David Browne
February 20, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Hold Me Now

Current Status
In Season
Wayne Wonder

We gave it a C-

[ON] USHER ”Yeah!” Just what this smoothy needed: a shrieking synth riff, an alluring, minimalist groove, and Ludacris and Lil Jon riding shotgun. Usher still plays it safe by not going home with the possibly underage dance-club temptress. But this time, you forgive his caution.

[ON] N.E.R.D. ”She Wants to Move” If anyone else were to sing ”Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride,” you’d switch stations. But no one else would set silly lines like that to an off-the-wall mix of flamenco guitar, jazz piano, and big-band drums. A fine mess.

[OFF] SHERYL CROW ”The First Cut Is the Deepest” Cat Stevens wrote it, Rod Stewart caressed it (in the ’70s), and Crow wrecks it, thanks to a bombastic arrangement that robs the song of its delicacy and pathos. Far less deep than it ever was.

[OFF] WAYNE WONDER ”Hold Me Now” Or, how the Thompson Twins oldie would have sounded had it been crooned by a singer with an actual voice, rather than an irritating monotone. Alas, that distinction (and a wan reggae beat) doesn’t make this cover any better.

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