Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Radio Daze Vol. 9: November/December 2011

I'm cutting it close for the last installment of the year 2011. The following is based on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated December 31, 2011.

1. "We Found Love," Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris

You guys know how I feel about Rihanna. She is, in essence, the perfect pop star: completely devoid of any musical personality, therefore malleable to fit what trends come about, and reaping the rewards with hit after hit after hit. "We Found Love" marks Ri-Ri's 11th number-one hit, and it sounds like it was constructed to be just that. Yet something new is happening here: this sounds like a Rihanna song, not a "Rihanna" song. As in, this sounds like a song that was written especially for her, and she takes it on with gusto. The song actually does service her unremarkable pipes well, which fit in perfectly with Harris' staccato synths and thunderous bass. Sure, there's nothing particularly deep or life-affirming here; hell, it barely has lyrics beyond "we found love in a hopeless place." But this is what club-pop nirvana sounds like, a simple banger that sticks in your head long after the night is over. It's easily her best song since "Umbrella," and it may be even better than that. B+

2. "Sexy and I Know It," LMFAO

I still can't take a song with "wiggle wiggle wiggle" as the bridge seriously. For your listening pleasure, here's an example of how to do so-bad-its-brilliant pop deconstruction. F

3. "It Will Rain," Bruno Mars

The Twilight crew has finally gone for broke by having Bruno Mars provide the theme song for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Why Did We Split This Movie Into Two Parts Oh Yeah So We Can Make A Bajillion Dollars Off Of It Before We Have To Send These Actors Back Into Obscurity, Pt. 1. "It Will Rain" has all the moody romanticism that's marked the franchise and it's Pacific Northwest setting, and it actually wouldn't sound all that out-of-place on some cheesy '80s pop radio station, as it piles on the schmaltz. This isn't a particular high point for Mars, but he does his best at selling it, and he does seem to be either winkingly or earnestly following the tradition of bombastic movie themes that marked the '80s and '90s. Which one, though, is anyone's guess. B-

4. "Good Feeling," Flo Rida

Ostensibly, Flo Rida is a rapper. However, like his fellow Floridian Pitbull, he's a rapper in the sense that he strings a flow of words over a pop beat, then achieves massive success less in his merely passable talents as a rapper and more from the fact that his song can generate plenty of club play and appeal to the masses. This is not to say that there's anything wrong with this approach; though Flo Rida sells plenty more singles than he does albums, those singles are often ridiculously catchy earworms that are perfect for some mindless fun - he's a one-man Black Eyed Peas, essentially. "Good Feeling" doesn't stick out the way "Low" or "Right Round" did in the past, but as far as trifles go, it could be much worse. And it would fit in perfectly on some personal trainer's gym playlist. B-

5. "The One That Got Away," Katy Perry

In a year in which Katy Perry and Adele ruled the airwaves, this song proves to be the flip-side of the latter's "Someone Like You" (see #7). Here, Perry longs for a beau who's left, pining for him as she reminisces about how they used to steal his parent's liquor and make out to Radiohead (obviously, they were '90s kids). Despite the relatively snappy tempo, this qualifies as a ballad, and while its unlikely to become Perry's sixth consecutive number-one, it does tap into that melancholy feeling of remembering an ex. There is a sort of tonal problem here, since Perry clearly wants this to evoke an emotional response but can't commit to a full-blown ballad, and so decides instead to go for a dance-pity-party. It's not all bad, but its definitely not outstanding, either. C+

6. "Niggas in Paris," Jay-Z and Kanye West

Watch the Throne, for all its recession-inappropriate luxury rap, was one of the best albums of the year. And "Niggas in Paris" is probably the most unlikely hit to come off the album, only making sense from the fact that Jay and 'Ye do the song three or five times at every concert. But you can understand why, because this is two giants of rap operating at full power, boasting proudly about their success while also acknowledging the circumstances they've come from. This all comes over a bouncy, party-hearty beat cut with dialogue from Blades of Glory. There's nothing else like it on the radio, and bless these two for being the ones to do it. A

7. "Someone Like You," Adele

Adele, meanwhile, paints us a, in my opinion, more accurate portrait of running into an old flame: "Someone Like You" captures both the pain and the pride, as she reminds him that "for me, it is over," but she'll still find someone who can be there for her the same way. Its that feeling of longing and defiant self-assurance that she captures perfectly in this song, and that's why it went straight to number one, folks. A

8. "Without You," David Guetta feat. Usher

The Gallic DJ who produced the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and became an international club superstar is back with "Without You," a dance-the-night-away declaration of love. To be honest, as with most Guetta songs, Usher's vocals are really just window-dressing added for the benefit of sales and radio play. The real star is Guetta himself, who crafts a thudding beat laced with spacey synths that's perfect for a night on the dancefloor. There's a reason why Guetta's one of the bigger names in club music, and this song is pretty ample evidence for why. B+

9. "Moves Like Jagger," Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera

What, exactly, are the moves like Jagger? From what I can gather, its Adam Levine's sexual prowess, and like a lion hunting a wounded, drunk gazelle, he's going to corner you and show you those moves. How is that Maroon 5 manages to be so dark yet cover it up as a dance-jam? And why do I still enjoy it? B

10. "5 O'Clock," T-Pain feat. Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen

With T-Pain, Maroon 5, Rihanna, and Flo Rida all on the chart this week, I feel like I'm a senior in high school again. "5 O'Clock" is the first T-Pain single in a while, and it doesn't stray far from his usual R(obot)&B(ooty) ways. The song is an ode to coming home late from the club and having sex with his girl, which, yeah, that's T-Pain all right. Lily Allen is unfortunately underused on the hook, and Wiz Khalifa delivers a perfectly serviceable verse that doesn't add or take away from the song. T-Pain's overprocessed vocals are still distinctly his, but as AutoTune has seeped deeper and deeper into pop music, it doesn't set him as far apart as it used to. For the most part, this just feels like an attempt at a comeback through doing more of the same. And hey look, it worked. C

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