In a joint collaboration with my weekday roommate and Bronx ally Skip Serpico, I’ll be discussing a mix CD a week. He makes them, I listen to them and provide my in the moment commentary. You, hopefully, read said commentary and maybe open up your musical horizons. You can come here every week for the Serpico Mixes. And you should also visit Skip’s site, Fission Spaghetti, for his musings on food and Saturday Night Live (and more!)
Theme: The Baby-Making Disc
Missing You by Case- Skip and I have discussed before the difference between say, mid-90’s R & B and modern R & B and a lot of it comes down to subtlety. They both have sex predominantly on their mind but one is a bit more romantic about it. It’s essentially the difference between “making love” and “getting all up in there,” if you will. Nothing wrong with being unsubtle, but sometimes some subtlety is a good thing too.
Anyway, this is more the former the latter which is a nice reminder of the kind of R & B that was on the radio when I was in middle school.
Kissin’ You by Total- This is also pure former, but I’m kind of bored. I imagine if you swapped the tracks, I’d feel good about this one and be bored with the above one. It’s a luck of the order thing here.
Adore by Prince- Prince is great. The music is great. But oh my God is this thing long. Sex should be long-lasting, pop music should not.
(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow by Tony! Toni! Tone!- Same complaint as above minus Prince. In fairness, probably would be pretty good for an actual baby-making mix. Not so much as a sitting at my desk all alone mix though.
Cupid by 112- Immediately, I like this song with its electronic clap beat and the quirky dripping sink sound effect. Then the vocals kick in. They voice are good, the lyrics are fine. They’re just so… conventional in sound in comparison to the music track. Also, I question doing the deed to a song in which the singer is espousing his innocence in re: to cheating on his lady.
Friendly Skies by Missy Elliott ft. Ginuwine- Endless. The vocoder turned all the way up on the male voice helped at first but, by the end, was just annoying.
Softly Softly by Sweetback- I like that the song gets bigger both musically and vocally around the 3 minute mark. It is a short-lived elevation, but enough to give the music enough texture to not feel as long.
Lady by D’Angelo- Boy am I getting repetitive…a pleasant enough mid-tempo jam that suffers for not knowing when to take off its clothes and just get down to it, if you know what I mean.
Good Love by Lucy Pearl- The fact this has a woman singing much of it instead of a man using a falsetto is a reprieve enough to bring me back into things a little.
Soul Sista by Bilal- I’m starting to realize why I never really set out much R & B beyond the stuff the radio exposed me to.
Be Here by Raphael Saadi ft D’Angelo- Oh my gosh! Mildly uptempo! A faster beat! Voices of a slighter louder quality! An a cappella ending! Some tuba notes as a postscript! (I played tuba back in the day.)
Variety, how I’ve missed thee.
One in a Million by Aaliyah- Palate refreshed by the last song, I found myself able to click into this one a bit better. It is a bright sunny entry that is not afraid to sing above the (admittedly typical) R & B musical track.
There’s something weirdly innocent about this entry. “I’ve got a crush on you.” “You’re love is one in a million.” “You give me a really good feeling all day long.”
On the other hand she also promises whoever she is singing too “anything you so desire” so maybe I’m misreading things.
Insatiable by Prince and the New Power Generation- Once again, as with #5, I was immediately drawn in by a more unconventional music opening. Unlike #5, however, this one held my attention throughout. The layered voices, the controlled shouting vocals at times (you may know it as the Aguilera approach), the production that had a bit more depth to it; all of that was to the good.
It is, on the other hand, a bit more “graphic” than the other songs here. However, it is very playful about it so even that I enjoyed and appreciated. Sex should be fun, I think, and this nicely represents that.
It is the longest track on the disc, but with a Prince monologue breaking things up, it does not feel at all as much of a drudge as several of the other songs on here.
Superstar by Usher- The lyrical content is pretty typical and there’s a lot of falsetto here, but the sound is big and strong so it definitely grabbed and kept my attention. Not a song I’d choose for myself though.
In Love With You by Erykah Badu- I like the Spanish guitar here and the occasional nonsense lyrics. So different on every level from everything else here. Besides the Prince tunes (because, hey, he’s Prince) this is far and away my favorite song on the disc.
Overall- I felt compelled to write this bit here because the fact of the matter is that this is an incredibly consistent mix in talent and sound but it probably reads as not very good given my critiques above. And that’s not really accurate.
It is good, if not great, musical wallpaper. I know that that doesn’t sound very good, but I honestly mean it as a compliment. As a mood setter, as something to run through and around an evening, it is adept. It sets and holds a tone that I can imagine would be very conducive to the business of shaking the bed springs.
However, as something to listen to while writing, walking around, or simply leaning back and letting the music roll over me, it is the equivalent of looking at a series of photos of people who looking basically the same posing in basically the same way in monochrome. Each individual photo has artistic value and is of high quality but all in a row? Boring.
To reiterate, all are quality songs taken individually or used as a mood setter. As a focal point though, the mix cannot hold my attention.