As part of Idolator’s continuing effort to geekily analyze every music chart known to man, we present a new edition of Project X, in which Jackin’ Pop editor Michaelangelo Matos breaks down rankings from every genre imaginable. After the click-through, he sits down with his family and a recent Billboard Hot 100:
There’s little introduction necessary for this one. While on vacation in Minneapolis two weeks ago, I played my family the Top 10 of Billlboard‘s Hot 100 for July 7, 2007, and recorded their comments as best as I could. My sisters knew many of the selections; my mother didn’t know any. The listening session was held in Brittany’s apartment near the Mall of America in the suburb of Bloomington on the afternoon of July 3, shortly before I flew back home to Seattle. I typed their responses on the fly, occasionally pausing the music to fill in gaps. Much of what’s missing is jokes that no one unrelated to us would get. The rest is like nothing I could have predicted, and precisely what I hoped for.
Lorie, mother, age 47; listens primarily to country and soft rock
Michael, author, age 32; listens to lots of things
Alex, sister, age 21; primarily a country and R&B fan
Brittany, sister, age 20; likes Latin music, Prince, Dylan, Hendrix, classical, R&B, more
Veronica, Brittany’s daughter, age 2; loves the songs from Shrek
1. Rihanna ft. Jay-Z, “Umbrella” (SRP/Def Jam)
Brittany: Every morning when I watch MTV this video is on. [to Veronica] Raise the roof? [everyone, including Veronica, does hands-in-air moves]
Brittany: Shake it, baby!
Veronica: Shake it, papa!
Mom: Jiggle it, grandma!
Alex, Brittany, Michael: Ewwww.
Mom: I’ve never heard this song, but it’s got a good beat. I like it, for hearing it the first time.
Brittany: The first time I heard it I hated it. The second time I heard it I loved it.
Alex: Me, too. It grows on you. At first it was like she didn’t know the lyrics, like she was stuck, so she kept repeating herself, and saying the same words over and over again.
Brittany: [mocking] Like rhyming “umbrella” with “ella” and “ay”?
2. Shop Boyz, “Party Like a Rockstar” (Universal Republic)
Brittany: [immediately] I love this song. “T-t-t-totally, dude!” I’ve never listened to the lyrics, but it’s catchy.
Mom: They all have the same music but changed the words, right? They all sound alike to me.
Alex, Brittany: What?!?!?
Michael: What do you mean by “they”?
Mom: Well, this is rap music, right?
Michael: All country music sounds alike, too.
Mom: Yes, but rap music is about prisons and drugs, and baby’s mamas, too. And they’re always horny.
Alex: And country? Brad Paisley talking about checking you for ticks?
Mom: That’s my favorite song!
Brittany: Half of country songs are about getting laid, Mom.
Mom: No, they’re about making love.
Michael: Replace drugs with alcohol and you’ve described country music.
Mom: Yeah, but that’s legal.
Alex: Have you heard that new song? It’s a rock song on 93X called “Alcohol and Ass.” It’s horrible.
Mom: I think all those rap songs are alike. Even the dances are alike. [does dance]
Michael: That looks like the opening credits of The Addams Family.
Brittany: It looks like [the video for] “Thriller”!
Alex: “Thriller” on Tourette’s!
Brittany: Have you ever been to a club in your life, Mom?
3. Fergie, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (will.i.am/A&M)
Brittany: [mocking Lorie] Is it by another black person?
Alex: [to Lorie] Well, you won’t be able to tell since they all sound alike, right?
[song begins; acoustic guitar comes in]
Mom: This sounds pleasant.
[chorus comes in]
Alex: [eyes bulging] What the fuck is this?
Mom: It sounds like someone’s stepping on her foot.
Brittany: You should see her face.
Alex: I hate Fergie. She sounds like a wannabe mix between Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani. [listens to chorus] Big girls?! She’s tiny, she’s flat-chested, and she has no ass. Oh–she has a big nose; maybe she’s talking about that.
Mom: Who is she? The princess from England is the only Fergie I’ve ever heard of.
Brittany: You’ve heard “My Humps.” Black Eyed Peas?
Mom: Never heard of it.
Alex, Brittany, Michael: [various expressions of amazement]
Brittany: I wonder if this is [is about] the same dude she did the “London Bridge” with. He probably used her for her London Bridge and then let her go.
Mom: This is terrible. You say these are the Top 10 songs?
Alex: She gives me confidence. If she can make it, I damn well can.
4. Plain White T’s, “Hey There Delilah” (Hollywood)
Mom: [after first four lines] I like it.
Brittany: Well, it’s closer to country.
Michael: Not really.
Brittany: It’s white guys singing over guitars.
Mom: I like this song. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. It’s sort of like Bob Dylan and John Denver.
Brittany: I’ll jump off the balcony if you say anything like that again.
Mom: Lobo, too! Lobo kind of music.
Brittany: What the hell is Lobo?
Michael: “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.”
Brittany: I’m not even going to comment on that. This is significantly better than Fergie, though.
Michael: I hate it.
Mom: He’d walk to her if he had to! Not take the bus or a cab or the light rail. I bet he has glasses and short hair.
Michael: [testily] What the fuck is wrong with that?
Mom: Nothing! I bet he doesn’t dance. I bet he sits on a chair and sings with an acoustic guitar.
Brittany: All day and all night, yes.
Alex: This doesn’t do anything for me.
Veronica: Michael! Michael! Michael! [hands him Shrek ears]
Michael: OK. [puts Shrek ears on]
Mom: You should have a picture of you with those ears on with the column.
