Jessie J – ‘Do It Like A Dude’: A Thesis

Ok so I know that we’re a bit late on this, but I don’t care. What is music’s obsession with the current all about, eh? I’m going to start by saying this; I actually quite like this song, I think it’s a pretty good slab of pop. Good, not great.

The thing about it is though, it’s just ridiculous. Not in a kind of Lady Gaga ridiculous pop music style either; it’s on a whole new level of ridiculousness.

The first question that this track raises is quite why exactly a reasonably attractive woman like Jessie J would want to “Do it like a dude”? I don’t mean this in a sexist way, quite the opposite. At first listen this track could be taken as some kind of statement of equality; “look at me I’m a woman and I can do it just as good as all of you guys.” This is a sentiment that would make more sense if she was in the male dominated rap scene that the song seems to attempt to reference, but in the pop scene that this song so obviously belongs to it’s the females who dominate. Surely all us guys should be aspiring to “Do it like a Dudette” as far as pop music goes.

The next point I want to raise about this song stems from the video. I don’t even believe that Jessie J can, or even wants to, do it like a dude. Throughout the video she oozes femininity – well the modern sense of femininity at least – as she gyrates around grabbing her crotch. Rather I think that this song is a great pastiche of the type of boys you expect the character of Jessie J to be hanging with. I say character because I seriously doubt that the portrayal of her in the video is the real her. Not that I have a problem with that. Pop music is all a great act, a story, something to buy into, a release from mundanity. That’s why it’s brilliant.

I started the review by saying that the whole song is ridiculous. I don’t think that’s unintentional. As far as I can see the whole song exists to highlight, in a comical kind of way, how ridiculous “dudes” – more in attitude than in gender – actually are. Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics; “Boom, boom, pull me a beer, no pretty drinks, I’m a guy out here.” This is possibly my favourite line in the whole song, it can’t be serious, it just can’t. It’s got to be a dig at “dudes’” narrow minded approach to masculinity: the “I’m a man, gimme a beer” attitude. (Because lets face it; who doesn’t, even if only in secret, love a mojito?) What about this “Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ money like a pimp, My B I T C H’s on my d*ck like this”. Let’s not forget Jessie J is a woman, either she has some serious issues or she’s taking the piss and let’s face it the kind of artists she’s laughing at set themselves up for it. Think Usher, with all his come to daddy nonsense. At times, most notably when Jessie directly addresses “boys” she changes character. The most interesting of these is when she sings “Dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucka, you think I can’t get hurt like you, you motherf*ck*r.” It seems like here she is addressing the Dude character that she is playing in the rest of the song, it can’t help but lead me to think, who is this song about? Who has actually behaved like the dude she is portraying and hurt her enough for her to write a parody song about them?

Put into that context the song all seems to make more sense, yeah it’s a dig at dudes, but it’s brilliantly worked. Sure mental, and bizarre, (just take a look at all the weird phallic imagery in the video, not least right at the start when it appears as though a penis is being cut in half?!) but pretty great.

The cutting of the penis is a great reflection of what I think Jessie J is really trying to do in this song, bring down the dude.

Tom Riste-Smith


Single Reviews December 2010

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Round and Round’ [4AD,  2010]

The recent surge in interest in Ariel Pink’s work, and his subsequent album with Haunted Graffiti, Before Today, have seen the reclusive singer-songwriter and one time apprentice of Animal Collective redefine his musical palette; as is only to be expected. In this revaluation, his response to acclaim that has been slow to arrive (albums over the last ten years have documented closer to two decades of composition), he has retained the fundamental sound he’s been peddling all this time- nostalgic, dreamy pop music hearkening back to the 70s and 80s- whilst altering its delivery. This too is understandable: if AP’s current popularity is the result of his ambient/lo-fi earlier efforts making their influence heard in contemporary chillwave and fuzzed-up indie pop, then his riposte is to strip away that fuzz and haze to reveal the very real songwriting talents that have always supported the sonic ornamentation. It turns out that a cleaned-up Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti track wouldn’t sound out of place in the more stylish corners of the 80s: crisp disco rhythms, a tumbling ‘Billie Jean’-aping bassline, and a chorus of honeysweet harmonies. There is still a ramshackle charm in the deconstructed bridge with its strained refrain, and Ariel clearly enjoys the chorus a little too much, relying too much on it in the second half of the song. But then, that is just a sign of a musician confident in his own abilities, and it’s a confidence well earned.

