Nelly: Sweatsuit

Mike Schiller

Nelly cuts the fat from last year's bloated double disc set, and somehow ends up with something almost as bad.



Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2005-11-22
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Oh, Nelly, what's happened to you?

There was a time when I'd defend Nelly to the death. Sure, Country Grammar was cocky, silly, and slick, but there was something about the way that Nelly could lay down a groove that just caught me. Songs like "Country Grammar" and "E.I." didn't really mean that much on a lyrical level, but they got heads nodding and mouths smiling. Nellyville followed, spawning two of Nelly's biggest and most recognizable hits to date: "Hot in Herre" and "Dilemma". "Hot in Herre" tore the roof down, and "Dilemma" was a, uh, sensitive slow jam about infidelity. Both songs had extended stays at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and from the sound of everything that's followed, the success of those two tracks sent visions of dollar signs dancing in Nelly's head.

Since then, nearly every Nelly song can be divided into one of two camps: the ones that sound like "Hot in Herre", and the ones that sound like "Dilemma". Rather than try to cover up this obvious split, Nelly exploited it last year when he released two albums on the same day. Sweat was an album of the "Hot in Herre"s, and Suit had the "Dilemma"s. Predictably, both albums sold quite well, with the slight edge going to the sensitive jams.

As one might expect, then, Sweatsuit is the requisite just-in-time-for-the-holidays combination of the two albums. The release of Sweatsuit is a savvy move on the part of Universal Music Group, given that all of the serious Nelly fans who already have Sweat and Suit will buy Sweatsuit anyway for the three new tracks (and maybe the soundtrack cut "Fly Away"), and fairweather Nelly fans and newcomers will buy Sweatsuit to get the best of Sweat and Suit without having to shell out twice as much cash to get two subpar discs. It's a win-win situation all around.

Or, it would be, if it was pulled off with any sort of skill.

Sweatsuit is really, really confusing. Strangest of all the problems is the track ordering that the disc has been given. Rather than kicking off the disc with some high-adrenaline club bangers that would grab listeners by the naughty bits and force them to listen, Sweatsuit finds the album completely frontloaded with sensitive Suit tracks. Granted, opener "Play it Off" (which features the omnipresent Pharrell) has a solid, danceable beat to it, but such a track order allows for such inexplicable pairings as "My Place" next to "Over & Over". All this does is highlight just how similar the tracks are, at least in beat and melody -- the presence of guests Jaheim and Tim McGraw is absolutely necessary for the sake of telling the tracks apart. Six of the first seven songs are from Suit, which means that by the time you get to the tracks worth dancing to, you'll either be spent from mackin' it for so long or fast asleep.

The track selection is a bit dubious as well -- I realize that "Tilt Ya Head Back" has Christina Aguilera (thus making it uncool in a post-teen-pop world), but it's one of the most recognizable tracks on Sweat, not to mention one of the best. Naturally, it's nowhere to be seen on Sweatsuit. Instead, we get repetitive tripe like "Pretty Toes", which contains one of the most aggravatingly out of sync hooks ever, and "Getcha Getcha", which sees the St. Lunatics finding "clever" ways to work "hey" and "ho" into the end of their rhymes. In fact, once "Over & Over" ends, even the so-called "best" of the two discs isn't enough to hold the attention of even the most patient listeners. The supposed dance tracks don't bump like they should, and the suave tracks descend into a mire of self-pity and undercooked R&B croon.

But then, there's "Grillz".

So Nelly only gets one verse. Even so, "Grillz" (naturally the album's lead single) is a return to everything that once made Nelly a pleasure to listen to, rather than a chore. For one, Jermaine Dupri's production is uncharacteristically fantastic, finding a down 'n' dirty groove in the unlikely source material of Destiny's Child's "Soldier". For two, the song is absolutely ridiculous, to the point where it's unclear whether Nelly, with Paul Wall and St. Lunatics' Ali and Gipp, are having a laugh or completely serious. From the point of view of someone who's never affixed diamonds to his teeth, however, it's hilarious, and the hilarity adds to the appeal. "Grillz" also sports some of Sweatsuit's best lines as things like "Got a bill in my mouth / Like I'm Hillary Rodham" are said with complete and utter conviction. The other two new tracks aren't as nice -- "Tired" sounds like a quicker-paced Suit outtake, and "Nasty Girl" is a much-hyped "collaboration" with Notorious B.I.G. (thanks a lot, Diddy) that doesn't leave much of an impact.

In fact, apart from "Grillz", Sweatsuit as a whole is frustratingly flaccid. All it really serves to point out is just what a two-trick pony Nelly has become, even going so far as to reduce the impact of the singles by placing them next to virtual twins. Even "Heart of a Champion", for all of its pomp and bluster as the opening track of Sweat, is sapped of its energy when placed in the middle of an album that puts so much slow material before it. To be sure, even for all its problems, Sweatsuit is the preferable option to the filler-loaded bloat of the separate Sweat and Suit -- still, Nelly can do better.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.