Brittany: Do you ever think before you speak, Mom?
5. T-Pain ft. Yung Joc, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” (Konvict/Nappy Boy/Jive)
Brittany: I hate this song!
Alex: I hate this song.
Mom: This is another rap song.
Brittany: Do you hear them rapping?
Michael: It’s singing, Mom.
Mom: He’s not singing! That’s not singing.
Michael: Yeah he is, it’s R&B.
Mom: It is?!
Michael: He’s singing. [the rap comes in] OK, that’s rapping.
Mom: Oh my god, they intertwine them?!
Michael: For about 20 years now, yes.
Alex: I would never buy this CD.
Brittany: Yes, but would you let him buy you a drank?
Alex: Yes, because then it would be free!
6. Maroon 5, “Makes Me Wonder” (A&M/Octone)
Alex: Justin Timberlake, right? It sounds like him.
Brittany: Maroon 5.
Brittany: This is so far from [M5 singer Adam Levine's] record with Kanye ["Heard 'Em Say"].
Mom: I like this. It reminds me of disco music.
Alex: It reminds me of Blake from American Idol. Was it this song?
Mom: I could dance to this.
Alex: Would you get to the dance club, Mom, and do your Tourette’s “Thriller” dance? [Alex and Brittany mercilessly mock the dance]
Brittany: This reminds me of [Madonna's] “Holiday.” You know how washed-up that song is?
Michael: That song will never be washed up.
Mom: I hear that song all the time.
Michael: At the nightclubs where you do your dance?
Brittany: I way prefer [Maroon 5's] older stuff. They seem to be a lot more commercial now.
Michael: On what planet?
Brittany: It’s like, you used to be able to hear them and know it was a Maroon 5 record.
Brittany: Well, he doesn’t sound as good as he does on the Kanye song. That’s what I compare everything he does to now. I guess when you do the best you can do, everything seems like a letdown afterward.
7. Avril Lavigne, “Girlfriend” (RCA)
Mom: The Mickey Mouse Club.
Michael: Sort of.
Alex: Me and [my boyfriend] Brandon were laughing at this song yesterday when it came on the radio.
Brittany: Everybody should laugh at this song.
Alex: She tries too hard to impress everybody. I thought this was that one chick. Remember the video at the end of The Little Mermaid [DVD]?
Brittany: It was this girl Ashley Tisdale, doing a version of “Kiss the Girl.”
Alex: She was at a high school prom. Her and this guy were looking at each other from across the room but stayed with their friends.
Brittany: While singing “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid in a really bad kind of pop-Avril Lavigne style.
Alex: With a remixed beat.
Brittany: [In the video], they just got all googly-eyed with each other. They were playing passive-aggressive, all chase-me chase-me. They never got to first base.
Michael: How long do you guys think this song has been in the Top 10?
Brittany: If it’s been in for more than one week, too long.
Michael: It’s been in the Top 10 since March.
[stunned silence, shaking of heads]
Alex: Did a bunch of deaf critics choose this Top 10?
Michael: It’s the pop charts. It has to do with sales and radio play.
Brittany: It has to do with how many 12-year-olds enjoy Avril Lavigne.
Mom: It probably has to do with how many disc jockeys “enjoyed” Avril Lavigne.
8. Justin Timberlake, “Summer Love” (Jive)
Mom: Here’s another song that sounds the same.
Brittany: It’s Justin Timberlake!
Mom: I don’t care. It’s rap.
Michael: No it isn’t! He’s singing.
Mom: [parroting a lyric] I can’t wait till he falls in love, either. That’s terrible.
Alex: He’s had better songs.
Mom: I’ve had better songs!
Alex: He’s a wee bit better singer than you, Mom.
Mom: I really liked that “Dick in a Box.”
Brittany: “Dick in a Box” is his best song.
Michael: No it isn’t.
Brittany: Well, no. But it’s his best video.
Michael: Uh-uh. “Cry Me a River,” dude.
Brittany: I’ll stand by “Dick in a Box.” I prefer “Cry Me a River” and “Senorita” as songs. They’re running out of songs on this album, though.
9. Amy Winehouse, “Rehab” (Republic)
Alex: [brightly, after the line, "They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said no, no, no"] That’s what I’d say, too!
Brittany: I love her voice. This is closer to Motown.
Mom: They should have this in the new Hairspray movie.
Brittany: It reminds me of Lauryn Hill before she did her MTV Unplugged crap.
Mom: She probably wrote this song for Lindsay Lohan.
Brittany: This is the best song so far. I like it better than “Umbrella.”
Mom: It’s by far the best song. It makes me want to drink. [third chorus comes around] Hey! I already know half the words!
10. Fabolous ft. Ne-Yo, “Make Me Better” (Desert Storm/Def Jam)
Brittany: Who is this?
Michael: It’s Fabolous rapping, Ne-Yo singing.
Brittany: I like Ne-Yo. I don’t like Fabolous.
Michael: The thing I always think of about Fabolous is this negative review of his first album by Margeaux Watson in Time Out New York, where she felt obligated to point out that “Fabolous” isn’t a real word. I thought that was remarkable–you’ve got to be really bad for a hip-hop fan to make fun of your made-up name.
Brittany: That’s bad. [pauses, laughs] That’s really funny.
Michael: I thought you were laughing at the song just now, but honestly, this is almost impossible for me to pay any attention to.
Brittany: Well, it’s impossible to concentrate on anything when there’s more than one Matos in the room.