The good, the bad and the ugly: 2012 summertime tunes

Chris Nguyen

Fiona Apple
“Every Single Night”
The Idler Wheel…
Genre: Alternative

After an eight-year absence of original material, Fiona Apple returns with a gentle xylophone lullaby on “Every Single Night,” the first single off of her upcoming The Idler Wheel… (don’t make us type out the entire title, it’s a doozy). It’s almost impossible to reconcile the immature angst that Apple once showed off in ’90s hit “Criminal” with the wise musings and wordplay here. Her lyrics are truly poetry (“Every single night’s alright, every single night’s a fight/And every single fight’s all right with my brain”) of a struggle with oneself. A quiet melody supports her lyrics, the only break in the rumblings of tribal drums. Even as her voice wavers with unbridled emotion, she seems fully in control, like a writer at the helm of a novel fully plotted out. It’s hard to remember that music can be pure art when jamming out to “Call Me Maybe” or the next latest throwaway trend in indie music. However, Apple proves it with a whisper of a song.

Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa
Genre: Pop

Off of their upcoming album, Overexposed, “Payphone” cools down the thumping beats that have been featured on many of Maroon 5’s latest singles for the instrumental stylings of “Sunday Morning” or “This Love.” With that said, “Payphone” is still pure pop. Produced by dance maestros Shellback and Benny Blanco, the song glides along smooth drumming and guitar playing, all zipped in a synthesized sheen. The melody moves jauntily during the verses before soaring on the chorus. Lead singer Adam Levine sings in his usual high falsetto, singing with a tinge of resentment of a relationship gone sour. Save for some cursing in the chorus and in the featured rap from Wiz Khalifa, the breezy “Payphone” is destined for a rom-com near you.

Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull
“Dance Again”
Promo Single
Genre: Pop

Hey, you’ve got to give Jennifer Lopez this: She’ll give you what you want—the thundering canned synths from producer RedOne, the gliding chorus that gets stuck in your head even without an obvious hook. Lopez’s thin vocalizing about dancing the night away, Pitbull’s lowest common denominator raps: she’s transferred them all from last year’s “On the Floor” and repackaged them for her latest single, “Dance Again.” Lopez has lost any presumption of being Jenny from the block and instead, cashes into J.Lo Inc., churning out a guaranteed formula. Though, to her credit, she has a song with a stronger melody and smoother stylings, so that instead of saying, “this again?” when hearing it, we just, well, dance again.

Looking for Myself
Genre: Pop

It seems to be one step forward and two steps back with Usher. After releasing the icy, spacey, dub-tinged “Climax” that showed Usher moving into a weightier R&B direction, he falls right into the Euro thumps of producers Max Martin and Shellback on “Scream,” the second single off his yet-to-be-released album Looking For Myself. The song is the same junk that he’s been releasing ever since that damn “OMG” took off three years ago. And there’s no more stupid fun left in Usher’s dance songs that he showed off on “Yeah!” Instead, he runs on perfunctory mode, moving from verse to chorus and back again waiting for the synths to take off every 30 seconds and for people to groove to his self-declared summer song. Maybe it’s the old man in me, but did pop radio ever sound as reductive as it does now? ‘N Sync at least took it upon themselves to take the song out of the club or baby-making act now and again. Songs like “Scream” and the whole barrel of songs just like it make you want to cry at the sad state of pop music.