Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Joss Stone ft. Nas – Governmentalist



Kat Stevens: I’m not sure what to make of this. NOEL’S JAM SNOG SAVES TIN TOSSER?

Chuck Eddy: These two people generally sound pretty okay for sellers of spinach, and they don’t fall on their faces here. But beyond “war is bad” and “cops are racists,” I have no idea what the hell they’re trying to say. “Government is bad”, maybe? Which aligns with them tea partiers and idiots opposed to a public health insurance option — cool beans.

Pete Baran: Quite possibly the track the Style Council thought they were making all the way through the 80s, but even Weller et al couldn’t be this dull and rubbish.

Melissa Bradshaw: For the blond singer from Devon to try to recreate revolutionary soul a la Marvin in league with Nasty Nas just makes the task of believing in her a little bit too demanding. She produced this herself, obviously under the influence of Raphael Saadiq’s recent output, and the wall of sound and echo-y vocals are lovely indeed. You just wish she’d either play with her obvious inauthenticity or put some kind of actual heart into it. Instead she comes across as always as a very talented but not very bright soul singer. She also sounds unfortunately like Anastacia.

Erick Bieritz: Stone and Nas are an appropriate pairing for “Governmentalist,” although not one that’s particularly flattering for either party. Like Nas, Stone has struggled to escape the image she established as a young breakout artist. Like Stone, Nas struggles to sound relevant despite a conservative musical approach. Nas rapping about GM food would sound ridiculous on its own; the soulful guitar licks just make it that much worse.

Alex Ostroff: The throwback soul revival of the post-Winehouse era has focused almost exclusively on towers of horns, so it’s nice to hear an exquisite guitar groove serve as the base for Joss Stone’s warblings here. Ham-fisted agit-pop lyrics are already embarrassing without NaS claiming that “Governmentalist killed the Kennedies/I hear Joss Stone got the remedies.” The award for best/worst line is in close contention here. Joss attempts to be righteous and ends up hilarious: “If in God you trust/Can’t you hear him still?/I ain’t no preacher/But. THOU! SHALT! NOT! KILL!” NaS, meanwhile is simply befuddling: “I’m an ordinary project dude/I’m subject to genetically-modified food/That’s FDA approved.” No matter how hard they try though, they can’t sink the guitar’s funk.

Michaelangelo Matos: “I hope you’re happy and you sleep so great at night”: I realize Stone is young, but come on. “I’m just an ordinary project dude/I’m subject to genetically-modified food”: and just you, right, Nas? Pretty nice track, though.

Martin Kavka: The lyrical apex of the song — “I ain’t no preacher but thou shalt not kill” — is just a mess. In the first half she claims that she has no mastery of the Bible (or has no authority to tell us what it means); in the second half she claims that nonetheless she knows what it really says and we should listen to her. Whatevs, Joss. (If anyone cares, I think it’s difficult to pin down the precise semantic distinction between the Hebrew verbs harag and ratsach in order to decide whether the Bible here prohibits all killing or just murder.) And in forty seconds, Nas mixes in Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories, racist cops’ tendency to stop drivers for being black, the tragic lot of child soldiers in Uganda, vehicular love, and support for Stone as EMI oppresses her. Any effect that this song has is simply because of its beautifully swaggering production, which recalls far more elegant and urgent protest anthems of the past.

Rodney J. Greene: I can’t say the thick-bottomed soul doesn’t groove; it’s as muddy as the earnest rhetoric is muddled.

Martin Skidmore: The usual very convincing and classy reconstruction of old soul sounds. It’s more or less like my favourite music ever, but this is dead archival imitation, however skillfully done. Nas’s guest verse is very welcome relief from Jools Holland’s idea of what music should be about.

Spencer Ackerman: She’s got a really big voice, doesn’t she? It’s got kind of a Stax thing happening, and you can smell residue in the beat. It’s too fast for Nas to rap comfortably, but he does his best, and conspicuously endorses Joss. This is harsher than I intend it, but her melodramatic singing reminds of me the Jenna Maroney character on “30 Rock” playing Janis Joplin. Nas did a cynical thing here.

John Seroff: Especially live, Stone’s iron hand/velvet glove growl is difficult to discount. Unfortunately, Joss is embracing Prince-level weirdness these days; in both her ongoing label woes and in her well-intentioned, cinematically overwrought music, Stone asks her audience to put up with an increasingly mannered narrative. “Governmentalist”‘s pathos careens a bit too close to bathetic navel-gazing as both meaning and poetry take a back seat to impressive-but-empty Mayfield mimicry. Dope beat aside, a social indictment this vague and uninspiring feels too late by both decades and months.

Ian Mathers: What I caught of Stone’s lyrics the first time around has ensured I haven’t bothered listening any closer (and let’s not talk of Nas’ thuddingly stupid guest verse — you half expect him to pull a Bill Maher and start ranting about vaccines), but on a purely sonic level this is lovely, a smokey slow-burn that would be a good song if it was just about, I don’t know, romantic betrayal or something. Instead the whole thing is a hash of lowest-common-denominator pandering (no matter how sincerely it’s felt), almost random accusations and a persistent atmosphere of low grade paranoia that’s neither productive nor interesting.

Alfred Soto: I hear less than meets the eye — even Nas’ bit has more signifying than literal power. In other words, the soul moves might have more force coming from anyone but a British woman. For all I know her membership in a new tax bracket prompted the sudden interest in government meddling.

3 Responses to “Joss Stone ft. Nas – Governmentalist”

  1. “Ham-fisted agit-pop lyrics are already embarrassing without NaS claiming that “Governmentalist killed the Kennedies/I hear Joss Stone got the remedies.””

    This really cracked me up. And I feel like there have been other rap songs where rapper collaborates with singer and says that the singer has “the remedies” for some social ill.

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  3. I loved Nas’ verse, although he could have done better. Perhaps Ian would have preferred him rap about how much money he has, how many women he gets, and the whips he pushes on a political track. Or maybe he would have preferred the fad, that is, Lil Wayne to do a verse.