• Reviewing the Billboard Hits: 2012

    13. Jan. 2013, 23:38

    Billboard Number Ones – 2012 Edition:

    Over the past month I’ve read, watched, or listened to dozens of year-end retrospectives. Best of year lists, entries reflecting on a specific artist or trend, podcast debates about the above, and an especially entertaining March-Madness-style bracket pitting the year’s hits against each other in a fight to the death ( However, I like to reflect upon the past year through the lens of the old-fashioned, borderline-irrelevant, payola-baiting Billboard Hot 100. (Ok, maybe there’s no more payola, but you can’t convince me that Maroon 5’s nine-week reign was not the result of a vast government conspiracy hellbent on keeping one-time Yankee-hater PSY from reaching the top of the charts; or a unified push by American record companies to forestall the incoming K-Pop invasion). The year’s Billboard Number Ones are not comprehensive and always leave out many songs that the define the year (no Frank Ocean, Fiona Apple or 2 Chainz to see here, folks), but it is always to interesting to see which songs captured our hearts and minds throughout the year.

    After the EDM-plus-Adele hellscape that was the year 2011, 2012 comes as a breath of fresh air. The EDM is obviously still around, and the movement fuelled some of the year’s biggest hits (Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling”; Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”; every huge David Guetta song), but the songs that reached number one, rising above the untz-untz crowd, are an impressively varied group of songs. 2012’s number ones ranged from bubblegum pop, to faux Arcade Fire bombast, to full-throated diva belters, to blue-eyed reggae. In 2012, not one but TWO songs heavily influenced by Sting spent significant time at the top of the charts. In 2010 and 2011, the number ones reflected the most played songs at the club. The average number one had a high BPM, a 4/4 beat, and the build-ups and drops associated with club music, designed to make people lose their minds on the dancefloor (the exception being, as always, Adele). Last year, Number ones were, for the most part, quieter and slower, less insistent on us dancing like it was our last night on Earth. The most popular songs of the year were often songs more likely to be played at home alone as in a club. Songs like “Somebody That I Used to Know,” “We Are Young” and “Ho Hey,” the current number 5, would never have sniffed the Top 20 in 2010 or 2011. I’m not sure if the charts changed their methodology or if people changed their listening habits (probably the former), but either way, I love any change that might break us out of our early decade doldrums and into a new exciting period for pop music.

    My reviews after the jump (I’m going to post them one at a time as well):

    The Hits:

    "Sexy and I Know It" – LMFAO: 1/7-1/14 (2 Weeks)

    Ugh. I’m gonna skip this one for now. I’ll leave you with this brilliant sketch, and I’ll come back to “Sexy and I Know It” after I throw up in my mouth a little bit.

    We Found Love” – Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris: 11/12/11-12/31/11; 1/21/12-1/28 (10 Weeks)

    I already wrote about this one for my 2011 recap. I’ll repost it though:

    “THIS is how you do a House crossover. People criticize Rihanna’s vocal ability, but it’s hard to argue that she can’t be compelling in the right context. Rihanna is probably the most prepared of the current pop divas to handle the imminent electronic era in pop music, as her voice complements but never overshadows the production. Considering how simple most of Calvin Harris’s discography is, there’s a surprising level of attention to detail in “We Found Love.” There’s a subtle change in the instrumentation during each verse. I also like how they managed to avoid including a dubstep drop (must have been a struggle). It’s hard to imagine a more effective techno/pop fusion”


    “Sexy and I Know It” – LMFAO: 1/7-1/14 (2 Weeks)

    Ok, I’m back. I needed some time to emotionally prepare myself to listen to this song on repeat for this piece. “Sexy and I Know It” is a member of a unique pop music lineage, preceded by such classics as “I’m Too Sexy,” by Right Said Fred, and the gloriously awful “Bad Touch” by the Bloodhound Gang. These are one-joke songs. Isn’t it hilarious how these guys who do not fit even the broadest definition of sexiness are talking about how irresistible they are? “Sexy and I Know It,” by nepotism poster boys LMFAO, manages to be even more disgusting and ridiculous than its predecessors and even less funny. The good news for me is: “Sexy and I Know It” was the year’s worst number one, so there isn’t anywhere to go but up. This would be the worst song to chart in 2012 if it weren’t for the unfortunate “Birthday Cake (Remix),” by Rihanna & Chris Brown.


    Set Fire to the Rain” – Adele: 2/4-2/11 (2 Weeks)

    Adele’s monster 2011 extended into 2012 with “Set Fire to the Rain,” a decent number one that can’t hope to match the iconic status already reached by “Rolling in the Deep” and “Somebody Like You.” “Rolling in the Deep” and “Somebody Like You” featured minimalist arrangements with Adele’s voice as the focal point. Her inflection and vocal timbre provides the drama and the emotion, and because Adele is such an expressive singer, the songs benefit from the spotlight on her vocals. In “Set Fire to the Rain,” her vocals are just as strong, but her performance is swallowed by the epic arrangement. Still, like almost everything else on Adele’s 21, “Set Fire to the Rain” is well-written and well-structured, even if it lacks the emotional oomph of her best songs.


    Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson: 2/18-2/25, 3/10

    Poor Kelly Clarkson. Every song she releases from here on out will draw comparisons to “Since U Been Gone,” one of the best pop songs of the past 25 years, and every song will suffer from that comparison. It’s hard to fault Kelly for returning to that well, but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had enough of the Kelly Clarkson empowerment anthem for a while. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is a perfectly competent, catchy track that I have absolutely no need to ever hear again.


    Part of Me” – Katy Perry: 3/3 (1 week)

    According to Wikipedia, Katy Perry’s Dr. Luke/Max Martin-produced kiss-off “Part of Me” was written sometime in 2010, presumably about her ex-boyfriend Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes (yep, that clown). It was officially released in February 2012, hot on the heels of Perry’s high-profile divorce from crazy person/comedian Russell Brand. So, the song’s lyrics, though they try to be personal and revealing, are vague enough to apply to two totally different (I assume) relationships. Everything about this song screams, “divorce cash-in.” The chorus is not memorable, especially when compared to her 2010 and 2011 smashes, and the instrumental track is typical Katy Perry, with guitars on the verses, synth on the chorus and huge 4/4 drums. “Part of Me” is the most transient and forgettable of 2012’s number ones, so forgettable, in fact, that she did not even perform “Part of Me” in the concert film bearing its name.


    We Are Young” – fun. featuring Janelle Monae: 3/17-4/21 (6 Weeks)

    “We Are Young” is a mixed bag. It’s a song that feels like it could have been a great song, but it fails for a few reasons. Let’s talk about the good first: That chorus. It’s a great fucking chorus, one of the biggest and catchiest in a year full of big catchy choruses, with Nate Ruess’s voice soaring over Graduation-era Kanye synths and plinking piano. The bridge is pretty good, too, and would be better if Janelle Monae’s part was not buried under layers of harmony. I’ve heard people compare fun. to Queen, their chanted harmonies always reminded me more of the Lion King soundtrack, which is good, cause I like The Lion King more than I like Queen.

    Now the bad: The first verses is dreadful. The lyrics are so self-important and read like entry-level poetry (“Getting higher than the Empire State”), and the melody uninspired. Worst of all, it does not fit at all with the chorus. More talented people than fun. have created great songs by mashing up two half-written songs, but here it feels like the chorus teleported in from some other, more interesting song.

    Overall, the very good chorus and bridge comprise most of the song, but the terrible first verse and the awkward transition between verse and chorus (not to mention the sheer grammatical difficulty of writing about fun. on Microsoft Word) prevent me from giving “We Are Young” anything higher than a 6.


    Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye ft. Kimbra; 4/28-6/16 (8 Weeks)

    When you think about it, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is probably the most left-field of 2012’s left-field hits. It rose to the top of the charts based almost entirely on word of mouth, without the aid of Bieber plugs, Chevy commercials or Internet meme machines. Just a great song with a great video reaching number one the old fashioned way. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is an effective break-up ballad, remorseful without being self-flagellating or vindictive. Aided only by acoustic guitar, xylophone and some nifty (read: not overpowering or melodramatic) synths, Gotye quietly and sadly confesses the ways that he and his ex were wrong for each other during the verse, resolving to put the past behind him. The chorus finds Gotye in with an anguished Sting-inspired yelp, lashing out at the girl for shutting him out of her life. The key to the song is Kimbra’s bridge, which turns the song on its head, revealing Gotye’s character to be, for lack of a better phrase, a total douche. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is based on real human emotions, and not the type of oversized pop song emotions found in “Stronger,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” or even “We Are Young,” and sure, it was overplayed, but I’m ecstatic that a song like this can find such traction on the radio and on the pop charts.


    Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen; 6/23-8/18 (9 Weeks)

    When I was in Elementary School, I had a crush on a girl named Caroline (not her real name). I didn’t know what to do with myself. I liked a girl? Girls, to any grade school boy, are icky! So, I convinced myself that I didn’t like Caroline, but that I hated Caroline. I would taunt her mercilessly, make fun of her to my friends and loudly proclaim how much I hated her. The obvious truth was that I was lying to myself to avoid embarrassment about how I really felt.

