Charts on Fire: 07-31-08
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 1, 2008
What better way to mark the triumphant return of IITS than with our first Charts on Fire column in far too long? Unfortunately, the most important news is no better than it would’ve been had I written this column any other time in the last month and a half–Katy Perry is still at #1 with the most socially reprehensible single since “Before He Cheats,” its six-week reign on top officially/tragically marking it as the Summer Single of 2008. Making matters worse are the facts that a) “I Kissed a Girl” is the 1000th #1 hit of the Rock Era, permanently assuring it a place in Pop Trivia History, and that b) The song has still yet to redeem itself by inspiring some sort of reverse-perspective response song (“I Kissed a Dude”? “We’re Through, B**** (Cheating is Cheating)”? “You Use Too Much Tongue When You’re Drunk, Katy Perry”?). Where are the Sporty Thievez and Frankees of the world when you need them, anyway?
Anyway, enough about Ms. Perry–it’s Rihanna I really want to talk about in this post, who currently occupies two of the chart’s top five with “Take a Bow” (#2) and “Disturbia” (#4). When we first heard from the Caribbean pixie three years ago, storming the charts with the summer scorcher “Pon De Replay” (kept from an occupancy at pole position only by the 14-week reign of Mariah’s “We Belong Together”), she basically seemed like a decent enough placeholder vocalist blessed with a catchy beat and a decent chorus, soon to join the ranks of Lumidee and Nina Sky as quickly-forgotten dancehall one-offs. After the good but not as-good follow-up “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” stalled at #26 and none of the other Music of the Sun singles did too much, Rihanna seemed well on her way to fulfilling her destiny as a future 00s relic.
But then she came back next summer. And the summer after that. And the summer after that. And a funny and extremely improbable thing kept happening–each summer she came back, she managed to get bigger than the summer before. “Pon de Replay” was big, sure, but it was nothing compared to “S.O.S.,” which was nothing compared to “Umbrella,” which by the end of the summer will probably be nothing compared to the combined supremacy of “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia”. The first couple times seemed like a fluke, but after nine top ten hits, all but one or two of which being total winners, and at least two or three stone classics, I think we need to start talking about Rihanna being one of the key pop artists of the decade, closer to Janet Jackson than to Jody Watley. And if “Disturbia” is any indication, she’s really just getting going, since the song and video (pictured above) are definitely the weirdest she’s done yet, but don’t really sacrifice any sort of commercial appeal to achieve it–as sure a sign as any of an artist knowing what they’re doing. Good for her.
Lil’ Wayne also occupies two spots in the top ten this week, with ex-#1 “Lollipop” at #7 and ascending chart-blazer “A Milli” at #6. I don’t know if “A Milli” is quite the immortal single I’ve always hoped Wayne would be capable of, but it’s certainly much closer than “Lollipop,” and it must set some sort of record for the number of times title is repeated in the song without getting annoying (or possibly just at all, who knows). Elsewhere, Should’ve-Been Summer Jam “American Boy” by Estelle and Kanye West is finally bounding up the top 40, jumping 10 to #16, and Ne-Yo’s IITS-approved Hot One “Closer” lands a couple up on it at #14. Other notables include the facts that Jason Mraz is still alive and heavily unplugged (“I’m Yours,” #27), Flo Rida can sell a decent single mostly on his own (“In the Ayer,” #30), and that Flobots have managed to sneak their alt-rap/nu-metal/faux-Cake act into the top 40 (the possibly-terrible-but-definitely-wonderful “Handlebars,” #37).
Then there are the Top 50 debuts. Two of ’em belong to Shwayze and Cisco Adler, a duo I had no idea existed a few hours ago but which I now fear might be the decade’s likely successor to Sublime. Took long enough I guess, but “Buzzin‘” and “Corona and Lime” have the same kind of slacker/stoner/summer vibe that sold all those late-90s So-Cal singles, albeit with more of a hip-hop than punk slant, and without the unbridled joy contained in, say, OPM’s “Heaven in a Halfpipe.” In any case, both are infinitely preferable to Rehab’s “Bartender Song (Sittin’ At a Bar),” a recent debut on the Modern Rock charts which, after a few listens, seems like it could make a pretty good case for being the worst rock single of the decade (ultimate judgement pending). Then there’s also new appearances by Keith Urban (the surprisingly decent “You Look Good in My Shirt,” #49) and Kid Rock (now officially moving into his “LORRRRDDDD I REMEMBER!!!” Bob Seger phase with the Zevon/Skynyrd-sampling “All Summer Long,” #38).
The real story, though, has to be the first ever Top 40 appearance of Sri Lankan sensation M.I.A., at #36 this week with “Paper Planes”. Anyone fortunate enough to attend NYU parties in the last 12 months (or at any other college campus worth a damn, I imagine) will wonder why America is only catching on to its jetsetting, misanthropic, Clash-sampling charms now, and it is of course its use in the trailer to pre-destined Surprise Summer Smash Pineapple Express that is to credit. I’m not as big of a fan of the song as many, and the trailers aren’t nearly as funny as I would think they should be, but it’s a pretty cool day for the Top 40 nonetheless. The DFA Remix, featured in Hancock for some reason, is also pretty bitching.
Lastly, Alkaline Trio throws their name in for contention for 00s Punk Band I Was Most Cacklingly Dismissive Of Until They Had a Decent Modern Rock Hit (“Help Me,” #20), challenging the previously unrivaled Against Me. Inspirational stuff.