Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Diddy-Dirty-Money-ft.-Skylar-Grey – Coming Home

This doesn’t quite capture the full majesty of Viscount Diddy chilling on Airwolf, but it’ll do…


Alex Ostroff: A month ago, I thought ‘Coming Home’ was insufferably corny, but this is a soundtrack for self-mythologizing, and Diddy sells every moment of it. The production is grandiose, but his verses are all too human, teetering nakedly on the edge of celebrity with an unselfconsciousness Kanye would kill for. “What am I supposed to do when the club lights come on / It’s easy to be Puff, but it’s harder to be Sean.” The misdirected frustrations aimed at bittersweet songs seemed clumsy, until I recalled how often I do the same. His voice breaks when filtering his faults through the eyes of his children, and leaps with palpable joy when he hits “these old blocks.” Dirty Money’s light touch on the background vocals provide surprisingly emotional moments. An unexpected turn from Diddy, and the highlight of a generous album, ‘Coming Home’ is penitent, hopeful and utterly triumphant. Would I sound ridiculous if I said it made me feel world-conquering? So be it.

Martin Skidmore: The restraint of Skylar Grey’s opening vocal and chorus reminds me a little of Nicolette, which is a great thing. It then turns into something more lumbering, with Diddy’s mediocre rapping, lots of soul references and a rather X-Factor-final uplifting lyric in the chorus, which I think rather undermines the sensivity of both the singing and the introspectively autobiographical verses.

John Seroff: Puffy’s natural fallback to woe-is-me emo rap mumble as a trump card is as craven as it is lifeless. “Coming Home”’s calculated Reflections of the Rich and Vapid, devoid as it is of substance and emotion but thick with veneer and threadcount, nicely encapsulates what I find frustrating about Puff’s Daddy of Swag influence over a full generation of similarly unspirited, overexposed hypemen who somehow found their way to the front of the stage.

Jonathan Bogart: Skylar Grey (who is new to me) has a voice I could swim around in for days, equally assured and longing, and her presence here is a fine tribute to Diddy’s ear for texture. I’ll always have time for a chorus with a gospelly upswing on the radio, and the fact that Diddy sounds human for the first time in my experience is just gravy.

Chuck Eddy: Yeah, like a few other folks seem to be saying, this introspection cuts closer to the bone for me than anything on Kanye’s album. Also neat how Puffy’s got such strong feelings about the oldies he says he loves and hates — “Tears Of A Clown” (which I bet he really loves), “A House Is Not A Home” (Brook Benton? Dionne Warwick?), “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” (not the Philadelphia Phillies version I presume); reminds me of Kenny Chesney telling us how Billy Joel and Steve Miller and John Cougar songs take him back to another time. And if Whoever Skylar Grey Is turns this into just one more emo-rap ballad with a water-torture repetitive girl hook, she holds it together, too.

Iain Mew: The chorus is as gorgeous as it is simple, especially unadorned at the start of the song, and its light touch is carried on through the verses. It’s the ‘I hate that song!’ bits that really make “Coming Home” stand out though. When you hear the song titles you expect them to just be there as a reference, a concept to springboard from, but before doing that the explanations provided are actually about the songs and their emotional power to affect. When it gets round to ‘I love that song!’ it’s really easy to get carried away in the euphoria by association.

Al Shipley: “I hear ‘Tears of a Clown’…I hate that song!” is one of the more memorable opening lyrics in recent memory, and Diddy’s verses continue in that vein entertainingly. But a collaboration with pop’s latest ubiquitous hack, “Airplanes” and “Love The Way You Lie” producer Alex Da Kid, still stands as one of the few low points of an otherwise exhilarating album.

Zach Lyon: This whole thing confuses me. It was written solely by Jay-Z and Alex da Kid as a gift for Combs, but also written in his perspective? But he’s playing a character? Does this happen in hip-hop more than I realize? And why is Skylar Grey here if there are two female singers in Dirty Money (who we don’t hear at all)? Not that she isn’t great, her hook is the best part of the song, but still. And what the hell does it mean when Diddy says he wanted the beat to “make [him] feel like a white man in a basement in Atlanta”? Everything was easier before I read the Wiki page. It’s weird listening to Diddy now. I avoided the last single without really trying to, so this is the first I’ve heard from him in a while, and it’s almost jarring to hear him rapping rather than just being a public figure in movies and MTB or whatnot. It’s like listening to a famous actor record a novelty hip-hop track (Joaquin Phoenix? Tom Hanks’s son?. Here, he sounds like he’s doing a Kanye impression both vocally and lyrically, and it actually works alright. I love every “I HATE that song!” I’m still confused, though.

