I’m not really up on popular music these days. This is partly because I don’t like listening to the radio – too many commercials and annoying announcers. It’s partly because I can’t listen to streaming radio at work – not enough bandwidth. And it’s partly because I’m an old fart who spends too much time watching old videos on YouTube.
So, just for the heck of it, I decided to listen to as much of the Billboard Top Ten as I could. This meant listening to Justin Bieber, which I have never knowingly done before. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Important note before we get started: I have always believed that there is no such thing as bad music. There’s just music that you don’t like. If I don’t like a song, it doesn’t mean that it sucks – it just means that it doesn’t do something for me. With that out of the way, let’s venture into the unknown (or, rather, the known).
I think I see why this song made it to #1 – the electric piano hook is memorable. I listened to this for 1:11, and I spent some of that time trying to figure out whether they autotuned any of Ms. Gomez’s vocals. I guess autotuning is like cosmetic surgery – if it’s done well, nobody can tell. My notes for this song describe it as “harmless” and “not horrible”.
I stopped this after 0:54 – not because it was horrible, but because I was trying to remember what it reminded me of, and actually having the song on was distracting me from recalling. I couldn’t place it. Argh. I hate when that happens. This Bieber song was not a cringeworthy experience, which surprised me. (Hint: that happens later.) But I am so not in the demographic for this song. As far as I can tell, there are no non-synthesized instruments on this recording – that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you could probably record the whole thing on a computer. This is the future!
I wrote down that this sounded halfway between Tracy Chapman and Mary J. Blige (though I’ve only heard a few songs by each of them, so I might just be guessing here). This sounds less packaged than either of the two previous songs. Its rhymes are more rap-influenced. I stopped it after 1:43 because I had figured out what it was all about and I was ready to move on to the next, not realizing what was in store for me.
What’s with the repeat artists on the chart? In the top 20, there are two by Justin Bieber,
two by Adele, and two by Shawn Mendes. I know that the entire pop music market is
now controlled by about four record companies and three chains of radio stations, but
there’s got to be at least 20 unique artists that deserve to chart every week,
don’t you think? This is the cringeworthy Bieber experience I was expecting – I only managed 0:14 of this. It felt like I was listening in on a teenager’s private telephone conversation, which made me feel creepy. I did not belong there. By the way, Bieber is still only 21, even though it seems like he’s been around forever.
The echoed drums remind me of the 1980s. And there is electric piano. It reminds me a bit of Steve Perry of Journey. The Weeknd (who stole his vowel! give it back!) is Canadian – he’s from Scarborough. This song is inoffensive, at least musically – I didn’t
check the lyrics that closely. I listened to 1:54 of it.
She’s famous enough that almost everyone has heard of her by now – not quite at a
Bieber level of fame, but getting there. Her voice at the start reminds me of Alison Moyet a bit, and a bit of Tracy Chapman (again). I can see her covering “Diary” or “Fast Cars”
without embarrassing herself. After about a minute and a half, this song becomes
more of an epic in tone, almost as if it was written by Jim Steinman. Adele is a
much better singer than Meat Loaf or Bonnie Tyler – if she had been born a generation
earlier, she could have sung “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and never had to work again.
Of course, she has sold enough records by now that she probably doesn’t have to work
now. I lasted 2:46 into this, which is the longest so far!
More interesting than the others so far, not quite like it was manufactured by a song factory. Rap-style lyrics (lots of rhymes in the middle of lines). Probably my favourite on the list. I won’t listen to it again, but it felt like something I hadn’t heard before. It ends abruptly, which intrigued me – I had to check the song timer to see whether there was going to be more of it. The only song I’ve listened to all the way through so far.
Meghan Trainor’s thing, of course, is that she doesn’t sound like you expect her to
sound, given how she looks. There’s no reason why she should, of course – how you
expect her to sound or look is your problem, not hers. So there. This is the fourth single off her debut album; it’s rather impressive to have four hit singles on one album. I thought her singing voice was okay, and was kind of liking the song until the 1:30 mark, when John Legend came in. I hit Pause so quickly at that point that I risked rupturing a finger. Ugh.
For some reason, I didn’t want to listen to this at all. I have no idea why, as objectively
it doesn’t sound worse than others on this list. What’s up with the whole Roses featuring Rozes thing? 0:29.
Another song I had to stop (at 0:43) because I had to think, does this remind me of anything I know? This time, I got it: Daya’s voice reminded me a bit of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. Musically, they’re very different, but their voices reminded me of one another. I looked Daya up on Wikipedia: her real name is Grace Tandon, and she is only 17. That’s very young to have a song in the top ten. I hope she handles her fame well.
If I had become famous at 17 – or even at 37 – I would probably have become insufferable. After reading this, you might think that I am insufferable now.
One final bit of information to close this entry: I seem to recall reading that, at one point, Dolores O’Riordan was the woman with the largest annual earnings in Ireland. Wikipedia says that she is now one of the ten wealthiest women there. So there you go.