Monday, January 24th, 2011

Keri Hilson – Pretty Girl Rock

Boldly eschews having a guest verse where Pitbull compliments her arse, which is quite a risk to take these days…


Mark Sinker: There’s a paragraph in The Silence of the Lambs that ends this way: “She stared into his face, and with the smallest tilt, she gave him her good looks and bored her knowledge in, speared him with it, knowing he couldn’t stand for the conversation to go on.” It’s a minor act of cruelty, in the context of the book; and the author’s perfectly set us up to be complicit, to approve whatever the consequences (which are major).

Martin Skidmore: This is very likeable — she sings it as well as ever, though as ever without a lot of her coming through. The flowing synths are particularly good. I’m not sure about the message, which flits between something universal, which is fine, and less appealing bragging and moaning about people hating her because she’s beautiful. If you ignore that, it’s all good.

Jer Fairall: We probably didn’t need further awareness brought to the cause of attractive female pop stars, but this is an engaging composition in almost every other way: a charming and forthright melody, a bountiful smorgasbord of catchy instrumental hooks where one might have sufficed just fine, and a smooth vocal that’s easy on the ears in a way that we have become oddly unaccustomed to on pop radio in recent years. And as far as monuments to celebrity egos go, at least she’s not trying to claim hers as a noble tribute to gay teenagers.

Zach Lyon: “I can talk about it ’cause I know that I’m pretty/and if you know it too then ladies sing it with me”: it’s the second know that turns this from a novelty into an anthem. I would still love it if it were the former — and I don’t doubt that it was originally conceived that way — but the good intentions on display add a degree of warmth to an already-cozy beat and a verse that’s just ecstatically silly in the best way.

Mallory O’Donnell: Well, she’ll always have the pretty thing to fall back on.

David Katz: A good song top, middle and bottom. Every element sings: the unexpectedly purposeful beat at the low-end, reveling in the freedom from RnB’s trademark syncopation; elegant piano chords marking the changes in the middle and Keri’s sweet and optimistic tones making each turn in the melody count. So many production flourishes that catch your ear too – check the whirring chorus synth and the IDM-style sped-up percussion at the end of each bar. Written by the guy who did “Ain’t No Sunshine”, FYI.

David Moore: I like this, but there’s something about the saccharine elements (music box, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” feel of the chorus, borderline infantile “dont hate me cuz im beautiful!1!11!!” hook) that tells me it should have gone to Keke Palmer or Karina Pasian or even Willow Smith. It’s a fun track, bounces around like a hopper ball, but it doesn’t fit Keri — I see our protagonist walking down a hallway of high school drones at their lockers, CGI swirlies emanating from her back-to-school tie-in duds as bitter monochrome haters continue to hate.

Michaelangelo Matos: Musically this is a 7: I like the big snares (yay “Umbrella”) and the basic forward motion; the synths come on for the chorus and they seem like they were in the room and turned on, rather than as part of a made-up background texture (nothing against made-up background textures, obv.). The vocals are imaginatively put together; after playing “Rill Rill” and “Acapella” back-to-back recently, I was thinking that we’re in a good period for contrapuntal vocals. But the lyric is so stupid it makes me never want to hear it again, and pulled it down.

Chuck Eddy: Jump-ropey enough in its rhyme scheme, at least at the start, to garner a few bubblegum points despite its aggravating egotism. But I totally don’t get the stuff about “if you touch it I’m a fairy” and “sweeter than a swisher.” Probably I heard wrong, but this record does not award in-depth inspection: Closer I listen, worse it gets.

Pete Baran: This Keri tracks creeps up on you, mainly via the high end arpeggio which underpins the whole track. And within minutes you find yourself singing that insidious chorus “Don’t hate me cos I’m beautiful”, and suddenly you feel dirtier than any dirty bit in a BEP song. And liking much of the way the track is structured and its undeniably catchy qualities, I relisten to see if I am missing anything. Is this a misunderstood satire? I even have to remind myself of what Keri looks like via Google Images just to see if the satire is inherent in the song. Nope, it seems pretty heartfelt, and courting beautiful fans is probably a terrific idea. So I am left with a dilemma. I like the song, it is very catchy, and I at least can sing the refrain ironically. Yet the sentiment in the song is repulsive. Yet I like much Toby Keith I can’t square, and thus applying the rule of Toby Keith, I have to come in high.

