Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Summer Jam 2008 Pt. 1 - That Keyboard Sound

I think it was April when Usher's "Love in This Club" came out. Immediately, I had the same feeling I had gotten when I heard "Umbrella" for the first time last May. Here we have the obvious front runners for the crown of summer jam for their respective years, but released prematurely into the relatively lukewarm waters of Spring. "Umbrella" grew slowly, as it was able to, having been recorded by Rihanna - a vaguely odd not very famous not very good singer - until it was the most ubiquitous thing this side of "Hey Ya." Usher, unfortunately, being the ever famous celebrity he is, was not able to watch his track flourish in such a fashion.

Which is a shame. This song is damned close to perfect for at least a certain type of summer jam. Pretty much anyone could've performed it, which is important for things like this. I'm pretty sure someone extremely distinctive, like R. Kelly would never be able to pull of this type of summer jam, in the pure jam sense of the term. With this beat, and this melody, someone just needs to sing it and I credit Usher for doing just that, without trying to add any sort of fireworks. That bridge is fucking priceless, too. Can you think of another song where Usher's voice is this multitracked? I'm convinced after hearing this song that Usher would've made a heck of a backup singer for like Alicia Keys or something if his solo career hadn't ever taken off.

Jeezy, for his part, is fucking terrible, which is pretty much exactly what's called for. A guest verse on a pop hip hop track either needs to be great, putting a track over the edge, like Ludacris does on "Oh", or it needs to be so forgettable that you stop noticing that it's happening. Listening to "Oh", you wait for Luda with bated breath, you're silent while he's going, and then when he's done you say "oh shit he killed it" even if you've heard it a hundred times before. With "Love in This Club" you take a break during Jeezy's verse from thinking about how great the track is to take a drink, or say something unrelated. When even Jeezy's adlibs aren't compelling you gotta give him credit for not trying.

And as far as not trying goes, that's perfectly fine with this track. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for that keyboard sound, but it's put to such great use here. And by that keyboard sound I mean both the tremoloey one and the euro style pad, or preferably both of them together. Other than those keyboard sounds, nothing else is going on here, and that's as it should be. The drum sounds act like they were directly ripped from a CD called "Generic Hip Hop in the 21st Century" and, as per usual actually, they sound perfectly fine. To reiterate: it's that keyboard sound.

It makes me sad that I feel a little behind the times pumping this in 90 degree heat, but if Usher's entry came a little early this year, we've still got "Haterz Everywhere" by B.O.B. - which is pretty much the same song, except with more rapping, better rapping, and it's about haterz instead of having sex in public. I first overheard this pumping during a kickball game at sunset in Greenpoint and it was kind of perfect. And why?

Long story short, it has that keyboard sound. Plus there's a version with Rich Boy, who deserves a certified summer jam in his pocket.

The most surprising and pleasant thing here is how good B.O.B.'s verse is. Like actually pretty good! Which somehow doesn't make it any less stupid, and that's an accomplishment in my book. You can listen to it or not, but when you do it doesn't sound dumb.

I've seen the term "trance-hop" thrown around in reference to this track, and as far as i can tell that ought to at least tangentially apply to the Usher track too, since they're pretty damn close to being the same song. But, "trance-hop", as it turns out, is a pretty dumb term. These producers, Polow the Don on "Love in This Club" and some other guy on "Haterz Everywhere", are using trancey keyboard sounds, but they aren't even necessarily "trance" sounds, and there's certainly nothing like trance music going on in these tracks. These are hip hop beats with a little euro feel thrown over them, and to me the synths suggest house just as much as they suggest trance. Not to get too nitpicky, but lets not call this a movement or a genre or anything. Let's call it two badass summer jams for 2008, neither of which will be the summer jam of 2008.






Or go here to see the real video which you unfortuantely can't embed.

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4 Comments:

At Wed Jul 02, 10:28:00 AM, Blogger zbs said...

I think I already said some stuff about how "Umbrella" fails for me because it is so nighttime, cold, metallic and dark and just has the wrong tempo. (Whereas for example "Ingition (Remix)" was nighttime and summery at once.)

Pretend I reiterated that.

A textbook, albeit generic example for this might be "Bust It Baby" which is credited Plies feat Ne-Yo but should probably be the reverse.

I like "Game's Pain": he still takes 6 bars each verse to remember how to rap, but once he gets warmed up, he's so much better than he used to be.

 
At Wed Jul 02, 10:32:00 AM, Blogger zbs said...

I know this sounds ridiculous but um the latest Pretty Ricky is a huge disappointment for me.

 
At Wed Jul 02, 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

"Cuddle up"? Hard to say whether it's good or bad. They come off like a bizzarro Jonas Brothers to me, and, as such, it's hard for me to think of them as more than a novelty act. The video is pretty great though.

 
At Wed Jul 02, 11:10:00 AM, Blogger zbs said...

Their first two singles were golden, I was thinking a sleazier New Edition.

 

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