NYT awards summer jam crown to Mariah Carey
faux_rillz 14,343 Posts
edited August 2005 in Strut Central
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/04/arts/music/04note.html?oref=loginAugust 4, 2005The Summer Buzz: Cicadas and Mariah Carey[/b]By KELEFA SANNEHThere is no Grammy category. No way to vote. No agreement about the criteria. No irrefutable proof, even, that such a thing exists. And yet the old-fashioned scramble persists, as favorites and - especially - underdogs compete to create the song that will blare out of car stereos and iPods and sand-flecked boomboxes all season long. Everyone wants to release the song of the summer. It has been two months since Memorial Day, and a couple of clap-along club tracks have earned pride of place on the summer soundtrack. Back in June, when summer seemed to have enough room for all the big plans and lazy days you could dream up, Gwen Stefani's cheerful (and, thanks to its pom-pom-inspired beat, cheer-full) hit "Hollaback Girl" taught listeners across the country how to spell bananas. And now, with the specter of Labor Day growing increasingly and distressingly hard to ignore, the Barbados upstart Rihanna is mounting a campaign of her own, buoyed by an exploding pop-dancehall confection called "Pon de Replay."But to both Rihanna and Ms. Stefani, this much must be said: nice try. The truth is that this year's race to crown the song of the summer was about as suspenseful as the Tour de France. Back on Memorial Day the No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100 chart was Mariah Carey's sublime ballad "We Belong Together." And if you check the charts this week, you will see that same song in that same position, which it has occupied almost all summer. According to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, which tracks radio airplay, "We Belong Together" had 195,535 radio plays, or spins, from Memorial Day through last week. "Hollaback Girl," which has already started sliding down the charts, was a distant second place, at 115,532 spins. And although Rihanna has been surging (her song quickly leapt to No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100), her "Pon de Replay" has received only 65,771 spins; she would need an unprecedented groundswell to surpass Ms. Carey before Labor Day, especially since "We Belong Together" is still getting played more than just about anything else on the radio. After last week, when Attorney General Eliot Spitzer of New York got Sony BMG Music Entertainment to pay a fine of $10 million for improper promotional practices, listeners may be especially skeptical of songs that monopolize radio the way Ms. Carey's song has. But as she can attest, money and fame are not enough to prevent a big star from releasing a big flop. Even the cleverest promotional campaign is not enough to persuade the country's radio stations to play a single song a quarter of a million times in three months. And this summer, everyone seems to be singing her song.In years past, the song of the summer has been a hip-hop track built for the clubs, like the gruff but effective 2004 hit "Lean Back" by the Terror Squad (Fat Joe's group), or the exuberant 2003 disco-rap hybrid "Crazy in Love," by Beyonc?? and her boyfriend Jay-Z. That's why "We Belong Together" didn't initially seem like a favorite for song of the summer: it's a light, graceful ballad with a few simple piano chords and a slow, mellow backbeat. Unlike "Lean Back," it hasn't spawned a catchphrase; unlike "Crazy in Love," this song doesn't beg listeners to scream along; unlike "Hollaback Girl" and "Pon de Replay," this song doesn't even command listeners to dance. And Ms. Carey never even wails the titular phrase: she sighs it, as if her ex-lover ("When you left I lost a part of me/ It's still so hard to believe") were already a lost cause. It's the most melancholy song to rule the summer in years. Suffice it to say that Ms. Carey's slump is over. After the spectacular implosion that was "Glitter," she returned in 2002 with "Charmbracelet," a pretty good album that didn't quite put her back on top. But her current album, "The Emancipation of Mimi" (Island Def Jam), is her best since the 1990's; she has re-established herself as a neo-disco diva while subtly updating her approach. In the mid-1990's Ms. Carey pioneered a subgenre that some people call the thug-love duet. Nowadays clean-cut pop stars are expected to collaborate with roughneck rappers, but when Ms. Carey teamed up with Ol' Dirty Bastard, of the Wu-Tang Clan, for the 1995 hit "Honey," it was a surprise, and a smash. A decade later, the thug-love era (as epitomized by Ashanti, a thug-love specialist) has come and gone; nowadays rappers often do their own singing, and singers borrow cadences from hip-hop. R. Kelly taught a generation of R&B stars how to spit phrases like rappers, and Usher has perfected this slick, verbose approach. Ms. Carey has been paying attention. On "Mimi" a singer once known for melisma adopts a lighter, more agile style, upping the words-per-note ratio considerably; instead of moving a single syllable up and down the scale, she often uses just a few notes to deliver a nimble burst of words.This style is part of the reason why she has been able to turn a ballad into a summer smash. "We Belong Together" doesn't have a guest rapper (except on the excellent remix, featuring Jadakiss and Styles P.), or a hard-hitting beat, but Ms. Carey's tricky vocal lines give the song more propulsion than you'd expect, with tightly coiled counter-rhythms that tug against the beat. This song seems simpler than it is, and while it doesn't sound like a mishmash, the liner notes credit no fewer than 3 producers and 10 songwriters. The second verse cleverly incorporates two predecessors: Ms. Carey imagines turning on the radio and singing along to Bobby Womack ("If You Think You're Lonely Now") and Babyface ("Two Occasions"). It's true that the song of the summer is an illusion, or at any rate an exaggeration: during the summer, as during the rest of the year, people listen to all sorts of stuff. And when was the last time you actually saw a boombox on the beach, anyway? Still, for many of us, "We Belong Together" has already come to seem inseparable from the season it has dominated. The gone-too-soon lyrics match not only the season's good times, but its broken promises as well; turn it up, and you can remember all the fun you almost had.
