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: The Time of My Life
Artist: David Cook Mike: I briefly considered making this an all-American Idol version of Popscene, but I worried that Mark would just blabber about how he rues the democratization of art and expression that has exposed the poverty of our tastes and opinions, while I, on the other hand, am just glad to have something to talk to my mom about. Now, I will admit: Mark is going to be right about a lot of stuff, but I urge all of you take solace in the mere fact that America did not choose Archuletta, a 17-year-old show-biz kid who clearly didn’t have even the slightest notion what the songs he was singing were about. Instead, they chose Cook, a boneheaded but likable enough alt-rock guy who at least knew enough to pretend he was actually capable of recognizing emotions. Mark: Shame, really, that Cooksy won American Idol just as school was ending, so this could be the last slow song at year-end middle school dances nationwide, so that thousands of Americans will forever carry the memory of a first kiss taking place amid this drippy wonderland of cliche. On a completely unrelated note, I hate America, and rue the democratization of art and expression that has exposed the poverty of our tastes and opinions, the meager vocabulary with which we express them, and the ravenous hunger for attention with which we expose them to the world (and note the tastes and opinions of others to the extent that they suggest our own potential to be noticed).
Title: Viva La Vida Artist: Coldplay Mike: Does this song even exist outside that Apple commercial? I’m all up on YouTube, and all I can find is the commercial and a bunch of live performances that I desperately do not want to watch, for fear that they will sound bad and hurt my ears in the way live videos often do. So, based on the 30 seconds of this song I will allow myself to take in, I will say that it appears to sound like Coldplay, only slightly tweakier, to the extent that I might start telling people that I think Chris Martin is on drugs. Mark: I would like to thank producer Brian Eno for, by his very presence, making it acceptable for self-styled cool people to submit to the charms of dramatic, vaguely religious arena pop augmented by a Classical Thunder string section and the mythopoetic vocal stylings of Chris Martin. God, how I’ve missed it.
Title: I Kissed a Girl Artist: Katy Perry Mike: You are not alone, reader. I too was hoping this would be a cover of Jill Sobule’s 1995 hit of the same name. It is not, though. It’s a completely different song by an asshole named Katy Perry, who, over a bed of cheeseball synths that remind one equally of Ashlee Simpson and the Pussycat Dolls, posits, essentially, that homosexuality is an act of rebellion — something you do by accident when you get too drunk. I’ll allow Ms. Perry to speak for herself, though, lest you think I’m misinterpreting: “It’s not what good girls do/It’s not how they behave.” Mark: Although the Jill Sobule thing is indeed disappointing, I think Mike gives Katy Perry too little credit for savvily writing in the voice of a character other than herself. Attention-whorey bicuriosity has long needed an anthem (other than ‘Baby Got Back’), and the guilty, coy lyrics about drinking too much at a party and getting carried away and making out with another chick (“I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”) are on-point enough that I think she knows exactly the type of person she’s talking about. Between this and ‘UR So Gay’, about a guylinered narcissist boyfriend (“I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf”), I’m pretty sure Katy Perry is a genius and I want her to write snarky songs about all popcult social phenomena.
Title: Pocketful of Sunshine Artist: Natasha Bedingfield Mike: So many questions!!! What’s in her pocket? (Mark guesses below.) Where is her secret place? It’s just a hunch, but I think it is the Williston Townhouse, the Long Island diner where my friends and I hung out in high school. This song, by the way, is awful, a desperate lunge at the type of armchair mysticism only Mariah Carey can pull off. Mark: So, the “pocketful of sunshine” that she carries around and that lifts her away from the troubles of the world and that nobody knows about but her... is it Jesus?
Title: Take a Bow Artist: Rihanna Mike: I just spent three minutes and fifty-three seconds trying to imagine what this song would sound like if it had been recorded not as a hideously boring ballad but as, you know, the kind of song Rihanna actually does well. Mark: I’m enjoying the way Rihanna curtly talk-sings “please,” and the way the synthesized hand-clap percussion is an unobtrusive (but definitely remixable) platform for her vocal stylings, but as far as songs that are called ‘Take a Bow’ and are kiss-offs to a guy who’s only pretending to be in love with the singer go, I rather prefer the clubby melodrama of Leona Lewis’s version. And the video for the Madonna one. ¡Hey, toro!