pop music

Dispatches From The Mainstream: 2/15/2013

Kelly Clarkson – Catch My Breath

Kelly Clarkson is weirdly likeable. We should be resistant to her, because her entire career is non-organic and extremely forced. But I guess we love her because we picked her. You might even say that Kelly Clarkson is the last thing our country agreed on. The very next season of American Idol was beset with controversy about homophobia and missing votes. And even when someone actually does win American Idol these days, do we give them a career? Sometimes we do, but sometimes we end up with Taylor Hicks. Yeah, I said it.

I like Kelly Clarkson so much that I’m disappointed in myself whenever I don’t enjoy her current single, but I couldn’t stand “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” I’m no minimalist, but that junk was too noisy. The chorus was like the inside of a car factory. That entire album was kind of wash for singles, really: “Mr. Know It All” was a slightly less annoying version of “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars–but only slightly–and do you even remember “Dark Side?” I do, and I’m not too happy about it. I guess that was Kelly’s “unlistenable, non-catchy chorus” phase.

“Catchy My Breath” succeeds by dialing it back a little bit: “Stronger” was exhausting before the first verse even started, but this song uses a repetitive melody to great effect. The construction of the chorus is great, too: it’s simple and it gives Clarkson a chance to show off her fantastic voice. “Catch My Breath” also has that same life-affirming, in-your-face, no-screw-YOU power that “Stronger” had, but with a wider appeal—hey, people who aren’t escaping a toxic relationship need anthems, too! Just sayin’.

Rihanna feat. Future – Loveeeeeee Song

Rihanna’s music has always had a streak of unsentimental iciness. Maybe it’s because her voice doesn’t allow her to sound truly nurturing or emotional or any other stuff that codes as “feminine,” but there’s always been an air of hardness about her. Then in 2009 she went through some seriously bad stuff and put out Rated R, an album that channeled the darkness of her life into some of the most aggressive music ever to be put out by a pop diva. There aren’t a lot of MALE R&B stars that make music that aggressive.

Since then she’s gone back and forth between “dark” Rihanna and a more conventionally “feminine” role, ping-ponging between the two several times over the course of a single album. For example, “We Found Love” & “You da One” appeared on the same disc as “Talk That Talk,” “Cockiness” and—ugh—“Birthday Cake”. Unapologetic is no different, opening up with the aggressive and sonically unpleasant “Phresh Out The Runway,” switching back to love-struck-Rihanna for “Diamonds” then whipping around to “Pour It Up,” which sounds like it was pitched to about twenty different male artists before Rihanna snatched it up. Put it this way: when a female singer is talking about “strippers going up and down that pole,” you are dealing with some binary-breaking business.

“Loveeeeeee Song” is a more subtle inversion of gender norms than “Pour It Up,” but it’s more interesting because it pairs the a-typically aggressive Rihanna with Future, a rapper best known for his love of autotune and his unusual sensitivity. On the hook, Future pleads openly for “love and affection” without a hint of bravado or ego. In the verses, Rihanna plays a more guarded role, tossing out sexy come-ons and promising to “lay you down.” Not only is it one of the few listenable songs on Unapologetic, it’s a noteworthy pop song. Not because of how unusual it is, but because of how close it is to a normal Top-40 duet between a man and a woman. All Rihanna and Future did was trade places.

The Band Perry – “Better Dig Two”

I haven’t checked in with The Band Perry since “If I Die Young,” a song that was so poorly written I had trouble believing that the writer was almost 30 years old. Kimberly Perry is the first adult woman I’ve known whose death fantasies can rival those of a teenage LiveJournal user. Especially annoying was the winking bridge, with the lyrics, “maybe then you’ll hear the songs I’ve been singing/funny when you’re dead, how people start listening.” Not only is that a remarkably dull observation, it sounds like it belongs in a totally different song.

