REVIEW: Missy Elliott: This Is Not A Test!
Missy Elliott: This is Not a Test! [Warner, 2003]
Three words? Heard it before
I wanted to write this review in the style of a Missy Elliott song, to give you an idea of what it feels like listening to this album. I quickly lost patience with that idea (besides which, not many things rhyme with Elliott), but here's how I envisioned the chorus:
Missy: And whenever in doubt?And so forth.
Just say motherfucker.
Yeah, say motherfucker,
Mary J Blige: Oooo-ooooh, motherfucker.
Missy: Yeah, yeah, say motherfucker.
Anyway, Missy's potty mouth notwithstanding, how does This Is Not A Test! look as an accessory for your CD player? Honestly? Kind of like that band-aid Nelly used to wear: quirkily cool at first, but just bloody annoying after a few minutes.
Test! starts out pretty strangely. A doleful piano melody, sprinkled over a trademark bass-heavy Timbaland beat, while in the meantime Elliott softly laments the state of the world and lyrics from "Rapper's Delight" play in the background. It's actually rather pleasant, both for the sound and for the innovation. If only the same could be said for the rest of the album.
"Pass That Dutch" (track 2) may as well be "Get Ur Freak On'," or, for that matter "Wake Up" (track 3). The beat is, I'll concede, pretty catchy at first, but in characteristic Elliott style refuses to change for the entire track (or for the following one); the lyrics are puerile and seemingly sacrifice coherent content for the sake of (unconvincing) rhymes (which are, indeed, "a pain in your rectum"); and De La Soul fans will be shocked to hear "Potholes in My Lawn" sampled carelessly and pointlessly.
Most of the rest of the album suffers from the same problems: everything is boring, frustratingly unoriginal, and brain-meltingly repetitive. On "Let It Bump," Missy croons "I'm super fresh," which seems a little ironic considering the chorus includes the tiresome line "I'm Missy E on the microphone," repeated over and over again (not to mention the fact that "Let It Bump" is followed by the deja vu-inspiring "Pump It Up").
What makes Test! all the more painful to listen to is the feeling that Elliott could do better. The album occasionally veers away from Elliott's peculiar brand of hypnotic hop and into richer sounds borrowing elements from Reggae and R&B. "Keep It Movin" feels nightmarishly compelling, and "It's Real" is like listening to rain by candlelight.
There are some genuine glimmers of talent, creativity and emotion scattered throughout; but Missy has found her niche and seems determined to stay there. Too bad, for all concerned.