Timbaland Presents Shock Value
hile discussing his recent, instantly regrettable “feud” with Scott Storch on MTV, colossal beat-smith Timbaland, aka Tim Mosley, made the ominous choice of comparing himself with a vampire. He then said to imagine him in a coffin: resting, anticipating, and then striking, biting people and producing “a slew of vampires running around.”
If that’s true, then on Shock Value, either his second or his fourth solo album (depending on the presence of rap asterisk, Magoo), he’s ravishing an uncanny and wholly uninspired collection of musical necks: chums/benefactors Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, in-house Mosley Music “stars” D.O.E and Keri Hilson, the John Hughes punk of Fall Out Boy, developmental-league post-punkers She Wants Revenge, and, well, Elton John.
As the preceding list suggests, Shock Value has a disturbing amount of chemistry-set mishaps. His collaborations with She Wants Revenge and the Hives are expectedly poor—like Pharrell Williams, he has a strange fascination with middlebrow, faux-intense rock. Both end results—“Throw It On Me” and “Time”—feel like battlegrounds between two divergent tempos, effects drowning out the instruments we want to hear (post-punk needs a elegant, discernable bassline) and truism after truism (The Hives want to psyche up, She Wants Revenge needs a hug).
The rap and R&B side isn’t much better. Mosley’s brother Sebastian, Magoo and D.O.E. (a Mosley Music newcomer) handle most of the rapping besides Timbo himself. None of these three men have any real gifts for phraseology or pacing or humor. Chest-puff here, teeth-gritting there, haters everywhere. And you’ve heard most of the constituent parts of these beats before—Jeezy and Jay-Z had them better, fresher and earlier.
The most successful songs here, like his work on Furtado’s Loose and Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, are chilly compositions, devoted to post-human revamps of new wave guitar, digital locust bites, and vocal loops so chrome and cybernetic, we wonder if they have a soul, never mind a nationality or language.
“Give It To Me,” the first single, has all the 2006 vestiges of a Timbaland production—a spinal cord of insistent, breathless drums, celestial murmurs a fraction off-beat, the chorus’s slide into a huge, domineering echo chamber. The song never comes together though, all of its constituent parts resemble diluted tools from other, more inspired Mosley moments (Furtado’s “Say It Right” and “Promiscuous,” for instance).
What makes the album so weird, though, is the anger and angst that infect Timbaland on Shock Value. Where his voice was once the mystic, subterranean puppet master channeling girders of dystopic funk and underground caches of pitch-black sound on Missy’s criminally underrated Da Real World, it’s now promising holes in the head alongside Tony Yayo (“Come and Get Me”—subject matter aside, one of the album’s most sterling beats) and singing a suicidal refrain (“Kill Yourself”).
More than just a disappointing album, Shock Value seems almost a necessary epiphany in the man’s career. He can’t make everyone, no matter how much he wants to, sound rejuvenated and lithe (see: Boy, Fall Out). Just Blaze is nipping at his heels. Detox may just blow everyone else off the map. Timbaland has too agile a mind and a palate to ever be anything less than a star. But maybe, just maybe, it’s not up to him: maybe some new horizon is going to have to come around and bite his neck before any new blood starts to flow.