“Better Dig Two” wasn’t written by any of the band-members Perry, but it sure fits their lyrical style, right down to the fixation on white wedding dresses as a symbol of purity. The title and the music promise a much darker story than what we get–to me, it harkens back to that scene in A Fistful of Dollars when Clint Eastwood tells the guy how many coffins to build. So cool. Anyway, the chorus of “Better Dig Two” describes a woman who would rather die than go on living without her husband… but then the verses hint at a darker meaning to the titular phrase. She vaguely threatens to either kill herself or kill herself and her husband, which would be an interesting direction to go in if the song could just commit to it.

Other crimes include use of the contraction “I is”—as in, “I’s gonna love you till I’s dead”—and a jarring reference to meth in the middle of a song that otherwise sounds like it was written sixty years ago. The music is a step-up from “If I Die Young”, with handclaps and creepy banjo on the verses, and those electric guitars that take us right back into pop-country territory aren’t totally unwelcome. This is a muddled song that could be a fun little bit of darkness if the lyrics had gotten a second draft.

Dispatches From The Mainstream: 1/16/2013

Ludacris feat. Usher & David Guetta – Rest of My Life

Is someone trying to turn Ludacris into Pitbull? Because “Rest of My Life” is basically a remake of “Give Me Everything”—complete with the rallying cry of partying as a life-affirming act—with Usher standing in for Ne-Yo and the original breadwinner for D.T.P. in the place of Mr. Worldwide.

I’m not even complaining, really. Ludacris has enough personality in his voice alone to still be fun in the measly eight-line verses that Pitbull has restricted himself to, and a team-up with Usher is always welcome if just to hear Ludacris call him “Ursher.” A David Guetta-produced “here’s to life”-anthem just seems like an odd fit for a guy who once released an album called Chicken-n-Beer and whose two best songs are about getting into fights for no reason. Then again, one of Luda’s biggest hits was the uncharacteristically dramatic “Runaway Love,” so I guess most people are just looking for a different version of Ludacris than I am.

Whether this song is a case of executive meddling—entirely possible, as Luda’s recent singles have not been charting well—or just an artist exploring his secret love of European dance music, it’s not that bad. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the friction between Luda’s low-brow “Women, Weed and Alcohol”-based persona and D. Guetta’s unabashed pursuit of epic highs . The music video is especially bizarre, since Luda’s videos have historically been a little less “slow motion, emerging from the smoke” and a little more “giant cartoon hands” and “Austin Powers homage”. It’s a fun kind of bizarre, but I hope that Luda’s next single has a little more Luda.

Olly Murs feat. Flo-Rida – Troublemaker

Olly Murs is fine. He made a nice little career for himself in the UK before breaking through in America with “Heart Skips A Beat.” His only crime so far has been inadvertently tricking me into listening to Chiddy Bang. But I don’t want to talk about Olly Murs, I want to talk about Flo-Rida.

I don’t know if Flo-Rida has ever enjoyed rapping. The best things about his songs have always been the beat and the chorus. The chorus usually features a guest artist, but the weird thing is, Flo-Rida sings along with the chorus. He’s been doing it since “Low,” and while that sort of thing isn’t unusual for a singer, it’s kind of weird for a rapper. It’s there, though, if you listen closely: somewhere in the mix of every Flo-Rida chorus is the man himself, drenched in auto-tune and wailing along with whatever pop star/sample he’s built his song around.

Even in what we’ll charitably call Flo-Rida’s “lyrics,” the actual words have always taken a backseat to the rhythm he delivers them in. “Club Can’t Handle Me” is a fantastic song, but Flo’s verses are only good in the way they enhance the beat underneath. Then there are catastrophes like “I Cry,” which veers between condescending and disrespectful. Oh, really, Flo? The mass shooting in Norway made your whole day go sour? That’s rough, buddy. Not to mention the bridge: “When I need a healing, I just look up to the ceiling/I see the sun coming down, I know it’s all better now.” Flo is (probably) trying to tell us that his faith helps him through hard times, but it’s like he doesn’t know quite how to put the words together to form a coherent thought.

