The month in popular music (April 2007)

radio fly…

The last time I did this feature, I was doing it to draw attention to some of the more rewarding pleasures of mainstream music. However, such months of bountiful pleasures are few and far between, so I’ve opened the column up this time to some less-than-stellar contributions as well. Here goes nothing:

Fall Out Boy – “Thnx fr th Mmrs”

I gave these guys some slight kudos last week, but I’m going to be a bit more critical of them here. Even putting aside the awful title – just because it’s ironic doesn’t make it right – the song’s verses just feel like stop-gaps in between choruses, contributing almost nothing of value in their own right (the bridge isn’t much better). And what’s with Patrick Stump sounding like he’s a robot all the time – autotune much?

But the chorus is huge and catchy enough that it almost wins me over all by itself, especially the last one where the guitar gives out and we’re treated to a reverb-heavy 80s style metal sing-a-long. There’s something charming about a band giving its audience a huge crowd interaction moment, even though it’s an album track; it begs participation even in your living room.

Beyonce ft. Shakira – “Beautiful Liar”

This song exists for one explicit purpose: as the single to a new, expanded version of Beyonce’s sales-disappointment B-Day album that was just released to stores. This sort of double-dip to artificially boost an album’s sales has become popular in recent years, especially in R&B music, and it’s completely, entirely unwelcome and should not be encouraged. The genesis for this single sounds more like a marketing idea than a musical one, a “good idea on paper” that a manager or record label executive would come up with; I highly doubt that it was the result of a genuine and spontaneous decision for Beyonce and Shakira to collaborate.

So it’s really no wonder that the result is pretty much souless. The beat and hook is basically a Latin-ized take on “Naughty Girl” completely void of the original’s charms. Their voices mix better than I would have expected – Shakira’s voice being completely and totally grating to my ears – but that’s largely because neither of them really add any of their own personality into their vocals. It says something that the decent video is all based around the idea of making Shakira and Beyonce look the same – this song has no voice of its own. It’s just nothingness.

Alanis Morissette – “My Humps”

Okay, this isn’t exactly single in the traditional sense, but its almost two million views on YouTube in just two days probably kicks the shit out of radio plays for every other song on this list. If you ever needed proof at the ridiculous speed of information in the viral Internet age, this is it: pretty much every entertainment website, every comedy or music blog and every water cooler has shared it with everyone else. And it seems like no one but the most ardent Black Eyed Peas’ fans have anything bad to say about it.

So here goes: I think this is lame. Never mind that making fun of “My Humps” is like shooting fish in a barrel (what’s next, Alanis makes President Bush jokes?). The big problem is that as a washed-up alterna-rock star whose popularity has dropped with every album (and whose last release was a shameless acoustic recreation of her breakthrough Jagged Little Pill), Alanis is completely unable to convince me that this is anything more than a calculated stab at achieving cultural relevancy again. I’m sure that she just recorded the song as a joke, and if it had stayed that way I’d probably give this a moderate thumbs up. But by recording a spoof video for it and taking it viral, I find myself unable to look past its cry-for-attention context to getting a chuckle out of the satire within. T-Rex probably totally disagrees with me on this one, though.

Mika – “Grace Kelly”

Pop music has always been a balancing act between theft and creation, between building off of past influences while still adding some slight stamp of one’s own personality to the final product. Personally, I think that the accusation of derivativeness is way overused these days, mainly by people looking to attack bands or artists that they just don’t like (usually ignoring that they themselves probably enjoy all sorts of equally-derivative bands and artists).

But then someone like Mika comes along and I hop on board the blame train. With a voice that’s a dead-ringer for Freddy Mercury over top of a piano-driven track that sounds uncannily like vintage Queen, Mika has produced something so derivative and void of its own identity that it’s almost mind-boggling. A great single should encourage me to track down more of an artist’s music; this song makes me want to find a copy of A Night at the Opera. It’s completely and totally impossible to hear this song without thinking of Queen, so it begs the question of why it needs to exist in the first place.

Maroon 5 – “Makes Me Wonder”

Consider this a public service announcement: if you only have the time to listen to one song on this list, make it this one. I’m looking out for your own sanity here, and I strongly advise you to form your own opinion on this song as soon as humanly possible. If you come to the decision that it’s not your cup of tea, or ESPECIALLY if you hate it, I would strongly advise that you avoid the radio, or the club, or the TV for the next, oh, 3-6 months. Because this shit is going to be EVERYWHERE.

But if you happen to love this retro-disco-funk throwback with a bit of fuzz and falsetto for good measure, the first days of summer are going to have one hell of a good soundtrack. Maroon 5 have made the first song likely to take its place as one of the defining pop radio staples of 2007. The song shares with “Thnx fr th mmrs” a weak verse but the band makes up for it with an old-school pre-chorus and a killer chorus melody that will be stuck in your head for days on end. After following up “This Love” which a series of semi-boring ballads and mid-tempo-AOR tracks, we finally have ourselves a worthy successor to that song’s retro bliss. Song of the Spring, people, whether you like it or not.


One response to “The month in popular music (April 2007)

  1. Pingback: which McNutt yet again presents the month in popular music « McNutt Against the Music·

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