Chart for Charts’ Sake: Hot Rock Songs

“Pop” is now, more or less, a genre unto itself  — radio-friendly big-budget non-R&B (pseudo-)Swedish electronic dance music. (More or less.) But there’s still all this regular old popular music that middle-aged white folks with moderate pulse rates consume, and we need to call it something. Fortunately, we’ve got a familiar if unfashionable genre tag not doing too much regular work these days, and Hozier fans will be nothing but flattered to learn they are listening to “rock.”

Though few of the singles in the top ten of Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart do, in fact, rock, they’re surprisingly “rhythmic,” if you’ll indulge the euphemism. Even ukuleunuch Vance Joy’s “Riptide” shuffles along capably. (Oh, where is that elusive third Michelle Pfeiffer-referencing lyric that will launch a thousand trend pieces?) And if somebody told me Milky Chance’s “Stolen Dance,” to which I respond with a sensation that is possibly not unpleasure, was a forgotten b-side from some second-tier ‘70s soft rock combo — well, I wouldn’t believe them, but I’d believe they maybe read that somewhere online.

Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” sounds like a talented Gleek playing the piano intro to Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” on guitar using the Edge’s delay pedal. Apparently those guys went to my alma mater, a school where a capella warblers were BMOCs, and all I can say is ofgoddamcourse. George Ezra’s “Budapest” sounds like how it must feel to lose your virginity in a Prius. As for “Cigarette Daydreams,” well like Dylan said, when Cage the Elephant gets here, everybody’s gonna wanna doze. (Yeah, nobody laughed when I made that joke on Twitter either.)

Imagine Dragons made their name as the Stone Temple Pilots to AwolNation’s Pearl Jam with “Radioactive,” but on “I Bet My Life” (a title that just begs for a dismissive J.D. Considine quip), it’s like a jockish fourth Lumineer has gathered his 5,000 closest friends together to collectively drain all irony from the chorus to “We Are Young.” The lack of principle that allows this band to flourish without a stable musical identity might be a godsend to greater talents.  Instead a nuisance evolves into a menace before our very ears.

And yet, ID (somebody must call ‘em that, right?) are not the current biggest rock band, or at least not the only current biggest rock band. Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty/ American Psycho spat a trio of hits into the rock top ten, each stuffed with multi-pronged hooks and bludgeoning electrofrills that’s overstimulating and enervating in a very 2015 way. It’s as though they deliberately set out to recreate that experience we all dread of having two different songs and a car insurance commercial playing simultaneously from different unseen tabs on your laptop.

With its sour ironies and Suzanne Vega fistpump, “Centuries” isn’t rousing enough for even Dave Marsh to mistake it for fascism, while “Immortals” mildly restates the same teenage dream of eternal persistence. “Uma Thurman” at least raises important questions. Do 16-year-olds really still watch Pulp Fiction and/or Kill Bill? Has any 16-year-old ever seen The Munsters? With all the online porn and first-person shooters out there, haven’t 16-year-olds found more thrilling ways to sublimate their hormonal froth than contemporary “rock” music?

Some, at least, have not. Fallout Boy were the only rock band to play the last Jingle Ball I attended. Round the turn of the millennium, when I was reviewing those pop-radio promo-bashes on the regular, Smash Mouth filled that slot. Make of that what you will.

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