Record producers take on many roles in the music industry, putting their individual stamp on songs that they create for musical artists as they stand behind the performance curtain. In the past few years, many producers have stepped forward as solo artists themselves, either completely bombing or carefully landing on their feet. A few well-known producers have failed at these attempts: Diddy, who has no rap skills whatsoever, dishes out a new CD every few years in order to keep Bad Boy Records afloat. Pharrell, another non-rapper who creates explosive beats, tries to sing back-up on Jay-Z records with disastrous vocal chops. And let’s not forget Kanye West, who I will admit, has great flowing skills; however, he rips timeless oldies and has a huge ego. The beat maestro, Timbaland, is just as unsuccessful on his new CD, “Timbaland Presents Shock Value.”
p. The Virginia native has been an accomplished producer since the late ’90s, but has really taken off this past year, swinging hit after hit for artists such as Justin Timberlake, The Pussycat Dolls and Omarion, making him one of the most sought-after producers. In his latest solo project, he invites all of his new (The Hives, 50 Cent) and old (Magoo, Missy Elliot) friends on this compilation CD, integrating a wide range of genres, such as hip hop, bhangra and rock. One would expect greatness from Timbaland, but what one will hear, past the infectious, booming beats, is ineffective rapping and singing tainted with sexual callings, unnecessary disses and arrogant assertions passed off as lyrics.
p. The opening track, “Oh, Timbaland,” is the only real solo track, filled with short piano riffs, church clapping and ragtime syncopation, as well as Nina Simone’s gritty voice from an old blues track, “Sinnerman.” The first single, “Give It to Me,” featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, is an addictive club hit that has nothing to do with partying. With the combination of singing, talking and a bit of stuttering, each artist expresses their growing beef with other singers and producers. It is rumored that Furtado aims her thrashings at Fergie, Timbaland aims his at California producer Scott Storch and Timberlake points to Prince and Janet Jackson.
p. A slim number of tracks off this album really show Timbaland’s virtuosity and ingenious creativity. “Way I Are,” another club track infusing house and trance together, features the singer-songwriter Keri Hilson, who wrote “Runaway Love” by Ludacris and The Pussycat Dolls’ “Wait A Minute,” and rapper D.O.E. Although Timbaland raps about his “scrub” tendencies with a serious lack of funds and transportation, “I ain’t got no money / I ain’t got no car to take you on a date / I can’t even buy you flowers / But together we’ll be the perfect soulmates,” the song is filled with futuristic beats that could become his next single.
p. Another track where he shines is a mesmeric rock ballad, “Apologize,” featuring alternative newcomers One Republic. One of Timbaland’s high points on the album is the soft strings, modest beats and a haunting piano that support lead singer Ryan Tedder’s melancholy voice on the track.
p. The quality of the rest of the album is questionable and in dire need of restructuring. Timbaland basically lets his featured artists do the work for him, as he grunts and growls, giving one-word responses to remind his listeners that it’s his CD. In trying to take on different music genres, specifically rock, he strikes out on a few songs. “Throw It On Me,” featuring The Hives, doesn’t even showcase the garage band sound for which the band is mostly known. Instead, Hives frontman Pelle Almqvist howls and yells like the Tazmanian Devil, while Timbaland’s spastic raps lead into random guitar licks and a shouting chorus.
p. When he transfers over to hip-hop, he collaborates with 50 Cent and Tony Yayo on “Come and Get Me,” a boring three-and-a-half-minute song that does nothing but illustrate how 50 Cent’s repetitious rhymes about shooting and killing another one of his enemies is no longer an impressive way to rise on the pop charts. “Bounce,” a self-proclaimed “panty anthem,” is laced with heavy beats and saturated with sexual exploitations, featuring Dr. Dre, Missy Elliot and Timberlake with ridiculous, laughable lyrics.
p. The album ends with another disappointing track called “2 Man Show,” which should really be called the “No Man Show.” As the featured artist, Elton John just plays the piano while a gospel choir sings the chorus, and Timbaland repeatedly affirms that John is, in fact, on the song.
p. Overall, Timbaland’s ‘Shock Value’ is just shockingly awful. The rest of the songs are watered-down imitations of his previous productions as he tries to cater to his musical buddies instead of challenging himself beyond what he normally does. Granted, Timbaland creates a diverse style of beats that make each song unpredictable; but one cannot go on beats alone. He needs to stick to territory with which he’s better acquainted and leave the rest for the real musical artists.