June 2, 2006
Billboard singles reviews: Taylor Hicks, Pharrell/West
NEW YORK (Billboard) - ARTIST: TAYLOR HICKS - SINGLE: DO I
MAKE YOU PROUD - Taylor Hicks' victory in the fifth season of
"American Idol" presents a mighty challenge for label J: How do
you take a charismatic physical presence who wowed voters and
convert his unexceptional vocal talents into mass-appeal
hitmaking? Hicks' long-term prospects seem preposterously slim
(29? Purple velvet?) and first single "Do I Make You Proud" is
an insipid bid for acceptance beyond the pageant's borders. The
Billboard Hot 100 has traditionally propelled "A.I." winners to
No. 1, thanks to robust post-finale sales, and Hicks will
likely triumph. But in terms of seeing his name on the single
charts a year from now, our bets side closer to the Ruben
Studdard column than to Kelly Clarkson's.
ARTIST: PHARRELL FEATURING KANYE WESTSINGLE: NUMBER 1 (Interscope Records)
Pharrell and Kanye West's first musical alliance is as
unexpected as one would anticipate from the rapper/producer
innovators. This midtempo groove is the fourth single that may
be on Pharrell's extensively delayed solo debut "In My Mind."
Here, the Neptunes' more recognizable half inscribes his
signature off-key falsetto over otherworldly keys and bells,
though his simplistic rhymes are mediocre at best. Despite
excessive ad-libbing, West showcases his knack for mixing
unusual pop-culture references with artfully absurd phrases ("I
resurrected my gold Jesus of Nazareth/Now we fresh as a prince
while they Jazzy Jeff"). It may take a few listens but should
catch on with each radio spin.
SINGLE: GET TOGETHER (Warner Bros.)
Color us surprised. We assumed the third single from
Madonna's No. 1 album, "Confessions on a Dance Floor," would be
the highly catchy pop number "Jump." Instead, we've been served
the hypnotic space-age thumper "Get Together" as the follow-up
to "Sorry." The latter track was woefully ignored at U.S. radio
(though it was a smash outside the States) so it will be an
uphill climb for "Get Together" on the airwaves. On the bright
side, the new release is an obvious fit for dance radio
stations and clubs. As usual, the track has been remixed for
dance floors by a gaggle of producers. We're particularly fond
of the Danny Howells & Dick Trevor KinkyFunk remix, which makes
over the tune as a snappy, strutting, disco-funk number.
ARTIST: CON HUNLEY
SINGLE: THAT OLD CLOCK (IMMI Records)
Con Hunley's smooth, soulful voice was a staple on country
radio in the 1980s. Last year, after a lengthy, self-imposed
hiatus, he made a welcome return to recording. This frisky
uptempo number, culled from his recent "Shoot From the Heart"
album, is all about setting priorities and enjoying life while
that old clock ticks. There's some tasty lead guitar work, and
Hunley's performance is spirited and teeming with energy. It's
hard for veterans to get airplay these days, but this is one
artist deserving of a new day in the sun.
ARTIST: FOO FIGHTERS
SINGLE: MIRACLE (RCA Records)
After charting with three rock-outs from double-disc "In
Your Honor" -- and while single "No Way Back" is still doing
decent business at modern rock -- the Foos deliver "Miracle,"
the first single from the full-length set's acoustic side. The
guys unplug with grace. No earth-shattering prose, just
straight-shooting sentiment, as lead Dave Grohl's low-key,
hope-filled vocal rolls along with the well-paced melody.
Instruments take the back seat here -- a steady wave of
acoustic guitar strums with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones'
soft piano strolling behind. One subtle-but-sweet kick is
Bar/None Records artist Petra Haden's violin, which adds
warmth, romancing it up a notch. There could be a bit more
variation thrown in all-around to turn this into a real
heart-tugger, but for most folk -- and hardcore rock boys -- it
could drag a tear out. Grohl is good for the soul like that.
SINGLE: ROOFTOPS (A LIBERATION BROADCAST) (Columbia
Here's one more insta-soaring, hard-rock anthem delivered
with emo urgency. A ballad at heart -- and leadoff to upcoming
"Liberation Broadcast" -- "Rooftops" opens with atmospheric
guitars and mellow-dramatic vocals. The big bang comes when the
midtempo track crescendos into a cathartic high-rise chorus
that loads a powerful image: "Standing on the
rooftops/Everybody scream your heart out." Veteran producer Bob
Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) injects so much sonic power into
this fairly standard nu-metal tune that suspected similarities
to Papa Roach's hit "Scars" evaporate. "Rooftops" already has
raised the roof on modern and active rock radio, ensuring that
these Welsh prophets will not get lost.
ARTIST: DEF LEPPARD
SINGLE: ROCK ON (Mercury Records/Universal)
Talk about peculiar. We know Def Leppard's upcoming album
of cover tunes, "Yeah!," is a tribute to the band's musical
heroes, so its tracks were dictated by the heart instead of an
A&R man. Still, it's odd to hear one of Britain's greatest
metal bands perform a sparse, atmospheric ditty like "Rock On"
-- a cover of David Essex's 1974 hit, repopularised by Michael
Damian in 1989 -- with gurgling bass and random guitar wails
that fade in and out. The quintet's ax-men Vivian Campbell and
Phil Collen don't get to rock out until the song is almost
over, and with a blink-whoops-you-missed-it running time, that
moment shoots right past. The interpretation is solid, but you
wouldn't know you were listening to the band 'til the guitars
ARTIST: GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS
SINGLE: LOVE MY WAY (Zoe Records)
Former Grant Lee Buffalo frontman Grant-Lee Phillips
applies country and roots flourishes and soul to the New Wave
candor of the Psychedelic Furs' 1983 classic "Love My Way."
With the arrangement slowed to half time, his sad howl and
quiet vocal harmonies splay over strings and upright bass,
turning the former dance track into a lullaby. The song's
sleepy nature may not lend itself to radio, but devotees are
sure to flip over its tender treatment. The song is a sweet
tease into his upcoming full-length "Nineteeneighties."