Seasonal tracks from Beyoncé, Comets on Fire, Ray Cash, and others.
Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
"Déjà Vu" (Columbia)
Listen to "Déjà Vu."
"Ain't No Other Man" (RCA)
Listen to "Ain't No Other Man."
Summer is a time for shared cultural experiences or, at the very least, unavoidable ones. The early candidates for car-stereo ubiquity come from two likely sources. The lead single from Beyoncé's upcoming B-Day album features strong but unspectacular singing, muddled production and not one but two stale Jay-Z guest verses. It's certainly no "Crazy in Love." Yet, where that single's arresting, almost overwhelming beat nearly relegated her to an afterthought, "Déjà Vu" forces Beyoncé to do it herself. She pretty much succeeds, leading with the spirit and charisma that the rest of the song seems to lack. Then there is Christina Aguilera, the talented, quivery singer vying for yet another makeover. She's off to a good start. Not only has she learned to wear her underpants on the inside, "Ain't No Other Man," the lead single from her upcoming blues and jazz-tinged album, is an excellent bit of throwback funk helmed by mid-1990s hip-hop hero DJ Premier. A fierce Aguilera sets her sights on a guy over an old Latin soul stomp, serenading his ability to shake ass, stay classy, and single-handedly sustain the solar system. Her only weapon: melisma. Consider him—and all of us—helpless.
Hua Hsu teaches in the English department at Vassar College. He is completing his first book, A Floating Chinaman, about H.T. Tsiang, his imagined rival Pearl Buck, and the often contentious community of Americans writing about China in the 1930s and '40s.
Audio excerpts from Eccentric Soul: The Big Mack Label © 2006 Numero Group reissue; Avatar © 2006 Sub Pop; So This is Goodbye © 2006 Domino; Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives EP © 2006 Cult Hero; "Bumpin' My Music (remix)" © 2006 Columbia; "Déjà Vu" © 2006 Columbia, and "Ain't No Other Man" © 2006 RCA. All rights reserved.