The Search for the Song of the Summer
Every summer is often defined by that one massive pop hit, that one song that so thoroughly dominates the airwaves that it will lurk in your memories of that summer for years to come whether you like it or not. And as much as I would love for the Radioheads and My Morning Jackets and Minus The Bears of the world to dominate the summer with a monster hit, I’ve accepted that it’ll probably never happen. Not unless I one day gain the power to reshape mainstream culture to fit my own taste. There’s probably an X-Men character who can do that.
Last year the title was pretty much handed to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” the instant it was released. This left me to wonder if I was the only person on Earth who realized that “California Gurls” was a blatant rewrite of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” a song that already irritated the crap out of me the first time around. Hell, I still have memories of being the only kid alive in 1996 who didn’t want to learn the stupid Macarena. And if I ever hear “Livin’ La Vida Loca” or “All Star” again, it will be too soon. I guess the lesson is that no matter what the song of the summer ends up being, by the end of that summer simply hearing the first new notes of that damn song will be enough to drive you utterly mad.
So with the summer of 2011 officially underway, let’s take a look at some randomly chosen contenders from this week’s Hot 100. The fun begins after the jump!
Is it too early to declare “Rolling In The Deep” 2011’s answer to “Hey, Soul Sister”? You know, that big hit song that entered the charts and the public consciousness early in the year and simply refused to leave? I mean, I’ve heard this song on the local alternative rock station. Everyone from TV karaoke contestants to Linkin freaking Park has covered this song. ESPN even made this the theme song for this year’s NBA draft for some reason, and while they tried their best to make that choice make even the tiniest amount of sense, they still failed miserably.
I think the worst part about the overexposure of “Rolling In The Deep” is that it’s actually a good song, thus making that “Hey, Soul Sister” comparison completely invalid and unfair. It always sucks to get sick of hearing a good song, but damned if the radio and MTV and VH1 and whoever else plays music don’t ruin it for you by playing it every ten minutes. This was already the song of winter 2011 and spring 2011, and it’s a frontrunner for summer 2011 too. Come on, Adele. Let someone else have a little glory. Or at least release a second single from that album already.
“I Kissed A Girl” was pretty much inescapable three years ago. Last year it was all about that stupid “Tik Tok” knockoff. Now Katy Perry is trying to establish herself as the one-woman New England Patriots of summer songs with “Last Friday Night,” a poor man’s version of her own “Waking Up In Vegas” (lyrically speaking) that tries to paint her as wacky and hilarious just like her husband Russell Brand. And hey, is that Rebecca Black in the video? OMG, it totally is! Isn’t that such a funny pop culture reference? I wonder if she ever decided where to sit in her friend’s car! (Almost as much as I wonder how the hell Rebecca Black managed to hit #42 on the iTunes singles chart this year. America, your love for irony has officially gone way too far.)
Finally, a new Gaga song (and video!) that doesn’t try too hard to be some kind of massive statement. “Judas” sounded like a “Bad Romance” rewrite that tried to shock people by being a love song about Judas Iscariot, the guy who betrayed Jesus and pretty much caused his crucifixion. And “Born This Way” was basically Gaga saying, “Gays! Lesbians! Bis and transgenders! And pretty much every other minority in America! Lend me your ears, for I am your Mother Monster and I, a rich white girl from New York, speak for ALL of you!” Meanwhile, everyone was like, “Wait, do we even need a spokesperson? And why does this sound so much like a Madonna song from 20 years ago?”
“The Edge Of Glory,” on the other hand, is just Gaga being Gaga and not Gaga being the self-proclaimed champion of the disaffected youth. This feels more like one of those early singles that got her so much attention in the first place, plus with a cameo from the late Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. It’s as fun and unpretentious as she gets these days, and if any song has a chance to beat out “Rolling In The Deep” for the coveted Song of the Summer title, this is probably it.
What’s this? A Black Eyed Peas song that I can actually tolerate? Surely this is a sign of the coming apocalypse! Even “Meet Me Halfway,” the best of the hits from The E.N.D., was undermined by the fact that Apl and Taboo (aka the Other Guy and the Other Other Guy) just flat out didn’t even try; Apl’s verses sounded like the record was intentionally skipping and Taboo clearly took his lyrics from a preschool rhyming dictionary.
“Just Can’t Get Enough” is basically the anti-“Imma Be” in the sense that “Imma Be” was excruciatingly annoying until you got to Apl’s part, while this song is perfectly adequate and even somewhat enjoyable until you get to Apl’s part. Will.i.am’s rhyme scheme had me dreading another lyric like, “I’m-a be a brother, but my name ain’t Lehman/I’m-a be a bank, I’ll be loaning out semen,” but thankfully it never came. And did Taboo just make references to Florence Griffith-Joyner and Styx? Yes, he did! The first two-thirds of this song is what the Peas sound like when they actually try. Then you get to Apl singing like a malfunctioning robot – because apparently the Peas have to put something annoying in every song they release anymore – and all that goodwill the song’s been accumulating starts going out the window.
You know things are ass-backwards at American Idol when the judges’ singing careers get more of a boost from the show than the actual contestants. It’s not like Paula Abdul was suddenly able to start cranking out hits again like it was still 1987. But this year’s additions to the panel, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Jennifer Lopez, have both released singles this year that can attribute pretty much all of their success to their singers’ new gigs. Steven Tyler’s stupidly parenthesized “(It) Feels So Good” peaked at #35 on the Hot 100 back in May, while J-Lo’s comeback single “On The Floor” is still going strong in the top 20.
