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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Come On 2011, Produce A Hit Already

Where are the hits, 2011? The closest we've come to is "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, and even that is arguably a holdover from late 2010, not to mention it's super boring (though it has grown on me ever-so-slowly over the past month to the point of making a bet with my wife that I think Mars will "be around for a looooong time"). This isn't unusual, Top 40 radio holding on dearly to what worked in the previous calendar year, but it's frustrating for those of us who want something new to make fun of. And what is trying to slyly sneak its way into our melodi-brains is also quite boring, to say the least. Plus everything below is by old-news artists, even if they have changed their name for the umpteenth time. Nevertheless, let me do my best in differentiating ever so slightly between the trash on the airwaves, ranked from least boring to most...

"Coming Home" by Diddy-Dirty Money: You know this spectrum is going to be weak sauce when Sean Combs is at the top of the list. And you know this spectrum is going to be entrenched in anti-nostalgia when a phrase like "weak sauce" is used in one of the commentaries. Really though, despite a very vanilla beat and Dido-lite (and that's saying something) female-sung chorus, the words Puff chooses to describe his neuroses about growing older are pretty hilarious. From rapping that he hates when "Tears of a Clown" comes on because he swears it's written about himself to cramming in very subtly toward the end a oh-so-sad rhyme about how he lost his dog, the man is very lucky to have forced his way back onto the radio, because while hilarious and refreshingly not about how he wants to do some chick like so many of his younger hip-pop brethren, I really have no clue how this is appealing to youngsters.

"Back to December" by Taylor Swift: Similarly, I really don't have any first-hand experience with who exactly this girl's audience is either, and as she's unpredictably just getting softer and less glamorous with every single, I wonder how she's surviving the Bieberification of America's pop landscape. Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the lilting twang that's so slight it barely counts as country, just as I did back when I couldn't get enough of "Love Story" (still not ashamed), but the shtick is becoming more and more of a snoozefest with every iteration. I guess she's still heartfelt and for skinny middle-upper-class people, that saccharine love stuff is golden no matter how redundant, kinda like the timelessness of club-thumping sex anthems. And I guess you've got to have a fragile ballad every once in a while to break up the bangers, so why not have it be something innocuously pleasant like Swift?

"The Time" by Black Eyed Peas: Yes, it's true. The entertainers responsible for potentially the most reviled Super Bowl halftime show of all time sampling Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" are somehow not even the worst or second-worst new song on Top 40 radio this month. Let's not mince words - it's wretched, and it gets in your head like a starved maggot into a freshly decomposing corpse, but a) the songs below make me want to scratch off my skin with dull fingernails, and b) I have to admit that I still like the weirdness aspect of the Peas. For those that need a reminder from when I didn't rank past jams like "Imma Be" and "Meet Me Halfway" toward the bottoms of their spectrums, it's for the same reasons that "The Time" works at least a little bit. If there's one thing the Peas know how to do interestingly, it's edit their songs, and the fragmented nature of the beats and melodic segments, while equally aggravating, are at least inventive in comparison to the rest of the garbage out there, and I will stand by that if only because there's nothing else to say about this track. It's the same, even worse, than anything on the last record, but if only you listen to the cuts between blips and bloops, it's entertainingly broken.

"Hold it Against Me" by Britney Spears: Apparently this video isn't available to watch in the U.S. yet, which I'm going to go ahead and assume is a good thing, because I really cannot believe how watching a way-past-their-prime starlet sing tired hooks that steal from all the better starlets out there now would be worthwhile. Just taking up one of our senses, rather than two, is more than enough. The prime crime committed here I may have not noticed if it weren't for my good friend P. Arty, who pointed out to me recently the insane trend of pop songs with no-drum choruses. "Firework" and "We R Who We R" are two main examples, but now "Hold it Against Me" has seemingly run the technique into the ground. By withholding the driving percussion from the main melody, it's supposed to make the release in the repeated chorus or post-chorus that much more satisfying, but because the song in general is so artificial and 90s-sounding, it only comes across as forced and limp. Hopefully this is the single that gets everyone to forget Spears finally, but it likely won't.

"More" by Usher: I usually listen to each of these songs twice when I write this post - once to remind myself of their awfulness/redeeming qualities, and a second to have on in the background as I type its paragraph, letting the wretchedness and/or fun bits wash over me and influence my writing. I simply cannot maintain my routine for this song. I've heard it way more on the radio or in the pop culture ether than I had realized before I searched and played it on YouTube, and it was more than enough for me to adequately warn you of its dangers. Do not listen. Don't even press play. It's morally reprehensible enough that I even embedded the song above. It's like putting a big sign next to a button that does "do not push", I'm aware, but I'm serious. It will wrestle your soul and let the devil win. You have been warned. How such a commonly used word could be transformed into such a lethal earworm I don't know, but Mr. ErrSherr has done it.

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  1. Blogger P. Arty | 11:28 AM |  

    The drumless chorus is fantastic when executed well (as it is in your parenthetical examples). I agree that it's just awful in that Britney song.

    I'm not sure what's so despicable about that Usher song. Sure, it's no "OMG," but it's not THAT bad.

  2. Blogger qualler | 11:29 AM |  

    I heard Britney's latest yesterday while listening to KDWB on my iPod Nano and grimaced when she said "If I said I want your body now / would you hold it against me?" because it is majorly weird to use a lame pickup line in sincerity.

    (Reading Chris' post from a feminist lens): Why is Britney "past her prime" now? Cuz she's not as young and nubile as she was in the early 00s? Huh? HUH?!

    I don't hate it, but compared to the more clever (albeit ripped from less Top 40-ish artists) singles from the later 00s, this one is just kind of "there."

    I have no problem with the (actually only half) drum-less chorus. I would say the biggest crime in the song is the unironic use of a lame joke.

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