I was listening to my playlist of 2011 singles and I had a couple of thoughts concerning some of them. Here they are in no particular order.
>>Katy Perry has been really smart with her single choices from Teenage Dream. Aside from the lead single, 'California Gurls', Katy has but released three surprisingly adult choices in a row: the title track, 'Firework' and now 'E.T.' What makes this even more incredible is that she two surefire hits in the making on her album--'Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)' and 'Peacock'--that could easily be Top 5 hits with very little work. They are both generic and audience-pandering pop tracks that any mediocre popstar could have pooped out but Katy, surprisingly, went for the less obvious choices. I mean, who would have guessed when 'I Kissed a Girl' or 'Hot N Cold' came out that she would even record an anthemic, 'Beautiful'-esque song like 'Firework,' much less release it as a single and get it to #1. 'E.T.' is even more of anomaly as its a dark, rather melancholic (well, as dark and melancholic as Katy Perry can get) track a good deal more adult than 95% of her output. The song is more proof that when she really tries and cares, Katy can be a really great popstar.
>>'Hold It Against Me' is, strangely enough, a grower. I have liked Brit's comeback single since the minute I first heard it, but I haven't been passionate about it like I have many of her other lead singles. Over the past month or so, however, I've slowly liked it more and more to the point where I'm now madly in love with the song. What I think took me so long is the fact that 'Hold It Against Me' is subtly different from the rest of her work. To a casual observer not intimate with Brit's work, it's auto-tuned business as usual. But to an obsessive like myself, 'Hold It Against Me' is quite different from her most recent lead singles. There's no massive hook and no repetitive chorus. In fact, the chorus is actually the softest, prettiest part of the song while the middle 8 is where the song really shines. The song changes gears and tempos about four different times but that's what I love about it. 'Hold It Against Me' is Brit playing against our expectations about what a lead single of hers sounds like and I think it's a clever, bold move for the legendary Miss Britney Spears.
>>Who is Jessie J? Yes, I know who she is but I have no clue who she is as an artist. I didn't particularly care for 'Do It Like a Dude' when I first heard it but, like 'Hold It Against Me,' it has grown on me considerably in the past month or so (even if it's not as good as Ciara's ultimate equal-rights-between-the-sexes anthem 'Like a Boy'). The song is loud, in-your-face and aggressive as hell, which coheres with the rough and tumble persona Jessie J has created for herself. With that angry bob haircut and tattoos all up and down her body, she's the kind of chick I would totally expect to stand up to domineering men and let them know she can do what they do just as well as them. But now her second single, 'Price Tag', has come out and already hit #1 in the UK and I'm more confused than ever as to what kind of artist she is. The song is another one of those "people are so superficial and only care about fame and expensive things" that we get every year from pretentious a-holes who think they're so clever and witty with their bashing of the rich and the vapid. We get it, rich people have no souls. Can we move on already? Unfortunately, Jessie J goes down this road once again and the result is atrocious. 'Price Tag' features B.o.B. but the message is so earnest and "insightful" I'm really shocked Travie McCoy didn't reprise a verse of 'Billionaire' on it. I'm really hoping 'Price Tag' is just a one-off and the album is full of more 'Do It Like a Dude''s, otherwise it's going to be a nightmare to sit through.
>>I feel like 2011 will finally be the year of Vincent Frank, aka Frankmusik. I have been in love with him since I first heard '3 Little Words' and a few other underground releases, but his truly dire debut album sent his career two steps backwards. He's had a year to get back on track and now, with the help of Cherrytree Records, the same label that has made Robyn and Far East Movement massive successes, Frankmusik is ready to take over America. 'The Fear Inside' dropped very late last year to small, if very positive, fanfare and he has been steadily releasing free tracks--some of which are very, very good--to build hype for the upcoming album. Perhaps most importantly, he has made the rounds on the late night TV circuit, performing the chorus to Far East Movement's 'Rocketeer' in the absence of original singer Ryan Tedder. Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I think he does a far better job than Tedder. If only this could have been his proper introduction to the American public. Then again, I feel like he will make it with his own material.
>>Sometimes I have no clue what goes through record labels' heads when they make the idiotic decisions that they do. Take, for example, Taio Cruz's 'Higher' and the differences between the original and U.S. versions. In the original version, the song is a duet with pop goddess Kylie Minogue. The song isn't exactly revolutionary but it's surprisingly catchy and Kylie & Taio have great chemistry. I'm not surprised that, for the U.S. release, the label decided to tack on a needless rap from none other than Travie McCoy. Taio isn't exactly an established star here yet and Kylie, no matter what the rest of the world says, hasn't had a hit in the U.S. since, arguably, 'Love at First Sight'. But what I'm flabbergasted by is the fact they completely dropped Kylie Minogue from the U.S. version and simply had Taio record all of her vocals. This was a stupid decision for two reasons: (1) the song functions best as a duet so as a Taio solo, something is missing and (2) why on Earth would you replace Kylie in the first place? It's not as if she's some complete unknown or that the Travie McCoy verse completely replaces her. The song would have functioned just fine if they had left Kylie in it. Then again, what do I know about making hit records in America. This is the same country that gave two #1's in a row to a cokehead.