Two songs enter. One song leaves. Well, OK, both leave. It’s not like we erase all traces of the losing song from the Internet, but we determine once and for all which tune has the right to their strikingly similar titles. This is SONG DUEL!
Today we answer the eternal question: On what should we blame it?
In this corner: “Blame It (On the Alcohol),” the Grammy-winning R&B collaboration by comedian-turned-strangely-popular-urban-Renaissance-man Jamie Foxx and human annoying-trend-turned-self-conscious-joke T-Pain.
And in this corner: “Blame it on the Rain,” the final hit by early-’90s punchline Milli Vanilli and a reminder of a simpler time when the world actually shamed its pop stars who were caught lip-synching.
And in yet another corner: “Blame it on the Tetons,” an odd little late-album respite from indie-rock band Modest Mouse’s big mainstream breakthrough, Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
Precedence: Milli Vanilli were mouthing their way through “Blame it on the Rain” back when Jamie Foxx was auditioning for “In Living Color” and years before Modest Mouse played its first angular guitar riff in a shed in Issaquah, Washington. Point: Milli Vanilli.
Chart performance: Good News for People Who Love Bad News is generally regarded as one of the biggest indie-rock success stories of the ’00s, but a) only a handful of the people ever listened to anything past “Float On” and b) even its platinum certification can’t compete with the mass appeal of silky smooth R&B. “Blame It” was the biggest hit from Foxx’s third album, Intuition, but it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Blame it on the Rain,” however, reached No. 1, and more than 1 million copies of the single were snatched up by soon-to-be-embarrassed fans. Point: Milli Vanilli.
Critical mass: Even before R0b and Fab had their “Best New Artist” Grammys taken away, critics were lukewarm at best about Milli Vanilli, with Christgau calling their album “indistinguishable from the highest quality Amerischlock” (as if we expected anything less from the Dean of American Rock Critics™). Intuition likewise suffered from mixed reviews, with critics like the LA Times’ Randy Lewis complaining that “Foxx’s identity as a musician isn’t any clearer than it was on his double platinum debut album.” Good News … , on the other hand, is a certified case of Universal Acclaim™, scoring an 83/100 on Metacritic and cracking the Top 20 albums of 2004 according to ranking aggregator Acclaimed Music. Point: Modest Mouse.
Technique: Well, Milli Vanilli is clearly disqualified here. As for the other two, well, Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock isn’t really showcasing his yelping David Byrne impression or his range with this song’s simple, six-note melody, but that’s still four notes more than I heard in Foxx’s “Blame It” before I got bored and turned it off. Point: Modest Mouse.
Bad-assity: Lip synching: not bad ass. Plaintive acoustic noodling: not bad ass. You know what is bad ass? A video directed by Hype Williams and featuring Ron Howard getting out of a Rolls Royce convertible in slow motion with a shrug that says, “I don’t get it either, folks.” Point: Foxx.
Sexitude: Well, Modest Mouse is clearly out of luck here. As for the other two, well, sexitude doesn’t tend to age very well, so despite all the making-out-with-models-in-freight-elevators going on in the “Blame it on the Rain” video, it still reeks of 1990; Foxx, on the other hand, knows how to make a sexy club jam for the new millennium—or at least knows how to hire people who do. Point: Foxx.
Redeeming social value: Only Modest Mouse’s song has the potential to teach us about geography and one of North America’s magestic mountain ranges. Point: Modest Mouse.
The victor, by a score of 3-2-2 … MODEST MOUSE!