Sunday, December 30, 2007

Now Tat's What I Call Music 2007: Review

It's time for my traditional end-of-year list of favourite songs of the year, but unlike last year, where I struggled to come up with a decent list of my favourite songs, this year has generally been a good year for music, in my opinion. That's why I have decided to compile 30 songs into one ultimate playlist you ever need for 2007...Now Tat's What I Call Music 2007!

In recap, the early promise shown by Timbaland with Justin and Nelly’s albums is being fulfilled as my list this year contains many of Timby’s productions or its sound-a-likes. The synth-dance thing spearheaded by Timby is definitely in full-swing this year, as new material released by Britney and Janet have embraced the same beats and sound, just with a different producer’s name on the credits.

I’m sure there are many good songs that didn’t make the list, but hey, this is MY list and these are the songs that made an impression on me this year. I don’t think there will ever be another person who has the exact same list as me, so here’s just my two cents’ worth. The songs below are my favourite songs of 2007, counting down from number 10.

10. Way Back Into Love
by Hugh Grant & Haley Bennett

I didn’t manage to catch the movie in the theatres this year, but Music And Lyrics remains one of the movies I must catch one day. Nevertheless, I did catch the music video a few times and the melody stuck on me immediately. This is one of the more traditional pop songs and it’s totally not about the production values or the gloss or glamour. It’s about the music.

Despite not being a real pop star, Hugh Grant does a pretty good job here. There are actually two versions of the song from the soundtrack – the demo version featuring Grant and Drew Barrymore (who both starred in the film), and the final version by Grant and Haley Bennett.

The demo version contains some conversation between the two, and it’s quite funny. I like both versions. It’s the song that I like I guess, so it doesn’t really matter who sang it. It’s the type of song where you can play on the piano and sing along to it. I particularly like the part where they harmonise, and Grant’s part is not that easy to sing, mind you.

There haven’t been many outstanding songs from soundtracks this year, so Way Back Into Love just edges out Patience (from Dreamgirls) for my fave song from a soundtrack in 2007.

9. Say It Right
by Nelly Furtado

Loose is one of my favourite albums this year and it’s really because of the numerous hits that were culled from it. Last year gave us Promiscuous and Maneater, and this year brought us Say It Right, All Good Things (Come To An End) and a minor hit, Do It.

After the uptempo and dancy first 2 singles, Nelly decided to slow it down and release a stripped down, minimalist ballad that just grew and grew on you. It didn’t seem much at first, but the simple beat and Nelly’s measured vocal performance led it to become one of the most strangely-addictive and groovy tracks of the year.

Timbaland’s midas touch is at work here again, and it’s not by coincidence that he’s one of the best in the game right now. Little things like the “piki-piki-wau” at the beginning, the numerous “hey”s that he voiced, the short electric guitar solo at the end, made a subtle but important difference. These are the details that separate Timbaland and just another producer on the block.

Nelly Furtado might not be one of the best singers (she can get a little nasal at times), but by aligning herself with an uber-producer like Timbaland, she’s one smart woman.

8. Invincible
by Muse

I have said many times that the concert that I regret not attending most was the Muse show in January this year. That was because I had not bought their album Black Holes And Revelataions. And what a revelation it has been.

This is definitely my favourite album of the year, and every track in the album is superb. There’s not a single filler in the entire album and it really showcases Muse’s musicianship ability. Every song is so layered and textured. Some would say over-produced, but I disagree.

Over-production is when they decide to add too many things that eventually spoil the song, but the term I would prefer to describe the album is “multi-layered”. Each layer adds a complexity and texture to the song such that when taken as a whole, it is truly a wall of sound. Every part is important and adds something extra to the song. And it’s worthwhile to remember that Muse are a three-man band, with additional help on the keyboards occasionally.

Well, back to the song. It’s really tough to choose just one or two songs from such a superb album to give it justice, but when it comes down to this, the most outstanding and personal favourite is Invincible.

It starts off slow and gradually builds up in tempo (well, not exactly, if you’re talking about absolute tempo – it’s the same, but rather, the feeling it conveys) and intensity and ends off in a bang. I love the drumming on the song – from the snare drum rolls at the beginning to the simple but catchy beat in the verse to the “123-123-123-123-12-12-123-123-123-123-12-12…” rhythm in the bridge. It shows much variety and it’s a perfect example of how different drum patterns can complement and enhance a song.

Of course, the rest of the song is superb too. Lead singer Matthew Bellamy, as always, gives a heartfelt vocal performance. The guitar solo is fab as well. It’s so perfect there really isn’t anything you can do to improve it. Superb.

