It is with a profound sense of shame that I admit that, um, IdonotyetowntheimportversionofCelebrity. I know, I know. What the hell am I thinking? How can I truly call myself a popgurl? Oh, but it gets worse: I’ve missed all The Boys’ appearances for, like, the last month. For two straight weeks the only radio I heard was Adult Album Alternative format. I saw nary a movie, I purchased not a single Tiger Beat, heck, I didn’t even have a TV to turn on!
It was extreme, yo.
Of course, even popgurls need vacations, and I claim my time away in Maine as a necessary cleansing period to relax and recharge and all those other “re”-prefixed buzzwords, so that I could bring myself back to you, gentle reader, refreshed and ready to bring you a new outlook on all things pop.
(Translation: I haven’t yet dragged my lazy ass over to Amazon UK and shelled out the twenty-some bucks, and thus my review is going to be a couple songs shorter than the other gurls’.
Also, a small explanation: since my ratings all ended up being within about a four-point range out of ten-and I’m speaking about the high end of the scale-I decided it would be less than helpful to include a rating. I love the album, okay? Instead, I’ve included a “Usage” for each song; the situation for which each song would create the appropriate soundtrack. At the very least, it amused me.)
Pop: I adored this song when it first came out. The rumors preceding its release were so heavily dance/electronica-laden that I had fears of another “Riddle”-type disaster. Instead, I’m singing along and practicing the choreography while driving down the Palisades Parkway. Note to self: stop that. As a hiphop gurl, I’m a big fan of the beatbox, although I do agree that after the build-up of the song, Justin’s “solo” at the end is anti-climactic. What I admire about the beatbox, though, is the artistry with which it has been engineered by BT; the next time you listen to it, listen on headphones. Justin’s voice jumps back and forth, from ear to ear, adding a spatial component to the song. Of course, you’ll have to get past the freakiness of it sounding like Justin is singing from somewhere inside your head.
Usage: Driving down a highway-speed falling somewhere between 60 and 80 mph-with the sound system pumping pre-concert hype music. Best experienced with several of your best friends.
Celebrity: Okay, question. What happened to JC between NSA and now that turned his vocals from Can-I-kiss-you?JC to It’s-pretty-even-odds-at-the-moment-whether-I’d-like-to-kiss- you-or-kill-you-and-even-if-you’re-nice-I-might-just-do-both-anyway JC? And, uh, how can we make sure he stays this way? Otherwise, I started off thinking this was one of the weakest songs on the album, however, with each subsequent listen I find myself liking it more and more. I think that a lot of that has to do with the rhythm of the chorus-the way the syncopation breaks up the end of each line. Or else it’s the subliminal brainwashing. One minor irk; JC, honey, you know I love you. But the word is not pronounced “suhlehburdee.”
Usage: Morning of your big job interview, during showering/dressing/general prep, to cement the proper “You so want me to work for you” attitude.
Game Over: This, for me, is where the album takes off. I’m frequently in the car when I listen to it, and when the PacMan sound effects kick in the volume goes up, I start bouncing in my seat, and small children inevitably start pointing as they drive past. And it pretty much stays that way right up until “Something Like You.” I also have this physical compulsion to sing along-writing this review I was sitting on my living room couch with headphones, and I had to bite my cheeks to stop myself. And then it got to the bridge and I started having visions of JC, in tight leather pants, centerstage, headbanging away next to Chris, who has discovered a heretofore unknown adeptness at electric guitar, and well. Yes.
Usage: Post-fight with Significant Other-not the teary, emotionally-wrenching, issue-based kind, but the you-are-a-fucking-idiot-and-so-am-I-for-staying-with-you-this-long type.
Girlfriend: Yup, I pretty much love this song. Don’t know why, really: maybe it’s the weird, electronicized steel guitar (or whatever) sample. Maybe it’s the new-school JC vocals. Whatever the case may be, it’s the song I usually discover myself singing at random moments: walking through Port Authority, working on the computer, before I go to sleep at night. However, Wade Ð if that’s you doing the talking under the track Ð this is me officially asking you to go back to looking pretty and dancing nice, and SHUT THE HELL UP.
Usage: You’ve left the bar, it’s somewhere after 2am, you’re exhausted but still a little too wired for bed, and you need something that will allow you to groove a bit more with your bad self, in the privacy of your bedroom.
Just the Two of Us: Another one that I just cannot keep still to. I break into a smile by the time they hit the first chorus. And the lyric, “‘Cuz in a room full of people you’re the only one around” may occasionally okay, every single time strike me as incredibly romantic.
Usage: Saturday morning, because even the fact that you’re on your way to the grocery store, or to pick up your dry-cleaning, can’t lessen the fact that you’ve got slightly less than 48 hours before you have to be back at work.
Gone: Another plug for listening to this album on headphones: I discovered, as of my last listen, that there is hidden beatboxing on this track. Really. I swear. Moving right along…Whenever I listen to the song I think to myself, “Gosh. These really have to be their most mature lyrics yet.” And then I try to figure out why, and am left with the fact that they, er, repeatedly use the words, “man” and “strong.” *sigh* I am so suggestible. Really, though, the verses are lovely, and when the key shifts from major to minor and the chorus kicks in, it catches my breath every time.
Usage: Rainy Sunday, laying flat on your back on the bed, staring at the ceiling and reminiscing over The One Who Got Away.