    I had a similar relationship to “Call Me Maybe,” albeit on a slightly more unconscious level. I first heard “Call Me Maybe” in early February 2012. My kneejerk reaction was to hate the fuck out of this song, mostly because my first exposure to the song came from the mouths of drunken sorority girls, before I ever heard the phrase Carly Rae Jepsen and I heard that it was vaguely related to Bieber. Drunken sorority girls are the reason why we have Spice Girls reunions, “Party in the USA,” and Ke$ha (who got a little better, but still). They do not have a very good track record (girls are icky, right?). When I finally heard the song at a bar, I began to understand the song in context, and even to appreciate the saccharine strings and the singer’s playful vocal stylings (“AND all the OTHER boys,” word to Howard Kremer, it was a Jepsen Summah). After that, I just could not abide the sheer catchiness of the whole thing. “Call Me Maybe” is one of those songs where just reading the name of the song in an article is enough to lodge the melody into your cerebral cortex for weeks on end. Soon enough, I was singing “BEFORE YOU CAME INTO MY LIFE I MISSED YOU SO BAD!” to myself in the shower. The melody had broken through my fierce resistance and invaded my subconscious. Around St. Patrick’s Day, I realized that “Call Me Maybe” was a fantastic pop song and claiming that I didn’t like it would be akin to claiming, “I don’t like candy, it’s too damn sweet.” Not to mention that the song would be inextricably linked to my senior year of college, and all the good memories therein. So I finally gave in. (Mind you, this all happened back in March, months before “Call Me Maybe” even reached the top of the charts. “Call Me Maybe” had an unnaturally long lifespan, probably because it’s fucking amazing). Before it came into my life, I missed it so bad, and what not.


    FUCK IT!


    Whistle”– Flo Rida; 8/25, 9/15 (2 Weeks)

    I’m tempted just to write “It’s a Flo Rida song,” rate it and call it a day. They’re all the same. Flo Rida is a rapper with no discernable personality. Though he’s technically proficient as a rapper, he never says anything memorable and his verses are just there to fill time between the hooks. “Whistle,” is no different. Flo Rida had three monster hits this year, and of the three, “Whistle” has by far the least memorable hook and least interesting production, yet it’s the one that reached number one. “Whistle” is relatively harmless, but if he’s talking about his dick, then dock 2 points from my rating (ick). I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, even though I probably shouldn’t.


    We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift; 9/1-9/8; 9/22 (3 Weeks)

    Step One: Take Taylor’s personality and ability to inject her personal life into her songs.

    Step Two: Combine Step One with Max Martin’s ability to craft a massive pop hook

    Step Three: PROFIT!

    It took longer than most people expected, but in 2012, Taylor Swift unequivocally became the biggest pop star in the world. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the Max Martin produced smash engineered to drive her rise to the top, was the lead single from Red, the biggest album of the year, and one of four songs to reach the top ten from that album.

    Though I’ve liked Taylor Swift in the past, I have never bought her as the shy girl who guys would dump for somebody hotter. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” finds her ditching that persona and embracing mean-girlhood. In this song she becomes, as Walter White would say, the One Who Dumps (get your goddamn mind out of the gutter, you disgusting person). “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” also finds Taylor abandoning her country roots (sure there are some acoustic guitar arpeggios, but they are more than likely synthesized) and aiming for pure pop. Though “You Belong With Me,” remains the perfect Taylor Swift song in my eyes, but “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is very good, with a likable spoken word bridge (love her inflection on “this is exHAUsting”) and some legitimate burns (the indie rock record that’s way cooler than hers) thrown in for good measure. Suck on it, Jake Gyllenhaal. You are officially the 2012 equivalent to Adele’s deadbeat window washer ex-boyfriend.


    One More Night” – Maroon 5; 9/29-11/24 (9 Weeks)

    Way back in the intro (Congrats if you’ve made it this far! I’m almost done.), I alluded to a government-sponsored cabal devoted to preventing “Gangnam Style” from reaching the top of the charts. Now, I have no proof of this, but what else could possibly explain the nine-week reign of this Ace of Base rip by Maroon 1 Plus Four? “Gangnam Style” sat behind “One More Night” at the number two spot for seven straight weeks. “One More Night” was certainly popular, but popular enough to merit a nine-week reign on the top of the charts? I think not! I’m honestly not even the biggest fan of “Gangnam Style,” but there’s no denying that it had a cultural impact equal to, if not greater than, any of the number ones on the list. As for “One More Night”? I’m sure Adam Levine performed it on The Voice or something.

    Ok, I realize I haven’t said anything about the song. I haven’t said anything about vanilla ice cream or white bread either. Why? Because those things are BORING! Just like “One More Night,” a slice of blue-eyed Reggae designed to provide background atmosphere for department stores. Say what you will about “Gangnam Style,” but at least it would have been fun to write about.


    Diamonds” – Rihanna; 12/1-12/15 (3 Weeks)

    “Diamonds” was co-written by Sia, and you can really tell in the way that Rihanna sings it. The vocal melody would work very well for Sia, but in “Diamonds” it really just highlights the relative weakness of Rihanna’s voice, as she awkwardly wobbles between high and low notes. I enjoy plenty of Rihanna songs, but the best of them do not rely on her ability to deliver a brilliant vocal performance, but on her ability to sell a hook. There’s clearly a strong hook on “Diamonds,” but it is far too repetitive for my taste and her melodramatic vocals overload the already considerable bombast of the Stargate produced track. The chord progression was promising, but this track needed a stronger singer than Rihanna to do justice to the production and bring the melody to life.


    Locked Out of Heaven” – Bruno Mars; 12/22-present (5 Weeks…SO FAR!)

    We all know that Sting is having a moment right now (see: Gotye), but I think it would be unfair to call out Bruno Mars for trend-hopping on this one. “Locked Out of Heaven” was probably written before anyone at Bruno Mars’ label knew that “Somebody That I Used to Know” was going to be a smash, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the success of that record directly led to the release of this one. That’s just some smart A&R work. Gotye’s track resembles the quiet bombast of Sting’s solo career, but “Locked Out of Heaven” is a direct descendent of early Police smashes like “Roxanne,” “So Lonely” and “Message in a Bottle.” I love all three of those songs, and I commend Bruno Mars for bringing back the spirit of those great records, but he almost ruins that classic sound by bringing some trademark-Mars squickiness to the proceedings (Can we please have a moratorium on people singing “your sex”? Is there any creepier phrase than that? I mean, besides Flo Rida telling everybody to blow on his dick whistle?). Remember, this is the guy behind two of the absolute worst songs of 2011 (his own “The Lazy Song,” and Bad-Meets-Evil’s execrable “Lighters). Still, “Locked Out of Heaven” is a solid pop song, with a great “yeah yeah yeah” hook, and the pleasure I get from hearing a reasonable facsimile of the best Police songs on Z100 counteracts some of that creep factor (not to mention that plenty of Police songs have lyrics that are just as creepy).


    In Summation: 2012 was a decent-to-good year for number one singles. Any year featuring “Call Me Maybe” can’t be too bad. As good a year 2012 was for pop music and music in general, it felt like a table-setting year. The 2010s are in the process of developing a unique aesthetic for itself, and 2012 was a clear step away from the late 2000s style. I, for one, welcome our new era in pop music, especially if that new era features much less LMFAO. See you next year.
  • Reviewing the Hits: 2010's Billboard #1s

    19. Jan. 2011, 6:02

    2010 - The Homogenization of Pop

    In 2010, massive conglomerates of superstar producers conspired to stranglehold the music business with their signature sounds. The Max Martin/Dr. Luke/Benny Blanco songwriting troika (Dr. Luke is the main producer these days) fuse power pop guitar chords with house beats and thick synthesizers. Stargate, a European production team, specialize in minimalist, repetitive techno, with melodic interludes and room for the singer to improvise. French House DJ, David Guetta, produced 2009's massive "I Gotta Feeling" and helped drive the modern pop scene towards the pulsating four/four beats that define radio pop and steered the Black Eyed Peas in their current direction (for better or worse). Lastly, Bruno Mars' creative team, the Smeezingtons, specialize in breezy, summery breed of R&B that pays homage to Motown and 50s doo-wop. The point I'm trying to make: all of these people make music that sounds basically the same! If you listen to 2010's number one hits, four of them were written by Dr. Luke, another four by Stargate, two of them by the Smeezingtons and one by Max Martin without Dr. Luke and company. "Raise Your Glass" sounds like "Teenage Dream," which sounds like "California Gurls," which sounds like "Tik Tok," which sounds like "Like a G6," and so on. Hopefully, 2011 will mark a return to individuality in the modern pop landscape, but it seems unlikely, as the first month of the year featured alternating number ones by Bruno Mars and Katy Perry's Stargate production "Firework." Now on to the hits:

    "TiK ToK" - Ke$ha - (1/2-2/27/2010; 9 Weeks)
    Everything about this song makes me want to hate it with the entirety of my being: Ke$ha's horrible, trashy drunk-girl rhymes, with auto-tune highlighting random phrases; that stupid line about wanting to party with guys who look like Mick Jagger (who looks like this nowadays), and Ke$ha herself, with her random piercings and shorts that barely reach her thighs. Yet, I can't help but kinda like this song. The song is clearly designed to be an anthem for vapid sorority girls and drug addled club chicks, and on that front it works fine. There are enough quotable lines ("brush my teeth with a bottle of jack," "the party don't start til I walk in") and inspired musical flourishes (especially that "oh oh" in the chorus) for me to understand its appeal and not dismiss it outright.

