Project X Pits The Family Against The Critics


As part of Idolator’s continuing effort to geekily analyze every music chart known to man, we present a new edition of Project X, in which Jackin’ Pop editor Michaelangelo Matos breaks down rankings from every genre imaginable. After the click-through, he [hilariously] examines the results of the Idolator Pop Critics Poll Tracks Top 10 with some special help:

By now you’ve seen the critics’ lists of the year’s best music. But what about the folks who really count–the people? In interest of fairness and balance, I’ve decided to take the critics’ choices to some regular folks. That’s right: it’s time once again for this column to exploit my family.

This time around, I played the 2007 Idolator Pop Critics Poll’s Top 10 Tracks for my mom, my sisters, and my sister’s friend who always comes over on major holidays. The listening session took place at my sister Brittany’s apartment in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Christmas Eve, shortly after dinner and gifts (opening everything the night before is a longstanding family tradition). Also around were my sisters’ very tolerant significant others, Brittany’s daughter Veronica, and plenty of delicious leftovers. As usual, I typed everyone’s responses on the fly and occasionally paused the songs to fill in gaps.

Dramatis Personae:Lorie, mother, age 47; listens to Christmas musicMichael, author, age 32; listens to the Marc Anthony best-of Brittany got him for ChristmasAlex, sister, age 22; kicks everyone’s ass at Guitar Hero IIIBrittany, sister, age 21; listens to the M.I.A. and Billie Holiday CDs Michael got her for ChristmasCherrelle, Brittany’s best friend, age 21; listens to her Kanye West ringtone

1. Rihanna ft. Jay-Z, “Umbrella” (Def Jam) [117 votes] Alex: You know this song, Veronica?Brittany: She sings it all the time. Is it this version that’s No. 1?Michael: This is the main version.Lorie: Is there any versions without rap?Michael: No. Lorie: [frowns] Brittany: Would you dance to it, Mom?Lorie: I can’t dance to anything.Alex: She can probably dance better than she can sing.Brittany: She could probably play rugby better than she sings.Alex: She used to put on–what was it, Mom? Lorie: A show?Brittany: Wilson Phillips! Alex: And she used to sing into her bedpost: “Hold on for one more day . . . “Lorie: Are you sure I was singing and not screaming? I was pole dancing.Brittany: I’ll scream if you say anything like that again. [The stereo we are listening on is connected to the TV, on which a commercial for is airing]Lorie: Is this the video? People performing surgery? I thought maybe instead of the little drapes they put over you they were using umbrellas now.Brittany: Are you retarded, Mom?

2. LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends” (Capitol) [89 votes] Brittany: This reminds me of Schroeder–it kind of sounds like the Snoopy theme.Michael: This is a song by LCD Soundsystem called “All My Friends.”Brittany: I wish I had a song about all my friends.Alex: It’d be over by now.Brittany: Michael, can you pass me that wine so I can drink my pain away?Lorie: Good music. You couldn’t hardly dance to it, though, could you? I could tell you what you could do to it, but not too many people could.Alex: Not with you.Lorie: No, by yourself!Brittany: I think she’s talking about cross-stitching. At least I hope so. Michael: I’m surprised you guys like this so much; I thought the piano might turn you off. The song is basically about getting too old to party.Alex: [immediately] No such thing!Brittany: This is Alex’s theme song in 10 years.Lorie: It was my theme song 10 years ago.Brittany: Fifty.Alex: I want people to get drunk and karaoke at my funeral. Brittany: [after talking to her boyfriend, who is from Mexico] Miguel thinks it’s nice, too, and he doesn’t speak English. [Author’s note: He does too.] You know the twins on Peanuts who just jump? They could dance to this. Lorie: I hope they play this at midnight mass tonight.Michael: Why?Lorie: So I can stay awake.

3. M.I.A., “Paper Planes” (Interscope) [66 votes]Brittany: I’ve heard this. It’s familiar. [The vocal comes in. Brittany holds up her just-unwrapped copy of Kala] It’s her. Lorie: I’ve heard this before.Brittany: Where have you heard this? Lorie: I’ve been listening to the radio. [chorus comes in] I wanna go to a bar!Brittany: Is that what this reminds you of? The gunfire reminds you of the bars you go to? [turns attention back to music] I really like this. But it’s so much different than, like, “Bucky Done Gun.” You say you like this album more? But the last album was really different. She’s more singing than shouting. Is she trying to be more mainstream? I think I could listen to this for longer periods of time if it’s all like this. Miguel, how do you like this? The gunshot [in the chorus] reminds you of the border, doesn’t it?

4. Amy Winehouse, “Rehab” (Republic) [60 votes]Lorie: All right, hey! This is the suicidal one [Veronica] sings!Brittany: No, that’s Sean Kingston. Lorie: Oh, I remember this song now. What happened to her?Brittany: She’s fucked up beyond words. This is kind of Christmassy. All the dysfunctional families can relate to this one at Christmas. [after the line, “I don’t ever want to drink again”] You know, if drinking makes her sing like this, she should go ahead. I feel sorry for her, though. She has a lot of underlying issues, and it’s so evident.

