EW reviews two new albums -- We take a closer look at new releases by Crazy Frog and Timbaland

By David Browne
Updated August 19, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Crazy Hits

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  • Music
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EW reviews two new albums

Remember when the only ringtones available were primitive-sounding metallic chirps? Then came the ability to download a snippet of any song from any act to alert you to incoming calls. In the latest twist in the baffling rise of the ringtone industry, music is now being composed specifically for cell phones. Welcome to a truly post-album-format world, where a song is all of 10 seconds and where the hook is the entire tune.

The Brits are partly to blame, thanks to Crazy Frog’s ”Axel F.” The story so far: Swedish man imitates his friend’s motorcycle; sound is circulated on the Internet; Swedish computer programmer weds the effect to animation of a bug-eyed frog zipping around on an invisible vehicle; German techno duo the Base Bumpers fuse the ”frog sound” to a remake of Harold Faltermeyer’s Beverly Hills Cop hit, which in turn becomes a hugely popular ringtone. When ”Axel F” is expanded to full-song length, it hits No. 1 on the U.K. charts, displacing Oasis and keeping Coldplay at No. 2 — and offering the latest proof that Brits will purchase anything.

With the U.S. release of Crazy Hits, originally put out in a longer form in England earlier this year, Crazy Frog mania lands on our shores. Those expecting download-ready ringtones will be disappointed, though. The album is a set of generic remakes of dance-club hits (from ”Pump Up the Jam” to ”Who Let the Dogs Out” — changed, naturally, to ”Who Let the Frog Out”), with those intentionally irritating faux-frog blurts springing up every so often. The only remotely interesting parts are a Teutonic overhaul of the once-perky ’70s electronic hit ”Popcorn” and the moment in ”Get Ready for This” when Crazy Frog sounds slightly Hispanic. As music and ringtone fodder, Crazy Hits is equally worthless.

If you’re searching for less irksome incoming-call signals, consider hooking up with The Getaway, the latest album by Timbaland (Missy Elliott, Jay-Z), one of the first name producers to craft original cell tunes. (Lil Jon will be doing the same for a company called BlingTones.) Each of the seven cuts on Timbaland’s ”mobile album” (available at zingy.com and part of an MTV series called ”Made Hear: Original Ringtones”) feels like the intro to a song that never arrives. ”Block Party” — one of the longest numbers at 18 seconds — is whirring electro. ”The Showdown” and ”VIP Room” are setups for slinky gangsta stand-offs, and ”Snake Charmer” feels like a never-completed collaboration with buddy Elliott. ”The Getaway” grunts and stammers; ”After Hours” is dark and rumbly; ”The Seduction” is robots playing Ping-Pong. Too bad phone-speaker technology hasn’t kept up; heard on a mobile phone, the tracks still sound tinny. But at least your cell can get jiggy with it. Crazy Hits: D The Getaway: B

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Crazy Hits

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