On October 5th, Vampire Weekend (or Vamp Wknd as they will forthwith be known) leaked the first song off their upcoming album, Contra, to the internets. An album which is apparently being released on Ralph Lauren’s upstart label Yachts What She Thread.
In July, which totally seems like three years ago in Internet Time, Miley Billy Ray Ray Hannah Montana Cyrus released her hit single “Party in the U.S.A.”; a song to soundtrack her fashion-forward Wal-Mart clothing line.
In “Horchata” and “Party” we have two equally divisive pop songs: one approved for rice milk drinking indie preps and one specially formulated for Dr. Thunder chugging “regular kids”. Both are completely horrendous and that’s the end of the story. You can go back to playing your Nintendo now.
Well, not exactly. I recently loaded both songs onto my Sony Walkman and spent an afternoon playing them ad infintium. Both ditties have ridiculously catchy choruses that all the q-tips in the world couldn’t scrape from my brain. They also each have intermittently annoying verses that make me want to search out the nearest guillotine.
Here are the opening lines to Vamp Wknd’s song:
“In December drinking horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava”
Here are the opening lines to Miley’s tune:
“I hopped off the plane at LAX/with a dream and a cardigan”
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take white girls singing about cardigans over white dudes singing about balaclavas any day. I like cardigans. It’s a sensible outfit for sensible kids hopping off planes. And I’ve TOTALLY hopped off of planes at LAX! I can relate to that! Drinking horchata while wearing a balaclava might be psychotic, but I’m more concerned about how annoying it sounds to sing about doing so.
Our Literacy Trumps Your Record Sales
Some have claimed that Vamp Wknd are merely a pleasant musical representation of how small our world has become. These dudes listen to NPR. They probably own some bitchin’ high life vinyls. I’m sure they voted for that guy from Kenya. I’m down with all of that, and I don’t begrudge their Ivy League education. If I had also gone to Columbia I probably wouldn’t be writing a blog about Hannah Montana right now. I found their debut album to be pretty nice, but did I suddenly start listening to Vamp Wknd more than Graceland or Hall & Oates? No. Maybe if they had mustaches.
My Dad Can Beat Up Paul Simon
I have never watched more than 38 seconds of an episode of “Hannah Montana”, but I’m certainly aware of its existence and cultural importance. Miley Cyrus is a huge pop culture figure and a young woman whose music I had somehow managed to avoid…even in my occasional trips to Wal-Mart. But when someone writes a song this catchy, that makes a meta reference to working your hips to Jay-Z, eventually it is going to reach my ears. Like yeaaahhhh. And I have to admit that, between these two songs, “Party in the U.S.A.” somehow seemed less annoying than “Horchata” after double-digit listens. Maybe it’s because I’m lactose intolerant and don’t really care for rice.
You can download “Horchata” here.
I don’t love or hate either of these tunes. They both exist in the part of my brain that I call “The Muppet Zone”: a place that is repelled and attracted by cute/annoying pop culture. Sometimes these songs are Kermit and sometimes they are Miss Piggy, but the entire time my mind is being critiqued by Waldorf and Statler.
I come away from my time spent digesting these songs asking myself if catchy indie pop is really any more valid than catchy mass-marketed tween pop. I guess the only thing that remains certain in the world is that Billy Ray Cyrus WILL sleep with your wife. That’s a world I can handle.