Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Best of the Billboard Hot 100

By Evan Rytlewski
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Of course there are glaring exceptions, most notably The Black Eyed Peas utterly idiotic "Boom Boom Pow," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 this week, but the pop singles chart is a pretty vibrant place these days. Here are six charting songs that are making commercial radio a better place:

T.I. ft Justin Timberlake — "Dead and Gone" (#6 on Billboard Hot 100)
The fourth and against the odds perhaps the catchiest of all the hits from T.I.'s chart-crushing Paper Trail, "Dead and Gone" once again reminds us that the legally challenged Atlanta rapper is a changed man, this time with the assistance of an irresistible Justin Timberlake hook and a thundering, Timbaland-esque beat from Timberlake's promising production team, The Y's.

Kid Cudi — "Day N Nite" (#7)
Kid Cudi's "Day N Nite" is the anecdote to "Boom Boom Pow," deliberate and understated where the Black Eyed Peas' booty jam is manic and brash. Knowing there's also room for a self-made Internet favorite like Cudi this high on the pop charts makes the Black Eyed Peas' dominance a bit more bearable.

The Fray — "You Found Me" (#14)
I've got no love for The Fray and their proselytizing soft piano rock. Their nagging breakthrough hit, "How To Save A Life," made a Menckenesque example of why we need a church/state separation between Top 40 and CCM playlists, and their subsequent singles have been nearly as cloying. But the brooding "You Found Me" actually won me over. It lights a much-needed fire under The Fray's pew, offsetting their usual gospel-spreading with undertones of piss and vinegar. I'm happy to live in a world where even a band like The Fray can make a song this good. Miracles, I suppose, can happen.

Kelly Clarkson — "My Life Would Suck Without You" (#12)
Has a pop artist ever been shamed for recording a pop song as sharply as Kelly Clarkson has for this hit? I had flash backs of Liz Phair's maligned 2003 liaison with The Matrix reading reviews of Clarkson's new album, even the most positive of which cast Clarkson as a major-label Sisyphus, forced to record schlock as punishment for her attempt at creative independence. It's as if they forgot Clarkson always recorded schlock—she's good at recording schlock. And this? This is grade-A schlock, so enough with the finger-waving.

The-Dream — "Rockin' That Thang" (#28)
The first single from The-Dream's masterwork Love vs. Money, an album that does for contemporary R&B what Pet Sounds did for '60s pop, brilliantly re-imagines the sex jam as a headphone opus. The album is sequenced as one increasingly turbulent suite, but for this beatific prelude, all is well, all is right—it's only later The-Dream will learn the sex he pursues isn't consequence free.

Lonely Island ft. T-Pain — "I'm On a Boat" (#65)
An early if unlikely front-runner for 2009's song of the summer, this viral hit from "Saturday Night Live's" Andy Samberg and company has been interpreted by some as an denunciation of hip-hop bravado and materialism, but its too gentle, too sympathetic to be an indictment. If anything, it's a celebration of life's pleasures—who wouldn't want to be on a boat? T-Pain hits home the sentiment, giving thanks in the song's wide-eyed bridge. "Never thought I'd be on a boat," he beams. "It's a big blue watery road."
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