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Today's Top 40 Spectrum: Crappy Love

Welcome to the final edition of Today's Top 40 Spectrum for 2011. In a fitting sort of denouement, I have no idea how to rank, like I typically do, the five new songs currently in heavy-ish rotation on my local mainstream pop radio station(s). Seriously. I like a teeny tiny bit about each of these songs, but I tried and tried to move them around from least to most sucky and nothing really made sense. They're all songs about finding love in poopy situations (even if it's self-love in the case of, surprise surprise, "Ms. Angsty Kelly," as I like to call her) and they're all kind of poopy. Which sucks because the message is an interesting one, and in surprising moments even moving, but ultimately it doesn't add up to much more than flatlined melodies and a story that means little to nothing besides, "love sucks and then you die, but it's kind of great that we at least have love in this life." I told my wife that Top 40 was going through a rough patch the other day, and I hope you agree after reflecting on what it has to offer us as we enter the last year of Mayan calendar. Here they be, ranked alphabetically...

"Mr. Know It All" by Kelly Clarkson: Per the missive above, at least Clarkson mixes it up a bit by having more than an iota or five of self-esteem, but it's still a kind of cringe-worthy song about a destructive relationship. Yes, the titular Mister in question is probably not (just) an actual dude in her life, but you see, it's representative of "the system" that doesn't like when their girl pop stars are kind of bland and safe and so on. Oh and how cheesy is the video? Oh well, the overlapping chorus at the end kind of makes up for it. But not really. But kind of. Ad nauseum.

"Domino" by Jessie J: I was perhaps expecting too much from this British superstar-in-training. "Price Tag" was refreshingly unboring for the typical dancey chanteuse pop star, but this is so trad it's basically a stock entry in the mid-tempo file folder of death, along with anything that didn't quite hit #1 by Paula Cole, P!nk, or Gwen Stefani. Her voice is pleasant, though, and has just enough of a lilt to it that I'm not falling asleep until the third chorus, but by then I've realized I've just listened to the most disengaging sequence of melodies put together to describe the feeling of getting knocked over.

"How to Love" by Lil Wayne: Legitimately surprised that Weezy could make a song backed almost entirely by an acoustic guitar that didn't make me want to gag or dry heave (or both), this should actually be considered some kind of miracle, despite the anti-climax that this post is drenched with. Yes, the video is as manipulative as it is sincere, with confusing messages about abortion, single motherhood, and domestic abuse, but I was so genuinely shocked that the guy that uses candy euphemisms for talking about sex a little too often for an adult actually attempted to say something significant that I didn't even notice how slight the whole production was until the second playback.

"The One That Got Away" by Katy Perry: She caught my ear when she namedropped Radiohead in the first verse, but then I oh so quickly got lost in the vague cliches that apparently added up enough to some ambitious music video director to come up with a whole back story. If you couldn't tell by her "I can't believe no one has ever made a hit song with this title" lyrical ethic, it's allegedly about an old lady looking back to her first crazy love and how the dude (who is of course a painter) died because she effed up one of his works of art and so he drove his car off a cliff. Or something. Then there's a ghost and Johnny Cash covering "You Are My Sunshine." It's heavy. And yet not.


"We Found Love" by Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris: In the second video of this five that features tussling lovers half-forcing makeshift tattoos on each other's bodies we at least have some flashy aesthetics. They're largely stolen from Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream in Particular) and/or Sid & Nancy, but hey, at least they're stealing from the best. Too bad the song itself is such a lazy back-and-forth between techno builds to nowhere and somehow simultaneously too-short and too-often verses and choruses that all resemble each other far too closely. Again the theme of the month seems to be "tell a sad and tragic story, but make sure not to make it mean much other than that love is powerful and great no matter how many drugs we take, regrets we have, or strife we endure." Thanks, Top 40! You've depressed me AND added nothing new to the conversation!

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