music / Columns

411 Music Buy or Sell 12.20.12: Die a Young Wild Child

December 20, 2012 | 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). This week’s listeners are the master of Music’s 3Rs and one of my favorite Music Zone people, Sean Comer, taking on the 411 Music Zone writer Gina Bortolussi!

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

1) Linkin Park – “Castle Of Glass”
From Living Things (Warner Bros./Machine Shop Recordings)
Released December 14, 2012
Sean Comer: BUY.

As arrangements go, this might be the best Linkin Park have sounded in ages. There’s actually a nice, measured, layered build of all the parts before it speeds up. Even more mercifully, it never fully reaches that crashing throw-down of cacophonous chords that was a hallmark of so many early efforts. Best of all? Chester Bennington sticks with his nasal, atonal vocal delivery and never regresses to that grating shriek that somehow manages to sound even more ear-splitting and testicle-crushing when people doing karaoke decide they can imitate it perfectly when they try to perform “Crawling.” Unfortunately, the more some things change, the more some things stay the same. The lyrics still read like pseudo-existential junior high poetry (“I’m only a crack/in this castle of glass/hardly anything else/I need to be…” – What the crikey fuck does that even mean?!) It’s hard to even tell what the dead-soliders-are-sad Medal of Honor: Warfighter tie-in video has to do with them. Still, it’s not an awful song. It sounds fine, as long as you shut your brain off.

Gina Bortolussi: BUY.

Mark Shinoda sings on this one and that’s always an added bonus to any Linkin Park song where they showcase his voice as well as his guitar and rapping skills. Of course Chester Bennington also sings on this track and I love his voice, but the parts when Shinoda and Bennington harmonize are my favorite. Their voices compliment each other really well. I love the steady and persistent drumbeat throughout the song. It gives “Castle of Glass” its subtle darkness and strength. Everything about this song just works.


2) Girls Aloud – “Something New”
From Ten (Polydor)
Released November 19, 2012
Sean Comer: SELL.

Oh, Girls Aloud. You have some cajones starting your Spice Girls knock-off “Girl Power FTW!” jam with “All I want is something new.” Honestly? Brain surgery, this isn’t. It’s not-quite-sung, not-quite-rapped babbling – or, in the second verse, “singing” that would be rejected at most aforementioned karaoke bars – about freedom to dance played over a bass-bumping throwaway Marky Mark beat. Who, exactly, is stopping these irritating models from dancing, anyway? And why? It plays like the soundtrack to every mid-‘90s runway fashion event. It’s always entertaining to hear pretty people already treated like VIPs tell the world that nobody’s going to hold them back. It’s like telling your roommate not to eat the rotten eggs you’ve been saving in the fridge since the Clinton administration – what made you concerned in the first place that he actually would?

Gina Bortolussi: SELL.

It’s a fun anthem for girl power and all that, but nothing more. The only part that the girls (not really girls anymore) actually sing is the chorus, which is not even that catchy. I have a feeling that they needed to quickly release new music before they became grandmothers and this was what came out. I really love the Brits, but I’m not a fan of Girls Aloud. Give me the Spice Girls or Little Mix any day and I’ll be happy.


3) Tamar Braxton – “Love And War”
From Love and War (Streamline Records)
Released December 6, 2012
Sean Comer: BUY.

Honestly? The world could do a lot worse than this one. Tamar Braxton has much of Toni Braxton’s tonal richness, but minus quite the clear enunciation of her phrasing in places. She lets the anguished, strained will to keep loving her man and believe he’ll endure with her flow over a 3-4 or 6-8 arrangement – it’s been a while, but I’m fairly sure it’s one of those two time signatures – with well-placed snaps that may have you snapping right along, even through complementing bass thumps that keep the verse spare enough for Braxton to shine. Tamar isn’t Toni. She never will be, of course. But she’s a serviceable listening complement to, say, Keyshia Cole.

Gina Bortolussi: BUY.

Tamar Braxton sounds eerily like her sister, Toni Braxton, but I’m really trying not to compare the two. Tamar has a great voice, and I always appreciate an artist who actually belts out notes and doesn’t use auto tune to fool listeners into thinking their mediocre pipes are God’s gift to the world. Braxton’s voice conveys everything that makes a great R&B song, soul. If a voice can do that, and if emotion is there, then the song can’t be bad.


4) Juliet Simms – “Wild Child”
From TBD (Universal Republic Records)
Released December 11, 2012
Sean Comer: SELL.

