March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Creepy Clay wants to be teased

Leslie Feist:

The sweetly robotic voice behind Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” gets de-robotized on Leslie Feist’s debut solo record Let It Die, out now in France (the North American release is planned later this spring). Listening to this first single, you can understand why Parisians get to enjoy this record first. The song is as breezy and intimate as early French pop — buoyed by piano, xylophone, guitar and banjo that lightly dance over shuffling rhythms, brass and a smattering of hand-claps. But holding all these delicate details together is Feist’s crystal clear voice, a demure and, at times, ethereal instrument that matches the warm tone of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall. Startlingly delightful.

Clay Aiken:
“The Way”

Wiry and creepy Idol-nerd Clay Aiken gets inspired by boyband fare with this new single from his Measure of a Man disc. He starts by copping off a line from Elton — “There’s something about the way you look tonight” — then jumps deep into a Backstreet Boys/O-Town/Westlife musical orgy filled with melodramatic gooeyness. OK, it doesn’t sound that disgusting. In fact, it’s a pretty worthy piece of generic romantic sappiness, although when Aiken sings about “the way that you tease” him, you have to wonder who in their right mind would want to tease him. Oh wait...

Dilated Peoples
ft. Kanye West:
“This Way”

Formed in the mid-’90s, hip-hop group Dilated Peoples are ready to move up from the less-visible hip-hop underground, with their sights set on some commercial success. And there’s no better way to do it than by teaming up with R&B/hip-hop producer and artist-of-the-moment, Kanye West, who brings his sounds of the streets to the Peoples’ first single off their Neighbourhood Watch disc. With its “I can’t live my life this way” chorus, the song takes the long-running hip-hop theme of escaping urban drudgery and places it on an organic backdrop of piano, record-scratching and piccolo.

Janet Jackson:
“I Want You”

The mighty hand of Kanye West also blesses this new Janet Jackson single from her just-released Damita Jo album. “I Want You” is an elegant ’70s soul number that harks back to the Motown era much like Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name” (also produced by West). Strings swoon and background singers coo — all while Jackson recaptures some of the innocent sweetness of her earlier work. But listening to the song and watching its accompanying video are separate things. In the clip, Jackson is seen strolling the streets and doing everyday things like going to the market. The pop star is trying really hard to show you how grounded she is, but it all goes bust — literally — since Jackson’s huge rack is prominently displayed throughout most of the video. Ugh.



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