Thursday, March 6, 2014

Music Review: Timber

  • Artist: Pitbull featuring Ke$ha
  • Album: Meltdown [EP]
  • Release: 7 October 2013
  • Genre: Pop / Dance / Hip-hop
  • Writers: Kesha Sebert, Armando C. "Pitbull" PĂ©rez, Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, Priscilla Hamilton, Jamie "Sermstyle" Sanderson, Breyan Stanley Isaac, Henry "Cirkut" Walter, Pebe Sebert, Lee Oskar, Keri Oskar, Greg Errico
  • ProducersDr. Luke, Cirkut, Sermstyle

Folks, I have a lot of explaining to do.  I actually like a Pitbull song.  I dare say it's even a guilty pleasure of mine.  And don't say I didn't warn you, either; I brought it up on my list of honourable mentions for my Best Hit Songs of 2013.  Welp, since it's still going strong as of the time I write this -- it's since peaked at #1 -- and since I don't see it making my best-of-2014 list either, I might as well dig myself deeper by digging into this song.

So what could've attracted me to "Timber" more so than any other of Pitbull's songs over the past few years?  Maybe because technically speaking, it's a Pitbull song featuring Ke$ha.  As I admitted previously, I have a soft spot for the girl.  I mean, yes, she does at times sound like she's vomiting glitter into your ears.  But especially since her last album, she's managed to keep her obnoxiousness under control.  So how does she fare this time around?  Let's take a look at the chorus, and the thesis presented therein:
It's going down, I'm yelling "timber"
You better move, you better dance
The key point of this song is the phrase "it's going down", in relation to the party du jour.  And to punctuate said point, they added "I'm yelling 'timber'", as a lumberjack would when he or she has cut a tree and it's about to fall.  As in go down, literally.  Like the party, figuratively.  ...Sorry I had to explain the joke, I must've underestimated your intelligence for a moment.

Well, how 'bout something even I didn't know?  Let's examine that harmonica-led track in the back.  It doesn't sound like any sample I've ever heard.  But it turns out that it is, in fact, a pre-existing riff.  It comes to us from a song called "San Francisco Bay" by the Danish harmonica player and former War member Lee Oskar.  (The version on "Timber" was re-performed by session musician Paul Harrington.)  What does this song have to do with the mood which "Timber" attempts to evoke?  Naught is my guess.  Just like another Pitbull song I reviewed.  Yes, "Back In Time"'s use of "Love Is Strange" was totally incongruous, having nothing to do with the former's association with Men In Black 3.  But whilst no one in their sane mind would relate "San Francisco Bay" with some redneck hoedown like Pitbull & co. seemed to do, they used just the right parts of the song to enhance the experience.  Slowly but surely, they may just be learning the meaning of the word "subtlety".

Those of you who remember one of the other Pitbull songs I've reviewed -- in this case, "Feel This Moment" -- may remember that it did something I liked: namely, use a sample from "Take On Me", in an awesome, pulse-pounding way.  But disappointment quickly set in when the verses did -- not just because Pitbull had to go and open up his big fat mouth, but also because all the musical momentum that had built up over those glorious thirty seconds came to a screeching halt.  And then the transition from the first verse to the chorus killed the momentum again.  And so on.  Well, I have good news: "Timber" does not share its predecessor's problem.  There are no slow segments to be found this time around, ensuring that beat is pulse-pounding throughout.  In fact, with a running time of 3:24, this is a rather trim song with no unnecessary instrumental breaks or anything.  Part of me can appreciate that, given whom we're dealing with.

But even if Pitbull's obscure choice of sample (assuming it was his call) could fool me into thinking that he's kicked his crippling addiction to sampling, his unique habit of sampling lyrics from other rap songs throws a proverbial wrench into the proverbial works.  In "Timber", he's guilty of two such offences: first, this line:
Face down, booty up
That's the way we like to (what?)
is a cleaned-up version of a line from 2 Live Crew's "Face Down, [noun] Up".  And there's also this:
We about to drown (why?)
'Cause it's -- about -- to go -- down
in which the latter line is from Jay-Z's "Give It To Me (I Just Wanna Love You)".  Okay, I will admit this part was kind of awesome, I guess because of the staccato delivery.  And Pitbull & co. can't even take credit for that, the original song did that sort of thing too.  Besides, borrowing lines from ther rappers isn't the reason I've harboured as much hatred as I have for the man.  He's got other problems.  For instance, his repertoire of references extends to celebrities themselves:
I have 'em like Miley Cyrus, clothes off
Twerking in their bras and thongs, timber
Aw, dangit man!  I was trying to forget about the Twerktastrophe of 2013!  And the fact that we've even given that random act such a cute name is a sign that our culture is focusing its attention on the wrong things, but that's a rant for another day.  So, what else ya got?
I'm slicker than an oil spill
Huh.  Remember when Pitbull did that line about "flooding like New Orleans", which I sarcastically honoured as the worst line he's ever spit?  I would cry foul at this line, too, having the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in mind, but that line is non-specific enough that I think I could give it a pass.  After all, oil spills anywhere in the world tend to occur more frequently than flooding in any one particular city.  Either way, I've surprised myself with how little I was offended by this or indeed any line from this song.  Maybe it's because of his relative absence, or because other rappers like Lil' Wayne showed just how low the bar could be set, but I'm not even as annoyed at Pitbull as I used to be.  For example, let's go back to the "flooding like New Orleans" line.  For any other bad rapper, that would only make the back half of the list, if at all.  On the other hand, when Pitbull says this:
She says she won't, but I bet she will
I don't picture that as a warning that he's about to date-rape some dame, and more that he's making a friendly wager with another guy that he can get some other girl to accompany him into bed of her own free will.  He is, to purloin a catchphrase from a certain intergalactic reference material, "mostly harmless".  I mean, he self-censored that 2 Live Crew line a while back!  Who else is gonna do that?  As a general rule, he's not mysoginistic, he's not threatening, he just wants to have a good time for himself.  Even if the man comes across as annoying every once in a while, in the grand scheme of things, is that such a crime?
Club jumpin' like LeBron now (Voli)
Order me another round, homie
We wrap up our whirlwind tour of worrisome writing with this wee little bit of product placement.  So, Pitbull... I see you're still vouching for Voli vodka.  Given the fate of Kodak -- you know, the brand you rather embarrassingly pimped out at the start of "Give Me Everything" -- I had hoped you'd have learned your lesson by now.  But I guess those first-class plane tickets don't pay for themselves!

Well, all product placement aside, I must admit I rather liked "Timber".  Do I think it's a good song?  ...Eh, that's harder to answer.  It's true that the path of the party song is fully well-worn, so if you're seeking some great insight into the human condition, look elsewhere.  But here's the thing: no one expects the party song to provide such insight; they just want to put it on to have fun.  And any party song that can serve as a consistent source of fun is a good party song.  See, I don't know about you, but in judging things, most especially songs, I try to take into account both the effort that went into it, and the reactions it instills in me as a consumer.  I mean, that's the point of entertainment as a whole, no?  If Pitbull's just gonna go off and do his own thing, he might as well improve at whatever that thing is.  And doggone it, I consider "Timber" an improvement.

Music: 4 out of 5
Lyrics: 2 out of 5
Performance: 4 out of 5
The Call: 3 out of 5 (C)

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