[5 November 2008]
PopMatters Music Reviews Editor
When, oh when will the executives realize that good reality television never, ever results in a good music-related product?
O-Town? Those guys didn’t last any longer than it took Lou Pearlman to get through three No. 1’s at McDonalds. Da Band? The only five things the most entertaining of the made-by-reality-television-group gave us were hilarious Dave Chappelle skits, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and, well, Dylan. Danity Kane? Platinum record notwithstanding, really? Danity Kane? Even the most successful music-related reality television series, American Idol, can’t vouch for much. Justin Guarini? His 15 minutes stopped ten too soon after his Oscar-worthy performance in that movie he lucked into with Kelly Clarkson. Kimberley Locke? Her music career went so well that she is best known for getting angry at the dude who played Screech on a season of Celebrity Fit Club. Blake Lewis? Wait. Who?
And these, ladies and gentlemen, can’t even begin to compare to the lowest the reality television-based product has gone. That, my friends, has now officially been awarded to one Donnie Klang, and his disgracefully forgettable debut album, Just a Rolling Stone. A product of the latest installment of Diddy’s often-entertaining “Making The Band” series, Klang begs to be taken seriously on his debut effort while showcasing the talent of a third-place winner in a karaoke contest, all the while insisting that he belongs in alongside the big boys of modern-day R&B. Really Puff, what the hell were you thinking?
There are two reasons for why Klang’s debut is so awful, and the first is given to us right up front in something Klang calls an “Intro”. The Brooklyn native tries annoyingly hard to come off as a second-rate Justin Timberlake. (If you couldn’t tell that from the hair and style that grace Just a Rolling Stone’s cover, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this opinion.) The spacey synths and un-needed falsettos let us know that. The problem, though, is that Klang isn’t a second-rate JT—he’s a 14th-rate JC Chasez.
And that problem continues on tracks such as “Love in Stereo” and “Hurt That Body”. In the former, something that sounds like it wants to be produced by Timbaland is showered in everything from over-dubs to spaceship sounds. When Klang insists on “breaking it down” with a female voice, one has to wonder the rules on who exactly should be allowed to use such a phrase in music. The latter, a jumpy little track, clearly wants to your body to “rock”. But alas, the generic production and forced fun leaves the “rocking” to Timberlake and “hurting” to any Klang fan.
And that, friends, leads us to awful reason No. 2: Just a Rolling Stone simply doesn’t feel sincere. And that’s a problem when you want to pull off preppie, white boy rhythm & blues. Let’s face it. Artists such as Timberlake, or even Robin Thicke, aren’t accepted in the R&B community because of their looks or their abs. They have succeeded because their sincerity has connected with people, their voices have soothed listeners, and their music has been believed by the common fan.
Tracks like “Hollywood Girl”, “Catch My Breath”, and the biggest joke of them all, “Not a Love Song”, simply seem forced. How can you expect someone who grew up in New York City and is only in the business because he was cast for a television show to sing about California girls and sound anything at all like he knows what he’s talking about? Even more so, how can anyone possibly believe he is hard up for women when the listener more than likely has the image of screaming girls flashing on his or her television on a weekly basis?
Sure, Diddy’s touch helps. His verse on the album’s first single, “Take You There”, is the one high spot. And you have to think that Puff had something to do with the Usher-esque “Pick It Up”, even if, for nothing else, the track marks the only time the album feels like something more than a quick money grab. Regardless, Mr. Combs’ imprint certainly doesn’t save Klang’s debut enough to make it worth listening to. Yeah, his stone may be rolling. It just appears it’s going in the wrong direction. And if anyone over at Bad Boy has any brains, they’ll make sure it stops really, really soon.