Here are my reviews for the top five singles on Billboard.com’s Hot 100.
Soon to be a household name, Lorde is a 16-year-old songstress who crafts tunes so well she might as well be a seasoned artist. She could easily pass off as a young Florence Welch, Lana Del Rey, Grimes, etc. “Royals” is easily adoptable as the indie anthem of kids who take the train to go chill with their friends. When I first heard the sultry beat and husky strains of “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh” at a high school football game, I mentally passed it off as a newer, toned-down Icona Pop song. How wrong was I. Lorde incorporates criticism of fame and society’s warped definition of success with playful yet rebellious cries of “We don’t care/We aren’t caught up in your love affair.” She exhibits a lyrical wisdom that far surpasses her years, while displaying a fierceness that seems as raw as it is authentic. “Royals” is a refreshing and bitingly cynical return to carefree idealism of youth and the philosophy that you can have fun without material excess; you only need to be surrounded by the right people.
Anthems are Katy’s new game, and people seem to eat it up. As cautious as “Christian” listeners are of K-Perry’s music after her blatant turning away from Christian values several years ago, you can’t really point to any offensive material in “Roar.” Typical anthemic idealisms are thrown around lyrically, from “You held me down/but I got up” to “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter/dancing through the fire.” The tune is a fairly predictable, upbeat pop confection, no surprises lurk around musical corners. The extended “Roa-a-a-a-a-ar” at the end of each chorus got old pretty quickly, considering that Katy’s voice seems strained as it is. As far as popular, insistently positive songs go, “Roar” is an easy pick for the listener who doesn’t stray far from the radio to find pick-me-up tunes. I’m wary and predict that Katy’s encouraging side will soon be overshadowed by a plethora of tongue-in-cheek risque songs on her new record.
At first listen, “Wrecking Ball” is a song that could easily belong to any number of pop divas. Following in the footsteps of female music giants like Pink and Rihanna, Miley Cyrus tries her hand at the “vulnerable ballad,” which seems like an inevitable rite of passage for female artist, potentially making or breaking their careers. Cyrus’s voice, which was admittedly grating on the ears after the first whine of “We clawed/We chained/Our hearts in vain,” pleads through the simple melody dripping with angst and regret. Her voice seems a little too gleeful for the mood of the troubled (albeit relatively shallow) lyrics. Lyrics which, by the way, are self-contradictory. If Miley “came in like a wrecking ball” why is HE the one who “wrecks” her. To be honest, the whole wrecking ball analogy is weak and far too unfitting for the emotional message of the song. “Wrecking Ball” is an uncomplicated track that perhaps possessed a lot of potential with deeper lyricism and, quite frankly, a completely different artist accompanying. Even if the song was likable, it’s hard for me to support an artist known primarily for her racy, and now infamous, VMA antics.
As mainstream of a house DJ Avicii is, he does know how to make likable music. “Wake Me Up” kicks off with a folksy tune that leaves no doubt in the listener’s mind that this is another Mumford & Sons (or some such folk giant’s) wailing with raw, urgent guitar accompaniment. It, much to the listener’s surprised delight, morphs casually into electronic mimickings, before launching into an full-on electronic dance interlude. True to form, Avicii returns to the acoustic motif, finding the delicate balance between overproduction and over-simplicity. The tune is driven by the empowering lyrics, which determinedly plod along, Aloe Blacc’s vocals straining hopefully in a way that makes the listener want to take on the world. “Wake Me Up” is an empowerment track that mixes two seemingly un-mixable genres artfully and with surprisingly engaging results.
I’ll be honest: I was not expecting this track to be good. Drake is known for his predominantly racy songs and questionable actions on stage. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is, to put it simply, charming. The vaguely, but not excessively, funky, disco-esqe beat drives ardent lyrics that are delivered beautifully. The lyrics are pretty straightforward, “I got my eyes on you/You’re everything that I see,” he croons. “I can’t get over you/You left your mark on me,” he breathes tenderly later on. Probably the best thing about this song is the fact that it does not objectify women as sex objects, which is characteristic of the majority of “love songs” these days. (see Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines…Or don’t. Yeah, don’t.) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” gives the mainstream lewd love song cubby hole a wide berth, while serving as a good vibes serenade.
Which is your favorite song?