A Thin Line?

Grip Like a Vice – The Go! Team from Proof of Youth

If ever a band deserved to have an exclamation point in its name, The Go! Team earns it with a high energy mix of hip-hop, fuzzy guitars and various raps and cheerleaderesque chants.  Their lo-fi debut was a refreshing surprise, but I was wondering if they were a one-trick pony.  Well, they kinda were with their second album, Proof of Youth, but I can’t say I don’t like it.  There’s better production values, which isn’t a bad thing here.

When I was listening to the first song from that second album the other day, I was struck by the silliness of the lyrics.  It got me thinking about the recent internet phenomenon that was Friday.  Incredibly bad, this song should become a staple in the playlist of SWAT teams blasting music to try and flush out the bad guys.  The lyrics have been especially reviled by music lovers the world (wide web) over.  But as I listed to Grip Like a Vice, I was left wondering, what separates the good from the bad (and in this case throw in the ugly).

Here’s a sampling of lyrics from both songs:  “Kickin’ in the front seat/Sittin’ in the back seat/Gotta make my mind up/Which seat can I take”; “Get ready for this/Get ready for this/Party people in the house get ready for this/To you/What you gonna do”; “To all the ladies/Yeah/And the world know what we talkin’ about”; Partyin’ Partyin’ (Yeah)/Partyin’ Partyin’ (Yeah)/Fun Fun Fun Fun/Lookin’ forward to the weekend”; “The blast from the past/You’ve heard it every word.”  You can probably figure which is which, but no one’s winning a Grammy with any of these lyrics.  So why does one set of lyrics serve an integral part in a really good song and the other, well, serve an integral part of suck.

I’m excluding the music as much as I can from the equation.  Friday‘s got a chintzy beat that sounds like it could have been made with the cheapest of synthesizers.  Grip Like A Vise, on the other hand, shreds with a combo of horns, a snappy drum/cymbal combo, and guitars flying all over the track.  Where I can’t entirely divorce the music from the lyrics is its affect on the singer.  Would Rebecca Black’s singing have been better if she had the Go! Team’s music here?  Minimally, at the very least the energy of the music could have lifted Black’s own earnest enthusiasm.  Would Lisa Lee and Sha Rock’s rap have worked with Friday‘s limp “beats”?  I don’t think so, there’s nowhere to go with this track, it just lays there and I don’t know how any MC could rescue it.  So, Black was obviously was at a disadvantage from the start.

Her other obvious, and painful, handicap is she has no sense of lyrical rhythm.  She’s not sure whether to sing, rap. or do a spoken word piece.  Her earnestness gets overwhelmed by how bad she is at vocal delivery.  On the other hand, the MCs in Grip Like A Vice know their way around a beat.  Their infectious rapping uses the music to make you want to get up and dance.  Instead of just talking about partying, they make you want to party with them.  So, while both songs contain pretty bad lyrics, the act of delivering them with confidence makes a world of difference.  It’s that simple.  Ok, and it helps to have a bumpin’ beat to accompany you.

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