Radio Hits One: Bruce Springsteen And Mick Jagger Stop Making Pop Hits, Start Inspiring Them

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It's been a busy year for Bruce Springsteen. In March, he released Wrecking Ball, his seventeenth studio album and tenth release to top the Billboard 200, and after packing in arenas across America throughout the spring, he took the E Street Band to Europe. His name is also in a top-40 entry on the Hot 100 for the first time in over a decade—but the funny thing is, the song's not his. Eric Church's "Springsteen" sits on the chart this week at No. 19, which was coincidentally also the peak position for Bruce's last pop hit, the Jerry Maguire-spawned ballad "Secret Garden," in 1997.

"Springsteen," a wistful midtempo number with lyrical nods to The Boss's classics "I'm On Fire" and "Born To Run," is North Carolina country star Eric Church's biggest Hot 100 hit to date. It also peaked at No. 3 on the Country Songs chart and is the third single from his third album, Chief, which topped the Billboard 200 last summer. It's a quiet, subtle song, and something of an unlikely crossover hit, aside from the fact that it pays tribute to such a famous singer. This isn't the first time a top 40 hit has been named for Springsteen, though—Rick Springfield got to No. 27 with "Bruce," a playful track about how irked he was when confused with a bigger star with a similar last name.

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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 7: Maroon 5 Featuring Christina Aguilera, "Moves Like Jagger"

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The Song: Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera, "Moves Like Jagger"
The Crimes: Profligate whistling, misplaced sass, wholly unsexy instruction to "take [Levine] by the tongue."

Earlier this year, both Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera were coming off what might be called "soft landings"—the lite-funk outfit's 2010 album Hands All Over received a tepid reception from the marketplace, while the pint-sized belter was coming off punishing reactions to both her overstuffed robo-pop collection Bionic and the "so bad, it can't even be so bad that it's good" pile of camp Burlesque. Then NBC stepped in and hired them both as coaches on their translation of the Dutch talent show The Voice, and what do you know? Being on TV made Americans realize that they still existed, and had even been putting out music in recent months that wasn't as terrible as some doubters wanted to claim. The only way to properly react to this development was, of course, a cash-in single.


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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 10: will.i.am Featuring Mick Jagger And Jennifer Lopez, "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)"

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The Song: will.i.am feat. Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)"
The Crimes: Overhashtagging, sub-"Dancing In The Streets" incoherence from Jagger, using "feces" as a term of braggadocio.

Sometimes I feel bad for the music industry, which has had a rough go of it these past 10 or so years. Yes, they tried to make more money off artists with thin catalogs when Billboard eliminated the physical-single requirement from eligibility for the Hot 100 and ushered in the era of the $18.99 maxi-single; sure, they blew their wad when the Recording Industry Association of America established the Diamond Award, bestowed on albums with 10 million copies shipped (the last album to receive that honor was Usher's Confessions, released in 2004); and yeah, they probably should have been a bit more proactive about the whole "internet" thing. Still, though, there are a lot of good people working inside the fortresses of the big labels, and they're not the complete wastelands of lousy music that up-the-empire types who only like cool DIY bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails make them out to be.

But my sympathies get powerwashed away when I am confronted with money pits of idiocy like the solo career of will.i.am, which continues to kick along even after his 2007 solo album Songs About Girls landed here with a thud. Fresh off the success of the Black Eyed Peas' most recent collection of repurposed pop tropes and Fergie wails, will decided to once again try and make it on his own—assisted by two pop figures of yore who had slightly improbable comebacks this year. Share the wealth, right?


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Will.I.Am Kickstarts The Perhaps-Inevitable Trend Of Naming Albums After Hashtags

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The forthcoming album from will.i.am, lead Black Eyed Pea and tireless trend-rider, is called #WILLPOWER, and yes, the pound sign is intentional; apparently he's so interested in willing (ha!) himself into the Internet-enabled public consciousness, he's named his album in the style of Twitter's "hashtags," which are used to either conveniently organize chatter about particular topics or to provide compressed metacommentary on one's tweeted sentiments. The practice of hashtagging also helped coin the name of the subgenre of "hashtag rap," which Kanye West (perhaps ill-advisedly) takes claim for spawning and which he once defined thusly: "The hashtag rap—that's what we call it when you take the 'like' or 'as' out of the metaphor. 'Flex, sweater red... FIRETRUCK.' Everybody raps like that, right? That's really spawned from like 'Barry Bonds': 'Here's another hit... BARRY BONDS.'" So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that "Hard," the album's first single, liberally uses the hashtag-rap trope, with one particularly excruciating verse culminating like this: "this beat is the shit/ feces." Hey, Ludacris, you should send will.i.am a fruit basket or something!

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