Last week went well. I wrote a fun, tongue-in-cheek article about crafting the perfect playlist, and you all took to the comment board to send me your thoughts. They were all very constructive. Kidding, they were just shy of death threats. I’m sure you called your grandfather after and tearfully said, “You know how you fought in World War II? Well, now I have my thing, Pop Pop.” And I’m so proud of you for that. But I’ll reiterate: I didn’t invent the Top 40. You guys spent a lot of time bashing some VERY popular songs–the most popular songs in America, in fact, based on actual data of sales and radio play. While I’m not defending them as great works of art, I will nevertheless defend them as cultural touchstones against whatever equally shitty songs you think should take their places. So to recap: you told me my playlist sucks and asked me to improve it by featuring songs people like even LESS. Noted. Thanks for your input.
But I’ll soldier on, partially because I don’t give a shit, partially because TFM keeps sending me cases of this delicious Rowdy Gentleman brand cognac, and partially because I meet with the writers every week to bet thousands of dollars on who can get called “not frat” the most. But there’s a weird phenomenon afoot. This last column drew the most comment ire I’ve ever received (and that’s saying something, it was also one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written, based on clicks, likes, and “nice moves”). It appears that–in music and writing, at least–the more popular you are, the more people hate you. It feels like I’m getting choked, but I’m also masturbating. And it’s awesome? I need more of this–it hurts so, so good. Somebody get me a closet and a belt, stat. Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more:
“I Love It,” Icona Pop
If you recall from last week, the song prior to this was “Always Be My Baby.” We just went from a nostalgia-soaked ballad to a four-on-the-floor coke rage? Yeah we did, because now, an hour and a half into the playlist, everyone is drunk. No longer are we bound by the conventions of society. You all complained about the poppy bullshit last week, but think about the circumstances. At that point, everyone was still reasonably sober. Now consider this. How much more do you feel like taking off your pants when you’re drunk? So goes a good playlist. You don’t rip off your pants at the beginning of the party. Then, everyone is like, “Who’s the pervert deviant with the tiny dick?” You wait. You meet society’s expectations until society’s expectations are loosened by alcohol. Then you attack tearing down any and all propriety, and then all the ladies be like, “Oooh, look at that cute dick!”
Try starting a playlist with “Danger Zone” and see how it goes. I dare you. That is, as the expression goes, “leading with your chin.” If you’re smart, you save it for right now.
“Danger Zone,” Kenny Loggins
“Revvin’ up your engine, listen to her howlin’ roar. Metal under tension, beggin’ you to touch and go. Out along the edges, always where I burn to be. The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.” Is this song about fucking or flying fighter jets? Both. And neither.
“Under Pressure,” Queen
“Invisible Touch,” Genesis
“Just a Friend,” Biz Markie
Yes, yes, and yes.
“It’s a Great Day to be Alive,” Travis Tritt
Because it is. Because this song captures something. Because when you’re drunk, there is a moment when the sun shines in and everything’s going to be okay. No, wait, everything is going to be fucking GREAT. Because in this moment, that massive hangover awaiting you at the end of this journey doesn’t exist and that piss you cut mid-stream and got on yourself is her problem. Because this journey never ends. Speaking of Journey…
You probably thought I was going to go with “Don’t Stop Believing.” No thanks, this isn’t a quinceañera, ese. It’s time to go deep cuts, and there is maybe no finer synthesis of melodic power and romance than the creation exhibited here by Neal Schon and Steve Perry. Grab the first female you see and balladize her. Feel your heart pulse blood like never before, and get on your knees to belt the coda: “WOOOAAAOOOOWOOOAAAOOOOO WAAAAAAA!”
“Give Me Everything,” Pitbull with Neyo
I hate Pitbull more than you ever have, but this song crushes, mostly because of Neyo’s perfect chorus. Plus you need a banger after “Faithfully,” and it doesn’t hurt that lyrically the song is about how ladies should give in to all of their sexual fantasies because the apocalypse is nigh and death will take us all.
“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” Celine Dion
What people want to hear this deep into a playlist is the song they’ve always loved but never had the courage to admit it. They want to let the alcohol allow them to finally belt out the words, “THERE WERE NIGHTS OF ENDLESS PLEASURE” without a trace of irony. Try changing the radio dial when this song comes on. I dare you. Your muscles lock up and your body rejects the impulse. Because it’s perfect.
“Black or White,” Michael Jackson
This song ended racism.
“Born in the USA,” Bruce Springsteen
This is a fist pumper, but not in the annoying dance club way. I mean, it’s a fist in the air anthem for troubled times. No song captures hopelessness so thoroughly while repositioning it as power. The contradiction strengthens the emotional relevance, not that anyone’s thinking about that. They’re just smashing beers together Stone Cold-style and pouring beer on their faces, because they, too, were “born down in a dead man’s town.”
“Juicy,” Notorious B.I.G.
The opening moments of this song–the part where Mr. B.I.G. testifies–give a great opportunity to start the speech everyone is now chanting for you to give because your playlist put them on a rocket ship to outer space. You should take this opportunity to thank your parents, thank God, and thank me for reminding you that you can’t just throw on whatever fucking song you think is great, because this world isn’t about you, you fucking narcissist. You have to give in to popular taste sometimes. It’s called compromise. It’s called giving before you take. It’s called living in society. It’s called not being an asshole. And you’ll thank me for reminding you that someday very soon, you’ll realize everything that came so easy to you in college–girls, grades, opinions–won’t mean a lick of a dick in a cold world that has never heard of you and has never heard of your fraternity and doesn’t want to hear about that cool party you threw that one time with the neon paints. No one wants to hear about whatever stupid, meaningless shit has come to define your stupid, meaningless existence. They ESPECIALLY don’t care about that obscure or ironic song that you and your 50 frat brothers liked to play at every party. And then finally, you’ll thank me for reminding you that there is no difference between the person you are and the person everyone believes you to be, because when you die your personal evaluations die with you, and only the world’s lingering opinion of your miserable, selfish life lives on.
So shut up and play the hits.
“Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow Medicine Show
Hey, “Wagon Wheel,” you guys! There you go, you fucking babies.