Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Jess in typically fine form. Great point: "I guess masculinity just recognizes masculinity".

On a slightly related note, I had been hoping that now that Chingy has plainly and unashamedly produced three great singles people would stop saying he's a one hit wonder, but it's hard to find anyone acknowleging the brilliance of "One Call Away". For shame: this could be the best thug-luv pop track since "I'm Real (Remix)"!* That beautiful fluttery guitar'n'bounce beat groove! If the Trackboyz are slavish Neptunes understudies this is definitely their "Frontin", but where "Frontin" sometimes seems a bit too smug about its angular prettiness there's something so breezy and unselfconscious about "One All Away".

* Don't hold me to that.

My appreciation of it got me thinking about the pleasures and pitfalls of thug-luv as a mini-genre. Theoretically I'm all for this stuff, and it seems to be a sure fire winner chartwise, but the results are often less than I might hope for. Problem is, I suspect, most rappers still don't know how to be comfortable about being a pussy. Ja Rule had what seemed like a magical run where his thuggishness and his sentimentality were more perfectly counterbalanced on each release (from "Between Me & You" through to "I'm Real (Remix)"), plateaued for a while, and then lost it, most tellingly on "Mesmerise", the gentle growl transformed into a hideous whine and Ashanti's sweetness "thugged up" in the most disturbing manner - it's hard to hear this tune as anything other than a paean to dirty and unsatisfactory sex (I still check for "The Pledge (Remix)" and "Reign" though!). And he seems to have abandoned the genre entirely now (a shame; I I secretly believe Chink Santana is responsible for most of Murder Inc's recent bad fortune). Other pretenders just haven't convinced me: despite a nice plushy arrangement Fabolous is too wooden and stilted on "Into You", while the sentimentality of "Can't Let You Go" is entirely carried by the chorus. And while "Dilemma" is undeniably sweet, Nelly sounds like he's holding himself back the entire time, as if his personality (let loose to such unbeatable effect on "Hot In Herre") is toxic to the song's saccharine if not kept in check. Jay-Z can manage it, but Jay-Z (although indisputably a pop icon) could never be a pop pin-up boy; and can't speak to youth-as-youth like the aforementioned three rappers can. His thug-luv ballads are too grown up, too sophisticated; "Girls Girls Girls" and "Song Cry", for example, are both loaded with intimations of romantic history, with little of the freshness or novelty of love and love troubles which pop necessarily emphasises and promotes.

Chingy's advantage lies in his age and size and demeanour of course, but also, perhaps unsurprisingly, in that which has otherwise been his shortfalling: the plausible dismissability of his high-pitched, nasal voice. I remember being disappointed when I finally heard "Right Thurr" because the deep growl of "thurrrr!" (imagine Bonecrusher or Lil' Jon) that I had imagined couldn't be further from the truth. On "One Call Away" though his voice is eminently suited: the inevitable vision of feckless youth that it evokes brings with it all sorts of associations of high school crushes and puppy love, locker room flirtations and class room distractions (being gay and having attended a single-sex school, all such associations are solely derived from popular culture, but you know what I mean). And Chingy sounds like such a gentleman here! Or, rather (and much better) a wannabe gentleman, putting on airs of suave assurance that are delightfully awkward in one who seems such a secret geek (he's like Seth Green in Can't Hardly Wait, isn't he?). I can identify, somehow, with his quest to present himself as being up to the task at hand, his fruitless desire to appear in control. It's a shame that this is being released for a particularly cold autumn over here; if it were October this would be a total spring anthem for me, perfect for cruising around with the top down in the car I don't have and can't drive.


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