Hey, it’s Popscene! Our new 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. The inaugural installment features their takes on each of the top ten most downloaded songs in the iTunes music store as of February 19.
1 Title: What Goes Around
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Mike: Indisputable proof that, even for a former boy-band member turned cred-carrying superstar, there is still no accounting for taste in the world of mainstream pop. That he thinks he can get away with a seven-and-a-half minute ballad (not to mention the accompanying “short film” featuring Scarlett Johansson) is a slap in the face to those who’ve supported him, and vindication for those who haven’t.
Mark: Justin Timberlake can dissolve a nun’s hymen just by singing scales in the next room. That this song also spawned the most ridiculous music video of this young century — Why, Scarlett? Why? — will, in time, only add to the mythology.
2 Title: Cupid’s Chokehold
Artist: Gym Class Heroes
Mike: Um. Hrmph. This is… I don’t know what this is. I’m thinking Bell Biv DeVoe, Sugar Ray, 311 and, more than anything else, I guess, that Abercrombie & Fitch band, LFO.
Mark: One of the major problems in American society is how kids who are younger and younger have more and more purchasing power. I support federal legislation dictating a national allowance scale, so we spend less time figuring out how to configure our popular culture to suit the whims of middle-schoolers with shitty taste and disposable income.
3 Title: Not Ready to Make Nice
Artist: Dixie Chicks
Mike: Jesus, Natalie. You’re on our side, so I try to leave you alone, but you’ve got to give it a fucking rest. We get it. You pissed off some really, really stupid people a few years ago, and it really, really bothered you. Now focus on finding someone who isn’t deaf to get a good drum sound for you.
Mark: Eh, I’m with you in spirit, Nat.
4 Title: This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race
Artist: Fall Out Boy
Mike: This isn’t nearly as catchy as ‘Sugar’, and I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about because dude’s all marble-mouthed, but it certainly seems like a rousing call-to-arms for spat-upon kids.
Mark: First that My Chemical Romance video, and now this: should we be worried that the emo kids are starting to militarize?
5 Title: It’s Not Over
Mike: This guy’s clearly from the new, wholly unaccredited school that believes bands like Creed and Staind are to be emulated. At the very least, it’s fun to watch American Idol rejects try to pretend they don’t owe their entire shitty career to a contest they lost to a Jesus-loving country singer.
Mark: American Idol loser from 2006 performs a de facto cover of Three Doors Down’s Iraq invasion cash-in ‘When I’m Gone’ (peak chart position of #4, summer of 2003). Somebody track down whatever Reagan-era conservative economists are still out there and lock them in a room with this song on repeat until they admit that the trickle-down principle is a bad, bad thing upon which to base an ethos.
6 Title: Say It Right
Artist: Nelly Furtado
Mike: This is all swirling and pounding and trance-inducing, like the perfect soundtrack to the end of a night spent in the kind of ‘clubs’ people like Britney and Paris go to. Which is somehow way better than it sounds.
Mark: Someday people are going to hire Timbaland to produce their day-to-day lives. Can you imagine how awesome it would be if you were, like, showering or sitting on the subway or whatever, only with some mirror-quaking low-end following you around as you did it?
7 Title: Don’t Matter
Mike: So it seems no one approves of the relationship Akon’s singing about on this reggae-tinged track, evidenced most clearly by the grammatically flawed refrain of “Nobody want to see us together but it don’t matter.” I know, I know… dude’s from Senegal, but he spent most of his life in Jersey City.
Mark: At least Sean Paul comes right out and tells you he wants to get into your pants, instead of this dinner-flowers-opening doors for you shit.
8 Title: The Sweet Escape
Artist: Gwen Stefani
Mark: I wish I could travel back in time to my seventh grade dances and find 12-year-old me standing by the water fountain while the popular kids slow-danced to ‘Don’t Speak’, and take my 12-year-old self by the shoulder and say, “Someday, the person singing this song will have a Top Ten hit with a song that sounds like ‘Forever Your Girl’ if ‘Forever Your Girl’ had been produced by a bag lady.” Although, actually, I’m not sure how much that would have helped. Whatever. Gwen Stefani is a genius.
Mike: Mark’s right. This sounds like Paula Abdul. But what’s truly striking is that, in the bridge, she rhymes “floor” with “refrigera-tor.” Also striking: Akon’s insanely high-pitched vocal contribution of “Woo-hoo! Yee-hoo!”
9 Title: Here (In Your Arms)
Mike: Long-running emo band hits it big with a song that’s exactly as overwrought as everything else they’ve ever done, but thankfully, far catchier, employing all the cheesy synth shit the Postal Service made safe a few years ago.
Mark: This song makes me happy because every time I listen to it I imagine Ben Gibbard alone in his room dancing to ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’.
10 Title: Waiting on the World
Artist: John Mayer
Mike: Do you know what I’m waiting for, John? I’m waiting for you to stop writing really boring slow-jams with lines like, “Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood.” You’re just a famous dude who’s screwing Jessica Simpson because you can. Totally understandable.
Mark: Peace, Love, The Gap.