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Best of the 00s: Justin Timberlake, Kanye West & Kings of Leon

Posted by June 28th, 2012 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 24: Justin Timberlake, Kanye West & Kings of Leon

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Justine Timberlake – Justified
A.V. Club’s #37

GB: My review of FutureSex/LoveSounds more or less to applies to Justified, although Justified gets a little too cozy with boy band schmaltz a little too often for my tastes.  Several of the ballads strike me as icky and dumb.  But the singles (“Like I Love You”, “Cry Me A River,” “Rock Your Body,” “Senorita,” and “I’m Lovin’ It”) are pure ass-shakin’ gold. Gade: LIKE

MA: Justified is five years earlier and not quite as great as FutureSex/LoveSounds. I love the singalong on the first track. Overall it’s a solid party album with a couple of questionable smooth jams for the ladies. And I still love “Rock Your Body.” Grade: LIKE

Kanye West - GraduationKanye West – Graduation
Rolling Stone’s #45

Gabe: Graduation was my first class with Professor West. I couldn’t love it more if I tried. The mixture of catchy hooks and witty/funny/angry/inspirational/just plain weird pushes all the right buttons in my brain’s music receptors. Kanye easily surpasses Gillian Welch and Black Mountain as my favorite “new to me” artist identified by this project to date. At times, Graduation almost sounds too revealing. The confused anger directed at either or both of himself and the world on “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” The mixed emotions regarding Jay-Z on “Big Brother.” It’s probably an illusion, but Kanye sure makes it sound like he’s sharing a little too much. Which is fascinating, considering that most pop stars of Kanye’s magnitude seem like robots made in a factory. Grade: LOVE

Matt: It’s hard listening to any of Kanye’s albums since becoming so intimate with his perfect 2011 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Loathe his persona or not, Kanye’s one of the most talented musicians to record popular music in recent memory and, despite all the bravado, he raps and sings smartly in a refreshingly honest voice, along the way exposing great personal storytelling, character flaws and all. He’s also a consummate producer, paying attention to every detail. Graduation features the first big Kanye singles I can remember paying attention to, namely “Can’t Tell me Nothing” and “Stronger,” which sound equally excellent in 2012. This is a very good album. Grade: LIKE

Kings of Leon – Aha Shake HeartbreakKings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
Rolling Stone #39

Matt: (Written in real time) I’m going to try really hard to like this. Of course, doing so requires that I forget how bad Kings of Leon were when I saw them open for Dylan at Key Arena in 2006. It also means I’ll have to disregard their singles over the last few years, which have been some of my least favorite pieces of popular music in recent memory. About half way in I find myself less infuriated than I expected, though. Aha Shake Heartbreak isn’t quite “please make it stop,” it’s more just kind of boring. There are some cool guitar parts I guess. This seems like it was made just before they started really, really sucking…when they got a taste of that corporate studio money and started making 70s style Adult Oriented Rock. It’s hard to put my finger on just what’s so annoying about these guys, actually. I think it’s his voice, but it’s not just that. It’s also hard not to picture a pigeon shitting on dude’s head while you’re listening to Kings of Leon. In fact, I don’t think I can listen to this album all at once, so I’m gonna pick up again tomorrow. (Elapsed time) OK. Back at it a couple of nights later, starting with song six, a snoozy power ballad type of deal called “The  Bucket.” I thought this was the album I heard when it came out, but that appears to be Youth and Young Manhood, which will come later in the countdown. The biggest problem overall is definitely dude’s voice. Genuine or not, it just sounds too affected. I don’t recognize most of these songs and I don’t like any of them, but I gotta keep coming back to my main premise, which is that this album is far less infuriating than I expected, it’s just boring. I probably should use this down time to look up some interesting tidbits and get my facts straight about Kings of Leon, but the beauty of music criticism is that I don’t really have to. You’ve got Wikipedia. Grade: DNL

Gabe: In advance of this review, I will stipulate that maybe I just don’t get Kings of Leon. I’d heard “Sex on Fire” on the radio and thought it was decent arena rock. But man does Aha Shake Heartbreak leave a bad taste in my mouth. Here are my listening notes: “DMB. Rapey frat rock. Mush mouth. Blues classic rock. Pearl Jam. ‘No Rain.’ Come all over you body but I’m soft?? Tough guy posturing.” I do like that the songs are short, and some of the music sounds sort of interesting as a variation on classic rock. But mainly, bleech. Grade: DNL

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