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2014/05/19

Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle Room: Pop Music Reviews for the Dawning of Summer


There is finally some wiggle room in the Top Ten this week, with some new fodder pushing its way up the charts.   No, there isn’t anything to get too excited about yet, but here’s hoping – the summer is still in the fetal stage.

There is a country song (that actually sounds like a country song) that has been floating just outside the Top 40 which gets a big thumbs up from yours truly.  Too bad it’s been playing lady in waiting so long that I highly doubt it will ever get to enter the throne room.  A pity, given its powerful message.  But then, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room on the radio or the charts for songs with a message – but misogyny?  Oh, yeah… that’s a first class ticket right to the top, homey.

Feelin' Myself
will.i.am Featuring Miley Cyrus, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard
There is nothing fun, original, uplifting or very interesting going here, despite all the collaborators.  Typically, will.i.am can be counted on to bring it to the dance floor, but these beats are so played out that not even liberal use of the ‘F’ bomb can elicit anything approaching a reaction.  As for Miley – well, apparently ‘she a rapper’ now.  In the vid for this she’s dressed like any number of faceless strippers and mouthing stuff that demonstrates that the lass is tardy for the party.  Not her fault, but somebody better start nudging her in a direction that is actually relevant, because this stuff is dire.

Love Never Felt So Good
Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake
My first impression:  Michael sounds like he has a head cold.  His vocals are throaty and thick with a plugged nasal cavity.  But, I guess that’s to be expected.  This is a one of those posthumous releases, typically songs that would never see the light of day if the artist was still alive and had veto power. 

As songs go, it’s a nice slice of 70’s soul pop that coasts by with a breezy beat and a plethora of accents via strings, synths, horns and the rhythm section.  It’s pleasant enough insubstantial fare.  Justin sounds fine.  It debuted at #20 on The Billboard Hot 100, marking Mr. Jackson’s return to the charts.  

It could get some radio play.  It’s certainly uplifting enough, like much of Mr. Timberlake’s recent hits.  But the taint that shadows such releases render them typically viewed as little more than a novelty record.  Time will tell. (P.S. it survived a second week in the Top 40)

Bad Blood
Bastille
This one is powered by the same silly battle cry that filled out their hit, ‘Pompeii’.  Maybe this will be a hit, but I doubt it.  It doesn’t pack the same punch; maybe because there is less going on in this one, maybe because the production is less layered, less dense.  One thing is clear: Folks are gaga for this group.  And I don’t get it.  They aren’t nearly as innovative as .fun, the hot group last season.  But it is pleasant enough pop.  So, as air filler, it works fine.  Eh.

Birthday
Katy Perry
Perry’s latest finds her treading familiar water.  It’s radio friendly and inoffensive, but brings absolutely nothing to table. I can’t even say that it’s clever, something that used to sell even the weakest of her material.  Such as it is, this one plugs a marketing need for an artist like Perry – a song that will be played at birthday parties!  Yay.  Eternal royalties.  It’s nice pop, but like most of her latest CD, ‘Prism’, it feels uninspired and a tad tired.  When she breathes / coos “Happy Birthday” just before the big build up bridge, I honestly can’t tell if she’s trying to be sexy, or if she’s simply so tired of all this that she could give a rat’s ass, too.

Beachin'
Jake Owen
Do you remember that ‘spoken word verse / sung chorus’ song, ‘Lullaby’ by Shawn Mullins.  Yeah, well this one pretty much has that same feel, but without the uplift.  Nor is it very revelatory or interesting – qualities that could be found in Mr. Mullin’s offering.  ‘Beachin’, of course, is a lot more upbeat, riding on that modern country sheen that has absolutely nothing to do with country music. 

This is a generational thing – as in, marketing experts have determined, yadda, yadda.  Yep, gotta rake in that twenty-something cash. 

