Single Review: Sister Hazel “Happy”

Album:…somewhere more familiar
Year: 1997

Ken Block has a pleasant attitude but his family expects more from him in the puzzling “Happy.”

Rigid guitars open the single. He likes to people watch. He looks to see if they are actually enjoying life or plodding through it. Someone in his life asks a vague question: if Block would rather have his attitude a certain way. But without any specifics, the question does not have its intended effect. Block protests it. However, his friend is joking and laughing, which is how Block would prefer to live his life. (“I remember watchin’/All the once upon a times/Remember thinkin’/Who’s content and who’s for rent/And you said don’t you want to be like that man!?/
Oh No–No–No!/But then he cracks that smile/And that don’t look so bad to me.”)

In the chorus, he says he’s a peppy person. But there’s people in his life who expect him not to have a bad day at all. (“Happy–I’m Happy/But that ain’t good enough for you/Happy–I’m Happy.”)

People have preconceived notions of how he should act and be. However, he wants to be himself and not what people imagine him to be. The last section of the verse becomes the pre-chorus. But it doesn’t fit into the context of it. Instead, it feels tacked on. (“I remember thinkin’/
How they thought that we should be/Remember feelin’/That might be you but that ain’t me/
And you said don’t you want to be like that man!?/Oh No–No–No!/But then he cracks a smile/And that don’t look so bad to me.”)

The chorus is sung twice.

In the bridge, he lists the things which make him enjoy life. However, he comes across a beauty pageant contestant wishing for world peace. Each one is either calculated, stupid or both.

Let’s the play the Dusk411 “This Bridge Is Weaker Than Michael Jackson’s Face” game. Question 1: He likes the suns that rise in the morning. Answer 1: Stupid. Since when are there two suns which rise in the morning? Question 2: hearing the sigh from a young girl. Answer 1: Stupid. Admitting to eavesdropping an underage girl’s sigh is inappoririate and incredibly creepy. Question 3: the sound of a baby’s cry. Answer: Calculated. He’s trying to be the super sensitive rocker guy. Awww….how insincere. Question 4: He likes seeing the history through an old man’s eyes. Answer: Both. He doesn’t go into detail, which makes it odd behavior. I added the history since it seemed to be what he was aiming for. It’s calculated to convey how much he cares about the senior citizens’ of the world. (“the suns that rise/a young girl’s sighs/a baby cries/an old man eyes/the suns that rise/a young girl’s sighs/a baby cries/an old man eyes.”)

The first verse is sung again. The chorus is repeated twice.

The phony, hypocratical “Happy” says it’s the ideal people must attain. However, when people impose certain ideals on Block he rejects them. The us vs. them mentality regarding exactly what it means to be happy chips away the song’s message. The nonsensical lyrics lack detail and context.


Single Review: Hole “Malibu”

Album: Celebrity Skin
Year: 1998

Courtney Love watches an actor friend waste away in the jaded “Malibu.”

Brooding, sun-kissed guitars accompany Love. She sees some of her actor friends taking drugs and acting recklessly. She’s boggled at a close friend who is clinging to his life. She’s curious as to how he made it this far without killing himself. She asks how she can help him pull through his depression and be the person she knew before. (“Crash and burn/all the stars explode tonight/How’d you get so desperate/how’d you stay alive/Help me please/burn the sorrow from your eyes/Oh, come on be alive again/don’t lay down and die.”)

She advises him to get out of the city and leave behind the Hollywood lifestyle for a while. (“Hey, hey, you know what to do/Oh baby, drive away from Malibu.”)

She resigned, knowing she can’t get through to him. She can only tell him not to do any more drugs than he has. His drug use has become to affect his health (skinner than he should be, etc.) and career (not being hired, arrests.) She promises to not abandon him. She encourages him to seek out God and listen to his problems. She’s going to do whatever it takes. (“Get well soon/please don’t go any higher/How are you so burnt when you’re barely on fire/Cry to the angels/I’m gonna rescue you/I’m gonna set you free tonight, baby/pour over me.”)

In the chorus, she says she and his other close friends are going to keep an eye on him. Since he has chosen to stay in Malibu, she tells him to weep and allow religion into his life. (“Hey, hey, we’re all watching you/Oh, baby, fly away to Malibu/Cry to the angels, and let them swallow you/Go and part the sea, yeah, in Malibu.”)

