Sunday, January 6, 2008

Notes on Popular Music

I'm firmly on the Chris Brown train. He has Usher's confidence but without the conflicted love life, and the fun of old-style Michael Jackson, which even I can appreciate. Ignoring the fact that he's still a teenager (and feels the need to point it out), he's able to get people dancing steadily without sleaze, and RollingStone listed Exclusive, his sophomore album, as the #34 best of the year, pretty surprising for a type of pop album that will usually get no respect other than pointing out he has a good guilty pleasure single or two.

While I do like RollingStone and do not degrade its lack of relevance--something the mag has always been slammed with since I've been reading it, which is around 10 years--I've always disliked the way it automatically insults popular rock acts like Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls (although they seem to throw some respect to Maroon 5 recently). Their current trashing of Nickelback is only the most recent example. All the Right Reasons has sold over six million copies, according to Billboard. Entertainment Weekly wrote a nice blurb a few months ago, drawing attention to this phenomenon. I wasn't surprised; with five hit singles ("Rockstar", "Far Away", "Savin' Me", "Photograph", "If Everyone Cared") the album's bound to sell, even in this age of digital downloads. Especially if you consider that they're a pop/rock group--aka the type that sneaks in on Top 40 stations and is loved by all the adult contemporary-listening parents as well as their children--they are bound to sell without any buzz. But here's the thing: Their album is really good. Seriously. Even taking out the singles--and half the album is singles--it's still a catchy, rockin' record, and it really doesn't falter or get bogged down in repetition. Give Nickelback their due.

Going back to teen singers, Sean Kingston is another who feels the need to mention his age at every turn. Reminiscing about your middle school kiss isn't something that should be shared in a pop song--it just proves that you can't sing credibly about your chosen topic, which is why Natasha Bedingfield shouldn't have picked him for a song about connecting with an old friend. His "Take You There" is funny, in that he promises he will take his girl to the slums, if that's where she wants to go. Who wants to go the slums? Who sings about the slums--and not in a gangsta-rap way? But he boasts that "he's known in the ghetto", and can show her where to run away from gunshots. Or they can go to paradise, sip pina coladas in the tropics, her pick.

Oh, wait. Sean Kingston isn't old enough to drink real pina coladas. Oops.


Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Well, I have to disagree with you on this one. Nickelback? Really? I thought you lived in a blue state. :P

I have little tolerance for Rolling Stone or Blender, in large part because they frequently constitute a dark, inverted fun-house mirror of my own opinions, singing the praises of (in my opinion) utterly disposable drek while panning some of my all-time favorite albums. Such is the burden of having as strange of taste in music as mine, though.

On a side note, I think Chris Brown was the original name (later Clarice Portofino) of the bookstore employee at college who underwent a sex-change and ended up looking and sounding rather like Meat Loaf in Fight Club.