Generally I become more and more skeptical about what's "hot." This is also known as "getting older" or, to paraphrase Chris Rock, not wanting to be the old guy in the club. But for me that skepticism has always come with a certain morbid curiosity about what makes some songs so popular and why. This time it was "Blurred Lines."
All the coverage surrounding the No. 1 song (or its supposedly controversial video, mostly) these past few weeks eventually got the better of me. I listened to it, I loved it, I downloaded it. Whether or not they lifted the idea from Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke and his collaborators have created an irresistible piece of ear candy that also happens to be a pretty complex bit of musical engineering. It's fun, sophisticated, sexy; in other words, everything I assumed Top 40 radio had abandoned in the wake of all that twerking and po-faced acoustic folk-pop.
Thus I decided I would spend an entire workday listening to 104.1 KRBE -- a familiar musical barometer from the days it played Tina Turner and Prince all the way through Depeche Mode and New Order, as well as a station I had not listened to for more than a few minutes in years -- and keep a journal. I announced my intentions to a colleague, and he rightly said, "Why would you do that?"
Hell, I don't know. I couldn't help myself. I tried it last Thursday and accidentally deleted the notes I had been keeping after a couple of hours, but the second time took. Yesterday I learned that Bruno Mars is legit, electric guitars are almost obsolete, and the Geneva Convention should take a serious look at that "Clarity" song. This is one Thursday I'll never get back; I'm not sure I want it back, but it wasn't a complete waste.
And why not?
9:15 a.m. My computer's streaming connection finally goes through to reveal none other than "Blurred Lines." Maybe this time will go a little better.
9:20 a.m. A sad day for the Roula & Ryan family: it's Ethan the Intern's last day on the popular morning show before he moves to L.A.. Recently R&R sent him and another intern to meet women at an area coffeehouse. Ethan, toting a guitar, was apparently much more successful than the other guy. He keeps threatening to break into Kenny Loggins, but instead tries to improvise a song about older women. Down in flames.
9:33 a.m. Computer crashed and I had to turn on an actual radio. (How retro.) The song is Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It," which is so packed with processed synths it sounds like it needs an inhaler. Like those Advair commercials old people like us watch on CBS.
9:49 a.m. Lady Gaga's "Applause." When did every pop song's trajectory become the 50-yard-line of the average NFL stadium to one of the seats someone such as myself could afford?
9:58 a.m. Justin Timberlake's "Take Back the Night." "Thriller" Part 2, in other words. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
10:06 a.m. On the other hand, it is definitely odd to hear a band obviously influenced by MGMT on mainstream radio. Say hi, Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound." I heard this at least five or six times the rest of the day.
10:54 a.m. An oldie for KRBE, Timberlake's "Sexyback." Far, far ahead of its time -- not only does Timbaland's production still sound cutting-edge, the lyrics have an early reference to "twerking."
11:22 a.m. Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise," including Nelly's rap. (So there he is.) There's enough Autotune to make this KRBE-friendly, because other than that I am learning that the main difference between country and pop these days is that country still uses guitars. However, if you're the Lumineers or that "Home" dude, you will never, ever make country radio.
Story continues on the next page.