In the bridge, she sees him sink into the darkness and hit rock bottom. She can’t watch it anymore and wades in the ocean. She knows the cause of his self-destruction. She hints it was a broken relationship but not much more. (“And the sun goes down, I watch you slip away/
And the sun goes down, I walk into the waves/And I knew love would tear you apart/Oh and I knew the darkest secret of your heart.”) It was an excellent choice not to divulge what happened with him. It’s a private matter. It keeps with the intimacy and longtime friendship.

She’s says she’s will stay with him until he’s clean. He will cleanse himself and be like he was. She adds that he has so much potential. (“I’m gonna follow you/Oh baby, fly away, yeah, to Malibu/Oceans of angels, oceans of stars/Down by the sea is where you drown your scars/I can’t be near you, the light just radiates/I can’t be near you, the light just radiates.”)

In the Max Martin Total Domination era (1997-2000), rock acts were scrambling to update their sound from grunge to sweet pop. Hole made the transition effectively by not acting like teenagers and thinking of their old fans. The grim “Malibu” focuses on a friendship Love fights to keep, despite the efforts of her friend to push her away. The oceanic, breezy tone highlights the contradictory world of Hollywood. A place where stars hide their flaws and maintain an inoffensive image to appeal the regular Joe in America. Meanwhile, they are taking every drug, woman, man, and drink in sight.


Single Review: Radiohead “Paranoid Android”

Paranoid Android
Album: Ok Computer
Year: 1997

Thom Yorke resists becoming the bored, greedy surburbanite in the stinging “Paranoid Android.”

A contemplative guitar opens the single.Yorke asks his neighbor to stop mowing the lawn. His mind has been buzzing with fearful thoughts. He thinks he hears something and inquires as to what it is. A low voice says in the background that while he may be unsettled, he has not lost himself to capitalism. (“Please could you stop the noise, I’m trying to get some rest/From all the unborn chicken voices in my head/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)
What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but not an android.”)

He can’t stand people who have left themselves become bean counters. It’s those “androids” he will have destroyed if he ran the country. Their opinions are like everybody else’s which in the end, don’t matter. (“When I am king, you will be first against the wall/With your opinion which is of no consequence at all/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but no android/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but no android.”)

The guitar strums with some quiet rage for nearly a minute or so. He sees an old friend who is now rich and stepped on many toes to have money. He dresses in Gucci and overindulges in expensive possessions. The person pretends to not know him, causing Yorke to go into a rage. The guitars seethe in response. (“Ambition makes you look pretty ugly/Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy/You don’t remember/You don’t remember/Why don’t you remember my name?/Off with his head, man/Off with his head, man/Why don’t you remember my name?/I guess he does.”)

A storming guitar solo follows. It then segues into a unsteady calm as Yorke cries “ahhh.”
He collapses, pleading for his sanity. (“Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me/
From a great height/From a great height… height/Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me/From a great height/From a great height… height/Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me…”)

The low voice returns, telling Yorke he must become an android now. He will play football like the other clean-cut neighborhood boys. He will attend lunches with young professionals to get an edge. He will deal with nothing but stress. It’s all for his own good. (“That’s it, sir
You’re leaving/The crackle of pigskin/The dust and the screaming/The yuppies networking/
The panic, the vomit/The panic, the vomit/God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!”)

The guitars come back but are frantic and scattered, as though they are figuring out what to do.

The multi-faceted “Paranoid Android” has aspects of 1984 in it, particulary as he is taken away at the end. It’s as though for years he hid as a regular person, faking to be an “android” to get through life. The fear truly does set in until the end, though. However, Yorke has been on edge since the beginning of the single. Accomplished and intelligent “Paranoid Android” effectively addresses the issue people being complacent about their role as drones in the workplace and in society.


Single Review: Olivia Newton-John “Xanadu”

Album: Xanadu Soundtrack
Year: 1980

In the movie “Xanadu,” Olivia Newton-John plays Kira, the muse of dancing who walks out of the wall after artist Sonny paints her on it. She inspires him and orchestra leader Danny (legendary actor Gene Kelly) into open a nightclub named Xanadu. “Xanadu” is sung at the end of the movie as Newton-John rollerskates and claps, in celebration of the club’s opening.

