Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Album Review: B2K - Santa Hooked Me Up

TCR Christmas Extravaganza, Day 4

I'm not the best person to review a rap album, given that it's not my favorite genre. But I do like a lot of rap, and there's little on this album that really qualifies as "rap" anyways. I'll give my opinions anyways, you can take them with a grain of salt.

The Vitals

The Album: Santa Hooked Me Up
The Artist: B2K
Year Released: 2002
Length: 33:42
The Covers: "Jingle Bells", "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Santa Baby"
The Originals: "Santa Hooked Me Up", "Rain and Snow", "Sexy Boy Christmas", "Everyone's Home for Christmas", "Why'd You Leave Me on Christmas", "My First Christmas"
Number of Traditional Covers: 4
Number of Nontraditional Covers: 0
Number of Originals: 6
Religious Content: Nil.
Santa Content: "Santa Hooked Me Up", "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Santa Baby". Some references in "My First Christmas", though it's hardly the central focus of the song.

Greg's Review/Comments

Quality of the Cover Songs: Certainly, at the very least, there's no argument to be made that they are merely rote regurgitations of the originals. Also, it's a verrrry interesting set of cover songs. 3 of the most childish and simple Christmas carols that exist (what, couldn't get the rights to "Frosty the Snowman") plus a song, on a Christmas album by an all male vocal R&B group, that can only logically be sung by a female based on the lyrics. "Jingle Bells" in particular is an awfully simple and repetitive song, so it's really hard to stretch it out to an enjoyable 3 minutes. And they do not succeed. The production is pretty boring, and they pretty much do the song and melody straight through. The specially written "urban" verse to the song is particularly embarrassing. Nothing against B2K, I just really couldn't imagine anybody doing an interesting cover version of this song. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" follows the same pattern as "Jingle Bells". A rather simple melody, sung basically straight through, over fairly boring/standard R&B production. It even features an embarrassingly bad verse written specially for B2K's version. And like "Jingle Bells" it's not bad per se, in the sense that I would actively avoid it, but it's boring enough that I have a hard time imagining anybody really being a FAN of it. In order to avoid repeating myself for 3 times in a row, I'll decline to make any comments on "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer". Suffice to say they would be very similar to the above. I give them credit for at least trying to do something with these songs, but come on, pick more sophisticated source material next time.

"Santa Baby" is a more interesting case. The song is a real song, so an interesting version can be made of it. I actually think it's pretty good. Lest you get confused as to how they pull it off, being all male, they use a guest vocalist, Jhene, on the song. The song is labelled as B2K, featuring Jhene, which is just absolutely ludicrous. Their vocals are contained for exactly 0 time in the song, except I guess we're supposed to assume that's them doing rap-style "uh"'s in the background. I have my doubts. Anyways, yeah, Jhene's is the only voice you're gonna hear on this. I've never heard of her before, and this certainly doesn't make me want to seek her out, as her performance is extremely mediocre. Boring production too. Thumbs down.

Quality of Originals: The album has 6 original songs, which is a very high number. Overall the quality of the originals is higher than the quality of the covers, but not really anything to get overly excited about. "Santa Hooked Me Up", the title song and opening track, is just a stunningly bad song. The lyrics are standard showing off the awesome stuff they have (I refuse to use the word bling), and are a silly and pointless rehash of many better songs out there. The fact that it has Christmas in the lyrics doesn't change anything. This is one of the only songs on the album that's a straight rap song, and it's really not good. The next song is a vocal R&B song called "Rain and Snow", that is a pretty good song in spite of the fact that it has little to do with Christmas and doesn't really go anywhere. But the main hook is fairly catchy, and the B2k'ers are good singers. Not a great song mind you, but certainly not bad. "Sexy Boy Christmas" is the next original, and it has a nice instrumental hook and production. Too bad the chorus falls completely flat on its face. I'm really stunned at how bad this chorus is relative to the rest of the song. Also these lyrics are way too racy to be included on a Christmas album aimed at the youth. Hell, a Christmas album aimed at anybody. "I'm not tryna show you love and affection/I'm tryna show you I'm blessed in different sections". Christmas songs should not be about finding random hookups. The next original is "Everybody's Home for Christmas" which is their BIG BALLAD about having a Christmas with your family at home! So boring that I've now heard it about 5 times and have no memory of the song at all. Skip! "Why'd You Leave Me On Christmas" is a good song, the invetiably sad, anti-Christmas breakup song that most of these albums seem to have. Like "Rain and Snow" it's a good song that doesn't really seem to go much of anywhere but has a catchy chorus and a pretty melody. Ultimately, though, neither of these songs can rate higher than a 6/10 or so because they are just too darned bland and unoriginal. The last original is "My First Christmas", and to me it's definitely the best song on the whole album. It's still a ballad but it's much more upbeat and interesting than "Rain and Snow" and "Why'd You Leave Me on Christmas", espeically with it's good production. But it's got a really catchy melody too! It features a great usage of all the good vocalists in this group, and even has fairly nice lyrics. Good song.

General Comments: B2K was absolutely huge in 2002. The boy band craze had mostly died out, but B2K were there to pick up the slack, being essentially the R&B equivalent of the boy band. Because the world totally needed a new Boyz II Men They were all inoffensively good looking and good singers too, and produced a multitude of catchy but ultimately bland hits. This was the 4th of 4 albums that B2K released in 2002. Coming right after they had absolutely exploded with "Bump, Bump, Bump" it's clearly a rushed effort to strike while the iron was hot. And it shows. There's very little complexity to the melodies in these songs, as they feature pretty much one hook per song, with very simple supporting melodies. The production has nothing to it at all, it's pretty much standard beats with an instrumental hoook that mirrors the main melodic hook. It's boring, by-the-numbers, money-grabbing R&B. The writing team for this band is obviously fairly talented and the band themselves are good singers, so they are able to squeeze some pretty good tracks out of it, but with more time, and a better selection of covers this album could obviously have been a lot better.

Standout Tracks: "Why'd You Leave Me on Christmas" , "My First Christmas", "Rain and Snow"

Final Rating: Buying this album supports the ideas that it represents. 3/10. A few highlights, but no great tracks. The best song on here, "My First Christmas" would get a maximum of about 7 or 7.5/10. This whole album would have been way better if they had put more effort into it. As it is, it's bland and boring.

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