Top 5 Pop Tracks: August

by Aaron Zorgel

August 31, 2012

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Each month, tons of new music from many taste-spanning genres is released into a fast-consuming, unforgiving market; it can be tough to get a handle on what’s new before it’s on to the next. In an attempt to highlight the standout releases, at the end of each month, AUX staff re-cap the month in Punk, Metal, Indie/Pop/Rock, Hip Hop, Electronic, and Pop with the top five releases in each. Consider it your cheat sheet for year-end lists.

Top 5 Pop Tracks: August


Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

To get her first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, all Taylor Swift needed to do was lean a little bit more towards pop than country. On “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” her signature acoustic guitar strums are tweaked by veteran pop architect Max Martin (Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson), and a massive electronic beat replaces the organic instrumentation that is typical of a Taylor Swift single. The end result is a break-up anthem that wouldn’t be out of place on either a Kelly Clarkson or a Katy Perry album. The choice to skew pop paid off for Swift almost immediately, as she conquered the iTunes charts and soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the single’s second week. Taylor has always insisted her music is 100% autobiographical, so there’s a lot of speculation as to who this song is about. With a chorus like this, I can’t be bothered to worry about who the lyrics are about, because I’m too busy screaming them in the shower. (Big Machine)

 

Mariah Carey – “Triumphant (Vintage Throwback Mix)”

Mariah Carey is preparing for the release of her first non-Christmas album since 2009, and when I first heard the original mix of “Triumphant (Get ‘Em)” featuring Rick Ross and Meek Mill, it was frustratingly underwhelming. The single mix sounds like a typical Maybach Music Group single, with Rozay and Meek Mill’s contributions easily overshadowing Mimi on the track. Even in terms of production (handled by long-time collaborators Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox) the song seems to ape the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production style that characterizes the Maybach Music sound. Mariah didn’t sound at home on that record, and I was ready to write off any forthcoming attempt at a comeback. Shortly after the initial release of “Triumphant,” two different remixes were made available on Mariah Carey’s website, including the “Pulse Club Remix” and the “Vintage Throwback Remix.” The “Vintage” mix is more of what we’ve come to expect from Mimi, with her vocals as the focus, complemented by an infectious dance beat with a ‘90s feel.  It immediately struck me as a response to the original mix forcing Mariah into that modern hip-hop sound. With her new judging gig on American Idol, I understand that Mariah has a chance to be relevant and marketable to a brand new audience, but the Vintage Throwback Mix is much more satisfying for anyone who was a fan in the ‘90s and ‘00s. (Island)

 

Ellie Goulding –  “Anything Could Happen”

After the surge of renewed popularity that the London 2012 Olympics gave Ellie Goulding’s “Lights,” I was wondering whether or not the U.K. singer would be capitalizing on that buzz by releasing a new single. She’s on the cusp of international superstardom, so I was curious about which way she would swing; would her new single be an ultimate cash-in, with Afrojack producing and a guest feature from will.i.am? Thankfully, Ellie decided to play it a little more subtle, and delivered the understated, bouncy electro-pop gem “Anything Could Happen,” produced by Jim Elliot. It’s catchy enough to be a solid radio offering, but it’s far from a cookie-cutter pop jam. Ellie Goulding is an interesting presence on the charts; her off-beat sensibility gives melodies that are borderline saccharine a bit of edge and ingenuity. Her new album Halycon (October 9th) should be a treat, as long as her bro-step boyfriend keeps his paws off of it. (Interscope/Polydor)

 

MNDR – “Fall In Love With The Enemy”

Ever since MNDR had her career-making guest performance on Mark Ronson’s “Bang Bang Bang,” we’ve been waiting to see what MNDR would do with that level of exposure. MNDR is the New York-based electro-pop project of Amanda Warner and collaborator/producer Peter Wade, though Warner makes it clear that MNDR is a solo performance project. MNDR has spent the past two years tirelessly perfecting her debut album Feed Me Diamonds, and “Fall In Love With The Enemy” is one of the standout tracks. A thick, jarring synth tone opens the angular dance-pop song, with her distinct vocals telling a story of being taken advantage of, and liking it. Imagine an electronic gear-head with pop sensibility of Robyn, and that’s as close as I can come to describing MNDR. She’s already an indie darling, but if “Fall In Love With The Enemy” is any indication, she could take her brainy brand of pop music to new levels this fall. (Ultra)

 

Kid Cudi – “Just What I Am” feat. King Chip

So, the WZRD experiment has run its course, and Cudi is back to doing what he does best – writing melodic, moody, hook-laden hip-hop songs. A collaboration with frequent collaborator King Chip (formerly Chip Tha Ripper), “Just What I Am” is a melancholy ode to marijuana. In 2010, Kid Cudi opened up about his struggle with cocaine use, which led him to give up drugs entirely for an extended period of time. In the hook of “Just What I Am,” Cudi concedes that marijuana is a part of who he is. With a brutally honest and confessional verse where Cudi discusses his fears, anger, and struggle with substance abuse, “Just What I Am” shows that Cudi is very much still on the “Pursuit Of Happiness.” The beat was produced by Cudi himself, and it’s some of his best melodic work to date, showing that perhaps Cudi was cribbing notes from some of the Italo-disco producers he was sampling with the WZRD project. (G.O.O.D. Music/Universal Motown)

 

Surprises, disappointments and tracks/albums to watch for next month

Surprise of the month: I’m just surprised that summer is already over, and there are no more summer jams to look forward to. Autumn jams just don’t sparkle the same way, y’know?

Disappointments: The Drake/Aaliyah beyond-the-grave collab. It wasn’t magical enough to make it not weird.

Out in September: Albums from Carly-Rae Jepsen, P!nk, Nelly Furtado, and Kreayshawn.

Tags: Music, Featured, Lists, News, Aaliyah, Drake, Ellie Goulding, Kid Cudi, Mariah Carey, Meek Mill, Rick Ross

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