Something old, something new... I haven't heard a lot of terrible in a while, but when they do... jeepers.
Bryan Adams, Summer of '69. Lazy, lazy, lazy: never mind that Adams can't be the protagonist of the song (he was 10 in 1969), or the failure to evoke a decade as tumultuous as the sixties were, no, let's just wonder about "best days of my life," the line meant to imply this summer - remember, when his "band" broke up - was amazing because he met some girl and it just seemed to "last forever" when, of course, that girl's no longer in the picture and his rock aspirations amounted to even bigger, better things. Yes, the song, basically, is an insult to us al, dreamers or not, who fixate on our past as if it were golden, or reject holding onto the past because there's no point. Cynical, lazy and obvious, Summer of 69 is just corporate rock with little more than profit in mind. And no, I don't hate all Bryan Adams. What was really insulting about this song was that the same fairly sexy, smart songwriter who mixed pain and pleasure in "Cuts Like A Knife" (and showed up in one of MTV's most casually arresting videos) ultimately resorted to it. And no, I don't think "Canadian" is the perjorative for it.
Nicki Minaj, Starships. I freely admit, I don't entirely get Minaj or her success, but I don't entirely depise it: Super Bass has its charms (boom ba loom ba boom ba boom boom bass, indeed), and somebody should indeed know who the f*** I is. But that song came from Stargate, a production team recently profiled in The New Yorker's creative arts issue (I don't hate all New Yorkers, either, natch) along with this song's writer, Ester Dean. The article is especially deadly for the way it pulls back a Wizard of Oz-like curtain on the team's approach to songwriting, what they term "hhok plus hook plus hook" which appears to mean the layering on of easy catch phrases (going a long way to explaining a lot of their work with Rihanna, like the atrocious "S&M"). Starships, produced by another, Stargate-like team, is a good example of how the process can fail, all meaningless catchphrases loaded on top of one another until complete incoherence is achieved. It's not the song is lazy, overprocessed, or not undeniably catchy - it's all of these. It's the astonishing amount (obviously) of money, time and effort spent to put complete gibberish onto a digital hard drive as if it did, indeed, mean something.
Maroon 5 (featuring Wiz Khalifa), Payphone. Let's be honest, it's hard being Maroon 5; hard being a band who zoomed to the top of the charts in about 1 and a half albums, rethinking Chic-era bass heavy disco beats as stylish, designer rock music for the upscale lounge set, and proving, on a string of hits (not to mention some pretty choice album filler), at least a dozen ways to reinvent that wheel. That success is due, in no small part, to Adam Levine, possessed of one of the highest, most graceful tenors in pop, able to sound yearning, sweet and sublimely sad, often all at once (She Will Be Loved, for starters, Misery to follow). Levine's also an offbeat heartthrob, which explains his budding success as the latest thing in Reality show TV judging on The Voice. But, alas, success will spoil Rock Hunter: Levine is, more or less, phoning it in for this lazy Chris Brown viaTaio Cruzish, Usher-lite single, which can't even be bothered, lyrically, to either set itself in a past where payphones actually mattered, or somehow explain why the central image of a payphone even matters to the point of the song. Instantly forgettable, yet still featuring a vocal jump that borders, even for Levine, on screechy, Payphone is the first time I've felt like Maroon 5 is cashing the check rather than putting in the effort. And yes, Moves Like Jagger did kind of hint at this development, but even that, egregious Xtina notwithstanding, made up in verve what it lacked in panache. Levine may not have moves like Jagger, but his own style is sexy enough, most of the time. Here's hoping the album isn't a complete dud.