Over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard at least one song by the dudes who call themselves The Lonely Island. The comedy troupe have become media sensations, primarily through the Internet, thanks to their wacky, satirical hip hop songs, such as ‘Jizz In My Pants’, ‘Like A Boss’, Emmy Award-winning ‘Dick In A Box’, and the Grammy Award-nominated ‘I’m On A Boat’. Poking fun at the genre’s cliches and creating bizarre skits are what they do best, and their second album, Turtleneck & Chain, follows a similar formula to 2009’s hilarious Incredibad: provide a truckload of laughs, and make music videos that are guaranteed to spread like wildfire over video-sharing sites, such as Youtube.
The struggle with creating comedy skits like these is the visual aspect. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer are primarily writers for the famous ‘Saturday Night Live’ TV show, and their ‘Digital Shorts’ segment for that show was the beginning of The Lonely Island’s rise to prominence. Instead of performing their skits live, they’d create music videos, posing as ‘real’ hip hop artists, or just everyday guys rapping about mundane things. The undeniably catchy songs always seemed to work best when paired with a video, and although the trend continues, many songs still work well as stand-alone parodies.
The layers of sarcasm, wit and fake machismo are a lot thicker this time round due to their increased popularity, definitely buoyed by the fact that they were nominated in an actual rap/hip hop Grammy Award category, and not a comedy one; a bit of irony not lost on them. Album-opener ‘We’re Back!’ addresses that issue head-on, where verses alternate between excessive bragging about their importance in the rap industry and…erectile dysfunction and how small and deformed their penises are, all whilst sounding like a normal mainstream hip hop song. The juxtapositioning of the subject matter is just pure genius.
The ubiquitous lead single ‘I Just Had Sex’ (featuring R&B crooner Akon) is by far the album’s highlight. Never has a song about the pure, unbridled joy of having sex ever been put down in such a catchy, awkward manner. Akon (totally in on the joke) belts out a real sing-a-long chorus, and the must-see music video features sexy Hollywood A-listers Jessica Alba and Blake Lively as Jorma and Andy’s love interests. To be honest, I must’ve watched it about 50 times, and it’s no surprise that it now has nearly 90 million views on Youtube.
The celebrity guest stars on the album really put in some great performances. Michael Bolton’s scene-stealing appearance on ‘Jack Sparrow’ will endear him to a whole new generation of younger fans, whose radar the crooner probably had no chance of ever showing up on. Previous Mother’s Day homage from 2009, ‘Motherlover’, featuring close friend of the gang Justin Timberlake, appears on this album, and it’s a well-executed slow jam and a sequel to Timberlake’s other contribution from Incredibad, ‘Dick In A Box’. The absurd premise: both him and Andy’s characters’ mothers are left unsatisfied in bed for various reasons, so why don’t they give each other’s mother the best Mother’s Day present ever? I’ll leave it up to you to work out what that present is!
Nicky Minaj, the female rap phenomenon of the past year, appears on an anthem for all the creepy guys out there (‘The Creep’), and she provides her own female viewpoint on creepiness, which in true off-the-wall Minaj style, is much the same as the guys’! The only other appearance from a legitimate rapper is Snoop Dogg on the title track, who surprisingly does not seem to be in on the joke as he sleepwalks through a repetitive, mildly humourous song. ‘After Party’, featuring Santigold on the chorus, really caught me off-guard with its somewhat-poignant lyrics and subdued electro beats. But it’s back to straight-up humour with Rihanna’s ‘Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde’, a decent track about a bank robber too shy to speak up in front of his forceful female accomplice. It’s quite difficult to follow without watching the music video though. Her hypnotic vocals really do sound funny uttering phrases such as “No one in the bank can hear you/Use your outside voice” and “Just imagine everyone’s naked/Uh oh!/Boner alert, he really pictured them naked”.
All the songs are roughly under 3 minutes, and some ideas work just long enough before they start getting tiring. ‘Rocky’ and ‘Trouble On Dookie Island’ are adequate narratives, but they don’t match the quality of Incredibad‘s many story-related tracks. Album-closer ‘No Homo’ takes the common phrase that heterosexual guys say to make sure they’re not coming across as gay, and amplifies the idea to ludicrous levels; one of the album’s many ‘did they just say that?’ moments.
Once again, these dudes have put together a well-written, funny album, which is what one would hope a trio of successful comedy writers would be able to do. But for them to weasel their way into popular culture with legimately-good hip hop music, which, based on the beats and manner of delivery, could pass off as anything the rap industry churns out weekly – now that’s something to be impressed by.
Just don’t take them too seriously…
- We’re Back!
- I Just Had Sex (feat Akon)
- Jack Sparrow (feat Michael Bolton)
- Attracted To Us (feat Beck)
- My Mic (Interlude)
- Turtleneck & Chain (feat Snoop Dogg)
- Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde (feat Rihanna)
- Trouble On Dookie Island
- Falcor vs Atreyu (Classy Skit #1)
- Motherlover (feat Justin Timberlake)
- The Creep (feat Nicky Minaj & John Waters)
- Watch Me Do Me (Classy Skit #2)
- Threw It On The Ground
- After Party (feat Santigold)
- No Homo
- No Homo (Outro)
Release date: 10 May 2011