Idealistic hipster trades actual idealism for the 2-D MTV version that-- it turns out-- pays a helluva lot better, inadvertently scores two-thirds of commercials produced in the following three years, and oh yeah, there's that whole international superstar thing. If the threat of never achieving massive superstardom never frightened Moby into fitting his music into a mold, then the actual attainment of superstar status has. As a follow-up, 18 plays it safer than a quadruple-condomed fundamentalist Christian at an abstinence rally.
So, yes, in case you were wondering, 18 does sound a lot like Play -- almost song-for-song, in fact. But any manager can tell you that the best way to achieve commercial success is to Stick With What Works.
Here, Moby shows us why he's a star and not a starmaker-- by actually sampling from the same sources! Couldn't get enough of that chanteuse shrouded in tape hiss who sings, "Ooh Lordy, troubles so hard," on that Pentium III commercial? Well, here's another one just like her, singing, "Lordy, don't leave me all by myself.
For "In My Heart," Moby sets a crackly old gospel singer against piano lines that way too closely recall the ones on "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" which, by the way, was already a mere variation on a Philip Glass piece.
There's plenty more to dislike about 18 , like the monotonous thumps of already-dated drum machines, the painfully repetitive nature of so many of these sounds, or the simplistic keyboard noodling in the background of half these songs. But we're veering dangerously close into the realm of personal taste, and I see no reason to reduce my argument to aesthetics, when I know that tons of people get off on this kind of cheese. But there's plenty of stuff wrong with 18 that's much harder to debate-- stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with my personal likes and dislikes.
For one, 18 is such a blatantly commercial affair I can't help but feel pandered to. There's an indie rock song "Great Escape," featuring would-be scenesters Azure Ray doing their best Mimi-from-Low impression , a hip-hop song "Jam for the Ladies," featuring Angie Stone and MC Lyte , and, worst of all, a weepy adult contemporary-friendly slow jam featuring none other than Sinead O'Connor actual so-sappy-I-fell-off-my-chair-and-broke-my-tailbone-laughing lyric: "The sadness flows like water and washes down the heartache".
Those songs that aren't graced by guest appearances all sound crafted from the same mold-- Play -style sampled blues and gospel set to the same sort of cornily uplifting ambient soundscapes and basic keyboard noodlery Moby's been mucking around with for years-- though it sounds less inspired now than ever.
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