rap-singing that 50 Cent has made so popular and Ja Rule has been made fun of for (what's up, pot calling the kettle white?).

As The Documentary wears on, it becomes increasingly apparent that The Game's rapping isn't terribly impressive. His flow gets clumsy over faster tempos and being cocksure does nothing to cover it. Throughout the album, there are many occasions where Game appears unable to say anything of interest and instead riffs off references to classic rappers and albums. It's understandable that he would vocally acknowledge his influences and heroes, but it seems amateurish and unworthy of someone who claims to be the M.V.P. of Compton to do it constantly. There's obvious potential behind The Game's rapping, but he seems in need of some serious refinement.

Making a lukewarm first effort as a rapper means that it's the production that has to carry the greatest workload. Luckily for The Game, the workhorses include Kanye West, Eminem, Just Blaze, Timbaland, and, of course, Dr. Dre. The wild-eyed shaker that is Timbaland's "Put You On the Game" beat matches up well with The Game's thuggish bragging. Despite the unusual way Game chooses to be inspirational on "Dreams," (I could do without hearing of 50's sexual exploits, thanks) Kanye's beat is soulful and mellow in a manner more fitting of inspiration. Dr. Dre's work is solid as well, laying down bittersweet and dramatic g-funk on a handful of tracks. Eminem's beat on "We Ain't" is overblown and under-exciting as usual, even if he does absolutely slay The Game lyrically on his own track.

One of the greatest ways to learn a skill is to observe masters at work. The Game has certainly done his research and chosen an excellent set of rappers after which to model himself. But it seems that The Game might have left the batting box a bit too soon on The Documentary, and that taking a few more practice swings (or a few thousand, perhaps) would be wise. Bravado and all-star producers are awesome, but The Game needs to hone his own craft and master his natural talent before playing with the big boys makes sense.

Now I will do the funky robot while strumming my pain away

Or "Hell Yes," the first single off Beck's forthcoming album, Guero

During the chorus of "Hell Yes," Beck deadpans "I'm calling you out / I'm switching my place;" (I think those are the lyrics; I haven't been able to find confirmation) and if you've been paying attention to the wobbly instrumental, you already know what's going on. Guess who's back to making hip-flophouse music, motherfuckers! As if to make a complete the circle in his career, Beck has clawed his way out of Mopesville and retreated to the sound that made him a near household name.

But why? While never a real pioneer, Beck's always stayed fairly progressive -- never resting on his jellyfish laurels (if he can do it, so can I). He could have gone any number of ways after Sea Change, like to death metal or, say, dancehall. Of course these aren't the most perfect fit on Beck's slight form, but knowing his shape-shifting ways, he'd make it work (whether anyone would want him to is better left unanswered). What he does with his return to form is nothing if not nice: An insistent bassline pounds the pavement, off-kilter samples buck to and fro, and Beck's flipping gibberish while two-steppin'. It's comforting, familiar, and only a little weird. Doesn't feel like Beck is trying very hard to keep his own pace, but perhaps the rest of Guero will prove me a poor judge of character.

I Got Love For

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