Monday, September 14, 2015

Music Review: Time of Our Lives vs. GDFR

"Time of Our Lives"
  • Artist: Pitbull & Ne-Yo 
  • Album: Globalization (Pitbull) / Non-Fiction (Ne-Yo) 
  • Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap, Dance 
  • Label: RCA (Sony) 
  • Release: 17 November 2014 
  • Writers: Armando C. Pérez, Lukasz Gottwald, Henry Walter, Robin Weisse, Shaffer Smith, Vinay Rao, Stephan Taft, Michael "Freakin" Everett 
  • Producer: Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Lifted, Michael "Freakin" Everett (melody)
  • Artist: Flo Rida feat. Sage the Gemini and Lookas 
  • Album: My House 
  • Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap 
  • Label: Atlantic (Warner) 
  • Release: 21 October 2014 
  • Writers: Tramar Dillard, Dominic Woods, Lucas Rego, Mike Caren, Andrew Cedar, Charles W. Miller, Gerald Goldstein, Harold Brown, Howard E. Scott, Justin Frank, Lee Oskar, Leroy L. Jordan, Morris Dickerson, Sylvester Allen 
  • Producers: DJ Frank E, Andrew Cedar, Lookas, Miles Beard

2015 has been a good year for Summer songs. Heck, one of them even had the word "summer" in the title, just to drive the point home. But some of those songs were holdovers from earlier in the year which happened to have a little more staying power. For the purposes of this article, I speak of "Time of Our Lives" by Pitbull, and "G.D.F.R" by Flo Rida. Now, previously on the SDP, I did another joint review of both a Pitbull song and a Flo Rida song. Since that last review, Pitbull has become more tolerable and Flo Rida hadn't done much of anything. And now that they've had concurrent hits once again, I thought I'd challenge them to a second round, and see what's changed.

I'll start with Pitbull's song, since he's the guy who draws in all the readers to this blog, apparently. We begin with the chorus, sung by Ne-Yo.
I knew my rent was gonna be late about a week ago
I worked my ass off, but I still can't pay it though
But I got just enough, to get off in this club
Have me a good time, before my time is up
Well this was unexpected. Our protagonist is not the usual money-spouting partying machine, but is on the verge of defaulting on his financial obligations. And sure, if you are struggling to make ends meet financially, the last thing you want to do is waste what little scratch you've managed to save up. But our protagonist has already come to terms with his destiny of not affording the month's rent, so he's going to make the most of his situation. Truly, this hook brings across the point that "Give Me Everything" or "Feel This Moment" failed to.

Surprisingly, this song does not use any samples, but non-specifically evokes the house music of the late '90s / early 2000s, such as Daft Punk's Discovery album. And while I haven't minded Pitbull's (producers') use of sampling in the past, regardless, this approach results in a slick groove. And having such relatively deep lyrics only sweetens the deal. Oh, buy you know how it is, the actual verses are just going to be the same partying and drinking routine. Might as well get this over with.
This is the last twenty dollars I got
But I'mma have a good time ballin' tonight
Tell the bartender, line up some shots
Because I'm gonna get loo-oo-oose tonight
...Eh? Pitbull actually carried the theme from the chorus into his verses? What a shocking development! Please, do go on!
She a freaky girl and I'm a freaky man
She on the rebound, broke up with her ex
And I'm like Rodman, ready on deck
And what's this now? Pitbull's hitting on a girl who isn't already in a relationship? What alternate universe have I stumbled upon where the cliches of mainstream rap do not apply? Because I'm parking myself down there and not leaving! Okay, so he does get to those cliches anyway, in pretty much all of the lyrics I haven't bothered to showcase for you readers. But it works this time around, because for once we have some context in which all his party behaviour takes place. And the clincher, the one moment which cements this song with a good impression, is the last couple of lines Pitbull adds to the end of the middle eight:
This for everybody going through tough times
Believe me, been there, done that
But everyday above ground is a great day, remember that
An inspirational statement encouraging people to stay positive? From Mr. Worldwide himself!? I guess anything's possible with the new and improved Pitbull. Now with 10% less Voli! Seriously, while the music video had a shot of that particular product placement, but the song itself is completely devoid of brand naming. And speaking of the music video, even it takes on the whole "party in the face of adversity" theme, depicting the future Mr. Worldwide holding a house party to raise rent money. All of this goes to show: if you can only write about one thing, then at least come up with a new context to wrap around that thing, and you too can become a master storyteller.

