Monday, September 27th, 2010

Trey Songz ft. Nicki Minaj – Bottoms Up

We’ve reviewed four songs by him now, apparently. I remember the one about him inventing sex, but beyond that I’m struggling…


Martin Skidmore: Trey has never been a terribly interesting singer, and while he gets a cheery party beat here, it’s inevitably Nicki who totally steals the show, with a guest verse that is ridiculous even by her crazy standards, with bizarre mentions of Anna Nicole Smith and Joseph & Mary, all in a rather childish voice. Fantastic, though the rest is just okay.

Anthony Easton: This is the first track I have heard by Minaj where the manic aesthetic presentation matches the vocal presentation.

Al Shipley: This is such a rote and perfunctory “club banger” that it all but demands scarequotes. But that also means that for once manic Minaj is a welcome presence just for breaking up the monotony and bringing the energy level to where it should be, if briefly.

Chuck Eddy: Trey’s butts-equal-bottles and Thuggish Ruggish operatics actually make me smile a bit, despite their dumb crassness. Then Nicki makes me smile more, until I realize she’s just spinning wheels.

John Seroff: I’ve already established my process for properly enjoying Trey’s singlez: regardless of how unpleasant it seems at first, listen ten times through and they come around. My earlier thoughts about Trey being the noughties Ginuwine Junior seem even more apt when Songz is riding oddly syncopated “550 What” clone production, complete with Timbo’s signature burble over the breakdowns. Nicki’s guest verse sounds furious but signifies nothing; her flow has gotten steadily better but her lyrical prowess remains lacking. These days she’s vying to edge out Marshall Mathers for 2010’s “best form/lousiest function” award; confounding shout outs to Anna Nicole Smith aside, how the hell are you going to shout “RIM RIM RIM” in a song called “Bottoms Up” and not connect the dots to a juicier topic than salt on your margarita glass? I appreciate the fourteen different voices. Now say something.

Alfred Soto: Maybe Nicki was attracted to Trey’s unexpected vocal elongations. As a cartoonish gold digger incarnating the stupid fantasies of yet another victim of VIP lounge envy, she’s welcome. But their vocals don’t interact at all; he could be singing from the line outside the club. Poetic justice, I suppose.

Alex Macpherson: On the first 10 or so listens, “Bottoms Up” is all about Nicki Minaj upstaging a lead artist yet again (and who more prone to being upstaged than the inescapably inconsequential Trey Songz?). Her verse is a marvel: intoxicated not by booze but by her own schizophrenia, Minaj veers from an alcoholic’s inner monologue to club coquettery to hard-ass swagger (with lesbian subtext) to unhinged, merciless sadism to a butter-wouldn’t-melt goodie-goodie charity drive to an Anna Nicole Smith impression out of nowhere and then downs it all in one. Just trying to keep up with the madly spinning gyroscope in Minaj’s brain – RIMRIMRIMRIM – leaves you breathless. Don’t be fooled by her ur-generic surroundings, though: ostensibly a mere foil for a rampaging Minaj, a host of odd little distinctive details bubble throughout the rest of “Bottoms Up”: Songz’ pained, echoing backing vocals, a certain clutching claustrophobia in the beat’s tautness. [10] for Minaj, [7] for the rest of it.

Mark Sinker: The arrangement’s curiously barbershop — as in striped blazers, straw hats, lyric and melody distilled into drops and pops, very whiffenpoof song — which obviously suits the careening-through-a-champagne-binge mood: to top it Nicki M pulls off a tricky triple entrechat of doing fake-drunk well, doing fake-drunk funny, and actually being funny-drunk the way a very few drunks know they are.

7 Responses to “Trey Songz ft. Nicki Minaj – Bottoms Up”

  1. It is oddly barbershop; actually though, I keep visualizing Trey as the captain of a ship, exhorting his sailors to . . . drink. (Or maybe as the conductor of a train.) Like most club-bangers these days, it’s rather joyless – until Nicki shows up – the lexicon of club-pop having hardened into such a ritualized mantra that all anyone seems to be able to do in this vein is rotely recite it, or, as here, order the listener to follow its dictates. I actually enjoy this part of the song; it interestingly lays bare how joyless and mechanical its genre has become (whereas ‘Say Ahh’ keeps up the pretense that fun is being had). Then there’s Nicki’s verse, which is a lot of fun the first eight or so times you hear it until you know where all the speed-changes and other formal tricks are going to come. I wouldn’t fault her for not, lyrically, having anything to say, and I am quite amused by her boast of giving lots of money to the kids out in Haiti. But I would fault her verse for not really being about anything or, more precisely, succeeding in evoking anything – even drunkenness.

  2. Wait, is it a rule that the reviewer gotta listen to the song 10 times before sayin’ something ?

  3. No. Actually most of us don’t ever listen to any of the songs, ever. In fact, a good two-thirds of the people who write for SJ don’t even have no ears.

  4. Wish I’d been there to blurb this one, as it’s only now getting substantial radio play and I’ve become obsessed with it. Yes, Nicki steals the show, Trey doesn’t even place, etc. but what made me pull up short when I first heard it was that the beat’s a tango rhythm. (Is that maybe what people are hearing as barbershop? The harmonies are pure street-corner.) That a century-old Afro-Latin dance rhythm from Argentina is in regular rotation on the local KISS is one of those things that makes me glad to listen to music.

  5. Might street-corner’s ancestry include barbershop?

  6. The evidence (of which there isn’t much) suggests to me that if anything, they have a common ancestor in minstrelsy and church music; black vocal groups preceded what we think of today as the “standard” barbershop format and no doubt influenced it; whereas doo-wop (which is what I meant by street-corner, sorry if that wasn’t clear) does draw from barbershop, but far more from black gospel and a kind of black quartet singing that is poorly documented but was definitely popular among both black and white audiences, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Almost all the sources we have for that quartet style is either minstrelsy or spirituals, blues or gospel.

  7. Jonathan’s very likely entirely correct here — it reminded *me* of barbershop, but that’s a function of my sketchy knowledge of ‘shop, ‘wop and ‘corner — none of these are much discussed or explored in the UK. I think it was three things: the association with drinking — which seems to me more a posh collegeboy meme than a gospel meme! — and the actual specific tipsy-woozy sound of the arrangement, which is not to me especially doowoppish (but I’m not an expert at ALL); plus the feeling that it’s more interesting to discover Trey is listening to music coded “white” and “very uncool”