Thursday, July 18th, 2013

J. Cole ft. TLC – Crooked Smile



Alfred Soto: Now that Kanye is thankfully alienating fans, J. Cole has maneuvered to absorb fans who miss Ye’s observational verities buttressed by soul samples. It would help if the sincere J. Cole had anything pointed to say beyond an OK cadence empowered by opinion-page liberalism. TLC sound more OK than their presence would warrant.

Andy Hutchins: J. Cole’s now essentially released the same single twice, as this is a shameless copy of the formula from “Nobody’s Perfect,” with the embrace-your-imperfections message intact and Missy Elliott traded for Two Members of TLC Who Are Masquerading As TLC. “Crooked Smile” isn’t quite as good, with its woefully undersung hook and less distinctive production, but it’s warm and sweet and melts well on the radio, and tolerating Cole’s ill-fitting aw-shucks act is a lot easier than tolerating Cole’s ill-fitting smart dumb cat schtick.

Brad Shoup: He wonders if he were white, would his shit sell like Adele or Eminem? Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past us to reward something this placid. Hell, I’m not certain Macklemore hasn’t recorded a complaint about the racist legislative/prison nexus. Maybe Ryan Lewis contributed Bruce Hornsby-style quiet storm elevator music, too.

Crystal Leww: If Kanye represents the side of rap that is uninterested in lyricism and only interested in sonics, J. Cole definitely wants to be the guy all about the good raps. Unfortunately, he forgets that the best lyricists back it up with inspired production and raps that sound interesting, regardless of whether you’re paying attention to the words. “Crooked Smile” is a snooze fest; TLC has never sounded so lifeless, and Cole plods along without a care for flow. More importantly, the raps aren’t interesting — and downright patronizing. Conscious rappers, in an attempt to combat misogyny, often fall into the trap of prescribing their own ideas of what a woman should be like. It’s not always bad to tell women that they’re beautiful, but the execution is usually so clunky. “Crooked Smile” is so clunky.

Patrick St. Michel: J. Cole mansplains all over this song, and this metaphor gets rotten by the time he brings up braces. But TLC’s contributions and the overall litheness of “Crooked Smile”‘s production makes it tough to stop it, even if J. Cole tries his best to annoy you away.

Cedric Le Merrer: This is a throwback in more ways than one, from the soulful beat and TLC hook to the “Unpretty”-like “embrace your flaws” discourse that’s quite pleasing after years of perfect-looking pop stars telling us they’re monsters/fireworks/very special fabulous things that should let their freak flag fly high. I mean, sure, we probably are, but it’s nice to be reminded it’s OK to be insecure too.

Katherine St Asaph: Self-Esteem That Holds Nobody In Esteem, or 10 Signs You Are Listening To A Supposedly Inspirational Song That Inspires Nothing (thanks Iain): 1) If the artist mentions specific flaws at all, they’re the “flaws” guys find endearing or cute. Freckled cheeks, dimpled back, crooked smile; maybe a vague reference to abstract fat, but none of the itemized grotesque detail that actually makes girls hate themselves. 2) Beating self-hatred means accepting the entirely hypothetical come-ons of a guy who ~*appreciates*~ you and also maybe just wants you naked at the end of this song. This is usually a male fantasy, but not always; girls usually hear it as wish fulfillment, but that doesn’t make the guys wishbringers. 3) Consequences are dangled — “love yourself, or nobody will” — with all the goodwill of a Zynga game. 4) Beating self-hatred is conveniently as easy as a vague rousing chorus. (No links; do you really need them?) 5) Beating self-hatred means joining the other side of a false dichotomy, usually with the implication that anyone on the first side is gross, lower-class or trying too hard. Eyebrows, fingernails, hair — is it real? Who gives a fuck? 6) Jaunty and/or morose piano. Never fails. 7) Guest artists, if they exist, are chosen because of commercial machinations and/or as mere symbols. TLC — who are technically TC at this point, who haven’t had an album in eleven years and who are likely watching Destiny’s Child and Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s comebacks with envy — register as the writers intended: little more than that one ’90s band people remember for being unpretty and curb-stomping scrubs and something something Jason Waterfalls. Reductive? Hell yeah. 8) The artist mentions “beauty queens” or such with little acknowledgement that they too are part of the celebrity industry that selects for that, whether as queen or consort — and expect the everygirl to automatically relate. 9) The artist swan-dives into bullshit. “Chola or Orient made” remains the nadir, but “oh, you a woman?” isn’t exactly great. (Yes, it’s an awkward joke — but why joke? The studio means never having to fumble.) 10) The artist is J. Cole.

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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One Response to “J. Cole ft. TLC – Crooked Smile”

  1. ;)