Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Game and 50 Cent - Hate It Or Love It

*** (out of four)

"Hate It or Love It" is the only 50 Cent song I really even remotely enjoy or respect - instead of the usual bullshit ego posturing and flat fuck-me-bitch nursery-rhyme club choruses, we get genuine autobiographical information and emotion from 50. Not to mention a half-bad flow that interweaves perfectly with labelmate and hip-hop feud partner The Game, an old school soul-type track from Dr. Dre and a chorus you'll actually sing along to after you hear it a few times.*

The video, from director (or is it a company?) The Saline Project, has present-day 50 Cent and The Game visiting their hometowns - 50 raps from an empty street at night while computer-generated white graffiti pops up behind him, while Game goes back to Compton in the daytime. Compton has more palm trees than I remember.

In between, we see both rappers in the front seats of cars, I guess headed to and from those destinations. 50 has this very song playing on the car's iPod, while Game's car is listening to later-years Hall and Oates for some reason. He's trying to learn the M-E-T-H-O-D O-F L-O-V-E, is my guess.

And we see childhood versions of 50 and Game acting out the song's lyrics. When you listen to "Hate It or Love It," you picture their descriptions of selling drugs and "being strapped like carseats" to keep from getting murdered over a pair of Barkley 95 sneakers (lots of words cut out during that verse**) as happening to, you know, like an 18 year old. Little 50 and Little Game look even younger than the two fourth-graders from Diddy's boy band B5.

The Game actually gets more mic time than 50 Cent - 50 even cuts short his second verse and says "listen to Game." Then Game pops in with a verse about how he bought his Mom a Benz with a red bow on it, how the government spends $30 million apiece on airplanes but won't feed the hungry, how the wood that should be used to make school books is used "to build coffins." Then you see him and 50 Cent sitting side by side on a charter jet in oversized white leather seats, drinking martinis. It seems a little contradictory.

These guys come from such a violent, poverty-ridden background that one of the posse guys from the video shoot already has an "R.I.P." dedication over his face. Somehow in between the filming, editing and release of this video, the dude got shot to death or stuck a knife in his toaster or something. This is a world cozy-living white folks like myself can't possibly understand. I may be in credit card debt, have no car and no health insurance, but I live really fucking comfortably and almost feel guilty about it. Almost.

* = What am I talking about, "hear it a few times"? This song's been out for over a half-year already and has saturated the airwaves - we've all heard "Hate It or Love It" more than a few years. But it's become that rare breed of hip-hop pop I still don't get sick to hear and am actually glad to recognize the opening beats of when I'm out in public and therefore can't control the flow of music.

** = As a public service to you fans of the First Amendment, here's a list of words cut out of the MTV version video, in order:

Four-five 'em / Kill a nigga

Oddly enough, lines about "throwing babies in the garbage" and getting abortions are left intact. Planned Parenthood is one powerful fucking lobby, after all.

Switchfoot - Stars

** (out of four)

Man, these days I can't tell my Switchfoot from my Breaking Benjamin from my Killers from my Hoobastank. Their singles all have that bland, indistinguishable quality. The only thing that makes this "Stars" at all different from everything else on the TGIFriday's Muzack playlist during a random Tuesday happy hour is - this guy cannot stop looking at the fucking stars.

Yeah, the singer gives his bandmates an occasional look to the left and right, and he sings very intently into the microphone at times. He even ends up floating in mid-air, kicking his Converse around and flopping like a fish. But his favorite thing to do, in the whole wild world? Stare at the goddamn stars. Because the stars make him feel like himself.

This guy keeps looking up to the stars even when rain starts pouring down on him and his band and their electrically powered equipment. Hey, man - I know what it's like to lose a CD open-box discount boombox you bought for $34.80 from Best Buy to a rainstorm because you're busy staring at the sky for hours.

This guy's a modern-rock frontman, I was a 25-year-old slacker on mushrooms* during a camping trip, but I know I'll never leave equipment out in the rain because I'm absorbed by nature's light show again. Psychotropic drugs or not.

