A Project X Family Reunion
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 Michaelangelo Matos breaks down rankings from every genre imaginable. After the click-through, he sits down with his family for the fourth time to analyze last week’s Billboard Top 10:
I’ve been traveling all May, starting with a week in New York, with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago before spending a week in the Twin Cities. (Portland, Ore., is next, before heading home to Seattle.) I’ve been seeing a lot of my family while I’m here–and of course I had to play them the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 of May 24.
The session, as always, took place at my sister Brittany’s apartment in the south Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, near the scenic Mall of America, following an early-evening, belated Mother’s Day dinner at Red Lobster, fortified by extra to-go bags of cheese biscuits provided by my sisters’ waitress friend. No significant others tolerating us this time–just the loosest session yet, to which Mom attributes thus: “It probably went well because you fed us first.” As usual, I typed everyone’s responses on the fly, occasionally pausing the songs to fill in gaps, and clarifying and/or adding additional commentary after reading through what I had to the group.
Dramatis personae (and their Red Lobster meals): Lorie, mother, 48: seafood-stuffed mushrooms Michael, author, 33: garlic shrimp, coconut shrimp, and snow crab legs dinner Alex, sister, 22: seafood pasta Brittany, sister, 21: salmon, broccoli, and a baked potato Veronica, niece, 3: popcorn shrimp
Preface Michael: Brittany, do you still have that CD I made you of the last Top 10 we listened to? Brittany: Miguel jacked it from me–straight up. He was bumping it in his car. I asked him, “Where did you get this?” He said, “It’s the Top 10 that your brother did.” I said, “Gee whiz, thanks, Miguel.” Michael: Does he play it a lot? Brittany: Yeah! He listens to it all the fucking time. Every time he listens to English [language] music I ask him, “What is this?” It’s kind of ironic that the one that enjoyed that CD the most was the one who’s not from this country.
1. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (SRP/Def Jam) Brittany: It’s Rihanna–but it’s not as good as “Umbrella.” Oh, this is the song jacked from Madonna’s “Take a Bow.” Lorie: I like the music. Brittany: The piano is nice. I’m just not big into this. She’s done a lot better. What’s the name of the song she did with that guy? Michael: “Livin’ a Lie,” which is on The-Dream’s album. Brittany: That’s what they should put out. Michael: I don’t know why they haven’t. Maybe they’re just trying not to get in her album’s way, even though it’s obvious that “Livin’ a Lie” is the best song on his album. Lorie: This song is kind of depressing. Brittany: Depressing because it’s Rihanna and it’s not very good. Lorie: Why grace the asshole with a song? It’s like that song that goes, “I bet you think this song is about you.” Brittany: How old are you, mom? “You’re So Vain”? How old is that song? Lorie: Why shouldn’t I be the age I am? Brittany: You mean as old as humanity? Michael: This has been on the charts for about a month, and it jumped from No. 53 to No. 1 in a single week. Lorie: That’s probably because everyone has spring fever and is going out, hanging around the beach. Everyone dogged their girlfriends, and the [girlfriends] are pissed. Michael: It’s also not on Good Girl Gone Bad–they’re tacking it onto the “special edition” reissue to try to bilk teenagers into buying the same album twice. Brittany: That’s fucked up. Lorie: How can they afford it? Brittany: [muttering] Welfare. Michael: You can buy the song individually on iTunes if you have the album already. A lot of artists are doing that now. Lorie: And politicians. Brittany: Politicians are adding songs to their [albums]? Lorie: No–tacking on interests and fees and late charges. Brittany: Damn you, Hillary. Damn you, Barack. No one gives a shit about the Republicans, so I won’t even dignify them with a comment. Lorie: McCain needs anger management classes. Brittany: He needs the fountain of youth. He’s old and bitter. Did you see those commercials with his mother? How the fuck is his mother still alive? He’s like 90! Alex: Maybe it’s an actress. Brittany: Maybe it’s a marionette. Lorie: He’s like 72 now, right? Isn’t there an age where people have to die now? Brittany: It’s called Botox. Lorie: It’s called formaldehyde.
2. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (SYCO/J) Brittany: I’m going to shoot myself if I have to hear this song again. Lorie: I’ll do it for you. Brittany: Someone get me a knife so I can cut my ears off, please. Lorie: This should be [McCain’s] election song: “Keep breathing.” Alex, Brittany, Michael: Bleeding. Lorie: Oh. Is this Mariah? Michael: It’s Leona Lewis. Brittany: Every female R&B singer is compared to Mariah or Whitney. Alex: Because she has that high range. Brittany: She sounds like she’s yodeling. I thought this was Jordin Sparks–I bet she’ll be on the chart, too. Alex: I thought so too. Lorie: I don’t like this song at all. Michael: It sounds a LOT like an early Mariah Carey song. Lorie: One that I don’t like. Brittany: So that means it’ll be on the Adult Contemporary chart in nine years or so? Michael: Leona Lewis is English. Brittany: She’s Simon Cowell’s protégé. That in itself is bad enough: he created Il Divo. Alex: Oh god! Don’t even get me started on them. [My boyfriend] Brandon’s mom is obsessed with them. Lorie: What’s Il Divo? Brittany: They’re this bad popera group. Alex: They’re four older guys. They sing older opera type stuff. Brittany: That isn’t opera. I like opera. Michael: Apparently the American record company that signed her did so for something like a zillion dollars, at a time when the music industry is in free fall. Brittany: They thought she was gonna redeem it? Yeah, right. Lorie: Maybe they just thought she’d make it easier to let go.