Maybe--maybe--the remix of it, which is a good 20bpm faster. But no, not even that.
Personally, I haven't had that moment where your having a good time, and all of a sudden that single is being played ,enhancing the feeling.
actually, Kalefa told an audience disconnected from the streets so
I personally think it's a certified summer song, just not a summer *jam*. Couldn't get with it though...the music is too much of a rip-off of "Lovers and Friends"
I like Kelefa's writing for the most part. Here, he's just providing comment on an objective phenomenon: the song which, like it or not, has topped the charts all summer.
I guess perhaps we can argue the "jam" thing (since it's not really a dancey jammy jam jam like rosshog suggests), but this is certainly far and away THE song of the summer.
And did I mention I'm not mad at it?
The albums got a couple other really dope moments too.
Are you not even mad at the point in the remix where 'Kiss announces that "This is the emancipation of Mimi" in a tone that should be reserved for delivering death threats and boasting about one's fleet of Hypnotiq-colored drops?
No hattin' over here.* It's clearly the song of the summer, but "jam" implies, you know, a jam. Which this is not. If her "It's Like That" had dropped several months later, that would be a legitimate summer jam. A summer jam should force people to rush the dancefloor after exclaiming, "Oh, shit!" I don't know a single DJ who has played the original in a club setting, but I could see this killin' it at a middle school dance.
* For the record, this song has the uncanny ability to make DJ Neta revert into a 13-year-old. "That's my SONG!"
granted, mariah cant do them high octave dog chirp things anymore, but the diva is still running shit thnak you very much.
This ballad, on the other hand, is far less interesting than the emanicipation of Mimi's forehead.
I think it's safe to say that you and I are cherishing very different examples of 70s r&b.
Okay, I think I might have been the one who muddied the waters here by introducing the word "jam"; I'm not sure if that term actually appears anywhere in Kelefa's article.
Who's talking about the remix? Damn, bol. Get focused. We're talking about THE jam... not the distant cousin that's trying to get some money from the Lottery winner.
In other words, I've heard the remix like once and don't remember much of it.
yeah, a fine writer by defualt just like that Carey jawn is the 05 summer jam by default. my vote is to let lean back have it again.
anyhow i think it's time to retire the "summer jam." the distinction has outgrown the actual music - in other words the bar is set too high and no single jam is going to reach that mythic "single best song of the summer that everyone agrees on." especially not on soulstrut where folks' tastes are all over the place and half these curmudgeons don't even listen to new music. the mantra: what is the criteria?
Just to put this in perspective, VH1 Classics interviewed 1000 folks about their favorite summer songs.
#1 for men: Rolling Stones: Satisfaction
#1 for women: Sonny and Cher: I Got You Babe
I'm willing to roll with Mariah on this one even though honestly? I haven't even heard the song. But a ballad can be a summer jam, no question.
Personally, I thought this summer belonged more to either Gwen Stefani or Amerie but O-Dub = mad disconnected from the streets and breakbeats.
Especially since there???s this implicit NYCentric idea behind it. Seems kind of backasswards, since everyone???s all about regional jams these days.
Kiss my prescient ass, bitches... [What happened to the smirk graemlin?]
I can't even fathom not having heard "We Belong Together." I've heard it at least 100 times. Twice I've said to a friend "I bet if i turn the radio on right now, the Mariah joint is on" and twice I was correct (and that's not like at twice out of a hundred thing...it was twice out of twice).
As for the "criteria" shit? Well, if we establish "criteria" before we discuss things we might not have anything to argue about all day and my days at work will be infinitely longer. So, no, I'm all for having absolutely no criteria for any discussions so we can just rely on bitching, anecdotes, and ill-informed opinions (only to ultimately decide that we are working with a different set of "criteria").
I can't believe O-dub didn't include the Styx break in Scratch. Furthermore, I can't belive "One Thing" is DEAD in the clubs. That shit gets no response anymore.
The first time I heard that song I thought two things:
1. This tune is going to be HUGE, especially with the girls.
2. Finally - a song to mix with Will Smith's "Switch," if I owned it.
there's different shit going on outside of NYC and other large cities and clear channel that qualifies for summer jam status in communities.
So let's hear about it--putting stuff like that on the table is one of the purposes of these "summer jam" discussions. Otherwise, we could just post a link to the Billboard singles chart and call it a day.
Sometimes I think accusations of NYCentricity are just your default mode of argument.
Shit was the jam of last October or something like that
i confess, it's a predjudice i carry. so you could argue that i use it a lot.
it's different down south. you're always welcome.