This isn’t bad just because it sounds so unlike anything Simms would’ve recorded with Automatic Loveletter. Let’s set aside even the sidetrack that it seemingly proves seemingly conclusively that The Voice beat the punk out of her. This is bad because it suggests what Avril Lavigne probably would’ve sounded like if she’d recorded her entire first album singing through an unshakable case of the hiccups paired with laryngitis severe enough for medical-journal mention. It sounds like a Linda Perry song. No, it doesn’t sound like a song Perry wrote. Her works with Christina Aguilera and Pink prove that she’s actually a fine writer. Unfortunately, it sounds like a 4 Non Blondes cut that Perry buried seven feet deep, resolving never to speak of it because somebody’s special-needs audio engineer cousin made her sound like a drunken Chipette. Worse than the fact that I’m not sure half the population could understand a damn thing she’s “singing” without this lyrics video, she just spends the chorus blathering on about how much money she’s going to make. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is awful by even Ke$ha standards…

Gina Bortolussi: BUY.

Juliet Simms’ voice is its own instrument. It was made for songs like “Roxanne” by The Police, which she performed on The Voice last season, and probably anything Aerosmith. I really like this song and it suits her voice and style well. It’s upbeat and has a cool vibe, somewhere in the middle of a pop and classic rock song.


5) Ke$ha – “Die Young”
From Warrior (RCA/Kemosabe)
Released September 25, 2012

Let’s get something clear from Jump Street: I understand why this song has been pulled from airwaves in light of the massacre in Newtown, Conn. Obviously, it would be indescribably wrenching to hear a song with the words “Die Young” following such an unimaginably heinous act that will never be forgotten.

That being acknowledged, nothing whatsoever of value has been lost by striking a Ke$ha song from the airwaves, however temporarily. Pink and I wouldn’t get along as people, thanks to dissonance in social beliefs. Even then, I could still doff my cap to her for making rock-tinged pop that’s clearly written from an honest place that’s uniquely hers. This? It’s maybe equal to Pink at Pink’s worst – think “crappy imitation of ‘Get This Party Started'”, if one is to be generous. It’s more of that annoying white-girl rap style that made me at first want to believe that “Tik Tok” was actually a parody and not someone’s actual effort. It’s predictably drowned in Auto Tune, over-produced, and while it certainly doesn’t pretend it’s something it’s not, that unfortunately just leaves it at “vapid” and “not even bothering to be clever.” I’m going to create a new category beyond “Sell”. “Sell” implies somebody should actually have to pay for this (and not “pay for” in the “retribution” sense.) I’m demoting this further down.

[Editor: We’ll just count that as “Sell” for agreement’s sake]

Gina Bortolussi: SELL.

If I never have to hear this song again my ears would do a dance of joy. I am not nor will I ever be a Ke$ha fan. There is nothing to her music, and nothing to this song. The lyrics are awful and not just because she’s glorifying dying young to kids who listen to Z100, but because they’re just badly written and have no imagination to them. The song sounds like every other pop song out there and there’s not enough here to distinguish and make it stand on its own.


6) 50 Cent (ft. Eminem & Adam Levine) – “My Life”
From Street King Immortal (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)
Released November 26, 2012
Sean Comer: BUY.

Certain things are a given with 50 Cent. However his lyricism might sometimes lack in engaging depth at times, his production hits the mark with underrated consistency. Anytime Eminem spits a verse, it only further tightens the final product. “My Life” sports quite possibly one of my favorite 50 Cent flows in a long, long while right from the beginning. Of course, Eminem spreads out what’s become his signature life-defined introspection that builds off his compatriot’s own defiant declaration of a comeback. But God in Heaven, I hate Adam Levine’s voice the way my former KC neighbors hated bathing and books.

Of everybody that could’ve been employed to bring the heat to the hook – Adam Levine? The nut-splitting douche-canoe from Maroon 5? Only Train’s equally unpleasant-sounding Patrick Monahan would’ve possibly taken listeners further out of an otherwise go-hard, steady-as-a-clock vibe. God rest him, there was only one Nate Dogg, but I refuse to believe there was absolutely nobody else that could’ve sounded more fitting alongside Eminem raising the raw, sneering Slim Shady from the ether with a ceaseless Gatling-gun flow, and 50 sounding more driven than he has in years. The mood of the beat even reminds just a bit of Eminem’s “Stan” Dido sample. What’s more, 50’s concluding verse absolutely crushes even the solid groove of his opening one. Levine, though…you’re just stuck with the realization that he’s always moments away from being a whiny-voiced turd in the punch bowl. Fortunately, the other two-thirds of the equation barely overshadow him.

Gina Bortolussi: BUY.

This song isn’t 50 Cent’s best, but it’s not “Candy Shop”, so it’s not his worst. The rap cameo made by Eminem makes the song anything substantial. He tells us more about his life and his struggles in his than 50 Cent does and it makes me want to say that the song really belongs to Eminem. Maroon 5’s Adam Levine handles the song’s chorus, which I really like. The smooth sounds of Levine’s voice against the hard raps of 50 Cent and Eminem gives a cool juxtaposition to the song.


So only Juliet Simms splits the vote this week as 50 Cent, Linkin Park and Tamar Braxton get Buys and Girls Aloud and Ke$ha get emphatic Sells! Thanks to Sean and Gina for their 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!


article topics

Jeremy Thomas
comments powered by Disqus