Sam Goff

Eminem – ‘Echo’ (ft. Royce Da 5’9″ & Liz Rodriguez)

After collaborations on his latest album Recovery with more familiar hip hop artists, such as Lil Wayne and Rihanna, it was touch and go as to whether Eminem’s collaboration with former associate Royce da 5’9″ would work.  In fact the combination of both artists’ similar rap styles, deep, gritty and rhythmic, over a simple beat and gospel choir vocals, is strangely effective.

Sadly, whilst the verses from both Eminem and Royce are tight, and lyrically incredible, the chorus lets the track down. Vocals from Liz Rodriguez are not up to scratch, and are best described as “shouty” and even worse the transition from verse to chorus fails to flow as it should in a hip hop song. This is most noticeable in the intro of the track, where there is 52 seconds of vocals and gospel, before Royce da 5’9” starts to spit. The song would undoubtedly be better suited to a slightly more urban chorus, although the gospel backing throughout as an undertone is on point.

Eminem’s rap is certainly up to the high standards one is used to from his latest album. Typically, the content is explicit, but the words take a refreshing back seat from drugs, and focus more on music, than usual. However, the real star of the show surprisingly is Royce, for his verse, which he absolutely kills. This could be Royce’s chance to break into the popular charts; his rapping bears similarities to tracks from current hip hop superstars Tyga and J. Cole.

A massive track, with a not-so-great chorus, but definite room for more verses by a new fave of mine: Royce da 5’9”.

Libby McBride

Marnie Stern – ‘Risky Biz’ [Kill Rock Stars, 2010]

Marnie Stern’s new single has a childlike quality to it. She opens up singing line by line as if she’s forming the words as she goes along. With this slightly twee and juvenile approach more of Marnie’s own angst come out, as she sings “I’ve got something in my soul/Pushing me to hold onto the pain.” This is all quite a big change compared to her older songs. As you might have noticed, not until now is there a mention of her guitar noodling; the default opening line for any article about her. In fact it only acts as a backing to her voice and is so toned down that at first listen it’s barely noticeable. The new direction is interesting and probably necessary but still there is lingering feeling that you’d rather the excitement than the introspection.

Adam Saunders

Fujiya and Miyagi – ‘Yoyo’ [Full Time Hobby, 2011]

There is a disconnect in the bowels of this song from the gently hyped Brighton quartet; cringe worthy as it is to say this, the song has its ups and downs. The positives are in the economical instrumental base: softly distorted guitar and synth occasionally peeling away into squeaks and scrapes, a warm blanket of noise with a delicious element of unease. The negatives, unfortunately, are the rhythm and vocals that this blanket cannot hope to cover up: a single, looped jab of organ, thoughtlessly bobbing drums, and a vocal line defined by restraint, with maybe six notes and fewer lyrics. At first it seems strange to draw this line down the middle of the song: after all, minimalist repetition is the hallmark of the Krautrock/ambient music that clearly fuels Fujiya and Miyagi. After a few listens, though, the issue becomes clearer: the faint menace of the overlay is undermined by the politeness and soft delivery of the rest. Groups like Kraftwerk are exhilarating because their repetition is confrontational, daring you to dismiss the very minimal construction behind the music. F&M are comfortable with the sonic vocabulary; in fact, they’re probably too comfortable, and hence so is the listener.

Sam Goff

Single Reviews October 2010

The Quails – ‘Fever’ [Like The Sound, 2010]

It’s hard to know precisely which part of this single The Quails expect us to be impressed by. The brief verses plucked woven of inanity itself? The lazy guitar chops in the chorus, or the forgettable melody they carry along like a sack of rocks? Perhaps, given that the groups are fresh out of college, we are supposed to marvel at gravel-throated frontman Dan Steer’s hard rock stylings, coming across, as they do, like Audioslave crooner Chris Cornell boring himself to death? Surely it can’t be the utterly out of place guitar workout that the band have deemed excuse enough not to actually write any new music after the second chorus. Having already opened (note: not supported) for Muse, The Kooks, and Newton Faulkner, it’s clear that discretion is not part of The Quails’ arsenal; given that they clearly function according to a model of leather-bound rock stardom that was already defunct in the 80’s, their best hope is surely to hope that they get more gigs on Radio 2, where Janice Long “has confirmed that she is loving the Quails album.” A song as simplistic and confused as that sentence is depressing and grammatically incoherent.

