Katy Perry - Firework
At first listen this wouldn't seem like such a bad song, but buried whithin the usual pop sheen are some of the stupidest lyrics I've ever heard. No Katy, it's not okay to be fat and/or ugly. The faux-inspirational strings and amateurish belting make this fodder for Glee and 13 year-old girls' slumber parties. (Not that I have a problem with those, but there are way better songs 13 year-old girls could be listening to.) Horrible, overplayed, I don't want to hear it again.
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Ah, Bruno Mars. The sugar-voiced songwriter I love to hate. This song is nowhere near as bad as some of his other hits (coughlazysongcough), but it's still pretty damn bad. The lyrics, again, are shocking. I can write better ones without even trying. ("Cause girl I'd make lemonade for ya/Put your hair in a braid for ya") The soft backup vocals are one of the few good things about the song, but Bruno's jailbait-baiting vocals, especially on the bridge, make this a pretty painful experience.
Britney Spears - Hold It Against Me
I've made no secret of the fact that I've always been a Britney fan, and this is mostly because she is not a good singer. Meaning that the producers have to work some serious magic and actually use decent songs. This is one in a long string of fantasic pop hits. The buildup into the chorus is done perfectly, and the autotuned harmonies are exactly what I like. I can even forgive Britney's spoken-word voiceover. Shame about the dubstep drop. I generally don't like them, but there are a handful of great pop songs that have them, and this is one. I take a couple of points off for it, but it's not really that bad.
Wiz Khalifa - Black and Yellow
I had never heard this song before, so I'm going to assume it wasn't a huge hit in NZ. But it is a legitimate hip-hop song at #1, and those are scarce these days. The song isn't amazing and I'm not a huge fan of the synths on the chorus, but Wiz's rapping is great, and the half-time beat works well.
Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Born This Way is a huge step back for Gaga. The song is obviously designed to be a career-defining anthem, but it's blandness makes it fall way short of that mark in my opinion. Plus, the idea that people are "Born This Way" makes my inner sociolgist have a hissy-fit. The thought of a million teenagers singing this song to themselves and thinking "I can't help being a self-obsessed twat, I was born this way LOL lady Gaga told me so!!!1" makes me feel quite ill. I will say that the a capella section at the end is quite cool in a Beach Boys kinda way.
Katy Perry - E.T.
No. This half-assed attempt at dubstep-lite is not the direction Katy should be going in. I know this song has a lot of fans, but don't count me among them.
Rihanna - S&M
Far and away the best no. 1 of the year. I have a love/hate relationship with Rihanna, I don't think her voice is that great, but occasionally she gets a fantastic song to sing. S&M is one of those epic pop songs that doesn't let up. The hard synths and walls of white noise build this thing up into something great. Let me also say that I completely disagree with Walrus's comparison of this to Love the Way You Lie, thematically. Glorification of BDSM is not the same as glorification of domestic abuse. This song is empowering and individualistic, whereas Love the Way You Lie is an awful, pandering mess. This is a great song and I wish it was a bigger hit in NZ.
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Oh God. This song. Adele's incredible rise to fame frustrates me no end. There are so many others so similar to her (and IMO, superior) such as Florence Welch, yet for some reason it was Adele that caputred the public imagination and became a mega-hit. Others have pointed out how Adele goes completely against the grain of the other #1s, and although I would normally welcome this, in Rolling in the Deep, the song's attempt at being "genuine" and "authentic" rubs me completely the wrong way. This is every bit as overproduced as a Britney Spears song, all they did was lay off the autotune a bit. I think with a heap more experience, and some more adventerous songwriting, Adele could actually be quite good, but this song is mediocre, and the inspiration for a million girls who shouldn't take up singing taking up singing.
Pitbull and Ne-Yo - Give Me Everything
I don't mind the odd RnB/Hip-Hop crossover, but I'm not a fan of Pitbull, and mostly this song comes off as obnoxious and simplistic. It helps that I've never heard this before, so I don't completely hate it. The rapping over the synth bassline sounds a bit tacky. The biggest problem this song has is there's no payoff, no reason for sticking around and listening to anything beyond the first minute.
LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem
LMFAO have an important place in pop. They are the guys who straddle the line between parody of pop excess, and legitimately inventive pop music. I love how this song drops straight into the rap, and slowly builds up to that triumphant chorus. The clapping on the beat is joined by a futuristic house beat a few bars later on the chorus, it's a masterful way to increase the excitement. The song utilises the tried-and-true syncopated background synth pattern, plus a good measure of white noise. It's all cliched stuff, sure, but it absolutely works.
Katy Perry - Last Friday Night
Now this is what Katy should be doing. The guitar throughout the song grounds it in a rock feel, but the careful layering of elements during the build to the chorus marks it as pure pop. I also love the ridiculous Sax solo. It's cheesy and over-the-top (It's Kenny G, so that's kind of a given) but it's an 80s throwback that so far hasn't been done to death in modern pop. I give the video special points for featuring that other Fridayphile, Rebecca Black. She must be proud.
Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely hate Maroon 5, but this is a step in the right direction for them, and a terrific song. Not many reviewers have managed to identify what makes this song a cut above the other rock/dance crossovers out there - it's that chunky, sycopated guitar strum that persists through the song. Coupled with the four-on-the-floor drumbeat subtle synth strings, it's a recipe for a dance hit. Christina's appearance is done perfectly. Normally her vocal acrobatics are too much for me, but on this song she's used just enough that she doesn't overpower it. One of my favourite hits of the year.
Adele - Someone Like You
No. This song did not need to exist. If there is going to be an emotional piano ballad at number one, it better be fucking good, and this one misses the mark by so much it's embarassing. The number of drunken emotional singalongs this song has caused is painful for me to think about. Adele is simply not as good a singer as everyone thinks she is.
Rihanna and Calvin Harris - We Found Love
On paper I should love this song, but I don't. Calvin Harris seems a bit vanilla in his production style, and Rihanna doesn't excite me much here. That chorus could afford to come half as often. At least it's better than Adele.