One of the joys of the VanJam project has been discovering albums I wasn’t paying attention to at the time but probably should have been. Here we have two in that category.
Peter Gabriel temporarily became a superstar despite himself with So. He was an art rocker who answered his record company’s call to try to be at least a bit commercial. And so he did. He made hits. He gave the album an actual name – every other had been eponymous – and for the first time you could see his entire face on the cover (this was actually a request from the record company – stop obscuring half your face, Peter!).
But the album is still art. Gabriel was experimental enough to bring African and Brazilian sounds into it. It’s beautiful stuff. So is both smooth and challenging – it pulls you in. The ballads are my favourite, especially “Don’t Give Up”, with Kate Bush’s gorgeous and soothing vocals. You also gotta enjoy “Big Time”, which has Gabriel making fun of the kind of megastar he’d been working hard not to be and now kinda was.
Snoop, on the other hand, knew he was destined to be a superstar and wanted everyone to know it on his debut, Doggystyle. I’ll admit I have mixed feelings on Doggystyle. There is no denying it is infectious as hell. SUPER catchy. It sounds fantastic (thanks in large part to Dr. Dre’s production), and Snoop’s rapping is as smooth and mellow as the finest herb you’ve ever tasted. It’s mostly party music – although “Murder was the Case” tells an interesting story of life on the streets – and much of it is just silly. But what else to expect, I suppose, from an album that opens with the star being bathed by his girlfriend (or one of many, apparently), and is periodically interrupted by a DJ from “W Balls” radio.
Also, why oh why must the lyrics be so damn misogynistic? I suppose we’re supposed to accept at least a certain amount of that in rap (especially from the 90s), but shit like “Ain’t no Fun” and the talking intro to “Doggy Dogg World” are way too dumb to forgive the offensiveness.
WINNER: Peter Gabriel, So (4 points)
Next week’s post – #13: Midnight Oil, ‘Diesel and Dust’ (1987) vs. Beastie Boys, ‘Ill Communication’ (1994)