Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Cardi B & Bruno Mars – Please Me

Last night I said these words to my girl, I make money moves…


Thomas Inskeep: After working his way through Jam & Lewis, LA & Babyface, and Teddy Riley through the 24K Magic album cycle, it’s time for Bruno to move into some platinum ’90s R&B — in this case, Jodeci. I am a noted, hardcore Jodeci stan, so it follows that I would fall hard for a Devante Swing homage. “Please Me” thumps, bobs and weaves like the best of them — those layered-to-the-heavens harmonies on the bridge alone are worth at least a 6 or 7. And Bruno’s chorus is pure cream. But then there’s Cardi, going for hers so hard. These sex rhymes sound so natural from her, talking about how she’s got “no panties in the way,” “dinner reservations like the pussy, you gon’ eat out,” and the coup de grace, “better fuck me like we listenin’ to Jodeci.” (She’s smart.) Between her verse on City Girls’ “Twerk,” her Grammy moments (performing and winning), and now “Please Me,” Cardi’s making it clear that she’s gonna own 2019 just like she owned ’18. Bow down.

Rachel Bowles: This should hit somewhere between Jodeci and TLC’s “Red Light Special” but is so off the mark, and when something is this unfit for purpose, why ref Jodeci at all? “Please Me” is a not-so-slow jam ’90s pastiche with an awkward tempo for bumping and grinding, and that’s if you can stomach Bruno Mars screaming at you. Cardi B builds momentum in those repeated “Let me hear you say!”s on the chorus, flipping the heteronormative porno power dynamics of who begs whom. But Bruno is the letdown, and whereas powerhouse vocals may satisfy some as a corny preamble to sex, they’re no replacement for real jouissance.

Katherine St Asaph: Bruno Mars does his usual one-man Billboard chart history re-enactment; he’s still doing 75% more singing than necessary, and thank god for it. Cardi is an anachronism, her flow so clearly of the late 2010s and not of the early 1990s, but her talent remains bursting into songs and situations she’d seem out of place, then immediately charming the whole room. She sings too, and what she lacks in range, she nails in pop-R&B timbre; given the Moore’s Law speed at which her technical skills have improved, she could be Chilli in a couple years. The call-and-response at the end of the chorus, Cardi playing Phantom to Bruno’s passionate, melismatic Christine, is worth at least half the points.

Jessica Doyle: The most interesting aspect of the song is the inversion of traditional assignments: Bruno Mars moans ineffectually, clearly the second-billed, while Cardi at times sounds like an impatient fifth-grade teacher. She’ll run through the requisite promises of sex and ’90s nods if that’s what you demand, but she sounds far more amused by her own “hor-cha-ta” than by anything a potential partner offers her. And more power to her! The lady’s had a rough first few months of motherhood; for her to sound so self-contained and cheerful results in a song less sexy but more triumphant for it.

David Moore: Even the horchata can’t save this one from Bruno Mars’s pathological fussiness, the way he turns sexy lifeless, missing even the brute earworming that at least guaranteed some Stockholm syndrome in their last collaboration.

Iris Xie: “Please Me” is walking in on someone at the refrigerated aisle and seeing them lick off the underside of the plastic cover of a Greek yogurt container, taking their time to finish before snapping the lid back on top. They neatly place it back into the empty space from where they took the gentle dairy, now soiled, and walk away after looking at you, once. It’s you narrowly dodging dog poop on a sidewalk, only to look away momentarily and somehow stepping onto another one, and taking time to let it (and you) sink into the magnitude of what you have done. Like seeing a palm tree with no leaves, feeling new rain that tastes like dust and oil, and touching rags that emanate fumes of mildew and turpentine. Eurgh.

Will Adams: A collab so lacking in chemistry I almost forgot “Finesse” exists.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: On “Finesse,” Cardi B’s relegation to feature status meant that her verses elevated the pastiche-and-nothing-more tendencies of Bruno Mars. With the roles reversed, Mars can’t reciprocate: his words are uncharismatic dross compared to Cardi’s ability to exude sensuality and charm in both her singing and rapping. Despite all the work she puts in, Mars thinks his simple vocalizing is enough. It’s a familiar relationship dynamic — do we deserve such a precise portrait?

Alfred Soto: As intellectual exercise and pop spectacle, “Please Me” presents a fascinating collision of sensibilities: Bruno Mars can’t quash his devotion to sentimental pieties, and Cardi B’s curt monosyllables, her stresses like daggers in the back, have a cut-this-crap ferocity. She’s dealt with his type before, he has no clue. 

Reader average: [5.33] (3 votes)

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