Is it just us or are the charts seriously blowing up lately? If someone's not setting off a "Firework" or some "Dynamite," they're making the place "Blow" or go "Boom." Even if they're not blowing stuff up, pop stars seem to be wallowing in a kind of dance-pop dystopia: drowning their sorrows in drink or relentless, brain-obliterating beats, singing about dancing away the pain or even "Till the World Ends," as Britney suggests in her new single. What the hellow is going on? Maybe it's just a trend, but here's our theory: a lot of stuff is going down right now. The world is a confusing, often frightening place to live in, where change is possible but only through seemingly insurmountable struggle and (sometimes) violence, where massive earthquakes lead to tsunamis lead to explosions in nuclear reactors, where democracy everywhere (even on our fair shores) is being threatened and challenged and met with mayhem and meanness. Whew, sorry. We went to our bad place for a minute, but we're back. The point is, the people have spoken and what the people want are pop songs that reflect their current mood, which is, apparently, driven by the desire to blow some crap up.
Case in Point: Quasi-Apocalyptic Discotheque
In 25 Words or Less: Brit-brit makes like a G6 with drunken dance-pop, FaR*eAsterly production (plus Enrique-esque hook). Swirling beats feel slightly like spinning (or the spins) but overall, innocuously sexy.
Text: "I can't take it take it take it no more/ Never felt like this before." Then later, "Keep on dancing till the world ends" (repeated in echoing loop).
(Possible) Subtext: Sh*t happens. In fact, there is a LOT of sh*t going on right now. And no one knows sh*t like Brit. Love is hard, war is hard, boys and governments come and go and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. So just spin and spin and spin. Ideally, maybe all that spinning will change your perspective, like Buddhist chanting or binge drinking. Realistically? You'll probably just barf and forget about it.
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: Look, birds are falling from the sky en masse. Fish are dying. The world is fraught with earthquakes and typhoons and explosions and war and Sarah Palin sound bites. The gods are clearly not happy. What else can you do? Well, Britney knows what you should do: you should be dannncing! Yeah!
Case in Point: Type One Explosion: I'm a Bomb, Baby
In 25 Words or Less: The Doggfather rolls deep, swaggers hard, extols (man-baiting) lesbianism, under-utilizes T-Pain, samples '80s synth-poppers (Yaz), (almost) gets dance-poppy. Next up? Snoop does the Robot.
Text: "Boom! Boom!" (said percussively with bursting consonants). And later, "Baby, I'm a Dogg! Beware!/ I'll do whatever, however I want!" And earlier, "Get some money, whip ya hair/ Executive branch blow my smoke like a player."
(Possible) Subtext: Money talks. Loudly. And when it does, it kind of sounds like an explosion. You will quake, shake and be deafened to all else by it.
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: A joke that's been making the rounds: "A union worker, a member of the Tea Party, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across the table, takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier and says: 'Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.'"
Case in Point: Type Two Explosion: Bombs Don't Kill People. People Kill People
Quintessential Example: Bruno Mars, "Grenade" In 25 Words or Less: The otherwise perpetually romantical Mars gets all bitter and grumpy about his heart getting blowed up. Sounds pretty (if a little boring) doing it.
Text: "I'd take a grenade for you/ But you won't do the same."
(Possible) Subtext: This one's pretty cut and dried. In short, what have you done for me lately? But possibly, possibly, the bitterness masks a secret, hidden guilt about how I'm only blaming you to mask how much more I could have done but didn't.
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: Come the next election, if things don't change, this may well sum up the perspective of the Obama generation, if their current not-so-Hopeful grumbling in his direction is any indication.
Case in Point: Type Three Explosion: The Clock Is Ticking. The Club is Bumping. What Do YOU Do?
In 25 Words or Less: Beglittered man-eater blows up club, sounds bit dark/disillusioned about it. Club anthem or soundtrack for post-apocalyptic, post-vocalist, post-dumb world where boys are go-go dancing slaves?
Text: "This place about to blow! Blow!" (many times). And then, "Now what? We're taking control/ We get what we want, we do what you don't."
(Possible) Subtext: Hey! Old people! You screwed up! We trusted you, and, well, you kind of sucked. So we're staging a coup. Choose your own adventure: Do you (a) get the F out while you can? Or (b) stay and join the (dance, dance) revolution?
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: See Tunisia. Egypt. Libya. Yemen. To name a few. Old guard? Get out. Or start doing the funky chicken the way we like it.
Case in Point: Life. As I Know It. Stops
In 25 Words or Less: Former metal-band-turned-electro-poppers fond of wearing bear heads ditch lesser-known Maipei for Robyn, craft appropriately heart monitor-ish beats, do Swedish hot beats/cool treats automaton thing.
Text: "Sleepyhead's gonna wake up dead." Hook: "So, come on/ And shake your bone-maker" (we think).
(Possible) Subtext: Well, this all depends on what exactly one thinks a "bone-maker" is (and, ahem, if that's actually what they're saying). Does it mean your brain, ostensibly the driving force/creator behind most of your other parts? If so, the subtext seems to be simple: get up, stand up. But the brain doesn't really make bones. So does it mean, maybe, God or your parents? If so, the then the subtext might be something more like: please DO bite the hand that feeds you. OR when they say "bone," are they referring to something ... cruder? So shaking your bone-maker would then mean something ... sexier. And the underlying meaning might simply be: the world is in trouble, people are dying, make more babies (or at least more happiness) NOW.
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: Clearly, Robyn and the Teddybears want you to do something, whatever it may be. So, um, just go out in the world and make a difference? Or at least stop whining about your life/the government/the world/the earthquakes while doing nothing but watch TV?
Case in Point: Maybe There's Hope Yet
In 25 Words or Less: Hair-whipper gives neck, voice a rest, instead tries on Ke$ha-style Sprechstimme and indefatigable diva-tude. Sounds slightly like she's auditioning for a JC Penney back-to-school commercial.
Text: "21st century girl/ I do what I like/ 21st century girl/ I'm taking you for a ride" Also: "I'm taking you for a ride," "Yeah, I'm gonna live it up," and "A beautiful life."
(Possible) Subtext: Willow is a badass. The end.
(Suggested) Relevant Takeaway: OK, this one isn't quite as apocalyptic as the others. In fact, its focus on the present (as future) is positively hopeful. And while there are elements of Britney's party-the-pain-away philosophy, the focus is more on strength and independence and, well, refreshing, youthful hubris. In other words, we believe the children are the future, people.
See also: FaR*eAst Movement, "Rocketeer"