3. Lil Wayne ft. Static Major, “Lollipop” (Cash Money) Alex: Oh god. Lorie: [The Supremes’] “Reflections”–that’s what [the beginning] reminds me of. Alex: “Apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur”: I know this song. I don’t like this, though. Oh! It’s the wrong song. I’m thinking of “Low” [by Flo Rida ft. T-Pain]. Brittany: Is this Lil Wayne?! “Cash Money Records reppin’ for the nine-nine and the 2000!” I like Mannie Fresh better. He was a lot funnier to listen to. What’s that song, “Get Your Roll On”? Lil Wayne was like 12 years old when Cash Money Records came out–that’s what I always think about when I hear him. He was like 12 years old with a kid, and his lonely teardrop. Lorie: A kid? Wow! I’ve been outdone! Brittany: Yeah–nobody thought it was biologically possible, but it’s been done, Mom. Lorie: You know what this reminds me of? Rap. Alex, Brittany, Michael: It is rap. Brittany: It’s more like a distant relative of rap. What kind of rap did you listen to, Mom, the Sugarhill Gang? Lorie: No, I listened to that Superman song. Michael: You mean “Rapper’s Delight”? Lorie: Yes! Brittany: That’s the Sugarhill Gang. Lorie: Oh. Michael: Wait–do you mean the song about Superman and Lois Lane, or the one about Supermanning that ho? Lorie: [confused look] Michael: OK, never mind. Brittany: I thought about Eminem’s “Superman,” which is worse than anything we could have come up with. I just can’t believe Lil Wayne is still around. Look at all the other little kids who came out around that time. Sammy is apparently doing something. Lil Bow Wow is still around, I guess. Lorie: Is that a person? A dog? Brittany: I don’t know if it’s true or just hearsay, but the way Bow Wow got his name was that he was pulled onstage at a Snoop Dogg concert. Lorie: Who cares if it’s true? Print it anyway. Brittany: Yeah, it’s the Internet. Michael: Speaking of the Internet: Lil Wayne’s reputation is a lot different than when he started out. Last year he put out over 300 songs on the web; a lot of people think he’s the best rapper alive. He put out a mixtape called Da Drought 3 that was him rhyming over other people’s tracks; it’s a great album. Brittany: But he sucked when he came out! He wasn’t good. It could have been who he was with. That’s weird, because nobody else on Cash Money did well. I guess I thought the non-talent ran with the label. Lorie: What’s the point of making your heart boom-boom? Michael: What? Brittany: The fact that it keeps you alive? Lorie: [indicating stereo] It actually vibrates your chest. Brittany: It’s called bass, mom. Lorie: I hate it. Brittany: You going to listen to “When Doves Cry” for the rest of your life, Mom? Tell me he’s not a sex symbol now, Michael? Michael: I’m not altogether sure how that works. Brittany: I know people used to think he was attractive. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t now. I’m tired of these songs with references to candy. There was “Candy Shop,” and then there was “Laffy Taffy.” [listening] The Vocoder–the first time I heard it, aside from the Funkadelic stuff, was [T-Pain & Mike Jones’s] “I’m in Luv (Wit a Stripper).” Everything has it now. Michael: It’s usually just T-Pain. Brittany: He’s like Nate Dogg. He was on everything for a few years. Only he wasn’t singing into a machine. And he wasn’t that good, either. Lorie: How do you know all this stuff? How do you know all these dogs?
4. Jordin Sparks Duet with Chris Brown, “No Air” (19/Jive) Brittany: Oh, here the fuck it is. Michael: I want to point out that the song is billed as “Jordin Sparks Duet with Chris Brown,” as if we wouldn’t know it was a duet otherwise. Brittany: They’re being politically correct. Lorie: This isn’t that necklace one, is it? Brittany: What are you talking about? “You’re So Vain”? Lorie: No, the girl with no neck. Michael: Oh, neck-less. Alex: That’s Melinda Doolittle–she was on American Idol at the same time [as Jordin Sparks]. Brittany: Melinda Necklittle. Lorie: I don’t think this is a bad song, actually. I can’t make the words out. Brittany: They can’t breathe because they’re in the water without each other, or some shit. It’s like Titanic. Here’s how they could put a twist on this: if they were an arguing couple one of them could be drowning the other one. That would be a lot more entertaining. Lorie: I don’t get it. Why can’t they breathe? Brittany: Their love is each other’s air or some shit. It’s really stupid. Did Maya Angelou write this song?
