Chart for Charts’ Sake: The Hot 100

Say what you will (and I’m sure you already have) about Iggy Azalea’s mushmouf Amy & Andrea who-dat’s and post-Fergie asswagg, but at least it takes some effort to wrest a living cultural form from your betters. Far simpler, much of this week’s top ten shows, to claim as your inheritance a musical legacy so thoroughly disseminated over time into the pop vernacular you don’t even have to acknowledge.race. So many songs without soul that couldn’t exist without Soul.

Sometimes this is done winningly: Over a NiN-funk beat, Nick Jonas cutely pretends there’s such a thing as a tough-guy falsetto on “Jealous,” wriggling his foxy way into that Timberlake-sized hole that Robin Thicke was so quickly thinkpieced out of. Sometimes it’s done respectfully: The sulky cuck of Sobbin’ Sam Smith’s  “I’m Not the Only One” is as one-dimensional as the clingy pump-and-dump who sang “Stay With Me,” but the newer hit’s more supple musically than the earlier let-the-choir-sing smash. Sometimes it’s done sanctimoniously: Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” is a monument to the pious blasphemies of a drip who thinks Bernie Taupin is John Donne, maybe even the reverse. And sometimes it’s done edsheeraningly: The best thing I can say about “Talking Out Loud” is that Adam Levine would sound even ickier asking “Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?” — when Levine, who has belatedly and inevitably gotten in touch with his inner Sting, unclinches his climactic howl on on “Animals,” he answers the musical question “What Does the Douche Say?” and I think terrifying thoughts about an alternate universe where Kanye hadn’t bonded with Justin Vernon over Avatar.

There are also four songs in the top ten by two women. “Shake It Off” riled some folks who act like Toni Basil never happened and Max Martin doesn’t have sick beats. (Whether this is one of those is another argument.) And after hearing my 8-year old niece hum it for two hours straight over Christmas, I can report that “Blank Space” remains an exhaustible pleasure. As for Meghan Trainor’s one-girl-group sass, it’s hopelessly retrograde tween-fodder, and it’s just too bad “All About That Bass” and “Your Lips Are Movin’” didn’t stay off my radio the way past children’s music like “Let It Go” and so many of the early Bieber hits did, I may be cutting her just the slightest bit of slack because the truly gross “Dear Future Husband” has apparently stiffed.

Bruno Mars may not be white, but that’s more than you can say for Mark Ronson, the latest practitioner of what Dave Marsh once identified as the longstanding British colonial tradition of selling American raw cultural materials back to us in inferior versions. Like so many of Mars’ hits, except more so, the new chart-topper “Uptown Funk!” isn’t just less than the sum of its influences — each additional influence is divided into the last until the final quotient can be rounded down to zero. He struts like the guy Jerome hands Morris’s mirror off to after the show. Too bad Bruno got to play the Super Bowl halftime show so early in his career – has he any countries left to conquer? (Well, there’s always the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. I see a lot of Dave Grohl all-star jams in this young man’s future.) My 40-ish friends giddy at the how “Uptown Funk!” smooshes up the black music of our tender years are basically (pun intended) Boomers grooving to “Roll With It.” And that’s not the kind of bringin’ ’88 back that anybody really wants.

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