Next week, one of my classes arrives at a unit on popular music studies. For these moments, I really like to get into the actually-popular wing of popular music, and assign as the listening whatever the current top singles are. If you were wondering, here is the iTunes Top 5 as of this morning. I choose iTunes rather than Billboard because it tends to be a little more stylistically diverse.
1. Glee Cast, "Teenage Dream"
2. Black Eyed Peas "The Time (Dirty Bit)"
3. Ke$ha, "We R Who We R"
4. Katy Perry, "Firework"
5. Rihanna Featuring Drake, "What's My Name?"
I had not yet seen the video for "Firework," which is quite...something. I'm actually kind of a Katy Perry fan; I bought her first album and although it has its ridiculous moments (most of the singles) as a musical whole it was surprisingly strong. Rihanna continues to bore me, the Black Eyed Peas continue to mystify me, and Ke$ha, well, what can you really say about Ke$ha that hasn't been said before. I'm glad, however, that we'll get an excuse to talk about Glee.
The first time I did this was in the August of 2006, teaching History of Rock and Roll as a summer course at UCLA. I looked up that Top 10 for curiosity's sake:
1. Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
2. Ashlee Simpson, "Invisible"
3. Nelly Furtado & Timbaland, "Promiscuous"
4. The Pussycat Dolls featuring Big Snoop Dogg, "Buttons"
5. Christina Aguilera, "Ain't No Other Man"
6. Jessica Simpson, "A Public Affair"
7. The Fray, "Over My Head (Cable Car)"
8. Cassie, "Me & U"
9. Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean, "Hips Don't Lie"
10. John Mayer, "Waiting on the World to Change"
Oh man, I forgot how much I hate the Fray. It kills me that I have that song in my iTunes, left over from teaching that class. I should just delete it while I'm thinking about it.
As I recall, this was the summer in which people (especially my students) really, really hated Ashlee Simpson post-SNL meltdown. The other notable thing about that 2006 Top 10 was how many of those songs pretty directly riffed off very specific older music. Sometimes it was direct rip-off: John Mayer making a near-exact copy of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," and Ashlee Simpson doing Madonna's "Holiday." Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" came from her "big band" album Back to Basics, and of course Gnarls Barkley had made it into the public eye thanks to the reuse of Beatles's music in The Grey Album.
There's not nearly as much historicity in today's Top 5, with the exception of the Black Eyed Peas bizarre use of "(I've Had) The Time of Our Lives." Beyond that, I haven't had time to process, so we'll see what everyone has to say next week.
6 hours ago