2009 – The weirdest year for number ones in a long time.
2009 was actually a fairly decent year for pop music. For the most part, the radio pop was harmless and occasionally enjoyable. However, this is not represented in this year’s slate of number ones, one of the weakest in a long time. With the exception of one superstar in the making (you can guess who), none of the new artists who reached number one seem to have any staying power whatsoever. I doubt we’ll be hearing too much from Jason DeRulo or (hope to god) Owl City in the next decade. This year’s #1s would probably be much more interesting if it weren’t for the Black Eyed Peas’ 26-week reign of terror. The Black Eyed Peas inexplicably dominated the middle of the year, with two seemingly forgettable, not even that catchy songs. The last time one artist dominated a year like this was in 2004, when Usher dominated the charts. In 2004, it was clear that Usher was the biggest star in the world, while the Black Eyed Peas seemed to generate mostly “meh”s, as “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow” stayed at the top spot. The 26 straight weeks the BEPs stayed atop the charts was clearly a record, but does that mean that they were more dominant than the Bee Gees in 1977? Neither of the songs seemed particularly ubiquitous over the summer (#2’s “Best I Ever Had” and “Party in the USA” seemed to have more radio play and more water-cooler discussion) and it seems unlikely that either of these low-IQ hookfests will stand the test of one year, let alone 30. Whatever. Talking about this too much makes me sad, let’s head on to the hits:
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) – Beyonce – (12/13/2008; 12/27/2008-1/10/09) (4 weeks)
Reviewed in the 2008 list
Just Dance – Lady Gaga ft. Colby O’Donis – (1/17-1/31) (3 weeks)
Though this was Lady Gaga’s first hit, it showcases almost none of the musical chops or irresistible catchiness of some of her later songs. Gaga didn’t have her coming out party until a couple weeks after this. Listening to this song, it isn’t hard to understand why some people (including myself) believed that Ms. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta would be a flash-in-the-pan one-hit wonder. Just Dance doesn’t feature any of Gaga’s trademark techniques or vocal tics and exudes almost no personality. Stupid lyrics and a “Konvict” chant in the beginning leant credence to my theory that she was another useless Akon protégé. Luckily, her next singles proved us wrong, but Just Dance is fairly unimpressive and annoying.
My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson – (2/7-2/14) (2 weeks)
This is a transparent attempt by Clarkson to recapture the popularity of “Since U Been Gone” (which actually only reached number 2). The opening guitar lick and the soft-LOUD-soft dynamic are obvious callbacks to her greatest hit. However, this song conveys the opposite message of Since U Been Gone, and to me it shows a disconcerting regression in her attitude, as in the first song she was an independent woman who did not need a man in her life, but now she’s begging a man to take her back. Since U Been Gone is an almost impossible standard to live up to (I love that song), but I don’t think the song stands well on its own either. It’s nice to see some (non-synthesized) guitars on the top of the charts though, because this is sorta it for guitar in 2009.
Crack a Bottle – Eminem ft. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent – (2/21) (1 week)
These three men ruled the roost in the beginning and middle of the decade, as everything they touched turn to gold. The Dr. Dre-Eminem tree of influence dominated rap and popular charts and 50 was the biggest star of any kind in the world. Since then, Eminem has suffered a personal break down, entering rehab and suffering more familial drama with Kim and his mother and lost his best friend, Proof, who was murdered. Dr. Dre was still producing beats for young artists he wanted to promote, but he stopped rapping after his excellent Chronic 2001 record. 50 ran out of things to rap about after he transformed himself from David to Goliath and had an ill-advised beef with Kanye. Now he spends most of his time shilling for Vitamin Water. None of these men are on top of their game on this track, but it’s nice to see Aftermath return to number one. Dr. Dre’s clearly ghostwritten guest rap is pedestrian, and so is 50’s. Eminem hasn’t been the same since The Marshall Mathers LP and he never really seems comfortable on club jams or crowd pleasing songs like this one and none of his Shady persona is evident on this track. It’s sad to see an Eminem who lacks any of the fire that he used to bring to even the most meaningless guest appearances, but this is a mostly serviceable club track, since even Dre’s worst beat is better than 99% of his imitators’ best.
