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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Where Are The Hooks?

I am writing this month's spectrum without much forethought, as the beginning of the school year is quite a doozy for us teachers. Not that I'm going to complain though after having a summer off, but I'm just saying, getting back into the mode of not listening to Top 40 radio and watching stuff on Netflix for the Wii all day long is a bit jarring. So with a lot less time spent scouring the airwaves and the YouTubes, I find myself needing to just hear the hook, decide whether or not I like it, and move on. But this was tougher than usual this month because all the major new singles that we're getting shoved down are throats are utterly hook-less. There is nothing anchoring my listening experience past the second chorus with these songs. This is sad, but at the same time, none of these songs are downright dreadful. They all have redeeming qualities in their production value or instrumentation choices, but they simply do not dazzle, and thus I am left with a sudden unyielding desire to listen to something else besides mindless pop music. How dare I! Anyway, here are your month's new Top 40 jams, ranked from best to worst, the best I could...

"Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry: The one thing that Perry can still rely on when the big hooks are absent is her production team. On the first record if she didn't have a good hook, the song was just bad because the production was confused and oriented toward some weird late 90s dance and/or rock vibe. When it worked, it worked wonders, i.e. "Hot 'N' Cold", but when it failed, it just became an annoying ache in your side that wouldn't go away, i.e. "I Kissed A Girl". In both cases though, at least the hook stuck. Here, though, there is little but atmosphere keeping the song afloat. Luckily for her and her new "vision" (it sounds dirty using that word in conjunction with the mainstream, the atmosphere is good enough to put it at the top of the worst pile. It's a sweet and airy enough concoction that it goes down smooth and I don't not hear the effort put into the soundscapes when I turn on the radio. And yes, that is faint praise.

"Secrets" by OneRepublic: How this band remains a staple of Top 40 is unbeknownst to me. That song that was in the Atonement TV spots did have a hook (and a drum beat that for some reason I joyfully clicked along to with my tongue whenever I heard it), but it was still just three-and-a-half minutes of whining. Even when emo came into the public spotlight, Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco knew that they had to mask their whining with sarcasm and anthemics in order for it to not drag everyone down. And yet OneRepublic (putting two words together into one word is so not mainstream, by the way, guys) have found a way to make it so. And their new single this time around doesn't even have an infectious beat or chorus line. It's just flat and empty in its wallowing, though in the end it's still got pretty instrumental moments that overshadow the lifelessness of the singing and lyrical riffs.

"DJ Got Us Falling In Love" by Usher: I don't know what's wrong with Usher anymore, and my students feel me on this. I got a little too excited when a kid in my Media Studies class lamented the smooth crooner's new singles and how dull they sounded, because I felt like finally I was right in finding little to no redeeming qualities in that first 2010 song of his, "OMG". And this one follows suit, with the one difference being that at least Will.i.am had sense enough to at least inject that stupid arena sound effect of "whoa-oh-oh"s to make that awkward sounding song take up some kind of real estate in my brain. But this one, even with a genuinely intriguing conceit about the link between the player of music, the receiver of music, and the often untold emotions intertwined between the two strangers, just disappoints when you actually take the time to take in the music. This is especially sad because I end up not believing Usher exactly because whenever the DJ on KDWB plays it, I feel nothing. So much for his theory.

"Club Can't Handle Me" by Flo Rida & David Guetta: This is quite possibly the most annoying song of the year, which creates a paradox for me because of my argument about the redeeming quality of obnoxious pop songs being the fact that I admire them for their ability to make me remember them in spite of their terrible qualities. But here is a song that I never remember how terrible it is, but every time I eventually listen to more than thirty seconds of it on the radio, I have this sudden, spine-chilling revelation as to what song is actually making its way out the speakers and into my soul and I immediately change the station before I hear any more of its liquid euro-hop fusion seep into my brainhole. And yet, as is the theme today, I could not right now as I type this and listen to it simultaneously, tell you any of the lyrics, explain to you what the refrain sounds like, or why it sucks so much. It just does. Trust me.

"I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias & Pitbull: Why is Enrique Iglesias back? Also, I must have heard Pitbull growl "uno, dos, tres, quatr--" a million times while I was in the DR. That is all I have to say on this subject. It is the song I've heard the most but can recollect the least. And now my students are trying to translate Hamlet so I should probably go so they don't screw it up.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 2:04 PM |  

    Loved that Katy Perry track at first until I realized it was just the production and not the actual song that I liked, as you noted. Boo, Kitty Purry. Boo.

    (p.s. When I told Brigitte she was engaged to Russell Brand, she was aghast. I concur.)

    Couldn't make it past a minute and a half of OneRepublic. Always assumed that OneRepublic was a Christian rock band. Guess not. The whole "hearing bout all those problems on the news" thing was cool when it was in that Black Eyed Peas album.

    Disappointed that Usher didn't take the opportunity of the "Back to life" lyric to add the "...Back to reality" like Big Boi did on "Shutterbug". I like this song slightly better than "OMG" mainly because of Pitbull's verse. But yes, otherwise, utterly generic.

    Yeah, fully agreed with you on the Flo Rida. Too bad it wasn't Cody Simpson's "iYiYi", as recommended by Wipert. The only way to top Justin Bieber is to get even younger than Justin Bieber.

    p.s. This song is wayyyy better than "Baby". Don't know if the chorus counts as a hook but the spelling/capital letter decisions are off 'da hooooook!


    Oh Enrique. Snooze.

  2. Blogger chris | 5:21 PM |  

    Oh man that kid is WEIRD looking. It is indeed better than "Baby" though. However, Luda's verse on that is way better than Flo Rida's boring cameo here (even his fast trills sound phoned in).

    Curious to wait and see if this track climbs the charts on Top 40 in MN...

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