5. Usher ft. Young Jeezy, “Love In This Club” (LaFace) Alex: Oh my god. These songs are all so ghetto. Brittany: This one’s actually featuring Brad Paisley. Brad Paisley’s hood. Who is this? Michael: It’s Usher with Young Jeezy. Brittany: Usher used to be good. But then after that one club song he made–“Yeah.” That was a good song, but then he kept trying to make club songs and they weren’t as good. Michael: This is a slow jam, though. Brittany: Well, it’s called “Love in This Club.” Michael: I want you to hear Jeezy, because on this song he makes Usher sound like Prince. Brittany: [Listens to Jeezy’s verse] Is he autistic? Since when does it take this long to rap? He’s trying to be all seductive–it’s disgusting. I would never sleep with anybody that illiterate.
6. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (Knockout/DEJA) Lorie: Stop! Rap and pointy-toed shoes have got to go. Michael: What do those two things have to do with each other? Lorie: They’re both terrible! Pointy-toed shoes have been in style for seven years. Enough! Brittany: What are you talking about? You’re wearing Crocs! Lorie: I just bought them to protest pointy-toed shoes. Michael: I like Ray J’s voice–kind of early R. Kelly, kind of like Justin. Brittany: He sounds like Frankie J, who was part of the Cumbia Kings and hten broke off from them and did English [language] songs. There’s a song called “Obsesion No Es Amor” that he turned into an American hit called “Obsession.” It was pretty good. [indicating “Sexy Can I”] I could tolerate this song.
7. Madonna Featuring Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (Warner Bros.) Brittany: Timbaland? Michael: With Justin Timberlake and Madonna. Brittany: Oh, this song sucks. Lorie: So Madonna’s gonna rap, is that what you’re telling me? Brittany: She’s gonna rap English-style. She’s gonna rap and then eat crumpets. It’s kind of eerie how similarly Madonna and Justin sound. I don’t know if Madonna’s just so manly or Justin’s just so feminine. Michael: This sounds either like it’s a reject from Justin’s album that Madonna sang a couple lines on, or like he’s trying really hard to impress her, for some reason. He’s actually putting some back into it, and she’s just lazy. Brittany: Maybe she should make a record with T-Pain, then. Lorie: Who allows this stuff on the radio? Michael: It’s three of the biggest artists out right now. Lorie: Those guys? This is terrible. If you went to the club, you’d listen to this shit, wouldn’t you? Alex: That’s kind of the point. Lorie: I didn’t know any of these people rapped. Brittany: Nobody’s rapping, Mom! Lorie: [mocking background vocals] They’re “tick-tocking.” Brittany: This song didn’t save anything.
8. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (Island) Brittany: I was waiting for this song so I could talk a lot of shit about it, but after hearing “I’m That Chick,” I don’t have the heart for it. [Mariah sings a line about YouTube] You can catch anything on YouTube. Like if you slept with Mariah Carey you wouldn’t put that shit on YouTube! God. Lorie: Why? Brittany: When Mariah Carey takes a shit it’s on YouTube. Lorie: Oh. I haven’t seen U2. Brittany: YouTube. She’s so narcissistic. The last 5 videos were her writhing around on a bed. Actually, all her videos were like that. Michael: Not really. The early videos were narcissistic but also nonsexual. Alex: Yeah, before she was rolling on a bed fully clothed. Now she doesn’t wear any clothes, or virtually any. Brittany: Because she’s having a mid-life crisis. Michael: This reminds me of the Madonna track in the sense that neither of them really sound like they’re doing the stuff that made them famous in the first place. Brittany: She’s not bellowing, you mean? Michael: Exactly. Mom, you keep asking about why rapping and singing sound so similar. You remember “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child? That’s kind of where it began: the singing got really syncopated and rhythmic, so it’s half-and-half. R. Kelly does it too. The thing about Mariah Carey is that she stopped imitating Whitney Houston and, on her last album, started imitating Beyoncé. Lorie: When will she be herself? Michael: She doesn’t have a self! She’s a robot.
9. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (Phonogenic/Epic) Brittany: What is this? Michael: Natasha Bedingfield. Brittany: No wonder! She’s terrible. Lorie: I don’t mind this. Michael: It’s interesting to me that there are two Englishwomen in the Top 10–ever since Amy Winehouse there’s been kind a bunch of British female singers getting over in America–three if you count Madonna’s phony accent. Brittany: Well, they’re not Amy Winehouse and they need to knock it off. [points to her daughter] Look–Veronica’s screaming at the TV: “Be quiet!” [Bedingfield’s] not singing, she’s shouting. [listens to track] There’s a dial tone. I’d hang up on her, too.
10. Danity Kane, “Damaged” (Bad Boy/Atlantic) Brittany: Is this Danity Kane? Lorie: Fuck, is this for real? Alex: She sounds like a wannabe Jennifer Lopez. Brittany: And that’s bad. First of all, Puff Daddy should not have been successful; second of all, no protégé of Puff Daddy’s should have been successful. Alex: Puff Daddy was “successful” with Jennifer Lopez. Brittany: He was “successful” at shooting up clubs with Jennifer Lopez. [the song’s chorus comes in] Their brains are damaged.