Right Round – Flo Rida ft. Ke$ha – (2/28-4/4) (6 Weeks)
Flo Rida is a rare beast: a rapper with absolutely no personality. He doesn’t claim to be from the streets or anything. He never seems to show up on TV and he never talks about himself in any of his songs. The only things we know about him are a) he has money, b) he likes to spend it on jewelry and strippers, and c) he’s from Florida. His music isn’t very distinctive either. He seems to have the same musical approach as Puff Daddy in the late 90s – play on people’s nostalgia to compensate for lack of creativity and rhyming skills. This song uses the great “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record” by Dead or Alive and adds basically nothing, just altering the chorus to include more innuendo. Out of left-field surprise: Ke$ha, who sings half the chorus on this song and contributes nothing else, has the current number one hit (the first of the new decade, so not reviewed ‘til next year), “Tik Tok,” a semi-pleasant slice of electropop. This song, however, is derivative as they come and not even terrible in the way of some Rick Ross songs. Just average.
Poker Face – Lady Gaga – (4/11) (1 week) (it was number two for several weeks afterwards)
This song marked the true emergence of one of the most interesting and original pop stars this decade: Lady (probably) Gaga. Of the four major Gaga songs of 2009 (Just Dance, Poker Face, Paparazzi, Bad Romance), the better two failed to reach number one. Poker Face, though, is among the best pure pop songs of the year. Though the poker metaphor is a little weak (“I wanna hold ‘em like they do in Texas, yeah!”), the chorus is irresistible and the oh-oh-oh’s dare you not to sing along. This song is where the Gaga/Madonna comparisons really began to stick – along with the constant changing appearance and spacey, less-than-intelligent interviews, Gaga shares the ability to write a song that appeals to the masses, fills dancefloors and gives critics and snobs hope that the pop landscape will not always be barren. And Eric Cartman does a mean rendition too (definitely better than Weezer’s).
A Christmas gift for you:http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/2 ... b=featured
Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas – (4/18 – 7/4) (12 Weeks (?!))
This song is unspeakably stupid, but so are some of the best songs of all time (“Louie Louie”). What sets this song apart as one of the worst songs of he decade is the in-your-face, almost proud stupidity displayed by Fergie and friends. Everyone knows the horrible “I’m so 3008, you’re so two thousand and late” line, but that’s probably the wittiest moment of lyricism on the track. Sure it’s catchy, but so is a car alarm. Awful song.
I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas – (7/11 – 10/10)
Oh, how this song is retarded! Let me list the ways:
- The title – The song is called I Gotta Feeling. However, the word “gotta” is an English slang term for “got to.” Therefore, the title of this song roughly translates “I Got To Feeling,” which makes no sense.
- The intro repeats for the first 1 ½ minutes of the song with absolutely no variation. There is a difference between a catchy melody and a melody that sticks in your head because of constant repetition. BEP seems to be unable to realize the distinction.
- The lyrics - Though the Peas often set the bar for terrible lyrics in a pop song, but I Gotta Feeling take the cake – “Mazel Tov, take it off!” – Mazel Tov is a greeting used at many important celebrations such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Weddings, where the “take it off!” command would be completely inappropriate.
- “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…” – This is unacceptable. You can’t just list the days of the week. This isn’t the Happy Days song. This isn’t Sesame Street. Will.i.am should go die in a fire.
Really, my main problem with the Black Eyed Peas is how they don’t even try to make their songs palatable to intelligent music listeners. I like to have faith in the American public and their ability to differentiate good from bad, but sometimes my faith betrays me and stupid wins. The Black Eyed Peas constantly appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that earns them platinum records and Grammy nominations (Grammy voters might actually be the lowest common denominator). I am a strong advocate of the belief that a great pop song is great art, and that FutureSex/LoveSounds can be mentioned in the same breath as Funeral on a best albums of the decade list. However, the Peas exist solely to confirm the haters’ beliefs that Pop music is a load of crap and has been since the 60’s ended. And for that, I hate them and these two songs with fiery passion.
