Steamboat Springs "Tha Carter III"
It's clear on Lil Wayne's long-awaited and much-anticipated "Tha Carter III" that he's taken on the burden of saving commercial hip-hop.
He's also assumed responsibility for saving New Orleans, creativity in music, the streets - everyone and everything, really, except for himself.
As he's proven on countless mix tapes and his two full-lengths before this one, Lil Wayne (aka Dwayne Michael Carter, aka Weezy) is more than apt for that first mission. The other ones, well, we'll see.
But as far as being a constant source of rhymes that are smarter, more self-aware, more playful and more complex than anything else coming off the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart - where "Tha Carter III" claims three of 10 spots - Lil Wayne was and is there.
He does this by cramming his verses with wordplay: "I got game like EA," "Blind eyes can look at me and see the truth / Wonder if Stevie do," "I call 'em April babies, because they fools."
By making us listen close to catch it all, Wayne puts himself on a level with Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, Kanye West and heavies like The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac - a level where songs stop being entirely about cash and money, and start being about the people singing them.
Definitely, "Tha Carter III" is about party rap and cars and sex and being the next big thing. But it's also about Wayne's inability to maintain relationships and his despair about Hurricane Katrina. It's all over the place and it doesn't always make sense from track to track.
And that's what makes Lil Wayne so interesting: He doesn't care if his records make sense to you.
It's not all brilliant, and it's not nearly as substantial as anything going on in the underground hip-hop world. But it is significantly meatier and more involved than anything else in its league, and it's plenty of justification for Wayne to keep feeling like he's hip-hop's next legend.
"Viva la Vida"
In a commercial for "Viva la Vida," the fourth Coldplay studio release, Chris Martin makes this hand gesture. It's sort of halfway between a fist pump and a desperate grabbing for air. It toes the line between rocking out and reaching for a high note on a power ballad. It says, "I have something to say, but I'd rather just stand here and croon. Also, there will be piano, and perhaps some synthesized strings."
Everything you need to know about Coldplay, everything that has ever been expressed in any of the band's songs, is contained in this hand gesture. There's a tepid quality to all of it, a palette of wishy-washy emotions that aren't especially deep or universal, a background that's as ignorable as it is listenable.
Now, I like Coldplay. But I wish I didn't. I find most of their songs empty and uninteresting. But I also find them incredibly easy to listen to, and so I listen to them.
All the tracks on "Viva la Vida" fit that mold, except that they're not nearly as engaging as anything on "Parachutes," and they're not as sonically dynamic as anything on "A Rush of Blood to the Head."
The title track drags and feels insincere. Album opener "Life in Technicolor" works as a diet rock instrumental, and not as much else. "Lost!" has the unfortunate opening line, "Just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost," but it also has handclaps (which makes it better). "Yes" is just impossibly drony and is seven minutes long. "Violet Hill" is a decent piano ballad, and it is a workable lead-in to the album's somewhat stronger final act, ending in the genuinely good "Death and All His Friends." It's all very pretty, and it's all supported by expert Brian Eno production.
If you like Coldplay, which most people do at least a little bit - because seriously, why not? - "Viva la Vida" won't be anything special, but it will be worth listening to.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points