Friday, February 26th, 2010

Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris – Baby

Jukebox debut for the child with the most terrifying street team in the western hemisphere…


Doug Robertson: Did we learn nothing from the Aaron Carter years? And is Ludacris really that desperate for the money?

Al Shipley: With the latest ruination of the pop charts coming from Drake and this YouTube-approved bag of hair, my personal theme song these days is “Blame Canada.”

Alex Ostroff: I was going to write something utterly dismissive about the inane lyrics, the grating loop of “Yup!…Uh-huh,” the absence of anything resembling a memorable tune, and a general apology on behalf of Canada for inflicting more bad tier-C pop music on the world. But a harmless teenager making mediocre R&B isn’t worth that kind of ire — it’s not like I expected anything different. Still, something I think is actively bad would at least be interesting — this lowest-common-denominator stuff offends my intelligence and yours (although that skeletal piano beat isn’t half bad). The only person involved in this who should know better (and thus deserves to be ashamed) is Ludacris.

Chuck Eddy: First Jesse McCartney, now this: When did Luda become to the go-to guy for blossoming blue-eyed-soul boys requiring rap assistance? His tweenage nostalgia adds more here than he added to “How Do You Sleep?”, too. But Jesse put that song across, where Justin just shows promise in his high notes.

Martin Skidmore: Yet another Dream/Tricky job. Frankly his “baby no” heartbreak line sounds perky and rather happy, which fucks this up totally for me. I smiled only when Ludacris came in, with a mightier and more charming guest verse than the limp rest of this single deserves.

Michaelangelo Matos: After hearing him yawl his way through the opening lines of “We Are the World 25 for Haiti,” I expected the worst. And I’ll figure this is likely the best he’s capable of until proven otherwise, but for now it’s acceptable enough, probably buoys the radio OK, features an appealingly simple Luda drop-in. If anything, it sounds like it’s aimed at older women, not younger ones.

Anthony Easton: Much more age-appropriate then I feared.

Alex Macpherson: I really hope Will uses a screenshot of the girl pushing this strange child away near the start of the video, because at that moment I really, really feel her.

Martin Kavka: One of the first things I learned from pop was that love could not be commodified. Think of Little Eva’s “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”: “I don’t mind when you lend my clothes, my jewelry and such, but there’s one thing you don’t touch.” So when I hear a boy who hasn’t yet turned sixteen respond to being dumped by saying that his bank balance makes him a good boyfriend (“I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring”), I die inside.

Hillary Brown: I’m sure I could come up with a million horrible things to say about Justin Bieber in the abstract, but the fact is that cute nonthreatening boys with pretty voices and good material tend to have me feeling like Lisa Simpson with the Corey hotline. I may be behind my 11-year-old sistren when it comes to this bandwagon, but I’m kicking myself for taking so long to check this little dude’s stuff out. Rad.

Alfred Soto: Critics prefer teenage female pop singers because the critics are mostly heterosexual men and the good singers tend to think aloud in song. The boys are too guarded and they’re, well, boys, which explains why the charge of manufacturing still sticks. These days — hell, in the Kriss Kross days too — teenage boys express themselves better in R&B and hip-hop, in which they can mitigate their hormonal confusion in role playing. This is a long way of saying that Bieber’s not unattractive Auto-tuned squeak pales before Ludacris’ cameo. He’s like a big brother here — warm and convincing — and for Bieber’s sake I wish he eventually grows into the performer able to reward Luda’s attentiveness.

13 Responses to “Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris – Baby”

  1. Critics prefer teenage female pop singers because the critics are mostly heterosexual men and the good singers tend to think aloud in song.

    Do gay critics prefer male pop singers? And would it be overstepping any boundaries for me to suggest that the Singles Jukebox often suggests the opposite is more true?

  2. Not sure what heterosexuality has to do with it exactly, but the rest of what Alfred is saying sounds about right (in the sense that I find better “self-expression” from male singers in R&B before I find it in, e.g., Radio Disney teenpop). But the real issue, I think, is how few male singers there are that scan as “teenage male pop singers” that aren’t in hip-hop or R&B. Perhaps statistically speaking it’s as likely for a teenage male singer to connect in a (what I’m guessing Alfred’s referring to as) confessional way as it is for a female singer, but whereas there’s a ton of chaff you have to sort through to find a good teenage female pop singer, the fact that there are so few teenage male pop singer options to begin with lead to there seeming to be no good ones. (And this might be a little different in the UK than it is in the US, too.)

  3. I mean, that isn’t to say heterosexuality has nothing to do with it, but I’m not convinced that it’s really that important a variable here.

  4. Yeah…I was kinda taking a more roundabout way but my basic thought was the same (i.e. “aren’t MOST teenage pop singers female, and aren’t they more popular than their male counterparts across the board, regardless of the audience’s gender and orientation?”).

