DEMI LOVATO - MADE IN THE USA
It’s AMERICA DAY MOTHERFUCKERS…
Patrick St. Michel: I had a few extra tabs opened when I read the title to Demi Lovato’s newest single. “Oh boy,” I thought as Wikipedia loaded, “gonna need to read this one deeply.” I expected patriotic pandering, so I planned to counter her Disney-sanctioned fireworks with Supreme Court cases and, like, the synopsis of Nickel And Dimed. Turns out “Made In The USA” is just super-lazy pop, a “Party” without any of the hop and a chorus that seems rushed. The only eye-rolling politics comes from the central line “I know that we’ll never break” because… well, you can figure that out. Unless you count the “bite the bullet” bit, which, geez, probably should have edited that out. Just so boring.
Alfred Soto: “Made in a High Fructose Corn Syrup Bottling Company.”
Iain Mew: Listening to this, all I can think of is “No Air”. When not listening to it and trying to recall it, all I can think of for now is “Yeah-eh-eh eh-eh-eh-eh, it’s a… made in the USA”. This is not a memorable song. Demi doesn’t even get to use her voice on full blast until near the end, which is a worst-of-both-worlds situation.
Scott Mildenhall: The best thing about this is the unfortunate, unwitting juxtaposition of wanting “the world” to know about your love while trumpeting its inherent strength, it being American. It’s disappointing that she hasn’t gone to town with the US angle though; the metaphor initiated with a Chevy reference not extended any further than a “west coast” here and an “east coast” there. Given that, why even bring America into it at all, never mind as the title line? 99% of the lyrics are about as specific to America as Denise Welch. Its predecessor had at the very least quite a lot going on production-wise, but “Made in the USA” lacks even that; completely nondescript.
Katherine St Asaph: Jonas Jeberg, the lone credited producer, is Danish. That’s like that scene in Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road where the Honest Abe Pancake House fills their authentic maple syrup tins with Mrs. Butterworth’s. “Chevy Runs Deep,” the slogan, was retired this year because GM is refocusing their branding from their U.S. bailout to global markets like Russia and India. That’s just hilarious. (And given Lovato’s album timing, wanna bet this was written for a July 4, 2012 release, when the product placement would work?) I’m being cynical as hell because this is also cynical as hell, a “Party in the USA” retread with more oversung vocals, more country harmonies with ever-so-iffy implications (note her stance on Unbroken’s urban tracks and to which genre she’s patriotically retreated), and the most shameless invocation of musical jingoism since Kristy Lee Cook put the AMERICA! into Idol by picking “God Bless the USA" and praising the flag when her votes flagged. But then again, profiting off jingoism is the American way.
Jonathan Bradley: Demi Lovato doesn’t do subtext, which is why she can be so great. She approaches her metaphors as if they were critically, pressingly literal. If she ever did that, she’d have a heart attack. She will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper. You never really can fix a heart. These aren’t hyperbole; from Lovato’s mouth, they’re very imminent crises. “Made in the USA” is almost, almost, so-close-to not completely ridiculous as a result, because when Lovato says her love is made in the USA then, by gum, she means that it was designed by the most innovative, creative, best-educated minds money can buy and constructed with care in a factory in Cleveland or Detroit by the most committed and hardworking laborers in the whole goddamn world. It rolled off a conveyor belt and was sent to a department store to bring the luxury of Demi Lovato’s love to consumers in all 50 states. It’s a product to be proud of and no one would dare think something built on such strong foundations of liberty and free enterprise could falter. But… then you look at the state of American manufacturing and, well, god, Demi: you’d be better off with an import.
Mallory O’Donnell: …but assembled from parts available just about any-damn-where. Demi’s actually reigned in some of the excess yelling of her last effort but only enough to allow us to see that she clearly has no particular musical personality whatsoever and is compensating by making sure every line is delivered with some sassy vocal tic. Anonymous, plodding, faintly irritating and about as patriotic as an “American Made” sticker hastily slapped onto a Chinese action figure. All told about a thousand times better than “Heart Attack.”
Anthony Easton: Remember the early aughts, when we wrote endlessly about the radical potential of pleasure in teenpop — the last work reclaimed by middle aged critics who didn’t want to be labeled as rockists? Some of the writing was amazing, and some of the writing was silly, and the project of taking these artists seriously had lots of productive side arms (noting the producer, the emergence of new feminism) but it also featured the discovery of obscure edges in categories that were not supposed to be obscure at all. This led to things like O-Town’s Ashley Angel being used as a semi-ironic figure on Clone High, and me writing a long, rave review of 98 Degrees. Listening to Demi’s smart, capable, but really not that interesting pop — and being told that it’s better than it is — reminds me of those difficult times.
