Kevin Rudolf: In the City

Evan Sawdey

Kevin Rudolf thinks he's a bigger star than he actually is, and how dare you think otherwise.

Kevin Rudolf

In the City

Label: Cash Money
US Release Date: 2008-11-24
UK Release Date: 2008-12-08

Let's start with the obvious: "Let It Rock" is one monster of a single.

Built on a simple synth-lick, boisterous rock guitars, and a catchy-as-hell chorus, "Let It Rock" is a defiantly disposable anthem that retains its impact with multiple listens. It's a remarkable achievement given that singer Kevin Rudolf not only wrote it himself, but he also produced it and played all the guitar parts on it by his lonesome. Though Lil' Wayne's verse shows that perhaps guesting on rock songs isn't his forte (as evidenced by his appearance on Fall Out Boy's latest), it's still one of those gloriously innocuous pop singles that you can listen to years down the line without feeling guilty at all.

The same, however, cannot be said for the rest of Rudolf's debut, In the City.

Though Rudolf built up his name by playing on rap/pop tracks for some time (Timbaland, Nelly Furtado, etc.), the lyrical output he presents us with is one that's remarkably bitter in regards to the trappings of fame and celebrity. "In the city of dreams / You get caught in the schemes / And fall apart in the seams" Rudolf warns on "N.Y.C.", wherein Nas stops by to say pretty much nothing ("Michael Bloomberg / Forget what you heard") and Rudolf spends the rest of his time detailing the wasted lives of uninteresting characters heading to the Big Apple in hopes of fame and/or notoriety. Later, on "Welcome to the World", Rudolf insists in his grammatically incongruous way that "You got your pop star / I'll be your rock star / When it's a suicide / You call it 'superstar'", as if self-martyrdom somehow implies immediate celebrity. As if that wasn't clumsy enough, Rudolf even drops a tepid Wizard of Oz analogy on "No Way Out":

Switch got me caught up in a twister

I'm skippin' on down that yellow brick road

I said to the Tin Man 'Sorry, can't help ya

They ripped my heart out a long time ago'

Now I feel like a-cowardly a-lion

I wanna break out but I'm paralyzed

The yellow bricks lead me straight to the wizard

He said 'It's all your state of mind'

Yet for such a dark look at American tabloid-culture, Rudolf, somehow, feels that he's above it all. Though he promises that he'll make us "come alive" during "Let It Rock", Rudolf actually goes one step further by pompously opening the disc with the lines "Every day I'm a star in the city / Walk the streets like a wanted man / All the time got my shine looking' pretty / Motherfuckers all know who I am." If Rudolf was presenting this all as an analogy of some sort, the lyrics would be a bit easier to swallow, but -- as it is -- there's no other conclusion to be reached except for one: Kevin Rudolf thinks he's a bigger star than he actually is, and how dare you think otherwise.

On a musical basis, Rudolf's formula is simple: find a simple set of chords, repeat it for the duration of the entire song, and use loud rock guitars to differentiate between the chorus and the verses. There is very little musical variation beyond the template that "Let It Rock" sets up, as most songs simply ride by on their simple, basic hooks, all while Rudolf peppers each track with his sub-Zeppelin guitar noodling. What's worse is that the album's token acoustic tracks ("I Song" and "Scarred") sound exactly the same, using the exact same tempo, the exact same strum pattern, and a majority of the exact same chords. Side by side, there are notable differences: but when playing the album straight through, it sounds as if In the City has accidentally lapped itself.

If anything, Rudolf does show promise beyond that of just a simple studio session man. He has some solid ideas and keen sense of production; the problem is that his solo songs, by and large, suffer from a frightening lack of creativity and a remarkably shallow lyrical outlook. "Let It Rock" is a hit and deservedly so: it's an fantastic club jam that endures countless replays with ease. Unfortunately, the formula doesn't work when spread out over the course of a whole disc, but give Rudolf time -- he'll figure out what he's doing eventually.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.