Remember last summer when Weird Al Yankovic released a video every day for eight workdays and shot up to No. 1, achieving the first No. 1 album of his life? The message to the music industry was clear: Parody albums will move units. That meant some serious comedy training and career pivots for established artists. Luckily for Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, he has buttloads of comedy in him leftover from his days on In Living Color. Combining the neo-soul of his 2010 release Best Night of My Life with the biting comedy of his timeless characters like Wanda the Massage Therapist, Foxx has made the best American parody album in decades with Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses.
It is a comedy album, right? Yeah, no, it totally is.
The record begins with the first of three reprises titled “Dozen Roses,” which immediately must be an unsubtle attempt at mocking the music industry’s idiotic requirements of filling out an album with a certain amount of tracks to be eligible for awards and sell sheets. With each reprise consisting of a crybaby croon of “I bought a dozen roses” on repeat, the listener can already picture a congruent sketch featuring Foxx longingly looking out a rainy window, nude on a pile of rose petals, parodying all the “soft” rappers that get so much shade these days, like the Drake-inspired “sad boy” sub-scene. Right from the beginning of the record, we can tell that we’re in for a biting criticism of the off-course RnB scene… right? Right. This guy was Django.
He’s definitely not short-sighted enough to take this seriously.
After a few chuckles, get ready to belly laugh with the seventh cut, “Text Message.” Jamie Foxx is 47 years old, so when he whines “Started with a text message, ended with sex, yes it’s true, I wanna be on you/LOL smiley face, the emoji with the tongue out/Now I’m kissing you, touching you, freaking you over at your house,” the message to infantile pop stars ignoring their ages to relate to millennials is so scathing, Foxx might want to lay low at galas and awards shows for the next few months. The ’80s are maligned for their repetition and unimaginative covers of ’50s songs, but at least that decade has older pop stars acting their ages (e.g. Kate Bush, Laura Branigan) rather than using pre-teen slang to try and raise funds for a video whose main purpose is to sell the latest Android phone. It’s a real treat to see someone using humor to address age prejudice in music rather than the Madonna approach of complaining while simultaneously acting like a 12-year-old. “Text Message” is a sweeping critique of ageism in pop music.
It must be, because the alternative to this interpretation of it is unthinkable.
Peppered throughout the album are what are most likely going to be the singles, and those of course, (in wonderful parody of contemporary R&B) are collaborations. What pop star can make a living these days without teaming up with every other white-hot pop star to release unstoppable, marketable songs? Ariana Grande shares her stage all night with a projector, blasting thousand of lively lumens behind her while she duets with what might as well be a hologram at this point. Britney and Iggy Azalea just teamed up, as did Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé. Foxx absolutely nails the collab concept over and over on Hollywood. He teams up with Chris Brown on the second track. Right after, there’s a recognizable partnership with Wale. However, the finest of all cooperation on the album has to go to Pharrell. Pharrell notoriously loves to poke fun at himself, as evidenced by his pink polo shirt scene in Get Him to the Greek. It takes a true self aware and confident person to impersonate himself with such burning accuracy, and even if the only satirizing Pharrell did of himself on the entire track was his tired trademark “1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4” intro bar, he would have still come out as the respectful winner of the entire album. Kudos to all the featured artists on Hollywood for playing along with Foxx’s aping-the-industry opus that has to be a long-playing cliché.
Has. To. Be.
Jamie Foxx’s sixth full length does not hit on every potential opportunity, though. If he had any foresight, he could have gone full meta and made it exclusive to Tidal. As a whole, it’s a solid send-up for the contemporary dumpster fire that is the Billboard Hot 100. At the very least, it has undone a little bit of the too-serious voicing behind all pop music. Jamie Foxx has created a masterful comedy record rivaling the work pioneered by acts like Flight of the Conchords.
That’s certainly what this album is. There can’t be any other valid explanation.