  5. [i]Do gay critics prefer male pop singers?[/i]

    Well, yes! I’d rather look at them. In our many, many teen-pop discussions we rarely discuss the interaction of sexuality and the singers’ self-representations. Gender, yes.

    The marketing of teen femmes is more sexualized too.

  6. Do you prefer to listen to and write about them, too? I hate to cite vague stereotypes and sparse anecdotal evidence, but as a straight guy I usually get the impression that gay pop fans pay more attention to the female stars and tend to leave the boy bands to the screaming high school girl demographic.

  7. Something I noticed years ago was that teenage girl singers were almost always solo while teenage boy singers tend to be in groups. Maybe this is changing now, but I’d still like thoughts on why that was so in the past, if indeed it was.

  8. Do gay critics prefer male pop singers?

    Well, they sure don’t prefer male teenpop singers, at least not in my critical neighborhood, though that may have something to do with the absence of a lot of male teenpop singers,* which has as lot to do with teen and preteen girls generally preferring female teenpop singers (which has been a massive shift over the last twenty years, starting with TLC I think, though male teenpop is selling slightly better now than it was middecade]). But I don’t think what’s going on is just in the audience. That is, female teenpop singers have been producing vastly better material (I might extend that to female singers period, at least outside of country, and I have no opinion about opera, and I’m talking about the U.S. and Britain). Is it that maleness is less of a viable singing role than it was when I was young?

    By the way, I like Bieber as a singer, but not many of his songs. He has a light touch, seems comfortable. “One Time” isn’t bad.

    *In the U.S., that is. Darin never crossed here.

  9. In our many, many teen-pop discussions we rarely discuss the interaction of sexuality and the singers’ self-representations.

    You could say the same about indie-pop and a lot of other stuff too.

    But the overriding issue for the teenpop girls is “Who am I?” not “am I hot for you, are you hot for me?” So when the songs are about hotness and sex and romance the underlying question is actually, “Will he love me for me“? Well, for Lindsay, who was the one in recent years with the most blatant sex sell, the question is “Is he and she and everyone else going to pay attention to me?” That’s really more of the issue when she’s going “I wanna come first” than “Do I get my orgasm?”

    Ashlee’s two best songs, “La La” and “Love Me For Me” are raucous romance-sex comedies of manners; but the break in “La La” goes, “I feel safe tonight, I can be myself tonight,” this in a song that is all about SEXUAL PLAY ACTING AND ROLE PLAYING in which she says she likes it better when it hurts and she promises to come back and beat him up. So being accepted for being herself means being accepted for any shit she throws at him and any role she could conceivably adopt as an experiment, now or in the future. (And the critical thing for Ashlee age 19 was that she didn’t really believe that anyone would ever accept her, either her personality or her music.) But, though “La La” is great, it’s really not very sexy; at least I don’t think so. As far as what it sounds like, it’s a Joan Jett leader-of-the-gang-thing, and that’s how it’s presented in the video, “You make me wanna la-la” being a group shout to the world, not an intimate encounter.

    “Love Me For Me” is hilarious and as well-written as any lyrics I’ve heard ever, sets out the issues in four lines and then starts playing with you, and it is sexy, but the prime moment comes two-thirds through where she lets out a wild “Meow,” which is more domineering than kittenish; and she ends up, “And when you’re crawling over broken glass to get to me/That’s when I’ll let you stay.”

    As for marketing (if we should talk about this in relation to teenpop, we should talk about it in relation to the Knife and everyone else too, and just maybe the singers and songwriters and producers in pop are creating material that is meaningful to them and build an audience from who responds to it, just maybe), the Disney kids-only machine didn’t take over until later in the decade. Ashlee and crew wouldn’t have known who her audience would be, but she ended up getting the MTV-TRL crowd. That and the teen confessional faded out as Disney siphoned off the younger set, and by putting most of its marbles on HSM/Cheetah Girls/Camp Rock, Disney left the field wide open for non-Disney Taylor Swift to swoop in and nab the teen confessional and, in one motion, get country and kids and adult contemporary in swift succession. I don’t really know, but I suspect that Miley broke out of the kids ghetto despite Disney rather than because of it. There wasn’t even a video for “See You Again,” and Radio Disney didn’t start playing the song until it had gone top ten pop, five months after it began getting play on scattered top 40 radio stations.

