It’s mid-summer, it’s very hot, and we need to conserve fuel. So for this installment of Somewhere in Time, I’m taking my Delorean GIF back exactly seven days, to the glorious week of July 14, 2014. What strange customs and trends will we encounter there? Slip into your colorful Bonobos pants and let’s find out, shall we?
40. Lil Wayne/Drake, “Believe Me”
Last week’s Top 40 kicks off with two of the biggest names in 2014 hip-hop, collaborating on a track that is structurally identical to “Top That” from the 1989 film Teen Witch.
39. Luke Bryan, “Play It Again”
As mainstream hip-hop gets duller and rock gets more fragmented and less fun, country swooped in and became the arena music of the 21st century, and it did so by stealing the swagger of the former and restoring the joy of the latter. Country guys have the posture of Mama Said Knock You Out–era LL Cool J, and their songs are about the good-time boys, the beer drinkers, the Jeep drivers, the jocks, the winners. Nobody in rock has told their story since Van Halen (with the brief exception of Hootie and the Blowfish, whose front man is not coincidentally a country act now). Plus, they enunciate.
38. KONGOS, “Come With Me Now”
I am not familiar with this song, but I will assume it’s in the Top 40 after being used as the theme music for a gritty FX crime drama. Am I warm? (Update: I was cool. It was actually the theme music for the latest WWE Pay-Per-View event. WWE Pay-Per-View events: the people’s FX crime dramas.)
37. Katy Perry, “Birthday”
Have you ever wondered what Da Ali G Show would look like with broader, more obvious characters and no particular interest in illuminating any larger truths? Take a gander at Katy Perry’s SNL audition reel/latest video and wonder no more. (Like, wonder no more about anything. This video will straight-up murder your sense of wonder.)
36. Tinashe/Schoolboy Q, “2 On”
Is it already time for a new Ciara? Doesn’t our current Ciara have a couple more years left in her?
35. Idina Menzel, “Let It Go”
May I alienate many of you by pointing out that the emotional shift which leads to this song in Frozen is abrupt and unmotivated? Like, a terrified Elsa flees her village (59.99playsetville? I forget) after having lost control of her ice powers, and then the very next time we see her, she sings an empowerment anthem? Also, the big secret is that she can make snow and ice, yet nobody bothers to talk about the fact that she can sometimes imbue said snow and ice with unique personalities? Phooey. Hello, I am a childless man in my 40s, and here is my opinion on a movie for small children.
34. Nicki Minaj, “Pills N Potions”
May I alienate the rest of you by revealing that I have a crush on the Trivago guy? He seems like he needs my help.
33. Dierks Bentley, “Drunk on a Plane”
I was working on an analogy about rock being David Cross while country is content with being Dane Cook, but this video is a Funny or Die production, so who even knows anymore. But this is how you do mass appeal: Booze! Whimsy! Far East Movement references! Country is eating your lunch right now, rock. Pull it together.
32. Rixton, “Me and My Broken Heart”
And this lower-potency strain of Maroon 5 is not going to cut it.
31. Becky G, “Shower”
The need to designate a single Song of Summer is actually a fairly new phenomenon; I don’t remember hearing people talk about it until the last decade or so. Since that’s right around the time our culture shattered into a million tiny niches, I think the need for one mutually agreed-upon SOS is a symptom of a shared longing for the monoculture. Anyway, if there has been one monolithic Song of Summer this summer, it’s obviously “Fancy,” which can suck it; I lean toward Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better,” Michael Jackson’s “Love Never Felt So Good,” and this one. (And everything from the new Hold Steady album, because I am a childless man in my 40s.)
28. Kenny Chesney, “American Kids”
If country is the new rock, Kenny Chesney is the new 1983 John Cougar Mellencamp.
27. Jake Owen, “Beachin’”
Country is also killing rock in the hot-guy department. While our rock boys get wispier and more sullen, all the thick-forearmed, straight-toothed, handsome guys are in country. Joe Nichols? Billy Currington? Easton Corbin? Brett Eldredge? I will take one of each.
