Friday, December 15, 2006

When You Wasn't Famous

Song: When You Wasn't Famous
Artist: The Streets
Album: The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living

After the groundbreaking sophomore album “A Grand Don’t Come For Free,” The Streets (AKA Mike Skinner) had much to top with the third LP, “The Hardest Way To Make an Easy Living.” Unfortunately, he fell pretty short. It is not awful by any means, and the first single (and best song on the record) “When You Wasn’t Famous” is one of his better songs with trademark wit and its sing-a-long, though odd, chorus. The theme of the record is clear, though the execution doesn’t quite gel. It could be the let down from high, high hopes… but I wanted more.

While the music world went nutso when The Streets debut album, “Original Pirate Material” debuted in 2002, I found it to be rather annoying, immediately dated, and filled with non-songs… no melodies whatsoever. This is what made “A Grand Don’t Come For Free” such a surprise for me. I absolutely dug his “man of the people” vibe, using his odd British flow to weave a story about loosing 1,000 pounds and the blokes, girls, and chips that made up part of the story. Lead single “You’re Fit But You Know It” sounded a little like Blur’s “Parklife” but had a distinct charm and difference to it, I played it non-stop. The remainder of the songs really worked best within the context of the story, which was SORELY needed in the ever changing era of downloadable singles. The other absolute standout was the heartbreaking (and heart-felt) “Dry Your Eyes” which was a smash in the UK. It’s a British hip-hop ballad that utilizes strings vs. dipping into rhythm and blues to convey the bubbling emotions.

Because the song was a hit, and no doubt because he was probably told over and over how off the hook great the song was, “A Grand” has the VERY Dry Your Eyes-like “Never Went to Church” which is good, but like Coldplay’s “Fix You,” a lesser version of a past hit.

“When You Wasn’t Famous” (one of my favorite songs of 2006) illustrates what is great and unique about the Streets, yet also points to what could be the problem with “The Hardest Way.” Part of the charm of Mike Skinner was his every-guy persona, with a very working class life but a simple charming wit about him. As art imitates life, Mike got rich and famous and therefore his late night fish and chips on the street faded as well. One of the reasons I find little to no connection with the majority of hip hop is that I don’t own twenty cars, drink Moet, or any of that other baller shit. What made the Streets different was the everyman charm… and “The Hardest Way” is an entire album of how that is gone.

I highly recommend the entirety of “A Grand Don’t Come For Free” as well as a track or two from the new record. It’s not exactly hip hop as you might know it, and I wouldn’t call it Grime either. (Though he is often lumped into that British hip-hop sub-set of rap.) It’s just something completely of its own.


Here's the video for "Dry Your Eyes," a song you should know:

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