If you've seen Will Eastman and Ozker DJ together before you know they have no guilt about musical guilty pleasures. Now that the 00's are over it's time to bring back HOT IN HERRE: 2000's dance party! Since 2008, the duo has brought you the NO SCRUBS: 90's Dance Party where 2Pac and Kurt Cobain exist side by side and work the venue into a sweaty mass of anthemic all night sing alongs.
What if Eminem wasn't a borderline-feral lower-class white kid from Detroit but, rather, an adorable, comfortable, white Midwestern college bro waxing ecstatic about how awesome it is to smoke blunts, tap kegs, and enjoy a no-strings-attached sex life with accommodating sorority girls?
And what if this more upper-class Eminem figure's pandering paean to the glories of eternal adolescence (weed, beer, bros, babes, repeat ad infinitum) was originally set to the whitest, most college-friendly musical backdrop imaginable -- specifically, Weezer's "Say It Ain't So"?
(Before Rivers Cuomo reportedly rejected the sample and it was replaced with something that sounds an awful lot like "Say It Ain't So," that is.) That was the hype behind Asher Roth, the son of a yoga instructor and the executive director a design firm, who went viral (26 million-plus views on You Tube and counting, albeit very slowly) with the music video for "I Love College," the aforementioned frat-boy anthem, a song that could not pander any harder to the collegiate set if Roth had somehow figured out a way to reference every single university in his verses.
After indulging in three minutes of laid-back lifestyle porn about the no-stress, all-debauchery college lifestyle, the song devolves into a series of frat-house chants: "Chug, chug, chug, chug," "Freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman," "Do something crazy" and, of course, "Keg stand, keg stand, keg stand." It is, in other words, a total novelty song, a descendant of Jesse Jaymes's "College Girls (Are Easy)." It feels more like the sole salvo from an inveterate one-hit wonder rather than the beginning of an auspicious career -- but then again, the same could be said of Eminem's "My Name Is." Roth is no Eminem, despite the fact that his voice, wordplay, syntax, and delivery (building to an industry entrance engineered by Scooter Braun, the man who made Justin Bieber happen) are so similar that he felt the need to devote an entire song on his major-label debut to stating the obvious: that he respects the hell out of Eminem, that Em paved the way and inspired everyone who followed, but that Roth is his own man, with his own story and flow and blah, blah, blah, who cares.
His words are "clever" without being witty or funny at all, and there's a joylessness to his delivery that defeats the occasionally inspired turn of phrase.
"Be by Myself," one of several more serious tracks that explore a world beyond partying and bullshit, belongs to the curious subset of pop songs that depict artists' selfish unwillingness to share their lives with their romantic partners or treat them as equals, forming a sort of outlaw's code of rugged independence and noble self-reliance.But Roth has Cee Lo on the hook, so this particular slab of self-mythologizing self-aggrandizement comes in a shiny, slick package, at least.sounds terrific, and represents a sincere and ambitious effort to establish the young caucasian as a writer and an artist with a point of view and a distinct sensibility, not just an opportunistic frat boy looking to capitalize on the fluke success of a trifle would reject from its Funny 5 for lacking sufficient gravitas. On a technical level, at least, he's a skilled rapper with an Eminem-like gift for making his bars crystal clear, no matter how quickly he raps or how intricate his rhyme scheme.He's similarly clearly put a lot of thought and effort into making a well-rounded album that hits diverse emotional and sonic beats, an album that represents who he is as an artist and a person.And his record label really went all out and paid a bunch of genuine black people, like Cee Lo, Keri Hilson, Jazze Pha and Busta Rhymes, to collaborate with Roth and make him seem at least a little less unbearably white by comparison. It doesn't help that the album's second single and first track, "Lark on My Go-Kart," fruitlessly doubles down on the Buzz Feed-friendly white-people nostalgia of "I Love College" with lyrics that are like a Mad Libs amalgamation of hamfisted Gen-X and millennial signifiers like Super Mario-Kart, Smashing Pumpkins, Teddy Ruxpin, Bob Saget and is less like attending a fun party than it is like hearing about how great a party you weren't invited to was."I Love College" cheekily touches on a widespread fantasy to extend the low-stakes, high-fun college lifestyle forever, but elsewhere, Roth seems intent on hogging all the fun, and while his lyrics are dense, they also have the strange dual quality of being at once too clever and not nearly as clever as they seem to think they are.