Running for president is actually the same exact thing as being a popstar. As public figures, both need to be ready to navigate hits and flops, scandals and sabotage, tabloids and talk radio. Both bear the responsibility of inspiring entire populations with dazzling moves and electrifying performances – and incur the public’s wrath and rejection when they fail to do so. Which is why both inevitably find success in compromising their foundations to reach a broader audience; while politicians first endear us by taking a stand on a hot-button issue, they’re just gonna have to end up working with Max Martin on a dubstep middle 8 if they want that Top 40 home run. Selling out is just part of getting popular-er guys, so don’t hate Taylor Swift. She’s just running for President.
1) KE$HA – Die Young
Our beloved |<3$#4 (that’s Ke$ha in leet speak) hasn’t put forth a new body of work in exactly two years. Cannibal, her sophomore effort, was comprised of some genre-bending pop music like the too-cool-4-a-chorus Blow (which influenced Britney’s Til The World Ends, as well as the scores of imitations that followed) and the gritty Get Sleazy (which emphasized a distinctive white-girl-rap gimmick that has since been adopted by everyone from Cher Lloyd to Karmin).
The truth is that the pop music landscape has morphed considerably since Ke$ha broke in 2009, when Lady Gaga was her only competition; impersonators won an advantage, Katy Perry dropped an onslaught of hits on unsuspecting basics, Rihanna put out 15 new albums, and an overnight YouTube sensation gained access to the same producers as venerated ex-Mickey Mouse Clubbers. Comprehending the magnitude of the challenge before her, Ke$ha, a proud deferee of Columbia college, analyzed 19 national charts ranking Flo Rida’s Whistle in the #1 position last month. She then decided to release Die Young, which sounds like something Flo Rida might have otherwise recorded, to alert her unworthy fans that she would be krushhing sum skullz, in about a minute. Consider this the California Gurls placeholder before the tsunami of Teenage Dream; safe, catchy, and cursory. Keep in mind that Ke$ha’s debut was atop the Flo Rida smash Right Round, so this single is both an appeal to the masses and a symbolic homecoming.
2) TAYLOR SWIFT – I Knew You Were Trouble
If I had tweeted out a month ago “zomg the new @taylorswift track has got a sick drop” you would have split your sides from laughing. But seriously guys, the new Taylor Swift track has got a sick drop. How on earth did this happen? Unlike the Katy’s and Ke$ha’s who launched careers on the backs of major producers, Taylor has the unique and enviable position of having amassed a colossal following under the solemn oath of creative abstinence: before Red, she’d never collaborated with another writer. This time around, though, she’s fooling around with all of them, and the project’s protracted reveal is like a slow but satisfying loss of innocence. Sure, this is the inevitable gateway to a collaboration with David Guetta in a couple of years, but by then I’ll be obsessively refreshing the fan sites of some other virgin tween. This song in particular had me smitten from the 20 second snippet – the fluctuating falsetto of the chorus and the tensely compressed “trouble, trouble, trouble” hook actually make me lightheaded. She may be singing the same old hokey clichês, but all I can hear is IM SO GODDAMN FAMOUS, BITCH.
3) CHER LLOYD – Behind The Music
1) The title makes me think of N’Sync & Gloria Estefan Music of My Heart. That’s a complaint.
2) “All the girls, all the money in this world, they don’t mean shit.” Does Cher Lloyd think she has a heterosexual male audience? Or was ‘fag hags’ too many syllables?
3) It’s awkward to hear her sing about ‘looking for a label’ and ‘trying every genre’ when we know she was ushered into an X Factor deal and that this is her first album…
Nbd I’m over it.
4) ONE DIRECTION – Live While We’re Young
Take a shot every time you can hear the sound of a popstar going through puberty.
5) KELLY CLARKSON – Catch My Breath
When do you think was the last time Kelly Clarkson was actually out of breath.
6) NICKI MINAJ & CASSIE – The Boys
Nicki ran for President earlier this year with the confectionary Starships which turned me into a super fan, adamantly demanding she be played at every pre-game. Needless to say, it also alienated the majority of her base. In an attempt to get back into the center of the urban ring, Nicki dropped some verses on a Cassie song and announced it as the leading track from the re-release of Roman: Reloaded which comes out a mere 7 months after the original 22 track album.
