Ike and Avi return with their monthly thoughts on what America is (still) listening to.
Welcome to the second edition of This Month in Spotify’s Top 20! The premise is simple: each month we go through the most popular tracks in Spotify’s Top Lists section and offer our thoughts about them. It’s a fun exercise, and if you missed the inaugural edition, you can find it here. Notice how at the conclusion of the piece I looked forward to a bunch of new crap infecting the airwaves in September. Didn’t happen. Spotify’s Top 20 list this month is almost EXACTLY THE SAME as last month’s. A whopping THREE new entries and that’s it. Everything else is the same.
So yeah, screw you, America. Your unchanging, terrible music taste has basically ruined this column idea before it could really get off and running. I don’t know how people aren’t sick of this stuff yet, but screw it, we’re proceeding with this article as planned. Here’s what America is into these days. Also, to combat the boredom of going through 17 tracks that I’ve already covered, I will sub out some of the old entries in place of stuff that SHOULD be in the Top 20. A quick note on that, however: I won’t remove and replace EVERY song that already appeared on last month’s list. Instead, I’ll replace the songs most unworthy of the Top 20 — basically, the songs of which I’m most sick. Away we go.
1. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
The most important new entry on the list this month comes from Miley Cyrus, who has rocketed straight to the top of the charts with her new single. This is a big win for her given all the hate she received after the VMAs. To be honest, though, I’m inclined to call it love instead of hate. At first, the interwebs EXPLODED with negativity when she emerged from a giant bear vagina, flashed her flat ass, humped Robin Thicke, and banged that foam finger on stage. But then, all that attention only ended up helping her cause, and now she’s got another wildly successful hit being overplayed everywhere.
As for the song itself, I’m already sick of it and I haven’t even listened to it yet. All I’ve seen is incessant Facebook, Vine, YouTube, Twitter, and BuzzFeed posts about the music video — namely stupid parodies of the video featuring hedgehogs, kittens, and naked dudes. That stuff was funny for seven seconds. (And yes, that was intentional; Vines are seven seconds. And only one Vine parody is worth watching: this one.) If we really hate Miley, as basically everyone claims to, then maybe we should just, you know, stop paying her so much damn attention. Which means I should probably stop talking about her myself. And oh yeah, almost forgot: the song absolutely sucks.
In fact, here’s SlackPost’s Avinash Chak’s reaction to first hearing “Wrecking Ball”: I actually started laughing about fifteen seconds into this song as my mind filled with the following questions. Is Hannah Montana trying to be Lana Del Rey or something? Did Katy Perry’s songwriter come up with this chorus? How is it possible that millions of people, HUMAN people, have listened to this song for reasons other than writing this column? Wait, she didn’t just say “all you ever did was rape me,” did she? That seems extreme, even for Miley Cyrus. Oh right, the song is called “WRECKing Ball.” Still, if you’re using this much distortion to pass off a terrible singing voice as music, you shouldn’t be so careless with pronunciation. Anyway, I think the number one spot on this list should belong to a song that’s 35 years old. I liked to think we lived in a world where people went, “Hey, it’s September. Let’s listen to that Earth, Wind & Fire song!”
2. Lorde – Royals
3. Avicii – Wake Me Up
Lorde and Avicii stand fast in the Top 3 with their two hits, one of which makes total sense and the other of which makes no sense. A country-tinged but still pretty generic house anthem by the Swedish DJ who did “Levels” is popular as hell among the fist-pumping bros of America? Sure. A curly-haired 16-year-old indie pop singer-songwriter from New Zealand is being played in every store and on every mainstream radio station in America? Really? Props, Ella. (That’s her real name.) Props.
4. Drake featuring Majid Jordan – Hold On, We’re Going Home
This song is fine; indeed, I was pumped that I didn’t hate it when I first listened to it last month. In other news, Drake’s new album just came out, and from what I hear, it’s incredibly similar to his last one. But you know what? That formula clearly works for him and he’s not about to mess with it yet. So congrats to Aubrey on the millions he’s about to make on all those super mopey, doubt-filled yet insistently self-congratulatory Drake-y tracks.
