Sixx:A.M. is a solo project by Nikki Sixx, the bassist and principle songwriter of the iconic Hair Metal band Motley Crue. This song sounds pretty much like a Motley Crue song filtered through a Post-Grunge sound, and it isn’t a bad piece of music, but its message (a warning about the glitzy façade of pop culture) is pretty hard to take seriously coming from one of the all-time icons of that very style-over-substance aesthetic.
Drake’s Indie-R&B experiments are generally his most artistically successful works, and while this song isn’t as accessible as “Find Your Love” or “Take Care”, it still counts as one of his more interesting efforts. It is an extremely chill, downtempo song, and if you aren’t used to downtempo music it can come across as boring, but it’s a beautiful and soothing piece of music that creates a rich atmosphere of quiet sadness, and certainly does a better job of living up to its invocation of Marvin Gaye’s legacy than Big Sean’s “Marvin and Chardonnay”.
50 Cent is basically the Axl Rose of rap—the one-album wonder who’s somehow managed to stick around long after he stopped being relevant, and here he’s combined with the single worst of all the Chris Brown replacements from 2009, Jeremih. It’s not exactly a winning combination…a lifeless, creepy-sounding chorus and a mumbled, unintelligible rap make this one of the more unpleasant songs from 2011.
Jake Owen is a pretty standard-issue pop-country musician, and the only thing that distinguishes him from his peers is his fondness for big, bombastic pop productions. The production here is certainly pretty, and it makes much better use of crowd noise as a musical medium than “OMG” did, but it isn’t particularly Country-sounding, and given that the song itself is another generic ‘bro-country’ party song, the result sounds even more homogenized than most pop-country.
This song was supposedly meant as a tribute to all the gay teens who committed suicide as a result of bullying, but it comes off as just another sleazy, unpleasant club banger no different than Kesha’s other singles at the time. As a song in its own right, I will admit that Kesha’s done worse, but it’s so laughably unconvincing as the inspirational anthem it was apparently meant to be that it’s hard to take it seriously on any level, especially coming from Kesha, who was probably the _least_ qualified current pop star to deliver an inspirational message at that time, unless you count Chris Brown, I guess.
Of all the musicians working in rap/R&B in the current decade, the single worst, the most horrifically vile, is not a performer at all—he’s a producer. ‘Experimental’ producer Bangladesh is the worst thing in modern pop music, worse than Kesha, worse than Bieber, worse than Chris Brown, or the Black-Eyed Peas, or Train, or anything else. His productions are so freakish, so surreal-sounding, and so flat-out unlistenable that they sound like a voice from the mouth of Hell. This is the man who brought us “A Milli”, “Break Up”, “Diva”, and “Video Phone”, and he’s back with another Lil Wayne collaboration. The sad thing is, this song features some of Wayne’s most interesting lyrics, but even Eminem can’t overcome a Bangladesh production, so Wayne didn’t really have a chance.
Yet another rap track that tries to deal with serious subject matter, but just comes off as a downer. Khaled was clearly trying to reproduce the success of “All I Do Is Win”, but he picked a much less talented set of collaborators here, and while they all maintain their dignity for the most part, they don’t provide much enthusiasm. This, combined with the downbeat subject matter and dull beat, results in a song that’s really more depressing than rousing, without being interesting enough to turn its melancholy mood to good effect.
As most people reading this know, this is basically an Eminem single with a guest verse by Dre, rather than the other way around, but since Dre is key to the subject matter of Eminem’s verse (and vice-versa), I guess it doesn’t matter that much. Anyway, the verses are typical Recovery-era Eminem—which is to say, absolutely brilliant. The love and loyalty expressed in these powerful words is genuinely moving. The only drawback to the song is that the chorus, sung by Skylar Gray, is a rather dull and doesn’t really contribute to the emotional thrust of the song. With a better chorus, this might have been one of the best songs of the year.