26. Justin Timberlake, “Not a Bad Thing”
So what were we doing the week of July 14, 2014? Waiting to see how Drake would do as host of the ESPYs. Thinking about seeing Tammy and ultimately deciding against it. Resting secure in the knowledge that Elaine Stritch and James Garner were alive and well. It was a simpler time.
25) Enrique Iglesias feat. Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, “Bailando”
Oh, no: Is it time for the Reggaeton revival already?
24. Jason DeRulo and 2 Chainz, “Talk Dirty”
So, okay, I’ve become one of these Crossfit junkies, and I’m not going to talk about my snatch record or my pull-up technique because that shit bothers me as much as it does you. But I will say that the music is terrible; I haven’t heard this much Rage Against the Machine since 1996, and I didn’t miss it. Anyway, this is one of the few current songs my gym has on heavy rotation, and while I think it’s supposed to get me in the mood for the hanky-panky my new body should be buying me or whatever, it mostly just makes me want to do burpees and wonder how quickly an ambulance would arrive.
23. Ed Sheeran, “Sing”
“I like Jason Mraz, I just wish he looked like Ziggy’s way-out nephew.” —You
22. Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne or French Montana or Too Short or Tyga, “Loyal”
We do not discuss Chris Brown in this column.
21. Trey Songz, “Na Na”
Last week in pop-culture history, we were celebrating our victory against the FX marketing department, who finally acquiesced to our demands that they take down the gruesome eye-worm billboards for The Strain. (Of course they agreed to do it right around the time the show premiered, when they would have come down anyway, so thanks for nothing, assholes.) One of those things is up right across from Lulu’s on Beverly here in Los Angeles, one of the rare restaurants with ample outdoor space, and there is literally nowhere to sit where it isn’t directly in your face, so you fiddle with your phone or give your food your undivided attention, and then you forget and you lift your head again, the way a human being has a right to, and there it still is. If you were in the area the other day, wondering why the guy with the goat-cheese omelette was saying OH GOD DAMMIT every 45 seconds, that was me and that’s what that was about.
20. Charli XCX, “Boom Clap”
One of this summer’s breeziest songs, from the soundtrack to The Fault in Our Stars, the hit summer movie that introduced teenage America to the world cannula. This will be remembered as a weird summer.
19. OneRepublic, “Love Runs Out”
Hey, speaking of memories, turns out Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic got his start on an MTV special back in 2000, which I do not remember at all, which is especially weird because apparently I hosted it. Watch a much fatter me and a much straighter Lance Bass watch a much poorer Ryan sing for his supper. I don’t know what was going on with my hair.
18. Paramore, “Ain’t It Fun”
Ain’t it fun when you write a dis track about the bandmates who ditched you and it becomes your first top-ten single?
17. Sia, “Chandelier”
When I wrote these words, Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear was Billboard’s No. 1 album, and I’m delighted about that because it’s great, but also because I love it when the weirdest thing and the most popular thing are the same thing. But then Weird Al Yankovic’s new album took over Sia’s place at No. 1, and that’s even weirder and therefore better.
16. 5 Seconds of Summer, “Amnesia”
So I went to watch this video, but the video’s not out yet, so I had to make do with the lyric video, which I did with a weary Well, this is what we’re doing now. Because lyric videos are a new and puzzling development to me, even though we’ve probably been doing them for 18 months now, which means the kids probably already think lyric videos are over. This is how aging happens, kids. It’s like: I recently met a writer in person whom I’ve known via email/Twitter for a few years, and he said, “It’s good to meet you IRL, as the kids say,” and we both laughed and we both silently wondered, Do the kids still say that? Because you hit a point in your life when the kids who say the thing that you’re a little bit too old to say become old themselves, and the thing they used to say has secretly become an uncool thing to say, but nobody even bothers to tell you.
