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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: The Year Hip Hop Ofishally Dies

Cheese and crackers, if it weren't for Kanye and "Single Ladies" dominating the Billboard charts, that subject line might actually be true. Wait...although the former's robotic makeover and the latter's monstrous hook are indeed delectable, they really aren't hip hop in the slightest, are they? I suppose it's a tenuous genre at best nowadays, so it's up for debate, but regardless, only one of the songs below is in any way, shape, or form related to hip hop. Yes, my children, whiny people with guitars have finally usurped the throne of Top 40 radio in this, the first month of 2009. Read on if you dare to see my recent Top 40 picks ranked from best to worst...

"Love Story" by Taylor Swift: That's right - I'm not afraid to admit it (embarrassed slightly, yes, but not afraid). I really like this song. Once again, I do not know what's wrong with me. I heard those opening strums of the banjo and while I knew it was going to be Taylor Swift and not Sufjan Stevens, I couldn't help but imagine the shy Episcopalian plucking behind her with a pensive look on his face. Then the gorgeous muted electric guitar chords come in, building to a twangy (not really, but the violins hit one countryish note I think way back in the mix) chorus, and I'm totally sold. The bridge, while kind of boring, is also the perfect length before the uber-crescendoing final chorus trickles in and explodes with "oohs" and "ahhs" backing Taylor and punching me right in my heart hole. Why is she (read: her producers) not getting any credit for this song? Probably because it's cookie cutter right down to the details, but I have had yet to hear fake country/folk music be so brazenly intertwined with mainstream pop before this song, so much so that it might just be...perfect? Am I totally out of line?

"My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson: She's baaaaack. I knew I would at least moderately like this song when I found out what its name was. I don't really see the appeal in Kelly as a singer or even an American Idol, but I've been pretty impressed since "Since U Been Gone", which I believe still holds up (3 years later? 4? I feel old!), with her ability to get pissed off in pop songs. Many aren't able to succeed at this, especially women, due to pop radio's penchant for fluffy or upbeat messages, but Clarkson totally dismantles the trite love song tropes and (in a rather straightforward and uninteresting way, yes, but nevertheless) describes a relationship that both sucks and rocks - something that kids certainly don't get a lot of...ever...from the media. Yes it would be better with more of the sentiments from the verse getting into the chorus, but I'm sure her producers wanted to keep the catchy part of the song even-toned. Oh well. Other downfalls: the terrible pulsing Katy Perry-esque beat and the plastic drumfills. Gross.

"Just Dance" by Lady Gaga & Kardinal Ofishall: This is frightening. How is this both played on the Twin Cities Top 40 station KDWB and the hip hop station B96? The only modicum of hip hop evident in the song is that it has a dance beat and she rhymes. Otherwise it sounds like second-wave Eurotrash. And yet, it's still better than Nickelback and the terribly disappointing new All-American Rejects (see below). I'll admit that the synth effect is pretty killer, but otherwise it's all throwaway party sequences mushed together into a string of poorly rendered attempts at booty shaking. It's funny because I can call out when this song is playing on the radio after only hearing a measure of its freaky circus groove, but I'm flashing forward in my head to next month, looking back on this post and thinking "who the hell is Lady Gaga?" And if not then, most definitely at the end of the year when I look back on the hit singles of 2009. How agonizing! So unforgettable right now and so ultimately forgettable only a few months removed!

"Gotta Be Somebody" by Nickelback: They will never go away, will they? I highly recommend not watching this video, not only because the song is predictably wretched, but also because for some godforsaken reason, Chad Kroeger and co. decided to add SOUND EFFECTS to their video for this single. Like they're playing on rooftops and highways and they all come tumbling down while they're performing, but it's not enough to just show that; they also have to have crumbling and demolition noises penetrate out from underneath their pseudo-distorted guitar and smoker's-voice squabble. The first thing I thought of when hearing the rubble presumably caused by Nickelback's crushing rock sounds is that it was a tie-in for a blockbuster movie, splicing in scenes from some generic action flick starring Hayden Christensen or some crap. But it wasn't - they literally just thought it was cool to do themselves. So of course they must think it sounds awesome - "it's like we rock, and then we rock so hard that the world tumbles to its knees and prays for forgiveness to us!" Ironically, the sound effects wizardry only suggests that their music sounds like the apocalypse. Nice try, d-bags.

"Gives You Hell" by All-American Rejects: Ah how the mighty have fallen; and how hard. So hard, in fact, that they are indeed getting their dumb asses ranked lower than Nickelback. (Must I remind you that they got their name from getting a cup of coffee one day and the barista telling them they get a "nickel back" in change?) Okay, my Kroeger hate is now spilling over into the next entry. That's not good. So, the Rejects. We all know "Move Along" is probably the best song to ever have graced Rock Band, just behind "That's What You Get" by Paramore (The Blogulator's #1 Jam of 2008). Unfortunately, that is not enough in my book to give them a pass for putting out this dreck of a song. I first heard it performed on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and felt my soul literally escape my body, steal my keys, and put itself in my airlocked garage and start the engine. Likening "Just Dance" to the music at a circus was unfair when these songs exist on the same dial, often playing right next to each other. The keyboard dinks around like a hobo with a screw loose, the stop-start guitars and drums are bottomed-out, limp, and awkwardly timed, and the chorus feels like it was written by middle schoolers who hate homework. Eff these clowns. And they have the gall to try the sing-along final chorus sans melody (just a driving drumbeat of course, except this time NOT awesome) all over again, like we don't play Rock Band every freaking weekend. LOSERS. DEGENERATES. He sings that he hopes the song will give me hell; well at least he succeeded at something. Blue-eyed bastard.

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  1. Blogger Sean | 3:15 PM |  

    Prediction: Lady Gaga will be a one-hit wonder.

  2. Anonymous .molly. | 4:05 PM |  

    Ugh. You are so "out of line" on the Taylor Swift issue. I'll let this one slide, I suppose, if only for the much deserved Nickelback and All-American Rejects hate.

  3. Blogger chris | 4:35 PM |  

    Here's hoping that she is indeed a one-hit wonder.

    I'm glad you called me out on it, Molly, because that gave me reason to revisit the song just now after a day's worth of reflection. Turns out, however, that I'm totally right. It's a great song.

  4. Anonymous .molly. | 5:51 PM |  

    No. Thank YOU, Chris. Your smug overconfidence is a shining beacon of light in the dark, frozen tundra that is my life.
    Nonetheless, I think you need to be schooled on what constitutes a truly great love song:

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