It's been quite a year enduring the Top 40 in "The Problem With....". Looking back at the year and my reviews, I've noticed three things about music that I loathe and think need to change.
Too many collaborations (feat. Rihanna, Lil' Wayne, Pitbull, Jay-Z...) The less we talk about Lou Reed pairing with Metallica this year, the better. However, I think their collision best represented the preoccupation with parings and collaborations across genres. I counted 40 tracks on Billboard's most recent chart with a featuring credit or more than one title artist. Tony Bennett's duets didn't even show up on the charts. A lot of these tracks just had a guest saying one line or verse before dropping out without explanation.
From a consumer standpoint, it can work either way. If you want more value for your money, you can get plural artists in a song for the price of one. If you're a superfan who wants every song with your favorite artist in it, go crazy finding all of them.
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Everyone covered each other As if appearing in each other's singles wasn't incestuous enough, a lot of musicians this year covered each other's music. Didn't like Lil' Wayne's growly attempt at a ballad in "How To Love"? You have Demi Lovato's cover. Was Kanye and Jay-Z's "Otis" too black for you? How about Justin Bieber freestyling over the track? Apparently, Taylor Swift also covered a lot of songs on her acoustic guitar throughout this year's Speak Now tour. These covers are supposed to show how versatile and creative the covering artist can be, but it just reveals how interchangeable and manufactured the pop music game is.
Intentionally bad videos Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked about badly is not being talked about at all." A century on, that guy is still right. Music video director Chris Marrs Piliero went to town with the idea this year, making intentionally cheesy videos for Ke$ha's "Blow" and Britney Spears' "I Wanna Go." He banked on the fact that people would share his videos ironically or in disgust.
YouTube is also partly to blame for the success of mediocre musicians like Rebecca Black, Lana Del Rey and that little English girl covering "Super Bass" because people are still willing to watch, link and share bad videos.
To YouTube's credit, they've introduced "like" and "dislike" buttons that turn into a green-red rating spectrum under the videos. Here's a rule for viewers out there: If it's green, put it on the screen; if it's red, stop it dead.