Hey, it's Pop Scene! Our monthly feature in which Mike Conklin and Ben Sutton 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: Sexy Bitch
Artist: David Guetta feat. Akon
Mike: Honestly, I can't even tell the difference between David Guetta and Akon here, which maybe says more about me than it does about these two performers, but regardless, one of them is trying to figure out a way to describe a woman without being disrespectful to her, which I know because of the line, "I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful." It's an admirable undertaking, of course, if also one that probably shouldn't be quite as difficult as it's made out to be. We're told that she doesn't compare to "your neighborhood whore," that she does really cool things with her ass, and ultimately, yes, that she's a sexy bitch. So one could probably say he did not achieve his goal.
Ben: I love how this fairly benign but enjoyable club track is just about Akon trying really hard to suppress his impulse to objectify a really attractive woman. The chorus (or rather the song's few looped and tweaked lyrics) go like so: "I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful... Damn you's a sexy bitch." That's not how we talk about women Akon! To be fair, if the video—which looks something like Terry Richardson shooting a rap video—is anything to go by, Akon and David Guetta are actually 12 years old, and would rather throw each other into a pool repeatedly and party with laser-powered robots than try talking to the dozens of beautiful women chilling nearby.
Artist: Young Money (feat. Lloyd)
Mike: Eh, another song where a bunch of dudes talk about how good they are at having the sex, which as far as I'm concerned, accomplishes very little other than perhaps setting unreasonably high expectations. What if one night dude has had too much to drink or he's just a bit preoccupied, and he actually can't make her bed rock as if he were Fred Flinstone? I feel like it would be smarter for rappers to be all like, "Yeah, I think I'm pretty ok at having sex... I mean, I try my best, but I also recognize that some people just don't really connect on that level, you know? Not everyone's compatible." That way, at least no one gets their hopes up.
Ben: This is actually a fairly decent marquee-rapper-introducing-his-posse track (so much better than "Every Girl")although Lloyd's hilarious Flinstones reference on the chorus ("call me Mr. Flinstone/I can make your bed rock") only underlines how unfunny Lil Wayne's lil friends are. Happily I can't tell which verse is Drake, but Gudda Gudda and Nicki Minaj have a hard enough time following Weezy's third-rate opener. Gudda just gives up on formulating anything resembling a complete metaphor, closing his section with: "She don't even wonder/cause she know she bad/and I got her, nigga/grocery bag." I guess he's into autoerotic asphyxia. Nicki, playing the token hyper-sexual female rapper, reveals some unusual kinks too when she promises "to put this pussy on your sideburns." I don't remember that ever happening on The Flinstones.
Title: Last Christmas
Artist: Glee Cast
Mike: I'm a pretty big fan of Glee, for the fearless way it addresses stereotypes with the knowledge that there are comedic and tragic aspects to all of them, and that to focus on only one would be either offensive or boring. The show's tone shifts constantly, from absurdist po-mo humor to after-school special moral grandstanding, and it's unsettling if also generally very enjoyable. Admittedly, I cringe and cover my face with a pillow every time they break into song, because it's all so schlocky and earnest and embarrassing, but it's also part of the charm: there is something to be said for a show that's willing to take shots at everything except for the most basic, joyful elements of listening to and performing music. Oh, right... "Last Christmas." It's better than the Jimmy Eat World version, anyway.
Ben: I haven't watched Glee that much, but for a show whose greatest pleasures come from watching a group of self-conscious, hormonally unhinged teens played by super-talented actors and dancers perform beloved pop hits, this seems like the perfect Christmas-y love song, with all the self-doubt, angst, and intense, short-lived pain of high school romance. I hope if they perform it on the show the glee club from that all-girls school in the ghetto turns up and does "Ludacrismas," which is also all about pain, uncertainty and loss. And then Eve, who plays their club director, and Sue (Jane Lynch) would have a song-and-dance duel, and it would be the best Christmas episode ever.
Title: I Invented Sex
Artist: Trey Songz (feat. Drake)
Mike: I think I'm down with Trey Songz. He's totally fucking filthy, of course, and unlike Ben, I actually believe him when he says he's good at doing it, 'cause, like, his voice is really smooth and I think he understands melody—two absolute musts when it comes to doing it. It's strange, maybe even a little sad, to be a 31-year-old man whose job is to discuss the merits of the sexual boasting of other men. But at least I'm not Drake. God, Drake sucks.
Ben: How is it that Drake, despite being the most boring hip-hop artist since, um, at least Master P, has become a Pop Scene regular? (Twice this week!) That said, I wish his verse hadn't been cut from the version of the song they used for the video, because then he could be there standing awkwardly by the bed while Trey Songz and his girl get their dry hump on. And where does this Songz character get off (heh) claiming he's so good in bed that you'd think he invented sex? He doesn't even know how to spell! Worse still, his song has no enjoyable rhythm, building momentum, or ecstatic release, so there's no reason to think he'd be able to achieve those things in other areas of his life. He needs to stop name-dropping Usher and actually listen to some Usher, or, better yet, R. Kelly, who actually invented sex.
Title: Evacuate the Dance Floor
Mike: This is like a bullshit dance track from 1990, but with auto-tune. The beat is basically a canned setting on a cheap old keyboard, the melody is repetitive and not at all interesting (or even particularly catchy), and the overall tone and structure are hopelessly outdated. I make fun of lots of shit in Pop Scene, but for the most part I see the appeal of the songs we cover. This is something else entirely, though—the kind of song you actually just can't picture a real, live person listening to.
Ben: Gosh, I didn't realize that swine flu was such a huge problem in Germany. That's what this throwback to early 90s electropop is about, right? Natalie Horler, the trio's lead singer, implores, "Evacuate the dancefloor/I'm infected by the sound," yet nobody seems to leave the dance floor. In fact, more people are continually crowding around the infected singer. And then, in a moment of self-sacrifice she calls out, "Hey Mister DJ come on and burn this place right down to the ground," which seems a little extreme, but I guess you can't be too careful. Just when I was thinking these Deutschlanders might be the next Black Eyed Peas.
Take a listen for yourself, and let us know what you think:
Oh, and here's that Glee track: