After helping reinvent the careers of both Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado last year (both of whom appear here on “Give It To Me”), Timbaland has become the new “go-to guy” for pop production, graduating from his long resume of hip-hop and R&B hits, like Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin” or Aaliyah’s “Are You that Somebody”, just to name a few. With his new album, Shock Value, he attempts to further his career as a multi-faceted pop producer, with a guest list of heavy hitters to help out. But does Shock Value truly electrify? Or does it fall flat, like the pun in that last sentence?
Because this is such a diverse record, it has a hard time defining itself, feeling like it’s all over the place. Timbaland flexes his muscles as a vocalist throughout much of the record. For instance, he rolls completely solo on the album opener, “Oh Timbaland”, which finds him re-freaking the Nina Simone sampled, last used on Talib Kweli’s “Get By” (by peer producer Kanye West), with decent results. He takes center stage again on the catchy “Release”, where collaborator Justin Timberlake switches roles, playing back-up singer to Tim. This track heavily mirrors J.T.’s own “Lovestoned”, while “The Way I Are” features new protege Keri Hilson, in an otherwise excellent track that more or less rehashes “Sexy Back”. Much focus is put on the new diva, who also shows up on a pair of workable pop songs, “Scream” and “Miscommunication”, any of which will thrust her into the limelight.
Unfortunately, much of the other material falls short. The dirty funk of “Bounce” is powerful, but is quickly silenced by a pair lousy verses from Dr. Dre and Missy Elliot. The same can be said for the disappointing “Come and Get Me”, featuring bosom buddies 50 Cent and Tony Yayo, the latter who tries to really go for that “shock value”, by slamming Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith with puns, to failure. Not cool, especially in light of the recent Jimmy Henchmen controversy.
Timbaland definitely draws from the strengths of his collaborators, however when the artists aren’t strong as hit machines like Timberlake or Furtado, it definitely shows. Case in point are collaborators like Sebastian and Attitude, who add zero to the equation on the passable “Kill Yourself”. The same can be said for “Bombay”, which skips sampling sexy, belly-dancing Middle-Eastern vocals and instead employs Amar to sing them live. But again, it falls short.
The most anticipated set of collaborations on the record – those with various rock artists, also doesn’t quite deliver. Both The Hives and She Wants Revenge appear here, but Timbaland’s production doesn’t outdo the band’s own self produced sounds that can be found on any of their LP’s. The now sound of Fall Out Boy’s “One and Only” proves that these guys are just a flash in the pan, while the Elton John collaboration, “2 Man Show”, seems contrived. The only real winner here is “Apologize”, with One Republic, which flawlessly meshes the two sounds.
It’s evident that Timbaland is attempting to go after every corner of the market with Shock Value, but because of that, he ends up pissing everyone off in the process. Chances are, each crowd (hip-hop, rock, pop) will only truly enjoy three or four songs on the record. Taken piece by piece, Shock Value has its moments, but ultimately doesn’t recapture the scary consistency found on Timberlake’s Futuresex/Lovesounds, or much of his past catalog, for that matter.
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