VAN HUNT / “Down Here In Hell (With You)” (Acoustic)
Everyone knows at least one person involved in a strange, fucked-up relationship. Oddly enough, none of us will admit to being involved in one ourselves. So…if you’re fucked up and you know it, would you kindly raise your hand? Come on people, identify yourselves. … Van Hunt goes a little further than admitting that he and his girl are fucked up; he claims to like it. The conveyance is “Down Here In Hell,” a minor masterpiece of spite and vitriol disguised as a pretty, little ballad. “I really love it when we make mistakes,” he sings, and he isn’t kidding. “It gives me a reason to complain.” Hunt is a legitimate songwriter. He knows how to fit a good lyric to an evocative melody. The formula he uses reminds me of cats like Shuggie Otis back in the day or a Macy Gray now. His songs seem slight, but they have a sneaky appeal. Initially, you may be underwhelmed; days later, when music is the last thing on your mind, you’ll find yourself waiting in a line somewhere humming the little piano figure from “What Can I Say” or singing—in a half-remembered, mostly-approximated way—the chorus from “Out Of The Sky.” “Narrated Autobiography,” a track from the CD single release of “Down Here In Hell,” probably isn’t intended to be a song. I include it here because it provides an interesting (and honest?) peek behind the curtain. In direct, unpoetic language (some of which is blanked out), Hunt describes some of his earliest encounters—via his father—with music, gambling, drugs, sex and other lifelong obsessions / addictions / afflictions. Perhaps it was Hunt Sr.’s willingness to treat his little boy like a grown man that accounts for Hunt Jr.’s willingness to be the only one with his hand in the air after someone’s asks, “So, who in here is fucked up?” —Mtume ya Salaam Tracks: - “Narrated Autobiography” – from AV/CD single (Capitol, 2004) - “Down Here In Hell (With You)” (Acoustic) – from AV/CD single (Capitol, 2004) - “What Can I Say” – from Van Hunt (Capitol, 2004) - “Out Of The Sky” – from Van Hunt (Capitol, 2004) Take it howsoever you will Some of us are fascinated by fire, to the point that we’ll risk getting burned just to bask in the afterglow of the flame. Take it howsoever you will, Macy Gray is the kind of woman that a lot of cats wonder if they could handle, and if not handle, at least fiend for a chance to momentarily touch. Why? Cause, although very few of us are foolish enough to want to marry a Macy, most of us are curious enough to want to at least dip a toe in that lake—you know, just to test how wet her water feels. Yeah, she’s crazy, and that is precisely the attraction. You can hear it in that weird voice that simultaneously makes you wish she would shut up and also wish you could hear her screaming in your ear in the dark. Well, maybe it’s only a few of us dudes that admit to digging Macy; but believe me, even the cats who say they don’t are curious about what it would be like if they did. All of which is to say, when Mtume wrote what he wrote about Van Hunt, and when I heard the tracks, Macy was standing there grinning—some times she can look so almost—enticingly—normal. So, I have taken the liberty of mixing the Macy tracks all up in between the Van Hunt tracks (which are some of the best neo-soul I've heard). “I’ve Committed Murder” is a Gangstar remix feauring Mos Def and obviously that sister got your back, big time. The “Demons” track is a Fatboy Slim production that lifts a riff from Bill Withers; it's a bit of some post-modern John Donne, twisting-up heaven-and-hell issue; electronicly funky, who else but Macy could make this strange song so danceable. “When I See You” is a full out baby-I’m-yours love song from one of them girls who are into all kinds of public displays of affection. “I Try” is an acoustic, live recording from a guest appearance on an English radio program. I think it’s better than the album version. if you listen to this shit more than once and enjoy it, I knows something about you! It’s no secret that we all have secret fantasies, one of which is to hook up with someone who will fulfill those deep desires the majority of us spend a lifetime avoiding. These songs are the soundtrack of inner turmoil, of the tortured wrestling with the wrongs that we wish were right, or something. Some of this stuff is not healthy to be indulging, but neither is it healthy to suppress the shit; what’s a body to do? Que sera, sera. —Kalamu ya Salaam Where you're gonna end up.... Back when Macy Gray's first album came out, I was still doing music reviews. I wrote a glowing review based on an advance copy of the CD and one live appearance Macy did on BET or something. Of course, when she blew up, I was pleased as punch...considering myself a genius and all that. (The other 99% of the unknown artists I liked ended up in the cutout bins, but that's a whole 'nother story.) I can't say why exactly I didn't keep up with Macy's music after the first album. It might've just been bad timing and personal stuff on my part. Anyway, listening to these selections from Macy, I realize I've been missing out. She's a horrible singer (obviously), but she's a great performer and a brilliant songwriter. She's also certifiably loony (obviously). I mean, when it comes to women, I can deal with crazy...but Macy? Oh, hell no! Instead of messing with someone that off her rocker, you might as well dance your way down to the coroner's office and ask for a bed, 'cause that's where you're gonna end up. Oh, and could I say just one other thing? Baba. WTMI! For real.
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