At any point in time there always appears to be one or two artists at the very pinnacle of pop culture fame. In recent years artists such as Britney Spears
, Justin Timberlake
and the Black Eyed Peas
have achieved notoriety that seemingly exceeds the top of the charts. Modern artists may never quite match Beatlemania, but the essence is still the same today. The fame is often fleeting, and the fall from grace harsh (as the Spice Girls
would testify). Yet whilst the furor lasts, these most notorious artists make the pop world what it is, a market built on short term satisfaction.
2006 was a year in which artists such as the Pussycat Dolls
, Nelly Furtado
and Justin Timberlake extended themselves out above the pack. They made themselves icons of pop culture, even if only for a moment. Behind a shockingly large amount of 2006’s biggest hits was a man perhaps ready to declare himself as 2007’s king. His goal for 2007 was quite simply to do just that, to “take over top-40 radio.”
It would take a man of strong stature to do so, and as the cover of his album Shock Value
indicates, Timbaland is the man for the job. Many will look at his goals as unreachable, and see him as a modern day musical version of Icarus. Whether or not he is overextending himself in collaborating with artists from all ends of the musical spectrum is irrelevant. He may burn out quickly, but in the pop music market it is the short term that matters. To put it simply, that Timbaland, he’s so hot right now.
Musical milestones and inventions are often incredibly hard to spot. When a new genre pops up, it is not created in the mind of one, but rather emerges through a series of gradual developments. Timbaland certainly wasn’t the first to use sampling of music, and as much as his work on songs like My Love
by Justin Timberlake and Promiscous
by Nelly Furtado felt fresh, innovative and new. It doesn’t take much searching to see they’re just another step in the general direction of pop music. The first song on the album Oh Timbaland
uses a sample of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman
to create his very own mondegreen, with her full-toned vocals appearing to ooze “Oh Timbaland, where you going to run to?”
Nina Simone may not have had Timbaland in mind whilst, but nevertheless the song highlights the slick production of the album, at least in some songs. Much of the album does seem to be a cumulation of the lessons Timbaland has learnt in his many years in the industry, with much of the album drawing from his past work. But revolutionary? Certainly not.
The farthest Timbaland extends from his bread and butter is in the last half dozen tracks. Just looking at the collaborating artists for the last few tracks, it is easy to see that his intention was to penetrate into the world of rock. Time
stands as one of the highlights of the ‘rock’ section of the album, and the album in general. Timbaland puts the vocalist of post-punk revival band She Wants Revenge
to great use, adding an artificial effect to his already low monotonous drawl. The mix between Timbaland’s sound and the band’s is mixed nicely, switching back and forth between hip-hop beats and an electronic post-punk chorus. At times Timbaland seems to lose sight of his background as in the Fall Out Boy
collaboration One & Only
, which never captures the essence of either Fall Out Boy or Timbaland. Perhaps his best ‘rock’ effort is the collaboration with Elton John
which finds a nice blend of the piano man and Timbaland, highlighting the musical strengths of both men. Elton’s piano and silky female vocals act as the melody, with Timbaland guiding the direction of the piece.
The style Timbaland developed with artists Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado under his wing has a strong presence within the album with songs like Way I Are
sharing a similar electronic sound to Timberlake’s My Love
. The pulsating synth melody throughout the song is as irresistible as its My Love
counterpart, and a sure fire way to get everybody on the dance floor. The vocals of the song are provided by Timbaland’s latest protégé, Keri Hilson. Her plush R&B vocals fit into Timbaland’s construction perfectly, never allowing the strong melody to dominate her vocals, but instead matching it in terms of lure. Hilson seems ready to break into the top of the charts, with Timbaland’s guidance. She provides Timbaland with a very talented tool in his arsenal, and one that is probably more suited to his desired sound than Nelly Furtado. In Scream
she displays an intoxicating mix of talented R&B vocals with intelligence, personality and poise. Shes proves in Shock Value
that she is somebody to watch out for in the future.
Of the songs that lean more towards gangster rap, Kill Yourself
is one of the strongest. The beat never overshadows the male vocalists, with its simplicity giving the vocals more strength. Timbaland’s meaty beats do have a tendency to overwhelm the vocals in some of the songs, and at times it does feel like a shouting match between vocals and the beat like in Missy Elliott’s section in Bounce
. Surprisingly however, even with a bold and brash beat in Come & Get Me
, rapper 50 Cent
offers one of his finest commercial rapping performances, and seems to feed off of the bulging beat. Not exactly a common occurrence with Fiddy. As a whole though Timbaland’s gangster rap influenced section offers some tasty morsels, but nothing substantial enough to entertain in the long term.
Timbaland brought a heck of a lot of big names to the table with Shock Value
, and whilst that may be enough to make Shock Value
go platinum, but not enough to etch his name into the minds of mainstream music consumers. Timbaland delivers a solid effort in songs such as Way I Are
, 2 Man Show
and Oh Timbaland
, Too often the songs feel devoid of inspiration, products of a formula. Timbaland’s production is likewise a mixed affair, sometimes showing clever touches, but occasionally making bland production decisions or overwhelming the guest vocals. Timbaland may still end up claiming 2007 as his own, but Shock Value
will only be backing evidence, rather than the landmark album that propelled his name to the top of the pop world.