Welcome to the inaugural edition of what figures to be a new series of ours, This Month in Spotify’s Top 20! Each month, we’ll be going through the most popular tracks in Spotify’s Top Lists section and offering our thoughts about them. For the most part, because we are music snobs/douchebags/contrarians and because we generally fear the direction in which America is going, we will be skewering the Top 20. Just a lot of unjustifiably standing on our SlackPost pedestal and expressing hate. And if not that, then utter indifference. Exciting! Anyway, read on for a taste of what America is (regrettably) into during these dog days of summer.
1. Avicii – Wake Me Up
Avicii’s whole foray into country is funny to me, but I can dig it. And shout-out to Tiesto, whose remix of Cary Brothers’ “Ride” five years ago surely served as an inspiration to Avicii. (By the way, the terrible video for “Ride” inexplicably stars semi-legitimate Hollywood actress Brittany Snow!) Anyway, “Wake Me Up” is totally catchy and boasts a strangely captivating music video featuring two beautiful sisters (?) who figure out that they’re better off straight-up living at Ultra Music Festival than in a hick town with ugly people who jealously stare at them a lot. And you’re damn right I called the young girl beautiful. She’s got some serious “Emma Watson in Prisoner of Azkaban” going on. Big things happening in the years to come. I’ll stop right there. (OK, wait, one more thing: watch the “Wake Me Up” video and notice how the older girl’s accent completely changes at around 3:20. It’s unbelievable how they didn’t notice that and do another take.)
2. Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail
Honestly, this might as well be B.o.B featuring OneRepublic. That is not a compliment.
3. Lorde – Royals
A rare top-20 track that I actually like! Apparently Lorde is only 16 but she seems to have the wisdom, soulfulness, bravado, and songwriting chops of a savvy veteran. Keep an eye on her.
4. Katy Perry – Roar
During Sunday’s VMAs, the announcer lady (and then later Allison Williams) repeatedly referred to this song as Katy Perry’s “biggest hit.” In fact, at one point the announcer confused the shit out of me by saying, “Coming up later, Katy Perry performs the biggest hit of her career for the first time.”
So for half the show I just sat stewing about what the hell that could possibly mean. Do they mean “I Kissed a Girl”? Did she somehow never perform that song live because she was scared of what her Bible-thumping parents would think? No, that can’t be. Do they mean any of the hits from Teenage Dream? No, impossible. That album produced FIVE number-one hits that Perry MUST have performed constantly while on tour. Maybe they mean “Part of Me,” because that was a number-one single that was only included on the reissue of Teenage Dream, so maybe her world tour was over by then and she never performed it! Wait a second, she’s had seven number-one hits; how could one of them be deemed the biggest?
Mercifully, my desperate questions were finally answered when the show concluded with Perry’s performance of this new single, “Roar,” which 1) totally underwhelms compared to her past hits, and 2) will probably climb to the top of the charts anyway. All that said, MTV lied to me!! That’s bullshit. You can’t say she’s about to perform her biggest hit ever when that’s not the case in any way whatsoever. You can’t! I hate being sucked in by intelligent marketing aimed at the idiotic masses. Which makes me an idiot, but still.
5. Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams – Blurred Lines
Emily. Ratajkowski. Marry. Me.
6. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
7. Imagine Dragons – Radioactive
Apparently LeBron shoots jumpers to this song. Good for him. Indeed, as Avi puts it, “I think just about every promo for the TV summer season used this song.” Agreed, with the exception of “Sail” (more on that later).
8. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
Standard indie fare here, with the exception of that trumpet, which makes the song 20-35% catchier. And get this: my roommate Mikie went to high school with the dude (Spencer Ludwig) who plays it! Cool! What’s more, props to Capital Cities for winning the VMA for Best Visual Effects!
9. Lady Gaga – Applause
I like this song. I like Lady Gaga. I thought she killed it at the VMAs on Sunday. Her ass even looked fantastic. May she rediscover her Monster Ball form and regain control of the pop universe.
10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us
Avinash’s thoughts: How are people not sick of this song yet? I don’t own a radio, but I hear this every time I’m around one. Ray Dalton sounds a lot like John Legend though.
11. Drake featuring Majid Jordan – Hold On, We’re Going Home
I don’t know what the hell just happened, but I checked this song out and I didn’t hate it. Nice! Pretty basic stuff going on here, but it’s catchy and features some solid production. And these days, once you’ve got that, you’ve kind of already won the battle.
