20 years of radio in the summertime

Entertainment Weekly recently published a chart looking at the enduring relevance of the last 20 "summer songs."  That magazine loves lists.  Which is why we love that magazine.

Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" - There is surely no one who still likes this novelty song.  Even at the height of its infamous run, didn't people listen to it ironically?  We, in fact, dispute this as a summer song.  Billboard tells us the biggest hit of that summer was actually UB40's "Can't Help Falling in Love."  We hate that song, too, but at the least the punctuation isn't so ridiculous.

All 4 One's "I Swear"
Ugh.  Seriously?  The last gasp of the early-90s Motown-styled boy bands.  The far more memorable song for us from summer is Lisa Loeb's "Stay," which immediately transports us back to the grungy days of college and Generation X's collectively snarky coming of age.  We'd argue that two movies define us and our peers: The Breakfast Club and Reality Bites.  ("Stay" was on the Reality Bites soundtrack.)

TLC's "Waterfalls"
If it came on the radio tomorrow, we wouldn't turn it off.  And isn't that the ultimate compliment for a radio hit?  For the record, we'd also listen to the entirety of "Creep" and "Unpretty."

Los del Rio's "Macarena"
Aren't we all a little embarrassed by this one?  How did we, as a culture, let this happen?

Hanson's "Mmm-Bop"
Ditto this one.  Yeah yeah, the brothers are actually talented.  But let's leave the record deals to people who've been on the road, crafting their sound and paying their dues, not jamming in the carpeted basement playroom in suburban Arkansas or wherever they're from.  Billboard's charts for the summer tell us that two far more interesting songs bracketed Hanson's number one hit: Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" and Puffy Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You."  But surely Entertainment Weekly is thinking that a summer hit needs to be frothy and fun, not dark and poignant.

Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine"
We remember this song sort of, but couldn't tell you what it sounds like.  At first we were going to wonder whatever happened to these two until we realized we really didn't care.

Smash Mouth's "All Star"
Not a number one hit, so says Billboard.  We find that hard to believe.  As we recall, this was one of those genuinely catchy, innocuous little songs that Corporate Radio decided to completely ruin by playing it on super-duper heavy rotation.  We can't listen to it anymore.

NSync's "It's Gonna Be Me"
Remember when Justin Timberlake was in a band?  Neither do we.  The better song, to us, from that summer was Vertical Horizon's crunchy "Everything You Want."

Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious"
There are a couple of good songs ("Say My Name," "Independent Woman Part I") out there from Destiny's Child.  This isn't one of them.  And not to be prudish, but that title is icky.

Nelly's "Hot in Herre"
We loved this song then, we love it now.  Not sure where Nelly learned how to spell, though.

Beyonce's "Crazy in Love"
Probably the strongest song on this entire list.  Still catchy all these years later and completely undated.  Who doesn't like this song?  When you hear that brass intro, who doesn't want to twist and bump and crank up the volume?  Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, oh-no-no.  It's amazing how Beyonce's career shot into the stratosphere once she left Destiny's Child, which is a testament to her own ambition and talent, as well as the importance of attracting the industry's best producers and songwriters.  It can be a self-perpetuating cycle at a certain point: the best songs and producer go to the most popular artists, thereby insuring their continued success.

Usher's "Yeah!"
We know we like it.  It's in our iTunes library.  But we must admit: we get it confused with Usher's "Burn," another hip-hop meets dance-pop number.  That's probably because we're so white.

Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl"
Honestly, this one's a little overrated.  We were all so happy for Gwen to do a solo album, weren't we? Not really as solid as the stuff she'd been doing with No Doubt (though "Cool" is a silky favorite of ours) but decent.  The better 2005 summer song to us actually comes from that spring: the plodding, rather sinister "Candy Shop" by 50 Cent.

Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"
Everyone loved this song, especially critics.  It's funky and distinctive, so we get why Entertainment Weekly would pick it.  And it was one of those odd songs that sort of came out of nowhere by some strangely-named group.  Everyone likes to be surprised.  But the song leaves us cold.  To us, Rihanna's "SOS" sounds more like summer.

Rihanna's "Umbrella"
A close runner-up to "Crazy in Love."  We had a love-hate relationship with this song.  When it first hit the radio, we really liked it.  Then they kept playing it and playing it.  There's no doubt this was the song of that summer.  You couldn't escape it.  We ultimately rejected it and formed a one-person backlash.  But eventually the song wore us down.  Even with that weird "ella ella" thing it's just too catchy, too poppy, too perfectly constructed.  We cannot deny its earworm appeal.  You win, Rihanna.  You win.

Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"
Look at that: the ubiquitous Katy Perry has only been with us only five years.  This was her breakout hit.  We remember well the scandalous sensation this naughty little song caused, which probably accounted for about 50% of its popularity.  The funny thing is, looking back, it's not even one of her best songs.

Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling"
At this point, it's a little hard to be objective.  This was only a few years ago.  Who knows what song will best stand the test of time?  Lest you forget, 2009 was the year of the Peas.  For eleven weeks, their "Boom Boom Pow" was number one, then around July 4, it dropped out of the top spot only to be replaced by "I Gotta Feeling."  That song reigned supreme (we're totally channeling Casey Kasem right now) for another 14 weeks.  The Peas are usually fun, but they also seem completely disposable and unimportant.  Like cotton candy.  Sweet but evaporates.

Katy Perry's "California Girls"
We had a fondness for this song until we had a daughter of our own and started reconsidering the lyrics about Daisy Duke shorts and bikini tops.  These California girls are surely up to no good.  Shouldn't they cover up and stay indoors?  And what's all this about popsicle sticks?  It that what we think it is?  Even so, anything with "California" in the title is almost by default a summer song.

LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem"
A strangely catchy song that got completely overplayed.  The words are all about party rocking, but the song itself feels very tame and manufactured to us.  The sort of things parents might approve of, which makes it uncool by default.  For 2011, we'd choose Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" or Pitbull's "Give Me Everything."  (As an aside, "Give Me Everything" is perhaps one of the greatest pop-dance songs ever composed - if you study it like we have, the structure is genius in the way the song shifts tempo and mood several times; it's like three songs in one, each one better than the last.  Radio perfection.)

Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"
We get this one.  A fun, fizzy song from a newcomer (and a Canadian to boot; you how they're all so very nice and polite up there) that caught everyone by surprise.  Plus it has that nostalgic sort of vibe of summer parties where you flirt with the opposite sex, but not in a dirty way, more of a chaste Disney Channel, rated-PG sort of way.  Our three-year-old liked to sing it, in other words.''

What summer songs do you like?


Knee-jerk review: CBS' "Under the Dome"

1. The Stephen King novel was about 1000 pages.  We read the hardback.  It was like propping a cinder block on your chest.
2. Typical King novel: crackerjack premise, a sprinkling of pop culture references, lots of italicized internal monologues, small Maine town under strange external threat, the brooding antihero against the megalomaniacal villain (get it? we're more dangerous than any monster) plus a completely insane sidebar character who adds another level of conflict, and then a ending that sort of, kind of fizzles because there's no way to satisfactorily resolve these sci-fi premises.
3. It's fun to see an adaptation of a book we read.  But it's also a little tedious because we feel so far ahead of the plot.  Even if the show changes the details, the broad strokes are there, the main characters are there.
4. Jeff Fahey.  Awesome, though that beard is icky.
5. Our favorite thing: giving the abusive, crazy Junior part to a baby-faced actor Alexander Koch, who seems so charming and easy-going at first glance.
6. Cow getting cut in half.  Yeah, that was pretty cool.  So was the semi crash.
7. But better was the more low-tech gimmick of showing how neither side of the dome could hear the other.
8. CBS has been touting writer Brian K. Vaughan's resume.  Honestly, though, we would tread lightly at invoking "Lost," a similar people-trapped show that was exciting and cool until suddenly it became a source of unending frustration, drawing you in mostly because of the time you'd already invested and leading you to hope against hope that you would eventually get a unified, cathartic ending.  (Spoiler alert: there was none.  Purgatory?  Really?)
9. It worries us that this isn't a limited-run miniseries, but more of an open-ended series.  All the more incentive to stretch things out... and out... and out.
10. Hollywood should remove from its  bag of tricks the bit about the kid with the disease who has to have medicine or else he/she will die.  So very tired.  It feels like something that was maybe fresh on a 1970s episode of  "Dragnet."
11. There's something sort of cheap and cheesy about the whole thing, another reminder that the big television budgets now go to pay cable.
12. It's in our DVR season pass list, so we guess we'll keep watching.  Not a very ringing endorsement,  huh?


Driving through the 80s

Before the Cheese Fry's corporate relocation to Texas, we embarked on an important mission to visit the Southern California private homes that were used as exterior locations in three of our favorite iconic 1980s movies.

The farthest trip took us all the way out into hot, dry Simi Valley.  That's where the Freeling family lived in sleepy Cuesta Verde in 1982's Poltergeist.

