In real life, this is the last Hot 100 of 2012, not the first of 2013, but since Billboard starts and ends their year ten days ahead of the rest of the world, in Chartland we’re already into the new year. Trying to sort all of this out would be as confusing as straightening out the dates in 19th century Russian history, before they adopted the Gregorian calendar; it isn’t worth the trouble, and it would make my head hurt. So even though these will be officially listed as hitting the chart in 2013, it was actually 2012, though if you don’t care to remember that it doesn’t matter. A place in limbo is all these records deserve anyway.
Kid Cudi—“King Wizard”
Cudi is smart, but he isn’t a genius. “King Wizard” sounds like the foundation for a brilliant track, the concept and the music are perfectly meshed and in place, but Cudi doesn’t seem to know where to go after that. He’s still thinking his way through instead of letting his instincts take flight. For all his bragging, much of which is earned, I’m not sure he trusts himself. “King Wizard” never steps over the line into pretension or egocentric folly, but it doesn’t go anywhere, either.
“C’mon” has more life to it than “Die Young”, but it still sounds rote, and Ke$ha appears to have little interest in making this sort of record anymore. It’s not just her performance—it’s the words, the music, everything. All the touches and details that made “Tik-Tok” and “Sleazy” such enjoyable records have disappeared. She’s painting by numbers, and she isn’t even trying to color outside the lines.
Casey James—“Crying On A Suitcase”
“Crying On a Suitcase” isn’t a bad song—the chorus is standard issue but I like the tumbling, headlong rush of the verses—and in the hands of a good singer it could be a decent record. But Casey James isn’t a good singer: his voice is thin, and he doesn’t seem to have enough control of his breath to give those verses the flow they need to come across with their full power. I appreciate his trying to avoid the John Mayerish trap he could easily fall into (and that the producers of American Idol encouraged), but he needs to find another way.