Friday, February 24th, 2012

Chris Brown ft. Rihanna – Turn Up the Music (Remix)

Today: Two Chris Browns for the price of one. And aren’t we excited…


Brad Shoup: Could this really be a non-Guetta track? Hats off to the Underdogs and Fuego for turning the dance-pop production bag of tricks inside-out. Robotic rejoinders, sputtering synths, “tribal” bellows: it’s a funhouse for the easily-distracted. In this context, then, Rihanna becomes just another aural ornament. She does much better in her unadorned register than Chris does at almost any of the ones he tries. But if that’s him in the Euro-sounding tenor on the chorus, good on him. Recalling his recent condo issues, though, still turns the refrain into a joke. One wonders if the retching, Lil Jon-like exclamations in the mix are studio creations, or actual souvenirs from past house parties. When I saw him perform this on TV, I thought it was a not-bad yet still unholy amalgam of “Days Go By” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”. Now it’s just a dubious exchange for three Taio-free minutes.

Katherine St Asaph: This gets one point for being the perfect soundtrack for something: for dancing with someone you despise because there’s no one else, for downing a third beer, caustic and flat, for looking away while his slimy hands muddle across you, for saying you’re turned on and swallowing the lie, for closing your eyes as the beat closes in around you and the crowd yells in and at your face and your two voices smear into one muddy autotuned blackout — for hearing someone turn up the music while you turn yourself off. Maybe 2012 just sucks, maybe I’m not cut out to write reviews right now, maybe Chris Brown is rotting all the pop around him, but so much music sounds like this anymore.

Jonathan Bradley: Club music for that sorry point in the evening at which you’ve stopped having fun but haven’t realized you should go home. The one moment in this laborious thump capable of stirring the vaguest flicker of interest is Rihanna’s first line: “Turn up the music cause I feel a little turned on.” It’s a brief flash of her talent for making even the blandest phrase sound like its charged with importance, and it’s enough of a relief that I don’t ponder whether a desire for loud music actually is a common side effect of horniness. 

Michaela Drapes: Soulless and airless and empty and sandpapered of any identifying markers though the magic of over-production — if I didn’t know the players, I’d think this was a mediocre club banger, and so I have judged it as such.

Asher Steinberg: It’s like LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” without the LMFAO. I can’t tell if that means it’s better than “Party Rock”; on the one hand, LMFAO’s snarky douchiness isn’t missed, but on the other, when Brown wears his saccharine party pop hat he’s more personalityless than Mitt Romney.

Jer Fairall: The OMG! aspect of the pairing mostly serves to redeem what is undoubtedly the laziest thing to hit radio in recent memory, a song so slapdash in its makeup that it manages to make even the contemptible LMFAO hit that it cribs one suddenly, disgustingly omnipresent (thanks again, Super Bowl!) lyrical hook from sound fresh and novel, if no more listenable, in comparison. In the process we get a slinky Rihanna verse (not bad, but nothing on her haunting “Take Care” spot) and some of DJ Pauly D’s busy sonic pyrotechnics (wholly generic, though far less grating than any given LMFAO single), in a trollgazing remix that will, in the best possible scenario, keep the original from becoming as popular as it might have otherwise. An improvement over its source material, then, but that doesn’t mean that still doesn’t completely suck.

Alex Ostroff: Gains a point for not being offensively bad; it’s only as bad as any other regular personality-less dance’n’b track in 2012. Loses a point for “if you’re sexy and you know it,” which might be the one pop phrase (variants included) I have tired most of over the past couple of years.

Iain Mew: The “Birthday Cake” remix is unignorably revolting. This one is revoltingly ignorable. It is actually really easy to forget that it’s Chris Brown or Rihanna, because it’s easy to forget that you’re even listening to music at all, such is the total lack of ideas or presence outside of its third-hand Calvin Harris rave breakdown. The zero is a response to the idea that this is so invaluable that Chris Brown’s career needs to keep going.

Edward Okulicz: If “Birthday Cake” seemed planned in advance, this can certainly be awarded benefit of the doubt of spontaneity, given how undistinguished it sounds. I mean, five minutes before release, this could have been earmarked for anyone but I guess Brown walked into the studio first, and half a minute would have been long enough to learn it, so who knows if this isn’t what happened. Truth be told, it must have happened so fast and with so many strobing lights, Rihanna probably was too confused to say no to this formless mess.

Alfred Soto: Much easier to review than “Birthday Cake” — it’s Brown commissioning his own “Don’t Stop the Music.” Party slobber is party slobber. Who beats whom up afterwards is their affair.

John Seroff: It’s been over a year and a half since I voiced my hope that Chris Brown could somehow continue to produce quality sugar water in the aftermath of his assault case and a slew of lousy “baby, I’m sorry” mixtape ballads. Since then, the little guy has had a pair of legit hits in the US, got himself a FUCK OFF Grammy and an array of fans begging awkwardly for attention under a “womanbeater” hashtag.  Between his shitty manners, spectacularly bizarre fashion sense and the least believable public apology of the modern media age, Breezy presents such a singularly unpleasant vision (and, not incidentally, an increasingly toxic vocal presence) that it is now downright difficult to bear him any positive feelings. I suppose that is why I am not sad to hear Brown’s new single as Dixie cup disposable, a callow LMFAO cash-in that will be shuffled on and off the radio the instant the fashion shifts. Rihanna can’t improve this; it’s a waste of her time to try.

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