Thursday, April 12, 2007

Timbaland - Shock Value review

Timbaland Presents: Shock Value
6.5 out of 10
By Norman Mayers

Ever since Timbaland emerged as the major contributor on Aaliyah’s 1996 sophomore album One In A Million he has literally changed the face of modern music. Almost single-handedly Tim pushed hip-hop and R&B away from the gritty early 90s sound into the new millennium where cleanly produced electro-leaning spectacles became the norm. Since those early days Timbaland has gone onto to create astounding sonic landscapes for artists as wide-ranging as Missy Elliott, Brandy, Tweet, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. In 2006 the super-producer dominated the popular lexicon with his work on Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado’s projects, continuing to inject much needed musical experimentation into pop music. Fresh off this career high, Timbaland presents Shock Value, which is only his second release as a solo artist. While Shock Value delivers some heady thrills throughout it’s far from the home run that one would expect from a genius like Timbaland.

The level of talent on display on Shock Value is astounding, reading like a veritable who’s who of today biggest music stars. Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Nicole Scherzinger, Fall Out Boy and the Hives all lend their support with varying degrees of success. With a Timbaland album the main focus is going to be the beats and for the most part the album does not disappoint. The productions have an 80s flair that permeates the entire project with dark electro synths, echoing vocals and tinkling percussion dominating the sound. Timbaland is not a great rapper and thus the album’s best tracks find him taking a back seat to his talented friends. Of course the lead single “Give It To Me” featuring Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado is the most obvious example of this. The track works because of the potent combination of Timbaland’s fluttering groove and Furtado and Timberlake’s boastful verses. Just as memorable is “Bounce” a dark, bass heavy track that finds Timberlake proposing a ménage a trios, Dr. Dre rapping about panty anthems, and Missy Elliott screaming “Hold up. Hell no. Like Britney Spears I wear no drawers.” Most of the best tracks are of the R&B/dance variety such as the “Sexy Back”-flavored “The Way I Are” and “Release”. Halfway through Timbaland gets his sexy groove on with a pair of winners “Scream” and “Miscommunication”, both of which feature Keri Hilson, a newcomer who seems to naturally fit into Tim’s elaborate symphonies. The more hip-hop oriented tracks aren’t as interesting with 50 Cent’s track “Come and Get Me” sounding like every other 50 track. “Kill Yourself”, however, is noteworthy for it’s clever and eerie sampling of the first Resident Evil film.

Shock Value is also a rather adventurous album as it finds Timbaland working with various rock and pop artists. Unfortunately this is where the album loses steam as collaborations with the Hives and Fall Out Boy come across as blatant attempts at rock success and less like an organic fusing of Timbaland’s futurism and said bands alt rock sensibilities. Some moments do shine, most notably the piano funk of “Apologize” (featuring One Republic) that seems to reference both Phil Collins and Coldplay in one very revolutionary package.

While Shock Value may not be the prefect album that many have hoped for, it does possess various charms. Timbaland is still the most prolific producer to ever emerge and more than a decade from his debut he continues to not only dominate but also innovate popular music.

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