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10 Years, 100 Songs: #45. “Gonna Use Mouth to Mouth, Bring the Party to Life…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 7, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

You know who the NBA player was that scored the most total points during the 1980s? It wasn’t Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, probably the two guys most associated with the decade. It wasn’t Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, or anyone else that ever had their own shoe, video game or film vanity project. No, the scoring champ of the 80s was Alex English–a forward who spent the entire decade with the Denver Nuggets and who most people born after the year 1985 wouldn’t recognize if he dunked on them (though he apparently did have a cameo in the classic 1987 flick Amazing Grace and Chuck, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Gregory Peck). He never won an MVP, he never made the finals, he never even averaged more than 30 points per game. But he was always there–making the all-star game, serving as the first option for a slightly above-average team, and never going for less than 23 a game.

It’s not a perfect analogy to say that Ludacris was the Alex English of Naughty Oughties pop music–Luda’s talents are likely far more singular (and almost certainly more blatantly extroverted) than English’s were. But I do imagine that it will be equally surprising for future generations to look back on the 00s and see that it was indeed Christopher Bridges–not Beyonce, Usher, Jay-Z, Britney Spears or any other artist primarily of this decade whose overwhelming star power was just a little more staggering–that had more Top 40 hits than anyone else this decade. Like English, he never was really a force of nature in and of hisself, and he never had any hits (on his own, anyway) that would be considered canonical or era-defining. But he was always there, releasing his debut in 2000 and hitting the top 40 at least once a year from then on, for a grand tally of 18 times as a lead artist and another 14 times as a guest rapper. 3.2 top 40 hits a year–that’s a rate that English would’ve been proud of.

Math and chart history aside, though, Ludacris was an incredibly integral part of 00s pop music. We first heard from him with the fantastic stutter hook of 2000’s bawdy “What’s Your Fantasy?” and from then on, his amped-up version of southern drawl was never too far from the airwaves. He was like the 00s’ version of Coolio, except he was actually talented–twisting his tongue and his voice to cartoonish extents, with nearly unprecedented dexterity. And he was a funny motherfucker–hip-hop’s undisputed master of the one-liner, worthy of the Algonquin Round Table in his ability to coin chuckle-worthy puns, blithely bitchy disses and lascivious double-entendres. Whether he was coming on to a chick, threatening an imminent beatdown of a hater, or, uh…well, most of his hits were variations on those two themes, but they were kept varied and infused with enough charisma, humor and sheer love of the game that Ludacris’s act never really got stale, even at his most over-exposed.

The number of his songs I could’ve chosen here is pretty spectacular–“What’s Your Fantasy?,” “Rollout (My Business),” “Saturday (Oooh Oooh!),” “Hip Hop Quotables,” and a couple others all would have been worthy choices. I went with “Stand Up,” because for a guy whose songs’ appeals mostly vary line-to-line, “Stand Up” is the song most jam-packed with instant classics. Seriously, you’d have to analyze that song with a microscope to find lines in it that weren’t total gems–part of the reason why it’s one of maybe only a dozen hip-hop songs that I’d feel totally comfortable rapping front-to-back without any lyrical assistance. From memory:

  • “HOW YOU AIN’T GON’ FUCK? / BITCH, I’M ME!!!
  • “What’s wrong when the club and the moon is full? / And I’m lookin’ for a THICK young lady to pull!”
  • “I’m licked and I don’t care what no one think / BUT WHERE THE FUUUUCK IS THE WAITRESS AT WITH MY DRINK?!?!?”
  • “C’mon, we gonna party tonight / Gonna use mouth to mouth, bring the party to life”
  • “We was two songs away from gettin’ some cutta / Now we one song away from tearin’ the club up”

The lines range from laugh-out-loud funny to mildly smirk-worthy to “uhhhh OK” eye-darting, but every single one of them is memorable in some way–there’s no filler to be had, no fat needed to be trimmed. Indeed, with a relatively lean chorus (“When I move you move / Just like that / Hell yeah, hey DJ bring that back”) and an intro / bridge / outro  simply consisting of Luda shouting the titular phrase, the song runs a mere 3:33, a refreshingly crisp clip.

