Grading the iTunes Hits: Metro Station, Pussycat Dolls, Miley Cyrus
Now if she does it like this will you do it like that
Lil Wayne and Coldplay are not safe. On Tuesday, Disney released the soundtrack to Camp Rock, their High School Musical-esque vehicle for their Osmonds/Hanson Tigerbeat behemoth Jonas Brothers. Right now, there's only one song from that soundtrack album in the iTunes top ten. Within a week, I wouldn't be surprised if half the songs on the list come from that album. These Disney people do not play. Witness, for instance, this column. Of the five songs I'm writing about here, two come from Disney-affiliated acts, and another one comes from an emo band who met on the set of Hannah Montana. Just like Rites of Spring!
Metro Station: "Shake It." Wow, this is one fascinating mess. Uber-clean post-Ocasek guitar-crunch over bubbletrance synths and Casio-preset drums, with Miley Cyrus's tatted-up alien-looking brother using a nasal MySpace-emo honk to yelp surprisingly nasty come-ons: "I was thinking of ways that I could get inside." (He's ostensibly talking about getting inside her front door, but, I mean, come on.) The chorus is a massive simplistic cheerleader chant. The video has a dance-off between dancing nerds and dancing mid-90s rude-boys, and there's krumping. At the end, everyone runs away from the cops. "Shake It" is now officially the most unapologetically trashy and poppy Fuse-bait emo song ever, taking the spot formerly held by Hellogoodbye's "Here (In Your Arms." It's also my favorite emo song since "Here (In Your Arms)," but that's not really saying much. 7.3
Pussycat Dolls: "When I Grow Up." There's always been a harsh, joyless, mechanized edge to Pussycat Dolls' theatrical sexpot electropop; they reminded me of the robot hookers from Westworld. On their first single in forever, producer Rodney Jerkins works that angle more blatantly than ever before, sampling the unforgivingly minimal descending riff from the Yardbirds' "He's Always There" and throwing all sorts of distracting shit on top of it: cotton-candy synth-vwerps, battering handclaps, percussive forced-sass backup vocals from all the non-Nicole Dolls. Nicole, meanwhile, uses that zero-personality wail to tell us this: "Now I've got a confession / When I was young I wanted attention / And I promised myself that I'd do anything / Anything at all for them to notice me." (She also tells us that she wanted either boobies or groupies; I can't tell which.) Now that she's got all that attention, she offers a warning in a sort of mocking singsong: "Be careful what you wish for cuz you just might get it." She never elaborates, but she does tell us that we want to be just like her. This strikes me as a profoundly sad song, and not in a good way. That Yardbirds riff still kills, though. 4.7
Miley Cyrus: "7 Things. Here's something funny: a year after Avril Lavigne ditches her petulant post-Lilith Fair adult-contempo tantrum-rock for stunningly obnoxious catchphrase-slinging teenpop brattiness, the reigning queen of teenpop guns for full-on vintage-Avril territory, kicking hardass breakup-talk over strummy acoustic guitars and airy strings. Cyrus's voice has always had a weirdly mature and assured Pat Benetar sort of snarl to it, and when she ditches the synths here, she sounds like someone at least twice her age, even with the cute lyrical bit where she names the seven things she likes about you after naming the seven things she hates about you. The anti-texting lyric might be the bravest thing she's ever done. The big chorus hits its marks, but this is boring. If Miley starts wearing wifebeaters with neckties, I'm going to worry. 5.2
Jonas Brothers: "Play My Music." A scarily peppy charged-up new-wave jam about how much the Jonas Brothers like music. Hey, I like music too! I don't much like the processed guitar-stomp and character-free vocals here, though, and the part about how they don't need a fancy car as long as they've got their six-strings on their backs would embarrass Bryan Adams. But I can't bring myself to hate any song with this lyric: "Hand-clapping! Earth-shaking! Heartbreaking! There's no faking!" 5.4
Rihanna: "Disturbia." So the song is about feeling disturbed, and it's called "Disturbia." Jesus. Rihanna is now doing the T-Pain obvious-autotune thing, which I guess had to happen sooner or later. But the beat here is mocking, flickering Euroclub stuff, and its stomping repetition actually enhances the going-crazy lyrics. This isn't euphoric and liberating like "Don't Stop the Music"; it's dense and creepy and oppressive, so it's at least possible to hear the icy synth-stabs as freaked-out atmospheric effect. Still, I can't figure out the lyrics at all. "Throw on your brake lights"? That doesn't make any sense. 4.8
Wow, this is not a good week for the iTunes top ten. I really hope "Get Silly" fully blows up soon.