Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-02-04

2011-02-04

Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Big Machine, 2010) The 14 songs last upwards of 67 minutes, some 4:45 apiece; they're overlong and overworked. And I believe what I read about their origins in the romantic and other feelings of America's Ingenue for identifiable major and minor celebrities, which may thrill her fanbase but means approximately nothing to me. Even in their overwork, however, they evince an effort that bears a remarkable resemblance to care--that is, to caring in the best, broadest, and most emotional sense. I even like the one about Kanye West--including when I remember that it's about Kanye West, which usually I don't. A-

Now That's What I Call Club Hits 2 (EMI, 2010) If the Now cartel's records weren't so uniformly patchy I'd think they'd done it on purpose: 10 straight "dynamite" tracks, to borrow Taio Cruz's cutting-edge metaphor before he tries to copyright it, followed by six straight--well, not quite duds, but songs to sit down to. What differentiates good from ordinary isn't purity of talent or purpose, though Christina Aguilera and Adam Lambert certainly fulfill their dull destinies. Lady Gaga excepted, it isn't genius either, though Ian Nieman, whoever he is, comes close, expanding and overdriving Jason Derulo's high-generic "Ridin' Solo" into ramalama history. It's just inspired mechanics, as the same sounds and techniques that make it such a chore to dance to most dance music once your adrenalin recedes are propelled from the booming din by one or more extra-clever tricks. A trifecta of synth hooks on David Guetta and Chris Willis's "Gettin' Over You." La Roux's "Bulletproof" goosed with both treated echoes and "natural" crooning--and then seguing directly to drum 'n' electrosqueezebox custom-designed to juice the Black Eyed Peas' "Imma Be." Etc. A-

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