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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Dude, You Wanna Crash The Mall?

I know I've been complicit in all this hip-pop on the Top 40 nonsense, but I'm really getting sick of it. This March has been as guilty as ever in the rapper/pop star combo formula, but (luckily?) there has also been some nostalgia mining of a certain Canadian "rocker" that likely won't last long, but we can enjoy while we got it, even if only leans a little bit to the left from the likes of the usual bubblegum suspects. Funnily enough, at the bottom of this month's spectrum (as always, they're ranked from most to least tolerable below) we also have a formerly popular "artist" attempting a comeback, but this time trying to mold to today's standards rather than set any of her own, or even hark back to her early days.

"What the Hell" by Avril Lavigne: Okay, so I may not have made it through listening to Mrs. Sk8r Boi's latest full-length opus (I believe I got about 5/6 of the way through before giving up), but I am semi-reluctantly always going to be an ardent fan of her singles, no matter what. And this one definitely falls into the "no matter what" column as it has little to none of the original spunk or fervor of her past hits, though it does pretty sweetly combine the rah-rah anthemics of "Boyfriend" and the welcoming blandness of "Complicated", and believe it or not, that's enough nowadays to top the spectrum. You know it's a sad state of affairs when it's sad to say that there's no one else like Avril on Top 40 right now, nor has there been in a while.

"Born This Way" by Lady Gaga: Have I just not been paying attention or has Lady Gaga's stranglehold on the pop music industry finally waned, even when everyone was so sure that every song she put out would be a monstrous hit regardless of its objective quality? And I'll be the first to admit that I've never been her biggest fan (though certainly not an outright hater), her latest fill-in single between records is actually fun and vibrant in a way she hasn't yet been, in my opinion. Sure it can be interpreted as heavy and political (and controversial, depending on whether or not you think Gaga as a symbol of gay culture is a good or bad thing - I personally see it as a mixed bag), but what I think is inarguable about the track is that its production is phenomenally 80s, and not in a generic add-more-synths kinda way. Its delightful (though not revolutionary) choral flamboyance is the first time I've actually heard Madonna in the lady, to be honest.

"E.T." by Katy Perry feat. Kanye West: I originally had this at the top of my list almost solely because Yeezy utters the phrase "alien sex?" (inclusion of the question mark is key), but the more I listened to this disturbing cookie-cutter jawn with a sci-fi gimmick, the more I realized it's hollow and absolutely unholy (and not in an enjoyable way). Now I've experienced a ludicrous turnaround about Katy Perry since "I Kissed a Girl", but the lyrical content here is almost as offensive as in her breakout hit, with such bon mots as "infect me with your loving / fill me with your poison" and "wanna be a victim / ready for abduction" making me (unfairly) associate childhood gems such as Mac & Me with rape fantasy, which is just something I never anticipated. Kanye's horndog verbal fireworks is entertaining and admittedly clever, but even his verse only makes the whole thing all the more unpleasant, as he sounds as eager and angry as ever.

"Letting Go" by Sean Kingston feat. Nicki Minaj: Since Avril's presence is causing me to compare every new work by a familiar auteur here with their earlier work, I can't help but continue the theme with Jamaica's favorite round pop star. A few years ago, "Beautiful Girls" became my mega-jam of the summer rather effortlessly, as auto-tune was still a bit novel and the dark tinge of a single lyric colored an otherwise neon pop sing-along with just enough character to make it one-of-a-kind. Now, unfortunately, Kingston and his producers are phoning it in more and more with every single, and thusly making less and less of an impact both on the charts and in my heart. Minaj's verse is the highlight here, as despite her inability to pen her own rhymes, her accent theatrics is a joy to hear, proving there can be art in the artifice of her constructed personality. Yes, I am still a Minaj apologist, though I have to give into the fact that this very fact is also keeping her from being her own MC successfully, which is still sad umpteen collabs later.

"On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull: I really do not feel clever enough today to start off this blurb with anything but what comes more reflexively than possibly any other lead sentence in music journalism history. That sentence is this [cue sigh]: Oh J. Lo. From landing the American Idol gig to ensure success for her return to the music biz to the empty and vacuous appearance from the only present-day Hispanic Top 40er to not even trying to make a song about anything other than something completely innocuous and club-universal (like dancing), everything about this song just screams "business decision!" and it's more sad than it is impressive. I have never cared about the co-star of Money Train ever since I saw her bare chest rub up against Wesley Snipes on Cinemax when I was 13, but this song just seals the deal: Jennifer Lopez is one of the most boring people in Hollywood. An incendiary indictment, I know.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 3:40 PM |  

    Ooh I've got comments on all of these!

    I'm as big of an Avril apologist as they come, and even I think the single from her new record is bland as can be (aside from the New Pornographers-esque organ part.) Too bad the new record in general is like a worse version of Michelle Branch, too. And the songs that are written/produced solely by her are total trainwrecks. Yikes.

    The new Gaga song is fine, except for its extreme similarity to "Express Yourself" by Madonna. (Side note: Brigitte was amused when I complained about this to two of her cohorts, who are both gay. Yes, I'm her gay husband. It's cool.)

    That Katy Perry/Kanye song is totally unbearable, which is sad because individually KP and Kanye are two of the best running music artists alive. Gross images of alien genitalia are unforgivable.

    I have yet to hear the Sean Kingston song (and will after I get home from work) but it gives me an excuse to link up to this excellent Nicki Minaj diss: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W8_xOWd4-Y (Bodymore!)

    J.Lo is the Jennifer Aniston of pop music: totally beige and inoffensive. (Could it be the name "Jennifer" in general? All Jennifers, be wary of your career choices.)

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