By Matt Caputo
By Devon Maloney
By Chris Chafin
By Village Voice
By Katie Moulton
By Hilary Hughes
By Gili Malinsky
By Bob Ruggiero
Does the proliferation of great singles this year have anything to do with how Napster, like radio and jukeboxes and dancefloors before it, dishes out songs one at a time, so downloading 14-year-old boys across the nation can compete to see who gets the most hits? Don't be surprised if the album-as-artwork means even less five years from now.
DESTINY'S CHILD "Jumpin', Jumpin'"
11:30 and the club is jumpin', jumpin', and it sounds even better in a car at 11:30 than "3 A.M." by Matchbox 20 sounded in a car at 3 a.m. As with most hits about jumpin'Kris Kross, House of Pain, Aretha Franklin, Pointer Sisters, Van Halenit really does jump. Sociologists should note that there may be no bigger band in the country right now among preteen girls'N Sync and Backstreet not excluded. Which, given She'kspere's jazzishly unbalanced syncopations and sophistications, is a surprise. The subject matter's adult, too: All about leaving your man at home because "the club is full of ballers and their pockets full of gold." Who's down with O.P.P.? Every last lady! (Is that gold in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?) Though given the histrionic dame monotoning "ballers ballers" and "ladies ladies" behind her, no wonder Beyoncé Knowles has started leaving her girls at home as well.
SENSATIONAL "Beat, Rhymes & Styles"
His first Matador single, "Party Jumpin'," jumped less than Mystikal's "Jump" or even Aaron Carter's "Jump Jump"it was just too normal, basically. So factor in his weird-assed WordSound albums, and maybe this addled former Jungle Brother knows what he's doingpassing his scraps off on indie whiteboys who'll eat anything by anyone they think isn't playing with a full deck. The colorful sleeves on Matador's monthly hip-hop installments do stir fond memories of earlier artsy indie Celluloid exploring exotic avant-rap terrain back in'82, though. Plus, Sensational could be Tone Loc flying to Kool Keith's planet just to spout a million words about itvery few of them individually quotable, but his unpremeditated tone suggests they at least mean a lot to him. And the more wasted he seemsthe more cotton his mouth twists his tongue through, the more freaky-deaky clanks and birdlike horn-beats acid-wash his background, the more he babbles about cheebathe funnier he is. The most coherent he gets is "Cheech and Chong can get it on/How I get it on without a bong?" And he definitely has a more inventive sense of rhythm than Wesley Willis, Daniel Johnston, even Syd Barrett. Though maybe not Roky Erikson. Or Michael Jackson.
D'ANTHONY JONZUN "Cutie Pie"
Old vocoder-rap space cowboy Michael Jonzun's almost-14-year-old Capricorn son's single sounds exactly like New Edition's first and best hit, "Candy Girl," which sounded more like the Jackson Five than Musical Youth or Kris Kross ever dared. Little D'Anthony starts with a dead-on "ABC" na-na-na-na-na-na-naaaaa, and can't keep his preorgasmic "oooooh!"s on key. Does a number called "Cotton Candy" without gagging, toobeing "baby sat by New Kids on the Block" as a kid was preventive maintenance against bubblephobia. But his CD's speediest and most electro and most Michael Jacksonparanoid track is the one where he throws a party and plays spin the bottle and gets scared of all those treacherous budding dirty Dianas aching for his pretty eyes.
FOREIGN LEGION "Nowhere to Hide"
(Insiduous Urban, insiduous.com)
As on Non Phixion's Matador "Black Helicopters"/"They Got ...," the verses are lunatic-fringe undie-rap conspiracy paranoia, this time singling out 40-ounces, gangsta gangstas, and "crack laced with evil thoughts" as government plots, and linking all manner of horrors to unnamed white men in black suits: Waco, Heaven's Gate, Desert Storm, the Titanic, Vietnam, the grassy knoll, the Oklahoma bombing, Roswell, Prozac, cameras hidden in fire hydrants, pyramids on the moon, the deaths of Biggie and Tupac and JFK and Marvin Gaye and Abe Lincoln and Versace, the cancellation of Joanie Loves Chachi, and Hitler changing his name to Liberace. The hook is a single syllable, repeated ad infinitum, that goes "so . . . ," so you can hear the ellipses every time. Hold your cigarette over your mouth so the Illuminati can't see you moving your lips, then give a shout out to "my man Noam Chomsky."
DJ GODFATHER "Whatchulookinat??"
