Jordin Sparks (duet with Chris Brown) – No Air

This issue we explore the lung-busting world of the Power Ballad. Few musical devices are more explosive and invite more vocal gymnastics than the Power Ballad… except, of course, when you gene splice the Power Ballad with the Duet. That’s right, the Power Ballad Duet: frightening for its raw primeval grunt and awesome in its willingness to have a Man and a Woman bellowing into each other’s faces at short range, passionately pulling at the air with their fists, affecting looks of exquisite agony, tonsils oscillating so violently one fears heads will pop clean off.

A Power Ballad doesn’t need explanation. Each adheres to the universal ‘can’t live with ya’ theme, but No Air’s oft-repeated schtick is the idea that ‘not having you there’ is like a world with no air… no ai-ir, no ai-ir, no ai-ir… etcetera. Leading the auto-asphyxiation charge is the electric Jordin Sparks. Jordin looks to be a talent who was born, groomed and trained like an East German Olympic pentathlete to blast out power ballads for a living. I know for a fact that she’s given over at least three hours a day in front of the mirror perfecting the ‘close your eyes, look away’ maneuver. What’s more, Jordin and her entourage regularly decamp to a high-altitude training resort, where rain and fog make it easier to rehearse the ‘how can my life go on’, clutch myself gaze through frosted windows. Talk about doing the hard yards. And the training has paid off, Jordin’s performance in  No Air is exemplary.

But a Power Ballad Duet is only as strong as the weakest link — there could be no Dolly without Kenny, and no Meatloaf without Bonnie — and Chris Brown looks hopelessly out of his depth — he’s seems unprepared for the emotional rigours of a life with No Air. He wanders the streets of New York in a variety of ridiculous duffle coats, beanies and mohair scarves searching for inspiration, frowning a bit, in the hope that looking cold will somehow equate to the hollowed-out gaze of a tortured soul, but regrettably, while Jordin appears utterly desolate and possibly in need of a tracheotomy, Chris Brown just looks like a man in need of a tablespoon of Mylanta.

That is until Team Brown phones method acting mamma, Meryl Streep, to score a sure-fire tip to help their young lisping tyro —  “think of something sad” was the sage advice. Genius. But what could possibly pull the heartstrings of Chris Brown when clearly the thought of moving from one girlfriend to the next is about as distressing as misplacing the keys to the Five Series. Ah ha. The answer is there, staring everyone in the face. ‘No Air’. Chris, just imagine a life without Nike Air. And, the rest is history: after the smelling salts were summoned and Chris brought round, he gave the performance of a lifetime — out-wailing, out-bellowing, out-fist-clenching, sternum thumping… it’s almost as if Chris Brown actually gives a rat’s about his on-screen lady love. Truly inspiring.

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