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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Bieber Fever Is Real And I Am A Victim

It's true. While there is one other worthwhile Top 40 song this month to be aware of, nothing is more pop culturally important (sad but true, admit it) or mind-numbingly fascinating right now than the return of the pre-teen pop star, this time in the form of a mop-haired kid whose last name almost sounds like a dam-building rodent. Luckily there's also two insufferably mediocre songs burning up the charts right now alongside one bonafide terrible ditty that sounds literally like an accident happened in the recording studio. Read on to explore this month's Top 40 Spectrum, ranked from best to worst below. And do not judge the fever until you start getting the chills!

"Baby" by Justin Bieber & Ludacris: Okay, hear me out. If I can help it this song won't wind up on my Top 10 of the Top 40 of 2010 list at the end of the year, but right now, I cannot deny (nor should you) that this song is catchy, hilarious, and oddly appealing. First, catchy because duh it's mindless jibber-jabbering using the word baby more than a maternity ward and it's impossible to hear this song once without wanting to sing it in some fashion, whether mockingly or otherwise, at some point afterward. Second, it's hilarious because the Bieb's pre-puberty voice invites endless curious laughter, especially after you see RAAAAAAAANDY's video about getting his Dave Sitek-produced track jacked by the adolescent in question. Haha that silly opening riff is so amazing; I just keep replaying it in my mind to distract myself from looming negatives in life such as work and death. Thirdly, it's peculiarly appealing because when Ludacris drops his verse it's like you can feel how awkward he feels rolling with a 15-year-old kid from the 'burbs, talking about how he first fell in love when he was thirteen. Yes, a stupid song by a teen idol actually ends up being a bizarre perspective-turner on what "young love" means when you're in it vs. when you're twenty years removed from it. Profound? Maybe not, but almost.

"Nothing on You" by B.O.B. & Bruno Mars: I still don't know how to feel about Mr. Mars, whose singing anchors the summery rapping of B.O.B., because it feels so prissily close to something Thomas Levine from Maroon 5 might do. That said, the rapping is beyond fun, and should be Qualler-approved, because when a lesser man might praise a girl's booty, this guy's saying things like "you're the whole package / you even pay your taxes"! How awesome is that? He's a genuine gentle and innocuous soul in a Top 40 chart just getting over champagne-as-cum metaphors and lyrical genius that admit they cannot think of how to compliment a woman without calling them the neighborhood whore, which is definitely something to write home about. But as is the downfall of all "positive rap", the production really lacks imagination and edge. It's so bubbly and airy it almost could be looked through, and often ignored. The only slightly interesting thing about it is the Rhodes effect, which is so plastic it almost takes pride in the fact that it's not really being produced by a Rhodes piano, which is sad, because I love me some real Rhodes.

"Rude Boy" by Rihanna: Oh, Ri-ri. What ever shall we do with you? I am at least glad that by finally seeing the video for this problematic latest single from your post-assault arsenal that you are indeed calling out the ska kids (well I suppose this would be Jamaican/reggae dudes of all kinds, actually probably not of the Reel Big Fish variety of Caribbean influence). At first Jerksica and I were nearly certain that "ska" wouldn't really be the subculture she'd be trying to market to with her superstardom, but we didn't take into consideration the fact that there's no fast-tempo minor chord upstrumming going on here, so she's probably trying to fit in with another market that also uses the "rude boy" terminology. Anyway, this whole confusion is distracting us from the fact that this song is, by and large, gross. Sure it's got those M.I.A. elements that other "edgy" divas are co-opting to the nth degree, but take a listen to the lyrics and you'll find a bevy of vaguely violent vocabulary like "boom", "harder", and the cringe-inducing "I like the way you pull my hair." Now until that last line I might have given her credit for trying to take back the taboo correlations she's had with the press, but that last one gives the unnamed dude of the song control, which ain't cool, Ri-ri. Not cool at all.

"Hey, Soul Sister" by Train: I've always hated Train. Ever since "Meet Virginia" infected the dying alt-rock airwaves of the late 90s, I knew they'd be my eternal nemesis. It was fact, not opinion, that their brand of neutered acoustic barfery was not wanted when they showed up on the $8.99 new release shelf at Best Buy alongside failed follow-up albums by The Verve Pipe and Our Lady Peace, but they managed to stick around like a scourge of bacteria in a perfectly healthy central nervous system, slowly killing off all the good guys one by one. And when they hit it way big with that song with the "fried chicken" lyric, I was already resigned to the fact that this was now Train's world, and I was now merely a walking zombie amongst the rest of the dying world. So color me confused when I hear Train's back with a new single and I literally brace myself against my car door every time I flipped to Top 40, only to find this song: completely and utterly harmless. It's not overbearing, it's just the brand of Rob Thomas rock that the band probably played way back when but I ignored because I was full of angst back then. Hey, it's even got a ukulele! Bonus point!

"Breakeven" by Script: Okay, my YouTube must be broken, I thought to myself when I first pressed play. Nope, turns out the guitar's actually supposed to be like that. Actually, that was the second time I heard it. The first time I thought I accidentally pressed play on a Pinback side project and wondered for a half-second if Rob Crow somehow made his big break by playing guitar on a crappy Top 40 song. No, turns out they just wanted their guitar to sound underwater and gurgling/drowning on the falsetto above it. You see, this kind of off-kilter guitar sound would be perfectly welcome on a hot new indie track, or even an emo song from the early 00s, but here it just comes off as broken. There's no way it fits into the rest of the vanilla mix, even with it being in the same key as the rest of what's going on. Yet as it burps through, I can't even enjoy its oddness for the majority of the crappy crappy song, because there's so much crappiness constantly overpowering it that I just keep thinking that I somehow got onto a YouTube doubler site or I have two windows open at once or something. Maddening I say!

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  1. Anonymous .molly. | 2:31 PM |  

    Bieber-fever!!! Even though I'm completely neutral about kid himself, I'm definitely fascinated and (somewhat) loving the resurgence of the teen idol as a product.

    Sidenote: Train and Matchbox 20/Rob Thomas are seriously the soundtrack to my nightmares; the kind that trick you into thinking everything is fine, but then it turns out to be horribly horribly NOT fine. Like the end of Serenity where they find out that everyone on Miranda just laid down and let themselves die. Train and R. Thomas music is the equivalent of the PAX.

  2. Blogger qualler | 2:43 PM |  

    Haha! I do indeed approve of a girl who even pays her taxes. Consider me a fan of that song in every way possible.

    The most surprising thing about that Train song is that it's a song that has not existed forever, like that version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that features a ukulele. (That song might be why I react unfavorably to the use of ukulele in pop music in general.)

    I guess I should expect that the Richard Alpert of generic pop rock (aka the Lead Guy From Train) would make his voice sound like whatever the flavor of the month was.

  3. Blogger TG | 12:38 PM |  

    I like the songs of justin bieber...So great..Thanks
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