Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with some Billboard singles chart analysis. Right now we have a plethora of great pop music climbing the charts, as well some independent hip-hop, and a little pop-rock, so let’s take a look at what’s working, and why. The chart positions I'm using are from the Billboard Hot 100 as it was listed on Billboard.com this past Friday, and since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
21) Demi Lovato - Heart Attack
The first time I heard “Heart Attack” I knew it was going to be a problem, and I mean that in the best of ways. The beat is fantastic, but the chorus is where we find the true greatness of the song. This is where Demi does some vocal gymnastics. For two bars she changes octaves multiple times on the “o” syllables of the words that close each bar, then she stops doing it for the next three bars, which is just enough to make you absolutely love it when she does it again on the final “a” of the word “attack.” Over the past few years Demi has made a place for herself in the pop music world, and “Heart Attack” may be her most impressive song yet. It is fairly embarrassing to get caught singing along to it if you’re a guy, but the fact that many of us are willing to take that risk shows just how good the song is.
26) Taylor Swift - 22
The combination of Taylor Swift’s songwriting, and Max Martin and Shellback’s production, has almost become unfair. Having already teamed up for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” they have another monster hit on their hands with “22.” Swift gets right to the heart of being in your twenties (and for some folks, thirties), with the line “we’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time,” and Martin and Shellback provide the perfect, danceable, triumphant production for a song all about ignoring your problems for a night and having fun. “22” shows that Taylor Swift can do pure pop if she wants to, which means her reign as the queen of the genre has no obvious end in sight. Personally, I’m fine with that. The video for “22” also has me fine with Taylor wearing short shorts as often as she wants!
27) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis w/ Ray Dalton - Can’t Hold Us
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are, inarguably, the most exciting thing happening in hip-hop today. They’re independent artists (yes, with financial backing), who have managed to break through and get airplay on Top 40 radio, while still maintaining their original fan base. They’ve achieved this by not only having plenty of heartfelt, and socially relevant, songs, but by having lyrics that matter in their more pop friendly fare. When Macklemore spits “I grew up, really wanted gold fronts / but that’s what you get when Wu-Tang raised you” on “Can’t Hold Us” he’s saying something that resonates with every hip-hop head who grew up in the 90s, and he’s doing it over a boisterous beat, and with a soulful chorus, that every kid in 2013 wants to party to. Make no mistake, this is genius. I know Macklemore has been the target of some not so nice comments in the indie hip-hop world, but a lot of that is jealously. This guy’s doing something we’ve never seen before, and a lot of folks wish they could have done it first. “Can’t Hold Us” is a celebration of hard work, and I, for one, am happy to join in that celebration.
33) Icona Pop - I Love It
Back in August of 2012 I boldly stated that Icona Pop’s “I Love It” deserved to be the last great summer song of the year. It turns out I may have been a wee bit early with that prediction. “I Love It” has seen a slow ascent up the charts, and is just now finally getting the recognition, and airplay, it deserves. This leads me to a new bold declaration - “I Love It” will stick around long enough to be one of the first great songs of THIS summer. It’s the same ridiculously catchy electro-pop tune it was seven months ago, with the duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo (those are real names, not Star Wars characters) sing-shouting devil may care lyrics about living it up with no repercussions. Maybe it just took a while for people to learn the lyrics and start singing along, which “I Don’t Care” is PERFECT for.
45) Muse - Madness
Muse’s “Madness” really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Lead singer Matthew Bellamy spends two thirds of the song being incredibly unimpressive as a vocalist before finally belting it out at the end, and musically the song doesn’t really go anywhere for quite a while. This should make for a boring listen, and the kind of thing you’d want to turn off when it comes on the radio. As a listener, however, you end up wanting to turn it up rather than off, because you’re willing to accept the lead in to get to the impressive finale, and after the first listen you even begin to embrace the lead in. Also, for those of us who are really old, like yours truly, “Madness” is vaguely reminiscent of U2’s “Numb,” which was a great song (maybe because The Edge takes the lead!).
51) Krewella - Alive
Krewella’s “Alive” is, like Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” a song that I was a wee bit early on. I originally talked about “Alive” in my Christmas Eve column last year. That being said, I have to admit I had no idea it was going to impact Top 40 radio the way it has. I can’t turn on a pop music station without hearing “Alive,” and I’m really happy about that, as it’s a great song that mixes pop and EDM perfectly. I remember when Top 40 radio embraced this type of music back in the day, and I think it’s great they’re embracing it again. For as fantastic as “Alive” is, I’m hoping Krewella finds a way to re-release “Killin It” and get that song on radio, as well, because for my money it’s even better than their current hit, and deserves some airplay.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.