Sharps & Flats

R&B trio Next like dirty talk and naughty sex. But isn't "Come sit on my laptop" taking the ingenious come-ons a bit too far?


Keith Harris
July 5, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

Next
"Welcome II Nextasy"
Arista

Keeping it up all night may be some kind of achievement, but boasts about bedroom stamina come cheap. Call some would-be stud's bluff and he's, what, embarrassed? Meanwhile, the lady is left with a limp lump monopolizing the blankets and wheezing a self-satisfied snore. You're likely to hear both sides of the story on urban radio. But while the hip-hop hard boyz spin endurance fantasies about boning on and on till the breakabreakadawn, the R&B artists ply the ladies with ingenious proposition, unexpected delight and a flick of the tongue instead of a thrust of the crotch.

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Of course, even if you're a vocalist as supernaturally transporting as Al Green or Marvin Gaye, that sort of enticement requires imagination -- the kind of imagination that comes from hours of adolescent musing about what you'd do if a real live girl accidentally wandered into your bedroom, the kind of imagination that the Minneapolis trio Next demonstrated on their 1997 debut, "Rated Next." On that album, R.L., Tweety and T-Low promised to nuzzle your corn-free toes on "Butta Love," then topped that chivalrous vow with "Too Close," a tale of dance-floor erection hooked by the single entendre "You're making it hard on me." Their idea of risky romance was a dirty joke whispered into your ear during a slow dance, and it was a winning one.

"Welcome II Nextasy" ups the freak quotient, with production again from Naughty By Nature's KayGee adding a hip-hop bump to the smoothed-out groove. "Jerk," about taking sexual matters into your own hands, is already making the dance-floor rounds. "I make the decision/To handle my own business," R.L. boasts. "Back in forth in a rhythm/Till I make the jism." And while the gushy "Cybersex" starts out merely goofy, "I want your PC/Sit on my laptop," by the time it broaches the ridiculous ("Download all over me") it draws the dirty-minded giggles it intends.

But it's disconcerting that Next's two squishiest tunes don't have any women in them. Nor does "Let's Make a Movie": after a steamy shooting session the boys have you in their video library; what makes you think they're gonna bother hitting you back when you page them? By comparison, the nicey-nice first single, "Wifey," while modestly tuneful and a tad more sprightly than the midtempo R&B love dedication norm, comes off as a bland, vague commitment to cohabitation.

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Of course, smart women and honest men have always known that R&B's softcore come-ons are well-meaning lies at best. The most you can expect are interesting lies. And though they remain admirably oral in their intentions (though a bit self-congratulatory about that fact), no cunnilingual acuity can make up for "Beauty Queen," a blast of virulent misogyny camouflaged as ghetto moralism. The story: Fine young thing runs with older men in high school and winds up pumping out babies, sucking on the crack pipe and turning tricks, while the male narrator -- who certainly isn't jealous, not him -- follows her decline with a vicious sense of superiority and satisfaction.

That's the trouble with imagination, after all: It's hard for any mere female human to be able -- or, for that matter, willing -- to live up to those dream-spawned ideals, and disappointment tends to turn the callow kid in search of something freaky real mean, real quick. And ladies, you might find, "Girl I'll pay your bills/If you freak me like I want" a more mercenary, limited definition of "What U Want" than you expected. Like so many lover boys before them, Next talked a sharper game when women weren't throwing themselves at them. And they told more clever lies to hustle up some action when they couldn't afford to pay for it.


Keith Harris

Keith Harris is a writer living in Minneapolis.

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