    "Imma Be" - Black Eyed Peas - (3/6-3/13; 2 Weeks)
    Back in my 2009 list, I tore into the Black Eyed Peas, accusing them of intentionally appealing to the lowest common denominator of music fans (namely preteens) and not seeking any type of artistic fulfillment with their music (the same can be said about Ke$ha, I guess). "Imma Be" isn't too different, but it's significantly better than either of their 2009 behemoths. In "Imma Be," the Peas experiment with their usual sound, incorporating more futuristic electronic bleeps and shifting the rhythm around for each verse. "Imma Be" isn't great, but I'll give it some extra points for the Roger Troutman/Daft Punk outro

    "Break Your Heart" - Taio Cruz ft. Ludacris - (3/20; 1 Week)
    Every time I look at a song title and I see the words "featuring Ludacris," I get excited. Luda is probably the most entertaining guest rapper around and he has the ability to elevate even the most mundane track to greatness with his elastic flow and emphatic punchlines. Unfortunately, Ludacris is on autopilot here, ceding the floor to Taio Cruz after two brief verses. "Break Your Heart" is a standard, inoffensive club track and Cruz is devoid of personality and is not a good enough singer to be very compelling outside of the club. A visit to the good Dr. Luke helped him out for his next, probably even more popular track ("Dynamite"), but "Break Your Heart" leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    "Rude Boy" - Rihanna - (3/27-4/24; 5 Weeks)
    The first great number one of 2010. Rihanna had a huge year in 2010, with three number one singles and one huge number one guest appearance. "Rude Boy" is probably the best. For her last LP, Rated R, Rihanna retreated inward, delving into her personal demons and highlighted her emotional vulnerability. With 2010's Loud, Rihanna emerged from her shell stronger than ever; all three of her number ones in 2010 are about how awesome she is, how lucky her man is to have her and how he better be amazing in bed. "Rude Boy," a Stargate production, nominally returns Rihanna to her Caribbean roots, with a few dancehall references in the lyrics and a steel-drum-esque synth bouncing during the chorus. However, there are few real dancehall influences on the track, and the song draws its strength from Rihanna's skill at hypnotically playing with and repeating words and phrases. In "Rude Boy," Rihanna is the one with the power, and she knows how to flaunt it.

    "Nothin' On You" - B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars - (5/1-5/8; 2 Weeks)
    Though he was a mixtape darling for a few years before 2010, B.o.B's major label debut drew more critical vitriol than any other rap release in 2010 (besides maybe Recovery). While I was disappointed by The Adventures of Bobby Ray, I don't think it really deserved the beating it took. "Nothin' on You," an effortlessly breezy summer jam, is one of the better tracks on the album. Bruno Mars said that he was inspired by the doo-wop classic "I Only Have Eyes For You," by the Flamingos, when he wrote the chorus and the throwback element is obvious. Mars has a talent of merging 50s and 60s melodies and sentiments with modern beats and B.o.B, one of our most musically gifted MCs, embraces the melodic piano line, rapping double-time about love and loss.

    "OMG" - Usher ft. - (5/15; 5/29-6/12; 4 Weeks)
    If I were to make a list of modern singers who sound great without auto-tune, Usher would probably top the list. Remember "Yeah!"? That was awesome! Unfortunately, Usher embraces the robot on the produced "OMG," a song that completely wastes Usher's prodigious talents as a singer and performer. The crowd noise gimmick goes from annoying to infuriating throughout the song and the uninspired, arrhythmic raps during the verses further doom this track to sub-mediocrity.

    "Not Afraid" - Eminem - (5/22; 1 Week)
    2010 marked the triumphant return of Eminem to the forefront of the popular music scene. For music fans of my generation, Eminem is a universally beloved icon, a man who rapped about what we would only snicker about amongst ourselves. Recovery marked Eminem's official step into adulthood - the playfulness, hilarity and (most importantly) willingness to say anything and offend anybody was nowhere to be found. I guess "Not Afraid," a stale, clunky attempt at an inspirational ballad, is a necessary step for Eminem, announcing to the world that he overcame his problems and is back to making music full time. I wish that "Not Afraid" was more enjoyable; the flow is there, but the wordplay isn't (that "it's a wrap" line is pretty egregious") and Em is still rapping over the same blend of uninspired beats as his Encore days. Now that he got Recovery off his chest, he can go back to the Eminem we all love.

    "California Gurls" - Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg - (6/19-7/24; 6 Weeks)
    A summer anthem for a generation of kids who've never heard of the Beach Boys, Perry has stated that "California Gurls" is supposed to be a response to "Empire State of Mind." While Jay-Z's low-key verses and Alica Keys' big chorus in "Empire" illustrate the contrast between the intimate details and grand scope of living in New York, there is no such subtlety in "California Gurls." Though the song is ostensibly about California, the music video seems to be set in Candyland, with ice cream plants and cotton candy clouds. Katy Perry, exploits her own sexuality for record sales as blatantly as anyone outside of the Pussycat Dolls. It's not that I object to using sex to sell your product, but starting the second verse with "SEX...on the beach," is a little clumsy and obvious. I appreciate that Perry has a sense of humor, and I'm amazed by Snoop Dogg's ability to remain gangsta while wearing ice cream overalls, but I'm afraid it's a big "meh" for this one.

    "Love The Way You Lie" - Eminem ft. Rihanna - (7/31-9/11; 7 Weeks)
    Remember in my "Rude Boy" review how I was talking about how Rihanna's Loud singles present a woman who faced her demons and became stronger? How she's the one with the power and how she'll never bend to her man's will? Well, here's Rihanna, music's most famous victim of domestic violence since Tina Turner, singing a chorus for Eminem, a man who frequently raps about murdering his wife, about how she loves her boyfriend even though he is abusive. Look, I know the song was hugely popular and that Rihanna's appearance probably means that she's fully recovered from her personal trauma, but I can't help but feel uncomfortable when Em raps about throwing his girlfriend out the window ("that's why they call it window pane" -- clunk!) and Rihanna sings about how much she loves it.

    "Teenage Dream" - Katy Perry - (9/18-9/25; 2 Weeks)
    This is probably the only Katy Perry song where she doesn't wink at the camera. A straightforward love song, again produced by Dr. Luke, Perry sings about how she loves her man so much that she feels like a teenager. Honestly, I know the song is just as manufactured and superficial as anything else that Katy Perry has done, but it works for me. "Teenage Dream" has an honest sweetness to it that distinguishes it from her usual vapid and playful sexuality.

    "Just the Way You Are" - Bruno Mars - (10/2-10/23; 4 Weeks)
    Let me start by saying that I definitely prefer this to the Billy Joel song. "Just the Way You Are" uses an airy four-chord progression with piano and synthesized whistling during the chorus to create probably the nicest thing that anyone has ever said or done for a girl. Mars' schtick is to play the perfect boyfriend, which nicely suits his talent for writing sweet piano ballads. In this one, the sweetness becomes a bit overwhelming--I can practically feel my teeth ache when listening to this song.

    "Like A G6" - Far East Movement ft. The Cateracs and Dev - (10/30-11/6, 11/27; 3 Weeks)
    The epitome of a brainless club song, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The words are hilariously stupid, but the bassline is creamy. I love that little chant of "808" right before the "actin' like they drunk part." There are some songs that are impossible to intelligently write or think about and this is one of them. Just put your hands up.

    "We R Who We R" - Ke$ha - (11/13; 1 Week)
    The winner of the way better than it looks on paper award for 2010. Dr. Luke's beat is even busier than usual, with torrents of synth during the chorus and inspired vocal modulations during the bridge. Ke$ha's free associative flow during the intro reminds me a bit of Life Without Buildings, which is a compliment. This is the best Ke$ha song because Dr. Luke uses her voice as a sounding board for his techno dreams, rather than relying on her imbecilic rhymes, to launch a solid club track.

    "What's My Name" - Rihanna ft. Drake - (11/20; 1 week)
    On the one hand, "What's My Name" sports Drake's worst verse ever. On the other hand, Rihanna's chorus is her catchiest since "Disturbia." I'm a sucker for hooks, so the other hand wins BIG. Oh, and the square root of 69 is 8.30662386, in case anyone was wondering.

    "Only Girl (In the World)" - Rihanna - (12/4; 1 week)
    "Only Girl" boasts Rihanna's strongest vocal performance to date over a Eurodance beat (provided by Stargate). "Only Girl" expands upon Rihanna's newfound strength--she's the only girl who can make you feel like a man, so you better treat her like she's the only girl in the world. This track reminds me a little bit of the techno version of Bryan Adams' "Heaven," but Rihanna's strong vocals elevate the song above Eurotrash.

    "Raise Your Glass" - Pink - (12/11; 1 Week)
    "Why so serious?" has been Pink's mantra for a long time. She's never been afraid to poke fun at herself or others. Unfortunately, "Raise Your Glass" might as well be "Generic 2010 Pop Song," as it features all the elements. Teen pop, guitar rock and French house pureed into one indistinguishable mush, quiet verses and a LOUD chorus and lyrical clunkers like "don't get fancy, let's get dancey" and "if your too school for cool." Though I may not like all of Pink's songs, none of them are as boring as "Raise Your Glass."

    "Firework" - Katy Perry - (12/18, 12/25 (in 2010); 2 Weeks (in 2010))
    People keep on writing songs for Katy Perry that she simply does not have the pipes for. I keep thinking about what Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys would do with a song like this. I also keep thinking about the "Firework" video, in which fireworks explode out of Katy Perry's boobs. Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest pop star in the world!