And now, in Troublemaker, Flo-Rida abandons rapping entirely. He’s just singing. It’s not as out-of-place as it would be if he featured on a rap song, but it’s still strange that he doesn’t even pretend to do the thing he was hired to do. Thing is, it’s not actually a bad bridge, even if it falls apart on close inspection: Flo, that’s not what Wyclef Jean was talking about when he said he would be gone ‘till November. It turned out better than it would have if he had tried to rap.

At this point, Flo needs to fully commit. He should go full-on 808s And Heartbreak (or, let’s be honest, full-on Rebirth) and just do an album full of straight singing. The vocals may be processed into oblivion, but at least it’ll be catchy… though the lyrics probably won’t make sense.

OneDirection – Little Things

In the morally deficient world of the “pickup artist” there’s this thing called “negging,” which basically means insulting a girl in order to lower her defenses, leaving her vulnerable to your lame, gross advances. The way I understand it, an effective neg has to be part of a longer, less overtly creepy conversation. After all, just walking up to a woman and insulting her isn’t going to get you anywhere; you have to at least say something nice so that she’ll have a reason to keep paying attention to you. Anyway, that’s what I think is happening in the new OneDirection song.

I’ve complained before about the darker side of OneDirection, and I understand that I’m being a little sensitive, but here’s the thing with boy bands: their songs are made to appeal to teenage girls. It’s different from a genre like hip-hop, which is highly problematic and often attracts a young audience, but at least isn’t built from the top-down to appeal to 12-year-olds. When you listen to the lyrics of an OneDirection song, you need to hear them the way a young girl would hear them.

And yeah, I get it: most girls are going to listen to this song and take it the way it was meant to be taken, as a proclamation of devotion in which the smaller, flawed things about a person are part of what make them special. I’m not against that in theory, but some of the things that the song singles out—“You still have to squeeze into your jeans”—seem less like little quirks and more like things that a guy points out to make his target feel self-conscious. Not letting your girlfriend know that she talks in her sleep isn’t cute, it’s actually kind of creepy. The worst part is the bridge. “You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you”, like the chorus of “What Make You Beautiful”, is only sweet on the surface.  It suggests that if the girl ever gained any self-worth, the guy would split. It’s about 5% adorable and 95% manipulative. In fact, that pretty much sums up the entire band.

Dispatches From The Mainstream: 12/11/2012

Bruno Mars – “Locked Out Of Heaven”

Sometimes Bruno Mars is not terrible. It used to be, that time only came once a year at the Grammys. Two years in a row, Bruno Mars has taken the stage at the Grammy Awards and performed stylish, retro and totally enjoyable versions of his dull, boring songs. It started with the doo-wop version of “Grenade” from 2011 (complete with all-male back-up singers) and continued in 2012 with a surprisingly rocking version of “Runaway Baby.” Unlike his debut album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans, which featured no doo-wop and very few hooligans, these performances revealed a Bruno Mars who was obsessed with the musical and visual style of eras gone by. I kept waiting for this version of the singer–who I think of as “Good Bruno” or G.B. for short–to emerge in his studio work, but aside from a co-writing credit on Cee-Lo Green’s irresistible “Fuck You,” G.B. was nowhere to be found. When “It Will Rain” was released, I took it as a sign that Bruno had finally succumb to his bland-yet-marketable side, and I mourned the loss of a potentially interesting artist.

If “Locked Out Of Heaven” is any indication, I was wrong to count G.B. out so soon. Bruno Mars finally committed his retro-fixation to record and it resulted in his best song yet. I’m not saying that “Locked Out Of Heaven” could pass for a long-lost Stax record—Mars really belts it on the chorus, but it’s still loaded with modern-day synth—but the verses have an undeniable old-school feel that helps the song stand out without becoming straight-up Fitz & The Tantrums-style pastiche. The funky guitar stabs, the stuttering vocal sample and the rare pop-music bass line that’s actually worth paying attention to all add up to a fun single that will hopefully be a turning point in Bruno’s career.

As for the lyrics, Mars still has a tendency for the dramatic, but considering that he made his name with a song about a woman who was impossibly perfect in every way and another song about a woman who literally dwelled in the realm of the Dark Lord Satan… it’s refreshing to hear him sing unabashedly about the pleasures of sex.

Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin – “Don’t You Worry Child”

If you’ve listened to the radio any time in the last five years, you may have noticed that we’re living in the era of the ‘club song’. Songs about living in the moment, walking into the club in your best clothes, dancing away your problems… usually set to an electronic beat, these songs are fun in small doses, but more than any other sub-genre of pop song, they’re like candy: too much just makes you feel gross. Personally, my enthusiasm for this kind of song started to wane around the 500th time I heard “Party Rock Anthem.”

It seems like the club song is already on the downward slope to irrelevance. Other trends have taken its place, like the pop-folk of Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, etc. Even the fist-pumping, synth-laden, pop-influenced EDM sound, the kind of music that seems tailor-made for big, cathartic dance floor moments is becoming uncoupled lyrically from the setting of the club. “We Found Love” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris was one of last year’s biggest hits, and its (somewhat nonsensical) lyrics don’t even hint at partying… unless you interpret the “hopeless place” mentioned in the chorus to be a particularly depressing bar, in which case, I’m sorry.

“Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia and John Martin (who also helped out the band on last year’s “Save The World”) is another example of this trend. The EDM-style beat wouldn’t be out-of-place in a DJ’s playlist or in heavy radio rotation, but the lyrics are about as far from a club song as you could possibly get. Inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Australia, this song features a narrator reflecting on the soothing words of advice his father gave him in his youth. In a musical culture that celebrates youth and glamorizes living in the moment, it’s bizarre–though not unwelcome–to hear a song unabashedly celebrating nostalgia. Where the club song is all about getting you pumped up, this is a song that wants to comfort you while you dance, like a warm hug from a sweaty man wearing a neon-colored headband.

Christina Perri feat. Steve Kazee – “A Thousand Years (Part 2)”

I may have mentioned that I saw the last Twilight film in theaters. One part of the ending I did not spoil is the montage that happens right before the credits, as a result of Bella mind-melding with Edward in order to remind him of their epic love…. or something. For a non-fan of the series, the montage was pretty lame—seeing clips from Edward and Bella’s five-movie love story just serves as a reminder of what a dull, bland trip it’s been—but the song that plays under it goes a long way towards making the scene work.

Yeah, ha-ha, let’s all laugh at Jason because he likes that stupid Christina Perri song from the Twilight soundtrack. You can judge me all you want, but we all know that if a song hits you in the right place and at the right time, it doesn’t matter how mushy and sappy it is. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a song from a terrible movie sung by the woman who wrote “Jar Of Hearts.” Songs like this get made because we all have moments when we’re driving home in the rain and a big, dramatic song comes on, and even though we know it’s just a stupid over-produced pop song, it just gets us and we end up sing-crying all the way back from the Barnes and Noble. I call these moments “Chicago moments” in honor of the band that brought us songs like “You’re The Inspiration” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love.”

If you’re familiar with “A Thousand Years” you probably only know the version that played on the radio around the time when Breaking Dawn: Part One came out. But this is not the same version! For one thing, “Part 2” gets a major boost from the vocals of the fabulous Steve Kazee. Kazee is still starring in the Broadway musical Once, and his appearance on this song is a little bizarre, but, hey, if you’re trying to make the leap from Theater Girl Heart-Throb to Normal Person Heart-Throb, I suppose there are worse ways to do it.

Also, the song has been re-recorded and re-arranged in a way that gives the whole thing a lot more texture. The guitars sound like guitars, and the strings actually have some space to breathe instead of just being crammed into the mix. “Part 2” is about thirty seconds longer than the original, so if you’re dead-set against liking this song, it’s just going to feel like the producers were trying to prolong your suffering. But at least give the new version a chance: if a song can actually make the romance of Twilight seem halfway romantic, it’s worthy of acknowledgement, if not outright commendation.

