Top 50 Shameless Pop Power Rankings (30-21)
Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and the perils of early fame. Chris Brown and separating the artist from the music. Taylor Swift and not being able to separate the artist from the music. All this and more in Shameless Pop’s Shameless Pop Power Rankings (30-21)!
21. Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
22. Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal) – Fergie
23. Poker Face– Lady Gaga
24. California Gurls – Katy Perry
25. Good Time – Owl City Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen
26. Give Your Heart A Break – Demi Lovato
27. Mean – Taylor Swift
28. No Air – Jordin Sparks feat. Chris Brown
29. One Time – Justin Bieber
30. See You Again – Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber make their second appearance on this list with their debut singles (“See You Again” (#30) and “One Time” (#29)), released when they were each only 15. And that, to me, is incredible. We tend to overlook just how unusual it is for anyone to be successful at anything before the age of 30, and here are two shithead 15 year olds about to jettison into celebrity status. I don’t mean to say I have anything against Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber (love their music!) specifically, but scientifically speaking, every single teenager is a terrible person. I was and you were too, shutup. What really amazes me is when celebrities that start out that young, or younger, don’t turn out even worse than most of them do. Lindsay Lohan should really be a best case scenario. I mean, imagine your shithead self at that age granted fame, fortune, and enablers that will gladly provide excuses to cover the mountains of bad decisions you will make, ensuring that you never ever learn a single real world lesson. Do you think you’d turn out very good? The answer is no. And if you answered yes, then that’s the exact kind of lying to yourself that leads to mountains of cocaine and dead hookers.
As long as we’re talking about shitheads, I should say I really like the Chris Brown portions of “No Air” (#28), and I like a lot of Chris Brown’s music (especially “Forever”), but I don’t know that there’s a better example of having to compartmentalize the music and the artist. Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rihanna; we’ve all seen the pictures, and we all recognize that it was awful. There’s really no excusing it, and although America does have a history of forgiving all sorts of different wife beaters, there’s something particularly disdainful about Chris Brown. Probably starting with the fact that he hasn’t really put any effort into even faking remorse, and instead just blames “the haters” for giving him a tough time for something so miniscule, like, oh I don’t know, sending his girlfriend to the hospital.
To be honest, I can’t really explain why some people get a free pass and others don’t (Sean Connery is pretty clear that he still really has no problem with domestic abuse, and somehow no one knows about that, or cares), but even if you were determined to forgive Chris Brown, he’s been so relentlessly immature and unapologetic that it’s almost impossible to make the most paper-thin case that he has any redeeming qualities. And yet, when the music comes on, I like the song, and it happens to be Chris Brown, I’m okay with that. In fact, I don’t care at all. Listen, I’m sorry for everyone who knows him and has to deal with him on a real level, but the only Chris Brown I know might as well be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That hits his girlfriend. So, probably Raphael. He might as well be Raphael. And it’s that level of disconnect from the real person that allows me to just enjoy the song on its own merits.
On the opposite end of that spectrum, however, is someone who’s impossible to separate from her music. Taylor Swift, coming in at #27 with “Mean”, freely admits to using her own experiences as inspiration for her music. In fact, “Mean” was written in response to the negative reception her performance garnered at the 2010 Grammys. As Swift explained, “There’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism – and then there’s just being mean.” She’s got a point, and I think the song’s pretty good. But, when an artist’s personality is so closely tied into their music, they run the risk of oversaturation. Part of the reason I feel a disconnect from Chris Brown the person and Chris Brown the artist is that the songs I like of his are pretty generic lyric wise, and it’s easy to forget that it’s Chris Brown, girlfriend beater and all around asshole, singing.
However, most of Taylor Swift’s music concerns her own crushes, relationships, and heartbreaks, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but it does mean that her personality and music are irrevocably attached. So, when she’s 18 singing about a failed relationship, “State the obvious, I didn’t get my perfect fantasy/I realize you love yourself more than you could ever love me” (“Picture To Burn”), you’re with her, but when she’s 23 and still singing about a failed relationship, “the saddest fear comes creeping in/That you never loved me or her, or anyone, or anything, yeah” (“I Knew You Were Trouble”), you start to wonder if she’s learned anything in the last 5 years. She even performed a song with John Mayer where he explicitly tells her he can never give her more than half of his heart (“Half Of My Heart”), then wrote an angry song about him (“Dear John”) when they inevitably broke up. It’s this child-like naiveté that ensures you will never forget that it’s Taylor Swift, perpetual teenager, singing. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy her music anymore, but the more she plays the perpetual teenager, the harder it is to separate the song from the thoughts of “She’s singing about this? Again?”
Almost at the halfway point, the nice thing I’ve noticed about the next six songs is that I don’t have anything nearly as comprehensive to say about them.
“Give Your Heart A Break” (#26) is the only song I’ve ever heard from Demi Lovato, although I knew about her Disney shows, relationship with one of the Jonas brothers, and doing a lot of drugs. So it was nice when I finally heard her sing and liked it. Demi should just know, if she did one less drug for every time I listened to this song, she would never have to go back to rehab.
I almost dropped “Good Time” (#25) 60 spots for the guy from Owl City alone. Something about that face just makes me angry. Luckily, Carly Rae Jepsen makes everything better.
As for “California Gurls” (#24), I found it interesting the first time I drove through the countryside and it skipped the Snoop Dogg rap verse. Thinking it was pretty stereotypical that a top 40 radio station in the countryside wouldn’t play the rap verse, I was relieved to hear the same Snoop Dogg-less version weeks later while driving through the city. It’s just such a relief knowing that white people of all different kinds of backgrounds…feel equally threatened by rap music. Not sure this is progress.
“Poker Face” (#23) is a song I struggled with because Lady Gaga is one of a few artists on this list that I really like in general, yet only have one song to represent them. Some artists have 2 or 3 songs that just hooked me for whatever reason, even if sometimes I don’t like anything else from them, while other artists have song after song that I enjoy, but no clear standout. However, as a list of the Top 50 songs, I decided that to have more than one song on this list, the songs had to be standouts in my mind (the definition of standout being completely subjective), otherwise I’d choose my favorite from that artist. And while that did lead to some artists being underrepresented, it did allow for songs such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)” (#22) to make the list. Now, I do not like Fergie, I do not like the Black Eyed Peas, and I think Fergie looks like she did too much meth. Still, I can’t deny that I disproportionately like this song relative to the artist, and sometimes you just have to accept that every now and then you’re going to like something from someone you don’t.
And finally, closing out songs 30-21 is “Always Be My Baby” (#21) by Mariah Carey; a light, enjoyable, easily sung-along-to love song. I’d say that’s a good way to end any day.
NEXT UP: The 90’s make a strong showing on Shameless Pop Power Rankings (20-11)