Year in Review | Guilty Pleasures and Pop Gold
by Joshua P. Ferguson
There are many paths you can take as a DJ. I've chosen to walk as many as possible, and some I'm traversing at the same time. Weekly I explore the far reaches of dance music for my day job. On Saturdays, I take over an indie bar, spinning everything from Arcade Fire to Yeasayer. And then there's Friday, where I cruise down to Chicago's posh River North neighborhood and play the entire spectrum of pop music for a bunch of people who make infinitely more money than I do. I've done this for more than two years now. As a result, I have every song that's landed in Billboard's Top 40 for pretty much this entire 24 month period. Some of these songs get stuck in your head. Here are the ones that I had the most fun with in 2010.
5) Pink "Raise Your Glass" - LaFace
I get the feeling I'll be tempted to say this repeatedly in this post but, for the record, I'm not the biggest Pink fan. I never have been. Sure "So What" got some traction in my sets, but it's "Raise Your Glass" that broke through and has me singing along from the booth and, yes, hitting repeat when it comes on my iPod. Her producer, Max Martin, the genius behind "California Gurls" and most of Ke$ha's hits, was behind the board on this one and that pretty much explains it all. The guy is responsible for innumerable Top 40 hits. And this one says instant dance party to me. Just in time for the new year, I won't be mad at raising my glass if this song comes on 'round midnight on December 31.
4) Neon Trees "Animal" - Mercury
I would never have discovered this song if I didn't surf the Top 40 charts on a weekly basis. In fact, Time Out Magazine, my employer, sponsored an intimate pre-Lollapalooza performance with Neon Trees, and I was oblivious to the whole thing. Then I heard "Animal" and morning after morning I found it stuck in my head. As with all the songs on this list, I think that's a deciding factor. How often did I end up pulling a song out of the ether and singing it in the shower? That many times? I guess it should make the list then. So here Neon Trees are. A cross between Phoenix's "1901" and Metro Station's "Shake It," "Animal" proved that Neon Trees was the rock act to crack into a world dominated by R 'n' B divas, pop songstresses and tattooed rappers in 2010.
3) Hood Internet "Cult Logic Forever" (Drake vs. Miike Snow) - white
I like to say that the Hood Internet is the only mash-up act out there worth fucking with. The duo of STV SLV and ABX has ended up on Dialogue's year-end round up the past three years, a feat no other artist has achieved. Last year, the two did a mix for our podcast and it stands to this day as the most popular thing Dialogue Inc has ever done. Well, the masters of the cut n' paste haven't slowed their output in 2010 and this one, that sees Drake's "Forever" paired with my favorite track from Miike Snow's album, "Cult Logic," was a staple in many a DJ set this year. Because of the indie twist to it, I've dropped it everywhere. Holiday events, indie dance parties, in da club. You name it. With Miike Snow providing a midtempo electro backdrop and turns at the mic from Drake, Yeezy and Weezy, you can't lose. Check my interview with Hood Internet's STV SLV here: Dialogue Inc | Hood Internet
2) R. Kelly "Be My #2" - Jive
Leave it to R. Kelly to write a song about having a mistress and telling her how special she is. Just not as special as his wife. "Though I love your sex, I can't, I can't, I can't leave her, no, no," he sings. Though that ass is incredible, the Windy City Pied Piper croons, she'll still just be his number two. While his audacity is enough to land on this list, "Be My #2" is also interesting because it has this amazing disco-boogie production from Jack Splash, the same guy that made waves all those years back as part of Plantlife. The Earth, Wind and Fire-style horn blasts and chugging dance beat make this song stand apart from the usual pop drivel. Combine that with R. Kelly's hilarious twist on a love song, and you've got pop gold.
1) Katy Perry "Teenage Dream" - EMI
If you're a regular follower of Dialogue Inc, you know that I have a weak spot for beautiful girls that can sing. I have a tendency to gush over She & Him, because the music is awesome, but also because I have a celebrity crush on Zooey Deschanel. So, seeing how Katy Perry is Deschanel's mega star celebrity look-a-like, I can't help but think she's hot too (duh). But for God knows what reason (probably because Max Martin is at the helm again) I also find her music addicting. Here I admit that, with the exception of the awful song "Peacock", I can listen to Teenage Dream from start to finish and not go crazy. In fact, there are four or five songs on there that I really like (and it's not just because Perry is floating naked on a cloud on the cover, I swear!). I got shit from readers for posting my pros and cons to Katy Perry and her video for "Teenage Dream" early this year (Dialogue Inc | Teenage Dream) but I stand by my opinion that Katy Perry (and the machine behind her) makes undeniable pop hits that are hard to hate on, and that "Teenage Dream" is the best pop song to come out this year. There, I said it.