12. Bruno Mars – Treasure
Solid outing from Bruno Mars here; indeed, as much as it might pain me to say, the dude’s kind of legit. Granted, as you can tell from the corny, EWF-style retro video for this track, Mars basically just recycles tried and true old-school pop, R&B, and funk, but at least he has good taste, right? Anyway, I respect how he rose through the songwriting ranks before emerging as a solo artist, which means he’s probably humble, and plus, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, which means he’s actually got talent. Then again, he co-wrote Flo Rida’s “Right Round.”
13. Zedd featuring Foxes – Clarity
This song perplexes me because, as I’ve written before, it’s basically no longer cool to listen to trance; EDM is dominated by house and bass-heavy garage, with some dubstep mixed in (although even that thankfully appears to be dying). And yet, Zedd has managed to defy that trend by essentially making a trance track — with awesomely epic/corny/ethereal female vocals and all — that he reduced to only 4:30 minutes. Genius! Even though it has all the (pop) staples that trance-haters usually enumerate, it’s risen to number 13 on the overall Spotify charts! No small feat. To be fair, genre-pigeonholing in EDM is a clusterfuck, and this song can easily qualify as an electro or progressive house track. Even so, I’d actually prefer it if the track were totally transformed into a full-fledged trance song, something Myon & Shane54 recently attempted with an exquisite mashup.
14. Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding – I Need Your Love
This is so… basic. And boring. And generic. Is it safe to say that Calvin Harris has now replaced David Guetta as The Dude Who Can Half-Assedly Churn Out Pop (House) Hits Featuring Mediocre Vocals By Literally Anyone That Will Inevitably Chart In The States? We’re getting close, right? Bummer, too, because I really liked his first album or two.
15. Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky (Radio Edit)
As recently as early August, the Spotify Top 20 featured both this radio edit and the album version of “Get Lucky,” and that had been the case throughout the summer. That’s how you know this was the song of the summer (with sincere apologies to “Blurred Lines,” of course). And by the way, at the VMAs on Sunday, One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” was voted Song of the Summer. If not for my recent week-long vacation with my buddy Paul, who has an unabashed, unironic, pseudo-creepy obsession with One Direction, I would have gone the whole summer without ever hearing “Best Song Ever.” So in no world was “Best Song Ever” the song of the summer, except for the world of 15-year-old girls who bizarrely fawn over this. Regrettably, when it comes to MTV, that’s the only world that matters.
16. AWOLNATION – Sail
This song came out two whole years ago and is somehow still all over the place even though it’s been featured in something like 17 ad campaigns over the last 24 months. I’m not kidding; the list includes — but is not limited to — Nokia, BMW, the History Channel, Fox, CBS, and Under Armour. AWOLNATION is also signed to Red Bull Records, which is hilarious because Red Bull is EXACTLY what I think of when I hear “Sail.” It’s like the perfect soundtrack to clips of epic extreme sports highlights. But yeah, I’m sick of it.
17. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert – Same Love
Good song, good video, no complaints other than the fact that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are undeniably overplayed at this point. That said, I’m seeing them for the first time this weekend at Made In America so I need to think good things about them right now. Oh, and by the way, here’s a cool remix of “Same Love.”
18. Jay-Z featuring Rick Ross – F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit
Everything Rick Ross does on this song is splendid. Compared to Jay-Z’s work on the track, can you even call Rick Ross’s contribution “rapping”? It’s like he’s TRYING to get away with doing the bare minimum while still coming off as a boss. There are barely any rhymes! Is he being serious? Is it a joke? Is he just taking a piss, as my English friends would say? No idea. But I’m OK with this song. And PLEASE, do yourself a favor and check out Rick’s Instagram.
19. Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix)
This song received a ton of support from huge dance DJs like Gareth Emery and Above & Beyond way back in January, so I’m kind of amused by how it’s apparently only catching on now. No matter what, I like it, and also happen to believe that Lana Del Rey is best used being remixed by EDM producers.
20. Jay-Z – Tom Ford
Pretty lukewarm on this one. I was tempted to leave it out and throw The Lumineers’ totally overplayed “Ho Hey” on here (it’s currently at #22) just because I recently discovered this absolutely incredible version featuring Will Ferrell as Harry Caray. In fact, that’s basically what I’ve done here. “HOTDOGS!”
So to recap, of these songs, how many do I legitimately LOVE? Well, none of them. Obviously. (My favorite is probably “Get Lucky,” but that came out in freaking May.) But seriously, this Top 20 could have been a lot worse — OneRepublic, Jason Derulo, Ariana Grande (she who STOLE Big Pun’s “Still Not a Player”), Selena Gomez, and One Direction all recently faded from the Top 20 and narrowly missed being absolutely lampooned. With that said, I’m excited for a new dose of musical mediocrity to creep up the charts in the next four weeks! Until next time.