By Julian De Ocampo ’13
The music video has been quietly waxing and waning over the past decade.
In the 90s, MTV made the video the king of musical promotion, and it seemed as if image and audio were going to be inseparable.
Now, while great videos come out every year, record companies are a little less eager to drop cash on multi-million dollar “November Rain”-esque video shoots.
And yet this month’s top pop songs rose to prominence largely in part through the power of YouTube, an interesting trend that suggests a resurgence of video-based popularity, a trend worth carefully considering.
So this month I continue my column, examining three new songs to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
3. “When I Was Your Man”—Bruno Mars
3 out of 10
For a song culled from an album titled “Unorthodox Jukebox,” this song is awfully predictable.
It is a pared-down piano ballad devoid of all risk or experimentation. The chords are full and lush in a coffeehouse songwriter type of way, but the production and vocals are too hollow to stand on their own.
It’s the same type of schmaltzy “vulnerable” singer-songwriter kitsch that Bruno Mars has become derided for churning out. The minimalist video similarly enforces the sensitive dude shtick that seems both artificial and tedious.
This is an especially disappointing dud from an album that showed great promise with the surprisingly good lead single “Locked Out of Heaven.”
2. “Thrift Shop” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz
8.5 out of 10
Is there any point in even reviewing “Thrift Shop” anymore?
The song’s long-running sleeper hit status has given everyone more than enough time to decide whether to love or hate this deliriously silly track from unsigned (yet curiously successful) rapper Macklemore and his silent sidekick Ryan Lewis.
My considerable skepticism was dashed over the months following the song’s August release.
The way this song hooks up to the pleasure receptors in your brain is baffling to me. It might be that zany horn sample, that retro introduction with the strange samples, or maybe Wanz’s off-the-wall performance on the chorus.
Nah, this is the Macklemore show through-and-through. His lyrics and delivery are an exuberant package that comes fully-formed, with a fully-realized vision for wackiness that makes this song a total sugar rush.
1. “Harlem Shake” – Baauer
8.5 out of 10
Surprised to see this one at No. 1?
Don’t be. This song was a beast when it made rounds online last summer, and it’s been punching people in the gut at a scale of incredible magnitude since it went viral.
This song was put on Earth to unleash the primeval animal within every man, woman and child on this planet. It’s a laser beam sent to decimate any inhibition the listener may have within them.
The bass alone would be enough to send shivers down spines, but the high-pitched wailing of the synthesizers as they fluctuate from the left and right put the song into a realm where the deepest and most repressed parts of our human psyche are unlocked.
It’s fitting that the Harlem Shake video meme samples 30 seconds of this song: That’s all it takes for you to lose your mind listening to it.
Not bad for a meme, huh?