Monday, December 08, 2008

Your 2008 Summer Song Today: Dawn of the SISSY

[Part 1 of this discussion with Mark Blankenship of The Critical Condition was posted earlier today.]

It's the singalong chorus of "Single Ladies" that does it, for sure. Which in a way makes it this year's "Hollaback Girl," and I mean that as a total compliment. If I can come back here in one year's time and say I'm not sick to death of hearing Beyonce kindly, yet persistently suggesting that her man ought to have put a ring on it, then she'll be up +1 on our pal Gwen. A summer song is "of the moment," so you can't retroactively take away SotS status just because it eventually started to drive you B-A-N-A-N-A-S for reals, but the better summer jams ("Crazy in Love," "Umbrella") are more resilliant. ANYWAY, I digress ...
The added tragedy to "Single Ladies" missing the summer zeitgeist is that there was no opportunity to cross-market it with the "Sex and the City" craze. Both song and movie had the same wide streak of "Am I right, girls?" man-centered female "empowerment." Which makes it the more traditional-gender-roles flip-side of someone like Pink, whose best songs are always an FU to some guy or another. Enter "So What?" into our great Song of Indian Summer debate.
The case for "So What?" is simple: it's anthemic. It's the theme song for every girl (and fancy guy) you know who just ended a relationship and wants to go out and drink his/her face off. This, by the way, is the second consecutive single where Pink totally screwed herself out of a song of the summer, because "U + Ur Hand" (up there with "Sexyback" and "Hey Ya" as the most summery non-summer songs of the decade) was foolishly released in the fall as well.
So my questions to you are these: What of the case for "So What?" as our Indian Summer signature song? And after two lady-centric tunes, would a more broadly-appealing tune be a better summer fit?

We need an acronym. From now on, we're looking for a SISSY, or Song of Indian Summer, Say Yeah!

And you don't have to be a sissy to love a SISSY, which brings us to Pink: Homegirl is tough, and I have always loved her for that. I also love her throat-ripping vocals and her ability to be sincere and cool at the same time. Even when she sings about her own fame -- which is my most-hated subject for a pop song -- she has a perspective that makes her seem like a relatable human instead of a chemically processed Famebot.

Lyrically, "So What" encapsulates her appeal. That stuff about being a rock star is just a deflection of her genuine heartache. You don't have to be famous to understand that sometimes you need to brag about yourself to avoid feeling like crap. That lets "So What" be for everyone.

That said, I don't love Max Martin's production. There are so many ugly sounds vying for my attention that I lose focus, and for me, that keeps "So What" from being a SISSY.

But I agree with you about the parade of traditional gender roles in "Single Ladies."

How about "Live Your Life" by T.I. and Rihanna? We can all get behind the message, and it's easy to sing along. Even if you've been dancing for six hours and you're pretty sure that last beer had a hair in it, you can still shout, "Ayyy! Ohhh! Ayyy! Ohhh!"

I think I've come back around to "Live Your Life" being the best of the post-summer bunch. And not just because it feels wrong not to give Rihanna some sort of honor to make up for the fact that it took me so long to latch onto "Disturbia." Forgive me, RiRi!

Anyway, once you get past the fact that the track is forced to make a silk purse out of that sow's ear of a sample, "Live Your Life" has it all. T.I.'s easy flow is like the best summer day you spent chaise-lounging with a tasty cocktail, the call-and-response chorus is the best singalong moment since Beyonce directed us all to the left, to the left, and the breakdown at the end might be the single most awesome thing that went in my earholes all year. Sure, the lyrics are kind of schizophrenic along the boastful/humble axis, but a) who listens to the lyrics of a summer song that closely, and b) the central message of the chorus is a salve for our troubled times.

The only thing that might hold me back from declaring this contest over right now is my reluctance to call T.I. a SISSY to his face. Unless you can talk me into something else. Something by the more SISSY-friendly Brandon Flowers perhaps?

Stay tuned for our thrilling conclusion in Part 3!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

"U + Ur Hand" is one of the most underrated songs ever. I still don't understand how that song wasn't a massive hit. "So What" is great, but it doesn't have the kiss-off sting that "U + Ur Hand" had.

I'm voting for "Disturbia" as the song of late summer. If "Umbrella" was her "Hit Me Baby...", "Disturbia" is her "Toxic".