Although we might pride ourselves in having better taste in music (c’mon now, let’s be frank), it’s always interesting to step over and have a look at what’s tickling the mainstream crowd’s fancy. Indie, after all, gains its meaning from the context of what’s commercial.
Radio has always been the yardstick of what’s popular. Chalked with voter-centric charts and call-in song requests, it’s a good place to start. Or is it still? Nielsen (formerly AC Nielsen) would have you know that the alleged dead horse that is radio is in fact charting an ascent on the growth scale. Listeners (as of May 2011 [http://my.nielsen.com/site/20110519.shtml]) are clocking in an average 2 hours and 41 minutes more compared to last year’s statistics [http://my.nielsen.com/site/20100929.shtml].
English stations were particularly triumphant with a record total of 2.47 million listeners in the Peninsular itself – their highest ever in the last decade. With such an encouraging outcome for English radio, we tune-in to see whether the same can be said for their charts. Reigning station hitz.fm is subjected to the prod of the health inspection stick.
Case Study: hitz.fm Malaysian English Top 10. Due to space constraints, we’ll only be looking at the Top 5.
1. Defiance – Tres Empre:
Purveying their brand of charged and succinct post-hardcore, Tres Empre are at the top with a wailing, melodious assault. Check every year back into the decade and you’re bound to find a band that sounds like this. They never go out of fashion. Catered specifically to energised youths that fist pump at concerts, Tres Empre’s music fits like a glove over their personal fable [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_fable] complex. Affirming that yes, young as you are, your joy/misery/confusion is the single most unique thing that no one will ever be able to understand.
2. Takeover – Mizz Nina ft. Florida:
Mizz Nina, crown jewel of dance-worthy songs does it again at the charts. This time, things smells a little sunnier with a “5 6 7 8” thrown in for good measure but essentially, it’s still a track about tearing up the club with a big international name in tow (Flo Rida, this time round). If you’re experiencing déjà vu while reading this, wait til you hear the song itself. And once again, everyone will express surprise that a Malaysian artist can sound so un-Malaysian. Sometimes you really don’t know how to react to the putting down of the entire industry in praise of a single act.
3. Livin’ Rock & Roll –The Azenders:
Stadium-geared drums and chant-y chorus; The Azenders have a huge online following and it’s no surprise why. Their music conjures up images of greasy hair, Converse shoes, nightscapes, cigarettes – aspirations of the average teen. The devotion of one angsty teen is worth 30 jaded hipsters, mind you. They are the ones that vote, buy and feel music with the intensity that any musicians will be grateful to be worthy of.
4. Another Lie – Rollin’ Sixers:
If anything, their inclusion in the Top 5 says a lot about the diversity of taste of hitz.fm listeners. This blues-tinged rocker of a track is a crossover star. If you’re a blues fan, you’d be left wanting a little more bite and growl but the moderate delivery seems to be the bridging factor here. It’s heartening to see that there’s still room in the Top 5 for a genre often plagued with the dreaded label – retro.
5. Dance With You – Liang:
The most baffling inclusion yet, however, is R&B singer Liang with his track Dance With You. Although undertaking the brave move of having auto-tuned vocal harmonies make up the foundation of the song’s structure, it collapses under its own blatant eagerness to please as a dancefloor filler.
Face value evaluation can sometimes stump anyone that aims to critique a hit in terms of song construction. When Katy Perry first came out, critics went at her throat for her brash approach in content, form and production but she has since (as of August 2011) tied with Michael Jackson for the most #1 hits from a single album. True evaluation comes from turning our attention towards the force of demand instead, not the supplier.
All Top 5-ers are songs you either groove or mosh to; music that moves you physically. There is nary a sign of introspective contemplation or drippy Romanticism in sight. The sound of the MET 10 chart neither pauses nor sighs but shoots forth with the alarming triviality of an idealised high-flying life. From the forthright declarations of “we’re livin’ rock and roll” by The Azenders to the sleaze synth bravado of Liang to the glorified self-hurt of Rollin’ Sixers’ “say what I want you to say/if you don’t mean it/it’s ok”, it’s clear that the youth have spoken: only high spirits beyond this line. Whether it’s a telling reflection of times or mere escapism of it, these songs are a lot more than just tabulated votes. They are the people behind them. For this week at least, anyway.
By Adeline Chua