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411 Music Buy or Sell 01.23.13: Where Is Our Suit and Tie Now?

January 24, 2013 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Greetings and salutations, Music Zone readers! Welcome to your top choice in music single opinion columns, 411 Music Buy or Sell! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas, and each week we’ll look at some of the hottest new and hit singles and a couple of our esteemed writers will decide if they want to keep the song (Buy) or drop it like it’s hot (Sell). Our listeners this week are the master of Music’s 3Rs, Sean Comer, taking on the Music Zone editor–yes, that’s me, Jeremy Thomas!

All right, enough of the introductions and rules…let’s hop to it!

1) Justin Timberlake (ft. Jay-Z) – “Suit and Tie”
From The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
Released January 14, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

Smooth. So, so damn smooth. Whether he’s your personal poison or not, don’t deny that through just three solo albums unveiled with a certain frustrating infrequency, Justin Timberlake has made pop music an art form again. Nobody quite makes radio pop with quite the R&B-inflected strut and grown-sexy affectations that have shaded his three solo offerings.

“Suit & Tie” is just perfectly soulful swagger over a beat that classily minimizes the bass bump to favor letting Timberlake’s slick-flowing high range and punctuated snare-brass trade-off ride unimpeded. When the low end rises, it’s to let Jay-Z break the song into bullet-time for his own signature measured flow accented by Timberlake’s understated backing vocals. Jay-Z betters the song without conquering it, and Timberlake lets his esteemed collaborator roast the verse HOV’s way while letting his own stylings paint some fine subtle, appreciable notes without blending the two ever feeling like his own spice fights Jay’s. Even if you don’t find the song as a whole appetizing, you must applaud the artistry of the elements, the finely measured touch in Timberlake the Tailor’s stitch.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

Ahh, it’s good to have JT back in the music industry. I never really expected to be a remote fan of his when NSYNC broke up, but as he proved he is far more impressive than being in a highly-successful boy band would suggest. He took some time off for his movie career and did fine over there too, but now he’s back in music for the time being and this first single is a great little piece of R&B. I’ve often said that I don’t hate R&B; I just dislike those artists who adhere to a cookie-cutter R&B format. Timberlake’s sound here isn’t out of left field in any way, but it is lively and energetic instead of yawn-inducing; it is the kind of song that gets the smooth sound of R&B across without lulling people into slumber. Jay-Z delivers a really solid contribution to boot, making this an (admittedly early) favorite among the year’s singles so far.


2) Kendrick Lamar (ft. Drake) – “Poetic Justice”
From Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)
Released January 15, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

What’s to say, really? It’s Kendrick Lamar. It’s Drake. It’s ill, stutter-stepping flows in unmatched sync over a molasses-smooth sample of Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” with perfect bump in all the right curves. Lyricism like “If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust this?” just keeps cementing Lamar alongside the likes of Common, Drake, Lupe Fiasco and Kid Cudi among the MCs with the sort of unique introspection and even occasional tender romanticism hip-hop needs to rise to its promised land.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

Under normal circumstances I would be concerned about this song because of the presence of Drake, who I consider an incredibly overrated artist these days. However, I loved Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and this was one of the reasons. Choosing the Janet track as a sample was an inspired choice; it fits Lamar’s style and both he and Drake deliver great work here. It’s not my absolute favorite from Good Kid but it is definitely up there and it just shows why Lamar is one of the top hip-hop artists working right now.


3) Sevendust – “Decay”
From Black Out The Sun (7 Bros Records/ADA)
Released January 28, 2013
Sean Comer: BUY.

It’s not bad. It’s not really remarkable, either. That’s not to say that “nu metal” can’t be enjoyable. It’s just that it’s somewhat of a love-it-or-leave-it subgenre. While Sevendust are immensely enjoyable, especially with this track filled out satisfyingly with gnashing staccato guitar and drummer Morgan Rose and bassist Vince Hornsby’s equally relentless rhythm backbone. More so perhaps than the band’s Faith No More influence, the song drips with Living Colour and Sepultura. That’s definitely no bad thing. It’s more “musical” that 99 percent of nu metal. It rocks hard, but more in the sense that it’s a rhythmic assault than that there’s a keen ear to melody.