Al Shipley: Considering that it was no doubt partially inspired by a rap song with “swag” in the title, this is a fairly measured and humble song about confidence and self regard. But the thump of the beat and the strength of the hook give it all enough heft that it feels more like a sweet, good-natured anthem than another well meaning but forgettable nice girl Keri song.

Alex Macpherson: Assessing Keri Hilson as an artist in toto, it’s hard to imagine her setting the world alight: she’s perennially hampered by a failure to transcend her own industry songwriter professionalism. But on a song-by-song basis, she’s often irresistible — as is the case on this coquettish confection and its deceptively strong hooks. It’s also surprisingly likable, given its lyrical thrust: Hilson’s relatively weak voice makes it seem approachable rather than superior, and her playful delivery is one that includes the listener. The video confirms that self-affirmation rather than vanity is the point, and good on Keri for casting that in a racial context there.

Jonathan Bogart: I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with it if I hadn’t watched the video first, but I’ve got to admire the chutzpah it takes to repeat the entire first verse twice just for the sake of a not-quite-rhyme. Miss Keri Baby doesn’t do anything new here, but this is exactly the kind of underperforming gem future nostalgics will go apeshit over.

11 Responses to “Keri Hilson – Pretty Girl Rock”

  1. Delighted this has got such good write-ups, although I agree as she isn’t especially eye-catching as an artist or persona..

  2. Chuck: “But if you touch it I’mma bury.”

  3. Also I just have to link this song off her new album, “All The Boys”, because it’s unlikely to be a single but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Like discovering a box of old love letters from various exes on the eve of your wedding. She tells the stories so well and efficiently: “So long, my towering soldiers, reminisce about the boy ‘cross town / He’s still the wide-eyed genius with Hollywood dreams, said he’d never want to be tied down.” One line conveying everything she loved about him and exactly how he hurt her.

    I love the sheer sound and melody of “Lose Control/Let Me Down”, too, despite one particularly egregious Nelly line that almost manages to kill the mood completely.

  4. I think “All The Boys” is only half great – the stories are terrific, but my problem is partly structural (the end bit seems to go on forever) and partly sentimental: I think the song would have more kick if it was ambiguous whether or not there’s a point of comparison now. There doesn’t have to be, after all.

    Re PGR – It’s enormously listenable and I’d probably have given it an 8. Are the sentiments so awful? It’s transposing one standard rap line on money (“I have lots. If you think that’s bad yr probably jealous”) to looks I guess, but it feels honest in a way that a “YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL MY SPECIAL FLOWERS” ballad sung by someone gorgeous wouldn’t.

  5. I’m very impressed with how accurately she does the TLC ‘Creep’ dance. Spot on.

  6. “Sweeter than a swisher” refers to one of these guys.

  7. David: Bill Withers didn’t actually have a hand in this, he just gets a writing credit because it apparently samples “Just the Two of Us” somewhere.

  8. Oh bloody hell :( Cheers for the heads-up. Shame on me for glancing at the Wiki and trying to make a connection..

  9. karina pasian! there’s a name i haven’t heard in a minute – she totally could not pull this off though, as cool as she is.

  10. this song is such a joy to hear on the radio

  11. Bit perturbed by all those decrying the egotism; it’s a boss bitch track, with as much emphasis on bitch as on boss. Since when was pop meant to be nice? (Yeah, the anthemic aspect is there too – we’re all being encouraged to do the pretty girl rock – but that would be implied even if it weren’t stated.)

    This is very good, but I would have liked it to end up with Beyonce. Keri can’t sound as imposing as she needs to. I like Dave’s suggestion of it being a Mean Girl jam though.