And now, a round of "it's just too easy":
Justin Bieber, Boyfriend. There's a rhythm track these days that just plucks my last nerve: it's this kind of very spare, very slow beat box, often accompanied by a high pitched whistle, and it's really popular with rappers, and I think it came from Timbaland and the only person I've heard use it effectively without killing me is Missy Elliott. And that, my friends, is the signature hook to "Boyfriend," the lead single from Justin Biber's "Now I'm a Grown Up" second album. Bieber's got a serious case of Timberlake envy (all Justins are a problem: discuss), and just as Timberlake pursued an awkward melange of blue eyed soul, rap beats and techno edginess until a world cried out "enough already and take sexy back where you left it!", Bieber is similarly poised to wear out his welcome, and fast. Tween girls will, no doubt, lap this stuff up with a spoon (through radio has been curiously slow to dive into it), but with the usual amount of stalker lyrics and PG 13 sexiness, Bieber's both dull and dishonest, rather than sly and sexy, traits I'm pretty sure he enturely lacks. It's hard trick, drifiting from pre-teen bubblegum to young adult serious pop stardom (Leif Garrett, anyone?) and even Timberlake has fled to film acting (where, sadly, I think he's probably going to fulfill his promise). Here's hoping Bieber gets acting lessons. Or a fresh approach to songwriting.
Fun, We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monae). A song with a chorus so annoying, I've literally turned away every time; except one, when I decided I had to listen all the way through, just to be sure about my sense that it is indeed a Worst Song. Nope... I was right all along. My only question is who thought the reasonably interesting, if downbeat, verses of the song ought to marry up to that inane, loud, chant-like chorus (and sub question: can anyone find Janelle Monae in this)? Dopey, meaningless, yet somehow perceived as deep, We Are Young makes actually being young sound far worse than it is, or was. And this, from a group named Fun?
Train, Drive By. For me, Train exists on this knife edge of pop kitsch: in their bombastic, middling way when they shoot for the moon they often get further than they rightfully should, and it really is pop magic (Drops of Jupiter, Calling All Angels, Hey Soul Sister, Marry Me). Too clever by half, the lyrics are often just short of treacle and musically, the band is workmanlike without necessarily being revelatory (the Glee arrangement of Hey Soul Sister for The Warblers actually imroves the song's dynamics, just as a f'rinstance). Drive By is a good example of how that all looks when it goes wrong: the lyrics are a mush of cheap sentiment and couplets that try too hard, while musically there's no payoff (it doesn't help that Patrick Monahan has a voice nearly as high as Adam Levine's, and is scraping the ceiling, much like Payphone). There's even less payoff in comparing love to a "drive by" - which usually refers to shootings, IIRC. All of which is a creepy reminder that Train tends to look daring singing about reinfocing social norms and standard expectations (Gee, Drive By seems to say, I hope you don't think I only screwed you once and walked away, cause that would make you look really bad). Still, I'm in a forgiving mood, and I suspect this was just a random misstep. So don't go proving me wrong, tramp.