03 September 2013

Summer Jam 2013: THE ANNUNCIATION!

Summer has finally come to a close. With that, it's time to recount the biggest musical hits of the season, which we cataloged every week in our Summer Jam Winner's List. I'm not sure why I'm so obsessed with Summer Jams. To some extent it's just about finding that perfect encapsulation of a zeitgeist - a time capsule with which to look back and say "Yeah, that was my soundtrack while this was going on in my life." I've only seriously kept track of the past seven Summer Jams (jeez, really?), so let's first remember those Chamipions.

2007: "Umberellaella" by Rihanna
2008: "Keep Bleeding in Love" by Leona Lewis
2009: "I Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas
2010: "California Gurls" by Katy Perry
2011: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO
2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

One track from 2013 will join the ranks of all these immortal songs. Actually none of them are really immortal (when's the last time you even heard "Party Rock Anthem"?). Logging Summer Jams is about purposely creating a process to facilitate nostalgia. After I tracked a tremendous amount of Jams all Summer long I logged them all in a spreadsheet and awarded points for different placements. Let's first go over some Bonus Winners - Jams that were pretty significant, but couldn't quite break away this Summer. Included are the dates the song was feature on our list:

"Cups" by Anna Kendrick - 06/03 & 07/15
"Crazy Kids" by Ke$ha ft. will.i.am - 06/10 & 07/01
"Applause" by Lady GaGa - 08/19 - 09/02
"Holy Grail" by Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake - 08/05 & 08/26
"The Way" by Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller - 05/26, 07/08-07/15
"I Don't Care" by Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX - 05/13, 06/10 - 06/24
"Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes - 08/05 - 08/19
"Stay" by Rihanna - 05/13 - 05/20, 06/03
"Just Give Me a Reason" by P!nk ft. Nate Ruess - 05/13 - 05/20, 06/03 - 06/10

Okay - enough fartin' around - here are the heavy hitters who kept us jammin' all summer long:

Coronary Issues: "Heart Attack" by Demi Lovato
Weeks on the List: 4 (05/27 - 06/17)
Peak: #1 on 06/03

Don't fret - this jam is just as earsplitting as ever. It still boggles my mind that Demi is a judge of other young people's vocal talents on The X Factor while she demonstrates here her clear lack of talent. That's not to say she hasn't had fine songs in the past, but she butchered this one. "Heart Attack" flashed really big around the month of June, but then fizzled out for the rest of Summer. I do still dig the way she delivers that basketball line, though, and I get sort of enraptured in the really weird ink-based video that makes no sense at all. In regards to ink-based videos this summer, Maroon 5's "Love Somebody" was a bit more creative.

Chernobyl Diaries: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
Weeks on the List: 6 (05/13, 06/24, 07/15 - 07/29, 08/26)
Peak: #3 on 05/13, 06/24, and 07/29

Apparently the key to a Monster Summer Jam is a good pair of eyes, a crazy booming drum, and a completely crazy music video featuring underground Muppet fighting. While that vid's tone continually shifts between wacky and serious, it was really unique and genuinely interesting to sit through. That's a huge component to successful videos in a sea of the same crap. As for the song itslef, "Radioactive" was the journeyman this summer, one of only two songs on the list to appear at least once every month except for September, as well as nearly earning the distinction of appearing in the first and final week (it will have to settle for Week 1 and Week 16). It traded its consistency for never really igniting during a week, and for that reason its peak was only ever at #3 (which it did a month apart, each time). Therefore while it was never an especially hot track, it was always somewhere in the conversation.

Nugget of Yesteryear: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars
Weeks on the List: 6 (07/08 - 07/22, 08/05, 08/26 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 07/22

I once had high hopes for "Treasure" becoming the Summer Jam, but it will have to settle for its position here. It really flashed hot in July in the heart of Summer, but then petered out a bit in August. Just at the end of the Season though, it seemed to flash again, but to no avail. The Season was over, and so were Bruno's chances of being the King of Summer. The video is super-nostalgic though, if not a bit derivative of the gimmick used in Snoop Dogg's "Sexual Eruption" a few years back. Still, Bruno's Jam is way funky, and will remain a treasure for years to come. Wha-hey.

Gay Anthem of Summer: "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert
Weeks on the List: 6 (06/10, 06/24, 07/08 - 07/15, 07/29, 08/19)
Peak: #1 on 07/08

This is probably the most important song of the summer, and a credit to Macklemore for putting his faith behind a Jam that could be heavily criticized in the Rap Community. He even addresses that kind of homophobic culture in his native genre in the second verse. While the track's subject matter is significant and an important step forward to widespread acceptance of differing sexual orientations, the song itself really isn't that great. Mary Lambert tends to kill it on the chorus, but Mack has been much tighter in his other monster smashes this year. While this song came in and out of the countdown a great deal, it never quite pushed over the edge because it's more of a contemplative story song than a thumping jam song. That's really a better way to get its message across anyway, though. It is also notable that I picked this as the Hot Jam of the Week for Week 5.

Douche Anthem of Summer: "Cruise (REMIX)" by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly
Weeks on the List: 7 (5/27, 6/10 - 07/01, 07/22 - 07/29)
Peak: #3 on 06/10

The fact that "Cruise" even exists still kind of boggles my mind. I'm somewhat surprised that the eloquent Country / Hip-Hop Crossover wasn't a huge hit, which tends to happen more and more with Country Acts that break into mainstream pop. While there were contingents of both Rap and Country fans who dug this, the gap just couldn't be bridged. It was strange each week as this fought with the thoughtful, contemplative "Same Love," and more and more, "Cruise" just felt out of place. It's almost a bygone song where you could stuff a lot of beautiful babes in your video and get away with a lot of male gaze. There is however, of course, one song on this list that would completely contradict the notion that this kind of misogyny is outdated. As a proud member of the Rap-loving side of that gap, though, I did dig this song (I added it to my list of country songs I can stomach, where it joined only "Low Places"). And who doesn't want to cruise around with their windows down all summer?

