Tag Archives: R&B

“Dedication to My Ex (Miss That),” by Lloyd (2011)

by Chris Randle

The cad/gentleman duality is a familiar R&B persona, but I can’t remember the last album that embodied it as fully as King of Hearts does. The second song on Lloyd’s new LP, “Cupid,” exemplifies the latter archetype; over an atypically hard beat, he marvels that, what do you know, the little cherub has done it again! But it’s coming on the heels of this:

“Dedication to My Ex” could be the punk-rock version of Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You,” sanitized radio version and all. (The bowdlerized chorus substitutes “lovin,” though I wish Lloyd had used his most absurd idea, “Lucy.”) It reduces the earlier song’s bereft tantrum to three metaphorical chords of profane neo-soul. Andre 3000’s acidic guest verse has the bilious aftertaste of a John Lydon rant: “Bet your buddy don’t even know you don’t like red / Or was it fuschia? Fuck it, our future is dead.” For a singer so clearly indebted to the sex-terrified Michael Jackson, intoning “pussy” every five seconds is similarly jarring.

Like “Fuck You,” however, the song belies its lyric sheet (perhaps inadvertently). Lloyd doesn’t sound distraught here. He almost seems to be getting off on reminiscence, describing the really good sex he and his lady used to have with a bruised thrill. When he sings “I guess she’s feeling kind of freaky lately,” his tone carries a note of wistfulness. In this light, Lloyd’s weird sexist fantasy that the other man has literally fucked her vagina out of shape is less a sneer than a whimper. His words say pussy in heels, but his voice cries Venus in Furs. Cuckolded self-pity curdles into self-mockery. A jovial “I’m about to kill this bitch” is the one unfunny moment, especially when Chris Brown appears two tracks later, but masochistic and misogynistic have never been mutually exclusive, even among punks.

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“The Perfect Lullaby,” by Nguzunguzu (2011)

by Chris Randle

The trouble with Nguzunguzu being so great? Their name is still hard to type. (Can we call this the Merrill Garbus Problem?) At least that mouthful of a moniker, inspired by carvings from the Solomon Islands, suits their whorled rhythms. The DJ duo have a monomaniacal side: their “Moments in Love” mix unites 20+ remixes and edits of the old Art of Noise single. But my favourite thing they’ve ever done is the recent “Perfect Lullaby” set, and it moves across a larger, more expansive canvas. Merging gauzy, feather-light reworkings of AAA R&B (Ciara, Amerie’s “1 Thing,” The-Dream) into a carefully assembled whole, the mix is 48 minutes of unrelieved loveliness.

Nguzunguzu’s approach to R&B diverges from the lo-fi, indie-friendly, highly controversial aesthetic of How to Dress Well or the Weeknd. The former sounds as if he’s recording inside a drainpipe, while the latter prefer their tracks listless, washed-out and Beach-House-sampling. But hey, I like a lot of songs that might have been captured on equipment found curbside, and not in spite of that. It’s just that the production of “Perfect Lullaby” better amplifies its borrowed vocals, remains sensitive to their emotional nuances.

In the Weeknd’s alienated lyrics, sex and its catalysts are oppressively constant, the bottle service of the damned. This transcendent Nguzunguzu remix of Ciara’s “Deuces” remix (more tongue-twisting) conjures up a different vision of the party’s end: Thought that it was perfect, hope that it was worth it / But I’ll be okay, no more stress, no more pain / I’ll be straight, I’m chucking up them deuces.

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