* = Haven't taken them since, uh, Mom.

Britney Spears - My Prerogative

**1/2 (out of four)

Hindsight being comically clear and all, I should note that, in February 1999, when I reviewed "Baby One More Time," I wrote, "I'll let this one slide, but I'm going to lose a lot of faith in the music industry if the world allows Britney Spears another hit."

Well, "My Prerogative" is the token Brand New Single from Britney's greatest hits album. And, in six-plus years, I've lost a hell of a lot of faith in the music industry.

And who would have thought back then that, several years down the road, the jailbait Catholic-schoolgirl video for "Baby One More Time" would look downright wholesome next to the softcore stripper porn of videos like "My Prerogative."

Britney spends at least half her time in lingerie, wandering a party inside a whorehouse - trying on nipple-damn-near-exposed dominatrix lingerie and brandishing a cat o' nine tails, writhing atop a queen-sized bed in bra and panties, dancing atop the hood of a car that's parked in a pool.

That's right - she strip teases on a car in a pool. At the beginning of the video, Britney guns her white sports car right past the valet parking attendant at the posh brothel party she's going to, jumps an embankment and crash-lands in the shallow end.

And instead of calling for help or checking to see if she has any broken bones, Britney immediately hops on the hood of the car and begins a come-hither dance while leering into the camera. I don't know, if I was a paramedic, I'd consider myself lucky to take that call. Mouth to mouth? Sure thing, Britney. Be happy to save your life.

Coldplay - Fix You

** (out of four)

I liked these guys a lot better when they were among the obscure "Check These Guys Out, Please. Please!" bands on the MTV2 playlist. Back when you were kind of rooting for them to break through because you thought they were better than most. Before they ended up releasing a lot of similar-sounding songs most of your friends' moms liked to put on so they could fall into a peaceful sleep.

You never would have thought they'd end up hitting the stadium-tour circuit and being hyped as "the next U2." Or that lead singer would marry Gwenyth Paltrow - you always figured he'd hook up with Bjork or something at the Bumbershoot alternarock festival in Seattle.

But no... five years after "Yellow," the Coldplay guys have gotten too big for their britches, and they've abandoned the fascinating, avant-garde look of, say, "Trouble" in favor of two solid minutes of Martin walking down a street at night and two more minutes of Coldplay's brand new stadium show. Which, according to critics, is the exact same show every night - even the between-song banter is identically delivered.

You see, Martin is actually walking to his own stadium concert. He arrives mid-song (50,000 AUDIENCE MEMBERS: So just who's been singing this entire time? I'm confused. I want my $44.99 plus seven-dollar convenience fee back), waves a sparkler around, cues the pyrotechnics guy and plays a rollicking solo on the piano. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the next U2.

B5 - U Got Me

*1/2 (out of four)

I can't tell if this boy group's name is a play on the word "before" or just the marketing notion that, hey, Backstreet Boys begins with a B and has five members, so let's call our boy group B5. I'm sure dumber ideas got tossed around the board room.

B5 is actually a P. Diddy creation - or, wait, since he faxed me that press release a few weeks ago, he wants to be called simply Diddy. It's his New Edition, except that two of them are in like fourth grade. (And, I swear, they're getting hit on in the video by girls who have their period and everything, those adorable baby macks.) And the one in the cornrows wants to spend half the song rapping nondescriptly.

"U Got Me," whose title you can't forget because it's printed in huge, free-standing block letters on the back of the set, takes place on a single room of a soundstage. There's a simple white backdrop set and a black backdrop set, and the guys are identically dressed - in shades of black and white. It's all letterboxed, though, because that's a cheap way to make a video look classy.

There's a little choreographed dancing, a little comical macho posturing, a few actual modestly dressed girls and, like I said, the letters of the song title in the background. It's not worth watching twice. Or once. But, little ladies, if you like what you see here and want to join the fan club, just send an email to They send you a little B5 patch and everything - I've got mine sowed onto the right sleeve of my bowling jacket, right under my "50 Pins Over Average Single Game" patch.