“Producer’s producer” Timbaland has posted the entirety of his upcoming album Shock Value on his MySpace page, so we can listen to all 17 tracks in lovely 96kbps hi-fi sound a whole week early. Cool! But unfortunately, a first listen is somewhat disappointing. The already-leaked (and already five-starred) “Give It To Me” is a highlight, as is “Scream,” a dramatic 4-chord number featuring a Pussycat Doll on lead vocals, as well as “Board Meeting,” a party-starter bringing longtime collaborator Magoo back on board. I’m a fan of “The Way I Are;” with its trance-y keyboard line, it’s clearly a musical sequel to “My Love.” But other tracks veer a little too close to self-parody, like the Justin Timberlake-featuring “Release,” which is so close to “SexyBack” it just makes you want to listen to that (far superior) song instead. The much-hyped rock collaborations are a mixed bag: “Time” brings in Joy Division ripoffs She Wants Revenge for a middling freestyle/goth mashup that’s slightly redeemed by a lovely instrumental section, and on the Fall Out Boy track “One and Only,” listening to Timbo try to imitate the rapid-fire vocal style of pop-punk’s greatest irritants is pretty painful, although the oddly “Promiscuous”-reminscent chord structure of the chorus is kind of intriguing. I’d like to listen to track 13, featuring the long-lost Hives, but they seem to have uploaded “Time” to its slot. An accident, or is it not ready for prime time?
What’s most disappointing is the news that apparently the track featuring M.I.A. is, uh, MIA, only appearing on the import version of the album. Thanks to the intertubes, though, we can hear it now (mp3 link via Idolator and Discobelle). With its odd chants, psychedelic echoes, gargantuan retro synth bleeps, and the usual effortlessly sexy/political vocal from M.I.A., it’s both avant-garde and instantly accessible, and why anybody thinks the US can’t handle it is beyond me. Too bad.