E-Mail at the End of Time

Mambos in Bottles, Pit Bulls in Skirts, Smurfs in Stretch Hummers

Dear Chelsey,

October 9: I'm not sure "Mambo No. 5" is a GREAT pop song; it doesn't have enough moves to get in the ring with "Freedom '90" or "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover." But it's for sure a POP QUIZ. Anyone who fails to fall for playskool playboy Lou Bega is a jerk, the kind who thinks that by resisting the irresistible, they're proving how "discriminating" they are. AESTHETIC PRUDES: so shy about their own pleasure they call it pain. Anyway, the whole thrill is how indiscriminate the song is; you get the feeling he doesn't care if Erica and Rita are supermodels, and they sure ain't Shania and Mariah, plus I still feel like radio owes sluts a WHOLE YEAR for '88 when AIDS crept icily into the Top 40 and we were all left waiting awhile and not taking our clothes off to have a good time and the world was sad. And yep, if it was by Kid Creole it would get the hipster ironist vote too.

October 10: I dunno if it's actually a "mambo." If it is, so's the "I Dream of Jeannie" theme; maybe it's a mambo in a bottle. He has to keep shouting "TRUMPET!" just to keep us on track. But that funky gusano keyboard action segues straight to the loungetronic remix of "Sway," by some guy doing business as The Ripoff Artist, using ready-made vocals from Dino Martin and Julie London. Those two hold up pretty good; must be all that formaldehyde they were snorting. I've liked this song ever since I heard Jennifer Connelly's noir chanteuse (sings like she acts: sexy and vacant. Pop Star Alert!) slur through it in Dark City, which was The Truman Show relocated to the Death Star. Or as my friend Louis describes it, "the terrifying imaginary night world inhabited only by white people." Which goes double for the lounge revival.

October 12: Four words—"Back That THANG Up." Apparently Juvenile's stealth spelling of "Azz" didn't fool 'em down at the Wal-Mart censor's office, so he came incorrect with a weak version ha. Inadvertent comedy rules. Next time you drive into Denver, walk past the advisory-stickered Chris Rock display, and get the discounted "Clean Version" of al most any hip-hop album (I DO NOT KNOW how Kid Rock gets away with promising to "paint your wife white"—GROSS). In the end all the digi-scuffs and cheap switcheroos just leave these lads more space for thoughtful post-Marxist analyses of commodity relationships, particularly re jewelry and cars. The rest of the gangsta gangsta shit has fallen by the wayside; when was the last time you learned the name of a new gun (aside from in the Times cross word puzzle)?

October 12, late: The Marx thing was sort of a joke. I see, say, the Cash Money posse more as Situationists, exposing the SPECTACLE OF LOOT in a critical shout to "Same Old G" Debord. No, actually what's hilarious is the spectacle of old rockers dismissing hoochie & lucci raps when these are the only songs fulfilling really basic obligations of youth music. B.G.'s "Bling Bling," for instance, is TOTALLY EPIC: stretch Hummers to "Lex Bubbas" to candy-covered helicopters in seconds flat over a track laced by R2D2. More songs about cars, with cool synth bleeps; it's the Beach Boys for the beaches of Atlanta. Except they keep sounding like bitch boys, up to and including Little Wayne's "no uh no uh no-no he DITN'T." Rap is now so hard it's soft.

p.s.) YES to Violator featuring Q-Tip, YES to Eve. Even if Tip's a dude, they draw up a scale of women in rap: not between the devil and the deep blue sea, but between Vivrant Thing and Pit Bull in a Skirt.

October 13: R. Kelly and Ginuwine aren't "soft" exactly. Sure they're ready to licky boom-boom down, but SONICALLY they seem part of the late-'90s hard reign; urban chicsters in Timbo's all-edges architecture. It's too "important" to be soft—it's the sound that MATTERS, and significance feels hard. But a certain huggability is on the rise: casual beat, melodic forgive ness, a generally charming IRRELEVANCE. Blaque's "Bring It All to Me" has an imperious title but—hello!—Smurf princesses. Or Nerf TLC. Plus they hire some suave dude to ask if we're digging his baggy jeans and thug appeal but, yuk yuk, homeboy's one of them 'N Sync guys, all of whom are named Justin. From Timbaland to Timberlake, from gold chains to Silver Lake: soul music and the end of history.

October 13 again: Nothing EVER happens in Denver except for DMX getting arrested. Drive to Aspen, Zevon's probably playing for tips. The best music writing this year is in McSweeney's, and it's mostly about boxing and how Warren Zevon is hard as hell. (It's by Camden Joy, who still has a pen name better than me and worse than Sarah Vowell.) Love, J

 
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