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  • The Best Indie Songs of 2010 (through June)

    4. Aug. 2010, 3:49

    I’m a little late to the draw on this one, but here are the best Indie songs of the first half of 2010:

    Note: The definition of Indie Rock is particularly broad nowadays – it’s more of a state of mind than a musical genre. I consider Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem to be Indie bands, even though they do not make rock music (in the strictest sense). For these purposes, I consider Indie Rock to be anything that is widely covered by the alternative music press, spearheaded by Pitchfork and Stereogum (and other blogs of that nature). So, M.I.A. and Robyn would fit that broad category of Indie Music, along with disparate acts such as The National, the Knife, Spoon, etc.

    Honorable Mentions:
    Tell ‘Em”Sleigh Bells
    Wild Winds” – Free Energy (“Dream City” would have easily cracked the top five, but I first heard it last summer)
    Fast Jabroni” – Surfer Blood (“Swim” was a similar case to “Dream City,” as it might have topped this list, but it was released in late ’09)
    Friendly Ghost” – Harlem
    All I Want” – LCD Soundsystem
    King of Spain” – The Tallest Man on Earth (really, this is a stand-in for all of his songs on The Wild Hunt, which are equally excellent and almost indistinguishable from each other)

    The List:

    10. “Rhinestone Eyes” – Gorillaz

    I should say here that I could probably substitute this song with three or four songs (“Some Kind of Nature,” “Superfast Jellyfish,” “Sweepstakes,” “On Melancholy Hill”) from Plastic Beach and I would be just as satisfied. I had to choose “Rhinestone Eyes,” however, because it best creates the type of danceable apocalyptic dread that Gorillaz does so well. Though lyrics don’t really make much sense when you see them on paper, they paint some vivid images when you’re listening to the song (“your rhinestone eyes are like factories far away”) and overall reflect the album’s main theme of industry corrupting nature. There are all kind of weird, twinkly electronics that echo throughout the song, turning what would be a pedestrian, yet haunting, song into a symphony of synth. The synth breakdown that acts as a chorus is particularly effective, framing Damon Albarn’s verses and giving them a significance that they wouldn’t otherwise have. “Rhinestone Eyes” is the centerpiece of one of the year’s best albums and manages to combine all the best elements of the band’s sound into three minutes.

    9. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus

    If I were to break down the sound of Titus Andronicus, it would look something like this: the booze-stained Celtic Punk of the Pogues mixed with the epic Jersey rock of Springsteen, the anthemic pop-punk of the Thermals and the hardcore sound and story-telling sense of Husker Du. These are all bands that I love, and Titus Andronicus manages to fuse their sounds into an ambitious form of prog-punk-bar band hybrid that’s exhilarating to listen to. “A More Perfect Union” is the opening track of their latest album, The Monitor, and it is as good an entry point as any to the world of the band. It contains all the hallmarks: the snarling vocals, furiously strummed power chords, a great “oh oh oh oh” part, and lyrics stuffed with references to history, literature and rock music (Sample lyrics: “I don’t wanna change the world/I’m just looking for a new New Jersey/Because tramps like us/baby we were born to DIE!” and “Glory, glory Hallelujah, his truth is marching on!”). The song kicks into gear about halfway through, when an Irish guitar lick gives way to an entirely new melody for a few minutes, and then returns to its main riff at the very end. It’s always good to hear a straight-up rock song that still manages to surprise you, but Titus Andronicus seem to do it every time out.

    8. “Norway” – Beach House

    The first line of “Norway,” represents the trajectory of Beach House as a whole before the release of Teen Dream earlier this year: “We were sleeping until you came along.” On Teen Dream, instead of merely sleeping (as, honestly, I was before the end of their last album, Devotion), Beach House are dreaming, lending all of their songs an otherworldly and magical feel. I’m not sure what instrument they’re using at the beginning of “Norway,” but it’s entrancing and when meshed with the ethereal female backing vocals, it’s transcendent. Despite the multi-layered track and the large number of instruments used in the song, “Norway” still feels wonderfully delicate and understated.

    7. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” – The National

    The key to listening to “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” the most straightforwardly anthemic song on High Violet, The National’s latest, is to pay attention to the performance of the drummer, Bryan Devendorf. Notice how much more active he is than the rest of the band. It’s a great performance that adds a sense of urgency to singer Matt Berninger’s contemplative monotone, as well as kicking what could have been a standard rock song into high gear. When the rest of the song finally catches up to the drums in the final minute, it’s a revelation. While it seems as if some of the virtuosity has left rock music, it’s great to hear a showcase like this, especially from a band as normally laid-back as the National.

    6. “Excuses” – The Morning Benders

    “Excuses” starts off in a fairly similar manner to Beach House’s “Norway,” but instead of building on the slow intro, the Morning Benders change gears entirely, morphing “Excuses” into what a 50’s-style ballad would sound like if performed by The Walkmen (this is a big compliment). “Excuses” is essentially a doo-wop ballad, but mastered with a George Martin-esque studio sheen, even mixing in a “dum-da-da-dum” vocal section in the middle eight, mixed with 60’s strings and a modern Indie sensibility. If all of that seems like a jumble of musical references, it’s because I can’t exactly find the right one to describe “Excuses,” a song that I heard for the first time in April, but feel like I’ve known my entire life. It’s one of those songs that draws so deeply and successfully from music’s past that it sounds achingly familiar even at the first listen.

    5. "I Feel Better" - Hot Chip

    Hot Chip have proven to be the most reliable creators of dancefloor anthems since Daft Punk in the early 00s. One Life Stand is full of inventive electronic tracks that work equally well outside of a club as inside. “I Feel Better” is marked by grandiose strings and liberal usage of a vocoder, and even some steel drums in the background. Though the backing track could be cheesy in the wrong hands, Hot Chip usually manages to straddle the line between the embarrassing and the sublime like no other, and “I Feel Better” falls squarely in the latter category.

    4. "Go Outside" - Cults

    Most of the bands on this list are established artists with at least one great album to their name, though it's often more fun when a great song comes out of nowhere. It's safe to say that "Go Outside" came out of nowhere. Cults doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. Riding a glockenspiel intro and a melody so simple and beautiful it seems impossible that it's never been recorded before, "Go Outside" is a beautiful summer anthem with airy, boy-girl harmonies and a gorgeous chorus/bridge.

    3. "Round and Round" - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

    "Go Outside" came out of nowhere and "Round and Round" blindsided me in a similar way. Apparently, however, Ariel Pink has been around for over a decade, making some pretty good music. When did this happen? Ariel Pink is a man? When Before Today (great album by the way) came out critics hailed it as the product of a prodigious talent finally making good on his ability (sorta like when Kevin Garnett finally won a title). I approached Before Today without hearing any of his previous work and "Round and Round" stuck out immediately. Though some of Ariel Pink's earlier work is a little rough around the edges, "Round and Round" is almost creamy, hearkening back to New Wave ballads of the early 1980s, or more recently to M83's Saturdays = Youth. Everything about this song is fun, from the xylophone or marimba (or whatever percussion instrument it is) that accompanies the drums, to the synthesized voices in the background of the verses and chorus and the falsetto harmonies in the chorus. "Round and Round" is the culmination of an entire life's work and of an artist appealing to his most basic pop instincts to create something wonderful.

    2. "I Can Change" - LCD Soundsystem

    "I Can Change" is the best song on the best album of the half-year. No one in the history of pop music has had such a great ear for an irresistible groove as James Murphy. The key to LCD's success is that Murphy combines these grooves with fantastic lyrics that manage to poetically summarize the modern condition in five-minute slices. Here, Murphy attempts to fix a broken relationship over bouncy synths and churning guitar. Though the beat and lyrics are great, it's Murphy's voice that steals the show on "I Can Change" bending words to his will, high and low, turning repetition into an art form.

    1. "Cousins" - Vampire Weekend

    Everyone knew that Vampire Weekend could write a catchy, layered, 2 and a half minute pop song with tongue-twisting and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. "Cousins" certainly delivers on that front. What people didn't know: these guys can flat out PLAY! "Cousins" is a sonic assault, with machine gun drums, a ridiculously demanding bassline and rapid-fire streams of guitar. The music video does a pretty good job of breaking down just how complex the song is: more detail and invention is squeezed into these two and a half minutes than many bands have put on record during their entire careers. The idiosyncratic drum beat, with its snare rolls and what sounds like a washboard is fantastic to behold and gives the song a ferocious energy that does not let up until the very end. Just when it seems like the song is going to go into overdrive, in come the church bells, providing a perfect capper to one of the most ambitious and breathtaking songs of the past few years.

    also posted here:
  • Reviewing the Billboard Number One Hits of 2009

    18. Jun. 2010, 20:27

    2009 – The weirdest year for number ones in a long time.

