You were in your car one afternoon last month. No one on 89.3 the Current would stop talking. Both of the new rap oldies stations were three days into a week-long “Gin and Juice” marathon. But you happened to catch 101.3 KDWB in a rare moment between commercials. You had questions. Questions like “Is this fun?” Questions like “Am I old?” and “Do I actually like a Justin Bieber song?” and “Really though? Is? This? Fun?”
Questions that only an expert analysis of our local pop station’s most recent chart countdown can clear up. (tl;dr answers: Less fun than it should be. Older than you think. You’d better Beliebe it. Really though.)
12. Fifth Harmony (feat. Kid Ink) — “Worth It”
TRL nostalgics may remember a time when there was no shortage of girl groups like Fifth Harmony, flaunting boundless sass and cheerful anonymity, before fame was divvied between a half-dozen female celebrity super powers. Fifteen years from now, their children may remember “Worth It,” alongside Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” as part of a strange moment when Ori Kaplan and his electro-gypsy outfit Balkan Beat Box became an unlikely source of galvanic horn samples.11. Taylor Swift “Bad Blood”
“We live in a world where boys can play princesses and girls can play soldiers." General Swift testified before a VMA subcommittee on weaponized feminism last week. But the flattest single of T’s career plods less playfully than pre-dawn calisthenics, its accompanying clip — where she offs her newly accumulated celebrifriends to remind ‘em who’s boss – no less grim. And the video for its follow-up, “Wildest Dreams,” does not feature Zayn Malik as Jasmine or Ed Sheeran as Ariel.10. R City feat. Adam Levine “Locked Away”
This is a song about everything except going to jail. Far from fretting over whether Behati Prinsloo will show up for conjugal, Levine’s anxiety-dreaming about whether some future misstep — a tone-deaf bit of cultural appropriation? a lackluster awards show appearance? a contractually required CeeLo collaboration? — will sabotage his popularity. This song is also about high school sweethearts heading off to separate colleges and pretending they won’t break up before homecoming. And as for production crew R City, they probably think this song is about them, don’t they, don’t they, don’t they?9. Rachel Platten “Fight Song”
If you like your pop to feel like the continuation of work by other means, the punch-drunk striving of Platten’s I-shall-overcome anthem might just be what you need to power through your day job, polish off your math homework, or secure low-interest financing on a 2015 Ford Edge.8. Fall Out Boy “Uma Thurman”
If two hit songs can mention the AARP-eligible Michelle Pfeiffer in the same year, why shouldn’t the Last Rock Band Standing celebrate the mid-career filmography of a merely 45-year-old actress while encouraging teens to Batusi to the Munsters’ theme? Then again, why should they?7. Ed Sheeran “Photograph”
Sheeran ditches the G-rated John Mayer routine that’s made him such a menace, instead writhing in exquisite agony like a one-man boy band. Begging his sweetie to keep his photo “Inside the pocket / Of your ripped jeans,” he invites his fans to indulge in the nostalgic intimacy of a physical medium that’s about as much a part of their life as Herman Munster. But we all know “You can upload / Me to the Dropbox / On your iPhone” just wouldn’t work the same.6. Jack Ü (feat. Justin BIeber) "Where Are Ü Now"
Boys only want fame when it’s torture. Bieber coos “I need you the most” like he’s both Peter Pan pleading with us and Tinkerbell needing our applause to live. It’s not that he needs you more than any other girl in the world; it’s that he needs you the most of any pop star. And I hope Diplo realizes he needs Skrillex no less.5. OMI “Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)”
This airy ode to a fantasy love-serf is the Song of the Summer that people who think there is such a thing as “The Song of the Summer” deserve. If “She grants my wishes/ Like a genie in a bottle” rubs you the wrong way, let me share my ideas for where this accidental Jamaican chart topper can stick his “magic wand.” As remixed by German producer Felix Jaehn, “Cheerleader” is apparently the best-selling exemplar of “tropical house,” a genre invented by the patriarchy’s most devious scientists to soundtrack future sorority recruitment videos.4. Demi Lovato “Cool for the Summer”
Teenpop has long taught us that under every bikini top beats the pitiless electronic heart of a nihilist dominatrix. But from that lazy, humid piano trill to Demi’s mockingly seductive intonation of the title, has a romp about sneaking out for fun times in the sun with your girlfriends ever sounded so much like a ransom note? It’s “insinuations” are “bi-curious,” one Wikipedian asserts, using a word I swear I haven’t seen since back when dating ads were published on newsprint.3. Selena Gomez “Good for You”
The subservient murmur, the stripping away of all desires except to be desired, the meticulous wardrobe catalog — Selena play-acts a vacant shell of selfless glamor so creepily it must be deliberately subversive, right? Like, geisha-pop eviscerated from the inside out the way “Every Breath You Take” unmasked the similarity between love lyrics and stalkers’ threats, right? Right? The alternative is just too damn depressing.2. Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. M0 “Lean On”
Someday DJ Snake will be recognized as the Hendrix of hookily modulated cyborg puking. Why not today?1. The Weeknd “I Can’t Feel My Face”
Narco-erotic doom enthusiasts may disagree, but I say pop ambition (or maybe just wanting to be liked) has been good for Abel Tesfaye’s art — couple years back, he’d have straight-up called this something like “Your Pussy Is Better Than Cocaine” or wailed about jacking off to the Physicians' Desk Reference. Lyrics aside, rhythm and timbre have always been this sensualist’s drug of choice, and with Max Martin juicing his bass, the aural wallop can alter your state with no pharmaceutical assist. He’s a star now, and it’s a dope show.