1. Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell – “Blurred Lines”
Liam: It’s the cowbell. Well, lots more than that, but the repeated syncopated rhythm of the (more) cowbell keeps this shit bumping, along with the low, retro-modern synth riff. I’ve never thought much of Robin Thicke, but it’s clear that he’s somewhat more than a discount Timberlake. T.I. does what he does on guest spots, otherwise known as “be way better than he’s been on all his own albums since King,” and Pharrell and Thicke play off each other well. Glad this is #1, to be honest.
Pete: This sounds like an LCD Soundsystem song, which I guess is a good thing? Seriously though, Robin Thicke’s voice on this track is only slight off from James Murphy at points, and he has none of the personality. That said, I continue to like this smooth, ’70s vibe that pop music seems to be dipping its toes in. There’s something about this kind of light, pop music that rewards subtle musicianship in ways that other types of party music – dubstep, electronica. Are these the same? Moving on…I haven’t seen that vibe over the last several years. At the end of the day, you’d have to be a pretty brave cover band to play this song.
Jake: If you take out the PG-13 language, I feel like this song belongs on a Carnival Cruises commercial. I can see 40-somethings congaing around the pool deck to this track, pina colada in hand. Scratch that – second pina colada, because shit’s getting funky tonight. I will say, T.I.’s guest spot is the highlight of this track, but other than that, this one’s not doing it for me.
2. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell – “Get Lucky”
Liam: I still feel pretty much the same way I did last time ’bout this track. Very good. I’m less underwhelmed by the album now. “Touch” still sucks. “Touch” will always suck. I will literally accept arguments in favor of any Random Access Memories song except that. Don’t even try.
Pete: Yeah, I like this song, just a little less now. It seems like my prediction that this would be a “Crazy” or “Feel Good Inc.” level hit is starting to become more accurate. I mean, Robin Thicke should have to pay Daft Punk royalties, his hit is basically just coattail-riding the new (or is it retro? too many questions already…) sound of “Get Lucky.” Let’s face it, his existence on radio is entirely due to Daft Punk.
Liam: I’d say Thicke has way more of a debt to Timberlake. Wait. In fact, how is he related to DP at all??
Pete: Are we not listening to the same songs? “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” are practically the “Tia and Tamera” of pop right now. We know who came first, but eventually it will be hard to tell.
Jake: I continue to prefer Pharrell-less remixes of this track to the actual Daft Punk-approved version. This week, your almost-Pharrell-free version of “Get Lucky” comes from Nicolas Jaar’s Darkside. The remix has a very different vibe than the original. It’s darker and the opening beat is more blues than it is disco. But, it’s a solid remix and a nice breather if you’re tired of hearing the original.
3. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
Liam: I still fucking hate this with every fiber of my body. Its massive popularity makes my head explode like an actress in a meme. Based on things I’m gonna say about Miley Cyrus pretty soon, I know I’m not an elitist about blatantly commercial pop music. But like, what is this even? What demographic does this serve? Who sings along to this on a drunken, happy (or sad) night the way we belt the best or at least the catchiest pop music?? Guys. ‘SPLAIN IT TO ME.
Pete: I mean, I find a lot of this song kind of off-putting, even though I can understand why it’s popular. I stand by my Nickleback on EDM comparisons, though I’m not sure that’s so bad anymore. “It’s a revolution, I suppose” to quote the song itself.
Jake: Apparently, LeBron James balls to this song. That guy’s pretty popular right now, I guess. That’s as good an explanation as I can offer. And yes, I did set a hyperlink to “LeBron James balls.”
Liam: Never stop being you, Jake.
4. Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise”
Liam: I get why this is popular. I do. But for fuck’s sake, the way they play up the cornpone/redneck ad-libs and twang seems so obviously for show it comes off almost reactionary – as if to say, “Nashville country isn’t stereotypical enough anymore! Can we out Toby Keith?” This sounds like one Tim McGraw’s less subtle/nuanced songs, if it took a shitload of anabolic steroids and had way worse lyrics. That said, the remix that has Nelly on it is legit, train-wreck hysterical and kind of (kind of) entertaining. (Nelly actually sorta raps on it, not sing-raps.)
