The Chart Thickens: America's Top 10 Songs Don't Rock—at All
by Dave Segal
on Sat, Sep 7, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Welcome to the second annual survey of Billboard's Top 10 Singles Chart by The Stranger's resident weird-music specialist. Critically speaking, this is your basic fish-out-of-water scenario, and I'm hoping not to flounder. Let's dive into the pop-radio shallows, shall we?
"Safe and Sound"? No kidding, guys. This is like baby's first EDM tune—an airbrushed swoosh of a dance track that strives for the nonchalant sensuality of Hall & Oates's "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," but the vanilla textural patina, painfully earnest, bland vocals, and trance-lite synth arpeggios keep this rated PG. Capital Cities' Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant are LA-based jingle writers who met cute on Craigslist and then got a deal with Capitol Records. That backstory makes so much sense.
Anna Kendrick is a major American actor with a decent, strong-fragile, coffeehouse-singer voice. The best part of "Cups" is the brief, spare clapping and cup-slapping-on- table percussion intro. The main lyrical theme of this old folk ditty (done by the Carter Family in 1931) is "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone," but it's about 100 acid trips away from the 13th Floor Elevators' manifestation of that message. Kendrick's "Cups" is 129 seconds of winsome, innocuous folk pop.