The Forty Ounce, Episode 15: Another Episode About Pitbull

 

If you’ve ever listened to The Forty Ounce, me and Daniel’s pop-music podcast, you know about our obsession with Pitbull, a.k.a. Mr. 305 a.k.a Mr. Worldwide. So, it should come as no surprise that we did a podcast celebrating the release of Pitbull’s new album. 

On this episode of the Forty Ounce, the science is in on Global Warming, and we’re not talking about climate change!

Pitbull’s newest album, Global Warming, has been released, and this podcast is the only place you can hear Jason and Daniel experience it for the first time. Having learned nothing from their experience with Rebelution, Jason and Daniel go through all sixteen tracks of the new album! Will they love it? Probably!

This episode is a little messy, because we listened to (nearly) each track for the first time before talking about it. Also, it’s an hour long. Hopefully we still managed to keep things interesting. Hey, at least we’ve got enthusiasm! That has to count for something, right?

50 Ways To Say Goodbye, or The Lyrical Inadequacies of Patrick Monahan

I have a love/hate relationship with the band Train, but when they released “50 Ways To Say Goodbye,” I had to take notice. I have a huge musical soft spot for catchy, up-beat songs about dark, depressing subjects and “50 Ways,” with its mariachi-style horns and lyrics about a chronic liar describing all the ways his partner died, is right up my alley. Also, I’m pretty sure the title is a Paul Simon reference, and hey, who doesn’t love a good Paul Simon reference?

I’m flattered that Train cares so much about having me as a listener, but I still have some reservations… and most of them have to do with the lyrics of front man Patrick Monahan. It all began with “Hey, Soul Sister,” the inescapable song that transformed Train from a one-single-an-album band that barely existed after “Drops of Jupiter” into a full-on pop radio fixture.

“Hey, Soul Sister” was a song that wore out its welcome fast, but I’m not immune to the allure of a strong melody—far from it, in fact—so I was onboard with it for a while. I tried to ignore the lyrics for a while, but in the end, I couldn’t deny how terrible they were. First of all, I guess “Mr. Mister” is an easy rhyme for “soul sister,” but I find it hard to believe anyone has ever “moved” to a Mr. Mister song. And the less said, the better about the embarrassing, “So gangster, I’m so thug” line from the bridge.

The less-successful-but-still-ever-present follow-up “If It’s Love” had a noticeably weaker melody, which put more pressure on the lyrics to not be terrible. For most of the song, they weren’t! The first verse in particular has a set of lines about the narrator’s fears about married life: after a lifetime of hearing stories and jokes about unhappy marriages, he’s understandably a little worried that his own might go sour. But he loves this woman, so he’s doing his best to put all that aside. It’s a sentiment that rarely gets expressed in our culture, much less in our pop music, and I for one found it refreshing!

One problem, though: two lines earlier, in the middle of the verse, Monahan spits out this couplet: “My feet have been on the floor, flat like an idle singer/Remember Winger? I digress.”

What is that? Why is that in the song? Is it supposed to be a joke? He says, “I digress,” as if this was a live conversation he was having instead of, you know, a song. I guess no one ever told Pat Monahan what a “second draft” was.

The rest of the lyrics to the song are equal parts charming and goofy, and the song as a whole would be an acceptable-to-good Top 40 song if it weren’t for that stupid digression Monahan makes for the sake of an unfunny reference to a band that, no, Pat, I don’t remember.

And then came “Drive-By.” Oh, “Drive By.” Again, great melody, and the verses are propulsive and catchy, but then you get to the chorus…. Look, I can almost ignore those two lines of “If It’s Love,” because it’s just two lines. But “Drive-By” has an incredibly dumb metaphor imbedded in the chorus, so I get to hear it three times during the song, and each time is like having a sewing needle plunged into my brain.

The culprit? “Just a shy guy/looking for a two-ply/Hefty bag to hold my love?” Huh? So, your love is garbage? That must be what he’s saying, I don’t know what else it could possibly mean…. but that can’t be what he wanted to say, because that wouldn’t make any sense. So, I’m stuck trying to figure out what sort of deranged mind would put that metaphor in a love song, and meanwhile, the song is rolling on through the second verse, and now we’re back at the chorus, and I’m so annoyed I have to change to station. Good job, Pat, you ruined another fine song with your lyrical diarrhea.

