Album Review: Timbaland-Shock Value II
rt, on some level, is always about the extension of ego from the creator. Music is no exception. As a producer, Timbaland has retooled his sound a few times, each time reflecting a change in personality with the music perhaps reflecting advancements in both himself and the beats. This time around, many of his familiar cohorts return with him but unfortunately, so does Tim…as an artist.
Timbaland continues his ego trip down the artist lane with Shock Value II. He hasn’t gotten any better on the mic, no matter who is writing for him and by definition that’s a strike against the album, regardless of the production. West Coast DJ Felli Fel opens the album with a brief into that eerily mimics Dre’s 2001, followed immediately by the Justin Timberlake helmed “Carry Out.” Compared to classics like “Cry Me A River” this track is bland and unimaginative.
Also in that vein is the autotune track x that follows entitled “Lose Control” featuring JoJo. The title would indicate something off kilter or at least something unusual but this song is the definition of pedestrian. The melody is basic and you can swap the hook singer out for J-Lo, Ashanti, or any of the shicks singing on a Ja Rule single around the turn of the century. Add the boring rap verse and this song is perhaps a decade too late to be worth anything.
Timbaland used to constantly complain about people biting his style, and proclaim his greatness, but the production on this album does not blaze any new trails and from the outset is actually a bit derivative. “Meet In The Middle” falls along these lines. Basic beat that has been on any T.I./Rick Ross/ Weezy/Akon/T-Pain album and yet another expected basic verse this time from female rapper Bran’ Nu. I won’t spoil her identity. Not even Drake can breathe fresh air into “Say Something.” Timbaland flat out can’t rap and it’s an albatross on every single song he’s featured on. His delivery is basura, he’s lyrically weak, and he has zero charisma. Drake does what he can to lift it with his cleanup verse but it’s a Herculean task.
“Tomorrow In A Bottle,” whimsically has Timbaland reaching back for his distorted radio adlibs circa the Aaliyah years and a flow eerily similar to a drowsy Kid Cudi. It’s not bad..until Tim raps at the end and sinks another song.
Like most 90’s stalwarts trying to stay alive, there are some ridiculous crossover attempts on Shock Value II, specifically the MILEY CYRUS collab “We Belong To Music.” This song belongs on a Nick Jr. compilation, not an adult album. Timabland is 40 years old. The lyrics “party like we ain’t got no curfew” should never appear on his album. Leave the teen rebellion to…teens. “We gone party to the sun comes up…me and Miley.” I kid you not.
Nelly Furtado returns as Timb rocks an autotuned Rick James cadence on the hook of “Morning After Dark.” Essentially “Promiscuous Girl” 2.0. Not bad but we’ve been here before and not long enough ago to be called tribute or classic. Katy Perry appears on “If We Ever Meet Again” for an infectious club jam that is very similar in construction to a dozen similar songs. Fortunately for all involved, lyrics aren’t necessary for these songs because if you are within earshot you’re probably high or drunk and more focused on where you’re sleeping tonight than anything else. Not wack but again, nothing new.
Tim rips off The Dream’s triplicate Rihanna’d “Ayes” for the all over the place “Ease Off The Liquor.” More Timbo performing. Strike 1. Unimaginative structure. Strike 2. Jacking another producer’s trademark. Strike 3.
We finally leave the rave party for the slowed down “Undertow” featuring Fray and Estero. It’s an attempt to ride the emo wave that is ill fitting in the middle of what is essentially a pop club album. The best thing about it is that it isn’t the repetitive music found earlier on the album and artists other than Timbaland are featured. Staying on the slow road is “Timothy, Where You Been” which begins almost acoustically with a brooding intro…only to devolve into Timbaland’s wack rapping. He attempts to rhyme “phenomenon” with “summer come.” He then proclaims himself “like a warm summer breeze in the swimming pool, I’m cool.” You can’t make this up.
The highpoint on the album is the Daughtry featured “Long Way Down.” It’s one of the few if not the only original sounding production on the album and features a spirited performance from the featured artist. Another solid, if unspectacular, track is the One Republic helmed “Marching On.” Former protégé Keri Hilson does her best Rihanna impression on “The One I Love.” The song has her back in her normal vocal range but neither enhances nor diminishes her. It does inject some energy into the album, however. The album completes itself with the sacrilegious “Symphony” which finds Tim jacking a line from Rakim, abusing the memory of the Juice Crew classic song with the “next up” motiff and verses from the guests that pale before the legacy of the song they exhume.
Ego is only effective when you’re at the height of your powers. When you are strong enough to move the music, ego is the engine behind the tank. When you’re on the downward slope of your arc, it only serves to force people to ask themselves why they dealt with you in the first place. The sublime becomes hubris and the puffed out chest is filled with hot air. For someone of Timbaland’s track record, this is nothing more but a vanity project. The production is not only far from his best but also very similar to the work of others. The only Shock Value to this sequel is that Timbaland would allow himself to deliver such a lackluster product.
out of 5
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