Saturday, February 21, 2009

Social Commentary on the Current Billboard Top 5 (US)

By Bub

I am going to give a pass to Beyonce’s Single Ladies and to a lesser extent Lady Gaga’s Just Dance for being interesting innovative pop songs that communicate actual human situations with a degree of emotional honesty. Beyonce’s tribal call-and-response, with a halting simplicity, juxtaposed robotic synthesizer and melancholic harmonies conveys a depth that frankly I did not think she was capable of. I am going to choose to read too much into Lady Gaga’s Just Dance and view it as a critique of the ‘party scene’ that offers a realistic picture of night life rife with, sloppiness, garbage, ugliness, regretful behavior and willful denial. Plus, Lady Gaga’s Futuristic Funkadelic sensibilities are surprisingly fresh and her voice is so affectless and pure that it makes Alicia Keys seem like the spoiled white chick from the suburbs that grew up with singing lessons and paid-for Hummer.

I am also going to give America credit for Kanye West’s Heartless standing at #2 in the Billboard charts. This is a song that is so emotionally raw, self-aware, and powerful as to already raise the flag of limited mass appeal and then goes on to be so out of character and ‘un-party scene’ that in previous carnations would have gone unnoticed and not even made it onto a b-side. But somehow Kanye, with his vocoder and Cosby Sweater slipped this one past the American Consumption Public. I’ll also give America credit now for electing Barack Obama president and supporting the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

So that leaves only two examples, however glaring, of the decline of America in the Billboard top 5. The first is the current #1 hit by Eminem featuring Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, Crack a Bottle. We’ll begin with the intro:

Ladies and gentlemen. The moment you have all been waiting for. In this corner, weighing in at 175 pounds. With a record of 17 rapes, 400 assaults and 4 murders. The undisputed most diabolical villain in the world. Slim, Shady!!!

That really sums it up quite nice actually. This song is the creative equivalent of rape, the victim of 400 assaults and murderer of four out of the five senses. Slim Shady loses some street credibility right off the bat when he claims to have ‘bitches’ consensually riding around nude with him in his Tahoe waiting to utilize the rubbers he is looking for and then finds in the chorus, after just having bragged about committing more rapes than the Duke LaCrosse team. Which is it Slim Shady? Is the masculine prowess and lack of empathy it takes to over power a woman against her will more admirable or is it merely the physical location of a penis relative to a vagina. If it is the latter, judging you as considerably lazier than a decade ago based solely on the lyrics to this song (“Cuz when I spit the verse the shit gets worse than Worcestershire Sauce”), I would expect to hear A LOT more songs about necrophilia.

Dr. Dre and 50 Cent don’t add much either. If anything Dre detracts and 50 just kind of shows up. Dr. Dre tips his hand of having lost all relevance in the mid 90s with the line “…beats quake like Waco”. He references something he had vaguely heard about back before a decade long opium habit froze his brain in a way that allows him access to memories only in one word slices, which is why he makes the reference in such a puzzling manner, in a way that has no relation to anything that has ever had even slightly to do with Waco.

Crack a bottle let your body waddle
Don’t act like a snobby model you just hit the lotto uh oh
Bitches hoppin’ in my Tahoe got one riding shotgun and no not one of ‘em got clothes
Now where’s the rubbers whose got the rubbers
I notice there’s so many of ‘em and there’s really not that many of us
And ladies love us my posse’s kicking up dust
It’s on till the break of dawn and we’re staring this party at dusk

What could be worse than the 500th Slim Shady self-parody with the most annoying, least creative hook yet? You guessed it, anything by Kelly Clarkson. Her #4 hit ‘My Life Would Suck without You” is an impudent feign at sincerity – in communicating with the Youth Generation – by a group of songwriters called ‘pop-wizards’ who have long lost touch with people that have lives ahead of them, and are scared to death that someone will find this out so they overcompensate by presenting the most cartoonish and juvenile version of young people and ‘relationships’ as can be imagined so as to capture the essence of that inscrutible species Youth as they see it. Because this Young generation, with their legalized sodomy and gay marriages, is obviously no longer interested in the kind of love their grandparents had they must relish emotionally unhealthy relationships, and only in the most vacuous of ways:

I know that I’ve got issues
But you’re pretty messed up too
Anyway, I found out I’m nothing without you

‘Look, I am diagnosed Borderline with Sociopathic symptoms, but you’re a drug addicted AIDS patient. Anyhoo, my life has no intrinsic meaning so I will project meaning onto my causing you to suffer.’

In all it seems that the tables have turned. We are at over 50% of songs that don’t insult us as music listeners in the Billboard top 5. In March of 2003 #1-5 were all that Drowning Pool song about Bodies Hitting the Floor. During the Gingrich revolution Snow had a number one hit and Two Princes was a song. The 80s? Huey fucking Lewis. So yeah, we, or at least Kanye, Lady Gaga and Beyonce are the change we can believe in.

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