March Blandness: A Pop Music Round Up
Here we are, at the beginning of the great thaw. Unfortunately the charts and the airwaves seem frozen (in more ways than one) and there are so many songs currently in high rotation on the radio that I never want to hear again. But that doesn’t seem ready to change any time soon. Sadly, among the list of new contenders, I’m not seeing anything that’s powerful enough to loosen up the current Top 40, which has been running fairly stagnant for the past three-four weeks.
Still, just as we, stuck in the final throes of winter, thirst for spring, we must continue to hope that a similar metamorphosis will come to pop radio. Here’s a quick look at some holdovers from the winter months and a few of the new challengers to the throne.
Magic – Coldplay
Coldplay continues on its quest to distinguish itself from U2 by co-opting the musical ideas of others. Joe Jackson’s representatives might want to take a closer listen to this one; I keep expecting it to morph into ‘Breaking Us In Two’. That said, all that Chris Martin ‘dunno’ comes as no surprise to those who hate this band. Those detractors will be filled with a great sense of self-satisfaction as this one, after having debuted at #24 this week, fades away like all it’s rather personality deprived predecessors.
Not bad at all, in fact, I like this. Yes, it’s yet another homage to whatever MTV influenced R&B helped form Justin’s earliest musical references, but that’s a very rich mine to work. And Justin always brings something of himself and modern technology to the table, so even though it seems we have heard this all before, there’s a charm and a warmth that folds in on itself like melting butter and keeps me coming back for more.
Na Na – Trey Songz
Like Lorde, I’m getting tired of being told to throw my hands up in the air, which is exactly what Trey Songz repeatedly tells us to do throughout this song. This song is built on a big fat solid bottom, but that’s not enough to propel it from it’s rut of mediocrity. The problem lies in the lyrics and the subject of ‘Na Na’ – which seems to be both a source of great potential sexual satisfaction and free-floating anxiety for Mr. Songz. Not a great combination, and while this one is currently threatening to break into the Top 40, I don’t think it has what it takes to worm it’s way onto the high rotation list.
I thought this broke into the Top 40, but no, it is stuck, lost in the fifties. That seems a shame, as this is a pretty damn good song - well written - and getting a decent amount of airplay. Perri is one of those songwriters who has a tendency to write the kind of lyrics typically found in the spiral notebooks of girls in Junior High, however this one is a tad better than that and boasts enough drama to keep the most jaded listener’s ears perked. She has matured as a vocalists, as well, which makes me take her a bit more seriously as an artist. This song, along with 'A Thousand Years' pretty much makes up for that horrible 'Jar of Hearts' song she foisted on us at the beginning of her career.
Who are these guys? Arena rockers? Prog Rock Wannabes? Jangly Upbeat Platitude Salesmen? The more I hear from them, the less of an identity they seem to possess. Like a few other technically accomplished groups (Maroon Five, Train) their sole purpose of existence seems to be chasing the Top 40; not a bad thing, but it does tend to cause the sonic van to drive all over the road. This one finds Imagine Dragons taking on the kind of pop currently in fashion thanks to the likes of fun. and Bastille, complete with tribal sounding accents, DIY hand claps, a whistling fife, and an ingenuous folksy sheen. It’s nice enough, but completely void of any real nutrition. Give me ‘Radioactive’ any day. This one is way too ‘Up With People’ for my taste.
Let Her Go – Passenger
I never want to hear this song again. The vocals are fey and irritating, the lyrics simplistic and illogical. I find this kind of stuff annoying – the same way I felt about ‘Shannon’ by Henry Gross back in the day. This one is pretty and has a kind of adolescent sense of drama to it, which, apparently, is enough to keep you on the charts for 32 weeks. And while we’re on the subject…
Say Something – Great Big World
Team – Lorde
Pompeii - Bastille
Let Her Go – Passenger
Hey, Brother – Avicci
Wake Me Up! - Avicci
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Timber – Pitbull feat. Ke$ha
Story of My Life – One Direction
Keep in mind, I liked a couple of these songs at one time, but hearing the same shit over and over again? Typically that leads to insanity or murder.
Bebe Rexha suffers from a strange vocal affectation I call ‘cupie doll tight mouth’. It’s a tad distracting, but nothing that threatens to derail this rather pleasant if unoriginal dance floor thumper. It bounces by with the kind of clubby anonymity that makes it perfect filler material for DJ’s. It possesses nothing new, merely an upbeat yearning sweetness which is very Zedd.