This feels lazy and calculated at the same time.  What it’s not, is charming, which a song like this needs to be in order to get my toes a’ tapping.  That said, expect this to be a big hit this summer.  Oh, yeah…

Automatic
Miranda Lambert
OMG!  How can anyone NOT like this song?  I love the message.  Yes, if things are simply handed to us, we tend not to really form any sensory attachments.  And I do remember listening to and recording songs off of the radio on an old cassette player because I couldn’t afford to buy them.  Yes, the inclusion of the pick-up truck stuff feels obligatory, but then I don’t think a country song that does not mention one gets any airplay these days.  And, okay, the production ends up going all ‘U2’ like by the end, with those thick chorded echo guitars, but the song is, at its core, simple and sweet; like the best of real country music.  Thank you, Miranda!

You & I
One Direction
This group and its handlers continue to astound me by serving up nostalgic sounding adult contemporary fare coming out of the mouths of tween heart throbs.  It’s like they want to appeal to both girls and their mothers.  ‘You & I’ sounds like a big ‘bic lighter in the air’ arena power ballad and hits all the marks, recalling the time when hair metal bands went all outlaw, changing tactics and raking in an addition five minutes by mewling some crappy emotional plea in the form of a song that would appeal to all the babes.  Sung by someone over the age of thirty, this song might make sense (think Richard Marx), but One Direction?  It’s like listening to wrong sounding Muppets.

Am I Wrong
Nico & Vinz
This is three-quarters The Outfield (remember them?), and one-fourth Sting, which means it ends up reminding me a lot of Martin Paige and some of the sludge that occupied the charts and dominated the play lists of stations like Cities 97 during the mid-90’s.  Yeah, this one will be ‘that’ song – the one everybody remembers as a feel-good moment, but can’t remember anything about the artist(s) who created it.  This one is too reminiscent of too many other things to have much impact on my psyche, but it is getting plenty of airplay.  And I get the feeling – and I could be very wrong – that this one should be filed under ‘one hit wonders’.

Rude
MAGIC!
Save me from white boys playing reggae.  Now when The Police did it, it was an incorporation of the sound and vibe, because they also had the whole punkish/new wave thing going on, right?  MAGIC! (?) has little else going on, so this simply ends up feeling rather lackluster.  It’s currently scaling the charts at a rapid rate, which goes to only prove that people are so hungry for anything that doesn’t sound like everything else that they will glom onto second-rate hotel bands like these schleps peddling something that has been done much better much more interestingly before. Ugh.  

Bombs Away
Gia
Hmmm.  No diva vocals here, which is a bit of a disappointment given the song’s titular promise.  Gia’s voice is pleasant and slight with the familiar click track that anchors the first minute of this song building to the inevitable uttering of the song’s title. It lands flat, leaving one feeling a tad under-whelmed, for there is no explosion.  Even the battalion of synths that surge forth, serving as the song’s chorus a la Calvin Harris’ ‘Summer’, fail to ignite this one.  Maybe there are better mixes, but I don’t really feel there’s enough meat here to warrant any gravy.  That bums me out, especially in light of how quickly this one is climbing the Club Play chart.

Wiggle
Jason Derulo Featuring Snoop Dogg
“You know what to do with that big fat butt!” declares Mr. Derulo.  Oh, then “Patty cake, patty cake, with no hands…”  Yeah, this is not rocket science.  But it’s also not something I expected from this artist, and I say that, having endured a spring full of his recent hit, ‘Talk Dirty to Me’. 

Apparently, misogyny is now a rite of passage for young pop stars.  I keep looking at the lyrics video for this song and have to keep hitting the pause button, because the depth of hetero male stupidity on display is so inept, clumsy, and  cringe-inducing, it’s like watching your nerdy best friend ‘get some’ for the first time on prom night.


Oh, man.  Of course it’s going to be a big hit.  Sonically, it does manage to change things up enough and possess enough texture to keep my ear interested, but oh, those lyrics.  Makes Robin Thicke seem like Shakespeare. 













2 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

"feeling myself" - I do that a lot; it's called MASTURBATION! ;-b

whkattk said...

Micheal Jackson's library will bring in billions...

The only weapon an artist has is legal instructions to burn everything that hasn't been released prior to death.