Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Playlist: The 10 Guiltiest POPtimist Pleasures of 2012

Though I've all but abandoned this blog as of late in favor of maintaining (solo) the once two-person film site, I have no choice but to return to inflict my annual music round up.  We can blame a slight case of OCD, perhaps, but mostly I do it because I've really enjoyed returning to an isolated year via neatly organized playlists in my iTunes, and this is the natural extension of that enterprise.  As in the past, the music list will begin with a list of what are technically the "guilty pleasures" of the past year. While I still hate calling something a guilty pleasure and must remind readers new and old that I continue to believe in owning up to the pop music you enjoy, these are the tracks that (for one reason or another) make me feel like I need to provide just the slightest touch of an explanation when I own up to enjoying them.

For your head-shaking, eye-rolling, listening pleasure, I present you with the following 10 songs. Dance, you fools.  And...don't worry. The other parts of the list will not be this video heavy.

10. Nicki Minaj / "Stupid Hoe"  Nicki Minaj has dominated the radio for the last year while enduring a steady stream of criticism.  Her music is frequently akin to listening to a dissociative episode, and the manic, cartoon anger that permeates her otherwise upbeat pop is, at times, confusing. "Stupid Hoe" fell under fire, naturally, because of the backhanded, girl on girl misogyny inherent in its repeated refrain (though with the spelling...). I know I shouldn't approve of it, but there's something raw, cleansing, and flat out satisfying about the triumphant smack down Minaj is spitting here.

9. Justin Bieber ft. Nicki Minaj / "Beauty and a Beat"  Justin Bieber may or may not show up on the master list of the so-called 'favorite' songs of 2012 ("Boyfriend" would at least be an honorable mention), but this song tips the teeny bopper silliness scales with boasts of "partying like it's 3012 tonight" and a sinister Nicki Minaj rhyme that seems to suggest she's about to go all Frank Booth on the Biebs ("Justin/Bieber/You know imma Hit him with the ether).  It's a pre-gaming, pool party, sleepover song without a strip of substance beyond those synths.

8. Rihanna ft. Chris Brown / "Nobody's Business" The problem with this song should be obvious. On her rather unfortunate Unapologetic album, Rihanna is essentially constructing a thesis excusing herself for maintaining an on-again/off-again relationship with the man who beat her a couple years back.  From my vantage, it's a deeply problematic concept that's flat out depressing and delusional material for a pop album.  That said, I'm a sucker for the 90's instrumentals on the much talked about Rihanna/Chris Brown duet "Nobody's Business."  I first heard it without realizing what I was listening to, exactly, and upon learning...oh, the shame.  Can we agree Chris Brown needs to go away?

7. ft. Britney Spears / "Scream & Shout" This song is terrible. I don't know what accent Britney Spears thinks she's affecting, but it's some weird combination of Jamaican and British islander that makes absolutely no sense.  It's a stupid cycle of repetitive jump rope noise designed to lead into cheerleading routines and let do that thing where he speaks ambiguous "WE WILL PARTY NOW" lyrics into a vacuum.  There's no excuse for liking this.

6. One Direction / "Live While We're Young" Oh, One Direction. Those little punks are everywhere. I never liked boy bands when I was supposed to like boy bands. Now, though, I'm just endlessly amused by them.  This particular song wins for the amped up chorus combined with the so-predictably hilarious one-night stand premise: "tonight let's get some and live while we're young."  Yep, clearly the best thing for the largely 12-year old fanbase to belt out. Sneaky, sneaky.

5. JLS / "Hottest Girl in the World"  ANOTHER boy band. This is the UK group JLS, and this track sounds like something that should have been out ten years ago. Suddenly I'm all like: remember B2K?

4. Pitbull / "Don't Stop the Party"  So, I think Pitbull is insanely creepy. He oozes pure douchebag vibes from his ugly, ugly mug and is exactly the type of character I assume is lurking predatorily in the dark corners of every over the top club in America.  I've never been a fan, and let's be real: most of his songs repeat a similar pattern of recycled beats.  This time he just happened to stumble upon the right beat to catch my attention. Looping "Funky Kingston" manages to bring enough of a fist-pumping party for me to cope with the grating "Mr. Worldwide" boasts of Pitbull.

3. Taylor Swift / "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"  T-Swizzle finally broke onto a list of mine and finally made a tiny tiny space in my iTunes library.  While I still find her character a white noise irritation and can't put this frothy track in my list of technical favorites without hating myself, I will own up to appreciating the many, many ways in which this track accomplishes a pure POPtimist sentiment.  It's a self-aware, hyper-twee, semi-ironic acknowledgment of the posturing of the artist as well as an understanding of the audience.  I get it.  This time: I get Taylor Swift.  I understand.  This may be the only time I write that.

2. 2 Chainz ft. Kanye West / "Birthday Song"  This song brings shame upon my house for much the same reason as "Stupid Hoe."  The lyrics tend towards the chauvinist, yes. I think we can agree that 2 Chainz's birthday wish is pretty demeaning.  BUT I KIND OF LOVE THIS SONG BECAUSE IT IS RIDICULOUS.  "When I die bury me inside the Gucci store" is the sort of insane, conspicuous consumption line that seems to suggest the whole thing is a sort of posturing.  Are the lyrics a symptom of a larger cultural issue or a send-up of that issue?  I don't know, but I love listening to it in the car...

1.  The Wanted / "Chasing the Sun"  On that note, I need to take a moment to own up to the fact that there was a day a couple weeks ago where I think I listened to this song 3 or 4 times in a row while driving.  I DON'T WANT TO TAKE A POSITION IN THIS ONE DIRECTION VS. THE WANTED BOY BAND BATTLE, so you can read the UK group's positioning at number 1 on the guilty list as either a sign of their superiority or their inferiority depending on your outlook...

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