Mixtapes for Hookers

2002. It’s About Time For Songs #3’s Arrival
September 29, 2009, 5:07 pm
Filed under: design of a decade, lists, music | Tags: , , ,

[My recap of my favorite singles of 2002 continues with a look at the year’s two best spelling mistakes.]


#3.  Christina Aguilera, Dirrty, and Nelly, Hot In Herre

Christina Aguilera never came across as a particularly innocent girl, but the world wasn’t especially prepared for something as in-your-face crazy as Dirrty when the singer returned in late 2002 after a two-year solo absence from the charts.* Bearing almost no resemblance to any of her earlier singles, Dirrty was a completely batshit mixture of hip-hop sounds with divalike wailing and messy pop production.

Aguilera had little interest in placing herself as Britney Spears’ rival, which is probably why she waited three years to follow-up on her debut.  Spears had already released five singles off her third album before Aguilera dropped Dirrty, the lead single from her second. Based on Redman’s Let’s Get Dirty (I Can’t Get In Da Club), Aguilera’s anthem is all about plopping layers of vocals atop one another, seemingly with little regard for the music. 

Dirrty is disorganized and noisy and almost five minutes long, but at the same time it comes together in ways one wouldn’t expect; Aguilera makes the verses actually catchy, for one thing, which is no small achievement.  And the choruses, of which there initially appear to be one too many at the end, build and build rather than repeating themselves.  Stylus described Dirrty as a “confusing wheel of high notes, grunts, and sweat.  It was the most exhausting single of the year,” they noted in their recap of the year’s best songs.

Nevertheless, it was a commercial failure in the US, only making #14 on the pop airplay chart and #48 on the Hot 100. (All the singles from her debut had gone top 5, even crappy I Turn To You.)  But Dirrty was a pretty big hit in Providence and, I’m guessing, in some of the other less Bible-y parts of the country.  It was one of several crazy songs to hit big that fall, which was nice after that terrible, terrible Avril-dominated summer.

Unfortunately, the rest of Christina’s Stripped album isn’t as daring.  Aside from Can’t Hold Us Down and the crazy album track Overload, the CD is a mix of pleasant enough ballads, so-so ballads, and terrible ballads.  It’s also about six tracks too long.

Meanwhile, Nelly followed up his 2000 debut in a big way with Hot In Herre, the lead single off the Nellyville album.  It’s based partially on Bustin Loose, Chuck Brown’s theme song from the 1979 Richard Pryor comedy.  Hot In Herre is lyrically very stupid, but for the back-and-forth chorus in which the Band-Aided one tells a girl to take her clothes off and, um, she agrees to.  Actually, that part’s pretty stupid, too, but it’s awfully catchy.

Hot In Herre was one of only nine number one singles that year, spending seven weeks atop the chart.  It hasn’t aged nearly as well as Dirrty has, though, but then neither has Nelly.  The more pop-oriented male hip-hop artists tend to be very jokey, and few have the charm for more than two albums (I’m looking at you, basically everybody but Ludacris.)  After Nellyville, the St Louis rapper would only be periodically successful commercially, mainly with the stupid Shake Ya Tailfeather and the far, far stupider Grillz.

(*Lady Marmalade was fine, don’t get me wrong; but it’s a quarter of a cover of a song, wrangled by a full-of-himself producer for the soundtrack to a full-of-itself movie.  Which I’m guessing probably doesn’t involve the same creative input as  releasing one’s own album.)

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