Fanatical guitars start the song. She says that the 40s/70s music combination was a buisness risk not many people wanted to take. But she found two suckers who did. She helped Danny and Sonny design the club overnight with her charms. It has lights, light everywhere. She’s elated she was able to convince her father, Greek god, Zeus to let her date Sonny. She’s going to be with forever and ever. And it all took was a Top 40 song. (“A place where nobody dared to go/The love that we came to know/They call it Xanadu/And now, open your eyes and see/
What we have made is real/We are in Xanadu/A million lights are dancing/And there you are, a shooting star/An everlasting world and you’re here with me/Eternally.”)

Foreboding drums signal it’s chorus time. And in case, listeners forgot the title, it’s repeated nine more times. It’s just enough drill it into a person’s head and for them to wish to have never heard the song. She declares nothing new. They are in Xanadu. (“Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu/Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu.”)

A dramatic Newton-John prophesizes that the club is destined to be a hit. An eager keyboard swells behind her as she says “for you, Xanadu” in the only true good moment in the single. Then, the eager keyboards become frenzied and segue into the second verse. (“Xanadu your neon lights will shine/For you Xanadu.”)

She says that people can find their dreams in the club, like Sonny and Danny did. Dreams don’t die, they live on through the sorrow and self-defeat. (“The love, the echoes of long ago/
You needed the world to know, they are in Xanadu/The dream that came through a million years/That lived on through all the tears/It came to Xanadu..”)

The pre-chorus is sung once. (“a million lights are dancing and there you are…here with me eternally.”)

The chorus is sung twice.
The noisy, unappealing strings accompany Newton-John as she sings that everyone is happy in Xanadu. The word is first stretched to five long syllables. Then, sung with a garish operatic flair. (“Now that I’m here, now that you’re near in Xanadu.”)

The tacky “Xanadu” is like eating a whole bag of shredded cheese, triple cheese pizza, and cheescake all in one sitting. It’s manufactured fun without an ounce of actual amusement.


Single Review: Pearl Jam “Love Boat Captain”

Love Boat Captain
Album: Riot Act
Year: 2003

Eddie Vedder believes if more people were compassionate, the world would be a positive place in the purposeful “Love Boat Captain.”

Vedder mumbles along to imploring guitars. The days have begun to blend together, with each day being the same as the one before it. He comments that people instantly feel love but it soon becomes uncertain and agonizing. It can be manipulative and hopeless as people remain mute to other people’s needs. (“Is this just another day,… this god forgotten place?/First comes love, then comes pain. Let the games begin,/Questions rise and answers fall,… insurmountable.”)

As he’s on the metaphorical boat, which symbolizes a place away from the negativity going on around him, he repeats the Beatles’ famous refrain: “all you need is love.” He instructs the captain of the boat to an untainted land. (“Love boat captain/Take the reigns and steer us towards the clear,… here./It’s already been sung, but it can’t be said enough/All you need is love.”)

Natural disasters occur, people self-destruct and then pretend their past didn’t exist. He chides people for being cynical. He adds that once they are able to love themselves, things won’t be as overwhelming. (“Is this just another phase? Earthquakes making waves/Trying to shake the cancer off? Stupid human beings/Once you hold the hand of love,.. it’s all surmountable.”)

He asks his girlfriend to hug him and to be his only reality. His girlfriend is all he has. He’s insignificant in regards to the world. He’s just another person, slugging his way through life. The only religion he has faith in is love. (“Hold me, and make it the truth/That when all is lost there will be you/Cause to the universe I don’t mean a thing/And there’s just one word I still believe/
And it’s…”)

In the second verse, he has become accustomed to his unhappiness. He saw on the news two years ago that nine people had died. He thinks if he had known them, what would they have been like? What were their goals? He wonders if people tire of living and would wish they had only been alive for a couple years less. (“It’s an art to live with pain,… mix the light into grey/Lost 9 friends we’ll never know,.. 2 years ago today/And if our lives became too long, would it add to our regret?”)

