Sunday, June 8, 2008
Have I mentioned that popular Top 40 music sucks?
As I’ve said before in the past, I really don’t listen to much pop radio anymore. See, 99% of my listening time is on my commute to & from work, and in the car I’d really much rather listen to news or talk radio to stay awake. Unlike most people, who lapse into a coma about ten minutes into talk radio, I’m the opposite. I find myself staying awake to pay attention to the show, so long as the host is engaging and the subject matter isn’t dry as a crouton. I find most pop music so banal and trite that I can tune it out into white noise that lulls me to a stupor and puts me under.
Sometimes, however, I’m forced to scan the dials and frequencies and am given constant reminders as to why I hate Top 40 radio and instead rely on my old music collection as I search for new tunes that don’t make my colon twitch. Half of these new “artists” out there are simply sampling what I grew up on anyways and acting like it’s fresh.
So without further delay, here’s some of the findings from my latest foray into terrestrial radio. (I really need to renew my XM subscription…)
1. 4 Minutes To Save The World — Madonna (with Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, 50 dancers, the entire state of Israel, and a motley passel of children purchased at a Branjelina yard sale)— Oh, Madge, what happened? Last I knew, you told us all you were going to give up the skimpy clothes and act like a proper mommy who writes children’s books, but all I ever see you in is bondage gear. And I won’t even go into the whole rigamarole of thinking you’re British and a Jewish mystic. I was willing to overlook all of that when last year you had two of the most brilliant songs of your career back to back with “Hung Up” and “Sorry”. Those were perhaps the best songs you’d done in years. And now we partner up with Tim & Tim, a black dude on steroids and his skinny white shadow. While Timbaland may be an absolute genius on the mixing board his vocals leave a bit to be desired, and someone needs to tell him that the whole concept of setting a high school marching band to a backbeat was done already, a couple years ago, by Gwen Stefani and Pharell. And that (bleep) was bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s!!!!
2. Bleeding Love — Leona Lewis —Recent winner of a British version of “Idol”, this girl possesses a great voice, great looks, and is singing a rather well-crafted pop power ballad. However, by the time you’ve heard it 50-60 times, you really never want to hear it again. A few too many Mariah Carey-like warbles and runs at the end for my tastes. As an aside, if you can find it, she does a really nice cover of the song “Run” by Snow Patrol. The original is heart-shredding and hers really does it justice.
3. Damaged — Danity Kane —Okayyyyyy… it’s a sugar-coated Pussycat Dolls without a stripper pole. A catchy dance beat, and interchangeable vocalists who all sound alike (not to be confused with actual harmony), but pretty much a throwaway dance track that’ll be forgotten by the end of summer.
4. Mercy — Duffy —I’d heard of Duffy for awhile but never heard her music till this week. It’s very very similar to Amy Winehouse, but a little more nasal and without the dirty beehive, bad tattoos, and heroin problem. Still, it’s a Motown throwback retro thing.
5. Love In This Club — Usher —The only listenable bit is the catchy synthesizer line that starts the song and repeats as the chorus goes “I wanna make love in this club...”. After that, all I can think of is sex in the men’s room of a dance club, and remembering what dance club bathrooms are like at 2AM, you really don’t want to have sex in one. If you do, you really need counseling, and lots of it.
6. Shake It — Metro Station —Cashing in on looking Emo, these guys look like they just stepped off of Good Charlotte’s tour bus…oh, wait…they’re on tour with Good Charlotte. No wonder they look like Emo clones. The song is catchy as hell though, a cute dancey pop track that I find it hard to dislike. So I'll just dislike it on the principle that they look Emo. Emo is the Devil.
7. I Kissed a Girl — Katy Perry —This chick has it all. She’s hot. She’s clever. She’s got a great voice. She’s got a great sense of humor. Following the cult buzz of her track “Ur So Gay”, a kiss off to an Emo ex-boyfriend, this track sounds like Pink discovered a lost Depeche Mode demo track and went wild. The song is about a bit of experimentation on the dance floor, so to speak. You can NOT sit still while listening to it. Not to be confused with an equally clever track of the same name and same basic theme by Jill Sobule. Finally, a winner on pop radio.
8. Realize — Colby Caillat— Hmmmm, seems I reviewed one of her songs the last time I did this type of blog. (Check my archives). Same syrupy sweet delivery, same harmless lyrics, and equally as forgettable.
9. Stop and Stare — One Republic— A perfect followup to their big hit “Apologize”, because it’s just as sweet, just as safe, just as predictable, and just as overplayed, as I heard it 3 times in the same hour.
10. All Summer Long — Kid Rock— Deep Down, I really want to like Bob Ritchie, who goes by Kid Rock. He’s at his cleverest when he’s doing this over the top thrash-rap hybrid thing that made him famous. Bob…this ain’t it, man. Most of the hokey lyrics are delivered over a sampled piano bit stolen from Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, and then you segue it into half of “Sweet Home Alabama”, while reminiscing about summertime in northern Michigan. All I can think of is Joe Dirt. Oh wait…you were IN that film…
So…as always, pop radio is a pretty bleak landscape. As a service to you guys, however, I’ll suggest some decent recent music from the realms of “alternative” music:
1. Violet Hill/Viva La Vida — Coldplay —The first single off the new Coldplay disc is a little bit different than what I was expecting. I guess I was waiting for another melodic ballad and instead this churning, almost grungy anthem rolls out. After about three listens, it grew on me and now I really like it. And Viva La Vida, the album’s title track, is my new favorite Coldplay song. It’s being used in the new iTunes commercials, and the full track is this gorgeous sweeping powerful track that sucks you in and leaves you breathless. The CD comes out next week, on the 17th.
2. All You Need Is Me — Morrissey —It seems odd to call Morrissey “the former Smiths frontman”, since Moz was the band’s singer for about 5 years, with 5 studio albums, a couple compilations, and a live album. His solo career, however, has lasted over 20 years, 8 studio albums, umpteen compilations and live albums, and he has an upcoming studio album to be released in September. This track is brand new, just released a couple weeks ago, and is classic Morrissey, all angst and rockabilly and debonair flair.
3. Supernatural Superserious — REM —The past few REM cd’s have been kinda hit or miss experiments with a couple great songs, and they pretty much fizzled out after a couple weeks of buzz. It’s a shame though; the track “Leaving New York” from their last album, “Around the Sun”, was brilliantly beautiful, and spawned the line "It's easier to leave than to be left behind." That's deep. This new song, the first release from the new CD “Accelerate” is a fine return to form for the boys from Athens, GA. Jangly guitars, and words that you can pretty much completely understand. Overall, a winner.
4. Handlebars — Flobots —I want to hate this song for reasons of, well, lots of reasons. It’s like Cake meets Eminem in a back alley and comes up with the bastard stepbrother of the Bloodhound Gang. However, the song is reallllly catchy whether you want it to be or not, and it really makes you concentrate on the clever lyrics and think about them a bit. Unfortunately these guys are a also a bit of a one-trick-pony deal, where all the songs I’ve heard from them are about the same. Should white kids from the suburbs rap?
5. The Only One — The Cure —Yes, The Cure are still alive and still making music. In fact, they’re on tour right now and their new CD, their 13th studio release in a career that’s almost 30 years old at this point, comes out on September 13th. You either love The Cure or hate The Cure. There are very few casual fans of Robert Smith and company. They’re releasing a single a month on the 13th of each month leading up to the album release. The next song comes out this weekend, and will be called “Freakshow”. And for the record, I love The Cure.