19 December 2008

top teen tunes!

[eta: here is a MixTube of all the songs discussed in this post. listen as you go!]

i picked up the veronicas' hook me up the other day (good ol' $2.99) and just listened to it again... it holds up very well, which makes me feel better about having written such a glowing review of it a year ago, despite the fact that i've barely listened to it since then. it is, in fact, a pretty great record. i'd forgotten about the how riled up some of us were getting at the time about the somewhat questionable girl-kissing references in "take me on the floor" (and also on skye sweetnam's contemporaneous "[maybe i should] kiss a girl")... little did we know then that that sh[l]ockstress katy perry would come steal that stale thunder and somehow warp it into 2008's most reviled, inanely 'zeitgeisty' pop inevitable.

anyhow, hook me up finally got a u.s. release this year - "untouched" even made it onto the p4k top 100 tracks list (which is notably ho-hum, but in a pleasant way; a low-key list for a low-key year.) not surprisingly the domestic version comes with a bonus track, advertised as such on the cover sticker (but not listed as a bonus): "goodbye to you", which i didn't realize until just now is a cover of a 1982 hit by scandal. hm. not sure what to say about that, since i don't really know anything about scandal. i do have the basic sense that they're not nearly as hip or worthy as tracy bonham, but what i do i know. (they did come from the magic decade, after all. and i suppose we owe them something for being the butt of all those lame patty smith/patti smyth jokes.)

i was gonna say that it's a sort of strange addition to the album, probably the lightest and frothiest thing on there - and an especially stark contrast to the high melodrama of the now-penultimate track "in another life" - generally pretty dispensable, although it's musically in keeping with the rest of the record. indeed it pretty much straight jacks the electro-candy groove from the title track, just sped up a bit. the verse melody is naggingly familiar ("solitary man"? "good riddance (time of your life)"?) but probably just generic; the most notable part is probably the silly squelchy synth solo, which nods almost undeniably to the organ solo from del shannon's "runaway," one of the greatest proto-teenpop hits (surely: who else would run away besides a teen or younger.) turns out that keyboard lick (and of course the melody) are also present in the original version too, so the v's didn't do a whole lot here worth noting except to revive the song for the benefit of weirdball birth control ads and fellow '80s-babies like me who missed out on it the first time. oh-kay.

speaking of teen-pop (because i haven't been, much this year at all), i wanted to mention a couple of my favorite recent jamzz, from artists who aren't quite so teen-centric (or, well, teen-aged) as they used to be, but have been showing a bit of that teeny-boppin' spark, more or less surprisingly.

the new beyoncé record has grown on me a fair amount - now i actually think the premise of splitting it into a ballad half and a banger half was a fairly smart or at least creative move (although it's still silly to split so little music onto two discs and call it an album), since they really are doing totally different things. no dispute that the ballad half is "better," more substantial and actually more engaging ("halo" in particular has been in my head a lot), but my favorite song on the whole package might be the entirely silly "radio."

it's a great and very fresh-feeling gooshy '08 club track production-wise - sounding, it must be said, a good deal like something we'd expect to hear from rihanna - but what makes it especially fun is how far it strays from typical beyoncé territory emotionally. it's beyoncé like we've maybe never heard her; not the mature, scorned-but-powerful icy-perfection goddess diva woman (though we get that again, a bit too explicitly so, in the next track), but an enthusiastic, excitable, slang-talking little kid.

i mean, who over the age of 16 would say something like "i think i'm in love with my radio/cuz it never lets me down." are there still people who actually feel that way? probably so (i hope so!), but the sentiment still feels decidedly like a throw-back, if not to the "golden age" of radio pop (um, whenever that was), at least to ll cool j c. 1985. i also just love the scene-setting opening stanza, in which she establishes her recent-to-current radio-rap cred, in highly un-beyonce-like fashion, by slurring "like erryday" and making sure she's rocking those stunna shades. it's totally preposterous, but in a very different direction from the way b is usually preposterous. and she totally hams it up - to hilarious effect, but at the same time it's an entirely convincing performance.

my favorite jam on the new taylor swift album isn't nearly so out of character for its artist (who after all is still a teen, and a full eight years younger than B), but it is striking for its highly teen-specific setting, as well as for its blissfully bountiful overabundance of melody (seriously, the song has like two-and-a-half separate choruses, and the verse melody is pretty catchy in its own right.) that's "you belong with me" - take a listen.

fearless has gotten a fair amount of ink for its 'maturity' - the song "fifteen" in particular, which does indeed seem like something that could be sung to a 15-year-old from somebody much wiser in years - but it's got plenty of youthful heart, and never more than on this track (the biggest standout for me, but that's probably just a quirk of what i happened to hear first, since plenty of the other songs seem like they're just as good.) "she wears short skirts, i wear t-shirts/she's cheer captain and i'm on the bleachers"... just says it all, no? [nb. "bleachers" rhymes with both "t-shirts" and "sneakers." that's some songwritin for ya.] and you have to love the snarkiness of "i'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like." [eta: and check out the accompanying image in the cd booklet, taylor as bespectacled band dork while her beloved fawns over the ditzy hussy with her bra showing:

notice that taylor is wearing neither t-shirts nor sneakers in this image... also: "go, tiger"]

finally, the recently rather quiet paris hilton, whom i and others discussed under the umbrella of "teen-pop" back in '06 even though neither she nor her presumed audience were teen-aged, and her music had a pretty obvious adult slant, has released one of the most teeny-sounding songs in recent memory. (i wasn't at all sure she'd actually get back to making music at all, so this comes as a very pleasant surprise...new album due in 09!) from it's title on down, "my BFF" nods to classic late-90s/early-00s teen-pop. it makes me think, in particular, of toybox and aqua, though the whole max martin parade of poppettes could be invoked as well.

lyrically, unrepentantly g-rated - the conceit is basically the same as "is it you?", except that paris is looking for a friend, not a lover. (it is the theme song from her reality show, of the same premise.) a little silly coming from a 26-year old, ya know? musically too, it's squeaky-clean and peppy, eurodance-style kidpop. so wholesome you want to gag (and it's actually pretty catchy, which might make it better or worse.) and this is paris hilton we're talking about? good one girl.

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