Make Me Smiley: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus
Weeks on the List: 8 (6/17, 07/08, 07/22 - 08/12, 08/26 - 09/02)
Peak: #2 on 07/22 - 08/05, 08/26

I always find myself at a loss for words when trying to describe this beast. "We Can't Stop" would be such a drop in the pond for a Ke$ha or even its original artist, Rihanna. Miley took this chance to completely shred her cutesy little girl image, though, and to desperately prove that she's cool and edgy. She comes off as just that - someone trying far too hard to grow up fast and jump in on the pressures of being a slut in Hollywood. You've got to wonder where her guidance is, because surely Billy Ray isn't doing a thing for his daughter but give her free license to print all the money she wants at any expense of dignity or class. Like I said though, no one would give a shit if it was Ke$ha doing this shit, and in fact Ke$ha did to the "White Girl Emulating Black Culture for Fun" thing with "Crazy Kids." See, they're in the same boat. This video is completely boffo, I'm not sure if there's really any merit to it and if anything it's fairly offensive culturally, but not really sexually. The sexuality of it seems confused, like Miley is basing her sluttiness out of some preconceived expectation rather than something genuinely hers like a GaGa would do. Anyway, whatever her rationale is, it's working - this jam was huge this summer and stands in sharp contrast to Carly Rae Jepsen of yesteryear. It could never quite breach the #1 spot, but it was a solid first mate for most of the heart of summer.

Try to Pin 'Em Down: "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton
Weeks on the List: 7 (05/13 - 06/17, 07/01)
Peak: #1 on 05/20 - 05/27, 06/10, 07/01

Now we're getting into the heavy hitters. "Can't Hold Us" dominated the early months of Summer, and never fell lower than the #2 spot for its entire run. It fell off in July, which hurts its chances to become the True King of Summer, but it still propelled Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to have a year like The Black Eyed Peas had in 2009, Katy Perry had in 2010 or LMFAO had in 2011. This is arguably their best track, too, with Macklemore spitting rapid fire catchy and clever delivery, a solid varying beat by Ryan Lewis and unknown Ray Dalton filling in all the gaps in the chorus. One thing this duo does really well is find voices for the actual singing parts, and it's always refreshing to hear really good rappers pass the mike instead of trying to sing themselves. The vid is also a true epic, with camels, crazy wolf people, and the coolest beach haircut ever. "Can't Hold Us" hit on every note possible, and if it hadn't broken in March it would have dominated the whole Summer. Nothing can stop these guys. Except a slightly bad second album.

Robot Nation: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell
Weeks on the List: 12 (06/03, 06/17 - 07/08, 07/22 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 07/29 - 08/12

Remember all that stuff I said about how great music videos help the life of a song? Toss it out the window. Daft Punk, whether intentionally or not, set out to put out an incredible track and let it speak for itself. This is about the only song of the whole Summer to carry itself by itself, with nothing to go on but an infectious beat, a funkadelic rhythm, and the irresistible coos of Pharrell. Seriously, it's impossible to get sick of this song. You could play it on repeat at any Summer Party imaginable and it'd become a great party. Stephen Colbert knows it. Simon Pegg knows it. "Get Lucky" hit #1 three weeks in a row, the only Jam the whole Summer to do so. It was also the Hot Jam of the Week for Week 4. Unfortunately though, it spent too much time playing Second Banana to this year's winner, and after it looked like it might make a comeback, it fell off track. Thus we move on to our SUMMER KING:

The Throne is Yours: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I.
Weeks on the List: 13 (05/20, 06/17 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 06/17 - 06/24, 07/15, 08/26 - 09/02

Did I say Macklemore was having a good year? I'm sorry, I meant known vampire Pharrell. Did I say you needed to throw crazy Muppets in your video to make it popular? I'm sorry, I meant throw in Emily Ratajkowski. Did I say the failure of "Cruise" to become more mainstream was its inherent misogynistic content? Throw that to the wind. Probably the most controversial King of Summer of all time, "Blurred Lines has some crazy good stats on the List. It appeared on the List for 12 straight weeks, which is five longer than any other challenger. It also appeared in every single month of Summer, and hit #1 in every month but May. It also dropped in Week 2, meaning it nearly had a span of the entire Season. This song was everywhere and there's no doubt that it was the biggest track - THE Summer Jam, the song we'll always treat as synonymous with Summer 2013.

Now, there a couple problems with that. Here's a fairly apt parody that captures how douchey, awkward, and rape-y the track really is. Here's another with a good dose of role reversal. Despite anything that Robin Thicke says about how he's married so it's ok (that line of reasoning didn't work for Tiger Woods) or how the song's sexuality empowers women, it's all bullshit. The track's lyrics strongly support a "no means yes" culture of imbalanced sexual context, and the video is so obsessed with its females as sexual objects it literally places them among the background to be gawked at by males and to be played around with like any of the other props. It's a torrid, condescending affair. Blame the engrossing beat, its iconic style, and yes, maybe its irritating misuse of hashtags, though, and you've got the biggest Jam of Summer.

See you in May...

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