    Bieber’s not on Disney either, and if he doesn’t have one eye on AC and urban AC right now, he will shortly. Adult contemporary is the major elephant in the room and blind spot when it comes to critical coverage, and that goes for teenpop as well. I’ve done zero demographic studies so don’t know what I’m talking about, but I assuming that the audience for most teenpop is female – but it’s not restricted to female teens and preteens. Some of it’s crossing to women in their forties or so, whoever it is who turns on adult contemporary radio. The current AC top fifteen is evenly split between men and women (well, 8 men and 6 women and one mixed-gender group whose woman is the singer you care about). But of the songs that have held the top spot in the nine months since the Jason Mraz single stepped down at the start of June 2009, there’s been a male singer at number one for only one week (Michael Buble the week of January 30); in the seven months before that, the number one went to no male at all and no female who could legally go to a bar. And Bublé was succeeded by a female old enough to go clubbing but not to run for congress. She was immediately replaced by an underager, but then grabbed the spot back the next week. (The females in question are Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and Colbie Caillat.) This for a demographic that I assumed would go for men with smooth, deep voices.

    So, whoever is responding to “teenpop” girls as models or objects of desire or, well, whatever it is that people respond to when they respond to music, this is where you get the most response, even if you also, among critics, get me and some other critics gay and straight. (Rolling Teenpop was about 50-50 straight male/gay male, with Jessica and Hazel popping in occasionally. And the performers we talked about were predominantly female, though we ranged far beyond teenpop, actually. However, I did use the words “John Shanks” and “Max Martin” a number of times, iirc.) (Also, my taste in American Idol contestants the last two years seemed to line up with gay males’, and it was female; i.e. I liked Allison and Brooke. Maybe it’s because Allison and Brooke were easily the best.)

    The other women (besides Colbie, Taylor, and Miley) in the AC top 15 this week are Pink, Kelly, Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum), and Mariah.

  10. Actually, that line in “La La” is “I feel safe with you/I can be myself tonight.” And then it goes “It’s all right with you/’Cause you hold my secrets tight.”

    Dave says that Autobiography makes most sense as an album for people in their twenties, an audience that as far as I know the record didn’t get (outside of Rolling Teenpop, that is; btw, I once lashed out at Al Shipley on Rolling Teenpop, and that was unfair because in my mind I’d conflated what he’d said with some heinous stuff that actually had been from others; so, Al, sorry to have gone after you).

    Intriguingly, the teenpop person who has really brought up her own sexual desire is Aly Michalka of Aly & AJ; she may well believe that it’s wrong for her to have premarital intercourse, but she sure wants to be touched. (She’s an evangelical Christian, but she doesn’t give that as a reason – or give any reason – for only wanting the guy to go so far in “Blush.” So we don’t know her reasons or convictions on the subject.) Key songs here would be “Chemicals React,” “Bullseye,” and “Blush,” though the former is as much about her desire to make plays on words than her desire to make plays on boys. I really like what I wrote about “Blush” for the Las Vegas Weekly.

    Back when we first reviewed “You Belong With Me” I said that Taylor Swift’s Fearless was awash in femininity, was womanly in a way that reminded me of Stevie Nicks, despite their difference in style.** This isn’t in regard to the lyrics particularly. And of course not everyone will hear it. I suppose that people are entitled to say that they don’t personally find Taylor sexy. What they have no right to say is that she’s sexless and doesn’t sing about sex. Not that anyone here has said so, that I know of, but I’ve read it three times in the last month. Anyhow, Taylor’s very first single, which she wrote when she was fifteen*, is set in lover’s lane, and she doesn’t stop with that song. The thing is, she’s ambivalent about sex and love and desire since she thinks that it’s the girls not the boys who pay the price, at least she said so in “Tied Together With A Smile,” though that’s an early song. Anyhow, you might disagree, or at least think this is not universally true, and she probably now has more nuanced ideas (“Breathe” on Fearless is a song where she finally gives a guy a break), but it may well be very true to her experience, in her particular world.

    The critiques of her supposed sexlessness aren’t so much about sex as about social class or cultural category (not that sex and class are unrelated). Since her image is deemed to be “wholesome,” it’s assumed that she must also be sexless, though this is demonstrably untrue – I mean, look at how she’s dressed in this video*** – and that she doesn’t sing about sex, even though she does.

    I’m just amazed that people will make things up and not even know that they’re making it up, just invent things about whole stretches of people that aren’t remotely true.

    *Though it did attain a cowriter between the time she first scribbled the lyrics during math class and later that same day (according to Wiki) when she and Liz Rose finished the thing.

    **Though being her lightest song, “You Belong With Me” is actually the one least immersed in a deep sea of female moods.

    ***Also, note how she’s playing mindfuck games with her audience. That’s her opening her set back in spring ’07, when her audience was primarily country. Don’t know if she was headlining there, since in ’07 she was still mostly a supporting act, for George Strait and Ronnie Milsap early in the year, Brad Paisley later.

  11. All bygones, Frank, glad there are no hard feelings.

  12. I think justin is HOT

  13. I think I would have given this a “6” when it came out, but Hillary was right on — it is RAD (“rad hot?”). An easy “8” at least, probably a “9.” Keke and the Bieb, kind of an odd year. (Is 0 odd or even?)