EW review: Success spoils 50's 'Massacre'
By David Browne
(Entertainment Weekly) -- ''Different day, same s---,'' intones 50 Cent near the beginning of "The Massacre."
Pardon us, Fitty, but really? After selling more than 7 million copies of "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " and becoming a new kind of heartthrob (thug as sex symbol) to teenage girls everywhere, 50 Cent is a made man. And the spoils of that success are the recurring theme of "The Massacre," on which he graduates from unblinking gangsta revivalist to hip-hop pasha.
Here, 50 confronts a dilemma that's challenged many before him: What to sing (or rap) about once immediate fame arrives? His answer: the predictable topic of stardom itself.
In songs like ''Ryder Music'' and ''Position of Power,'' 50, who once dodged bullets, is now reveling in supermodels and ''life in the fast lane," albeit in a nonchalant, almost indifferent tone. Sex also plays a bigger role here than on "Get Rich," but it's hardly of the romantic sort -- more than ever, women are for the taking.
Bottom-heavy club tracks like ''Get in My Car,'' ''Just a Lil Bit'' and the appealing throwaway single ''Candy Shop'' (''after you work up a sweat, you can play with the stick'' -- and no, he's not talking about an old Atari console) aren't seductions; they're orders.
The speaker-rattling sonic booms of "Get Rich" still pop up. But in another reflection of 50's ambitions, less intimidating disco samples and cruising R&B grooves are also part of the fabric, as are 50's own singing and rapping. (He changes his timbre so often, from burly rhyming to lilting half-croon, that you may think there are more guests than there actually are.)
''Build You Up'' embodies the revamped 50: The song's silky hook is reminiscent of old Maze hits, and it's sung by new buddy Jamie Foxx.
"The Massacre's" depictions of 50's high-rolling new world are probably as true to life as the unrepentant street sagas of "Get Rich;" after all, 50 is a rich, presumably pampered pop star.
But even with Eminem showing up again to lay down a few tracks, the new songs (and subject) aren't as absorbing as the old. 50's voice has always had a casual slothfulness to it, and paired with the right, vivid track -- ''Many Men (Wish Death)'' from the last album, say -- it could produce unexpectedly poignant results.
On "The Massacre," he tends to sound more self-satisfied than hungry; defending his rap-world turf in recitations like ''I'm Supposed to Die Tonight'' and ''This Is 50,'' he seems almost distracted.
When he moves beyond hip-hop-star narcissism, 50 can still tap into his old steely authority. It's there in ''I Don't Need 'Em,'' produced with cinematic grit by Buckwild, in which he's an on-the-edge drug dealer. It's there in the ingratiating, hooky taunt of ''Piggy Bank,'' yet another tweaking of now-defeated rival Ja Rule, along with Jadakiss, Fat Joe and others. (Yes, 50 can still be kind of funny.)
In the scariest-by-far track, ''A Baltimore Love Thing,'' the narrator appears to be an abusive creep with a junkie girlfriend, until you realize it's the voice of heroin itself: ''If you give birth, I'll already be in love with your kids,'' he growls at her. It's the old love-as-addiction metaphor, yet in the context of the album, both the topic and the sleazy, low-rider beats feel fresh.
''A Baltimore Love Thing'' slays you in a way that much of the surprisingly nonlethal "Massacre" doesn't do often enough.
EW Grade: B-
'Make Do With What You Got,' Solomon Burke
Reviewed by Marc Weingarten
Resurrected soul dude Solomon Burke came back strong with 2002's smoldering "Don't Give Up on Me." But where that album was a slow burn, Burke's latest, "Make Do With What You Got," is more like a barn burner.
Dipping into his boldface Rolodex for songs from Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan and others, Burke belts it out like he did for Atlantic during his '60s salad days.
Don Was' appreciative arrangements leave room for the big man's vocal majesty.
EW Grade: A-
'The Story of My Life,' Deana Carter
Reviewed by Marc Weingarten
This singer -- who made an auspicious debut with 1996's "Did I Shave My Legs for This?" -- has now delivered the musical statement of her career.
Deana Carter wrote or cowrote all 11 tracks on "The Story of My Life" -- a few of them lilting and sexy coming-of-age songs, some of them sad but never self-pitying love songs, and every last one of them strong. Her arresting voice holds it all together with unassuming grace.
EW Grade: A-
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