100 & Single: Is It Okay For Katy Perry To Bum-Rush Her Way Into The History Books?

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Chart fandom makes strange bedfellows. Six months ago, if you'd asked me what act I'd root for in a head-to-head chart battle between pop princess Katy Perry and electrodance goofballs LMFAO, I'd probably have picked Perry, whose song catalog includes at least one or two gems. Her current hit, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," isn't one of her best—it's nowhere near as well-crafted as "Teenage Dream" or "Hot N Cold"—but it's a charming, goodtime trifle, and marginally less stupid than LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."

Now? I'm rooting for the goofballs over the princess all the way.

LMFAO's single (which, to be honest, has kinda grown on me) is the last firewall standing between Perry and her fifth Hot 100 No. 1 from Teenage Dream. Were "Friday" to hit that mark, Teenage Dream would tie a record that has so far only been reached by one album: Michael Jackson's Bad. Perry and her people are trying to hit that mark by cheating... or, to be fair, by taking advantage of a legal but shady tactic.

On Monday, Capitol Records dropped a new remix of "Last Friday Night" featuring long-in-the-wilderness hip-hop queen Missy Elliott. Other than a bit of noisy folderol at the front of the track, Elliott doesn't add much to Perry's '80s homage—but, hey, the new mix is on sale at iTunes for the rock-bottom price of 69 cents.

This is Perry's last-ditch effort to get "Friday" past LMFAO and their chart-topping "Anthem," now in its sixth week atop the Hot 100. Scoring a fifth No. 1 hit from her 2010 album Teenage Dream would vault Perry into the all-time pantheon alongside Jackson—1987's Bad spawned the 1987-88 No. 1's "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" (with Siedah Garrett), "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana." Perry's Dream has so far spawned the 2010-11 penthouse-dwellers "California Gurls" (with Snoop Dogg), "Teenage Dream," "Firework" and "E.T." (with Kanye West). Currently stuck at No. 2 for a third week, "Last Friday Night" needs to get past LMFAO to give her the quintet.

Obviously my bias toward Jackson is showing here, and to be honest, not even half of those Bad chart-toppers are classics. (When's the last time the snoozy "Just Can't Stop" wafted into your life?) But part of what's objectionable about Perry's chart feats is her repeated use of non-album remixes to go the distance—something Jackson never did in his heyday. Anyone buying her album isn't getting all of the hits as they actually topped the charts or blanketed the radio.

On Perry's album, "E.T." didn't sound much like a hit; it's been widely reported that she had to nudge her label to even consider it worthy of single release. But when fortified by a drive-by Kanye West cameo, the track skyrocketed on iTunes and, subsequently, the Hot 100. The rethink of "Friday" is even shadier. Dropping the Missy mix a full three months into the song's chart life smacks of desperation and dirty pool; at least with "E.T.," the label issued the West remix at the start of the song's radio campaign.

The thing about these late-inning remixes is, they usually work. In April, Rihanna's single "S&M" was languishing on the Hot 100 at No. 2 (behind Perry's "E.T."), before a suddenly issued Britney Spears "Rih-mix" nudged the song to the top of the Hot 100 for a single week. A couple of weeks later, Britney herself benefited when her "Till the World Ends" received a "Femme Fatale Remix" with vocals by Ke$ha and a rap verse by Nicki Minaj. The resulting single-week iTunes boost lifted "World," briefly, to the No. 3 spot. Both remixes' guests were generally wasted, and both releases reeked of a needless cash grab (especially on Spears's already-excellent single, one of her best recent tracks). But enough pop completists bought the remixes that they had their desired chart effect.

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5 comments
Nate
Nate

You're very bias here. Reporters really shouldn't be bias like this, regardless if they have a side about what they're writing about.

Jonathon Hansen
Jonathon Hansen

I also have to respectfully disagree with you Nate. I like it when Chris takes a clear opinion on some sort of controversy, and indeed, he has every right in the world to express his opinion since this is, after all, his opinion column. You call him a "reporter," but this Hot 100 column of his for Village Voice is certainly not supposed to be like an Associated Press "reporter" writing a neutral article...I think Chris did an outstanding job explaining his reasons for why he opposes Capitol Record's desperate attempt to get "TGIF" to #1 on the charts. And you should also note that he makes clear that he isn't trying to single out Perry--indeed, he acknowledges that this is nothing new, as record labels have a long history of trying to manipulate the Billboard charts. 

maura
maura

Totally disagree with you on this point. (Particularly because I want to know: Is your perception of bias... biased???)

Kredit
Kredit

Also think that Katy Perry is making very good music. It's just good mood music to have fun. And produced very well.

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

CORRECTION: I confused a couple of J. Lo singles above. The second one I mentioned, Ain't It Funny," did not feature LL Cool J -- he was featured on Lopez's late-2002 single "All I Have" (which also went to No. 1, but after the rule change, and unlike the two prior J. Lo chart-toppers it wasn't rerecorded from the album version).I regret the error regarding which rapper supported which single. As it happens, both "I'm Real" and "Ain't It Funny" featured the then-ubiquitous Ja Rule. (Can you blame me for forgetting this?) However, the essence of my point above still stands: she did indeed score back-to-back No. 1's with songs rerecorded from the album version, and this resulted in Billboard's rule change.

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