Brad Shoup: Starts with product placement, ends reading a clothing tag in rapture and can’t make up ground in between. But hey, now you can update your YouTube exposé of “Halo”-alikes. The backwards acoustic strum is a nice touch; it’s obviously not groundbreaking, but it implies the track took more than 15 minutes to lay down.
Will Adams: Given how nonsensical the patriotic slant is, it’s almost understandable that “Made In the U.S.A.” begins with a Chevy plug. Divorced from its timely release, I can’t wrap my head around the importance of being American here, and it’s not helped by Demi’s caterwauling.
Jonathan Bogart: It’s unfortunate that she’s matured into a single-purpose voice; even a purportedly celebratory song like this one still has her drawing on her standard wailing-heartbreak vocal technique, so that there’s a massive disconnect between the summery sheen of acoustic guitar and her florid belting. The garbled meaning (to be generous) of the lyric doesn’t help; does love not matter or last if it happens to take hold in any other polity?
Virtually everything about how Demi Lovato sings annoys me (sorry), but the first two lines here, and the attempt to curve them into rhyme? My face involuntarily did something that probably looked like an eyeroll trying to have an eyeroll.
"Started From the Border," Lil MoCo ft. Chingo Bling (Internet, 2013)
I got this from Julianne, originally, but it remains very funny. I’m only posting it again now because the t-shirt you see MoCo wearing in the thumbnail is for sale, and was worn by Florida Marlins pitcher Alex Sanabia in an episode of the Marlins’ kids show, Billy’s Bunch, that I saw over the weekend, and because I needed to document that fact somewhere.
This is a Spanish translation to a new telenovela, Baktún, in which all the characters speak only Maya.
With Latinos across the country arguing over the new Lifetime telenovela, Devious Maids, it seems we’ve overlooked the premiere of another ground-breaking telenovela last month.
Baktún, the world’s first Maya language telenovela, is a great achievement for indigenous communities, according to filmmaker Bruno Cárcamo.
Finally, Mayans have the right to be entertained by the same kind of poorly-written, overacted, predictable melodramas the rest of us
were forced to watch with abuelahave absolutely adored for years.
Wildfire // JENI // SBTRKT ft. Drake & Little Dragon (by msxjenixe)
this girl should take over grimes cuz what she just did in 5 minutes takes me at least an entire day lol, damn
This is awesome. Pulls a shit-ton of pretty out of both the track and Drake’s verse and does both the gender flip and the “nigga” replacement right and respectfully.
There was a moment in hip-hop, in the 80’s, where posse cuts emphasizing stopping violence or raising awareness were all the rage. Rap was under fire for its bleak and violent message, so these were the sensible responses. The two that have stood the test of time, albeit still somewhat obscure, are Stop The Violence and We’re All In The Same Gang. The video above is something called “H.E.A.L. Yourself,” and is the one 80’s posse cut for hope that has become easy to forget.
Maybe it’s because every verse of the educational song is about drug awareness, black pride, school funding & womens’ rights, EXCEPT for LL Cool J’s part, because that’s just a blow-by-blow account of how a woman masturbates. It’s like he never asked what the song was, read a Penthouse Forum letter then walked out the booth. FOR NO REASON IN THE SONG AT ALL! Are you telling me NO ONE said, “Hey LL, quick thing. This song is about helping people and positivity, and then you just rap sexually about fingering yourself for a minute. Any way we can get another take?”
Point being, we should remember this song, cause that’s just remarkable.
CRACK AND MASTURBATION ARE THE SAME THING
I mean, heal yourself. Also, Kid Capri is horrible at whatever he is trying to do here.
"Versace," Migos feat. Drake (prod. by Zaytoven) (Young Rich Niggas, Internet, 2013)
Versace, Versace, Medusa head on me like I’m ‘luminati
This is a gated community, please get the fuck off the property
Rap must be changin’, ‘cause I’m at the top and then no one on top of me
Niggas be wantin’ a verse for a verse, but, man, that’s not a swap to me
Drownin’ in compliments, pool in the back, how that look like Metropolis?
I think I’m sellin’ a million first week, man, I guess I’m a optimist
Born in Toronto, but sometimes I feel like Atlanta adopted us
"What the fuck is you talkin’ ‘bout?" Saw this shit comin’ like I had binoculars
Boy! Versace, Versace, we stay at the mansion when we in Miami
The pillows Versace, the sheets are Versace, I just won a Grammy
I been so quiet, I got the world like “What the fuck is he plannin’?”
Just make sure that you got a backup plan, ‘cause that shit might come in handy
Started a label, the album is comin’, September, just wait on it
This year, I’m eatin’ your food, and my table got so many plates on it
Hunnid-inch TV at my house, I sit back like “Damn, I look great on it!”