Tell Me, Tell Me…Baby: The sum total of my notes for this song go as follows… “JC voice-over. JC. Vocals again. ‘Does he love you like I do my baby’ sung by JC.” *ahem* This song is my guilty pleasure of the album: it’s got “RADIO PLAY” written all over it in letters so big they almost obscure the song itself, and yet I still rock out to it. And then it hits the repeat of the first verse, only this time JC and Justin’s vocals have been pulled back and classicized, and if I weren’t paying attention I might think someone had snuck a harpsichord into the studio, and my heart breaks for a brief moment. Then I slap myself back into reality and move on.
Usage:: Waiting for your gurls to pick you up for an evening out, after you’ve finished getting ready, in those extra five minutes you never know what to do with.
Up Against the Wall: Here’s my pet theory about what got JC from where he was on “No Strings Attached” to where he is now: he embraced his inner freak. Oh, we knew it was there before Ð “Digital Get Down” is testament to that. But it seems as if sometime over the last year JC got comfortable with the kink inside him. And now he’s not just accepted it, he’s reveling in it. Which, if it will continue to produce songs like this, I am all for. This is another track that it is highly dangerous to have seen the choreography for, as I can’t stop myself from doing it. Whenever, wherever I might be. I blame the use of chant and repetition. I mean, how can they expect you to sit there quietly when they say the same thing three times in a row? Sneaky bastards.
Usage: At the club. 1am, you’re coated in sweat and your hair is dripping. You were just about to head for the bar for a well-earned bottle of water, or off to find the ladies room. Then this song comes on, and you find you can’t leave quite yet.
See Right Through You: Driving in a car in Vegas, en route to somewhere or another, we had this song cranked. We were all shouting along, feverishly gyrating as much as we could in the cramped quarters. When we hit the second verse, however-in unison and without a cue-we all simultaneously fell into silence, just in time for JC’s “Does he freak you the way that I do.” The boy commands respect in this song. Whereas Justin, throughout the album, seems concerned mostly with demonstrating his vocal prowess and getting people to take him seriously, JC has tapped into emotion and couldn’t care less.
Usage: You just got home after the Worst. Possible. Day at work. Ever. Lock your door, put this track on, and crank the system as high as it will go. Break things.
Selfish: Here’s the thing: synthesizers annoy the crap out of me. Is there any good reason the intro of this song couldn’t have been played on a piano? Hmm? Didn’t think so. That said, I find I really like this song. One of the things that I haven’t mentioned about the album yet is how layered it is. Every time I listen I find something new, and I keep wanting to come back to it to see what else I can find. Case in point, in “Selfish” there’s a section following the modulation where they repeat Selfishly I’m/in love with you/I’ve searched my soul and know that’s it’s you three times. It starts with just JC, and with each repetition more of The Boys join in and the harmonies are slightly augmented, weaving an intricate blend of increasing structure and grace. Yet I never even noticed the first several times I listened to the song. This album is filled with these amazing little moments that are well worth a close listen.
Usage: One of those evenings you’re home alone, unexpectedly, maybe feeling a little sorry for yourself. Wallow, baby.
Just Don’t Tell Me That: Not much to say about this song, as it doesn’t have anything new to say. Not that it’s bad, but it’s easily replaceable with any number of Top 40-style songs out there today. More specifically, if you didn’t know that the Neptune Brothers had produced “Girlfriend,” you might think that they had just slipped “The Call” onto Celebrity with slightly new lyrics. For an album that is trying very hard to break new stylistic ground, this song falls way short.
Usage: On your lunch hour, maybe? If you happen to catch it on the radio, while window shopping? Just don’t feel guilty when you leave the store before it finishes.
Something Like You: My least favorite song on the album and another track that’s absolutely non-distinctive. It also feels somehow confused: the verses are typically cross-over country trite, while the chorus is R&B, with a good beat and gorgeous harmonies. The bridge is pure schlock. Although I do find it amusing that Justin gets to talk about the intangible aspects of the relationship, while JC, in his newly appreciated role as Freak of the Group, sings about the more tactile pleasures. And then, just after the bridge finishes, there’s a couple of seconds when a variation on the chorus is sung over an acoustic guitar, and for that snippet of time, the song works. The rest, comparatively, is useless.
Usage: Don’t. Really. If you’re that desperate to hear Stevie Wonder, please, for god’s sake, pull out Songs in the Key of Life. You can thank me later.
Do Your Thing: Yeah, the lyrics are touchy-feely, consciousness-raising, self-help crap. But. Um. I groove to the song anyway. The vocal work here is the most interesting, and distinctively new, solo work that you’ll find on the entire album. Also, I have a particular fondness for the line, “Are they lookin’ at you, hatin’/Sayin’ ‘Ooooh’ Brilliant. Of course, then there’s J. Moss, and the most singularly uninspired piece of rap to come out of someone’s mouth since Shaq decided to give it a go: Gotta hump. Gotta bump/Never sit on a stump… And that’s just for starters. Also, this is another spot where some producers had a lack of foresight; putting this song at the end of the album closes it on a down note. Most of the album is highly bouncy and bass-driven, and when this song is the last one a listener hears, she’s left with only a memory of bubblegum retro lightness. It does the album a disservice to end this way.
Usage: Driving home from work Friday night, when all you want is to bounce a little, and try to forget the events of the past five days.
Some other brief notes that I feel are important to a complete understanding of my appreciation of the album. There is some deep and profound bass work on this album, and I can make the windows vibrate on my car while stopped at a light-always a plus. And for those of you who have been worried about it, I can authoritatively state that Celebrity has the European Seal of Approval. My sister’s Italian boyfriend, never having previously heard the album, yelled out “Two step!” as soon as “Just the Two of Us” came on, and pronounced the album, “Bellissima!” when it finished.
Do with this what you will.