Sam Goff

Pulled Apart By Horses – ‘Yeah Buddy’ [Transgressive, 2010]

The most depressing thing about this not-quite-hardcore dirge is that the band has clearly approached its composition in a spirit of efficient calculation: the ‘funky’ syncopated verse must be the makeweight in convincing the listener to excuse the moist and directionless warbling of the painfully straight chorus; the totally edgy use of two vocalists, neither of whom can scream with sufficient chutzpah, is presumably enough to make up for the cheap Americanisms of the lyrics (“Yeah, buddy! You got one heck of a nerve!”) What a vulgar display of musical weakness from a band who seem to be marketed as some art-rock party piece, hoping that none of their flaws will become too apparent if they are all on display yet carefully aligned. Furthermore, this reviewer is aghast at the climax, with its doubly-hollered refrain of “Ring out the bells!”, which is such a blatant and limp-wristed plagiarism of The Blood BrothersFucking’s Greatest Hits that the question has to be posed: why would you make your influences so obvious when you have neither the guile nor the inclination to attempt to match them, let alone evolve from them?

Sam Goff

Neon Indian – ‘Psychic Chasms’ [Lefse Records, 2010]

Deliberately derivative, Neon Indian blends the ethereal quality of Shoegaze into the warm analogue feel of 80’s synth-pop to produce a mix that is lush to its very core. Unfortunately, ‘Terminally Chill’ isn’t quite laid back enough for it to compete with the other tracks on Psychic Chasms but it still sports the lo-fi production and dreamy synths that create that very distinctive sound. Beneath the layers of synthesisers, the vocals are lyrically indiscernible and heavily processed (something reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine) but this really helps the track find a richer tone, without shifting undue attention to its singer. Possibly the most ad-hoc genre ever, the Chillwave “movement” of last summer which arose to label acts like Neon Indian, Washed Out or Memory Tapes deserves more attention than it will get.

Oli Frost

Panda Bear – ‘Tomboy’/’Slow Motion’ [Paw Tracks, 2010]

After a heavy three years, Panda Bear (AKA Noah Lennox of Animal Collective) returns with this super limited 7″, each track taken from the future LP Tomboy. A lot of the sounds on both tracks are down to Noah utilising his sampling machines further. Previously these had been reserved mostly for obscure sounds to add a psychedelic effect, but here it appears they have been used to piece together drum patterns in a more inventive way. As a result the beats provide a much more fundamental part of the songs compared to previous works such as ‘Comfy In Nautica’, where the percussion sat much lower in the mix.

The weird effects are still present though, but are used in short bursts, giving a much more stripped down feel to the record. As a result this single feels a lot less euphoric than some of Noah’s other works, but I think this makes the tracks feel more like songs rather than pieces of a whole experience, ideal for a single.

The lyrics are still as undistinguishable as ever; layers of reverb-drenched vocal on both tracks blend harmoniously together and follow a cascading melodic pattern. Beautiful as this is, his heart-felt groans (e.g. ‘Song For Ariel’) seem to be absent here, and again this further withdraws from the ecstatic feelings. Without a motive that’s easy to relate to, the spotlight is focused more towards the pure sounds coming from this record. The crownpiece in this sense is the 3/4 drum sample of ‘Slow Motion’, kick drums and hand claps that verge on the brink of Hip Hop, a feeling particularly re-inforced as a Dr. Dre chord sequence chimes in. However good these drum beats are though, for both tracks they continue relentlessly throughout without any additional layering or sparse breakdowns, and I get the feeling that this lack of progression in the music might grow tiresome after a dozen plays. But in the short term, the experience when hearing these songs is a positive one, and you may even find your shoulders popping with the rhythm.

If you’re lucky enough to find a copy of this floating around be sure to grab it, it’s beautiful under a needle.

Roger Stabbins