I’m sorry; I actually hate the phrase “verbal diarrhea” or any variation on it. It’s like “brain fart,” it’s super gross and you easily say something else. Let’s pretend I said something a little cleverer like, “Good job, Pat, you ruined another fine song with your unfiltered crap-spewing brain”. There, that’s good. But, I digress.

Wasn’t that kind of annoying? Well, you know what, Monahan? I learned it from watching you. I learned it from watching you!

“50 Ways to Say Goodbye” mostly avoids this trap by picking one lyrical idea and sticking to it: this guy can’t deal with his girlfriend leaving him, so he’s lying to all of his friends about what happened to her. It’s darkly comic, kind of farcical, and it works… right up until the end of the second verse.

Someday I’ll find a love like yours

She’ll think I’m Superman

Not super-minivan

How could you leave on Yom Kippur?

What happened here, Monahan? This is a huge step back. Those other lines are stupid, but at least I knew what they meant (at least I think I know what a hefty-bag full of love is meant to symbolize). This? I don’t even know what’s going on. The narrator’s girlfriend thought he was… super-minivan? So she thought he was uncool? Is that what the joke is? That minivans are lame? Ha… ha?

And that Yom Kippur thing… if the narrator is Jewish, then it kind of makes sense, but since there’s no mention of Jewishness in the rest of the song, it just comes off as a cheap joke, something intended to illicit a laugh just because it sounds silly and not because it’s actually funny. And you know what? I think that’s exactly what’s happening here.

In the many hours I spent dwelling upon this line, a possibility occurred to me, as I am sure it has occurred to you: maybe Pat Monahan is Jewish! Well, it turns out, he isn’t, which I discovered when a Google search lead me to my new favorite blog, “Jewish or Not?”

Never change, internet.

“So,” asks no one, “If you could leave Patrick Monahan with one piece of advice, what would it be?”

Patrick, you are, at least by the technical definition, a songwriter. Specifically, you are the songwriter for an adult-contemporary rock band. Your job is to craft a set of lyrics that go with music. Ideally, these lyrics should tell a story, or make a point, or capture an emotion… and you’ve almost got it! But all of the lyrics in a song need to fit inside of whatever theme you’re exploring. If you want to throw in a quick, humorous aside, it needs to be relevant.

Here’s the most frustrating part, Pat: I know you’re capable of doing this, because I’ve seen you do it. Remember the first verse of “Meet Virginia,” a character study about a quirky woman and the man who loves her? In the midst of a long description of the titular character, we have the line, “Smokes a pack a day/Wait, that’s me/But, anyway.”

That sort of thing is fine! In fact, it’s downright good, because it plays with our expectations and gives us a little insight into the song’s narrator. I don’t know how you got from that to “super-minivan,” but… well, there’s no “but,” really, you just need to stop doing it.

That’s What Makes You Beautiful(?)

(Note: I actually wrote this back in March, but it’s just been sitting awkwardly on the Forty Ounce webpage, and I thought it’d make more sense to have it over here. Plus, I still kind of like it. Enjoy!)

So, boy-bands are still a thing. Is that weird to anyone else?

In 2009, a band called V-Factory had a minor hit with the song “Love Struck.” When I heard that song on the radio, I remember thinking, “wow, these guys are about seven years too late.” I thought it was kind of ridiculous. A boy-band, in this day and age? Here? Now? I thought that time was long behind us, and when V-Factory quickly disappeared from the charts–and, I assume, existence–it only reinforced that notion.

But it looks like I was wrong, because now a whole new generation of boy-bands have appeared and if they’re not the cultural sensations that *NYSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were, well, at least people care about them. Sorry, V-Factory. This new wave of boy bands includes groups like The Wanted (who we discussed on the podcast), Big Time Rush (who exist simultaneously as a real band and a fake band on a Nickelodeon show) and OneDirection.

