Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Radio Daze Vol. 1: July/August 2010

I've finally decided to take this blog to the proverbial next level and introduce recurring series, allowing me to find things to put up posts about when I'm running low on the creative juices. I don't have too many ideas yet; one is Must-See TV, in which I write about great or important episodes of television, namely the shows that I watch (I mean, I don't have all the time in the world) present and past. I'm trying to think of some good movie ideas that I could write for a series; any suggestions are welcome. I'm thinking about turning my remaining films on the Movie List into a series, but I don't know.
But there is one that I have decided to do: Radio Daze, in which I review the top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 every two months (that way new songs can find their way in). So welcome to Volume 1, which comes from the chart dated July 10, 2010.
1. "California Gurls," Katy Perry
It's summer, which means the weather's hot and the beach is the place to be. And for Katy Perry, with her talk of "daisy dukes/bikinis on top," Jeeps, and "sand in our stillettos," life seems to be a beach. This is a fun, frothy song, meant to get you dancing and give a shout out to the "West Coast girls/So hot, we'll melt your popsicles." There's no emotional depth here; I mean, what do you expect from a Katy Perry song? But it is irresistibly catchy, and it makes for the perfect summer soundtrack. And the Snoop Dogg cameo? Well, it's better than the video. B+
2. "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna
Eminem attempted his first comeback last year with Relapse, an okay, better-than-Encore album that wasn't quite as triumphant as many had hoped. So here he is again, attempt number two with his new album Recovery. Now, I haven't listened to that album in full yet, but judging by his recent guest verses and "Not Afraid," he may have actually made that return. "Love the Way You Lie" finds Eminem back in peak form; he's still one of the best rhymers in rap and he has a wicked spitfire flow. But the song's production is more pop-y than most of his more serious tracks, and guest Rihanna sounds phoned in. The song's strange mixture of apology and misogyny is nothing new to Eminem, but it really would have been nice to here the former without the latter. This one may grow on me, but for now its a: B
3. "OMG," Usher featuring Will.I.Am
It's hard to listen to "OMG" without feeling like it's a rejected beat from the last Black Eyed Peas album. Usher sounds out-of-place here, as the song combines what sounds like a sports bar's cheering crowd with a snare and muted synths with simple, middle-school-like come-ons ("Shawty got boobies like wow-ooh-wow"). Yet strangely, when you listen to it, you're totally into it until it ends and you no longer care. Bubblegum pop at its irritating finest. B-
Usher
4. "Airplanes," B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore
Say what you will about B.o.B, but I think he's actually a very talented rapper/mulit-instumentalist (outside of the Roots, how many times has that been said?). "Airplanes" is an exceptional track from his debut album, and it is just one of the many odd pairings on the album; Hayley Williams has never really impressed me with her singing voice until I heard this track (although "The Only Exception," Paramore's new single, also puts it on display). Moreover, though it does try to take on a serious bent, it's still fun, and a great track to boot. A-
5. "Billionaire," Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars
Halfway down the list, along comes another perfect-for-summer song, this time courtesy of Travie McCoy, better known as the lead singer/rapper of Gym Class Heroes (who, incidentally, I got to see in concert about two years ago). Here's a breezy, easy song about all the things McCoy would do if he were a billionaire, including having his picture "on the cover of Forbes Magazine/Smilin' next to Oprah and the Queen," "playing basketball with the President/Dunkin' on his delegates," attempting to fix the economy, and donating a lot of his money to friends and charity. Compared to the lists other rappers would have given, its a sweet, refreshing tune, and just perfect for our current situation (both financial and seasonal). A
6. "Find Your Love," Drake
So the story here is that this song was actually supposed to appear on Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, but was cut from that album and subsequently sold and recorded by rapper/singer/Degrassi alum Drake. Drake's immense popularity has been quite surprising, made even more impressive by the fact that he has the talent to back it up. This is an atypical track from him compared to his other singles, but it's also the most accessible of said singles, with just the right amount of pop to find its way onto Top 40 radio. It's also a very well-crafted song, and Drake's vocals, though Auto-Tuned, lift it into an interesting plea for love. A-
7. "Cooler Than Me," Mike Posner
Fun fact: Posner attended Duke University, which is right down the road from me (and UNC's biggest rival, as most people already know). Moving on to the song: this is the electronic answer to Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," as Posner disses a girl for thinking that she's cooler than he is even though he could easily win her over with a song (the song even includes the line "you're so vain/You probably think this song is about you/Don't you?"). It's a cool, biting kiss-off, and an enjoyable tune as well. A-
8. "Your Love is My Drug," Ke$ha
Ke$ha is the most infuriating kind of pop star; like the Pussycat Dolls before her, there's no real talent here to display, or any reason why someone like this should even have a recording career to begin with. And just to make matters worse, she is immensely popular, with this being her third hit single after previous abominations "TiK ToK" and "Blah Blah Blah." On "Your Love is My Drug," she sticks to her usual formula of Auto-Tuned chorus about something party-related (here, she compares love to being addicted to drugs) which psuedo-rapping the verses with her Valley Girl inflections. This is the song that includes the unfortunate line "My status is gonna be affected/If I keep it up like a lovesick crackhead." How much longer before she goes away? F
9. "Alejandro," Lady Gaga
Isn't weird that the Lady Gaga entry is only at #9? But then again, it's already hit its peak at the time of this writing, so the airplay is probably slightly waning as we await her next event (read: video). "Alejandro" is an interesting case for me: I think it's one of Gaga's best songs, though one of her worst videos - it's a mess of over-the-top, line-crossing takes meant to stir controversy with a tacky "it's for the gays" explanation (if that's the case, the gays deserve a better video). But the song itself is well-written, well-performed, and well-produced, an excellent example of why Lady Gaga deserves to be as famous as she is: when it comes to her pop peers, no one can hold a candle to her unique gifts. A-
10. "Ridin' Solo," Jason Derulo
Remember when you were a kid how you would put your face up to a fan and talk into it because it made your voice sound like a robot? Jason Derulo sounds like he's singing into a fan on this entire song, which is terrible. The song's thematic material is pretty standard, mostly "Wow, isn't being single the greatest?"-type sentiments, and the production is pretty lazy and sounds like it was put together on GarageBand. The song's one saving grace, though, is an inspired sample from The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony." Now that was a great song. C-
What are your opinions about these songs? Discuss.

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