Jeremy Thomas: SELL.

Yep, this is a Sevendust track. The band is not one of my favorites; they are a good band but I don’t consider them to be great. I like the energy in this one; the driving beat keeps things chugging along nicely but the guitar work is a bit pedestrian to me and the lyrics are not on par with some of their better work. This is certainly not a song that I hate by any stretch and I wouldn’t change the channel if I heard it, but there’s not enough here to entice me into buying it.


4) Josh Groban – “Brave”
From All That Echoes (Reprise)
Released December 18, 2012
Sean Comer: SELL.

Josh Groban has his audience. I’m really not it. He has a classically rich timbre and distinctively bold projection. His lyrics reach down to the deepest, most inspired truths in any open heart and buoys them to the soul’s surface. There’s nothing at all to “dislike” necessarily. It’s just that he also happens to be the sole soundtrack to The Hallmark Channel and ABC Family’s entire Christmas lineup. I can’t recall a song of his that I’d exactly call “uninspired,” but nothing where a unique personality ever bled through in every word & note, either.

“Brave” is no different. It’s anthemic urging to be stalwart in times that try men’s souls, sung sweepingly over delicately plucked strings and muted marching snare. The remarks on the instrumentation aside, I just described I think half the Josh Groban songs ever made. It’s not patently “bad,” but I’d rather sell it off to someone who would give it a less apathetic home than I would.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

Josh Groban’s voice is something to envy, there’s no doubt about that. He’s got a classic quality to his tone and I always find myself enjoying his output. “Brave” isn’t my favorite of Groban’s songs, but I still like it quite a bit. The soaring quality is appropriately inspiring and uplifting and his lyrical skills are as good as they usually are. Rob Cavallo’s production work on this is top notch; it feels operatic but still has a mainstream quality to it that should serve Groban well commercially. The man isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to be sure, but I found myself really digging it.


5) Kid Cudi – “King Wizard”
From Indicud (GOOD Music/Universal Republic)
Released December 18, 2012
Sean Comer: SELL.

For Kid Cudi, this is really fairly unremarkable. Over a well-built, minimalist, clapping cadence, Cudi applies woefully by-the-numbers “f*** these haters” lyrics with a dynamic unbroken flow that should shame other more elementary MCs given twice the due Kid receives. It’s a bit puzzling who has really “hated on” Cudi at this point, though. He’s a sought-after collaborator, not so much a “rapper” as a truly thoughtful “artist.” It just feels too much like Cudi talking non-stop and really saying nothing memorable for it to be a strong statement about his work.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

Cudi, seriously, you’re better than this. I enjoy the production work on this track but the lyrics are incredibly lacking for a guy like him. This is the kind of lyrical content that I would expect from Lil Wayne, not Kid Cudi. His flow is solid and there are a couple clever rhymes in here, but all in all this is just a lackluster effort from an artist who is capable of far, far more. Better luck next time, Cudi.


6) David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”
From The Next Day (ISO/Columbia)
Released January 8, 2013
Sean Comer: SELL.

If this song never ends up the backing to a Doctor Who moment that perfectly places “A man lost in time near Kadewe,” then be it forever on someone’s conscience. Indeed, that’s no less than what this song is: an adaptive alien who’s seen so much come and go, finally sitting a moment in his box to take stock and look first back, then forward. I’m not sure Bowie has ever sounded to poignantly subdued. It has to be heard to be believed.

Jeremy Thomas: BUY.

This was the big surprise so far…not that it’s good, but that it even happened. No one knew anything about new David Bowie music coming, but here we have it and it’s as intelligent and musically-adept as we would expect from the man. The man who was once Ziggy Stardust and who sang about Major Tom is now older, giving us a song about a man reflecting back on how he has spent his life. Its musical depth is impressive, beautifully complementing Bowie’s unmistakable tenor. What’s not to love?


Good week for our singles this time around with Timberlake, Bowie and Kendrick Lamar getting Buys while only Kid Cudi gets a full Sell! Thanks to Sean for his participation this week; that will do it us! What do you think of the singles we covered? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!


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