Posted on December 2nd, 2009 (2:04 pm) by Joseph Bogen

I have a confession to make. I don’t get pop music or hip-hop. Most of my favorite bands are either lucky to see album sales break five digits or they are over 40 years old. The closest thing to hip-hop in my CD collection is Gil Scott-Heron. Any music without guitars, actually, is hard to find in my collection. I even had to Google what a rap mixtape was while writing this review (I always thought a mixtape was just something sappy you made for a girl you liked in high school). This raises an obvious but important question: should I be reviewing Attention Deficit? There are some good reasons why I shouldn’t: I do not listen to nearly enough hip-hop to put Wale in context, and my experience breaking down the elements of successful rock songs for reviews won’t help me out here. But this is an indie review site. There is a good chance that you, the reader, like me, have only a passing interest in pop hip-hop. The opinion of a dabbler like me is, I hope, likely to be more helpful to you than that of an expert.

Now, I’m not totally divorced from popular music. I take time to acquaint myself with the latest in pop every morning when I enjoy the scant few hours of the day that MTV and VH1 actually air music videos. It was there that I first encountered Wale. “Chillin” was arguably the best pop song I heard this summer. Other than Beyoncé’s slew of singles, it is the only one I heard that still stands out in my mind months later: no mean feat given that I had never heard of Wale until 6:45 AM one random morning. It’s all the more impressive since the video for “Chillin” kind of sucked. Other than Lady Gaga singing in an empty lot and Wale walking around acting cool, the video did not have a lot to offer in the way of eye candy. The song, though, was strong enough to hold my interest despite the video’s shortcomings. Instead of merely misappropriating "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" like the atrocious Christina Debarge, Wale sampled it, dismantled it, and turned it into something immediately propulsive. Throw in Lady Gaga mimicking M.I.A. (my girlfriend in the next room seriously thought it actually was M.I.A. ) and we have a near-perfect pop song.

I had to know if Wale could keep it up. Would Attention Deficit be an entire album of party-ready hits? Unfortunately, the answer is clearly no. In fact, the album is surprisingly full of introspection and reflection. It even features a song titled “Contemplate” – one of the albums more melodramatic and least successful moments. Instead of more rap bravado like we were treated to on “Chillin,” we get songs like “Shade” that attempt, with mixed results, to tackle such heady concepts as racial politics.

Sometimes Wale’s ambitions pay off. “90210” opens with a simple dreamy synth melody that eventually builds into a captivating tune. Wale proves he is perfectly able to bring his stage personality down to match the tone of the song. Here he plays up his youth and vulnerability, and it works to deliver my favorite song on the album. Unfortunately, “90210” is the exception rather than the rule. “Mama Told Me” and “Mirrors” are both sonically dead and feature Wale’s most obnoxious and least interesting refrains on the entire album. “Mirrors” is especially dreary. The music reminds me of Cake. Yes, that Cake. At least Wale summons some emotion on “Mama Told Me,” even if that emotion is, unfortunately, petulance.

When Wale tries to deliver other hits along the lines of “Chillin” he generally succeeds. “World Tour” is even more catchy and infectious than “Chillin,” and is a natural choice for a second single. But I wonder how much of this success is attributable to Wale. Both of these tracks were produced by Cool & Dre. I honestly don’t know how much of my enjoyment is owed to Wale or to the producers he brings on board for each song. And therein lies the fatal flaw of Attention Deficit. After more than fifty minutes, despite some amazingly direct and honest songs, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know Wale any better than I did that early morning last summer.

Track List:
1. Triumph (2:25)
2. Mama Told Me (3:37)
3. Mirrors (feat. Bun B) (4:17)
4. Pretty Girls (feat. Gucci Mane & Weensey) (4:11)
5. World Tour (feat. Jazmine Sullivan) (3:47)
6. Let It Loose (4:49)
7. 90210 (3:21)
8. Shades (feat. Chrisette Michele) (3:56)
9. Chillin (feat. Lady Gaga) (3:24)
10. TV in the Radio (feat. K’naan) (3:20)
11. Contemplate (3:33)
12. Diary (feat. Marsha Ambrosius) (4:31)
13. Beautiful Bliss (feat. Melanie Fiona & J. Cole) (5:04)
14. Prescription (3:27)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

© Inyourspeakers Media LLC