August 1, 2008
2008 TUSH. I guess.
Now that we're in August, the Totally Ubiquitous Summer Hit, or TUSH, of this summer should be clear by now. At this time last year, you couldn't go more than a day or two without hearing Rihanna's "Umbrella". When she performed the song on the Today show last July in Rockefeller Center [video], she drew a huge swarm of fans, there were umbrellas bobbing through the crowd, and her gigantic stardom was solidified.
This summer, we got Rihanna on the Today show, again, and she performed "Umbrella", again, along with two new songs ("Don't Stop the Music" and "Take a Bow"), neither of which were that great [video]. The best part of this year's performance was the rockier version of "Umbrella" [video], which only emphasized that her good song is old, and her newer songs are dull.
It seemed like Rihanna was out of the running for this year's TUSH--until "Disturbia" came along. This song was released at the end of June, and it's gotten as far as #4 on the singles chart. At first I didn't think this song could be a TUSH because it's associated with Rihanna's 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad, but it's actually part of the "Reloaded" re-release of that album that came out two months ago with some new songs. Plus, can the same artist have two TUSHs in a row? Highly unconventional.
"Disturbia" also lacks the sunny, breezy qualities of a solid TUSH--it's not goofy like "Hollaback Girl" and doesn't have the irresistible appeal of "Crazy In Love". It's actually pretty dark, which is enhanced by the sinister video, which looks like the Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video if it were set in Jame Gumb's basement, and features lots of orgiastic bondage freaks humping their chains. Not exactly MTV Beach House material.
But the song is catchy, and most important, I hear it a lot. It was played a few times at a recent minor league baseball game I attended, along with the standard "Song 2" by Blur and "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee, it's on the radio when my alarm goes off, it's playing on car stereos on 7th Avenue at 2 am. It's not especially memorable, and not very hooky, but seems to appeal to enough people that it's starting to create some airwave saturation. Plus, that spiderweb bodysuit that she wears in the video is super hot.
The only other serious contender that I can identify is Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" [video]. This song is seriously popular: it's been at #1 on the charts for 6 weeks now, and Reuters just called it "the song of the summer".
But this song drives me up the f'ing wall. Its production is totally bland and flat, it's not the least bit funky or danceable (which all good TUSHs are) and the theme seems to be the same giggly, "bi-curious" Lesbian Chic that was popular when it was on the cover of Newsweek in 1993. Plus, Jill Sobule did a song with the same title about the same thing [video] in 1995.
The Katy Perry video is mostly not bad--she frolics with a room full of hot girls in their underwear, jamming to her cruddy song and reveling in how totally radical and experimental she is by kissing a girl, then wakes up in bed next to her boyfriend, and sighs with the relief of unshakable heterosexuality. I sort of hate it. And did you know that Katy Perry's first album was Christian pop? Yep. Maybe that's why she thinks kissing a girl is a notable thing to do.
Plus, I don't think I've heard "I Kissed a Girl" even once at a beach snack bar or in the Walgreens. As far as I can tell, Rihanna has just squeaked in with an unprecedented 2nd TUSH.
But I'm not that convinced. I may be off-base here. There may be another song out there that meets the Total Ubiquity criteria for TUSHdom, so let me know if there is. But I have to have heard this song tons of times this summer without trying to seek it out, and it has to be good (e.g. maybe it's "Lollipop").
Here's a good feature from WNYC on identifying this year's song of the summer, where you can vote on any of about 30 contenders (many of which are bogus. Sigur Ros?!) The videos they feature include "Disturbia", "I Kissed a Girl", and "Lollipop".
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