In this weekly column, I provide brief reviews for all of the number one songs in the United States according to Billboard’s charts. In addition to the #1 overall song (as per the Hot 100 chart), the top songs on Billboard’s primary genre charts are also featured.
This week (issued for 4/19/2014), Pharrell holds court across three formats while Lil Jon continues his triumphant return to the top of the charts.
Hot 100, Pop, R&B/Hip Hop: Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
Pharrell’s “Happy” enjoys another week as the number one song in the country, as well as topping the Pop and R&B/Hip Hop charts. Despite having been on the charts over three months, the song is unlikely to see its reign as America’s preferred jam de jure end anytime soon. In fact, a likely scenario has Pharrell dominating the popular consciousness of the country for a second consecutive summer, even if “Happy” has been making the rounds since late autumn.
As for the song itself? I find the production to be underwhelming and would have preferred a more maximalist sound for this track instead of the rather subdued beat that Pharrell has opted for. But this is no club banger. Rather, this is pop at its most populist, eager to please all tastes and all ages even more so than last year’s “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” There is nothing quite so vaguely ‘rapey’ (the former) or overtly sexual (the latter) in “Happy”; it is basically as safe as it gets. Even though one could dismiss the song on these grounds, I am unable to fault “Happy” to a great extent. It is catchy, joyous, agreeable, and deftly smooth. Besides, few people have the pedigree of Pharrell. If we must anoint someone as our prime purveyor of crowd-pleasing summer cuts, it might as well be him.
Country: Florida Georgia Line – “This Is How We Roll (feat. Luke Bryan)”
Much like Pharrell, Florida Georgia Line has been dominating its respective format for the better part of the past year. The group is not as skillful as Pharrell, with the rhymes being a shade on the obvious side with a hook that is not good enough to distract from such missteps. I reckon this song to be an anthem for the heartland, and it mostly succeeds on this count. As such—again, not unlike “Happy”—it is largely inoffensive, even if those drawn out ‘o’ vowel sounds start to grate.
Rock: Bastille – “Pompeii”
Showing some remarkable legs, “Pompeii” has been on the charts for 47 weeks and is still at #1, at least on the overall rock chart. The chorus is distinctive, yet not especially memorable—perhaps a fitting description of the band itself (although the vocalist does rock a sick pompadour). Despite my being fatigued with “Pompeii,” it is an okay song. The rock charts have certainly been in worse hands in the recent past.
Dance / Electronic: DJ Snake & Lil Jon – “Turn Down for What”
Hanging at #10 on the Hot 100 for a second week while maintaining its hold on the Dance / Electronic chart is “Turn Down for What.” Lil Jon’s rode better beats, but DJ Snake deploys him expertly here, resisting the urges to overuse him or indulging in Lil Jon’s oversized personality to the point of parody. And yes, the video is good, sexed-up fun, scoring bonus points for having the girl sit on the dude’s face specifically and for democratizing the erotic body more generally.
Latin: Romeo Santos – “Odio (feat. Drake)”
Our fifth repeat #1 this week. I like the concept: that is, the potential for both artists to crossover into the other’s fanbase. Santos has scored several #1s on the US Latin chart as well as greater international success as a member of Aventura. “Odio” has already peaked at 45 on the Hot 100 chart, but without adds on top 40 radio it will struggle to climb much higher. I will not pretend to be an expert on Santos, but it sounds to me as if the presence of Drake is the only real ‘crossover’ concession he makes on “Odio.” This is to say that it sounds very much the way one would expect a #1 hit on the Latin chart in 2014 to sound. There is no doubt that Drake phoned in his verse, but Santos’ voice is great. Frankly, Santos is better served staying solo, and I say this as a Drake fan.
Hot 100: Pharrell Williams – “Happy” [***]
Pop: Pharrell Williams – “Happy” [***]
Country: Florida Georgia Line – “This Is How We Roll (feat. Luke Bryan) [**]
Rock: Bastille – “Pompeii” [**]
R&B/Hip Hop: Pharrell Williams – “Happy” [***]
Dance / Electronic: DJ Snake & Lil Jon – “Turn Down for What” [***]
Latin: Romeo Santos – “Odio (feat. Drake)” [**]