I feel a disturbance in The Force: quick, check the Billboard Hot 100 chart
Not to belabor the point – because it doesn’t really need a lot of explanation – but the US Top 40 has sucked moose balls for a very long time. The fashion in recent years has tended toward prefabricated diva pop, braindead hit-hop and cynical producer-driven techno-pop music-like product. Imagine Simon Cowell’s iPod, in other words. Oscar Wilde once described fox hunting as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.” Find a way to work “unlistenable” into the phrase somehow and you have the whole US hit music industry just about nailed.
So imagine my bafflement at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2012. Sure, you have the predictable Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson pablum, plus a smattering of LMFAO and Rihanna, but you also have – wait for it – some real, legit music. No, seriously. Adele hit #1 for a couple of weeks with “Set Fire to the Rain,” and while I know Adele is a sanctioned pop star, she’s not your usual pop star. For starters, she doesn’t look like a supermodel. Also, she writes songs instead of sitting around at the mercy of the Svengali Machine. And she has more actual talent in her little finger than everybody else on the charts combined. She is, in other words, the real fucking deal.
Then there’s Fun. They spent six weeks in March and April atop the Top 40 with “We Are Young.”
Yeah, it’s certainly a radio-friendly tune, and yeah, it features a drive-by from one of hip-pop’s rising stars in Janelle Monae (who’s actually damned substantive by that genre’s standards), but this is a band fronted by Nate Reuss, formerly of Arizona indie-rockers The Format. Both bands are/were plenty accessible but…#1 radio hit, in this day and age? You have to be kidding me.
And check out the charts now – #1 for the eighth consecutive week: Gotye. Freakin’ Gotye.
Now, there’s no doubt – this is a fantastic song, and it’s the kind of song that ought to be at the top of the charts. (In fact, it’s a damned fine CD in general, as is the Fun. disc.) But it isn’t synthesizer pop. People are writing their own songs and playing actual instruments. Nobody here is sleeping with (or ever has, far as I know) Sean Combs. It is, from an industry standpoint, as unlikely as a Top 40 hit gets. Again, seriously indie.
All told, we’ve had real artists atop the charts for 16 of 2012’s 24 weeks to date. I’ve been furiously riffling through the Book of Revelation all morning and I can’t find any reference to this at all. As soon as I post this I’m going to see if Nostradamus mentions it.
In any case, the rest of the chart still blows lepers. But hell, maybe this is an early sign of things to come? Is it possible that corporate programmers will see this and say to themselves, hey, maybe the public will tolerate good music after all?
Who knows. Not holding my breath. But I am enjoying the momentary upset in the natural order.