7. Umbrella
by Rihanna

This song won the Monster Single of the Year at this year’s VMAs and deservedly so. You couldn’t get a hit more ubiquitous or bigger than this. I think this is the song of the year because of its ability to get everyone singing along to the chorus together. You know what I’m talking about – the “ella, ella, eh, eh, eh, under my um-be-rella, ella, ella, eh, eh..” chorus.

It’s one of the songs where you either hate it or you love it, but no matter what your choice is, you’ll still sing along to it. Such is the power of the song. For the record, I love it, and that’s why it’s in my list.

2007 has been a great year for Rihanna. After showing much potential on her first two albums, she finally exploded on the music scene this year, with the help of this monster hit of course. It’s easy to forget that she’s only 19 years old.

Like Nelly Furtado, she’s not a very technically-inclined vocalist, but she makes the right moves. Snagging Umbrella from Jay-Z and away from Mary J. Blige was the smartest thing that she could have done. But you can’t deny the allure of Rihanna. If Umbrella was done by Mary J, it would still have been a big hit, but can you seriously imagine Mary J appearing nude, covered by silver paint and dancing with an umbrella in the music video? I don’t think so.

Rihanna doesn’t score in the vocal department, but it doesn’t matter. She’s hot and the song’s hotter.

6. Feedback
by Janet Jackson

When I first found out that a new Janet single would drop in December, I felt both excited and nervous. Being a huge ass fan, I naturally look forward to every new song by Janet. But as everyone knows, the past 3 years haven’t been kind to Janet. There was the S-Bowl incident and her 2 studio albums that “flopped” and everyone has been writing her off as a has-been. The 20 Y.O. album did have some classic moments (Enjoy) but Call On Me didn’t exactly sizzle up the charts. So I was keeping my fingers crossed that her first single would be good, damn good.

When I finally heard it from the website, turns out that the song is good. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It’s a very “in” sound and it definitely gets the asses moving on the dance floor. While some might dismiss it as a Britney reject, I think it holds itself up pretty well.

Feedback will be taken from Janet’s first new album with Island Def Jam Records, Discipline, which will be released on 26 February worldwide. It will mark a new beginning for Janet, as she departs from her previous label, Virgin, after their lackluster support for her last two albums.

I believe Janet still can deliver a #1-selling album with lots of hits, and ignite the world once again with a kick-ass world tour. And she can show Britney how it’s done. Can’t wait to see the video for Feedback.

Anyway, Feedback is a thumping song that features Janet’s favourite subject – sex/sexiness. They word “sexy” pops up like a thousand times in the song. There’s also the funny/unfunny lyric that gives me a good chuckle every time I hear it: “Something heavy like a first day period”. You either find it funny or stupid.

It’s a good start and I really hope Janet will make a “comeback” in 2008. The feedback to the song’s been pretty good so far (pun intended), so I hope she will be more disciplined and keep it up!

5. Gimme More
by Britney Spears

You would think that after dissing Britney repeatedly in this blog, I would not have the cheek to put her in my Top 10 list. But a good song is a good song, and as much as I think that Janet is way superior, I will not deny the fact that Gimme More is a good song and deserves a spot on this list.

2007 has been a terrible year for Britney, I do not need to elaborate. But you know what, I think that her routine for the VMA performance was actually pretty good – if she just put that extra 10% of effort into it. The choreography and dance moves were good. It’s just that she shouldn’t have worn that outfit and cause everyone to be distracted by her figure and not focus on the performance and dance moves.

The video could have been better too. The choreography is already there, she just had to replicate it on screen. A stripper’s outfit is so not hot.

But anyway, the song is hot. From the opening line “It’s Britney, bitch”, she shows us that she doesn’t give a damn about what all you other losers think. With Timbaland’s protégé, Nate “Danja” Hills, at the helm, the song has a familiar dance feel and glossy sound. The beat is hypnotic and I particularly like the slightly minor-key synthesizer chord in the second part of the chorus.

It borders a little on over-production, but Danja just manages to keep the lid on. You can hear the different layers and effort that was put into the song, and it’s cool. You wouldn’t expect much from Britney in the vocal department anyway, so it’s a moot point to say that a lot of enhancement was done in post-production to treat her vocals.

But as I say, a good song is a good song and you have to give it its props. Let’s hope there will be less drama and more substance from Britney in 2008.

4. About You Now
by Sugababes

I have been a fan of the Sugababes since their very first single, Overload, and they never disappoint with each new release. It’s amazing how consistent they are despite the numerous lineup changes over the years.

You can always expect an uptempo, danceable and uplifting number from the Babes and About You Now is it. They have a knack of coming up with these ditties and I never get sick of them.

