Timbaland‘s Shock Value II loves metaphors. Well, enjoy this one: This album is a metaphor for the music industry going up in smoke. It saddens me to say that Timbaland has long outstayed his welcome with this release, and Shock Value II epitomizes much of what is wrong in music these days.
This album is two years too late; perhaps as an offshoot “B-side” record for the original release, this would have sparked some interest. As a standalone release, however, it’s a convoluted mix of country and hip hop songs, and Timbaland himself fails to deliver much of his production genius over 17 bloated tracks.
The introduction is totally insulting, and that DJ Felli Fel agreed to have his name attached to this glorified 50 second skit is inexplicable: “Tim told me he wanted an intro/but you know/with some shit like this/you don’t really need an intro.” Indeed, why include one then?
“Carry Out (ft. Justin Timberlake)” is the next victim, teeing up a completely unerotic focus in takeaway food as a metaphor for sex: “Let me get my ticket baby, let me get in line/I can tell the way you like it baby, supersize”; we thought it would never happen, but JT becomes a little less invincible. “Say Something (ft. Drake)” is marginally more convincing, but Drake fares better with his usual formula.
Is this really the same guy that worked with Missy and Aaliyah in the golden 90’s? It’s hard to tell. The old proteges have been traded in for weaker thans like Miley Cyrus and Nickleback front-man Chad Kroeger. Surprisingly, the latter offers a brief respite, his voice raising the bar on the aggressive “Tomorrow In The Bottle”. Cyrus, on the other hand, remains a coy tween (Come on, you’re fooling no one!), offering to show us some of her new moves on “We Belong To The Music”, a revolting country tune.
In hindsight, Timbaland’s fall from grace began when Mr. Timberlake and Ms. Furtado asked him to orchestrate their reinventions. This move coincided with his move from a producer to a solo artists, beginning with “chk-chk-chk” and ending here, where the main man raps across an entire album. The result? It quickly becomes clear that the best tracks don’t feature Timbaland at all. Fortunately, the album is not totally beyond redemption…
Furtado issues a wake-up call on lead single “Morning After Dark”, an energetic track packed with electronic bleeps and cascading beats; even the machinations of the album cannot deny their electric pairing. Then Timbo returns to rock territory, enlisting Jet for “Timothy Where You Been”. The Australian rock group are a bizarre choice, having been off the radar for too long, but the laid back track is ripped straight from their fantastic debut album and offers a good starting point. Timbaland proceeds to ruin it by rapping across the entire track, becoming the “Timothy” in question, waxing lyrical about his success: “I make the world dance, yeah look what I done did/Hits with Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado/Catch up, y’all slow, escargot.”
The last few here are the best of the bunch, finally delivering some fresh production. Keri Hilson once again delivers, on “The One I Love”, a sparse electronic number. It’s far too late to salvage anything meaningful from this album, but her efforts are appreciated. The Fray were a brilliant choice for “Undertow”, an introspective track with some effecting support vocals from Canadian singer Esthero.
The original Shock Value suffered from a few small hitches but the production and supporting cast were strong enough to create an altogether palatable album. Its sequel falls afoul of Timbaland’s ego, as he moves ever more towards being a weak rapper and away from being a genius producer. The worst thing is that this could have been a good album, great even. The original demos were often devoid of Timbaland’s intrusion, and some great cuts have been left off (see “Talk (ft. Missy Elliott and T-Pain)”). We cannot, however, ponder on what might have been. Shock Value II is here, and it’s a pile of shit. Don’t waste your pocket money.
Shock Value II