Here's the picture we took:

And now a still from the movie when the subdivision didn't have so many white camper pick-up trucks ruining scenes.  And we thought the house imploded ("You moved the headstones but you didn't move the bodies!") at the movie's conclusion.  Hollywood, you fooled us again.

Our next trip took us to the outer reaches of Burbank, which filled in for Hill Valley in 1985's Back to the Future.  It's the power lines that give this one away, don't you think? Here's our shot taken on a slow drive-by.  This seemed to be a slightly sketchy neighborhood.

Very hard to find a good still off the internet for some reason even though this is where Doc Brown uttered the line "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."  All we could find was this dusky shot from one of the sequels.

Tujunga, California, shoved up against the mountains, is almost as far out as Simi Valley.  This place doubled for Elliot's suburban house in 1982's E.T.  Here's our shot, taken while standing brazenly at the foot of the driveway.

And then here's a shot from the movie, when the neighborhood was so new there were no trees or grass.  Right or wrong, this movie imprinted in us what a happy family's neighborhood ought to look like: rolling hills, clean white pavement, identical cookie cutter houses lining the blocks.  We love suburbia.

Phone home, people.


Six thoughts on "Rock of Ages"

We don't typically review movies we see on cable, but this one deserves some sort of response.  

1. We loved the candy-colored 1980s Sunset Strip vibe, especially a loving recreation of Tower Records circa 1987 (remember those walls of cassette tapes?).  But having spent many years commuting on Sunset Blvd, something felt off here.  The landmarks looked right, but the geography was all wrong.  Among other things, it looked like the movie was suggesting Sunset ran north and south instead of the proper east and west.  And stores separated by blocks looked here like they were sitting side by side.  So we did some research and found out... the filmmakers "recreated" Sunset Blvd... on a rundown intersection in Miami.  Fail.
2. This is a movie that needed to be 95 minutes, tops.  You get in, you get out.  No one gets hurt.  No way does this fluff deserve 2 hours and 10 minutes of your life. 
3. Alec Baldwin is horribly miscast.  Wow.
4. We're not sure why the whole Catherine Zeta-Jones subplot even existed.  You cut it out, what do you miss?  Maybe one nice gag at the end.
5. Why not play it more straight and dramatic?  The filmmakers layer on this goofy, half-winking campiness to everything (we think that's one reason why Paul Giamatti is so awful), probably cultivated by director Adam Shankman.  But it doesn't work.  It feels like no one had faith in the story and so decided to treat it like a lark.
6. The reason to see it is for the 1980s hair band songs, especially some clever "Glee"-style mashups.  We grew up with most of these songs, so it a lot of it was fun.  But while we might give a pass to including Quarterflash's bluesy "Harden My Heart," we have to draw the line at Starship's "We Built This City," a song that we think Blender magazine once called the worst song ever written.  It's a song about not selling out.  The irony runs thick.

Our five biggest posts ever

Among the many interesting-but-useless tools that our kind host service Blogger offers is a measurement of post hits.  Behold, below, the five most popular posts in our history.

1. September 2012, Knee-jerk review: CBS' Surivor: Philippines - We were thrilled to see 1100 hits for this topic and started looking for Mark Burnett's number.  And then we saw the poorly composed string of comments that suggest a nefarious spambot infiltration of some kind.  So... never mind.

2. May 2013, Knee-jerk review: Star Trek Into Darkness.  The 96 hits for this one seem more in line with the small, loyal Cheese Fry following.  We're vocal, some might say pathological, Star Trek fans and could imagine how our opinions on the matter might appeal to some and encourage aggressive link-forwarding.  Thank you.

3. May 2013, 176,248 miles.  The somber eulogy to our dearly departed Subaru hatchback attracted 69 hits.  We think it's a universal story of frustration ("I'm still driving this thing?!") and admiration ("this thing is still running?!"), something that appeals to all of us who drove a first car right into the ground.

4. February 2011, Live blogging the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.  This drew 66 hits, a number likely inflated by the Cheese Fry's attempt to goose audience size by creating an Oscar pool contest and announcing it over Facebook.  People may have checked it out, but only six brave souls entered the contest.  It was our first and last contest to date.

5. July 2011, Green Grinch should be a Crayola color.  This post pulled in just 39 hits, a pathetic number that somehow still earns this post a top five spot.  What's sadder, that fact or the realization that this post contains little actual content?  We just posted a cool graphic we found somewhere else.  Tomorrow, we'll be posting a picture of whatever we first find on Google.

And here's a fun little chart graphing our sawtooth traffic ebbs and flows since 2007. 

Gumfight at the OK Corral

Here's an obscure blast from our 1970s childhood past.  Who remembers these commercials for Hubba Bubba?