Pop Music Round-Up: Winter 2014
Time to take a few swats at all the gadflies currently on radio's radar.
It’s not good, boys and girls. I was feeling hopeful at the end of 2013, believing that pop music might save itself, but I was wrong. I only wish pop would eat itself.
It currently seems hell-bent on eating tiny portions of my brain matter. Each time Enrique Iglesias’ ‘I’m A Freak’ plays on the radio, another puppy is killed inside my head.
Thanks a lot, Robin Thicke.
Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J
This one finds the normally sharper than a tack Perry in ‘E.T.’ mode. That works just fine, as that is a sound that suits her voice, keeping it in a lower register for at least part of the song. It’s Juicy J’s contribution that pretty much sinks this one to an all-time low, thanks to the inclusion of one of the worst name-drops in rap history (“She eats your heart out, like Jeffrey Dahmer”). How that ever passed through the quality check machine that is Katy Perry, I don’t know, but then, there seems to be something amiss with her whole ‘Prism’ phase. Katy? We like it when you are funny, wry, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Check?
Drunk In Love
Beyonce Featuring Jay Z
“How the hell does this shit happen”, indeed. Tired of Jay Z and B-Bouncy complaining about their fame and fortune. Fuck them both. This woman cannot sing (she sort of throat bellows). And Jay Z’s shtick is so tired and old – the constant name-dropping is so over – I think he should invest some of his fortune in a rapper’s retirement home and then, move in. The lyrics for the song itself are so random as to render the song without any meaning. Surf board? Naw, simply bored. Dull, dull, dull.
And then, again. As far as B-Bouncy goes, this is as good as it gets. The production on this one lands this plane perfectly. Love the pulse and sensual feel. Yes, the lady threatens to careen into her usual over-sing mode, but fortunately the song itself holds her in check and she manages to create a career first; a song that doesn’t cause me excruciating physical pain. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I ‘heart’ it.
Jason Derulo Featuring 2 Chainz
Thank you, Robin Thicke. Due to the success of ‘Blurred Lines’, we now will be assaulted by empty nonsense like Mr. Derulo’s current offering. I love the middle eastern instrumental touches (cliché as they are), but loathe pretty much everything else. It’s not sexy, it’s not dirty, nor is it terribly interesting.
Go on; try not to like this one. It’s a soul throwback with plenty of repetition, pep, and energy. Whether it proves to be as annoying as Bobbi McFerrin’s much maligned ode remains to be seen, but for now… Pharrell has hit a sweet spot, injecting a rush of positivity into an otherwise sex-obsessed pop world.
Remember Lily Tomlin’s ‘Lud and Marie’ sketches? The one featuring the teenage daughter who would run to her room at the end of the hall and slam the door in protest to her parent’s inane ramblings? That girl? That’s Lorde. Lorde would be the roommate from hell; sulky, glowering, and a tad unjustifiably angry all the time. ‘Team’ is ‘Royals’ part deux, as pretentious as it is revelatory. She’s a talent. She’s a future punch line.
Can’t warm up to this one. Would love to hear it minus all the pomp and circumstance. At its core, there’s a decent song in there. It’s simply gussied up in a rather unbecoming way – like a toddler in full make-up.
Story Of My Life
If you haven’t seen parody / shred video by SamRick , go see it immediately. It is much more interesting than the original. The song itself? Much more mature than you would expect of a bunch of teen idols. This finds One Direction in adult contemporary mode, singing a song that would be far more meaningful coming out of someone’s mouth who has experienced a bit more of actual life. However, unlike the similarly pitched ‘Little Things’, this one has the public panting for more. It’s upbeat and poppy, catchy as hell. Yes, a tad empty, but really only due to the fact that the song feels ingenuous springing from the mouths of babes still getting used to the idea of having pubic hair (or not).
Can't Remember To Forget You
Shakira Featuring Rihanna
Utterly forgettable dance tripe. Nothing more than an excuse to get these two ladies grinding the wall in a video and a means of making some cash. Music this empty has not existed since the death knell of disco or the apex of 1980’s synth pop. Ummm… sorry… already forgotten, ladies.
Love this song. Love its slight build, the bridge into the chorus, and the driving chorus itself. Yes, Goulding’s vocals are the airy fluff of pixies and faeries, but this is a solid, driven pop song and one of her best efforts to date.