I do not fuck wit’ yo’ new shit, my nigga, don’t ask for my take on it
Speakin’ that lingo, man, this for my nigga that trap out the bando
This for my niggas that call up Fernando to move a piano
Fuck all your feelin’, ‘cause business is business, it’s strictly financial
I’m always the first one to get it, man, that’s how you lead by example
Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace
Word in New York is the Dyckman and Heights girls are callin’ me Papi
I’m all on the low, take a famous girl out where there’s no paparazzi
I’m tryna give Halle Berry a baby, and no one can stop me!
24 bars. 292 words.
Lil Mama - Fireball/Heat
Lil Mama making herself a punchline on the VMAs has sadly obscured the fact that she’s a damn good rapper.
this is a snippet of me amateurishly dicking around with a DJ program, looping the Agent Sasco feature on “I’m In It,” since it’s pretty much my favorite thing it the world. It’s messy, but I love listening to it.
FUCK I WANT TO HEAR THIS ON A RADIO RIGHT NOW.
- When Kanye, professional rapper on his eighth album, finally catches the beat on “On Sight.”
- The beat drop on the second “Lemme show you right now ‘fore you give it up.”
- “Black Skinhead.”
- The “BLACK” drop that is all over “Black Skinhead.”
- Panting as percussion on “Black Skinhead.”
- Kanye comparing himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, a comparison he was creating/inviting with the projections of “New Slaves” and his SNL performance of “Black Skinhead,” and dropping the Malcolm X comparison he’s made repeatedly, and basically sounding like the King who came back from the dead on The Boondocks, one who subscribes to the idea that “black people” and “niggas” are different entities. I don’t agree with that fictional MLK, or with a lot of The Boondocks, but I’m not particularly surprised that Kanye feels similarly.
- “Soon as they like you, make ‘em unlike you.”
- “New Slaves.”
- Kanye’s imperfect, perfectly fitting flow on “New Slaves.”
- Keef’s fully IDGAF bit on “Hold My Liquor.”
- Kanye fucking hates Toyota: “Slightly scratch your Corolla / Okay, I smash your Corolla” follows “What you think I rap for, to push a fuckin’ RAV4?” and “Couldn’t afford a car, so she named her daughter Alexis,” and there is, of course, a KTT thread about this.
- Kanye using Bon Iver in the same way that he did on MBDTF and the same way 40 et al. used The Weeknd on Take Care, except far more wisely and amusingly. (Justin Vernon sings “I know your ‘rents ain’t be home” at one point.)
- The haunted dancehall on “I’m In It” that explodes onto the track at 1:20: “I’m a badman, if you no say / Disrespec’, we no Tek, no way, ‘ose / Try dat ‘pon February the tirtieth / That’s right! Couldn’t try dat NO DAY! / When we roll ‘own ‘pon ya block, no brudda fi say we won’t spray (Like I was Hulk) / When we roll ‘own ‘pon ya block, no brudda fi say we won’t spray (Like I was Hulk) / We a gon’ smile ‘pon court day / ‘Ca we beat murder charge like OJ.”
- That verse and the next hook allowing me to (almost) entirely forgive “I’m In It” for its hideous gender politics that seem to think “Fucking women as a black man is a revolutionary political act.” At least ‘Ye does say “Time to take it too far now,” even if it’s after taking it too far.
- “My mind move like a TRON bike / Pop a wheelie on the Zeitgeist” is just about the most post-“Stronger” Kanye couplet ever.
- Someone who is not Kanye is going to absolutely destroy that TNGHT loop on “Blood On the Leaves” by rapping on it. (Kanye choosing to 808s it is his own thing.)
- When Kanye says “Fuck them other niggas, ‘cause I’m down wit’ my niggas,” definitely meaning Virgil Abloh, a guy who takes Kanye’s tendency to snag a cool idea and throw millions of dollars and hundreds of hours at it and does things like make Pyrex Vision.
- I keep thinking that opening bass on “Guilt Trip” is going to open into a different song.
- G.O.O.D. is gonna skullfuck Popcaan’s “Blocka” hook to death, which will at least make for hilarious things like Kanye rhyming “blocka” with “vodka” with “doctor” with “shocker” with “Shabba!” with “Poppa” with “saga” with “knock her” with “Chewbacca” with Chief Rocka.”
- Kid Cudi, who separated from G.O.O.D. earlier this year, appears on a song called “Guilt Trip” to sing “If you loved me so much, then why’d you let me go?” (Who hurt you?)
- King L(ouie) sounds perfectly at home on million-dollar production, purring things like “Tattoos, how they break the news.”
- Kanye may genuinely think that “Send It Up” will be the craziest shit in the club since “In Da Club,” but that is tempered by him calling his penis “Yeezus” later in the same verse.
