You’ve got to feel sorry for anyone who performs on the Tuesday night American Idol show. Wednesday night has more stars than a planetarium at Christmas time: Lady Gaga! Beyonce! Bono! Carrie Underwood! Steven Tyler and some guys from the Stone Temple Pilots. (Sorry. There’s a limit to our excitement.) But last night was such a breakneck rush through the collected works of Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery that lots of people probably fast-forwarded after Alaina’s last note, missing Taio Cruz on his new song “Positive.”
It’s natural that Taio would want to latch onto the Idol brand-brand-brand. “Dynamite” had remarkable staying power, but after that? Not as much, despite his having a new album, Black and Leather, in the works. And he might be wary of fellow British import Tinie Tempah, too–a straightforward rapper more than an R&B star, but one whose overseas crossover “Written in the Stars” has already set sales records.
Taio announced “Positive” in March as a “Cruz/Idol/Fans/Coca-Cola/Perfect Harmony Collab.” Through a promotion on the American Idol website, fans got to submit lyrics to the song in exchange for Coke advertisements aplenty, an entry into a sweepstakes and a download. And thus, a song was born.
Get away from that close-tab button–it’s better than it sounds! OK, so Taio had undeniable sound issues during the performance. Even he admits it. So here’s what appears to be a studio version:
As an Idol-solicited song, it’s certainly a lot better than the likes of “This Is My Now” or “I Love You This Big” (sorry!) We can’t say much for the fans’ lyrics as a whole, but at least they go quickly enough to gloss over. And Taio’s vocals do have a patched-together sound, as if maybe he recorded the vocal track for every lyric as he got it in his inbox, but the uplift is everywhere it needs to be.
We can’t help but notice, though, that “Positive” sounds familiar. Like, really familiar. And not just because it sounds like Taio’s entire back catalogue or “Written in the Stars,” or because the “oh na na”s remind us of Rihanna. There’s something bigger going on. Listen to the chord progression and where the beats are placed. No? How about this lyric: “‘Cause I’m gonna wear that crown with my feet on the ground.” Still not ringing any bells? Have a listen to this, below (skip to 0:23 to really hear the resemblance):
That’s “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells, a Brooklyn duo whose debut album Treats received a ton of buzz last year. Taio’s sped things up and lowered the volume (with Sleigh Bells, you kind of have to) but the resemblance is there. There are worse songs to emulate, though! And the “Positive” committee’s got too many members for us to point blame at anyone, besides. Maybe this can all be resolved with a collaboration.