Hey, it's Popscene! Our monthly feature in which Mike Conklin and Mark Asch climb out from under their indie-rockist, um, rock, to find out what regular people all over the country are listening to. This installment features selections from the iTunes music store.
Title: "Boom Boom Pow"
Artist: Black Eyed Peas
Mike: It appears we've found our official Summer Jam of '09, and we really could have done much worse. Fergie and the Peas are, above all else, among the most genuinely weird pop stars we've had in years, and it's refreshing — especially here, where all four members trade verses that are made up largely of the kind of innocent and nonsensical but also hilarious combination of bragging and dissing that's missing from so much of today's mainstream hip-hop. And they do it over a beat that sounds like Daft Punk. Most importantly, though, I'm going to a wedding next weekend, and if they don't play this, I'm going to be super angry. Now I'll let Mark talk about Fergie saying, "I'm so 3008, you're so 2000 and late."
Mark: Mike is making fun of me because he knows that I was initially convinced she says "two thousand and eight," and that I was all set to wonder whether someone who doesn't know what year we're in is qualified to sing a song about the coming digital future. But I can't make fun of Fergie now, because Dag. I'm so two thousand and late! (Actually technically I am nineteen hundred and cranky, because of these kids and their stupid lyrics.) Hey, Fergie, in 3008, which you are, have Dippin' Dots finally supplanted ice cream as the frozen dairy treat of choice?
Title: "I Know You Want Me"
Mike: What's cool about this song is that Pitbull knows how to count to four in two completely different languages, which he does one million times over the course of the song's four minutes. What's less cool is the line, "Mami got an ass like a donkey with a monkey, look like King Kong," because I just don't understand what it means. Does her ass look like a donkey and a monkey? I get the donkey/ass connection, sure, but don't monkeys famously have, like, really disgusting asses? Urban Dictionary defines "monkey ass" as either "a stupid fuck," which I don't think is what he means, or something you get "after prolonged periods of poor personal hygiene," which I hope he doesn't mean.
Mark: As I'm the Film Editor 'round these parts, I feel obligated to comment on the part where Pitbull says "Watch me make a movie like Alfred Hitchcock." In middle school I learned from Tim Meadows as The Ladies' Man that "a movie" actually means "a sex tape," but what's a "Hitchcock movie"? Like, has Pitbull seen Rear Window and Vertigo? Because if so that is some serious voyeuristic role-play fetish shit he's talking about there, and I commend him for injecting some much-needed kink into his otherwise fairly vanilla player's-ball misogyny. (I would have made a Rope joke here but people have been shot for lots less.)
Title: "Fire Burning"
Artist: Sean Kingston
Mike: God, this is disappointing. I much prefer Sean Kingston when he's rocking cheap, reggae-tinged pop songs about girls being so beautiful that he actually wants to kill himself. Instead, "Fire Burning" is a cheap dance song about girls looking really hot on the dance floor, further solidifying my theory that people's ideas about what music can and can't be danced to is completely fucked. One would think that of everyone in the world, Sean Kingston would recognize that he need not stray from what he does best in order to get people moving. Argh, I had such high hopes for him, too.
Mark: Listening to this one right after the Pitbull song, it almost sounds like an anthem of female empowerment: true, it's all about how good this (nameless, always nameless) "shawty" looks, dancing, and how Kingston's going to take her home, but at least she's able to elicit an entire four-minute pop song's worth of admiration. Sean Kingston: third-wave feminist.
Mike: Oh fuck, is she talking about Jesus? Or Jay-Z? Same thing, I guess. Anyway, at the beginning of this song, Beyoncé sings "Remember those walls I built?/Well, baby, they're tumbling down/and they didn't even put up a fight /they didn't even make a sound," and I don't know why she seems so surprised, because walls cannot fight or talk. I'm pretty into this song, though. The piano line is great, the overdriven beat is powerful, and Beyoncé continues to find tracks that don't quite sound like everything else out there.
Mark: Wait, how did the instrumental track from "Lip Gloss" find its way into "Because of You"?
Title: "Note to God"
Mike: You know nothing good is going to come of a situation where you find yourself looking for a song on YouTube, and the only results are from a performance on Oprah. This song is sorta like "Imagine," only it's full of grade-school clichés, and instead of asking people to find it within themselves (or, er, communism) to create a better world, it talks about writing a letter to god and asking him to fix everything for us, which seems fraught with problems, both logistical and philosophical.
Mark: Are you there God? It's me, Mark. We're writing a Popscene about a Filipina teenager with a Celine Dion voice and an uplifting message who's beloved by people who email each other inspirational links and watch Oprah. I'm so scared, God. I've never really had to engage with any cultural compass but my own. Suppose I say something offensive, like that time I made a joke about Alicia Keys' cornrows that certain readers found racist? Suppose everybody reading this magazine hates me? Please help me God. Don't let my Popscene on this song be too horribly snobby. Thank you.