15. Ariana Grande, “Break Free”
Or the new pop starlet comes from a Nickelodeon sitcom, but not the Nickelodeon sitcom you kind of know about; her co-star on this new Nickelodeon sitcom came from that Nickelodeon sitcom and in this Nickelodeon sitcom she plays the old person, and anyway, both Nickelodeon sitcoms have already taped 3,000 episodes and gone away.
14. MKTO, “Classic”
Or there’s this duo who were on yet another Nickelodeon sitcom, this one starring a daughter of Meryl Streep, which nobody ever told you about, and which came and went three whole years ago (although you do know that one of the MKTO guys is Walt from Lost).
13. Katy Perry/Juicy J, “Dark Horse”
What I’m saying is that you already know you’ll slowly become disappointing to young people, but what you don’t know is that after that you’ll very quickly become unaware of specifically how you’re disappointing to young people. You won’t just not speak the language, you’ll stop recognizing the letters. The good news is you won’t care because you’ll mostly be asleep.
12. Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
Not familiar with this one.
11. Disclosure/Sam Smith, “Latch”
Okay, this is where I briefly stop feeling like I’m a million years old, because this was one of my Songs of Last Summer.
10. DJ Snake/Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”
I was recently out with my friend Adam, and this song came on, and I confessed that I had no idea what it meant. He told me: “It means, like, turn down? For what?” And can I tell you something? I immediately understood.
9. Maroon 5, “Maps”
I loved — really, really loved — Maroon 5’s 2002 album Songs About Jane, so “Moves Like Jagger” felt like a betrayal, and I have not yet decided whether I can trust Adam Levine again, but I’m taking it a day at a time. I feel like this is a thing he deals with on the regular.
8. John Legend, “All of Me”
This song’s been moving up and down the charts for a full nine months now, in a herky-jerky journey that’s common for big singles these days. Songs make big debuts, then plummet, then rise again, then fall again, sometimes for a full year. The charts are chaos these days, and I don’t know how today’s kids make sense of the world.
7. Calvin Harris, “Summer”
You know what? The hell with it. This is my Song of Summer, because this woman’s curtain enthusiasm is music to my ears. How has this not gone viral? How is there such a thing as viral videos if this is not one of them? Why won’t someone tell her that curtains are not perishable, so when you’ve bought a houseful, you’re pretty much finished? Is there any chance that this woman’s name is anything but Joyce?
6. Jason DeRulo/Snoop Dogg, “Wiggle”
As I recall, during the week of July 14, we were easing our collective World Cup withdrawal by throwing ourselves into American Ninja Warrior, the most compulsively binge-watchable show of 2014. As with the World Cup, the nimble, tight-cored boys are the main attraction, but female ninja Kacy Catanzaro is the breakout star; if you haven’t seen her in the Dallas finals, watch and be awed. (By the way, nice For Squirrels reference with that #MightyKacy hashtag.)
5. Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”
Not since Mariah Carey has a new artist come with such a feeling of inevitability. May you never know a Glitter phase, Mr. Smith.
4. Nico & Vinz, “Am I Wrong?”
Also very hot in 2014: music videos with credit sequences.
3. Ariana Grande/Iggy Azalea, “Problem”
In all the mishegoss over whether young white gay men have appropriated black female culture, how come young white Australian Iggy Azalea gets a pass? (And if we can’t get young white gay men to quit behaving like racist caricatures on the grounds that it’s offensive, can we try to make them stop on the grounds that it’s boring?)
2. MAGIC!, “Rude”
Oh, shit: This is probably what Sublime sounded like to people who were my age in 1996.
1. Iggy Azalea/Charli XCX, “Fancy”
So 2014 will go down as the Summer of Iggy, and that’s okay. It’ll be the Summer of Iggy the way it’ll be the Summer of Michael Bay and the Summer of Big Bang Theory reruns. But the adage “the best music (and movies and TV) in history came out when you were 13” need not be false for today’s kids; we can take comfort in the fact that the children of late 2000 and early 2001 also have Sia and Snowpiercer and Going Deep With David Rees. Everything’s going to be fine. (And for us in our 40s, the Replacements and the Hold Steady are playing the Forest Hills Stadium in September. See you there.)