Wayne's new world: A track-by-track breakdown of Lil Wayne's 'Rebirth'
Reported to be Wayne's bid for rock credibility, the album has endured multiple delays, several non-starting singles and a months-early leak. Early reviews have been withering, with the album currently boasting the single lowest score on critical aggregator Metacritic. But can it really be that bad?
Is that the only way to explain why Universal would repeatedly postpone an album from one of its biggest cash cows? Can Lil Wayne really play the guitar or is this is an archetypal example of a self-indulgent and mollycoddled superstar? Is the song "The Price Is Wrong" an attack on Drew Carey? Let's find out.
1. "American Star" featuring Shanell
Talk about telegraphing your intentions. Wayne opens "Rebirth" with a trash-rock guitar solo that would seem bombastic on an Iron Maiden album. He yells "bridge!" before the song's bridge kicks in. In the first 30 seconds, he brags that he's "born in the USA," warbles wobbly Auto-Tuned vocals and claims that he lives in six-story houses, while Shanell's hook claims she's "riding with the dope boy." Finally, we have a hair-metal album to match the ozone-killing excess that has passed for major-label hip-hop over the last few years. Unfortunately, Wayne's effort lacks the (slightly) self-aware humor and joyous buffoonery of Mötley Crüe or Poison.
2. "Prom Queen" featuring Shanell
This much-maligned first single dropped off the charts almost instantly. Over crunchy guitars and thunder-god drums, Wayne lets loose a frog-like rasp worse than Kirk Van Houten. Wayne's idea of rock seems to be a hybrid of emo, grunge and late-'90s rap-rock with melodramatic and insipid lyrics about how much he loves the prom queen's "fancy underwear." "Prom Queen" unintentionally indicts the slick trickery of modern-rock studio production: it's glutted with overdubs, ham-fisted studio axemen and voice correction.
3. "Ground Zero"
Produced by Patrick Stump, the cherubic trucker-hat-clad lead singer of Fall Out Boy, "Ground Zero" commences with a riff instantly catchier than anything on the previous tracks, but once the 45-second opening ends, it goes downhill. Wayne refers to himself as the "Rock 'n' Roll Jesus," which might mark the first time that anyone has ever stolen something from Kid Rock. At one point, he claims he's going to have sex with you like a "bull," which I will pretend is a reference to Greek mythology.
4. "Da Da Da"
It's the first time Wayne raps on the album, but he delivers a mailed-in verse that pales in comparison to anything he kicked on the free "No Ceilings" mixtape. Although, to be fair, he does deserve credit for the first usage of "Tenderoni" in a rap song since the days of new Jack swing. At one point, the song boasts monkey sounds, and Wayne also says, "Let me beam you up like Scotty," declares, "I'm your Kevin Costner" and asks says, "Give me that monkey, that funky monkey." This song sounds like the unholy hybrid of Morris Day and the Time and Panic at the Disco.
Opening with a sub-Nirvana guitar riff, "Paradice" quickly detonates into an "American Idol"-type ballad with lyrics that channel Guns N' Roses. It's become clear that "Rebirth" is a Frankenstein's monster of an album with grafted parts sewn on by someone whose musical repertoire is limited to System of a Down, Fall Out Boy and Creed. Suddenly, Wayne has never met a cliché he couldn't employ, with hooks that read "the sun don't shine forever and everything that glitter ain't gold."
6. "Get a Life"
Crushing my hopes, this song is not about the short-lived Fox vehicle starring Chris Elliot as a goofball paperboy. The lyrics tell haters to "get a life" and repeats Wayne's mantra of getting money and women.
7. "On Fire"
An attempt at synth rock (with a hard-rock twist, naturally). The girl of Wayne's affections is both "creamy and dreamy" and, according to the repeated refrain, "she's on fire."
8. "Drop The World" featuring Eminem
Thanks to a bravura guest spot from Eminem, this is the album's lone redeeming track. Wayne kicks drugged-out rambles about leaving Earth on a spaceship and claims he's going to "pick up the world and drop it on your head." Continuing his recent hot streak, Eminem delivers scorched-earth raps that make Wayne look like an impostor. What's most frustrating about this track is that it displays yet another example of Wayne's inability to seize a potentially big moment. Apart from "Tha Carter III," which showed that he's capable of fulfilling expectations, his head-to-head record against big-name rappers is mostly weak (see "Hello Brooklyn" with Jay-Z and "Barry Bonds" with Kanye West.)
9. "Runnin' " featuring Shanell
Another obviously huge hook voiced by Shanell that would be better served in the hands of Kelly Clarkson or Hayley Williams from Paramore. The lyrics contain vaguely inspirational lyrics about "hitting the ground runnin'." Maybe I was wrong -- perhaps this is Tony Robbins rap-rock. Either way, do yourself a favor and listen to the Pharcyde's "Runnin' " instead.
10. "One Way Trip" featuring Kevin Rudolf
Aided by Cash Money's token rocker, Wayne brags about "beating the beat up." Had this not been recorded months ago, I'd swear that it was a "Jersey Shore," reference, which would provide this ultra-serious album with a modicum of humor. At least, the denizens of "Jersey Shore" seem to be in on the joke. Apparently, Travis Barker drums on this song or so Wayne tells us in yet another ad-lib.
11. "Knockout" featuring Nicki Minaj
Over a riff eerily similar to Blink-182's "Dammit," Wayne delivers perhaps the album's oddest couplet: "Once you go black, you never go back/Once you go white, everything else is wack." Cash Money-signed Nicki Minaj adds a degree of levity to the song -- at least she sounds like she's having fun.
12. "The Price Is Wrong"
Unfortunately, this does not turn out to be an attack on Drew Carey or Bob Barker. Rather it sounds like a version of what the Knux do infinitely better. Wayne continues to dwell on his high school fixation, lamenting that his girl "kisses anyone with a hall pass." At another point, he wails, "I love you. ... I'd die without you." At the expense of continually recommending other options, may I point to P.M. Dawn, who at least understood how to mix their saccharine words with melody and songwriting chops?
Verdict: "Rebirth" deserves its reputation as one of the worst albums of the year so far. With luck, Wayne will return to what he does best -- and soon.
-- Jeff Weiss