New this week—12/13/09

Glee Cast—”Last Christmas”
#63

Unlike the other twenty (!!!) songs Glee has put on the Hot 100 this year, this one seems perfectly designed for the sort of bland vocal treatment the show specializes in. It is a Christmas song, after all, and considering how much breathy echo was layered onto Wham!’s original version, it was practically a Glee song already. Except for the intro to “Don’t Stop Believin’” (all the way back in the pilot), this is the best thing they’ve done. And I don’t care if I ever hear it again.

Daughtry—”After You”
#66

Blander even than Nickelback, and therefore less offensive. Also less interesting, which is a kind of negative achievement, I suppose. The only positive is that Chris Daughtry still makes me believe he’s singing to his wife. I just hope she doesn’t fall asleep in the middle of it.

Orianthi—”According To You”
#67

Conceptually, the guitar shredding on this Kelly Clarkson knock-off makes sense. The attitude she gets from her boyfriend is probably much like the attitude she gets from guys who don’t believe women can play lead guitar. Musically, though, it’s as empty and meaningless as most shredding for shredding’s sake, and decidedly out of place in a Kelly Clarkson knock-off. It would also help if she could sing anywhere near as well as she can play.

Nick Jonas & the Administration—”Who I Am”
#73

Anybody who calls this a country move has obviously never heard any country. It’s more like a John Mayer record with leaden lyrics and duller chord changes. Minus the bombast provided by his brothers, Jonas sounds overwrought and out of place, as if he had no idea who he was at all.

Timbaland Featuring Justin Timberlake—”Carry Out”
#75

I hate to get all PC all of a sudden, but I can’t think of anything more sexist than comparing a woman to food that, no matter how tasty it may be, is picked up largely because it demands nothing from the man but ready cash and doesn’t require any messy clean up. You know, like a prostitute? Serves them right that the record’s so dull.

Pitbull featuring Akon—”Shut It Down”
#85

Akon is supposed to provide the hook, but all he does is get in Pitbull’s way. Without him this could be one of the club jams of the year. It was nice of Pitbull to give the poor guy a break, I guess, but I look forward to a remix that’s all Pitbull and his harsh minimalist electronics, and no Akon at all.

Phoenix—”1901″
#90

For the life of me I cannot figure out the appeal of these Frenchmen. To me, they’re The Eagles of indie, inspired by of Montreal instead of Graham Parsons. Apparently their Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album has generated enough buzz to get them into the Hot 100. Which is interesting, since their appearance on Saturday Night Live earlier this year couldn’t do it. Who knew the Grammies had such influence over alternative fans’ buying habits?

The Script—”Breakeven”
#96

Better than The Fray or OneRepublic, if only because they seem less self-involved and overwrought. But then, how good do you have to be to be better than The Fray or OneRepublic?

Toby Keith featuring Dave Koz, Marcus Miller & Arthur Thompson—”Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)”
#97

Whatever real emotion may be behind this song (the lyrics have their touching moments) is lost in Keith’s apparent ambition to crossover into Lite Jazz territory. Nothing like expanding that radio outreach.

Timbaland featuring Katy Perry—”If We Ever Meet Again”
#99

Timbaland’s M.O. these days appears to be applying his tried and true production techniques to current hit makers in the hope of not only generating hits but revving his own creative juices. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working on either count. Here he sounds almost desperate in his desire to do something new and interesting. The result is a bunch of cliches jammed together, and not very well either.

Brad Paisley—”American Saturday Night”
#100

Though the comparison may sound odd, it seems to me that Paisley is everything that John Mayer is supposed to be. An intelligent, daring, witty, unbelievably talented songwriter and guitarist (will somebody please put him on a stage with Richard Thompson? please?), who is also humble, self-deprecating, devoid of flash, and refuses to play down to his audience intellectually or emotionally. The difference is that, unlike Mayer, Paisley seems to be totally lacking in self-consciousness—he says what he wants to say, plays what he wants to play, and never for a moment worries about what people think of him. Whether or not this brilliant record, which in theme is the exact opposite of the xenophobic, jingoistic rants that have plagued country music for decades, will be a hit is of absolutely no interest to Paisley. It probably will be. He’ll appreciate it, and find it sort of funny in a way, but it won’t affect his music one way or the other. He takes things so easy that even those who admire him don’t seem to realize that he’s probably the greatest country musician of his generation. Here’s hoping he’s the most influential, as well.