Of course, my favorite line in the song isn’t really a line at all, but just an exhortation, coming after the “Young, wild and strapped like Chi Ali” line. At that point the music temporarily drops out, and he exclaims, without much in the way of rhyme or reason, “BLAUGH!” It’s contextless, it’s jarring, but it was kind of incredibly awesome, and by far the most fun part of the song to sing along with. That was just Ludacris–he was the kind of guy who’d rap a line about wearing so many diamonds that it feels like he has a midget hanging from his necklace, and then actually make a point of painting a midget silver and dangling him from a big chain around his neck in the music video. He could take throwaways and make them the entire point of the song, because with Ludacris, there was never any such thing as a throwaway–every single word was to be treated as equal, regardless of placement, meaning or relevance.

Having a quality Kanye West beat–his first #1, in fact, and one of the last megahits he’d produce without hopping on the mic himself–helped, of course, though for a Kanye beat, “Stand Up” was surprisingly unshowy, mostly just providing a steady, pounding track for Ludacris to do his thing over. But part of Luda’s general appeal was that, unlike many of the decade’s biggest rappers, he was not betrothed to any one producer. He worked with many of the decade’s best and brightest–Kanye, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Jazze Pha, Organized Noise, Polow Da Don, Cool and Dre and countless others, often matching his personality to the tenor of the beat, and assuring that his sound never got tired. If you had to use one artist’s entire back catalogue to tell the story of 00s hip-hop, between the rappers and R&B singers on whose songs Luda guested, and the producers he had helming his own tracks, you’d have most of the high points pretty well covered.

Of course, it does seem a little like Ludacris has been slowing down lately. He only had two hits last year, the relatively unimpressive “What Dem Girls Like” and “One More Drink,” and he’s yet to release much of anything this year, with his top 40 streak in clear danger of finally getting snapped. But with his transition into acting–an unforgettable supporting role in 2 Fast 2 Furious, a brilliant cameo in Hustle and Flow, an acclaimed turn in Crash, and now a role in the sure-to-be-future-classic Gamer–perhaps Luda has recognized his time as a hip-hop superpower is coming to an end, and has simply begun his transition to bigger and better things. After all, Alex English only played one full season in the 1990s–a forgettable swansong with the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 9.7 points a game for a 28-54 team. Nobody wants to see that from Christopher Bridges.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up”

5 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #45. “Gonna Use Mouth to Mouth, Bring the Party to Life…””

  1. Brent said

    How can you not include ‘The owner’s already pissed cuz we sorta late/but our time and clothes gotta coordinate’ in the classic quotes section?

  2. Dean said

    Wow, more top 40 hits than anyone else this decade, that’s some stat! My own favourites were his guest spots on ‘One Minute Man’ and ‘Gossip Folks’, probably because they showcased this ability to crap out memorable lines (“It`s time to set yo` clock back bout as long as you can
    I stop daylight, it`s ludacris the maintenance man!!”)

  3. Sam Skeen said

    So glad you mentioned “BLAUGH!” I was worried there for a minute.

    Personally though, I think “Rollout” has his most memorable quotes, and is probably the best example of his syllable elongation. “Where’d you get that platinum chain, with dem diaaaaaaamonds in it?” “Whatchoo got in that bag? A COUPLE OF CANS OF WHOOPASS!”

    There are so many good ones. I love his verse in “Yeah!” as well, easily the most memorable part of a huge song.

    Oh man, and his beef with Bill O’Reilly? Classic.

  4. MBI said

    As far as I’m concerned, the real winner is “Southern Hospitality.” Long John DRAWS, Long John STALLS any stank puss makes my long John PAUSE Women on the cell making Long John CALLS and if they like to juggle get Long John’s BALLS.

  5. HellsCook said

    We was two songs away from gettin’ some “cut up” (punani)

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