Pete: Yeah, I like this. I am lol-ing listening to it. I did not expect this much innuendo, or any at all. If I have not stated this previously, I love innuendos and puns. So, this song hit me in a soft spot, and the chorus is great. Not that I would listen to this song if people were paying attention or looking directly at me. I would be too afraid of being judged. I probably should be judged I guess. But, I enjoyed it. #JustSayin’.
Jake: Am I allowed to resign my position as the third of the three dudes? I can’t take this. I’m from the South and I can’t take this. All my ads in Google are going to be about Florida Georgia Line now, constantly reminding me that I listened to this song. I hate this song.
5. Miley Cyrus – “We Can’t Stop”
Liam: I kinda, well, umm…ok fuck it, this song is kind of awesome. The beat is by Mike WiLL Made It, who, right now, is almost as good as Just Blaze was in his golden early/mid-2000s era. And while you can say a lot of unkind things about Miley’s…shall we say, generous cultural appropriation and the inherent groans you get from the awkward/unsubtle drug references, her vocal performance is charming, if not great. (That said, imagine what someone like Charli XCX, who’s a much better songwriter, could do with this beat.)
Pete: I like this a lot, and the new crazy, half-bald urchin Miley Cyrus has become. She clearly doesn’t understand what makes something “cool,” unless her definition is South Park’s caricature of Paris Hilton, but then again, who does at that age? She’s kind of appropriating things she likes, of which A$AP Rocky is clearly one, but in a way that’s pretty sloppy and directionless. Remember how you used to write the names of bands on your notebooks? That’s what Miley Cyrus is doing in her songs. She’ll hate half of those bands by the time she’s 25, just like you will, or do, if you’re an old person now.
Jake: Wait, are you suggesting that we know what’s cool? I mean, I’m pretty pretentious when it comes to music, but I recognize that I’m a twirty-year-old (that’s right, twenty/thirty) hipster who’s still really into Destroyer. I think Miley’s got more influence over what’s cool than you or I do.
Liam: Miley likes A$ap Rocky and (it would seem) music from the Diplo/Flosstradamus/Dillon Francis school of EDM, and Mike WiLL. I like all these things, and I also kinda like Destroyer. I am a man without a country. Also, Miley has my roommate Raquel’s haircut and hair color now. It’s weird. I haven’t told her this, because I think she might have a rage fit.
Jake: I ever tell you guys about the time I told Diplo to stop making out with a girl on the hood of my car? Good times.
6. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton – “Can’t Hold Us”
Liam: Like the beat even more than before and the rapping even less. I will say, however, that Macklemore isn’t nearly as bad as others who previously occupied his role in the pop music galaxy. (Looking at you, Asher Roth, don’t you ever come the fuck back.) I think if he worked with the right producer or fellow rapper, he’d be much more than the “bro-rap” purveyor many malign him as.
Pete: Still meh. I’m wondering who is the right comparison to make for Macklemore, though. He has more than one hit now, so he’s not a one-hit wonder. He’s not that terrible, but he’s not that great either. For some reason, Smash Mouth comes to mind. I am fine with him being the new Smash Mouth.
Jake: That’s actually a surprisingly astute comparison, Rizzo. Of course, barring some terrible controversy that brings them back into the spotlight, Smash Mouth’s legacy is pretty much already written. Macklemore is still relevant. He still has the potential to evolve. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put money on this guy pulling a Justin Timberlake and turning himself into a musician people suddenly take seriously. No, I’d predict a more Vanilla Ice route for Macklemore, where he’s performing with Korn 10 years from now. Or better yet, Imagine Dragons. I look forward to reviewing the hypothetical Macklemore/Imagine Dragons collab 10 years from now.
7. Justin Timberlake – “Mirrors”
Liam: I dropped well over 1,000 words on Timberlake and The 20/20 Experience a while back, so I won’t spend too much time with this one. Still consider it to be that album’s best track, and have always liked how it splits into two distinct halves that still feel of one piece. Happy that it’s still on the charts, because JT, unlike many of the folks here, is trafficking in well-earned stardom.