Avinash’s take, meanwhile, is much more extreme: Fuck Drake. Wack MC/crooner rhyming the same word with itself over and over (peep “Fuckin’ Problems”). “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is idiotically simplistic. Seriously, look at these lyrics. Might as well listen to “Hot Cross Buns.”
5. Katy Perry – Roar
As I wrote last month, I had a frustrating first experience with this song. But beyond that VMA mess, there’s this: I’m just not down with this power pop crap. I feel like I’ve already heard countless incarnations of this song throughout my life. “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/ ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar/ Louder, louder than a lion/ ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar”? Seriously? Are they actively trying to recycle this stuff just to see if we’ll still stupidly eat it up? But wait! It gets worse! “Now I’m floating like a butterfly/ Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes/ I went from zero to my own hero.” Oh so now she’s moved from Rocky III and big cats to stealing from Ali? Nice! Avi’s take? “This sounds like it belongs in an ad for some chocolatey indulgent thing with ONLY 100 calories. If you want female empowerment, listen to Queen Latifah.” Well, then.
6. Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail [REPLACED!]
This song needs to go. In its place, I nominate — and keep in mind that this is entirely a matter of personal preference, not of what else is popular — “Hey Now” by London Grammar. If you’ve ever wondered what Florence + The Machine mixed with the xx would sound like, then London Grammar is your answer. I also happen to be quickly developing an intense crush on frontwoman Hannah Reid. What’s more, the group was featured on Disclosure’s hit album Settle, so they’ve got that going for them too. (By the way, as a general rule of thumb, anyone Disclosure works with is worth checking out — Sam Smith, Luxury, AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware, Jamie Woon, etc.) Anyway, this song first surfaced late last year, but London Grammar’s debut album just dropped this month, so there. If You Wait is wonderfully melancholy, if that makes sense. It’s like the musical equivalent of that strangely beautiful, ever-present emptiness that Louis C.K. so aptly explains is in all of us. “Hey Now” is a particularly strong track, but the same can be said of “Strong” and “Wasting My Young Years.” I also highly recommend London Grammar’s glorious cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” which is sadly not on the new album.
7. Lady Gaga – Applause
8. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
I like Lady Gaga, and I hope she returns to world-dominating form. In related news, have you paid attention to the lyrics in “Applause”? Completely weird, borderline nonsensical. Although some would call them GENIUS. As for Miley, I refuse to say anything else about her. If you really need more of her, check out her Rolling Stone cover story, in which she surprisingly displays some self-awareness!
9. Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams – Blurred Lines
Same thoughts as last month: Emily. Ratajkowski. Marry. Me. That said, I’ve recently rediscovered the disorienting beauty of Doutzen Kroes, which has temporarily pared down my EmRata obsession. Then again, Kroes is already married.
10. Imagine Dragons – Radioactive [REPLACED!]
11. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound [REPLACED!]
Yawn. A bunch of new rock albums just came out. I urge America to forget these two songs and try out the new stuff. Seriously, just take your pick — there are new records from Arcade Fire, MGMT, Kings of Leon, and even icons like Sting and Elton John. Actually, let’s go with a suggestion from Avinash:
The new Arctic Monkeys album, AM, just came out too. And its singles, “Do I Wanna Know?”, “R U Mine?”, and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” kick ass. Alex Turner and the rest of the Sheffield, England outfit play with a bluesy edge that Black Keys fans will dig. At least one of these songs should be in any legitimate Top 20 list. I’d nominate Arctic Monkeys for coolest rock band of the past decade (facing some stiff competition from Les Wampas).
12. Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix) [REPLACED!]
I’m cool with this song, but as I said last month, it’s been around since January, so I’m replacing it here. My pick? “Romanticise” by Chela, a disarmingly pretty Aussie chick who likes hats, doesn’t drink, and gets down on the dancefloor better than pretty much anyone (seriously, check out the moves in that clip). She’s also part-Asian (whenever she’s tried drinking she’s gotten Asian flush!) and has collaborated with Goldroom, who’s dope. Bonus points.
13. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us [REPLACED!]
This track has to go. But in light of how overplayed it is, I will replace it with another (somewhat) overplayed song (albeit in different circles), one that simply hasn’t gotten as much love as I believe it deserves — Duke Dumont and A*M*E’s “Need U (100%).” Not only is it infectious, but it’s also been covered by Disclosure and Sam Smith and its music video is creative, funny, and altogether splendid.
14. Eminem – Berzerk
Our second new song on the list! Here, Eminem teams up with Rick Rubin for a pumped up, decidedly Beastie Boys-inspired jam that celebrates old-school hip hop. It also conjures memories of Em’s old Slim Shady material. All that said, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think I’ll withhold judgment until The Marshall Mathers LP 2 comes out.
Avinash: Agreed. “Berzerk” brings back some early-2000s Shady. And the beat is old-school. And Rick Rubin mean muggin’ = great music video. But the hook sounds just as awkward as most of the hooks Em has sung since, I don’t know, “My Band”? That being said, “Berzerk” does make me excited about an Eminem album for the first time since the disappointing Encore.
15. AWOLNATION – Sail [REPLACED!]
Please go away, “Sail.” Go away. Since Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (finally) fell from the Top 20, I’m going to take this opportunity to fill the disco void in all of our hearts with Skream and Sam Frank’s “Rollercoaster.” The song is significant not only because it’s sweet, but because it signals a big change in the direction of Skream’s career, as he was one of dubstep’s major pioneers but has now kinda-sorta renounced the genre. Proud of him.
16. Bastille – Pompeii
The last new entry on this month’s list comes from Bastille, an alternative group from London whose name derives from the fact that the lead singer’s birthday is July 14. Cool! Although I imagine some uppity French people might take offense to that. Anyway, this is pretty standard stuff — a chorus featuring catchy, non-lyrical backing vocals and tumbling percussion. It’s also literally about Pompeii, which is interesting, I guess.
17. Zedd featuring Foxes – Clarity [REPLACED!]
The vocals on “Clarity” are provided by Foxes. So OBVIOUSLY I’m going to replace the song with “The Fox” by Ylvis. Just a phenomenal parody of today’s crappy pop music — generic house beat, horrendous lyrics that no one pays attention to anyway, crazy video with dancers and party scenes and overly dramatic shots of the artists staring up into the sky, really annoying drop/hook — only in creating it they actually made a catchy, hilarious, well-produced song that, at least to me, stands on its own. Clever Norwegians.
18. Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding – I Need Your Love [REPLACED!]
Definitely getting subbed out. Since “I Need Your Love” is a generic house song, it would only be right for me to replace it with another such track. My choice is Britney’s “Work Bitch.” In spite of the bizarre Nicki Minaj-like, accented vocals, I want to give Britney a spot on the list because, well, she’s freaking Britney Spears.
19. Bruno Mars – Treasure
I like this song enough to keep it in the Top 20. You’re welcome, Bruno.
Avinash: Wait, this sounds like Bruno Mars ripped the melody straight off Breakbot’s “Baby I’m Yours.” It’s like when Robot Chicken does off-key mock versions of songs because they don’t want to pay royalties and because it’s hilarious.
20. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert – Same Love [REPLACED!]
Ugh. Anything will do at this point. How about Janelle Monáe’s “Dance Apocalyptic”? It’s a catchy, energetic boogie built on frenetic ukulele- and guitar-strumming, plus the vocals feature joyous shouting and nonsensical lines like “Smash, smash, bang, bang/ Don’t stop, chalangalangalang” and “Your chicken tastes like pork?/ You have triplets instead of twins?/ Is your food taste plastic?” Good things.
And with that, there goes the month of September 2013 in American pop music. Here’s hoping that in October, 1) Spotify users discover the whole notion of musical exploration, and 2) the music industry churns out some new mainstream material, because otherwise we’ll be forced to retire this column after an embarrassingly short two-month lifespan. Get to it, everyone.