Nelly returns to the charts via "Porsche" | Bleader

Nelly returns to the charts via "Porsche"



Serious rap fans have always considered Nelly to be a guilty pleasure at best and the walking embodiment of crossover-ambitious wackness at worst. "Country Grammar" may bang (especially the radio edit, which improves the chorus's vocal cadence), but that can be terribly hard to remember when he's recording cheesy midtempo ballads with Tim McGraw. If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name "Nelly" is superfluous facial Band-Aids, the second is probably early-aughts hip-hop at its most eagerly radio friendly.

As is the case with any artist courting the fickle and forgetfulness-prone mainstream, Nelly has to essentially launch a comeback campaign every time he releases an album, even if it's only been a couple of years since the last one. His upcoming album, M.O. (his sixth, if you count 2004's Sweat and Suit as a double album), is slated to be released in June, only two and a half years after his 5.0 album, which spawned the successful single "Just a Dream." But he's not leaving the possibility that any pop listeners have forgotten about him to chance.

The lead single from M.O., "Hey Porsche," is the most blatant pop crossover attempt in a career that's been largely defined by its lack of subtlety. The beat, consisting largely of a simple guitar progression and perky, personality-free drum track, was produced by DJ Frank E, the man behind Flo Rida's "Right Round" and B.o.B.'s "Airplanes," two of the biggest rap songs of the past decade that no self-respecting rap fan would ever admit to even hearing in passing. Frank E is so expertly talented at making generic pop songs that when the Lonely Island wanted to record a comedy song where half of the joke was how generic and pop it sounded, he was the guy they called.

It might be at least a little bit sad to hear someone who was, if not a great rapper, at least a sort of interesting one rapping about a car (or is it a woman?) over a beat that's essentially the Kidz Bop version of itself, but it's not. Actually, it's kind of fascinating. The song is so essentially a product, rather than a piece of art, that it basically constitutes a middle finger to the concept of making "art." I know noise musicians who would be proud to manage that kind of conceptual feat.

What is a little sad is seeing someone offer themselves up so willingly to pop listeners and be rejected, which is what this looks like. In the four weeks "Hey Porsche" has been on the Hot 100, it's gone up to a peak position of 42, and this week it's down to 83.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.