    2009 was actually a fairly decent year for pop music. For the most part, the radio pop was harmless and occasionally enjoyable. However, this is not represented in this year’s slate of number ones, one of the weakest in a long time. With the exception of one superstar in the making (you can guess who), none of the new artists who reached number one seem to have any staying power whatsoever. I doubt we’ll be hearing too much from Jason DeRulo or (hope to god) Owl City in the next decade. This year’s #1s would probably be much more interesting if it weren’t for the Black Eyed Peas’ 26-week reign of terror. The Black Eyed Peas inexplicably dominated the middle of the year, with two seemingly forgettable, not even that catchy songs. The last time one artist dominated a year like this was in 2004, when Usher dominated the charts. In 2004, it was clear that Usher was the biggest star in the world, while the Black Eyed Peas seemed to generate mostly “meh”s, as “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow” stayed at the top spot. The 26 straight weeks the BEPs stayed atop the charts was clearly a record, but does that mean that they were more dominant than the Bee Gees in 1977? Neither of the songs seemed particularly ubiquitous over the summer (#2’s “Best I Ever Had” and “Party in the USA” seemed to have more radio play and more water-cooler discussion) and it seems unlikely that either of these low-IQ hookfests will stand the test of one year, let alone 30. Whatever. Talking about this too much makes me sad, let’s head on to the hits:

    Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)Beyonce – (12/13/2008; 12/27/2008-1/10/09) (4 weeks)

    Reviewed in the 2008 list

    Just DanceLady Gaga ft. Colby O’Donis – (1/17-1/31) (3 weeks)
    Though this was Lady Gaga’s first hit, it showcases almost none of the musical chops or irresistible catchiness of some of her later songs. Gaga didn’t have her coming out party until a couple weeks after this. Listening to this song, it isn’t hard to understand why some people (including myself) believed that Ms. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta would be a flash-in-the-pan one-hit wonder. Just Dance doesn’t feature any of Gaga’s trademark techniques or vocal tics and exudes almost no personality. Stupid lyrics and a “Konvict” chant in the beginning leant credence to my theory that she was another useless cookie cutter pop singer. Luckily, her next singles proved us wrong, but Just Dance is fairly unimpressive and annoying.

    My Life Would Suck Without YouKelly Clarkson – (2/7-2/14) (2 weeks)
    This is a transparent attempt by Clarkson to recapture the popularity of “Since U Been Gone” (which actually only reached number 2). The opening guitar lick and the soft-LOUD-soft dynamic are obvious callbacks to her greatest hit. However, this song conveys the opposite message of Since U Been Gone, and to me it shows a disconcerting regression in her attitude, as in the first song she was an independent woman who did not need a man in her life, but now she’s begging a man to take her back. Since U Been Gone is an almost impossible standard to live up to (I love that song), but I don’t think the song stands well on its own either. It’s nice to see some (non-synthesized) guitars on the top of the charts though, because this is sorta it for guitar in 2009.

    Crack A BottleEminem ft. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent – (2/21) (1 week)
    These three men ruled the roost in the beginning and middle of the decade, as everything they touched turn to gold. The Dr. Dre-Eminem tree of influence dominated rap and popular charts and 50 was the biggest star of any kind in the world. Since then, Eminem has suffered a personal break down, entering rehab and suffering more familial drama with Kim and his mother and lost his best friend, Proof, who was murdered. Dr. Dre was still producing beats for young artists he wanted to promote, but he stopped rapping after his excellent Chronic 2001 record. 50 ran out of things to rap about after he transformed himself from David to Goliath and had an ill-advised beef with Kanye. Now he spends most of his time shilling for Vitamin Water. None of these men are on top of their game on this track, but it’s nice to see Aftermath return to number one. Dr. Dre’s clearly ghostwritten guest rap is pedestrian, and so is 50’s. Eminem hasn’t been the same since The Marshall Mathers LP and he never really seems comfortable on club jams or crowd pleasing songs like this one and none of his Shady persona is evident on this track. It’s sad to see an Eminem who lacks any of the fire that he used to bring to even the most meaningless guest appearances, but this is a mostly serviceable club track, since even Dre’s worst beat is better than 99% of his imitators’ best.

    Right RoundFlo Rida ft. Ke$ha – (2/28-4/4) (6 Weeks)
    Flo Rida is a rare beast: a rapper with absolutely no personality. He doesn’t claim to be from the streets or anything. He never seems to show up on TV and he never talks about himself in any of his songs. The only things we know about him are a) he has money, b) he likes to spend it on jewelry and strippers, and c) he’s from Florida. His music isn’t very distinctive either. He seems to have the same musical approach as Puff Daddy in the late 90s – play on people’s nostalgia to compensate for lack of creativity and rhyming skills. This song uses the great “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record” by Dead or Alive and adds basically nothing, just altering the chorus to include more innuendo. Out of left-field surprise: Ke$ha, who sings half the chorus on this song and contributes nothing else, has the current number one hit (the first of the new decade, so not reviewed ‘til next year), “Tik Tok,” a semi-pleasant slice of electropop. This song, however, is derivative as they come and not even terrible in the way of some Rick Ross songs. Just average.

    Poker Face – Lady Gaga – (4/11) (1 week) (it was number two for several weeks afterwards)
    This song marked the true emergence of one of the most interesting and original pop stars this decade: Lady (probably) Gaga. Of the four major Gaga songs of 2009 (Just Dance, Poker Face, Paparazzi, Bad Romance), the better two failed to reach number one. Poker Face, though, is among the best pure pop songs of the year. Though the poker metaphor is a little weak (“I wanna hold ‘em like they do in Texas, please!”), the chorus is irresistible and the oh-oh-oh’s dare you not to sing along. This song is where the Gaga/Madonna comparisons really began to stick – along with the constant changing appearance and spacey, less-than-intelligent interviews, Gaga shares the ability to write a song that appeals to the masses, fills dancefloors and gives critics and snobs hope that the pop landscape will not always be barren. And Eric Cartman does a mean rendition too (definitely better than Weezer’s).

    A Christmas gift for you:

    Boom Boom PowBlack Eyed Peas – (4/18 – 7/4) (12 Weeks (?!))
    This song is unspeakably stupid, but so are some of the best songs of all time (“Louie Louie”). What sets this song apart as one of the worst songs of he decade is the in-your-face, almost proud stupidity displayed by Fergie and friends. Everyone knows the horrible “I’m so 3008, you’re so two thousand and late” line, but that’s probably the wittiest moment of lyricism on the track. Sure it’s catchy, but so is a car alarm. Awful song.

    I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas – (7/11 – 10/10)
    Oh, how this song is retarded! Let me list the ways:
    - The title – The song is called I Gotta Feeling. However, the word “gotta” is an English slang term for “got to.” Therefore, the title of this song roughly translates “I Got To Feeling,” which makes no sense.
    - The intro repeats for the first 1 ½ minutes of the song with absolutely no variation. There is a difference between a catchy melody and a melody that sticks in your head because of constant repetition. BEP seems to be unable to realize the distinction.
    - The lyrics - Though the Peas often set the bar for terrible lyrics in a pop song, but I Gotta Feeling take the cake – “Mazel Tov, take it off!” – Mazel Tov is a greeting used at many important celebrations such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Weddings, where the “take it off!” command would be completely inappropriate.
    - “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…” – This is unacceptable. You can’t just list the days of the week. This isn’t the Happy Days song. This isn’t Sesame Street. should go die in a fire.

    Really, my main problem with the Black Eyed Peas is how they don’t even try to make their songs palatable to intelligent music listeners. I like to have faith in the American public and their ability to differentiate good from bad, but sometimes my faith betrays me and stupid wins. The Black Eyed Peas constantly appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that earns them platinum records and Grammy nominations (Grammy voters might actually be the lowest common denominator). I am a strong advocate of the belief that a great pop song is great art, and that FutureSex/LoveSounds can be mentioned in the same breath as Funeral on a best albums of the decade list. However, the Peas exist solely to confirm the haters’ beliefs that Pop music is a load of crap and has been since the 60’s ended. And for that, I hate them and these two songs with fiery passion.

    Bonus list: Songs that Only Peaked at Number 2 behind the Black Eyed Behemoth (in order of preference):

    You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift – 8/10
    Best I Ever Had – Drake – 8/10
    I Know You Want Me – Pitbull - 7/10
    Run This Town – Jay-Z – 6.5/10
    Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus – 5.5/10
    Blame It – Jamie Foxx – 4/10

    Any one of these songs would have been a much better number one than either of the BEP songs

    DownJay Sean ft. Lil Wayne – (10/17; 10/31) (2 Weeks)
    "Honestly, I'm down like the economy." – Seriously, Lil Wayne makes any song about 35% better by default. Even though this isn’t one of his very best verses, it takes a mediocre, somewhat run-of-the mill R&B song, only notable because of the nationality of the singer, and makes it enjoyable. I’m gonna miss Weezy when he goes to jail, though he’ll still probably will find some way to record.

    3Britney Spears – (10/24) (1 Week)
    Britney Spears rejoins the man responsible for making her career, Max Martin. However, this time, the results are far less memorable, as Britney does not retain the same force of personality that she exuded when she burst onto the scene as a 18-year-old. This is fairly standard dance pop, with no real wrinkles except for the falsetto in the pre-chorus, which I can take or leave. This is probably ‘09’s least distinctive number one, which is odd, because even when they’re terrible, Britney songs usually seem more interesting or important than a song by an average imitator.

    FirefliesOwl City – (11/7; 11/21) (2 Weeks)
    What a douche. Seriously. Everyone knows you were ripping off The Postal Service, and then you had to go and deny it? Come on! “Fireflies” is a clear rip off of the entire Give Up aesthetic, with the sensitive Indie vocals over the electronic backdrop. Though Postal Service/Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard’s lyrics are a little clunky, they are heartfelt, sweet and innocent and Gibbard sings with enough sincerity to sell them. That douche from Owl City does not. His vocals are a pale imitation of Gibbard’s. His lyrics are atrocious – every cliché in the emo book shows up somewhere (“Cause everything is never as it seems,” “I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,” “Please take me away from here”). The bleeps at the beginning seem to be a conscious effort to remind the listener of Such Great Heights. However, the other half of the Postal Service, Jimmy Tamborello brought an elegance and complexity to the programmed beats, and they fit the sensibilities of Gibbard perfectly. Owl City’s beat sounds like it would soundtrack an airline safety video and has the subtlety of that Black Eyed Peas song. Terrible. I feel like calling him a Postal Service rip-off gives him too much credit.

