the takedown: an analysis of
  • THURSDAY, JULY 08, 2010

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It is totally understandable to use artists as a utility to make an already too-cool-for-school sneaker company seem more cool, but I was kind of hoping that after last year's hurricane "My Drive Thru" disaster, the Three Artists project would realize the inherent flaws in the grand design. This time around, after the initial announcement, it seemed doable. Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast), and Kid Cudi, seems like a slightly more even assortment of artists to create a single song. This time they realized three voices on one track, especially three strong voices, wouldn't work as a triple feature. But once again, they seem to fail spectacularly, more tragically so in my opinion, even managing to repeat my biggest criticism of the original project. Let's analyze!


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First some positives: the Best Coast vocals set up the Kid Cudi flow really well, especially with the underlying bongo parts. Here it is unclear that there are three artists at play, and THAT IS GOOD. Cudi spits a nice verse about summer, the beat sounds sampled, which in turn sounds more authentic than if we were aware everything is being tracked from scratch.

Then it all gets flushed. Note: rap/hip-hop songs depend heavily on the beat, and the intro of this song leading into a Cudi verse (who handles most of the "verses" in the track) sets it up as such a song. When including such verses, it is crucial to the overall feel of the song that the internal rhythm never swap in and out BETWEEN GENRES, or the whole thing feels disjointed and confusing (unless in very isolated cases where a brilliant beatsmith is dialing the knobs). The swap of internal rhythm occurs with the chorus, a jumpy, poppy double-time sung by Best Coast, and presumably with parts assembled by Rostam (he simply produced the track). This is where I had sweat-inducing flashbacks to the modulation in "My Drive Thru". Argue all you want about avant garde and bullsh*t, this chorus does not fit into the Kid Cudi song established at 00:00. Rostam blends in nicely with the two, but the chorus and verse are glaringly separate, like Grand Canyon separate, despite being part of the same riff.

It's more depressing to me that this could have been an awesome collaboration. I really like the beginning, it's fun and catchy. But the disjointed skeletal structure just leaves me frustrated. At least "My Drive Thru" was just terrible all around, too long, and filled with eight different verses, a few bridges, and no discernible chorus. This isn't Phillip Glass, it's supposed to be a popular song, and popular songs have formulas. Get Professor Music on the phone, we need to solve this equation, STAT.

In the end, the rhythmic swap more closely resembles a Best Coast song, which is jarring and discombobulating (I went there), especially if you think Cudi is at the helm. If you take Cudi away, then the song makes perfect sense, but is boring. If you start with Best Coast and go into the chorus, and then add Cudi, it sounds like he is just guest rapping, not an equal participant. The only solution I see is to change the chorus to emphasize the original rhythmic emphasis on two and four instead of on the 'ands', but this is very nit-picky and technical. I'll just say, doesn't it feel a little off to you as is?

I'll admit one thing: this sounds like a Three Artist's song, an aesthetic that is rapidly becoming identifiable as "trying to build something out of legos and tinker toys", for better or worse. Think about it: it can be done, but it requires planning and thought. If these kicks want to be cooler than they already are, they should invest in a formula&mdash producer, singer, instrumentalist could work&mdash and then maybe I'll provide them with the free advertising they seek. -joe puglisi

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