This one is a little slight, even with the Elton John sample. I like the horns and its overall retro soul vibe. Problem is, Mr. Blacc’s voice is serviceable at best. I thought that same thing about the Avicci single (though it did add a touch of warmth to that effort). Still, this makes for nice air filler, sort of a throwback to 1972-74.
Kid Ink Featuring Chris Brown
In this slow burn, built on a sample of the Robin S dance classic, ‘Show Me Love’, Kid Ink and Chris Brown serve up the typical bling-obsessed, smooth Lothario misogyny that rules the hip hop charts. This stuff goes down just fine, but it lacks even a whiff of originality. If it wasn’t for the sample, this one would have never garnered the attention it has. And, yeah, Chris Brown is a still a total ass-wipe punk. And not the fun kind, either. We are all waiting for the day he gets what’s coming to him, am I right? I ‘haterz’ him.
Let It Go
Rather amazed that this is as popular as it is. As far as song structure goes, it’s a damn mess and barely coherent. Then there is the additional problem of Ms. Menzel’s over-the-top vocals. Yes, her typical vocal mannerisms have been kept in check, but over-singing seems to be her mode of choice for any song she tackles, something that made many of her ‘Glee’ performances ear-shredding experiences. This one fares a bit better, but it’s still goes full-tilt with predictable Broadway overkill.
This is not a good song. The lyrics seem lazy and haphazard. The music seems a tad too rote. Together, they make for an uneasy listen. The stupid auto-tune doesn’t help matters, either. Miley seems to be in a clubland / GBL induced haze here. Adore You? More like bore you.
Possibly the worst, most cringe-inducing song currently wafting its way through my car radio. Mars sounds like a geriatric Rod Stewart lusting after ‘young WILD girls’ and there is something so creepy about this whole affair. Never mind the horrible lyrics or by-the-numbers melody. This one feels embarrassingly dated and stale. I don’t think anyone is buying this genderless wonder’s ladies’ man persona at all. Ish.
Love Me Again
Why is this popular? The vocals are amateurish at best. I almost burst out laughing when this dude started singing. He makes Rick Astley sound like a vocal revelation from heaven. What the hell? I like the retro thing, that’s fun, and once the backing vocals kick in things are at least tolerable. But those first few bars? LMAO
Do What U Want
Lady Gaga Featuring R. Kelly
This is such a sweet lap grinder. Lady G does a most impressive Xtina as Mr. Kelly brings to the party what he does best. Works from beat one and something I would never have expected from Gaga. Hmmm… obviously there is more there than anyone suspected. I mean, the lady has great pipes and great chops. More, please. And... who doesn't love that single's cover? Grrr, girl.
A ‘Wake Me Up’ also ran. Every time I hear it I think of that old Ocean song, ‘Put Your Hand in the Hand’. I can’t wait for this whole hillbilly/folk/dance genre to die the embarrassing death it deserves. It is an awful, awful idea.
Love Don't Die
Waiting For Superman
Everything that is wrong with what passes for rock today. Faceless corporate garbage borrowing from far better sources, this stuff is so indebted it can’t buy its way into the ears of any self-respecting lover of rock and roll. Is to rock music what pink goo is to meat.
I’m A Freak
Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull
Enrique once held abundant promise (or am I remembering that wrong). What the hell happened? (Maybe it was just lust.) But this marks a new all-time low, and that’s saying a lot considering the bodily waste that preceded it (Tonight I’m F*cking You). Pitbull shows up and basically pumps one out with the paycheck in mind. His contribution really does need to be heard to be appreciated, but here are some of his… ummm… words:
Because I'm a freak freak freak freak freak freak freak freak, that, that you know
Now can I get beat-beat-beat-beat-beat-beat-beat, baby back it up nice and slow
I just wanna skip-skip-skip-skip-skip-skip-skip-skip
ride out and go
I came, I saw, I conquered, on to the next, let's go
And, no, I’m not making that up. This is a ridiculously stupid song, which means it feels right in place with everything else currently gracing the airwaves. Again, I’m looking in Robin Thicke’s direction. And something tells me there are a lot more homages in the vein of ‘Blurred Lines’ to come. Adding to the insult? That horrible hillbilly dance mash-up sound that is all the rage. Rage? Hell yeah, that’s all I feel when I hear this crap. Possibly the worst song ever.