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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Summer w/ Katy Perry AND Hayley Williams? Yes Please!

Summer is so close. For me it starts at 3:30pm today, so as I anticipate it with each waking hour, I find myself listening more and more to Top 40 radio. Its numbing escapism gives me an aural sugar rush that I much need in order to properly anticipate the season with the mostest: summer. This month's spectrum also arguably includes no terrible songs, just 1.5 snoozefests, 1.5 WTFs, and 1.5 objectifying romps. The rest is pure pop bliss. And it's best to listen to it loud, though preferably on FM radio in your car, not with these mostly poor quality YouTube rips on your 'puter speakers. But they're a good way to know what you're getting yourself into before you click on over to KDWB or 96.3 NOW, roll those windows down, and rock the shades. In the meantime, enjoy Today's Top 40 Spectrum, ranked from best to worst...

"California Gurls" by Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg: The only song in the spectrum that you can sing along to by the last chorus during your first listen is also the best. It's 100% cheese, unlike the somewhat genuinely good rocker "Hot 'N' Cold" but it's also infinitely more tolerable than Perry's first hit "I Kissed A Girl", which I hope becomes a long forgotten/ignored single by the time she becomes part of the 00s/10s pop canon. In fact, it's the first diva pop song I've heard in a long time where the production almost (if not definitely) eclipses the vocal work, as it funks up its bass-heavy rhythm with an Italian disco edge and indie-friendly synth bumps. Perry may be vapidly waxing poetic about the golden coast, but she does it with such vivacious infectiousness that I forgive her. Plus it's fun to sing along to! The Snoop Dogg verse still, upon my umpteenth listen, sounds ridiculously out of place despite Perry's namedropping of him in an earlier verse, as he can barely rap loud enough to sit atop the off-the-chain slap bass, but it's only a blip on the radar of an otherwise perfect summer pop song. All hail KP.

"Airplanes" by B.O.B. & Hayley Williams: The guy behind the most (read: only?) hilarious rap lyric about paying your taxes and the singer of Paramore...together? How could it go wrong? Well it doesn't. Mostly anyway. First the negative - it's the exact same formula that made "Nothin' On You" the mega-hit it has become. Bring in a singer, have him/her sing elegantly over a piano/keyboard riff-laden chorus, then rap the verses, and repeat. But hot damn does it work. And Williams is a much less obnoxious voice to hear at the start of each repetition than the Mars guy from the other song too. Sure the guitar's turned down way low, which is too bad, considering she sounds best when there's some killer emo chords, but the piano riff's pretty boss too, so even if it's a little bit milquetoast, it's still effective, depending on your mood. The other side of this coin is that yes it can be a snoozefest if you don't immerse yourself in it, which is why I'm surprised it's becoming just as popular as the first single. Oh well, I'm not complaining when Williams gets more attention. Also love: the softly cooed "heyyy" during the first line of every verse.

"OMG" by Usher & Will.i.am: When I was previewing the charts last week I saw this at the top and was pretty sure I hadn't heard it yet. So I started listening a little bit more closely in the car for it (a song called "OMG" can't be that easy to ignore) and when I heard it, I realized of course I had heard it before. This doesn't necessarily mean it's boring, though it kinda is. But what will burrow its way into your skull is the stadium crowd "ohhh-ohhh-uhhh-ohhh" that rings through underneath Usher's sexy croon. Also it sounds like a confused song, something that wants to both be a party banger and a body-worshiping ballad, but keeps flip-flopping between the two. I blame this part on Will.i.am because the production sounds largely like what we've heard from the innumerable singles off the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. with its fragmented futuristic beats, but even further down on the midtempo scale than the slightly more upbeat BEP tracks like "I Gotta Feeling" and "Boom Boom Pow". Add to that the fact that this is a much quieter song in general and it ends up sounding just awkward if listened to too closely. That said, the bottomed-out bridge that usually is faded out when played on the radio is actually quite enjoyable, and overall it's an innocuous song about loving the booty, which is better than giving me a headache like these kinds of songs usually do.

"Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Buble: I have no idea how this is on Top 40 radio in between Usher and Lady Gaga. No clue. I get that moms like it, just like I get that moms love Josh Groban, or single 30-somethings still like Coldplay, but how is it that Mr. Bubbly is a hit amongst the tweens as well? If I had to venture a guess, I'd suppose it ultimately simply comes to two things: he's cute (in a dressed up semi-ogre kinda way) and the song has a defined hook. Groban and Chris Martin generally deal more in the sleepy G-rated melodies while Buble, in all his brass-gasm splendor, takes his parent-approved style and actually renders it lively enough to keep the attention of ADHD white kids (mostly girls that like that scruffy yet dapper look) everywhere. I'd also like to point out that the enormous success of this song must be making Jamie of The Stereo (a Minneapolis emo-ish band from the early 00s that made music like this except w/ guitars instead of horns) bang his head on his steering wheel, because it proves that he was doing the right thing, just in the wrong year.

"Alejandro" by Lady Gaga: And we finally have it - a Lady Gaga song as boring as her first hit "Just Dance". I still hate that first single of hers and since have been determined for her to slip up and put out another snoozefest of a song, bringing her back down from the throne she's enjoyed for almost a year now. After two solid singles in "Bad Romance" and "Telephone" it was inevitable, but wow is this is a big dive for the supposed new Madonna. Let me be clear: I still enjoy the Gagster to a certain extent, but I'm just sick of her overexposure. Let other divas get on top or back on top. I hear Xtina has a new one out - let's hear it! What about Madonna herself? Is she done? C'mon, now, no one needs a straight line pop song with a melody ripped from off half from Shakira, half from Abba. Really. Now I'm just waiting for her to put out another song as obnoxious and obscene as "Poker Face", though I fear that'll just bring her attention again, so maybe I'll be okay if that doesn't happen.

P.S. Qualler's post from yesterday is a zinger for fans of 90s music and it didn't get posted until late because Blogger was being a bizatch, so check it out below if you haven't yet!

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  1. Blogger qualler | 11:08 AM |  

    So glad that "California Gurls" is not a cover of David Lee Roth's cover of the Beach Boys song! Good stuff.

    "Airplanes" was good to me for the first verse and then got way too boring and repetitive. Definitely needs a heavier guitar.

    "OMG" does not take off at all! But, I also realized that I had heard that somewhere, too -- probably in an elevator.

    Makes no sense that Michael Buble is this popular, but the vid frames him as kind of a Train-like songster but, thankfully, he is a true tenor who has the vocal chops to not need to creep into falsetto.

    "Alejandro" meanwhile, I think you are totally discounting. The obvious comparison, in my mind, is Ace of Base. Sure, it's not as great as "Bad Romance" or "Telephone" but it's solid. Then again, after originally hating "Just Dance", I now retroactively love it, so I can see how "Alejandro" comes off boring. It's too bad she didn't release "Dance in the Dark" because that song is off da hook.

  2. Blogger qualler | 11:16 AM |  

    Fresh off the presses -- like, literally just tweeted by Gaga 15 minutes ago -- the new vid for Alejandro:


    With regard to other big-time "diva" singers -- XTina's got her comeback coming, and it seems to be totally aping Gaga's thing.

  3. Blogger qualler | 11:17 AM |  

    The video version of this song you might like better, if only for the part that isn't on the album where the drums break out and it goes through the chorus over and over again with just synth and distorted-sounding vocals. Interesting.

  4. Blogger chris | 2:33 PM |  

    I do like the effect at the end, but it's still just 100% chorus, which is gratingly boring. "Bad Romance" and "Telephone" are good because they have distinct memorable choruses but they also have pretty intricately woven (for pop songs) verses, pre-choruses, and bridges. "Alejandro" is just a weak verse followed by a million choruses of singing two Latino dudes' names.

  5. Blogger qualler | 1:12 PM |  

    "Airplanes" is BOMB YO! Hayley Williams is a pretty lady. As is Katy Perry.

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