Jesse Jarnow

“overnight celebrity” – twista featuring kanye west

#6 this week, #6 last week, 11 weeks on the chart

Here’s the second appearance of motor-mouthed Twista since I relaunched this project. The follow-up to “Slow Jamz” is cool, and I like a lot of the production a bunch, but it doesn’t gel for me as a song. There is no single moment that I can latch onto — a little in-joke, or a vocal hook that lodges itself in my brain. Of course, there are things we’re supposed to notice: Twista’s hyperspeed vocals, West’s sing-songy chorus, etc., but none of them – for me – create that really satisfying sense of fun that comes with a great pop tune (and certainly did so with the hilarious/sexy “Slow Jamz”).

I do like the beginning a fair bit, though grimace when I imagine stodgy old LA session string players performing this at the Grammys or some shit. Either way, it’s a cool little tension builder (like the crashingly bombastic orchestral flourishes that would often begin old Sinatra sides). There’s that bit of braggadocio (“you didn’t think we could do it again…”) and the drums somehow overtake the orchestra, which simultaneously accelerates and fragments into stuttered samples. Great effect. It’s a great 30-second tag opening, then into the chorus.

West’s chorus drives the point home, before handing off to Twista. A lot of Twista’s appeal is his virtuosity, I think — something about the way he is able to effortlessly overlay rhythms atop his precise delivery. I like that, too. (Though I also suspect he might be looked back on as the Yngwie Malmsteen of rappers, where it’ll later be revealed that the whole thing was a ProTools-altered sham…)

The collage of samples and production throughout the song – which switches, quasi-episodically, between Twista and West – is subtly astounding. The beats meld perfectly with the string samples, as well as a twinkling little piano figure that’s too fast to be an arpeggio, but too slow to be a chord (is there a word for that?). There’s also a sample of singing woman. Together, all of these elements syncopate grandly, locking in around each other. Unfortunately, they never quite transcend themselves, never quite combine themselves into that magical arrangement of elements unglimpsable during the song’s opening.

I do quite like the bit later in the song when West proclaims “see baby girl, you see how you make a brother break down” as the fractured beats suddenly smooth back out into a “live” orchestra. That, too, is a cool effect — a sonic/technical feat, at the very least. After that, though, it jumps back into the chorus, which I think is unfortunate. I think I’d like this song more if there were more attention paid to its architecture — the way it flows, and the way it ends. Likewise, after the intro, it’s a fairly simple ABABCAB structure (or something), where the C (“see baby girl…”) reaches no further out than to reprise the intro. I wish it went deeper.


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