    One more unrelated gripe – Make another album, Postal Service! It’s been seven years! The market is perfect! If shit like this can reach number one, imagine what your next single could do! Maybe I’m giving the American public too much credit (probably, considering the BEP’s dominance of the charts).

    Whatcha Say - Jason Derulo - (11/14) (1 week)
    Though interesting for sampling that Imogen Heap song, Whatcha Say ultimately fails from a lack of talent. Jason Derulo had a great idea to sample Hide and Seek, but couldn't deliver with more than a third-rate pop song. I'm not sure that the sample fits the lyrics too well and Derulo himself gets lost in the sample, which is practically unaltered from the original track. Possibly the weirdest #1 of the year, but nothing special.

    Empire State Of MindJay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – (11/28-12/26)
    As a lifelong Yankee fan and New York resident, I’m not exactly an unbiased observer here, as the song was the unofficial anthem for the team’s World Series victory. That said, every observation that Jay-Z makes about the city rings true and makes me long to hop on the Metro North and walk around Midtown with the song blasting out of my headphones. Though Jay isn’t at his best here, he mostly refrains from boasting about himself (which comprises the rest of Blueprint 3) to pay tribute to the city he loves. The chorus, though, is the best thing Alica Keys has ever recorded. It is suitably epic and as the minimalist verses give way to the huge chorus, it feels like walking from 42nd street into Time Square, or standing on top of the Empire State Building (not exactly obscure New York references, but this song calls for big comparisons). Love this song.

    Summary: Most of the number ones were at least average, but the entire year was bogged down by the 26-week black (eyed) hole in the summer (and the awful Owl City song). Take 5 weeks away from both Black Eyed Peas songs and evenly distribute them between “Poker Face,” “You Belong With Me,” “Best I Ever Had” and “I Know You Want Me,” then this year is a best of decade candidate for number ones. Oh well. Here’s to hoping that the nation outgrows the Black Eyed Peas in the next decade just like we outgrew shitty acts like Boyz II Men and boy and girl groups this decade.
  • My Life According to...Guided By Voices

    25. Jul. 2009, 23:50

    I picked these guys because they have the most interesting song titles

    Pick your Artist:
    Guided by Voices

    Describe yourself: I Am a Scientist

    How do you feel: Awful Bliss

    Describe where you currently live: The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory

    If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Big Chief Chinese Restaurant

    Your favorite form of transportation: Striped White Jets

    Your best friend is: Kicker of Elves

    What's the weather like: Alright

    Favorite time of day: Ester's Day

    If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Watch Me Jumpstart

    What is life to you: Game of Pricks

    Your fear:Evil Speakers

    What is the best advice you have to give: Demons Are Real

    Thought for the Day: You're Not an Airplane

    How I would like to die: Tractor Rape Chain

    My soul's present condition: Smothered In Hugs

    My motto: As We Go Up, We Go Down
  • How I Got Into My Top 20

    23. Feb. 2009, 5:35

    Post your top 20 bands/artists, the first song you heard of theirs, the song that made you fall in love, and your current favorite.

    These current favorites are not necessarily my all time favorites by these artists, but the ones I'm listening to most frequently right now.

    1. The Beatles
    First: Yellow Submarine
    Love: A Day in the Life
    Current: Tomorrow Never Knows

    2. Elvis Costello/Elvis Costello & The Attractions
    First: Blame It On Cain
    Love: (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
    Current: Opportunity

    3. Kanye West
    First: Slow Jamz
    Love: Through the Wire
    Current: Gone

    4. Neil Young
    First: Heart of Gold
    Love: Old Man
    Current: Cinnamon Girl

    5. The Band
    First: Across the Great Divide
    Love: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
    Current: Though The Weight is my favorite Band song, I'm going with Stage Fright, since I've played it more often recently

    6. Bob Dylan
    First: Like a Rolling Stone
    Love: Like a Rolling Stone
    Current: Don't think Twice, it's alright

    7. The Rolling Stones
    First: Get Off My Cloud
    Love: You Can't Always Get What You Want
    Current: Tumbling Dice

    8. Pixies
    First: Where Is My Mind?
    Love: Where is My Mind?
    Current: Caribou

    9. Animal Collective
    First: Who Could Win a Rabbit
    Love: Grass
    Current: Brother Sport

    10. Flight of the Conchords
    First: The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)
    Love: Business Time
    Current: Hurt Feelings - Probably the best song they've ever done

    11. Radiohead
    First: Planet Telex
    Love: Fake Plastic Trees
    Current: Life in a Glass House

    12. Spoon
    First: The Way We Get By
    Love: The Way We Get By
    Current: Everything Hits at Once

    13. The Clash
    First: Rock the Casbah
    Love: London Calling
    Current: Complete Control

    14. The Hold Steady
    First: Stuck Between Stations
    Love: Your Little Hoodrat Friend
    Current: Lord, I'm Discouraged

    15. Jay-Z
    First: Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
    Love: 99 Problems
    Current: Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)

    16. David Bowie
    First: Suffragette City
    Love: Moonage Daydream
    Current: Sound and Vision

    17. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    First: Purple Haze
    Love: All Along the Watchtower
    Current: Bold As Love

    18. Tom Waits
    First: Ol' 55
    Love: Singapore
    Current: Jockey Full of Bourbon

    19. The Flaming Lips
    First: Do You Realize??
    Love: Race for the Prize
    Current: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1

    20. Bruce Springsteen
    First: Glory Days
    Love: Rosalita (Come out Tonight)
    Current: I'm on Fire
  • Top 25 on iTunes

    17. Jan. 2009, 15:59

    - Go to your iTunes Library Top 25 Most Played
    - Write one lyric from each song

    Guess which songs if you like.

    1. "I was following the pack, all swallowed in their coats, with scarves of red all round their throats, to keep their little heads, from falling in the snow, and I turn round and there you go."

    2. "All my friends were vampires, didn't know they were vampires. Turns out I was a vampire myself"

    3. It all started with a stumble
    And I get old and I get humble
    The sky cracked a million ways
    Making me blind

    4. "I pay my motha'uckin rent fortnightly, motha'uckas at the bank try to play me, and I'm out for my account cause out on A.P. (on AP!) Yeah, you know me."

    5. "It started when we were dancin'
    It got heavy when we got to the bathroom.
    We didn’t go back to her place,
    We went to some place where she cat-sits."

    6. "Anger, he smiles towering, in shiny metallic purple armor, green jealousy, envy, waits beside him, his fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground. Blue all the life-giving water taken for granted, they quietly understand. Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready, but wonder why the fight is on"

    7. "Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the charts, maybe if I worked with him I could perfect the art."

    8. "I got the money and the fame but that don't mean shit. I got the Jesus on the chain and it don't mean shit, cause when Jesus pieces can't bring me peace, sure I need just at least one of Russell's nieces on."

    9. "Now no one's knocked upon my door for a thousand years or more. All made up and nowhere to go. Welcome to this one man show."

    10. "You were born on a bad day, shot through with starlight. All the angels singing just about got it right."

    11. "So I took blah-blah's word for it at the time, I thought just having a friend couldn't be a crime. Cause I have friends, and that's a fact, like Agnes, Agatha, Jermaine and Jack."

    12. "Genghis Khan, he could not keep, all his kings supplied with sheep, we'll climb that hill no matter how steep, when we get up to it."

    13. "I remember Regulate, by Warren G, could that have been back in the sweet summer of 1993?"

    14. "Gotta keep it goin', keep the lovin' goin', keep it on a roll, only god knows, if I be with you, baby I'm confused, you choose you choose"

    15. "I'd like to see you, but maybe I should stay away and let you settle down. I've got no claims to your crown. I was the boss of you. And I loved you, you know I loved you, it's all over now."

    16. "Me and my friends are like the drums on 'Lust for Life.' We pound it out on floor toms. Our psalms are sing-a-long songs"

    17. "Hear the sound, Willie boy, the Flying Dutchman's on the reef. It's my belief we've used up all our time. This hill's too steep to climb and the days that remain ain't worth a dime."

    18. "She keeps insisting these sutures and bruises are none of my business. She says that she's sick, but she won't get specific. These sutures and bruises are none of my business. There's a guy on the South Side who comes down to visit. His visits they always take five or six minutes."

    19. "You're an American girl, red-headed eyes blank, living in a freckle on the face of the world. Another dying kid learned too much too soon, you're not as good as your mom, but you're as good as dead."

    20. "It's like finding home in an old folk song, that you've never ever heard, but you know every word. And for damn sure you sing along. But love it would be much better, I know."

    21. "But now we must pack up every piece of this life we used to love. Just to keep ourselves at least enough to carry on."

    22. "Sit down, sit down on the prow to wave bye. There might not be another star, further on the line. Look out. Look out at each town that glides by and there's another crowd to drown in shining eyes."

    23. "Oh, I'm still living, at the old address. And I'm waiting for the weather, that I know will pass. I know it's true, it's gonna be a good year!"

    24. "See when I got that Mercedes money I went and got a Mercedes. When I got that Bentley money, I went and got a Bentley. Now if you ain't help me make it, don't tell me how to spend it. And yes I know the rules, never marry Robin Givens."

    25. "Music scene is crazy, band start up each and every day. I saw another one just the other day. A special new band. I remember lying, but I don't remember lies. I don't remember what? But I don't care, I care, I really don't care. Have you seen the drummers' hair?"
  • Procrastinating

    12. Jan. 2009, 20:46

    1. How did you get into 29?
    Wilco: I heard Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for the first time a couple of years ago, which I downloaded after hearing Heavy Metal Drummer on the radio, by some strange chance.