7) RIHANNA – Diamonds
Thank you for empowering an entire generation with the belief that absolutely anyone can be a popstar.
8) ELLIE GOULDING – Figure 8
Two years after she triumphed over Marina in the BBC Sound Poll of 2010, Ellie crushes her again with the international acclaim of bothLights and Anything Could Happen. While Marina’s Katy Perry spin-off flopped in America’s oversaturated market, Ellie snuck in via Skrillex’s cool factor. As usual, the new album meanders between irritating and amazing, but this song is massive.
9) JTX – Seven Day Weekend
1:59 seconds of pop perfection are desecrated by the breakdown’s rally to “trade your tears for Peach Bacardi.” PEACH BACARDI??? Please, leave me to my tears.
10) CRUSH ATLANTIC – Sunrise
Just some new YouTube talents I found, hey.
11) K. ROSE – Sleep When I’m Dead
It’s been a minute since we had a popstar with serious rhythm – check out the video to see this Ke$ha / Rihanna hybrid pop & lock. With management by Queen Latifah and production by Steve Angelo (Swedish House Mafia) this precocious little brat is one to watch.
12) A*M*E* – Play The Game Boy
A*M*E*’s been hailed by pop blogs as a huge contender for the new it-girl crown; this is her third single, and the first one that really does it for me. Get my Madonna on now watch me vogue.
13) LITTLE MIX – DNA
This year’s UK X-Factor winners, Little Mix, have endless support overseas and are eyeing the states with this wintery radio-friendly track.
14) OLLY MURS ft. FLO RIDA – Troublemaker
Another UK X-Factor contestant, targeting the trademark Maroon 5 sound from Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.
15) NATALIA KILLS – Controversy
If you listen closely you can hear Linda Blair’s legendary moans from The Exorcist.
16) TEGAN AND SARA – Closer
Tegan and Sara practice their best Nicole Scherzinger Puakenikeni.
17) CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share
What is this band? They’re perfect.
18) KREWELLA – Can’t Control Myself
19) MIKA – Underwater
TOKEN SOARING EMOTIONAL BALLAD.
20) LUDACRIS ft. KELLY ROWLAND – Representin’
This could be because I don’t know very much about rap but when Ludacris raps it kinda sounds like he’s singing.
21) MATTHEW KOMA – Neon Red
Carly Rae Jepsen’s boyfriend. Not difficult to visualize this song considering all those things we’ve seen her do.
22) BRIDGIT MENDLER – Ready Or Not
This Disney star’s new single makes my stomach turn, but it’s getting a massive push from within the industry and I can tell my lemming friends are going to want to drive around to it with the top down.
23) ALPHABEAT – Since I Met You
Brace yourself, you’re about to get soaked with a seriously saccharine mp3.
24) AGNES – Human Touch
Dancey album track from the Swedish idol winner.
25) LOREEN – Crying Out Your Name
Eurovision winner Loreen is coming for QAF queen Deborah Cox.
BONUS TRACK: ZEDD ft. LADY GAGA – Where’s My Stache
This song is nonsense, but you’ve got to give it up to Lady Gaga for constantly determining the things that everyone else will be doing next year; she’s debuted SoundPuzzle, an interactive game which allows fans to be involved in her creative process. In this instance, she leaked an a cappella version via Twitter and asked followers to determine what the original song sounded like. One fan mashed it up with German producer Zedd’s instrumental track from his brand new album and this is the winning and slightly comical result.
Dr. Fluke is the resident RYOT News pop music guru.
RYOT NOTE: Plenty of pop stars think they are philanthropists, few actually succeed at it. It’s harder than you might think to effectively mobilize a large fan base around a cause. While they might resent the term “pop stars,” Linkin Park has actually done an excellent job leveraging their platform to make a difference. Music for Relief was established in 2005 and has raised more than $5 million for disaster reliefs and poverty reduction around the world.