The top 20 of 2004 – truly the weak in rock…

When I first started posting my thoughts on music in regular online columns in 1995 (long before anyone called these things blogs) I titled my site The Weak In Rock for a specific reason – popular music had long since shit the bed. And yet, each year I am further amazed by the lack of quality and inspiration found in pop music.

It’s not just the top 40 charts. Far from it. Anywhere you look you will find retreads, people following the latest hot trends and generally uninspired dreck that’s getting exposure simply because someone with influence or the willingness to spend a lot of marketing capital has rammed it to the top of the dung pile.

Most music critics are satisfied with simply trotting out lists of their favorite records of the year in the hope that they’ll stir some interested in overlooked gems. Not me. Nope. Sorry.

For one thing, even the stuff that lands on most critics best-of lists is still horrible garbage. For another, writing about the records I liked this year and trying to tell you why you should like them is boring. I’d have to be all nice and stuff. Bah and pheh upon that. It’s not my style.

Instead, I give you the top 20 songs of 2004 from the Billboard Hot 100 Year End Chart, and what I think ought to be done about them… or at least to the people responsible…

20. Lil’ Flip Featuring Lea – Sunshine

First off, since when do hip hop stars over the age of 12 want to be called “Lil'” anything? This is just wrong. Hip hop and rap are all about livin’ large. Unless this guy is four feet tall he should be ashamed of himself. Actually, after listening to this crap he should just friggin’ shoot himself.

19. Evanescence – My Immortal

The first time I heard Evanescence I thought it was a joke. I thought someone had conjured unnatural forces to fuse a Sara Brightman record with Limp Bizkit. This band is just awful. Faux opera and faux metal fused in an unholy marriage. The scariest thing is that down the hall from my band’s rehearsal space is a band that is trying their damnedest to copy Evanescence’s sound. Everytime I hear them playing I want to walk into their rehearsal room and tell them to please put their instruments down, leave the room and never come back.

18. Beyonce – Naughty Girl

I don’t hate Beyonce. The girl can sing, and every once in awhile they give her a decent song to show that off with. Not this one. This is a steaming dog turd of a song. It’s a dance beat and little more than that. This is how bad this song is – it sounds like it might be a Britney Spears cast-off. That’s right. It sounds like Britney turned it down.

17. Nickelback – Someday

Ooh, the over-saturated guitars, the heartfelt gritty vocals, the canned production job. Be still my steaming crap hole. Folks, it’s stuff like this that makes people convinced that rock is dead. It’s so formulaic and without any sort of passion or groove that it makes my bowels hurt.

16. Twista – Slow Jamz

These people should have their internal organs fed to them raw. This song does nothing but namedrop great artists and songs from R&B gone by. Here’s a better idea – let’s take these turd burglars, lock them in a room and make them listen to all the worst R&B records from the last 20 years and then force them to write a song about how un-sexy and un-cool all that music was and is. Or better yet – let’s take a Roland 808 drum machine and cram it so far up their asses that they’ll be tasting diodes.

15. 3 Doors Down – Here Without You

I ought to recuse myself from commenting on anything this horrible fetid pile of assflesh produces. I ought to, but I won’t. 3 Doors Down are yet another reason why people are encouraged to say that rock is dead. I’ve got a great idea for them – tie concrete to their legs and throw them off the Brooklyn Bridge.

14. Petey Pablo – Freek-A-Leek

Petey, I’ve got news for you. No one is scared of your “big dick.”

13. Juvenile – Slow Motion

And to think that the PMRC was all up in arms over obscenity in pop music back in 1985. Tipper Gore’s mind must simply be spinning at stuff like this and Petey Pablo’s track above being in the top 20 singles for the year nearly 20 years later. Frank Zappa was right, ladies; When you put a “warning: this record has naughty words on it” sticker on a CD it just makes all the nimrod kids want to own it even more. I’ve got nothing against raunchy language in pop songs. But it ought to at least be done creatively. A laundry list of sex moves is, well, profoundly unsexy. Marvin Gaye knew that. Isaac Hayes knows that. Barry White knew that.

12. Usher – Confessions, Pt. 2

Ugh. This stuff is just B-A-D, bad.

11. J-Kwon – Tipsy

I weep for the youth of America.

Seriously folks. I like hip hop. I do. But this junk is, well, junk. There’s no life in it, no creativity, no soul… It’s like heavy metal from the early 1990s. It’s all bluster, boasting and says nothing to me about my life. I suspect it says nothing to the kids who buy it about their lives either.

10. Terror Squad – Lean Back

Shit, bitch, fuck, shit, bitch, fuck, shit, bitch, fuck. Look, I just wrote a hit single.

9. Ciara – Goodies

Beyonce clone at 12 o’clock.

8. OutKast – Hey Ya!

Finally. Twelve songs into the top 20 of the year and we finally hit paydirt. Last year when I wrote about how clueless I had become about mainstream top 40 hits I singled out OutKast as being a group I knew absolutely nothing about. I got tons of email from people telling me I simply had to hear this song. I was blown away when I finally did. Hey Ya! is just a flat out gem of a pop song and I’ve yet to get tired of it.

7. Mario Winans – I Don’t Wanna Know

I think we need a ban on drum machines for about a decade. They’re overused and the obvious inability of even experienced record producers to craft a compelling groove with them just makes it seem clear to me that, like synthesizers, they need to be put on the shelf for a good long while to collect some dust. Then, in a decade or so, indie rockers can rediscover them and make them cool again. This isn’t a bad song, but the drum machine is distracting and annoying.

6. Hoobastank – The Reason

Yippee! More overproduced, melodramatic non-rocking rock. It’s not bad enough that these guys suck and blow at the same time, but what record label genius allows a band to ply their trade under a name like Hoobastank? It’s too easy to write a review for anything they’ll ever do. Hoobastunk! Hoobastink!

5. OutKast – I Love The Way You Move

Once again, OutKast save the day. All their contemporaries in hip hop and R&B need to study the crap out of this record. This is how it’s done folks.

4. Maroon5 – This Love

Huh? I never even heard this once on the radio. Not once. Sounds like some producer said, “let’s make this part sorta rockin’, and then follow it up with a hip hoppy thing,… cuz you know that’s what all the kids are into…” Bleah!

3. Alicia Keys – If I Ain’t Got You

Amazing what you can do with talent, decent songwriting and people playing actual musical instruments. I still maintain that someone needs to pair this lady up with a really killer songwriter. I wonder what Burt Bacharach is doing?

2. Usher – Burn

Yes. Let it burn. Burn every copy of this record.

1. Usher – Yeah!

No!

In all seriousness, the appeal of Usher is total lost on me. He can sing reasonably well, but what he does with it is just dull.

So, how does this stack up to the chart I dug out in November from 20 years ago? We had two great songs, both by OutKast, and one marginal song by Alicia Keys (who I cut a lot of slack because she’s a terrific singer and musician). That’s 15% of the chart that doesn’t suck ass folks, compared to 30% from 20 years ago. If you want to take that to it’s logical conclusion then be my guest. Music today is half as good as it was 20 years ago. And I dare say that while the chart from 20 years ago had a few classics on it that will be loved for decades even the best of the two OutKast songs will probably sound dated and lost 20 years from today.

Yes, that’s a subjective opinion, but that’s what music appreciation is – subjective. Now get off’n my lawn before I fill yer hides with rock salt.

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