Pete: Yeah, this is a good jam. I’ve been holding up this article for like a day, so I feel like that’s an adequate response right? I don’t want to lose you guys now. I’m looking at the other half(ves) of me. And so on.
Jake: I don’t listen to this song as much as I should. I was overall disappointed with The 20/20 Experience and dismissed most of what came from it. That said, I genuinely like this song. People have said 20/20 is too self-indulgent, which is probably true, but I think it works on “Mirrors.” The first half is very familiar as a JT song, something that’d fit just fine on Futuresex/Lovesounds. The second half is a bit more far-reaching, with its Sonic the Hedgehog noises and whatnot. By starting us off with something comfortable, we’re more willing to accept when he’s ready to go experimental. I’m resisting the urge to make lewd jokes right now.
8. Bruno Mars – “Treasure”
Liam: The thing about Bruno Mars is, basically, that I doubt he’ll ever do anything better than “Locked Out of Heaven,” which is a straight-up, great track. Mostly because it sounds like vintage Police, not his other stuff. He’s also a weirdly kinda-misogynist goon that somehow makes women swoon. Must be the falsetto. This song is fair, at best, and the ’70s funk approximation isn’t a bad one. Pretty indifferent to this shit overall.
Pete: I like Mars and some of his music. This is not one of those songs, though. It sounds like album filler, and that people are just playing it because it’s non-offensive and beach-worthy. Or, in other words, this song isn’t above selling me board shorts.
Jake: I don’t remember which song it was that rocketed Bruno Mars to one of the top spots on my Hate This Musician list, but he’s yet to give me a reason to take him off that list. This song, I guess, is pretty inoffensive to the ears, but it’s just so mediocre that it doesn’t stir any emotion. Like, at least the existence of “Cruise” pisses me off. This song is just microwaved R&B.
9. Selena Gomez – “Come and Get It”
Liam: Like the last time, I think this is perfectly good, if disposable, pop. That beat still knocks.
Jake: Last time we talked about this track, I told you guys that I refused to listen to it for purely carnal reasons. But, of course, you can’t escape pop music, and I came and got it for the first time while day drinking on a recent Sunday afternoon. The song’s not bad. Perfectly catchy – though, I think that has more to do with the writer than the artist. Someone recently brought up the argument that the reason Selena Gomez’s songs are OK and Demi Lovato’s suck is because Gomez doesn’t write her own music. And I think that’s a valid point. This song happens to be written by Ester Dean, who also co-wrote Beyonce’s “Countdown,” which, come on, you’re not going to be a much better pop song than that.
Liam: THAT EXPLAINS SO MUCH. #countdownisthebest
Pete: “I make fart noises with my mouth…”
10. Pink & Nate Russ – “Just Give Me a Reason”
Liam: There’s something weirdly Broadway-esque about this. It seems like some shit out of a “rock” musical, whatever that means. Pink is a decent singer, and I know who she’s targeting on this song, and in that sense it’s effective. But, it’s pretty absurd. Angry 14-year-old girls deserve way better than this. In fact, I don’t even see why they’d like it.
Pete: I’ve heard this song more times than I’d care to say. It has that Fun-spark, where it’s not shit, but you really don’t know what to do with it either. You really got to give it to Pink, though. She’s outlasted everyone at this point: Britney, Christina, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, etc. Most of these artists have had multiple comebacks that have also faded. So, there’s something to be said for consistency. Can we just crown Pink the survivor now?
Liam: I guess so, at least among the white, pop starlets, but that discounts Beyonce’s meteoric rise from Destiny’s Child to Queen of the Known Universe.
Jake: Are angry 14-year-old girls still Pink’s target demographic? I would think this is more for the sappy, college crowd – people who want emotional singer/songwriter music but haven’t discovered, I dunno, Jessie Ware yet. That, or this song was written in the hopes that it’d be covered on Glee. Is Glee still a thing? I’m 90 percent sure Glee is still a thing.
Liam: The second possibility is more likely, because – for our sins – Glee is still on the fucking air.