There’s a quiet competition every July and August in the music world — which artist will have the song of the summer? Until last week there was one candidate: Katy Perry and her song California Gurls. But on Friday, the Internet felt like it nearly exploded with all the chatter around Cee-Lo Green’s new single, F— You, which he released on YouTube. Many critics have heralded it as not only their favourite mid-year song, but the catchiest, most creative, song of the year.
The song really is as good as everyone makes it out to be, and it’s a perfect example of what makes a great song — something I can’t say about Perry’s imitative hit single. Here’s why it works:
Most artists try to write a song with hooks, but few pull it off. Right away, the song starts off right. Its bouncy piano riff leads into the singer’s James Brown-like wail; the whole track is a warped version of a Jackson 5 song. It’s full of ooos and ahs, and while Perry’s song has a catchy chorus, too, it’s more fun to yell out the f-bomb than “We’ll melt your popsicle.”
Words are often an afterthought for most artists. Perry, in California Gurls’ bland first verse says, “I know a place where the grass is really greener, warm, wet and wild there must be somethin’ in the water.” Contrast that to Cee-Lo’s first verse — “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like f— you.”
While he does sa they phrase 16 times, the vulgarities make sense — he’s angry that another guy stole his girl. The song is hilarious, and as smooth as his Motown sound is, you can feel his anger.
The song sounds and feels original. The kinetic R&B pop sound combined with the smart, funny (but not kitschy) lyrics, and a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that video with only lyrics on a coloured background, took care and work to create.
When it comes down to it, it’s not just talent that makes a song great. A catchy, thought-provoking tune that’s born out of painstaking work will, at least artistically, beat out a fluffy pop track churned out to make a label and their artist rich, every time.