Thursday, July 8th, 2010

The-Dream ft. T.I. – Make-Up Bag

Take this grab out of context — would you say Tip is impressed by or contemptuous of Terius’ hat?…


Michaelangelo Matos: He could stand to quit saying “radio killa” on every goddamn song (well, not every one, but you know what I mean), but his gift for lissome layers is in full effect here. Or maybe “full” isn’t right: a ghostly settling of elements is more his speed, at least sonically; little about this track hits you full on. That’s a good seduction technique, and the words are humorous without being too cute, also as usual. Another way he’s staying on course: I don’t love this but admire it plenty, and I could see it lifting a gear in the future.

Al Shipley: Apparently he’s done pondering the conundrum of love vs. money, and has concluded that one can in fact buy the other. The music is appropriately just as vacant and useless as the relationship advice.

Martin Skidmore: The bass here is very potent, and the whole tone is relaxed and rather lovely. The-Dream’s thin vocal works well in this mood, though the “make up with your girl by buying her expensive things” message is unappealing. I like T.I., but he makes it less appealing by being unapologetic, though he catches the musical mood perfectly.

Alfred Soto: For the first time in months, T.I. sounds rather boring, for which I blame his awareness that he’s actually addressing The-Dream and not a phantom feminine love object. After all, Terius Nash dresses like he’d appreciate the Louis, Prada, and Valentino he claims he’s buying “her,” not to mention the Chanel No. 5 on his collar. But the hook and subtly mixed woodwinds are subliminal enough to sustain interest as an album track. Recommended to hip-hoppers on the down-low.

Ian Mathers: To paraphrase the late, lamented Fametracker: Damn, T.I., you’re making my teeth ache, you suave bastard. He also puts his finger on it: “All I do for you is just a part of me doing me.” His verse is awesome precisely because he nails the contemptuous scoff that is the heart of “Make Up Bag”, which takes the romance-as-economics thing to some sort of logical end point. In a way, it’s both akin and opposite to some of Beyonce’s recent work; here, women are assuaged with consumer products but the only thing that a man will settle for is pussy. The-Dream, meanwhile, is mostly notable for introducing me to the verb “Patroning,” which I am grateful for because I appreciate ridiculous things.

Jonathan Bogart: Color me a The-Dream skeptic; while I’m perfectly willing to give the man props for his production, I’m still enough of a Marxist to be unamused, then actively annoyed by his capitalism-as-eros aesthetic. T.I. shows up, flashes his usual patter (maybe a half-step below his usual excellent standard), and subsides. It’s Terius that you remember — for better or (mostly) for worse.

Alex Macpherson: In which Terius outdoes himself in the Bad Boyfriend stakes. It’s not just that he casually admits he’s been playing around, almost as an aside, or that his one-track mind isn’t diverted even when in the doghouse (“She cursin’ me out with nothin’ but her panties on,” he drools); his thoughtless presumption that $5k worth of cosmetics will put things right is somewhere between offensive and insensitive, depending just how mad you are with him. Luckily, we’re not dating him, so it’s OK to find this blundering male’s delusion amusing, even endearing — even charming, when allied with those delicate, dreamy synths floating behind him like thought bubbles. But you can’t help but feel that Electrik Red need to have a few strong words with him.

Alex Ostroff: “Make-Up Bag” runs the titular pun into the ground, while nodding lyrically towards ‘Irreplaceable’ and melodically towards The-Dream’s usual bag of tricks, but where “Love King” seemed re-hashed, this might be the best single he’s put out since LoveHate (at least until either “F.I.L.A.” or “Yamaha” gets an official release). If Mariah and Kanye’s ’09 guest spots were the definition of gratuitous, T.I.’s presence here seems completely natural. Tip’s sangfroid emerges from the blur of synths to balance out The-Dream’s neediness just like he did on Justin’s ‘My Love’, and disappears in time for Terius to simultaneously finish winning back his girlfriend and give us dubious advice on long-term relationship success. I’d suggest that instead of buying Prada bags to apologize, Terius should simply write a song or two like this, but the production sounds three or four times more expensive than five stacks.

Mark Sinker: Maybe I’m MEANT to find this depressing. It’s impossibly pretty, of course — cloyingly pretty, manically pretty. Sentiment: All you need to keep a gorgeous girl sweet is buy her swanky stuff… So is he being complacent or flip or cynical and self-mocking, or does conflicted anxiety run through the compulsive repetition of the object he cares least about? His world is built on egg shells.

5 Responses to “The-Dream ft. T.I. – Make-Up Bag”

  1. His wealth — and what it buys — is a metaphor, of course, for his talent: he knows he’s as on top of his own creative professional game as anyone, so what can’t he make or do. But of course there’s a melancholy and a sense of suffocation — an ambiguity as to his attitude toward who or what he can win or beguile or purchase — precisely because he intuits a limit to his world; even if he doesn’t know how to see or hear his way out of it. Money buys you everything, provided you massively define “everything” down.

    To be really nuts, this reminds me of a fin-de-siecle late-19th century composer like Richard Strauss, as much a master of given techniques and established conventions as anyone the living, but trapped in a world of candied trifles and half-baked domestic horror-epics, not quite aware even how restless he is — poking away at the emptiness of the fullness but too timid, for all his gifts, to step outside.

  2. poking away at the emptiness of the fullness but too timid, for all his gifts, to step outside.

    Evocative description of how I feel about the new Dream album generally! “I’ve got all this great stuff and nowhere to go with it.” Which I’d buy if he hadn’t gone somewhere with it on both of his other albums — this one seems like a collection of echoes of those songs, with a few new (good but not his best) ideas thrown into the batch (for Dream completists/fanatics it’s an embarrassment of riches, but as an album it’s kind of a drag — not in mood but in its mere serviceability).

  3. It’s a great fun album, and this is probably its least fun song, and I still love it. Maybe. All I know is I asked my wife — an Ivy League feminist — about whether she would be appeased in a similar situation with a $10,000 makeup bag. Her chilling response: “Diamonds. Like Kobe did.”

  4. That’s totally related to something I’ve been thinking about how Terius’s identity and how everything seems to come back to his creativity – that’s where his confidence and ability to boast derive from, probably because he knows he’s not as suave or hot as an Usher or Lloyd and he looks slightly ridiculous when he tries to pull off that cock-of-the-walk swagger; basically, as every video he’s done proves, he will just never look cool. But he IS confident in his talent – hence his brags are peppered with meta references to his own songs, both lyrical and sonic nods to his portfolio.

    Money is definitely a shorthand for that – I mean, that’s what earns him the money in the first place, so when he sings about money it’s not just money raining from the sky.

  5. Mark, the guy he reminds me of is the young Jagger: the only other performer/writer who undercuts himself and explodes his scenarios with such confidence. He knows his world’s on eggshells ’cause he put them there. Wish he had Jagger’s (and the other MJ’s) vocal charisma, all the world’s rays – light and dark and X – drawn to him. But he’s still something. If you haven’t done it yet, get his second album, Love Vs Money, and listen straight through.