Hey, it’s Pop Scene! Our monthly feature in which Mark Asch and Mike Conklin 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 their take on selections from the iTunes top ten list.
Title:Umbrella Artist:Rihanna (featuring Jay-Z)
Mike: Rihanna is many things — young, beautiful, rich, well-connected — but unfortunately, she’s not a very good singer. She’s all nasally and annoying, and totally wouldn’t even make it out to L.A. on American Idol. And to make matters worse, she does this horrible thing where she keeps saying “um-ba-rella-la… e-la… e-la… e-la,” and it sort of sounds like there’s something wrong with her. Jay-Z doesn’t do too much, but he does introduce Rihanna as “Little Miss Sunshine,” which, you know, is pretty much the last nail in that coffin, I guess.
Mark: I wonder how many times a person can listen to this song without starting to slip up and pronounce “umbrella” as a four-syllable word. Well, this summer we’ll all have a chance to find out.
Title: Party Like a Rock Star
Artist: Shop Boyz
Mike: Can someone please tell me what demographic is buying into this? I honestly can’t even begin to guess.
Mark: When I first saw the name “Shop Boyz,” I was really excited because I assumed it meant I was going to get to write about a Pet Shop Boys remix or whatever. Turns out I’m supposed to write about a novelty rap song that name-checks the dude from Blink-182, ends a line with the word “Cowabunga,” and steals the “goes down like the Titanic” line from Good Morning Vietnam, all in one verse. So I will: “Apparently the road to hip-hop crossover leads through tree-lined suburban streets with Volvos in the garage and 15-year-olds doing bong hits and playing XBox in their furnished basements. Who wants to take the Shop Boyz aside and explain the concept of the cul-de-sac?”
Title: You Give Love a
Artist: Blake Lewis
Mike: By now it’s no secret that the American Idol producers effectively stole the crown from Seattle-based beat-box nerd Blake Lewis when they chose ‘This Is My Now’ as the song the contestants would perform on the finale, but dude’s not gonna win any sympathy with this painful studio version of the Bon Jovi song he performed twice during the season. The drums sound like ass, and his beat-boxing nonsense isn’t nearly as impressive. Yeah, that’s right, I implied that it was impressive on the live versions. (Side note: Has anyone ever noticed how tiny Blake’s mouth/lips are?)
Mark: Bra, you give karaoke a bad name.
Title: This is My Now
Artist: Jordin Sparks
Mike: Jordin Sparks was, at best, the third best singer on season six of American Idol, behind Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones, for sure, but maybe behind Phil Stacey, Stephanie Edwards and Gina Glocksen as well — which is fine, really. But more perplexing than that (since everyone but the show’s producers and judges seem to realize the it’s no more about singing than it is a bunch of other seemingly less important things), she had a less clearly defined image than almost everyone. She smiled a lot, and always seemed grateful, but every time I heard her sing, I was left with no clue as to what kind of record she’d even release were she to win. And now, I guess I know: sappy, bullshit ballads with titles that sound like lines that got cut from Grey’s Anatomy.
Mark: At summer camps all over the country in the next few months, 11-year-old boys and girls will slow-dance to this when it plays as the last song of the night at socials, and sneak in their very first kiss during the piano outro, just as the lights are going up in the rec hall and all their friends are circling around them to see if they’ll actually do it.
Mike (again): Mark talks about summer camp a lot. Weird.
Title: Big Girls Don’t Cry
Mike: Everything about this song is telling me loud and clear that I shouldn’t like it: the shitty sounding acoustic guitar that very well may be coming from a keyboard, for all I know, Fergie’s daring attempt at duplicating every single terrible stereotypical vocal style ever adopted by a female pop-star, the line, “We’ll be playmates and lovers and share our secret worlds,” etc. But for some reason, I kind of enjoy the melody.
Mark: This would never have been allowed to happen if Frankie Valli was still alive.