- “What you doin’ in the club on a Thursday?” and “This that what-we-do-don’t-tell-your-mom shit” and “This that red cup-all-on-the-lawn shit” co-existing on the same song, because Kanye can shame Youngs for the juvenile use of Thursdays as club nights and need them to buy his album at the same time.
- Kanye’s album-long attempts to reach into left field for huge hooks and bridges finally paying off when Charlie Wilson sings the full hook on “Bound,” and specifically because he gives that hook a false start earlier in the song.
- “Jerome’s in the house, watch your mouth” dovetails nicely with “Don’t judge him, Joe Brown” to make this the best post-industrial, post-dubstep EBM rap album that also acknowledges what some of Kanye’s audience watches all the time.
You can think ?uestlove is kind of a name-dropper and try to not love him because of it, but then he teaches a “great albums” course at NYU and completely ditches the White Man Canon of Great Albums for a bunch of awesome albums by people of color (and Paul’s Boutique), and you realize that doing anything but admitting that the dude is very much good people is really just impossible.
The classic albums course that I teach with Harry [Weinger] at NYU, we wanted to study the idea of a canon. The kind of notion that something is automatically classic because it’s told to you that it’s classic. Picasso paintings are in that canon. Basquiat’s in that canon. The Beatles are in that canon. Miles Davis is in that canon. Like, this is great because we were told at three years old by our parents that this is great. So I wanted to study seven records outside—not outside of the canon, but that really aren’t discussed.
The obvious thing would have been to do, like, Blood on the Tracks by Dylan, you do Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones, you do Sgt. Pepper’s by the Beatles, you do Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. That’s the obvious canon that everybody studies. So I figured I’d use my resources and knowledge to study the records that don’t get that treatment. So we chose, week one we chose all three volumes of Live at the Apollo by James Brown. Studying how the live album revolutionized and gave birth to a career.
And then the lesson that I learned while teaching this was that the common denominator that all these records had —
Week two was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin, tied with My Life by Mary J. Blige.
Week three was Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear. The only class that I had to miss because of an emergency. I had to take off that week.
Week four was Off The Wall by Michael Jackson.
Week five was Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Week six was There’s a Riot Going On, Sly and the Family Stone
Week seven was Dirty Mind by Prince.
And the final week was Three Feet High and Rising by De La Soul, tied with Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys.
For the record, I’ve listened to “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” at least 500 times in my life, and I sometimes hear it as plaques and sometimes as plastic. Either way, the point isn’t lost: White people with money don’t care about getting Kanye’s name right.
I was sick about awards, couldn’t nobody cure me
Only playa that got robbed and kept all his jewelry
'Licia Keys tried to talk some sense in him
Thirty minutes, seen there’s no convincin’ him
What more could you ask for? The international asshole
Who complain about what he is owed
And throw a tantrum like he is three years old
You gotta love it, though, somebody still speaks from his soul
And wasn’t changed by the change or the game or the fame
When he came in the game, he made his own lane
Now all I need is y’all to pronounce my name
It’s Kanye, but some of my plastic still say Kayne
And I was oh so patient, while niggas was straight disrespectin’ ‘im
So I did what they ain’t expect from ‘im, dropped The Dropout and blazed ‘em
And ain’t nobody feel my pain, until the hits that I came wit’
I’m Kanye, not Kayne, but to you? I’m Rick James, bitch
Both of these songs are from 2005. I believe both are pre-Katrina, too; “Diamonds” dropped in May, and I remember mowing lawns to the version of “Pusha Man” I’d taped off the radio in the early summer of 2005. “Gold Digger” was released that July, and went to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in mid-September, about three weeks after Katrina hit; Kanye was literally on the cover of the issue of TIME that was on newsstands when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and it was dated August 29, 2005, the day Katrina made landfall.
Kanye has a “weird” (read: not boring or Anglo-Saxon) name, one that America has to remember how to spell; in that way, if not in many others, his plight reminds me of LeBron (“Lebron”) James’ plight: You can do as much good and incredible shit — "Awesomeness" — as you want, but there are still many, many people who won’t take the seconds of care necessary to give you the respect of knowing and saying your name right.
And when you don’t get even that basic respect, which is respect for you and for the family that named you? You have a right to be respect-obsessed.
Much of the outrage about NSA/CIA/U.S. government spying this week, something I had suspected was true quite some while ago, seems to me like white Americans reacting to a rare instance of the government possibly not looking out for their best interests.
I get that that’s problematic, and I understand the concerns about a government that seems to be collecting data beyond most dystopian fears. But I can’t summon a lot of sympathy for what seems to be to be NIMBY-esque frustration, and I can’t square the concerns that this government is, more than ever, one that requires its leaders to be angels, with the reality that the American government, for virtually the whole of its existence, has had the same worrying asymmetry of power in its favor.