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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Chillin' in the Summertime

This is very odd for the first official month of summer, especially when there are only two more 30-day calendar blocks after this one for the big sweaty jams to drop. Only one of the five traxx discussed below (ranked from enjoyable to detestable) actually hits with any kind of modern party vibe, and funnily enough, it's the worst one of the bunch. Granted, it's also the most popular of the five, but overall I think we're starting to see a change in the landscape of the summer anthem, if the majority is of any indication. The rest sound downright cool (ice-chipping drums, windy synths, and frosty saxophones all come into play at some point) in comparison to the average sing-along barnstormer of years past, and I'm digging it, even if the metaphor is a bit on the nose with 90+ degree heat plaguing the Twin Cities as of late. So press the power button on your cool blasterz (that's Tom Haverford talk for "A/C") and enjoy some chill vids and bangers...

"The Show Goes On" by Lupe Fiasco: There's a lot of hullabaloo with the indie crowd that obsessed over Lupe's mentor's latest record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, about how terrible and corporate-label-infected the "Kick, Push" auteur's latest full-length Lasers is, but I like it just fine. I mean in comparison to all else, it's probably still going to be the best mainstream hip hop record of the year. He's still an insightful and layered lyricist, even when his beats come out as sterile and the novel-like coherence of The Cool dissipates into a bunch of songs about seemingly random topics. In particular, just as a single, this icy number does quite a lot to impress and hypnotize. One might credit its rather oblique Modest Mouse sample as to why, but I'd argue that it's actually one of the most clever and twisted (see what I did there?) sample uses on the radio right now, as it clearly evokes it, but doesn't ever go so far as to mimic it or ride its coattails. Lupe's forward-thinking message and scattered drums take over the whiny survival tale Isaac Brock sang to us back in the mid-aughts, and we're all a little bit cooler (see what I did THERE?) to sit back and admire the show.

"Roll Up" by Wiz Khalifa: I really never thought I'd like this guy. And while the slightly Autotuned and song-ruining repetitive bridge almost made me flip my opinion (the airiness of the song doesn't really grab you like you'd expect until the second or third listen), the video really changed my mind, if only because of that lens-flare vertical wipe that reveals the skinny stoner's infectious smile every 90 seconds or so throughout. There's also plenty else going on in the speakers that make up for his last abrasive single about his hometown and two colors which shall not be named so I don't get that unwanted melody in my head. For instance, listen to that breezy keyboard as it floats through so happily and carefree in the back, just like Khalifa's ego, which you won't even notice unless you read the lyrics rather than let him sing/talk them to you, with the charismatic way he rhymes "boring" with "morning" or silkily impresses upon the object of his affection's ears that no matter what he'll always be there (with status symbol auto in tow of course, but still, he's praising romantic commitment and loyalty, which is unfortunately rare nowadays in hip hop), and despite its old world triteness, it rings true. Also, once again I must emphasize - how could such a weird looking sketchy pothead have such a great smile?!

"The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga: This is the last of the good songs on this month's spectrum. I just wanted to make that clear because if you haven't been keeping track over time, I have a love/hate relationship with Gaga that in recent months imploded into an apathetic/grumbly relationship. But all that has changed with her latest single...I think. The last and only time I believe I genuinely liked the Gagster was "Telephone" and even then I had many issues with the insanity of her video, which was so absurdist that it likely was the tipping point for her being the butt of jokes for infinity. And as much as I like to keep things interesting in Top 40, she was only being absurdist visually, not sonically as well, which was obnoxious. But here she's taken the cake. It may sound like it's only a tick below the boringness of "Alejandro" but give it a close listen and you may fall head over heels like I did. The most obvious factor may be the E-Street Band's late saxophonist Clarence Clemons showing up seemingly out of the blue, which may seem laughable at first, but if you've been waiting for Rob Lowe's awesomeness in St. Elmo's Fire to come back into the mainstream fold, well this is your ticket. The song is blustery and fiery, and honestly more truthful and less of a marketing ploy than any single since "Bad Romance", even as it's way calm like the city streets she dances on by her lonesome. Then again, I might find some little thing about it that will annoy me (like the way she sings the word "edge" over and over like she's exerting herself too much) that may bring back the hate.

"Tonight Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae: According to Wikipedia (one of my favorite ways to start a sentence), the nonsensical band name stems from "a MySpace stalker" that was allegedly the group's "first dedicated fan", which is fun and basically epitomizes everything about Hot Chelle Rae that would make one want to stay away from them. Not only did they add the word "hot" to her online pseudonym, but they are the kind of guys who confuse the words "stalker" and "fan" so easily that it could lead to stardom, death, or both. Now we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. But damn if this isn't a tragic kind of earworm that despite its Maroon 5-esque clean pop take on the bastardization of emo (can you bastardize a bastardization? I guess so) and its lifting of one of the best pop singles (and music videos) of the 90s, I find myself at least engaged in its melody, unlike the tripe you find below this entry. Now, we could spend all day talking about their forced namedrop of Zach Galifianakis (read the Rolling Stone cover story to figure out why despite The Hangover Part II this should still feel wrong) or how the drummer and guitarist look like they barely know how to play their instruments, or how the singer yells out "even the white kids" in the final chorus in a bizarre twist of WTFness, but that would keep us from bopping our heads ever so lightly to the beat.

"Give Me Everything" by Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, & Nayer: This song and video is so bland that it's really worrying me how much I'm finding little things to nitpick and get annoyed at. Then again, there's nothing really to listen to and/or look at, so this is likely why I'm resorting to petty insults. So let's get started. First off, his attention-grabbing couplet rhymes "Kodak" with "Kodak" which is always fun. He gets to promote a commercial product and be lazy all at once, but still have a #1 single in the country. Good for him. Then there's this mysterious person "Afrojack" who is listed in nearly every YouTube entry, radio station playlist, etc. and yet he/she's nowhere to be found in the song, including Pitbull's intro of the song in which he says "Pitbull, Nayer, Ne-Yo, let's go" (a slightly more sophisticated rhyme scheme by the way) but does not mention any particular jack of afros. Confusing. Lastly, regardless of Afrojack's apparent absence (is he the DJ? we'll never know), I am officially sick of watching singers/rappers do nothing while other singers/rapper spew nonsense lyrics. If you're going to lack meaning in your song, fine, but I am done with these jam-packed "featuring" collabs in which talented men like Ne-Yo just stand there for the majority of the runtime just nodding his head waiting to sing his one line during the chorus a few times in a row. Pitbull, you need to be put down. Also, what's up with that aspect ratio?

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  1. Blogger qualler | 2:53 PM |  

    That Wiz Khalifa song is just so unbearably pleasant, and as Brigitte pointed out, all his statements he makes are so reasonable ("I'll be there shortly"). What a pleasant guy.

    I heard "The Edge of Glory" this weekend and the DJ talked a long time about how tragic it was that Clarence Clemons just died because "his Top 40 star was just starting to shine." Uhhh....yeah, cuz that song "Born To Run" wasn't a hit, was it? Oh, DJs in La Crosse, WI. I agree witchoo, though - def the Gagster's best single since "Telephone".

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