He notes that teenagers only think of what’s going on today rather than the big picture. Senior citizens aren’t valued or listened to in society. Life can bring much fear but it won’t go away. It’s always there. (“And the young, they can lose hope cause they can’t see beyond today/The wisdom that the old can’t give away/Hey/Constant recoil/Sometimes life/Don’t leave you alone.”)

The pre-chorus is sung again. (“hold me and make it the truth….love, love, love, love.”)

The chorus ends the single, with Vedder repeating the word “love.”

The introspective “Love Boat Captain” takes awhile to get started. At first, his beliefs seem to be naive. However, as Vedder describes his emotions in better detail the single picks up. The metaphor is imaginative but underdeveloped. The retro pop culture reference (“Love Boat”) suggests that life was easier living on the water and being in a self-contained world.


Single Review: Black Eyed Peas “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”

Don’t Phunk With My Heart
Album: Monkey Buisness
Year: 2005 reassures Fergie he’s faithful. However, she thinks once he sleeps with her, he’s gone in the xeroxed beats of “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.”

Ceremonious strings and drums start the single. Fergie then sings the chorus with Hindi vocals.(“no no, no, no, don’t phunk with my heart (yeah)/No, no, no, no, don’t phunk with my heart.”)

Hard-hitting drums follow with the Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam sample, “I Wonder If I Take You Home” underneath it.

After the chorus is sung once “no, no, no, no don’t phunk with my heart,”) Fergie sings a striking version of the sample’s chorus. (“I wonder if I take you home/Would you still be in love, baby (in love, baby)/I wonder if I take you home/Would you still be in love, baby (in love, baby”)

Once dryly raps, the vigor evaporates. He tells Fergie that he’s dedicated to her and deep down she knows it. She got his attention right away. A pistol gunshot is then heard (to go with the word.) He’s in love with her and says he’s not leaving her. She has him for life. (“Girl, you know you got me, got me/With your pistol shot me, shot me/And I’m here helplessly/In love and nothing can stop me./You can’t stop me cause once I start it/
Can’t return me cause once you bought it/I’m coming baby, don’t got it (don’t make me wait)/
So let’s be about it.”)

In the second verse, he says he’s not using her for sex. He likes her brain and thinks she’s a special girl. He would like a serious relationship with her. He’s someone she can rely on. (“Baby, have some trustin’, trustin’/When I come in lustin’, lustin’/Cause I bring you that comfort/
I ain’t only here cause I want ya body/I want your mind too/Interestin’s what I find you/
And I’m interested in the long haul/Come on girl (yee-haw.”)

The cringeworthy “yee-haw!” is topped by sound of horse galloping and telling it to “come on!” It’s as a bad as coleslaw stuck in the sun for a few hours.

After the pre-chorus (“I wonder if you take me home…”) and chorus, the third verse begins. He says their relationship is not unstable. He then compares them to R&B’s Sid and Nancy – Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. He’s not himself lately, he’s crazy in love. He’s foolish. He can’t do this. It’s far too soon for Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” references. (“Girl, you had me, once you kissed me/My love for you is not iffy/I always want you with me/I’ll play Bobby and you’ll play Whitney/If you smoke, I’ll smoke too/That’s how much I’m in love with you/Crazy is what crazy do/Crazy in love, I’m a crazy fool.”) then pretends to be like Nelly by southerning up his words. He asks why she’s uptight. He loves her for who she is but yet Fergie thinks he’s messing around. (“Why are you so insecure/When you got passion and love her/You always claimin’ I’m a cheater/Think I’d up and go leave ya/For another señorita/You forgot that I need ya/You must’ve caught amnesia/
That’s why you don’t believe.”)

He then puts on a pseudo-detached DJ voice and says “uh, yeah check it out.”) He then tells her he’s whipped. (“Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing, baby/Cause you know you got me by a string, baby/Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing, baby/Cause you know you got me by a string, baby.”)

An early 90s dance beat follows (which might be a Prodigy sample.) He compliments her, saying he’s fulfilled. He rather be with her than ogle other women. She’s his true love. (“Baby girl, you make me feel/You know you make me feel so real/I love you more than sex appeal/
(Cause you’re) That-tha, that tha, that-tha, that girl” The phrase “that girl” is repeated five times.

Then, the two phrases (“don’t phunk with my heart,” “that girl”) overlap twice.

