Last Train To Paris Makes Us Ask, Where Do We Get Off?
by Brian Willett
Before this Diddy Dirty Money – Last Train To Paris review begins, let me say this: I give Diddy credit for a) taking on a project of this scale, and b) not changing his name at any point during the three-year production process. However, that’s about all that I can say in a positive light about Last Train To Paris (download here). Diddy hailed Last Train To Paris as “a sound, a movement” rather than an album, and it represented “raw emotion — you get a feeling, a vibe.” Diddy Dirty Money’s project was to revolutionize music, but the only feeling I got on Last Train To Paris was curiosity as to when the next stop was so I could get off this train.
Diddy Dirty Money kick off Last Train To Paris with an introductory track, which is also practically the only track without a guest spot on this crowded concept album. The intro finds Diddy prefacing the tale of lost love to come by noting that “love is a motherf*cker” over some funky synths before appealing to God for help. Little did I know, I’d be doing the same a few tracks later.
The “love, feelings and emotion” of this “vulnerable album” (Diddy’s words) surface with “Ass on the Floor,” an upbeat track carried by the singing of Dawn Richards and Kaleena Harper and a repeating hook from Swizz Beatz. Diddy drops in to add a few lines, but it’s nothing very inspiring or original.
The train chugs on with “Yeah Yeah You Would,” another upbeat track with some club-appeal, although the instrumentation has an odd sound, somewhat reminiscent of a mix between a whoopie cushion and a DJ scratch. Once again, Diddy’s contributions are mostly behind the scenes, as he lets the Dirty Money singers carry most of the weight. Diddy then narrates his heartbreak, admitting that “I know it’s hard to love me,” which never rang more true. The track comes off sounding like one long hook, and you wait for things to get engaging, but that never ends up occurring.
“I Hate That You Love Me” offers a different sound, with some piano and Diddy dropping lines just to hear his own voice (“Yo, turn that piano up,” etc.). Diddy raps briefly before the singing begins and pops in and out a few times, but never long enough to get a good flow going. Hard to believe this made the cut out of the 60 songs Diddy reportedly laid down for Last Train To Paris.
“Someone To Love Me” is irritating from the beginning, with Diddy repeating, “It’s those Dirty Money motherf*ckers,” in case you forgot what you were listening to. Finally, Diddy takes the lead and raps through the verses, and he offers some good lines, “Look at the sky, wonder when it’s gonna fall, cry in the rain so the pain is stalled…chest cold, my soul howls at moon,” but it doesn’t live up to what Diddy can do.
The next track, “Hate You Now” is comparatively unexciting and uninspired, with Diddy sulking over percussion and sparse electronic buzzing. Although the track picks up during the choruses, Diddy drags it right back down every time. Not my favorite four and a half minutes of music.
Trey Songz drops in for “Your Love,” with his signature “C’meeeerrrrrrre!” With lines such as “Baby, please me right now,” it’s not too hard to figure out what kind of “love” the crew is after. The track gets raunchier with talk of trying it on the table and other lines not appropriate for a family-friendly online magazine. Obviously, this track would be fine on most mainstream records, but it makes you wonder what Diddy was complaining about when he said, “a lot of records out right now — no disrespect to them, but they’re all surface,” and would be completely different from everything else out there.
It’s evident that the star-studded “Shades” will feature Lil Wayne, as it opens with the sound of a lighter and a puff. Lil Wayne talks his way through the first minute, followed by Diddy singing, and it’s hard to tell which is less enjoyable. This song is heavily driven by singing, and Justin Timberlake is really the only one adept at it, although he does more rapping, which is fitting on a track that misses everywhere.
“Angels” takes Notorious B.I.G.’s verses from “My Downfall” and features Rick Ross. Diddy sings his way through this one, but the highlights are B.I.G.’s verses, as there are too many vocal effects on Diddy’s contributions to really enjoy it.
Lil Wayne drops back in for “Strobe Lights,” in which he observes the obvious (“Forever’s just a word, I put words together”) before Diddy gets back to singing. I give him credit for continuing to try, but his efforts really pale in comparison to Richards and Harper, and he should really just let them handle it.
“Looking For Love” features Usher, who manages to resuscitate Last Train To Paris with his skills, and this is actually a listenable track. It does feel a bit long, but this is really the best Diddy Dirty Money offers on the album. Thanks, Usher.
The odd pairing of Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa step in for “I Know,” but things don’t bode well for the track when Diddy kicks it off by saying, “I know I f*cked it up.” This is another lost love track, but Diddy thankfully raps for this one, and while the rhythm isn’t overly impressive, at least he drops some semblance of wisdom. Wiz Khalifa shows some versatility and skill, but doesn’t get to contribute enough, as there is too much going on with Chris Brown and the Dirty Money singers.
“Loving You No More” is a decent track, as Diddy’s singing actually works for once, and he and the Dirty Money girls connect well for a rare hit on this album. The bonus: Drake drops in for a memorable verse, indicating what all of the guest-laden tracks on Last Train To Paris should have sounded like.
The next track, “Hello Good Morning” features T.I. and has a funky, propulsive beat. T.I.’s is uptempo and full of swagger, which is standard for his rap. T.I. provides the highlight of this track, and Diddy Dirty Money scores two solid songs in a row.
The following track, “Last Night Part 2,” is a definite combo breaker, as the hard-hitting percussion doesn’t mesh with the downtempo, subdued rap-singing. Lyrically, the track is nothing stellar, but it’s not bad either.
Chris Brown returns for “Yesterday,” and his singing sounds a lot smoother given the stilted, unenthusiastic rapping of Diddy. Brown’s lines are well-written and emotional, and he delivers them well, which makes me wish this had been a Chris Brown solo track.
The penultimate track, “Change,” does not have any guests, and Diddy sings with a lot of confidence, and manages to do pretty well for himself. However, it’s hard to take all five minutes of this repetitive track, in which he laments being left on the train, which is something I can relate to, having listened to Last Train To Paris for this long.
“Coming Home” is a musical victory lap, with bright horns and an uptempo beat that marches confidently forward. Skylar Grey provides some solid singing on the choruses, and this is a great way to (sort of) redeem the album.
It’s a good thing that Diddy doesn’t really need to make any money from records at this point, because if he were an unknown artist, this isn’t the type of material that would secure a deal. Diddy Dirty Money – Last Train To Paris did not provide a musical rebellion, but rather a reminder that Diddy should stick to what he does well. Diddy was right when he said this album was vulnerable, but the vulnerable moments all too often sound like sulking, and the guest spots make this train way too crowded, especially when several (Brown, Drake, and T.I.) outshine the main star.
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