Alfred Soto: One of the most undistinguished tracks on the terrific Last Train To Paris gains heft from radio play; its introspection makes Katy Perry and Bruno Mars look like libertines (e.g. the twins asking Diddy why he hasn’t married their mom). Still, I’m pretty sure I heard the synth pad on T.I.’s 2008 record, with Rihanna instead of Skylar playing the conscience.

Jer Fairall: Contrasted against the lazy sample-heavy songwriting of his heyday, he actually appears to have learned a thing or two about interacting with pop rather than simply utilizing it, and his appropriation of a couple of key pop texts feels quite a bit like affection to me. Too good to be called a return to his previous form, think of this instead as a thoughtful maturation.

Tom Ewing: Ambushed by thoroughly planned emotion! The big redemptive finish of Last Train to Paris is manipulative, chest-beating corn from the first unadorned note to the last brass-drenched orchestral stab, but Diddy pulls it off and brings it home in widescreen triumph. The “hate this song”/”love this song” thread is so simple but amazingly effective, immediately humanising this often ridiculous guy by reminding us that, hey, he’s a music fan just like us. Well, not quite like us; he thinks “Tears Of A Clown” sucks, for heavens sake. But the question is, can Diddy make songs that people relate to in the ways “A House Is Not a Home” and “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” kick him down or lift him up? And I’d have guessed — for all I like some of his stuff — that the answer was no. But… “Shit – but I ain’t finished growing”. Yeah, that’s how being a Dad feels a lot of the time: it may not be profound but it gave me a shock of recognition I wasn’t expecting in pop and haven’t felt for a while.

13 Responses to “Diddy-Dirty-Money-ft.-Skylar-Grey – Coming Home”

  1. Zach – on the album, the Dirty Money girls voice his love interest, the club girl who he pursues to Paris. The chorus here isn’t from that perspective – it sounds beatific and forgiving, like it’s someone from his past or, idk, the voice of God or something.

    (Just filed a big Last Train To Paris review so wasn’t up to reviewing this as well! It’s far from my favourite but it’s the right ending for the album, genuinely effective despite/because of its corniness, lyrics actually really great, [8]).

  2. Not mentioned in my review because I didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere but the OTHER reason I can relate to Diddy is that he has a REALLY terrible beard.

  3. Oh wait, he probably means the Luther Vandross version of “A House Is Not A Home,” right? Duh…

  4. Excellent use of hyphenatio

  5. …n. Hyphenation.

  6. No one will mention that J. Cole’s reference track is much better? Okay, I will.

  7. Links or it didn’t happen.

  8. Hyphenatio: particularly omnivorous oral sex?

  9. (Wow, I did think twice before posting that, really I did. Oh well.)

  10. Best version of “A House Is Not A Home”: Mavis Staples.

  11. The J Cole version:

  12. Thx lex, that’s still quite confusing (as someone who had no idea it was even a concept album) but perhaps I’ll listen to the whole thing.

    I would give this an [8] on re-review. I’m not sure if it’s me or the music, but I’m suddenly liking this batch of songs a whole lot more than I did a week ago. I just started a shit job and I’m hell of stressed, so it’s not some euphoria deal, something just clicked with a lot of these. I’d up the Nicole grade too — I knew I enjoyed it more than what I gave it, the chorus melody is wonderful, but I still can’t stand her. Same with the Dev track, which could be an [8] now. Adele could be higher. Bruno Mars could be lower — it suddenly plateaued and can’t listen to it anymore. I was worried the Jukebox was starting to affect my feelings towards songs but I always knew I’d be alone in liking Grenade. And I’m on the verge of giving this one D**** G***** (no spoilers?) a [9], on the verge of [10]. I just have no idea what’s up with that. This is one of the reasons I don’t trust publications that dole out tons and tons of album reviews — my mind changes way too often to judge something after a couple listens.


  13. The hell — Skylar Grey is Holly Brook! I knew she reminded me of something.

    (You might have heard her on that Fort Minor song “Where’d You Go.”)