(Databass, c/o Twilight 76, 35316 Shell Dr., Sterling Heights, MI 48310)
Planet-rocking paranoia of a considerably less articulate sort: A mean crackhead voice de-claims, "Whatchulookinat bitch??" a couple hundred times, over space-invader dinks sculpted into instrumental changes recalling Robert Ashley as much as Luther Campbell. This clown prince of ghetto-tech's "Via Satellite From Detroit" single is randomized outer-space repetition with plenty funk in its clank; his megamixes have some dreamscape Eurodisco nightflighting, some delectably buttered electropopcorning, some frat-party booty-snatching on Ecstasy. But this goofy gangsta-techno rant is a composition you can sink your molars into.
DJ ASSAULT "Technofreak"/"U Can't See Me"/"My Caddy"/"We Got It All"
The other clown prince of ghetto-tech's got two different 12-inches out that say Belle Isle Tech on the cover (meaning the Belle Isle in Detroit, not Newfoundland or Virginia). This is the green one. The red one's got screwed-up, stretched-out recastings of "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield and possibly "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" by Joe C (R.I.P.), but the green one's got open space almost as ominous as Phuture or Strafe back when they were inventing acid house. And Assault's eerie atmosphere is more compelling, if less distinctive, than his funny funk; his latest album squeezes 83 cuts into 57 minutes, but this EP's got genuine songs (or, okay, chants: "every freakin' day, every freakin' day") oozing out of the vagueness, then wobbling and percolating and eventually falling into deep wormholes of dub. Or golf holes, maybethough I suppose "My Caddy" is really about a car.
A Detroit big-brother/little-sister duo (white signifying both their last name and their pigmentation) with an auto-industry ode called "The Big Three Killed My Baby" on another 45, they cover "John the Revelator" live. But at their best, they're entirely deferential: "You could have your choice of men, but I could never love again, he's the only one for me Jolene." The drum gets knocked every 20 seconds or so, then enters a half-minute Zep thump-and-thud midway through; the voice is a high lonesome squeal, the guitar an intense Tom Verlaine/Richard Thompson tapestry. The overall genre, though, is leaden elephant-stomp punk blues, making this male-sung Dolly Parton remake a de facto answer to their Midwestern predecessors Killdozer's cloddish take on Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa." Except it's more sincere, and the gender switcheroo means more, since "Jolene" has always been a rip-her-to-shreds catfight.
CANDY ASS Orgy
The two killer cuts are both catfights: one where "Brenda's boyfriend likes 'em tough, but Brenda's just a piece of fluff," one where "I have dumped girls better than you." A black-eyed boy drummer and three girls and/or drag queens, all with'80s haircuts and one with an iguana tattoo, shout and handclap and nyah-nyah-nyah out a bisexually Burundied bubblemetal oddly obsessed with making the'80s ditz-wave of Moon Unit Zappa or Tony Basil or the Suburban Lawns rock as hard as Poison or Ratt. Very, very L.A. One of the popular girls they hate even has bulimia (insert vomiting sound effect). And other problems: "Ohmigod! You are so totally natural platinum blond!"
AARON CARTER "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)"
Twelve-year-old Aaron, totally natural platinum blond little brother of Backstreet Nick and coverer of not just "I Want Candy" but "Iko Iko," could as easily turn into Mark Wahlberg as Jimmy Osmond. And Marky never made a record this good. A.C.'s vocal chords squeak oddly like the even shorter Joe C's, and as insufferable as his dancing is on Nickelodeon, he raps pretty fast over Flea's still-unstoppable "Bust a Move" bassline. The title could've come off Enjoy Records in 1980. And the scenario's not far from "Parents Just Don't Understand": Kid sends Mommy and Daddy to a movie, gets booted off his family tree when guests crash into his Ikea-furnished rec-room uninvited and spill juice all over the brand-new cushions.
PORN THEATRE USHERS "Me &Him"/"My Imagination"/"Cat Nip"
"I went to your house and fucked up the place. . . on your couch I ate an apple fritter. "Shameful! Told your sister to change the kitty litter, banged the babysitter, had your girl on the tilt-a-whirl. A rare-groove fusion-cheese bassline jitters under jubilant verbosity interrupted by old TV commercials and one naggingly repeated sample from who knows where: "Play me in the wintah, play me in the summah, play me in the wawtah, any wawtah." Late for his date with Bo Derek, rhyming "leprechauns" with "Decepticons," raised by a pack of retarded donkeys drinking pale ale, Nabo Rawk brags (and proves) that he's "not an average honky," à la wild-and-crazy original rapper Steve Martin in "King Tut" in 1978. He's obsessed with cats, tooone, he even makes "disappear, just like Cheshire." Go ask Alice, I think she'll know.