The Low-Down, Dirty Downloads: The May 28 iTunes Top-Sellers
There's so much music, so little time....and sometimes, so little hope of keeping track of every Flavor of the Minute artist that gets hot in the blink of an eye. One minute, someone's topping the charts. The next, someone's trading in the CD and barely getting enough to get some chicken nuggets at Wendy's.
That's where we come in, folks. Take our opinions for what they're worth, but we simply don't believe that a song or album moving millions of units makes it "good." Case in point? The members of Nickelback are millionaires several times over.
So in what will hopefully become a weekly tradition, I'll share with you five top-ranking singles from the iTunes sales charts and give an honest - admittedly, sometimes harsh - opinion of their actual quality. The same five artists won't be featured every single week, but when certain hits stay near the top, I'll provide a recap of my opinion.
Since this is a clean slate, let's start with this week's Top 5 Best-Selling iTunes Singles....
"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepson
Why 20 craps are given about this? Honestly, that's a mystery.
It's not especially remarkable. It's a standard lovestruck-girl-with-a-crush done a thousand times over, and a thousand times better, from "He's So Fine" through Britney Spears' "Sometimes." Had Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, et al not made a cute YouTube video for it, it's not that likely anybody would've cared.
The 26-year-old Canadian singer songwriter has a nice little heady voice, but nothing especially powerful or infectious. The synth and drum machine track sounds like it could've just as easily been ripped from some forgotten, early Mandy Moore B-side. She's not bad looking, in a Zooey-Deschanel-fetishist way.
Still, it's summer and bouncy tunes like this get a pass. They're usual what high schoolers who couldn't care much less what's playing throw on at parents-are-away pool parties while infinitely more interesting things are going on around them. How this even gets stuck enough in one's head to make it a desireable "get" is beyond me.
So, put that in perspective: somebody will someday look back and shamefully admit to losing his or her virginity to this song.
That's not sending your V-card out with a bang, kids. It's more like waving a sparkler.
"Payphone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)" - Maroon 5
Hey, it's an insurmountable economy. People pay bills how they can pay them.
So if Adam Levine can continue making money because someone pays him to sing while a stripper crushes his boy parts with a clear heel....well, bully for him.
Is it asking so much that the experience not be shared via recorded media, though?
Honestly, it's not Maroon 5 lyrics that baffle. They're really no more or less remarkable than what most pop-rock or adult-contemporary bands crank out. Keep in mind, Train sets that bar pretty low. These really aren't bad, either. It's all Levine screeching as he looks back on a relationship's missteps and how right things were before it all went wrong. And he's doing it while outside a payphone with no money, apparently dumb-struck by the notion that payphones demand - uh, payment.
It's even pretty spare musically. It's dominated by a snare cadence and keyboards. You'll wish there was something there, though. Because there's always Adam Levine.
His auto-tuned howling - how do people keep finding it pleasant? It's a miracle "Moves LIke A Jagger" became such a smash, because it combines his digitized caterwauling with some of the most laughable Maroon 5 lyrics yet. And here, he just gets increasingly bitter after the first verse. "One more f**kin' love song, I'll be sing," he "sings." What's worse, somebody figured the solution to Levine's voice rendering dogs deaf was a generic Wiz Khalifa verse rubbing all his money and lavish possessions in the face of all his "haters." It has nothing to do with the rest of the song. It sounds like it could be copied and pasted into any given hip-hop single. It's not especially witty. And it's not like he's got name value on a level where his inclusion sells a song.
Just what in the Blue Hell is it doing here?
"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye
First up, an observation: I'm pretty positive that if someone foolishly remade "American Psycho" and lent it a modern setting, Patrick Bateman would be asking Paul Allen if he likes Gotye.
Already, I digress.
Quirk sells. In an era when over-production knows no boundaries - in which dubstep can sound like gears being stripped off a transmission and still be technically called "music" - there's a novelty to artists like Feist or Gotye that makes them consistently welcome presences. Their music is so spare, that their songs become like palate cleansers.
The lyrics are pretty straight-forward, and very honest without much harping on even the simplest metaphors. He's glad a relationship's over, but still feels hurt she couldn't have cut him loose with a touch more tact. Still, that feeling's overridden by just being relieved to be rid of her.
Gotye's voice is nothing spectacular. He doesn't compare in terms of artistic quality necessarily, but it's a little bit like listening to Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes or Bob Dylan: you're not listening to be wowed by musicality. The whole comes together to be greater than any one part, or even the sum of the parts.
While not remarkable, it's absolutely worth a purchase.
"Starships" - Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj - the moment you saw the name, you probably didn't need to read another word I'd write.
Most either love her or hate her. She gets mileage from a personality that's distinctive among the hip-hop world. She's also got some pretty impressive flows making up the steak beneath the sizzle. She's far from being "all hat and no cattle."
Still some find her grating. They can't get past the bizarre persona.
In this case, she's dialing up the song's Katy Perry factor. It's just got that kind of bass-heavy steady beat, like "California Gurls." It's one of those "start the party" jams that will echo from beach bash to beach bash all summer. It's not exactly essential listening, but it can fill out a party-jam list where needed.
"Back In Time" - Pitbull
Come off it, folks: this man sucks.
I realize a good bit of the present "Men In Black III" audience is a little young to remember what a great tie-in song Will Smith's "Men In Black" was - every bit as good as "Men In Black II" was awful - but for those who are long enough in the tooth, getting Pitbull to lead the soundtrack is like burning a steak and offering a baloney sandwich.
At least I could understand what the hell Will Smith was saying. I wouldn't want Mush-Mouth here taking my In-N-Out Burger order, let alone trying to get me hyped up to see a movie.