May 1, 2014

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3 Songs: “5-Car Pileup On the Failway” Edition

For the past two posts, I’ve crossed over from my usual obscure fare and talked about mainstream pop music; first with the stuff I legitimately felt guilty about liking, and then the stuff I love without shame. I was going to go back to my planned schedule for 3 Songs, but it turns out I have even more to say about the stuff I will never ever make you guys sit through on my show.

See, pop songs fall along a continuum of stupidity, and my reaction towards them follows a similar path. There’s the popular-but-well-made stuff, like Adele; there’s a brand new grouping of artists who get called “indie” (to the snobbish amusement of assholes like me), like Imagine Dragons or Fun. There’s the mainstream stuff that everyone likes, and then on the other side of the bell curve things start to get interesting. Pop music is traditionally some of the simplest stuff to write and record, and its stars are more product than person. But the increasingly outrageous celebrity culture in America has caused desperate, deluded, or otherwise deranged musicians to release songs that are almost dadaesque in their atrocity. When pop music goes bad, it goes bad with spectacular insanity.

I’ve been meditating on the notion of these irresistibly awful songs ever since Avril Lavigne released her new music video for “Hello Kitty” last week. I won’t link it here, but if you haven’t heard it, go find it. See how long you can last. I can’t continuously bear that train wreck for more than 45 seconds, but I’ve gone back to the music video a handful of times since my initial viewing. Why? Because despite the fact that I am mortified on Lavigne’s behalf, I’m fascinated by just how much of a clusterfuck the entire venture is, from start to finish.

So today’s 3 songs are more examples of that schedenfreude-driven rubbernecking that I can’t seem to tamp down. I loathe all three of these songs, and I’m sure you will too. It’s not even like “Blurred Lines” was for some people, where they liked the melody but hated the lyrics; I hate everything about these songs, but they repulse me in such a way that I can’t not look at them.

Courtney Stodden – Reality

I’m not usually a reality TV or tabloid fan, but I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Courtney Stodden ever since she burst onto the scene a few years ago. She wasn’t a Laguna Beach alum or even a Teen Mom; Stodden was famous because she married a 51-year-old D-list actor while she was only sixteen. Courtney and her hubby Doug Hutchinson were the best sort of tabloid train wrecks: absolute lunatics with no connection to reality, convinced of their own importance and totally incapable of feeling shame. The oversexed Courtney celebrated her eighteenth birthday by getting several plastic surgery procedures, creating this music video for “Reality”, and then filing for divorce—and trying to get into porn (hilariously, porn said thanks but no thanks). “Reality” isn’t as offensive musically as the other two songs in this post, but it entrances me as the nadir of a girl’s delusions, fueled by money and sex and the promise of fame. It’s almost profound in its shallowness—but then she starts writhing around in pigtails against a backdrop of candy.

Cher Lloyd – Swagger Jagger

This Brit X Factor contestant is just something else. Words genuinely fail. She samples motherfucking “O My Darling Clementine”. I watch this video and feel like I have to challenge this whippersnapper to a cool-music-walkoff or something. I feel better because it reaffirms that I’m an adult with adult tastes. I just…goddamn watch this, it’s like a day at the circus for free.

Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend

Yeah, this isn’t the first time that Avril’s pulled this shit. After her relatively mature sophomore album Under My Skin (which I genuinely don’t mind), Lavigne seemed to be growing out of her punk-princess Sk8erboi phase. Then came 2007’s Best Damn Thing, in which she ran right back into her immature high school rebel role, slammed the door, and never ever came back out. Best Damn Thing‘s lead single, “Girlfriend”, was just a cavalcade of tired cliches, by a woman who was already too old to be singing about it. But nonetheless I’ve watched the music video a whole bunch of times, because, like Cher Lloyd above, I look at Avril and think man, she is trying so hard to be cool, it’s a little adorable. I am so glad that people like Stars, The New Pornographers, and Emily Haines came around, because it proved that Canadian women could make amazing music. The world moved on, Canada moved on, and Avril Lavigne has stayed exactly where she was when she debuted at eighteen. One of us is winning at life, and it isn’t the girl dancing in a school bathroom set.

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