Brain drainOn Universal Mind Control, his eighth studio album, Common opts for a frustrating fusion of Daft Punk-lite electronica and sexually-charged fluff.
Social awareness is shelved in favor of dopey wordplay that’s palpably mismatched with Pharrell-produced dance tracks like the ribald "Announcement": “Broads say ‘Are you a philosopher?’ / Yeah yeah, I’ll philosophize on top of ya.” The Neptunes’ beats are anemic compared to the hyper-soul chic that Kanye West conjured on 2005’s Be
. As if to prove the point, Yeezy stumbles through the chorus of "Punch Drunk Love" while Common sluggishly rhapsodizes about how “it feels like I’m home / when I’m in between your thighs.”
"Make My Day" is a bubbly, if brainless, duet with Cee-Lo Green, and spaced-out chanteuse Martina Topley-Bird closes the album on one of its few high notes with "Everywhere." UMC plays at a coherent message on "Changes," a salute to Barack Obama that feels like an exercise in covering bases after a half hour of slumming. Common’s inability to sound sincere about a man he spent two years championing is the most telling part of this consciously shallow caricature of hip-hop’s dregs.