Bonus list: Songs that Only Peaked at Number 2 behind the Black Eyed Behemoth (in order of preference):
You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift – 8/10
Best I Ever Had – Drake – 8/10
I Know You Want Me – Pitbull - 7/10
Run This Town – Jay-Z – 6.5/10
Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus – 5.5/10
Blame It – Jamie Foxx – 4/10
Any one of these songs would have been a much better number one than either of the BEP songs
Down – Jay Sean ft. Lil Wayne – (10/17; 10/31) (2 Weeks)
"Honestly, I'm down like the economy." – Seriously, Lil Wayne makes any song about 35% better by default. Even though this isn’t one of his very best verses, it takes a mediocre, somewhat run-of-the mill R&B song, only notable because of the nationality of the singer, and makes it enjoyable. I’m gonna miss Weezy when he goes to jail, though he’ll still probably will find some way to record.
3 – Britney Spears – (10/24) (1 Week)
Britney Spears rejoins the man responsible for making her career, Max Martin. However, this time, the results are far less memorable, as Britney does not retain the same force of personality that she exuded when she burst onto the scene as a 18-year-old. This is fairly standard dance pop, with no real wrinkles except for the falsetto in the pre-chorus, which I can take or leave. This is probably ‘09’s least distinctive number one, which is odd, because even when they’re terrible, Britney songs usually seem more interesting or important than a song by an average imitator.
Fireflies – Owl City – (11/7; 11/21) (2 Weeks)
What a douche. Seriously. Everyone knows you were ripping off The Postal Service, and then you had to go and deny it? Come on! “Fireflies” is a clear rip off of the entire Give Up aesthetic, with the sensitive Indie vocals over the electronic backdrop. Though Postal Service/Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard’s lyrics are a little clunky, they are heartfelt, sweet and innocent and Gibbard sings with enough sincerity to sell them. That douche from Owl City does not. His vocals are a pale imitation of Gibbard’s. His lyrics are atrocious – every cliché in the emo book shows up somewhere (“Cause everything is never as it seems,” “I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,” “Please take me away from here”). The bleeps at the beginning seem to be a conscious effort to remind the listener of Such Great Heights. However, the other half of the Postal Service, Jimmy Tamborello brought an elegance and complexity to the programmed beats, and they fit the sensibilities of Gibbard perfectly. Owl City’s beat sounds like it would soundtrack an airline safety video and has the subtlety of that Black Eyed Peas song. Terrible. I feel like calling him a Postal Service rip-off gives him too much credit.
One more unrelated gripe – Make another album, Postal Service! It’s been six years! The market is perfect! If shit like this can reach number one, imagine what your next single could do! Maybe I’m giving the American public too much credit (probably, considering the BEP’s dominance of the charts).
Whatcha Say - Jason Derulo - (11/14) (1 week)
Though interesting for sampling that Imogen Heap song, Whatcha Say ultimately fails from a lack of talent. Jason Derulo had a great idea to sample Hide and Seek, but couldn't deliver with more than a third-rate pop song. I'm not sure that the sample fits the lyrics too well and Derulo himself gets lost in the sample, which is practically unaltered from the original track. Possibly the weirdest #1 of the year, but nothing special.
Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – (11/28-12/26)
As a lifelong Yankee fan and New York resident, I’m not exactly an unbiased observer here, as the song was the unofficial anthem for the team’s World Series victory. That said, every observation that Jay-Z makes about the city rings true and makes me long to hop on the Metro North and walk around Midtown with the song blasting out of my headphones. Though Jay isn’t at his best here, he mostly refrains from boasting about himself (which comprises the rest of Blueprint 3) to pay tribute to the city he loves. The chorus, though, is the best thing Alica Keys has ever recorded. It is suitably epic and as the minimalist verses give way to the huge chorus, it feels like walking from 42nd street into Time Square, or standing on top of the Empire State Building (not exactly obscure New York references, but this song calls for big comparisons). Love this song.
Summary: Most of the number ones were at least average, but the entire year was bogged down by the 26-week black (eyed) hole in the summer (and the awful Owl City song). Take 5 weeks away from both Black Eyed Peas songs and evenly distribute them between “Poker Face,” “You Belong With Me,” “Best I Ever Had” and “I Know You Want Me,” then this year is a best of decade candidate for number ones. Oh well. Here’s to hoping that the nation outgrows the Black Eyed Peas in the next decade just like we outgrew shitty acts like Boyz II Men and boy and girl groups this decade.
End of year and end of decade stuff possibly to come.