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Rappers Who'll Make You Dial for Dollars 

And post-feminist pop from one-hit wonders

Wednesday, May 2 2007
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Alanis Morissette, “My Humps” (video parody) OMG LOL this is TFA! (“Totally fucking amazing,” and yes, I just made that one up.) Morissette — long ago consigned to the one-hit-wonder pile — has made a roaring comeback with this viral video cover of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.” The original version has already been widely condemned as the silliest/worst song of our generation. What’s interesting about this treatment is that Alanis precisely nails it as the most despicable song of our generation. She covers it as a sincere piano ballad, loaded with all the pathos and sexual rage that made her famous in the mid-’90s. Halfway through this compelling deconstruction, the video’s tone shifts from goofy to tragic: It’s a lament for our post-feminist reality, wherein we’ve completely accepted the submissive, pornographic tropes of hip-hop culture. I’m left with a few questions: Is viral video the one-hit-wonderdom of today? Will Alanis follow this up with new material of her own? If so, could it also be TFA?

Alanis Morissette's "My Humps" Video


MIMS, “This Is Why I’m Hot” (Capitol) In 2006, hip-hop artists Unk and Jibbs both had top-selling ringtones while making little impact on America’s general consciousness. So, it would be incorrect to say NYC’s MIMS is the first rapper to launch his career via wireless telephony. However, he may be the first marketed as such. Posters trumpeting his cell-phone success plastered urban neighborhoods months before his album was released, and his name even sounds like a mistyped text message. Sadly, his signature tune is the lamest excuse for music since MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice defined the early ’90s by sampling the early ’80s. The track nods to various regional hip-hop styles — Dirty South bounce, Bay Area hyphy, SoCal g-funk — but its essence consists of little more than a few iterative low tones, a few iterative high tones and a shuffling electronic beat. It’s as generic and archaic as a pre-installed screensaver, and MIMS’ koanlike raps are so weak (“I’m hot ’cause I’m fly/You ain’t ’cause you not”) that he acknowledges it later in the song (“I could sell a mil/saying nothing on the track”). No further evidence of his artistic bankruptcy needed, but why not quote this recent interview with SoundSlam.com: “I just did a situation with Microsoft for ZUNE, a new MP3 player that they will be offering. I’m setting up the Microsoft ZUNE tour, where I will hit different cities, perform, and basically promote the product. It’s a great thing.” What’s next, sponsorship by Halliburton and Hyundai?

Mims' "This is Why I'm Hot" Video




Robyn, Konichiwa Bitches EP (Konichiwa Records) Robyn is a 27-year-old Swede whose post-feminist flow provides a tantalizing hint of Britney’s post-rehab potential. First, some background: Robyn began her career as a teen pop star, collaborating with fellow Swede Max Martin, the superproducer and future Spears wrangler. Her 1995 record Show Me Love sold millions. By ’98 she was being eyed as a support act for a Backstreet Boys tour. Then, citing exhaustion, she disappeared without a trace, and her career went moribund in the U.S.

In 2005, inspired by the likes of Sweden’s DIY chart-toppers the Knife, Robyn re-emerged as CEO of her own label and released a self-titled album filled with bouncy, ruthlessly efficient pop. Weirdly, it was embraced by the Pitchfork demographic rather than mainstream audiences.

New material has started to surface and it’s amazing — minimalist, perverse and totally relevant to the conversation started by “My Humps.” The video for “Konichiwa Bitches” — named after a Dave Chappelle tag line — starts with a mock telephone call between Robyn and a sock-puppet monkey. They debate the appropriate beat. In the next minute, she dances with a penguin, dresses as a bumblebee and cuts a man in half. Lyrics unfurl like Gwen Stefani playing the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse: “Don’t I look tasty like a French bonbon/Even more sweet than a cherry bomb/Coming with the postman like I’m a mail bomb/Coming in your mouth make you say yum yum.” Suddenly you realize the video is like Michel Gondry directing an X-rated episode of Sesame Street. Robyn’s tenuous connections and amnesiac flow outdo both Beck and Fergie. The rest of the EP raises the stakes with “Get You Off,” a lo-fi piano-blues number about hand jobs.

Robyn's "Konichiwa Bitches" Video
Robyn Konichiwa Bitches
 



R. Kelly (featuring T-Pain & TI), “I’m a Flirt” (Zomba) vs. Musiq Soulchild, “B.U.D.D.Y.” (Atlantic) These two new tracks have the same goal in mind: to showcase each singer’s philosophy on courtship. Soulchild’s soft-sell is treacly and appeals directly to a woman’s sentimentality, her practical desire for consistency and romance. “Girl it’ll be fly if you were my b-u-d-d-ee-y,” he sings. He’s looking for “a different kind of commitment/I’m talking about a true friendship.” He apologizes for being “too sexual” without having actually said anything that could be construed as such.

By contrast, R. Kelly barely even addresses the ladies directly. Rather, he warns listeners that R. has entered “da club” — two words that, when uttered by Kelly, are more ominous than the phrase “troop surge.” “Now the moral of this story is cuff your chick,” he continues, “’Cause, hey, I’m black, handsome, I sing, plus I’m rich.” In case you weren’t clear about his sketchy intentions, Kelly alternates between two crushed-velvet hoodies in the accompanying video, and sports a pair of multifaceted sunglasses that resemble an insect’s compound eye. (“R., what great glasses you have!” “The better to see you with, my dear.”)

The question, ladies and gentlemen, is who sounds more convincing? Soulchild, the take-him-home-to-Mom kind of guy? Or Kelly — by all accounts an execrable human, a man currently charged with 14 counts of child pornography — and one of the best songwriters of his generation? B.U.D.D.Y., please — it’s no contest! Kelly’s suggestiveness could convince the most jaded listener to call the Chocolate Factory to hear the rambling six-minute preview for his upcoming Double Up album — yet another entendre I won’t stop to ponder. Call (312) 278-3965 for details.


SaveNetRadio.org In early March, the federal government’s Copyright Royalty Board made a motion to increase the royalty burden for Internet radio. Estimates are that royalty costs for these stations will increase 300 to 1,200 percent in the next five years, even though most have yet to cobble together viable business models. Many smaller, start-up outfits claim the new regulations will put them out of business. (The option to pay royalties based on a percentage of revenues has been rescinded.) Everyone knows terrestrial radio has been hopeless for a long time; if you are a fan of the online options ranging from KCRW and KEXP to Pandora and Dublab, this motion is well worth protesting. http://www.savenetradio.org/

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Reach the writer at alecbemis@brassland.org

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