OneDirection has a song out right now, the incredibly catchy “What Makes You Beautiful”. I’d really like to get behind this song, because it’s got a lot of elements I find very appealing in pop music: it’s driven, it’s up-beat, and it has lyrics that are enjoyable in how goofy and kind of bad they are.

So c-come on

You got it wrong

To prove I’m right,

I put it in a song!

First of all: no, no you didn’t. I don’t know who exactly is singing this verse, but I’m fairly sure it’s not one of the swedish guys that actually wrote this song.

Second: does putting something in a song actually make it any more true? If the entire history of gangsta rap is any indication, I’d say the exact opposite is probably more accurate.

Still, those lyrics are kind of charming. But there is another set of lyrics in this song that really give me pause, and these lyrics are especially problematic because they form the basic idea/narrative of the entire song. They form the climax of the song’s chorus and even give the song its name. The lines in question?

You don’t know you’re beautiful,

That’s what makes you beautiful.

Uh… well, I guess the general sentiment of that is sweet. This girl that the narrator is talking to doesn’t realize just how beautiful she is, and he’s giving her a pep-talk. He’s basically telling her that she shouldn’t be so down on herself. He even says that she shouldn’t use make-up, because she doesn’t even need it! Because she’s already so beautiful just being herself! Awwww. What a nice, positive message.

Except it’s not. It’s actually creepy and weird, and makes me think that if the narrator and this girl got together, it would be a really unhealthy relationship. According to the narrator,  this girl is beautiful because she doesn’t know she’s beautiful. But that means that if this girl knew she were beautiful–if she had, you know, some confidence or self-esteem–she wouldn’t be beautiful.

See what I mean? The narrator is ostensibly paying this girl a nice compliment, but he’s also saying that if she ever takes this compliment to heart, he’ll lose interest in her. It’s like the Catch-22 of love songs. And it isn’t like I’m reading too much into the song, closely examining the structure of each sentence and the meaning of each word, looking for an alternative interpretation of what should be an innocent little tune. I’m just reading the lyrics of the song and proceeding logically from them. I honestly don’t think I’m making that big of a jump, either. Anyone who looks at that statement logically should see that what this dude’s saying has a dark subtext.

But… this isn’t a song for people who look at statements logically. This song, like most pop songs, is made for a certain audience, and we must keep this in mind. I am referring, of course, to the Teenage Girl Theory, which states that, in order to appreciate a piece of pop music, you need to look at it from the point of view of its intended audience: a teenage girl. And anyone who went to high school can tell you that the typical teenage girl is not exactly overflowing with self-confidence.

The truth is, this song is targeting an audience made up of awkward and often unhappy young women. And when they hear a song like this, they’re not going to spend time examining the subtext or evaluating the meaning or whatever other stupid thing they had to do in English class that day. They’re going to take it at face value, and considering how downright terrible it can feel to be a teenager, the fantasy of a (presumably dashing and handsome) man telling you how wonderful and special you are has a certain appeal. So, I can’t exactly blame them.

But really, that just makes me more concerned about this song. I don’t want to apply any nefarious or conspiratorial motives to the creators of this song; they probably just set out to make a catchy pop song, and they’ve done that. But do young women really need another piece of entertainment telling them to not value themselves? Especially a piece of entertainment that’s designed to appeal exclusively to them, with catchy, simple melodies being sung by adorable young men?

I don’t think we need to do away with the idea of boy-bands in general… but maybe the world would be better off if we let OneDirection go the way of V-Factory.

The Forty Ounce, Episode 12: The Eschatology of Pitbull (or) We Are Telepathic Now

After almost two months of inactivity, me and Daniel Dockery are back with a new episode of our pop-music podcast.

This time we’re talking about Usher, Cher Lloyd, the Killers, and of course, our favorite little chico/the greatest rapper in the world/Mr. 305/Mr. Worldwide/Possible Prophet/Self-Proclaimed Creator Of The World, Pitbull.

My favorite part of this episode is that Daniel and I both agreed to take something out, but instead I left it in and moved the second take to the end of the podcast. Sorry, Daniel!