So that was Pitbull, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good that was. I guess it's time to move on to the Flo Rida song, though. It's called "G.D.F.R.", as in "Going down for real", as in the chorus sung by Sage the Gemini:
I know what you came here to see
If you're a freak, then you're coming home with me
And I know what you came here to do
Now bust it open let me see you get low
It's going down for real [repeat x1]
Nothing special. Oh, except for the sample they used in-between the titular lines. That horn riff comes from the outro to "Low Rider", the 1975 funk-rock hit by the band War. Well, actually, the sample itself is from a remix of the song done by a DJ called Lookas, which explains his featuring credit. Flo Rida's done this sort of thing before, sampling a song which sampled another song, in hits like "Good Feeling" and "I Cry". And believe it or not, I approve. For one, Avicii got his mainstream breakthrough after being "featured" in "Good Feeling". And two, they don't use the more familiar parts of the source material, so the sample doesn't distract you with memories of the song it was taken from. So aesthetically, "G.D.F.R." has pleasantly surprised me, but will the lyrics follow suit?
Your girl just kissed a girl
I do bi (chicks)
Okay, I get the idea that girl-on-girl lovin' is hot. There's even a Trope for that. But how come someone said the word "chicks" in a different, toned-down voice? It's almost like one of those unfinished-simile "hashtag rap" dealies, which I had hoped were dead by now.
Shake for a sheikh
I'm throwing these Emirates in the sky
I see we're experimenting with a Middle Eastern theme with the lyrics. Not a bad choice; I appreciate any attempt to inject some colour into msinstream rap songs, especially local colour. And that neck of the woods has some of the richest cities in the world, so you and your baller image would fit right in. Everyone's a winner!

...Wait a minute, so in that last line when you said "I do bi", you wanted it to sound like "I Dubai", as in the city in the United Arab Emirates? I do, indeed, see what you did there, and I approve. Heck, even the "Low Rider" sample, as used in "G.D.F.R.", could pass for middle-eastern music if you stretch your imagination. Although I'm not sure what you mean by "throwing these Emirates in the sky". I know that Emirates is the name of an airline from the UAE, but does that mean you took over that company? Not the last I checked. Or do you physically launch their planes into the air? Kinda outside the realm of possibility there, too.
Spending this Assal-ama-laykum
Peace to M.O.N.E.Y
At least we're keeping the theme going, but now it's starting to make less sense. How are you supposed to spend Arabic greetings as currency? And has money become such an integral part of your life that now you have to wish peace upon it like it were some religious figure? (That last part is not outside the realm of possibility for Flo Rida.)
I love my beaches, south beaches
Surfboard and high tide
That's it, huh? Not even halfway through the verse, and you've already given up on that theme you had going? I would be disappointed in you, Flo, but I'd have had to have actual expectations in order to say that. Anything else you'd like to bring up, Flo? Let me just skim through the rest of this verse for you... Birthday cakes... Bugattis... Anna Kournikovas...? Yeah, I think we're done here. Let's move on to the other guy.
And they already know me
Probably not; let me bring you up to speed. Gemini, and his name is Sage. Sage the Gemini. He tried to have a hit a couple of years ago with something called "Gas Pedal", and it sucked. I can best describe his style of performance as a "monotone baritone".
It's going down further than femurs
Girls get wetter than Katrina
I'd just like to state for the record that I'm getting over the whole casual references Hurricane Katrina / New Orleans thing. For one, that was ten years ago, and I don't even personally know anybody who was affected by that disaster. I know I got mad when Pitbull used it, but that was a different time, a time when "Give Me Everything" was number 1 and I failed to see any potential he could have had up to his sleeve. Besides, it turns out there have been quite a few of these lines used by many other rappers over the years. So as long as no one tries something like "Blowing up like Fukushima", I think I can sleep easily for once.
Double entendre, double entendre
Uh-oh, thanks for warning us about the double entendre coming up! Also, can I address the staccato delivery he used on this line? Because it's annoying. It's been annoying for a few years now, and it's not likely to become un-annoying anytime soon. So anyway, what's this double entendre you've got cooked up for us?
While you're hating I get money
Then I double up tonkers
...I don't get it; where's the double entendre? Was it supposed to be "double up tonkers"? I have no idea what that even means, and I certainly can't think of the second meaning required to qualify that phrase as a double entendre. Were you, by any chance, referring to the lines beforehand?
Put your hands up
It's a stick up, no more makeup
Get that ass on the floor
Ladies put your lipstick up
...Nope, I've got nothing. I think we're done here. I would be lying if I said "G.D.F.R." weren't catchy, because way the "Low Rider" sample was used gives it more staying power than most other rap songs. But strip away the beat and it's just like any other of Flo Rida's songs.

"Time of Our Lives"

+ Slick, non-sampled beat.
+ The chorus sets up a theme and the verses actually follow it.

- Still deals with partying, although we finally have proper context.

The Call: 5 out of 5 (A)

+ Creative sampling.
+ Brief attempts at a lyrical theme.

- Generic lyrics -- that is, when they aren't just awkward.

The Call: 3 out of 5 (C)

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