On 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.