What is there to say about this song itself, though? Nothing, really. It’s just another generic dance-pop song about going to the club and dancing and drinking all night, because Lord knows we’ve certainly had a shortage of those lately. Can’t we just put, like, a five-year moratorium on songs about the club so we can force all of our pop stars to sing about something else? Oh, and Pitbull’s on this song too. I don’t know what it is about that guy, but I cannot stand him.
And while we’re on the subject of random comebacks, can someone please tell me why Enrique Iglesias is suddenly popular again? I thought the rest of the world was finally done with Enrique. Yet there he is, telling all the ladies that he doesn’t mean to be rude but tonight he’s fucking them and they don’t really have a choice in the matter. Isn’t he just so charming?
Aww, isn’t this adorable? Chris Brown thinks he’s a rapper now. And he’s trying to keep pace with Busta Rhymes and the ever-ubiquitous Lil Wayne on this track. He does this by trying to mimic Busta’s motormouth flow, spitting out about a dozen words per second. In his mercifully short verse, Chris Brown rhymes “dick” with “dick”, then rhymes that with “dick” again in the next line, and then rhymes that with “dick” again in the line after that. In case you haven’t been counting, that’s four consecutive lines that end with the word “dick.” He’s got skills, and they’re multiplying.
This brings us to what is unquestionably the best part of “Look At Me Now” – the part where Busta steps in and says, “Yo Breezy, let me show you how to keep the dice rolling when you’re doing that thing over there.” When a guest rapper basically announces that he’s going to take you to school on your own song and then actually does it, you have failed as an MC.
Of course, when the guest rappers in question are experienced and respected veterans like Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, it’s not exactly hard to get owned. And it’s up to those guys to carry this song because Chris Brown fails at rapping and this beat is terrible. Like, this is “Laffy Taffy” territory we’re dealing with here. I wouldn’t be surprised to look up this song’s credits and find out that Soulja Boy produced it.
Okay, I know this joke I’m about to make is a total cliché, but seriously… I liked this song better the first time around when it was called “Sexy Bitch,” and I don’t even like that song. “Where Them Girls At” is literally “Sexy Bitch” played in a slightly different key. You can actually sing the lyrics from that song over this song and pretty much get the same damn thing. And yet there it is, right smack dab in the middle of the Hot 100 at #54 as I write this. Now I understand how Mugatu felt about Derek Zoolander’s modeling career. “It’s the same song! Doesn’t anyone else realize this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
John Fogerty once got sued for allegedly ripping off his own song; that case somehow went to the Supreme Court, who ultimately ruled unanimously in Fogerty’s favor. David Guetta actually did it and got a free pass and a hit single that peaked at #14 on the charts. We live in a stupid world. Yeah we do, yeah we do.
Coldplay is one of those bands where I’ll listen to their singles when they come on the radio, but I’ve never felt all that compelled to get an album. Viva La Vida was a different story. They hooked up with producer Brian Eno, who worked with their idols in U2 on several occasions including The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire, and Achtung Baby. And those sessions produced perhaps their most musically compelling and interesting album to date; Viva La Vida sounded like nothing I’d heard from Coldplay before, yet still sounded like Coldplay. So it makes sense that the band stuck with Eno for Viva La Vida’s follow-up, the lead single from which is “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall.”
What doesn’t make much sense to me is why this song was chosen as the lead single. On the one hand, I do think it makes sense as an introductory track for Coldplay’s upcoming album, though mainly in the sense that “Life In Technicolor” opened Viva La Vida. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as memorable as any of the highlights from that last album – or really any of their other albums. When I first heard “Every Teardrop,” I started wondering if LP5 would be to Viva La Vida what X&Y was to A Rush Of Blood To The Head: an inferior attempt at continuing the sound that made its predecessor work. It’s not a bad song, but for me it’s easily overshadowed by the two B-sides included with it on the single, “Major Minus” and “Moving To Mars.”
Allow me to be blunt for just a moment: I hate this song. I really, really hate this song. I didn’t think Beyonce could ever possibly deliver a song that’s worse than “Diva,” but she found a way. My hat’s off to you for that one, B.
This is basically all the worst aspects of Beyonce’s previous singles all wrapped up in one tidy little package. Uncatchy chorus? Check – this entire song is aggressively uncatchy. Minimalist backing track that’s pretty much all percussion and no melody, thus giving Beyonce little to nothing to work with when composing the vocal melody? Check (yeah, I know it’s a Major Lazer sample, but they don’t really do anything interesting with it). Irritating one-note vocal melody that makes Beyonce sound more like she’s shouting at you than singing? Check. Standard-issue “girl power” lyrics that pretty much became old hat by the time “If I Were A Boy” essentially said that if you were born with a dick, you are a dick? Check.
“Run The World” is quite possibly the worst song I’ve heard all year. And in a year that has seen the Black Eyed Peas bastardizing the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, a domestic abuse victim scoring a hit with a song about S&M, Enrique Iglesias insisting that tonight he’s fucking you, and Nicki Minaj rapping about pissing and shitting on people, that is one hell of an achievement.
MY CHOICE: Lady Gaga, “The Edge Of Glory”
MY PREDICTION: Adele, “Rolling In The Deep”