Pop Scene! 

Hey, it’s Pop Scene! 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 week’s installment features selections from the iTunes music store.

Title: Hate That I Love You
Artist: Rihanna

It seemed realistic to expect a lot from this song, a duet featuring Rihanna, who’s obviously had a pretty good six months, and Neyo, who’s annoying as all hell, and whose name sounds like a character in an 80s movie about video games, but who people seem to like. Given the title of the song, I’ve gathered they’re supposed to be a couple that loves each other deeply, even though the relationship as a whole is maybe a little bit destructive and unhealthy. I got all this from the title, mind you, because once the song starts, it’s all out the window. Listening to the lyrics, the two seem to have a nice enough relationship, with magic and good kisses and deep personal knowledge of each other, but still, they hate being in love, and we really have no idea why. To each his own, though… I hate people who don’t think it’s necessary to write an actual song to accompany the great title they came up with.

Mark: What Mike said. This is one of those songs where the mixed-gender duet should probably have been in alternate verses, rather really close harmonies wherein both parties are saying the same thing.

Title: Baby Bash
Artist: Cyclone (featuring T-Pain)

Mike: I never know where the rockist police draw the line. Like, am I supposed to say this song is good, or does this qualify as hip-hop it’s ok not to enjoy? Because I definitely don’t enjoy it, at all. Cyclone might be talking about a stripper, but I’m not sure. Regardless, he likes when she twirls around (like a cyclone!), and he likes that she has hips and an ass and high heels, all of which are fine things to like about a person. Side note: What the fuck is with everybody rocking the vocoder these days?

Mark: Hello, ladies. It’s Mark Asch, of The L Magazine. I’m working on a recurring feature we do called “Popscene,” about the popular hits of today. And I would like to ask you all a question: when rappers like Baby Bash and T-Pain do a song like ‘Cyclone’, in which the physique of an unnamed lady — presumably one who, like you, is a frequent subject of the male gaze — is admiringly compared to, among other things, a luxury automobile and a natural disaster, is this something that you find empowering, or offensive and objectifying? I’m very curious to hear your response. Email me at mark@thelmagazine.com with the subject line “Shorty got looks, Shorty got class, Shorty got hips and Shorty got ass.”

Title: Apologize
Artist: Timbaland (featuring One Republic)

Mike: When I first went to YouTube to see what this song was all about, I was confused. Had I accidentally searched for Maroon 5 or James Blunt or something? Who in god’s name is this embarrassing white-boy crooner, and shouldn’t the song be billed as One Republic featuring Tim instead of the other way around? Is One Republic just one dude, or a full band? Is Tim totally over, by the way? Seems like he is, and if his ridiculous camera-hogging shenanigans at this year’s VMAs weren’t the final nail in his coffin, then this piece of shit, which sounds like a fucking Dido song, surely is.

Maybe I’m just in a cranky mood because the piano intro sounds almost like a sample from ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, but, to its infinite detriment, isn’t, but still: is it wrong of me to expect that a ballad with the title ‘Apologize’ would consist of the singer, you know, apologizing for something, rather than telling the song’s addressee that it’s no use even trying to say that she’s sorry? Hey, maybe you’re both partly to blame — that ever occur to you?

Title: Shadowplay
Artist: The Killers

Mike: Said my favorite YouTube commenter, “Very good... probably better than the Joy Division version... no offence (sic), I like Joy Division’s version but this takes it to another level.” And I could not agree more — the Killers have taken the Joy Division classic to another level, one where it’s been completely robbed of any of the gloomy and instantly engaging struggles that characterized the band’s enormously sympathetic frontman, Ian Curtis, remade instead in a way where it’s impossible to ignore the fact that it’s being performed by a bunch of egomaniacal Mormons who play arena rock shows for people who have terrible taste in music.

Mark: I suppose I should be outraged about the poster boys for all that’s glib and derivative about marquee acts copping critical-fave genres turning a Joy Division album cut into arena fodder. Thing is, despite what Joe Unknown Pleasures T-Shirt might say, it’s impossible to deny the very well-known pleasures people take from Joy Division’s songs, and I can’t begrudge the Killers for having fun covering one. This song played over the end credits of Control; Ian Curtis isn’t pirouetting in his grave, he’s cashing New Order royalty checks in Ibiza.

Title: 1234
Artist: Feist

Mike: I’ve not met a single person who doesn’t like this song, and while, granted, I run in some pretty fucking nerdy indie rock circles, where Feist is about as divisive as, like, cake, you’ve still got to give credit to Apple’s marketing department for handpicking it to be featured in commercials for the iPod Mini. It’s an easily digested track, and the video on the commercial features lots of choreography and sparkly blue outfits, which, duh, everyone likes.  The song’s hook is insane, and I think even Sasha Frere-Jones would agree that it “swings.” But now I’m trying to think about other songs my friends and I like that would appeal to such a wide audience, and you know what I’ve got? Nothing.

Mark: We won.


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