    2. What was the first song you ever heard by 22?
    TV on the Radio: Staring At The Sun. After I heard it I downloaded all their albums and EPs (which was only two each at the time).

    3. How many albums by 13 do you own?
    Elvis Costello: 3 (My Aim Is True, King of America, This Year's Model), but 8 if you include my 5 Elvis Costello & the Attractions albums (Trust, Get Happy!!, Armed Forces, Imperial Bedroom, Blood & Chocolate) (they really need to merge those artists by the way).

    4. What is your favorite song by 15?
    Spoon: It has to be The Way We Get By, but with close competition from Everything Hits at Once

    5. What is your favorite song by 5?
    Kanye West: This is a really, really tough choice, but I'm going to have to go with Gone, but ask me tomorrow and I'll give you a different song.

    6. Is there a song by 6 that makes you happy?
    Bob Dylan: There are a lot, but number one has to be Like a Rolling Stone, not because it's particularly upbeat, but because the opening drum hit and the organ, along with Dylan's delivery are all so effortlessly badass.

    7. What is your favorite song by 10?
    David Bowie: Sound + Vision is the first among equals from the first side of Low

    8. What is a good memory you have involving 30?
    The Velvet Underground: The first time I heard Sweet Jane, it became one of my favorite songs. I listened to at least fifteen times on repeat the first time I heard it.

    9. Is there a song by 19 that makes you happy?
    The Hold Steady: You gotta Stay Positive!

    10. How many times have you seen 25 live?
    Four way tie here, but I've only ever seen Arcade Fire live

    11. What is the first song you ever heard by 23?
    Led Zeppelin: Rock and Roll

    12. What is your favorite album by 11?
    Radiohead: Hard to choose, but OK Computer takes the cake in terms of pure transcendence.

    13. Who is a favorite member of 1?
    Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Besides Elvis, it's gotta be Steve Nieve. He's a great organist and as a keyboardist myself, I've always admired him.

    14. Have you ever seen 14 live?
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Unfortunately, I was born in 1990 and my flux capacitor broke before I could go back to Woodstock.

    15. What is a good memory involving 27?
    Ghostface Killah: The first time I heard Nutmeg, I wrote down all the lyrics that made me laugh. I wound up writing down about 80% of the song.

    16. What is your favorite song by 16?
    The Flaming Lips: Gotta be Waitin' for a Superman (remix). The gong hit slays me every time.

    17. What is your favorite album by 18?
    Tom Waits: Rain Dogs is one of my favorite albums of the 1980s

    18. What is your favorite song by 21?
    Bruce Springsteen: Rosalita (Come out Tonight) is the first track where Bruce truly found his sound and is epic beyond belief.

    19. What is the first song you ever heard by 26?
    Pink Floyd: See Emily Play. I heard this song pretty early on since my sister is named Emily and my parents used to play it for her all the time (the creepiness of the song was lost on me back then)

    20. What is your favorite album by 2?
    The Beatles: I've always been partial to Abbey Road, even though they're all among the best albums ever recorded.

    21. What is you favorite song by 3?
    Neil Young: Cinnamon Girl, no question.

    22. What is your favorite song by 8?
    The Rolling Stones: This is probably the hardest choice of the questionnaire, so I'll say it's a tie between Gimme Shelter and You Can't Always Get What You Want

    23. How many times have you seen 17 live?
    Jens Lekman: Seriously, the next time he's in town, I'm getting tickets.

    24. What is the worst song by 12?
    Jay-Z: Probably '03 Bonnie and Clyde.

    25. What was the first song you ever heard by 28?
    Pavement: Cut Your Hair. I know, lame, but I first heard it on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.

    26. What is your favorite album by 7?
    Pixies: Surfer Rosa is fantastic, but Doolittle is more solid throughout.

    27. What is your favorite song by 24?
    Lil Wayne: His best non-mixtape track is probably Let The Beat Build, but his best featured track is We Takin Over

    28. Is there a song by 9 that makes you happy?
    The Clash: Rudie Can't Fail always brings a smile to my face, as does Revolution Rock

    29. What is your favorite album by 4?
    The Band: Their self-titled second album: The Band. Each one of those songs is amazing.

    30. How many albums do you own by 20?
    The New Pornographers: Mass Romantic and Twin Cinema
  • Shuffle Questionnaire

    8. Jan. 2009, 1:29

    1. I'm on Fire
    2. Welcome to the Jungle
    3. Kiss the Children
    4. Twin Falls
    5. Secretarial
    6. Sparks
    7. Hercules Theme
    8. Oh Yeah
    9. Bye Bye Love
    10. No Children
    11. If You Want Me To Stay
    12. Loves of a Gnostic
    13. Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
    14. Rhineland (Heartland)
    15. Welcome To The Working Week
    16. Heartless
    17. Like Dylan at the Movies
    18. Agoraphobia
    19. Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?
    20. It's Me Bitches (Remix)
    21. I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
    22. She's A Jar
    23. The Denial Twist
    24. Iceblink Luck
    25. It's a Man's Man's Man's World
    26. This is the dream of Evan and Chan
    27. Can't Knock The Hustle
    28. Motorist
    29. Yeah!
    30. I Had To Say This
    31. So What
    32. Start Choppin'
    33. Black River Killer
    34. He Gives Us All His Love
    35. Sign O The Times
    36. Around the World
    37. When under ether
    38. Here Comes A Regular
    39. The Chain
    40. Eye Know

    01. Which song do you prefer, #1 or #40?

    02. Have you ever listened to #12 continuously on repeat?

    03. What album is #26 from?
    Life Is Full of Possibilities

    04. What do you think about the artist who did #15?
    The fucking man, and also my number one most played of

    05. Is #19 one of your favorite songs?
    No, but it's one of my favorite songs from that album

    06. Who does #38 remind you of?
    The last guy sitting at a bar on a Tuesday night

    07. Does #20 have better lyrics or music?
    It's a toss up. The beat is great, but the lyrics are hilarious.

    08. Do any of your friends like #3?
    I don't know if any of my friends have ever heard of Gram Parsons

    09. Is #33 from a movie soundtrack?
    Not yet.

    10. Is #18 overplayed on the radio?
    Not at all. If they played Deerhunter on the radio, I'd be very happy

    11. What does #21 remind you of?
    Morrissey with half a gallon of milk

    12. Which song do you prefer, #5 or #22?

    13. What album is #17 from?
    If You're Feeling Sinister

    14. When did you first hear #39?
    On classic rock radio when I was around 13

    15. When did you first hear #7?
    Back in January

    16. What genre is #8?
    , but really much more than that

    17. Do any of your friends like #14?
    I hope so.

    18. What color does #4 remind you of?

    19. Have you ever blasted #11 on your stereo?
    Many times.

    20. What genre is #37?
    Indie rock

    21. Can you play #13 on any instrument?
    I could if I tried on the piano

    22. What is your favorite lyric from #30?
    I have never really been here If I am alive
    Am I just a photograph inside a printed night?

    23. What is your favorite lyric from #23?
    If you think that a kiss is all in the lips, then you've got it all wrong!

    24. Would you recommend #24 to your friends?
    Probably not.

    25. Is #2 a good song to dance to?
    "When you're high you never, ever wanna come down"
    That means yes.

    26. Have you ever heard #16 on the radio?
    I did yesterday

    27. Is #32 more of a "nighttime" or "daytime" song?
    Daytime. A great song to play at about 1 'o clock in the afternoon

    28. Does #36 have any special meaning to you?
    It was the first electronic song I ever liked

    29. Do any of your friends like #31?
    Nearly all of my girl friends, and some guy friends, like that song, but an equal amount hate it.

    30. Is #25 a fast or slow song?

    31. Is #35 a happy or sad song?
    It's funky as shit, but it's about the apocalypse, so probably not happy.

    32. What is one of your favorite lyrics from #9?
    Bye bye, love.
    Bye bye, happiness.
    Hello, loneliness.
    I think I'm a-gonna cry-y

    33. Is #34 better to listen to alone or with friends?
    Definitely alone.

    34. When did you first hear #27?
    A few years ago when I first heard Reasonable Doubt

    35. Name 3 other songs by the artist who did #29:
    Love In This Club
    Confessions Pt. 2

    36. Do you know all the words to #6?
    It's an instrumental, so I guess so.

    37. Does #28 have better lyrics or music?

    38. What album is #10 from?
  • Reviewing Every Billboard Hot 100 #1 Hit in the Year 2008

    5. Jan. 2009, 20:03

    Unlike in the previous years of this decade, there wasn't really a dominating trend that drove pop music. It seems as if Auto-tune is more than just a trend, since T-Pain and Rihanna had great years once again, and even artists like Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg used it in monster hits this year. One of the more notable, and one of my favorite things that happened this year, was that Lil Wayne exploded from an internet phenom into international stardom. Unfortunately, his worst song was the one that reached number one. Before this recap, I didn't really think that this was a great year for pop music, but irealized that most of these #1s are at least solid, even though there is no amazing song like last year's Umbrella, and some of them are very good. The public did a pretty good job choosing which songs should reach #1. Anyway, I'd just like to add that this year was a bitch to recap, since so many songs traded off spots at number one, probably due to Billboard's increasing reliance on online sales.

