Hot 100 Roundup—11/19/11

Mac Miller—”Party On Fifth Ave.”

I like the music, but Miller is a competent rapper at best, and his verses are full of filler. Even musically, though, this is stiffer than a party song should be.

Glee Cast—”Last Friday Night”

Wale featuring Meek Mill & Rick Ross—”Ambition”

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a rap song that was this serious, or went into any detail about the rappers pre-success life on the streets. The verses here are so heartfelt that even Ross sounds like he’s telling the truth, especially when he talks about his mom praying while she waits for the results. Still, Wale wins the honesty stakes when he admits he never worked the streets himself. That may be one of the bravest things I’ve heard a rapper say in a long time.

Justin Bieber
“All I Want for Christmas is You (SuperFestive!)” (with Mariah Carey), #86
“Drummer Boy” (featuring Busta Rhymes), #99

With Carey and Rhymes on these tracks you expect some craziness, but the insanity is all Bieber’s, and good for him. Forgetting for a moment that neither of these are very good, you have to applaud Beiber for trying. He could easily have cranked out an album of hoary seasonal chestnuts and let his tween fans eat it up. Instead, every track from his Christmas album that’s made the charts has been in a widely different style from the one before it. The Phil Spectorish arrangement on “All I Want for Christmas” is mixed too far below the vocals, and Bieber can’t really rap (or, rather, he doesn’t have a voice that’s suited for it), but I appreciate the effort.

Breathe Carolina—”Blackout”

You can only dance so long in the face of recession and social fragmentation, and it’s beginning to look as if the party’s over. Even Taio Cruz has a hangover, and these guys, determined as they are, are on the brink of collapse. Their defiance is almost tragic: not only do they swear, in what may be the hook of the year, that they won’t blackout, but they’re only getting started and, most ominously, “This won’t stop until I say so.” If they don’t collapse of dehydration I figure they’re heading for an OD or alcohol poisoning, and they want to take you with them. One of the scariest, most depressing party records I’ve ever heard. I wonder if that’s intentional.

Miranda Lambert—”Over You”

I’m still making up my mind about 4 the Record—the songwriting is weaker than on Lambert’s first three albums, though in many ways the music is stronger—but I have no doubt as to the two worst songs, both of which involve Lambert’s husband, Blake Shelton. This is the one they wrote together, and though I bet the basic idea and melody were his, I also bet the best line, “How dare you?” to a lover who has died, is Lambert’s. Whatever the case, this is slow and tedious, and though Lambert does her best to wring the simplistic sentimentality out of it, she doesn’t succeed. Whoever wrote the line “Mid-February/Shouldn’t be so scary” (sure hope it wasn’t Lambert) should be sent to remedial songwriters school immediately.

Kenny Chesney—”Reality”

Funny, the only reality I want to escape is the one that allows Chesney to keep making bad rock records and calling them country. Did Sammy Hagar ghostwrite this for him while they were hanging at Cabo with Jimmy Buffett?

Skrillex—”First of the Year (Equinox)”

OK, shoot me if you want, but I love this. Too soft in the soft parts, too loud in the loud ones, with unmusical screams and lots of grinding and distortion, this is dubstep as pop metal, and it’s just about perfect. In some ways, Skrillex plays it safe: he never steps off the beat, and he keeps something resembling a melody drifting through the entire track (though it does get kicked in the ass and jerked out of place a few times). For all the noise he never drifts far from the pop basics, which, as far as I’m concerned, is exactly how it should be.