5. Justice, ” D.A.N.C.E.” (Vice) [54 votes]Lorie: This sounds like the beginning of Romper Stomper Romper Room. You ever heard of that?Michael: Sort of. Romper Room was the kids’ show, and Romper Stomper is a movie about racist skinheads in Australia.Brittany: I thought it sounded like schoolchildren but you brought that into a whole other light, didn’t you, Mom? It’s like “Rock with You,” in the beat. They should put this on Dance Dance Revolution. That would be fun times.Cherrelle: Romper Room sounds like a porno. This reminds me of the Jackson 5. I could listen to this, definitely.Brittany: This would be fun to dance to . . .Cherrelle: . . . If I was drunk.Brittany: And you’re drunk all the time!Cherrelle: I should just start dancing.

6. Peter Bjorn & John, “Young Folks” (Almost Gold) [50 votes]Lorie: Oh, I love this! [whistles along]Brittany: How do you know this and I don’t?Michael: Where have you heard this?Lorie: I heard it at work. I love that whistle part. It just grabs you right away.Michael: This came out last year internationally, and did well on last year’s poll, but it was released in America this year, which is why it placed again. It was a big crossover hit–Kanye West rhymed over it on a mixtape.Cherrelle: Now, why do you wanna ruin a perfectly fine piece of music like this? He’s been stepping out of his realm with that Daft Punk stuff.Brittany: He’s been taking a flying leap out of his realm with that.Alex: I’ve heard this song before.Brittany: Where did you hear it?Alex: I don’t remember. Michael: It’s a group called Peter Bjorn & John. They’re Swedish.Cherrelle: [to Alex] Well then, maybe you heard it at Ikea.

6. Battles, “Atlas” (Warp) [50 votes] Brittany and Alex: [immediately] “The beautiful people, the beautiful people.” Brittany: It is! It totally is.Michael: It’s not.Brittany: I hate to disagree with you, Michael. I didn’t know Marilyn Manson was still making records. [vocals come in] They’re singing it backwards; they’re putting in subliminal satanic messages. We could do a ouija board to this. Cherrelle: I couldn’t listen to this alone. I’d need to turn all the lights in the house on. Let’s have a séance. This is what Marilyn Manson makes love to. Brittany: These are probably his kids. Hey, Alex, come over here and let me carve a pentagram into your arm. [Lorie, in kitchen, drops a cake on her foot]Brittany: See? This music fucked her up so bad she dropped a cake on the floor. Alex: [growling] “Red rum. Red rum.” Brittany: Did you just say you were going to spin your head in a circle? Michael: So, do you guys like this?Brittany: I like it on Halloween.Lorie: [calling in from kitchen] I’m scared to fucking death of this song!

8. UGK ft. OutKast, “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (Jive) [49 votes] [Michael restarts the song a couple times so the group can hear the first verse]Cherrelle: He sounds like he’s trying to be a pimp.Michael: Sort of—it’s called “Int’l Players Anthem.” But Andre 3000’s verse is about getting married.Brittany: Is he going to marry me? That’s all I care about. Cherrelle: I don’t love that old crap in the background. It’s like ’60s gospel that my mother would listen to. Brittany: I think that’s your mother singing in the background. [Second verse begins]Cherrelle: I like how he’s talking about marrying someone and saying “bitch” and “pussy.” Brittany: They’re gonna get “bitch” and “pussy” engraved on their wedding rings.Cherrelle: I like this guy’s voice.Michael: This is Pimp C, who recently died.Cherrelle: Well, how you gonna hate on a dead man? Michael: OK, this is Big Boi now.Cherrelle: They’re both tiny men. Michael: Big Boi is much smaller than Andre. Cherrelle: [to Brittany] Andre could wear your clothes.Brittany: I’d let him. He can wear my clothes anytime.Cherrelle: This is all starting to sound alike to me.Brittany: [to Cherrelle, who’s black] Racist.

9. Feist, “1234” (Cherrytree) [48 votes]Brittany: [immediately, to opening strums] “The beautiful people . . . “Alex: This is the video with all the kids all skipping rope. [imitates choreography]Brittany: [after the line, “Teenage hopes arrive at your door”] “Teenage hoes”? Cherrelle: She keeps saying “ho.”Brittany: Very Christmassy. Cherrelle: [sings] “1-2-3-4, you a ho.”Brittany: [sings] “5-6-7-8, your momma’s a ho too/9-10-11-12, your grandma’s a ho, too.” Cherrelle: If we weren’t so mean, this would probably be a nice song.Brittany: If we weren’t so fucking cynical, we could enjoy this. If we hadn’t just listened to Marilyn Manson . . .

10. Kanye West, “Stronger” (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam) [35 votes]Brittany and Cherrelle: [immediately] “Intergalactic, planetary, planetary, intergalactic . . . “Cherrelle: I love this song.Michael: Based on what you said earlier, I thought you didn’t like it.Brittany: No, I said I thought he took a flying leap out of his realm. Michael: I misunderstood, then.Cherrelle: Yeah, this is my ringtone. Brittany: [deadpan] And that says a lot. You’ve really got to be a hardcore fan to have someone’s song for a ringtone. And everybody turns around and says, “Hey, ‘Stronger’! Let me holla at you!” [to Cherrelle] Does this ringtone make you stronger?Cherrelle: [sardonically] I feel empowered. [song continues for awhile] I felt bad when his mom died. Lorie: You know recently I just took a day off when my father’s wife died.Brittany: You know what’s a big factor of why I don’t like this song? Those awful fucking sunglasses with the blinds. They look retarded. Cherrelle: You look like you have Down’s Syndrome when you have them.Brittany: Camp Courage sunglasses. [to Michael] Don’t put that in there. Michael: Can I please?Brittany: If I get shanked for this, Michael, it’s your fault.Lorie: If you get shanked for this, I get a day off!