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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: The Radio Hates Teenagers

September is a time when academic drones around the country experience a sharp and jolting mixture of boredom and discomfort. They have to re-assimilate to the 7ish-hour school day schedule of monotony and become once again familiar with the half-formed faux-identities of both themselves and their peers. Not only this, but they must also deal with cases of extreme A.M. fatigue, languorous afternoon caffeine comedowns, and nights at the movies and concerts lost to preparations for the next day of mental stress. And that's just the teachers. (Cue foghorn.) Seriously though, whether manchild or actual child in the throes of fall education, one needs an escape. Teenagers in particular feel closely emotionally and aesthetically connected to music and whether it's for the best, worst, or neither, they often come to Top 40. So this edition of Today's Top 40 Spectrum goes out to the kids surviving through the abyss known as high school. Here they be, ranked from best to worst with commentary, today's Top 40 hits...

"American Boy" by Estelle feat. Kanye West: It is not a promising spectrum when the attributes of the most memorable (read: most tolerable) pop song on the charts today include catchy, bouncy, and...uh...ungaggy? Huh, Firefox says that's a word. Nice. Probably one of the most notable aspects of this wishes-it-could-be-called-jazzy number is the surprising turn of Kanye as a guest not hogging the spotlight nor (purposefully?) bumbling over his lines, like he has perfected in his solo work. Instead he sounds lucid and even slightly modest, knowing Estelle's got quite the voice that deserves to be layered even if it gets old by the time the chorus repeats itself for the first time. It sounds very much like an iPod commercial and very well could be one already, but at least it's something that sticks on on Top 40. Are the worlds of hipster rock and hipster hop colliding? Only time will tell.
"Better In Time" by Leona Lewis: Her first single was so much better it pains me to rank her new one this high on the list, but such is the depressed state of pop radio today. Where "Bleeding Love" was chockful of passion and intensity, this one leaves me feeling mostly stale and indifferent. However, unlike our crowded with sound chanteuse's latest hit below, Lewis (and/or her producer) know how to let a song breathe in as minimalist a way as Top 40 knows how to execute. Nothing is intrusive - the keys sweep gently, the drumbeat is serviceable and even lively during the chorus, and Lewis's delivery feels effortless. Unfortunately, this also translates to "zzzzzzzzzzz" depending on how lenient you are.

"One Step At A Time" by Jordin Sparks: Without Chris Brown, Sparks fizzles into benign territory, her only saving grace being her sleekly produced range - which is my official guess as to why (other than for marketing reasons) Ruben and Fantasia never got to her level. Ruben had the sleek production and Fantasia had the range, but Jordin is the first to have both, keeping her afloat in the pool of successful Idols (thus far anyway). Still, apart from a couple nice decorations like the toy piano keyboard effect and her Imogen Heap-esque vocal (first time I've referenced her lovingly on this blog) trick that makes it sound like she's a metallic hipster version of herself. That transition to the bridge with the slap bass is just unlistenable though, therefore keeping it just above...

"When I Grow Up" by Pussycat Dolls: You know it's a sad spectrum when Pussycat Dolls aren't responsible for the bottom ranked tune. What is with sirens in pop songs? Don't producers realize that it makes some of us nervous to hear such a sound when driving 5 over the speed limit in a residential? Oh man that kick drum just set in and I'm feeling a little bad for not hating this song as definitively as I probably should. Okay, eww, that chirping use of the cliché "be careful what you wish for" line totally turned my pursed lips into a trembling frown. Haha you can't go wrong with a broken glass sound effect followed by a heavy breathing/plastic drum duet before that final truly unnecessary chorus.

"All Summer Long" by Kid Rock: Up until now, I've thought maybe...just maybe if no one mentioned this song, it would go away. Well, we are now getting brisk gray days in lieu of warm bright ones and this song is still firmly seated in the Top 10 at most Top 40 stations around the country, including here in Minneapolis. I can then come to no other conclusion than I need to mention it just once and hopefully it will finally crumble and be erased from the history of mankind. P.S. Mr. Rock - just because you acknowledge that your song is a direct nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd does not mean that you are any less culpable of the crime of terribly lazy songwriting including but limited to oblique and uncreative sampling, wince-inducing use of a gospel chorus, and general jackoffishness. I hope you choke on the Grammy you will inevitably receive.

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  1. Blogger DoktorPeace | 2:52 PM |  

    The only one of these I've heard in my Paramore-exclusive bubble is the Kid Rock one; so, from my perspective, it's the best.

    And worst.

  2. Blogger Sean | 4:23 PM |  

    i haven't heard any of them at all in any way.

  3. Blogger qualler | 4:39 PM |  

    Kid Rock is horrible -- why isn't he off directing Disney movies with Fred Durst now? And Doktor, even in jest siding with Kid Rock is a sin punishible by death (or, "Bawitaba" over and over, whichever causes death first.) I also have not heard any of these but now I plan to. Yummy.

  4. Blogger chris | 4:59 PM |  

    That's why I include the YouTube links! Go listen and then get back to me. Keep up with the pop, kiddos!

    Now that TRL is canceled, all we have is the radio and YouTube...how ironic is that? Video killed the radio star, then radio quietly prevailed as the only survivor of the Internet/reality TV craze of the late 00s.

  5. Blogger qualler | 5:03 PM |  

    WHAAAAAA?!?!? TRL is CANCELLED?!?!?!?!? How did I miss that one??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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