You might think that they are just another girl band that produces manufactured pop songs, but the Babes are actually very talented. Listen carefully and you’ll hear that they harmonise beautifully on the chorus. And they write many of their own songs too.

With the Sugababes, it’s not about who looks the prettiest or who’s got the sexiest dress. It’s about the talent, baby, and they’ve got it in loads. Overloads.

3. The Pretender
by Foo Fighters

Taken off the Foos’ sixth studio album, The Pretender is a perfect first single. It is a great rock song, one that rocks your balls off totally. It’s a bit similar to All My Life, with its unsuspecting intro before it launches into full assault mode, and then going into a short reprieve in the middle and rising to a fierce climax once again. Even the music videos are pretty similar – both are performance videos in a sparse setting, with the band on a huge stage and white, red and black overtones.

I knew it was a good song but even I was surprised at the reception it got at the Grammys. The Pretender is up for Record of the Year, Best Rock Song and Best Hard Rock Performance, and the album is also up for the big gong – Album of the Year, and Best Rock Album.

Their recent headlining gig in London at Live Earth, opening the show at the EMAs, top billing at the VMAs, as well as their upcoming sold-out shows in Wembley certainly cement their status as the biggest rock band on earth right now.

The Pretender is one hard-hitting anthem that will be a staple at their gigs for years to come. I really hope I can watch them live in concert this year.

2. The Way I Are
by Timlaband featuring Keri Hilson and D.O.E.

I was wondering what the hell this song was all about when I first looked at its title. The Way I Are? Shouldn’t it be The Way We Are or The Way I Am? Didin’t Timbaland pass grammar in high primary school?

But as with everything Timbaland, you can expect him to play by his own rules and come up with something radical and unheard of. I remember when Rihanna was interviewed on the red carpet of the VMAs, she replied that The Way I Are is her pick for Monster Single of the Year (she would win it later that night with Umbrella). But it just goes to show how much love this song is getting.

Clearly, Timbaland has stumbled upon a winning formula with his recent outings and he replicates it here with great gusto. The beats and instrumentation are super recycled from SexyBack, and surprisingly it still works. The synthesizer riffs are what give the song its catchiness, and Keri Hilson’s vocals are also a highlight.

The sound that Timbaland has created is the “in” thing of 2007 and he deserves full credit for breaking the boundaries and spawning a new wave of hip-hop/dance genre.

1. Give It To Me
by Timbaland featuring Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake

On paper, it is a surefire hit as it brings 3 of the most successful players currently in the music business together – Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. It didn’t disappoint and became yet another number one hit to add to their resumes.

In the past calendar year, the 3 of them have a combined 6 number one hits on the Billboard 100 – SexyBack, My Love, What Goes Around Comes Around, Promiscuous, Say It Right and now Give It To Me. It’s an amazing statistic for this trio, as all the songs are produced/co-produced by Timbaland.

When I first heard the song, I was not that impressed at all. I thought it was tuneless and not that catchy compared to their other hits. With these power players, surely they can give me more?

But as usual, Timby’s uncanny knack of producing killer hooks came to work. The drum beat and the synthesizer riff are just hypnotic, drawing you in like a drug and staying in your head for the longest time, impossible to shake off.

This song is a counter-diss to people who have crossed their paths in the music business in the past. Theoretically, I shouldn’t even like this song, as the verse by Justin is clearly aimed at Janet. Even though the Wiki article says:

When the song was released it was rumored that Justin's verse was aimed at pop sensation Janet Jackson but this rumor has later been put to rest. "A source close to the record said that Timberlake's lyrics have nothing to do with his infamous Super Bowl co-star — but he is responding to another pop artist who has seen career heights few other singers can boast.”

I am not convinced because the first part of Justin’s verse makes it very clear that it’s Janet he’s talking about, while the attention shifts to Prince in his second verse. For the record, here’s the first part of Justin’s verse:

Could you speak up and stop the mumbling
I don't think you're getting clear.
Sitting on the top it's hard to hear you from way up here.
I saw you tryin to act cute on tv just let me clear the air.
We missed you on the charts last week
Damn that's right, you wasn't there.

Of course, Janet is known for her “whispery” vocals as she engages into her sexy mode. And right about when her 20 Y.O. album was released, she made a lot of TV appearances with Oprah, Ellen etc. And the album debuted at number 2 but dropped out shortly after. So it all fits.

But anyway, like I said, a good song is a good song, and this song is number one for its own artistic merits. I am of course still a Janet fan, so don’t accuse me of selling out. For defying expectations and being in my playlist for almost half a year, Give It To Me deserves the crown for my favourite song of 2007.


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