    Low - Flo Rida ft. T- Pain: 1/5-3/8 (10 Weeks)
    It's hard to remember now, but the first two and a half months or so of '08 were dominated by Flo Rida, or more accurately T-Pain. I'm not sure if there is any number one in the history of pop music that's popularity had less to do with the album artist than this one. The popularity of this song is almost completely due to T-Pain and his instantly catchy, but endlessly annoying auto-tuned chorus. Flo Rida is barely here. I can hardly understand what he's saying most of the time and when I can understand it, it is bland and derivative. This song caused many a suburban housewife to ask their kids "What are apple bottom jeans?"

    Love In This Club - Usher ft. Young Jeezy: 3/15-3/29 (3 Weeks)
    The first time I heard this song, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a banger like Yeah, but instead a slower, more "romantic" song. However, the song quickly grew on me as I gradually understood that the beat was amazing in its own right. When I learned that producer Palow da Don created the beat on Garage Band, I was even more impressed. It took me a bit, but I loved the song even more when I figured out that Usher was being completely literal, saying that he wants to make love to this girl right now. On the dancefloor. In front of everybody. "If we close our eyes it could be just me and you," he says. Anyway, Young Jeezy shows up for a standard guest rap, but his raspy voice sounds great against the stuttering synth. The piano arpeggios seal the deal and make this song one of the best of the year. Also, this video:

    Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis: 4/5, 4/26, 5/10-17 (4 remarkably unconsecutive weeks)
    This is a standard big voiced ballad from Britain's new Mariah sound-a-like Leona Lewis. The song is a standard 50's progression with big drums and a big, catchy chorus. However, I have to say it's very effective and better than anything Mariah has done in at least a decade. The lyrics are pretty dumb, but Leona makes the most of it, especially after the key change and she really starts belting, at around the 3:00 mark. Not bad, not great, but about as good as this type of song can get.

    Touch My Body - Mariah Carey: 4/12-19 (2 Weeks)
    My main problem with Mariah is that she has such a great voice, but she has no idea how to use it, which is one of the reasons why I hated her 2005 mega hit We Belong Together. This is a song that anyone could sing and Mariah's amazing voice is completely wasted. The writers should've just thrown this one at Jessica Simpson and give Mariah something challenging. At least she doesn't overdo it and belt her lungs out and go on the those completely unnecessary vocal runs. The track is musically uninteresting and completely unoriginal, and the uselessness of the song is enhanced by the fact that I don't find Mariah particularly attractive. One extra point for Kenneth the Page in the music video.

    Lollipop - Lil Wayne ft. Static Major: 5/3, 5/31-6/21 (5 Weeks)
    This is the sound of a rapper selling out. As much as I love Lil Wayne, I really can't stand this song. Lil Wayne basically drowns himself in his vocoder and barely even raps. The vocal hooks are unoirginal and basically every line he uses in this song is borrowed from his earlier work, even his "so sweet makes you want to lick the (w)rapper" line. The song really starts to piss me off when he bites "My Humps." Really, Wayne? Really? It's way too long and grating after one or two lyrics. The beat is nothing special and the concept was old when 50 Cent talked about his lollipop. However, I guess the ends justify the means and the song helped the excellent Tha Carter III become the best-selling album of the year. Weezy is a smart man.

    Take a Bow - Rihanna: 5/24 (1 week)
    This song is simultaneously Rihanna's victory lap after her amazing 2007 and her attempt at topping Irreplaceable. The song is a simple piano ballad that, I'm sorry to say, as much as I love Rihanna, she simply does not have the pipes for. It's boring and forgettable. Enters one ear, leaves through the other. Sorry, Rihanna, if you're reading (a man can dream), but this is your worst song.

    Viva la Vida - Coldplay: 6/28 (1 Week)
    Hey look, guys! Modern rock! To paraphrase Being John Malkovich, it doesn't seem like anyone is looking for a rock song in today's wintry economic climate. I'm impressed that Coldplay reached number one. However, I've never liked Coldplay. My complaints about Coldplay are basically the same as everyone elses: indecipherable lyrics, music for people who don't like music, a homeless man's Radiohead, incredibly gay, etc. However, I think that this is probably Coldplay's best song since Clocks and it doesn't really sound like anything I've ever heard by the band. It is decent and listenable. However, just because it doesn't sound like anything the band has ever done does not mean it is original, since Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay for plagiarism for this song. He's doing what U2 and Radiohead should've done years ago.

    I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry: 7/5-8/16 (7 Weeks)
    Let me preface this review by saying that Katy Perry is a very, very attractive woman. That said, this song sucks balls. Just major balls. She tries to sound like Joan Jett, but she winds up sounding like a sexually confused Fall Out Boy. Also, the utter stupidity of the line "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" pisses me off every time. What guy isn't turned on by his girlfriend kissing some other girl? The song tries to be edgy, but winds up being just as much of a gimmick as Lollipop. A forgettable bridge featuring lines like "Us girls we are so magical," is the icing on the awful, awful cake.

    Disturbia - Rihanna: 8/23-30 (2 Weeks)
    "Bum bum be-dum bum bum be dum bum"
    It's in you head now, isn't it? Easily the catchiest song of the year, it's also one of the best. It's easy to forget that the song is about mental illness (not really though, the words are completely unimportant). Though she's often left out of the auto-tune conversation, it is essential to her sound. It gives her a detached persona that work great for songs like these. She uses the auto-tune as an artistic tool, not a cheap gimmick. She sounds like a sex robot from the year 2775. The verses are great, the chorus is great, and the bridge is fantastic. I really love this song.
    "Bum bum be-dum bum bum be dum bum"
    10/10 (rounded up from a 9.5)

    Whatever You Like - T.I.: 9/6-20; 10/4-11; 11/1-8 (7 Weeks)
    I really love this song. This song was produced by the same guy who produced Lollipop (Jim Jonsin) and it shows. The strong is structurally similar to Lollipop. They both feature a southern rapper who barely raps on the song. However, where Wayne fails, T.I. knocks it out of the park. T.I. is much more comfortable rapping over this type of beat and his style translates much better to a more mainstream song than Wayne does. It has great synth overtones including a bubbly square sound echoing the melody and a heavy saw providing the bassline. Tip glides over the beat and sounds like the smoothest man alive. The synth outro is great as well. It's no What You Know, but what is? I would argue that this is probably the song of the year, considering the amount of time on top of the charts and its cultural cachet (it spawned many parodies including one by Weird Al).
    Also, this video:
    And this:

    So What - P!nk: 9/27 (1 Week)
    A deliciously stupid/clever kiss off to her ex-husband. I have hated absolutely everything that P!nk has ever done up until this song. However, as soon as I heard the opening guitar lick of this song followed by the line "I guess I just lost my husband, I don't know where he went", I realized there's a first time for everything. The song is catchy as hell, with memorable verses and a big chorus, in which she calls her ex a tool. P!nk, for the first time, actually is believably angry and gives a great vocal performance. However, during the verses, she falls back into some of the things that makes me hate P!nk so much, like gratuitous insults of blonde bimbos ("Jessica Simp-shit," is a pretty stupid line) and repetitive lyrics (Is someone gonna start a fight? Are you sure?), which keeps me from giving this song anything more than:

    Live Your Life - T.I. ft. Rihanna: 10/18; 11/15-12/6; 12/20 (6 Weeks)
    2008 was a very interesting year for T.I., to say the least. He was under house arrest for almost the entire year, after he was arrested for illegal purchase of an automatic weapon. This caused a creative renaissance for the man and 2008 became T.I.'s best year by far, at least in the commercial sense. T.I. enlists fellow 2008 MVP candidate Rihanna to sing a chorus that samples the Numa Numa Song and deliver one of the catchiest hooks of the year. When I first heard the Just Blaze beat, it bothered me a bit. However, in further listens, I realized that the beat was meticulously constructed and filled with details that reward repeat listens. T.I. dedicates the song to the troops, but the song could also easily be about his struggles with the law and himself, trying to simply live his life. T.I.'s flow is great, but his lyrics are besides the point, and Rihanna gives us a fantastic bridge. All of this is secondary however, to the monstrous chorus, giving the simplest and possibly most poignant message of the year:
    "Just live your life, ayyyyyyyyy"

    Womanizer - Britney Spears: 10/25 (1 Week)
    God I hate this song. By an immense stroke of luck, Katy Perry does not have the worst #1 of 2008. As far as I can tell, there are only about four words in this song and three of them are "womanizer." Her voice is particularly grating on this one. This song is rivaled only by Fergie's London Bridge in its ability to give me a migraine. Song, I know just what you are: Shitty song, oh shitty song, you're just a shitty song.

    Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) - Beyoncé: 12/13; 12/27-Present (Four Weeks, so far)
    We've saved the best for last. This song was easily the most minimalist on the charts in 2008, and possibly the best. The beat is basically some electronic toms, handclaps, some synth during the chorus and bridge and that siren noise that repeats throughout the song like a warning for all the men in the world and a call to arms for all the women. Beyonce gives possibly the best vocal performance of her career. After a quiet '07, Beyonce came roaring back to remind the Britneys and Katy Perrys of the world how a real single lady should behave and perform, and also to remind them who is the reigning queen of pop music. Here's hoping this remains at number one for the forseeable future.

    Overall: This was a pretty good year for #1s, if not for pop music in general. Some great songs reached number one this year, and most of the crappy ones weren't that bad. We can owe this surprisingly good list of #1s to the internet, which allows for better songs to reach the top of the charts, as evidenced by the surge of popularity of great songs like Paper Planes. Here's to a great 2009.