Round 2 – Group 16:
1.) Tango In The Night: Fleetwood Mac
2.) Let Go: Avril Lavigne
3.) Greatest Hits: 2Pac
4.) Man Vs. Machine: Xzibit
Call The Cops When You See 2Pac
When two hip hop albums get drawn out randomly in the same group it’s a logistical nightmare to schedule the listening of them around when the family is out of the house. Listening to them in the car is just as challenging, you can’t exactly have 2 Of Amerikas Most Wanted slinging through the car stereo speakers on the school run can you? It doesn’t exactly set a good example. First world problems right?
2Pac’s Greatest Hits is an almighty collection of every solid track he produced during his short life. It’s wall to wall soothing, slick R&B style hip hop and gansta rap. A tremendously good rapper able to mix up the styles and unlike a lot of contempories 2Pac’s rapping style is fairly melodic and rythmic. At times he displays a masterful talent even if I’m not totally down with the track at hand. The combination of rapping and backbeat on tracks like Trapped, I Get Around, Picture Me Rollin gets mesmerising after a few listens.
At 2 hours in length though, it becomes hard work to finish it in one sitting and for all the mammothly enjoyable stuff like Dre’s bouncy party California Love, 2Pac’s clinical rapping on Brenda’s Got A Baby or Troublesome and the controversial Hit Em Up inflaming East Vs West tensions, as you dig through the entire collection you start to want to skip a few of them. The ones’ with unecessary wailing for example or the murdering of Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is .
I’m sure many Hip Hop fans will be outraged that I put Avril Lavigne’s debut above 2Pac’s Greatest Hits, well this is how I see it folks, I make no apologies for shamelessly enjoying Let Go as an album experience slightly more than 2Pac’s collection. I do mean slightly, Let Go barely scrapes in above it but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven and regain some credibility from the street when I say that 2Pac is most definitely a class above Xzibit. Word.
The Game Is 10% Skill and 90% Hollywood
Regardless of it’s inabiltity to compete in this group, Man Vs. Machine is certainly a well produced hip hop record. I guess that’s no surprise when you get help from the likes of Dre, Eminem, Nate and Snoop who all pitch in at various points. Dre’s Symphony in X Major becomes like a blueprint for the style of the whole album. Serious rapping with a light touch coupled with pop sensibilities. Multiply, Heart Of Man (with its sampling of Toto’s Africa) and Losin’ Your Mind all sound commercial with the catchy and err, ‘sexually dominant’ Choke Me, Spank Me, Pull My Hair competing with Eminem’s My Name Is for best track on the record.
My Name Is is typical Em from era 2000 – 2003, even with Nate Dog’s slightly comical chorus (“Put Your Nuts On The Table….Let’s Play The Game“) this could have made the 8 Mile soundtrack. Alas the issue with Man Vs. Machine is its inability to retain a consistently high quality delivery. Too many tracks here fall flat and start to get irksome with repeated listens. End track Enemies isn’t much cop, Break Yourself gets annoying after a while and Missin U has that god-awful wailing, it sounds like somebody put an injured cat through autotune.
Step Up and Let Go
As tenuous as this link sounds, listening to these four albums back to back for a few weeks had me notice that Avril Lavigne seems to copy the ‘Step Up‘ motif on Nobody’s Fool from 2Pacs I Get Around. Maybe she’s a fan?
Anyhow on Let Go, Avril, who was only 18 at the time of it’s release, shows us she means busniess with the angsty opener Losing Grip, a conventional light/dark grunge-lite effort. Other ‘punk-lite’ efforts, the fun Skater Boi & relationship melodrama Unwanted get scattered among the opening half of this debut record but soon however, the album reveals itself as a melodic, more poppy, sing-along with a few credible songs like Mobile, Unwanted, Things I’ll Never Say and of course her big hit Complicated.
She has a solid authentic voice and the album’s production is professional with workmanlike musicanship. For a moment here, Let Go wobbled and looked like it might get beaten by 2Pac, but its blend of courageous innocence and melodic naive appeal sees it through in 2nd place safely (just).
During a discussion with a colleague many years ago, I once said that Tango In The Night was a better album than Rumours. I didn’t realise how bold that staement was until the words left my mouth. My colleague, being a muso much like myself scoffed at the idea. Rumours has The Chain and Dreams and Don’t Stop he probably said. Well I don’t care, Tango is a sumptuous album and perfect blending of layered melodic cascades and gently tumbling harmonies seeping through your speakers and elegantly gliding into your ears. The lyrics are romantic and tragic and sensual, and so is the music. That beautiful flamenco guitar on Family Man, the enveloping harp-like synth wrapping Everywhere around you, the vocal harmony and crafted perfection of Little Lies, the tribal percussion and sensuality of Caroline. A top draw effort from this tortured supergroup and the last album they ever did with the full line-up.