19 You + Me - Dan + Shay
Ugh. God save me from dreck like this. Yes, I realize I am not its ‘target demographic’, but the fact that it has one should be enough to require this song come with a warning label. You know, the same way those rubbery, brilliantly orange squares made of whipped, heated oil must be labeled ‘cheese product’. Actually, that would be an apt label for this single as well. Produced to a high sheen, it hits all the most predictable apexes, making all those Taylor Swift devotees twitch in their virginal privates. Yay. Right? Truth is the world does not need more crap like this. It is not sincere. It is not genuine. It is not interesting. It is, however, everything that is wrong with country music. Blech. Somebody please book this duo two tickets on Malaysian Airlines. (What? Too soon?). (Yeah, it probably is. My bad.)
Too plodding to attract much radio play, this single has sort of wafted around the lower half of the Hot 100 for 14 weeks now, peaking at #70. I don’t hear anything that is going to change that. The production is smoky and somber, not the kind of thing to compete with the likes of Pharrell and Aloe Blac. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. But mainstream radio simply doesn’t ‘heart’ songs like this. Our loss.
Turn Down For What – DJ Snake feat Lil Jon
DJ Snake tries to breathe new life into a rather ho-hum Lil Jon song. The Middle Eastern flavoring is welcome, but other than that there is not a lot going on here, save Lil Jon barking out some heavily treated nonsense. It goes nowhere – except, of course, up the charts. Sigh. Lil Jon? Is he dead yet?
All of Me – John Legend
Some mornings I wake up with this in my head. This one has been floating around for a long time, taking forever to break into the Top 40 and, subsequently, The Top 10. Valentine’s Day ended up being the catalyst for success; all those hopelessly clueless romantics desperate to find an ‘our song’, oddly opted for this. On the surface it may seem like a sweet confection, but there is a lot of dysfunction percolating between Mr. Legend and the unnamed object of his affection in this slightly sardonic modern tale of love and devotion. File this under ‘It’s complicated’. That aside, it’s a great listen, performed affably and competently, a welcome addition to radioland. There’s some great semi-stingers in there, and it’s hard not to like this one, what with all its “perfect imperfections”. Yep, I guess we’re all human after all.
Shrill and pointed, these vocals do not make me ‘all warm and runny’ inside. This is a musical variation on the classic ‘Mexican Hat Dance’ (I kid you not. Is she Hispanic or just marketed that way?) Still, it’s a cute song and, as they used to say on Bandstand, “It’s got a good beat.” Honestly, this girl seems so lost. Like all the other Disney princesses, she hasn’t developed much of a sense of self, something that is sorely reflected in her music. Songwriters can keep throwing junk at the walls in the hopes that something will stick, but until Demi and her ilk decide they want to be their own person they are merely mouthpieces for the machine. That said… as cogs go, this one is very likable.
That this is in the Top 40 is testament to the fact that dance music has been legitimized and fully embraced by the mainstream. Predominantly a DJ instrumental, this is the kind of fodder that used to routinely fills out Billboard’s Dance Club Play chart, but rarely broke through that ceiling. My theory is, this one was destined to go unheard by most until a picture of Martin’s face started making the rounds. This little twink is a (yawn) cutie and that certainly got the attention of the tweener set. As dance music goes, this is a fairly by-the-numbers offering. The big crunchy synths pump forth at the expected moments while the same tired dance thud and whirling ‘whoosh’ effect fill in the rest. Eh. A great approximation without much new brought to the table.
Ummm. Misogynistic penis-centered, male ego oriented crap? Oh, hells yeah. With an intriguing set up established (his two bitches in the same club and they know ‘bout each other!), “Paranoid” quickly devolves into the same old tired bullshit, where woman are property and horrible human beings for messing up the good thing two-timing Mr. Dolla’s got going on. My sympathy lies with none of the involved… but with the people who have to put up with the people that actually listen to this crap. Powered (?) by a lazy “Show Me Love” sample (another?) this one could be proclaimed harmless… you know, if it weren’t for all that overt misogyny.
Austin is a teenie bopper who’s currently gracing our television screens in a commercial for McDonald’s or something (he’s in a recording studio and all he can think about is some hot chunk of fatty fast food). That might explain his, ummm… music. Yes, this could well be his second hit. Who knows? Who cares? This one serves as proof that Pitbull will show up and throw down a rap on anything as long as they spell his name correctly on the check. All told, truly, a nifty piece of marketing. Yeah, I’m not gonna lie… this? This one has nothing to with music. It plays with all the sincerity and reality of an early Nickelodeon live-action television series.
Until next time… Happy listening!