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Category Archives: monoculture

The most played songs on American radio from a roadtrip beginning in New York City and ending in Virginia, and back again. Who says the monoculture is dead? Note to radio: Start playing some new songs please, but no “Tick Tock” thanks.

11 plays
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind
I must be the only New Yorker who actively dislikes this song. Jay-Z’s flow is as lazy as the rest of his late-period output (couldn’t he have stayed retired??!), with the added bonus of sounding like he’s holding in a belch on the second verse. He is decently mediocre on his third verse, which sounds like a miracle in comparison. Alicia Keys provides the proper bombast that the chorus necessitates, except she continues to sound like Alicia Keys: strained and strident and serious, and as if she’s constipated. Gassiest rap song ever? Only played once outside of the NYC/Philly area. Sounds perfect while on the BQE in Brooklyn Heights as Manhattan twinkles across the river, otherwise 5/10

Owl City – Fireflies
Sub-Postal Service twee nonsense, full of lines aiming for “clever” but ending up at “cloying.” Gained in popularity the further south we went. A moratorium must be placed on men who sing like this. 2/10

10 plays
Iyaz – Replay
Incredibly irritating chorus melody that actually serves as a meta-comment regarding the song’s content, becoming slightly charming even if there is no actual “Replay” setting on an iPod. Nice that he wants to cook her favorite meal, shame about the lousy grammar. 5/10

9 plays
Kelly Clarkson – Already Gone
OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder sells Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson the same song; Beyonce’s sounds stately, dignified, and slightly stiff while Clarkson’s is simultaneously messier and more frigid, sounding more human in the process. Quite possibly the best and most complex-sounding vocal performance of Clarkson’s singles career. 7/10

8 plays
David Guetta feat. Akon – Sexy Bitch
Akon: “I’m tryna find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful.” David Guetta: “Damn, she’s a sexy bitch.” 8/10.

Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne – Down
Asian Ne-Yo sweet blandisms can only put off the Requisite Terrible Weezy Verse for so long. 4/10

Britney Spears – 3
Britney is always best when she’s saying absolutely nothing of worth, and this ode to menage-a-trois is as good and human as she’s sounded since “Toxic,” even if she seems to run out of batteries when she’s counting. Bonus points for making the threesome MMF and including the line “Let’s make a team/Make him say my name.” Gay sex acts on the radio are fine so long as you aren’t male. 7/10

7 plays
Jason DeRulo – Whatcha Say
I want to say that the blatant rip of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” (made popular due to The OC and an SNL parody of same) is incredibly lazy, except it actually fits the song’s narrative perfectly. Doesn’t make it any less irritating, but props due where they are earned, I guess. 6/10

6 plays
Beyonce – Sweet Dreams
Another example of the music in pop becoming gayer and gayer (see also: “Sexy Bitch,” “3”). Beyonce’s ridiculous charisma means she can pull off these bangers in her sleep; the only difference is this is more synth-oriented than beat-oriented. It’s a good look on her, as just about anything would be, even if it’s not at all Beyonce at her best. 7/10

Taylor Swift – Fifteen
Fitting that the only singer in 2009 more charismatic than Beyonce is Taylor Swift, and partly because her style of music and sound—clean, clear, and uncluttered—is so exceptionally different to everything else on pop radio. And then you get to the lyrical detail and message of the song, making it stand out even more so: A song by a young woman for young women, urging them to realize that there is more to life Out There, that there is more to life than boys and the petty dramas of high schools and small towns. A big-hearted miracle of a song, a beacon of quality in pop music, whose only flaw is its five-minute running time meaning a truncated version gets played on the radio, lopping off the final narrative twist. 9/10