Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Radio Daze Vol. 2: September/October 2010

This top 10 is taken from the Billboard Hot 100 dated October 9, 2010.
1. "Just the Way You Are," Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars is pop's current man-of-the-moment: he's co-wrote several songs, including Cee-Lo Green's delightful, profane "Fuck You" as well as B.o.B.'s "Nothing on You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire," the latter two he also sang on. A dreamy love song, its a surprisingly simple ode to a girl's beauty, and how perfect he thinks she is. Its sweet, warm, honest, and certainly one of the year's best love songs. A
2. "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry
Katy Perry follows up her inescapable summer hit "California Gurls" with this ditty about falling in love. Yawn. Perry has succeeded at establishing herself as a somewhat-distinct presence in pop, but this song is entirely forgettable. She doesn't bring anything new to the table here, not even into her own canon, which is itself marginal at best. This is just Perry going through the motions mechanically, with no emotional attachment whatsoever. C
3. "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna
The only returnee from the last entry of Radio Daze, "Love the Way You Lie" has shown surprising legs. Then again, its Eminem's most radio-accessible single in years, and having Rihanna sing the hook more or less guarantees pop success. My opinion from the last entry still stands: misogyny aside, Eminem's back on his A-game. B+
4. "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love Again," Usher featuring Pitbull
After scoring a comeback hit with "OMG" (see Vol. 1), Usher released a new EP, Versus, that was a somewhat extension of his album Raymond vs. Raymond but really just builds off the previous song's success with more dance hits. And for a song with a pulsating beat and a squiggly synths, Usher and Pitbull sound...bored. There's little personality from either of them (and its not like Pitbull is short on personality to share), which makes the song sound like it was manufactured solely for radio success. That being said, its competently manufactured. B-
5. "Dynamite," Taio Cruz
And so begins the glut of club-influenced songs that are becoming the defining sound of current pop, effectively ending the influence of R&B on pop (which defined the past decade). "Dynamite" also indicative of another trend seen here: a near-complete lack of depth; usually there's at least a few more songs that think they're pretentious. This is a pure pop nugget courtesy of the man who brought you "Break Your Heart" earlier this summer. Its the pop equivalent of Coke: frothy, refreshing, but ultimately empty. B-
6. "Like a G6," Far East Movement
The shallowness I mentioned above reaches its nadir here. It sounds like a punchline in a bad comedy - a rap group consisting entirely of Asian-Americans finds huge success. But, lo and behold, here they are. "Like a G6" sounds like it was made exclusively for the club, with its bouncy bass line and minimalist sound, and the most direct representation of pop's transition to Euroclub music that I mentioned above. Its a celebration of hedonism at its shallowest, as evidenced by its chorus (which is sung by Dev, a Los Angeles-based singer, not Ke$ha):
Poppin' bottles in the ice
Like a blizzard
When we drink we do it right
Gettin' slizzered
Sippin' sizzurp in my ride
Like 3-6
Now I'm so fly like a G6
Besides introducing "slizzered" to the English lexicon, there's little more lasting impact of the song. Its dance-able, that's for sure, and that's probably all its going for. C+
7. "Like a Dream," Nelly
At the beginning of the 2000s, Nelly was one of the kings of hip-hop, bringing the unique sound of his native St. Louis to the nationwide musical fabric. He was unstoppable, but after his double album releases of Sweat and Suit, he vanished. He released an album, Brass Knuckles, to little success in 2008, but now he's returned to the pop fold with "Just a Dream," a surprisingly contemplative song from the man who gave us "Air Force Ones." Nelly reminisces about a woman he lost, and how he wishes he could have her back. It seems that he's matured over the years, something that seems to rarely happen in pop anymore. More power to him. A-
8. "Only Girl (In The World)," Rihanna
Rihanna is the perfect pop star: she's got the looks and a singing voice, but very little personality outside of her studio-made image. Listening to her music, there is no Rihanna, just her voice delivering a song; the closest we've ever come to knowing the real Rihanna was on Rated R, and even then it was difficult to discern which songs were actually personal. The only song that audiences responded to on that album was "Rude Boy," her least personal, most radio-ready song on the album, so its no surprise that she's returning to that sound. And just like before, there's no real personality here; yet unlike other Rihanna hits, there's also nothing exciting here either. It's dull and same-y instead of upbeat. Maybe that's why every time I hear it I think of it as a preview for the inevitable new dancehall sound Beyonce will adapt for her next album (I don't know that for sure, but come on, Beyonce's a smart businesswoman, and her antics with Lady Gaga only further convince me that this will be a sound she experiments with). C+
9. "I Like It," Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull
Enrique Iglesias has had a surprisingly fruitful career, maintaining pop hits for almost two decades now. And again, his sound has changed to fit the pop landscape, this time with a busy club hit featuring Pitbull and an inspired sample of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long (All Night)." Its catchy and infectious, celebrating the joys of a one-night stand, significant others be damned. Its perhaps the best thing (and only good thing) that Jersey Shore has spawned. B+
10. "Club Can't Handle Me," Flo Rida featuring David Guetta
David Guetta produces this number, which is a sonic cousin of his other huge hit here, the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." Like the previous song, its a product of low-brow entertainment, as the Step Up franchise's musical mascot Flo Rida raps over a dance-able beat that turns almost nostalgically uplifting for the chorus. Its a departure from his usual sound, but a welcome one, as its easily one of his best songs to date. Maybe he and Guetta should team up more often. A-


Anne said...

Of course Katy Perry's popular. She got her foot in the door by shocking people with "I kissed a girl." So odd in an American society...

Jason H. said...

Its true. We reward shock value as quality. Unfortunately.