The pre-chorus is then followed by “don’t you worry ’bout a thing baby…’cause you know you got me by a string, baby.” The ceremonious strings return for a dramatic finish.

The Black Eyed Peas reimagining of “I Wonder If I Take You Home” instrumentation is brilliant. The 2005 version of the freestyle single is transformed into a funk jam. Fergie stands out, having her best vocal moment with the Black Eyed Peas. However,’s tedious raps and sound effects drain the fun from the single with a single syllable.


Single Review: Allure & Nas “Head Over Heels”

Head Over Heels
Album: Allure
Year: 1997

Allure has fallen hard for her crush but doesn’t know if he feels the same way in the sprightly “Head Over Heels.”

Pulsating keyboards and drums open the single. Nas immediately promotes the (defunct)super rap group, The Firm and the producers of the song (The Trackmasters), his nickname (Escobar) and the group (Allure.) Nas then enters a club, wine bottles in hand. He works in the band’s name and turns into slang for being intoxicated. The club is full of people. He’s a regular and recongnizes some people. He eyes an girl and tries to figure out her ethnicity. He asks his friend for some marijuana so he can get high. He offers a girl a ride home in his fancy car. He hides his expensive tech gadgets. He then says he’ll call the girl. (“The Firm, Trackmasters, Escobar, Allure…Hey yo the bridge keep rocking./We’re coming through bottles popping/Allure when your album’s dropping/The place is packed/Many faces, there’s some I know and some know me/From buying cases, cash stacked, shorties peeping/Is she Puerto Rican or half-Black/Puff puff give I need to live./Please pass that so I could zone…It’s a crazy world let me drive you home. Let’s go/By the way the name is Esco/The platinum range makes your man know we wet those/If he front I got the tech close/To you much respect goes for going through/
Had to put it on you Allure you/You gotta leave I’ll call you/It’s been real.”)

The heavy bass from the intro and twinkling piano accompany Allure during the verses. When she’s around the guy, she is overcome with love. She can’t put it into words and she’s above the clouds. She wants to him to say he feels the same way and not to ignore his emotions. She wants to hear him say “would you be my girlfriend?” and pull her close to him. (“Boy I can’t understand it/See I’ve never really felt/Like I do when I’m around you baby/And I just can’t explain it/But I’m feeling so high/And I just can’t deny it’s on you/Tell me you want my love/
Baby please don’t deny/What you’re feeling inside/Say you’ve been thinking of/holding me, touching me/Feeling my every need.”)

In the chorus, she says it feels like love to her, although she’s not sure. All she knows is she wants him. (“Head over heels/It seems so real/I feel like I’m falling in love/I’m lost inside/
Of desire/Oh baby can’t you see?/I’m falling for you head over heels.”)

She wants some private time with him. Her hormones are jumping and she yearns to make out with him. (“Baby baby I’m longing/Just to have you to myself/I don’t want nobody else/Baby my body’s calling/Won’t you come get my love/Because I really need you so much/Tell me you want my love/What you’re feeling inside/So much in common/Holding me/Touching me/
Fulfilling my every need.”)

Nas has another rap. It turns out he’s the crush. Nas know it’s his swagger that attracted her to him. She’s been into guys like him all her life. She used to be wild and would do anything to capture from anyone in the neighborhood. However, she has since gone on to make something of herself. She now has a luxury car. She’s living with him now. Nas is going to announce to his fans that he’s taken during his concerts. (“I know you like the way that I act/You been around real cats all your life/Since the way back/You still got it/’Cuz you was turned out once/Guess you learned ain’t no future/With them burnt out stunts/Left the hood to get your own things/With home team pushing through/Watch your chrome gleam/Yeah you probably heard that my pipe game’s tight/Rocking VSS stones, powder blue whips…And crack the moon roof only for you to breathe/You get an extra set of keys/I tell the world/While I’m out on tour/Keep your hands off my girls Allure.”)

The chorus ends the single. Allure was Mariah Carey’s first band signed to her (defunct) label, Crave. “Head Over Heels” has Carey’s touch, from the overuse of Nas to the even the harmonization of the vocals. It’s a fine, well-sung single. However, Carey’s mistake of having Nas dominant the single hinders it a bit.