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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Full Recovery

Top 40 sure has recovered from last month. And by last month, I mean a month-and-a-half ago. Yes, yes, I am behind, so please excuse some of these songs for being already winding down on the Billboard charts, if not completely absent by now. But while I will still attempt to do two more Today's Top 40 Spectrum posts, I think with this here installment I officially have more than enough songs for my Top 10 of the Top 40 of 2011 list. Like it will actually feel uncomfortable, even without getting through the rest of this year, cutting some vapid pop songs from my allotted ten. That's messed up, dudes. Is the machine eating me up or is Top 40 music actually getting slowly but surely better? Who knows. What I do know is that this entry's assortment of tuneage is nearly uniformly enjoyable, even if nearly every song has some kind of inherently sucky/obnoxious quality. Well enough surmising - let's get on with it! Here's my most recent cavalcade of Top 40 jams, ranked from most to least tolerable/enjoyable below...

"In the Dark" by Dev: One of my students told me that I should careful when I watch the video for this song because it's weird and "almost too sexy." Not only is that one of the weirdest comments a student has ever said to me, it's also oddly true, despite the fact that there is far less skin or jiggling occurring here than nearly 99% of all pop videos in existence. Sure, there's one recurring shot in particular that's obliquely alluring, but I think most of the discomforting lust appeal stems from the song itself, which I would go so far as to venture labeling as a stone-cold modern classic. Not only does Dev improve on the hollowness of "Like a G6" by actually making a song that's about something, but cool detachment is replaced with hot steam in the tone department. Add an indelible saxophone sample and you've got yourself a not necessarily cerebral piece of pop, but definitely a memorable and visceral one.

"Without You" by David Guetta feat. Usher: Let's get one thing straight. Usher is done. Put a fork in him. But I'll be damned if Guetta gets some good use out of his aching yet innocuous croon as a backdrop for his Eurotrance-or-whatever beat destruction. It's strangely wowing to see a DJ that's not necessarily unique in any shape or form manage to provide an adequate amount of spectacle on his own through arpeggio-happy sequencers and fake kick drum pulsing, which just pushes the basically one long chorus by your guest singer into the background to the point where it makes sense that the person's voice is designated as featured rather than the primary author. Even the sickly sweet video, which (gasp!) tells a story no less, can be forgiven because every lens flare and slow motion jump in the air perfectly embodies what makes pop music so euphoric when does without deception or malice, but with just pure unadulterated celebration. Whether it's of the self or the other is up for debate; don't think to hard though - just let your eyes widen when that bleep-bloop climax explodes.

"It Girl" by Jason Derulo: As you can tell by reading my faves for the month in the sidebar to your right, I am currently enjoying the act of damning whistling appearing so cacophonously and ubiquitously in Top 40 songs this fall. First it was "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 (a song I'm embarrassed to say has grown on me since I bashed it to shreds in this here column). Then it was Britney Spears' umpteenth forgettable hit "I Wanna Go" that jumped on the bandwagon. Now it's my dearly formerly beloved Jason Derulo, whose smash jam "In My Head" from last year was a not-so-secret obsession of mine. His Harry Belafonte-sampling first single from his new album didn't warm my heart over, though, and so I thought I was done with him. But then he comes back and wriggles his way back into my soft embrace, despite the fact that he is now the THIRD person on my radio whistling a hooky little piece of audio poop at me in between smooth verses and an airy yet amiable chorus. Oh how divisive our love must be! Why must you torment me so, Jason?!

"Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO: Not...really...sure...what to make of this. Does the main guy with the fro wish he was "Weird" Al for a new generation? Cuz he's certainly acting like it a lot more here than he ever has before, and yet it feels like a completely logical progression from "Party Rock Anthem." These guys have a shtick and they're shticking to it. Neon and gaudy everything. Goofy dancing and facial expressions. So while it's ultimately a silly Z-grade Flight of the Conchords song and an obnoxious C-grade "Weird" Al song, the internet age acronymic collective have developed an aesthetic and oeuvre. And it's unsettling, but hell if it ain't at least a compelling novelty for 2011. And that's basically all they're trying for, right? Nothing more, nothing less? Well, I enjoy it more with the video anyway. It's refreshing even if it's crass to play on the gender/sexpectations of the music video with such uninhibited delight.

"Cheers (Drink to That)" by Rihanna: Believe it or not, even though it's at the bottom of the spectrum, I think this might be the only Rihanna song I've liked for more than a couple seconds since "Umbrella." I think I kind of liked "What's My Name?" when that was on the radio constantly but I honestly can't remember what it sounds like now (though part of this problem may be that I have this song and many M83 songs currently in my head). The weird thing about this, though, is that there's only a couple distinguishing qualities that set this apart from all of the monotonous glut of half-assed Rihanna hits from the past couple years, one of which is the immediately jarring third chorus in which it sounds like literally a room of drunken fans were recorded singing Rihanna's part before the Barbadian in question suddenly swoops back in and reclaims her song. That moment where it slides everything back into place is so exquisitely chosen and executed that the woozy nature of the song (whether intentional or not) can be forgiven. The other thing is that hey, it sounds like Rihanna actually cares about something kind of! Sigh, it's just drinking, nay, "toasting," but at least she doesn't sound like she wishes she were dead! Right?

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