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Cody Simpson is either the 15-year-old Australian star you’ve been meaning to listen to or the subject of your latest Pinterest “marriage” board. On the heels of the announcement that he’ll be touring with fellow teen idols Big Time Rush this summer, Simpson is further prepping for a massive radio takeover with the help of T-Pain. Yes, Australia’s own has been bitten by the auto-tune bug. “So Listen,” from his forthcoming debut album, is the marriage of an endlessly cute (and blond) pop star and a relatively harmless hip-hop artist with a proven history of creating hits. The result is something we tend to hear a lot of come early spring: a consequence-free warm weather anthem that younger fans and radio programmers love. Do what the young man tells you and hear it for yourself, below.
Previous offerings showcase Simpson’s vocal ability more than anything else, but the newcomer hasn’t been shy about his R&B leanings, or tendency to hang out with wannabe hip-hop stars. As he pushes forward with the debut album and the tail end of puberty, it’s only natural that he graduate to a more mature, club-ready sound. With synths that supply flashes of FutureSex/LoveSounds-era Justin Timberlake—which does not mean T-Pain is on the same level as early aughts Timbaland, mind you—Simpson offers an apology to his lady for why he’s been so tongue-tied of late, encouraging her to take him seriously through the use of lyrical staccato over a dubstep chorus (“So listen t-t-t-to me / l-l-l-listen to my heartbeat”)—because nothing gets a point across like repetition and the mind-numbing wub wub wub of the Hot 100′s musical style du jour.
The poor thing sings that he’s “never been good with words,” which is a clever play on the chopped and screwed delivery he seems to be siphoning from his older partner. While he’s allowed some room to make his case, things remain surprisingly stationary (or simply overly produced) as he laments his inability to communicate well for two verses. A true example of the titular plea would be best enjoyed over a lone acoustic guitar with Simpson’s voice revealing the reasons why he loves her, how dire things would be if she left and how much he wants to connect with her on another level (“I need more than words to show you”), but then again he is only 15, and this could be leaving the door open for a remix one day.
The JT comparisons continue throughout, as guitar twang reminiscent of “What Goes Around Comes Around” gives way to T-Pain and his inevitable verse, which doesn’t feel as phoned in as some of his more recent outputs, especially considering he’s lending his signature sound (“oh woah”) to an underage artist. Running through a checklist of contributor requirements, the auto-tune king hits on wordplay (“Let the church say Amen (Amen) / ‘Cause I know you need a man (a man)”) and age-appropriate shock value (“So stop with all the dissing / Get to the kissing”) to successfully infuse the track with a little cross-genre swagger. Overall, Simpson ask us and his lady to drop everything and listen, without a truly drop-everything-and-listen reason for doing so. What will happen if she doesn’t stick it out for three minutes to hear you tip-toe around the “I like you” conversation? Will the relationship survive if she doesn’t like dubstep? Despite the vague details and controversy-free subject matter, monotony seems to rule in the end; we’d be lying if we said we weren’t tapping along after the third listen. Oh, T-Pain. You’ve proven the formula still works.