Do not be alarmed! Do not adjust your set! Chartburn hasn’t gone away — it’s just sharing space with some more Friday features, including the the New Radio Roundtable, in which your intrepid Chartburn panel discusses some of the songs going for adds at various formats. And away we go!

Adult Contemporary: Airborne Toxic Event, “Sometime Around Midnight”

Zack Dennis: This song takes itself way too seriously. The band has some terrific buzz, and aside from an excess of gloss, they seem to be pushing the right buttons on the alternative pop machine. But after listening to it a couple of times the excess of emotion starts to wear thin for me.

Beau Dure: In the beginning, I figured this was a bad Explosions in the Sky impression. By the end, I thought it was a pretty good Joy Division impression. I’d tone down the chiming guitar at the beginning, but beyond that, it’s an impressive track. The jealousy builds over the course of the song and boils over at the end, and the singer handles the material far better than most of the fifth-rate Eddie Vedder clones in rock these days.

Dw. Dunphy: I wouldn’t turn this off if I heard it on the radio. It’s equal parts Explosions In The Sky and Arcade Fire, but I kept waiting for the sky to open up on this and only got shouting. Still, with a name like Airborne Toxic Event, I was expecting something much…crappier. We’ll call this a pleasant surprise, if nothing more.

David Medsker: You could usually tell the crappy bands from the good ones by their names alone, but the line is getting blurrier by the day. I wrote off ATE by their name too, and then I heard the album and thought, “Shit, these guys are good.” What am I going to use as a benchmark now? Does this mean I actually have to listen to everyone first before making a judgment on their talent? Fuck.

Jeff Giles: Californian singers who try to sound like they’re British always piss me off; in fact, I still haven’t forgiven Billie Joe of Green Day. But I’ve always been a sucker for rock ‘n’ roll that at least makes the effort to try and sound majestic, and this track gets pretty huge (definitely in an Explosions in the Sky-type way — good call, Beau). Also, Pitchfork gave their album 1.6 out of 10, so I’m inclined to give the band the benefit of the doubt.

Zack: I take umbrage to this song being compared to anything Explosions in the Sky. Their songs go through a variety of changes (tempo, volume, chord structure, atmosphere) while all the Airborne Toxic Event song does is build some tension and get a bit louder.

Scott Malchus: This song is new? I’ve heard it in a movie or on television somewhere in the past six months — I’m going to say it was on Friday Night Lights (what with its Explosions in the Sky influence). I really love this song. It’s melodic, passionate and cuts you to the core in a matter of minutes. I’m a sucker for chiming guitars and lead singers ripping their vocal cords out by the end of the song. When they’re repeating “you just have to see her..” Man, I’ve been there. Great stuff, and I’d like to hear the rest of the record. (Note: I’ve listened to this song 4 times in a row).

Medsker: I still haven’t read Pitchfork’s review of this album, and I refuse to give them the satisfaction. From here, it looks as though they’re making an example of the band as a way to stand out in the crowd, or as I like to put it, they’re falling on their sword for the sake of hipster elitism. I love this song, and the album that spawned it. Must admit that I’m not familiar with Explosions in the Sky, so my first thought when listening to it was “U2 covering ‘Heroes’.” I also don’t hear a whiff of a fake English accent anywhere in this song.

Jeff: Well, the singer sure as hell doesn’t sound like he’s from Los Feliz. Maybe it isn’t fake England I’m hearing — Planet Hot Topic, perhaps?

Medsker: How exactly do you sound like you’re from Los Feliz? “And it starts sometime around midnight, dude”? Or is it, “And it starts sometime around midnight, mang”?

Jeff: We should probably get independent verification from the panel’s L.A. contingent, but I believe either of those would be acceptable.

Jon Cummings: It’s amusing how a song like this moves through the formats these days. This has been all over the adult-modern-rock (or whatever they call it) stations for a couple months — now it goes to AC? How quickly we get old. It’s a good-enough song, with a nice slow build — I timed it out, and the vocalist waits until the 2:41 mark to raise his voice an octave and start screaming, which is a pretty long wait as these things go. The video is atrocious, though — it’s begging for one of those literal-lyric parodies.

As someone whose primary experience of Los Feliz remains a couple restaurants and the drive to and from the Greek, my impression is that the appropriate lyric would be, “And we bail, sometime around midnight/To another part of town, where things are still maybe happenin’.”

David Lifton: I don’t know anything about these Explosions in the Sky you kids are talking about, but I do hear what Jeff is saying about the vocals. But they’re not so much accented as affected. But it doesn’t bother me because the song is really good. I wish there was a bridge, though.

Jon’s point about the slow build is spot-on. You know it’s coming, and you expect it after the second verse at the latest, so hearing it when it makes the most sense in the lyric makes it that much more effective. One of the reasons “With or Without You” is such a classic single is because U2 keeps the tension bubbling throughout and it never resolves. These guys have obviously learned from them, right down to the delayed guitar lines.

Ken Shane: This band has everything going for it. There’s the very mainstream sound, sort of U2 meets Coldplay, and a good look to go with it. This is the kind of song that should have no trouble finding a place in tv or movies. There’s nothing cutting edge about it. It’s pure mainstream pop, and I kind of like it, even though it is kind of repetitious musically. I could do without the fake English accent, but it’s not as if it’s as obvious as Billie Joe’s.

Zack: I agree with Ken’s U2 + Coldplay assessment far more than all this Explosions in the Sky nonsense.

Beau: For the record — I thought it was just a vague Explosions in the Sky resemblance, particularly at the beginning.

This is a good pop/rock song. It’s not a brilliant, moving work of art like “Your Hand in Mine.”

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Rock: Jet Black Stare, “In This Life”

Jon: This sounds like the finale song for an “American Idol” knockoff showcasing has-been rockers desperate for a comeback.

Medsker: So wait, they’re sending this to rock radio and “Sometime Around Midnight” to Adult Contemporary? Should be the other way around. This is wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.

Beau: More cliches than early Bon Jovi. Typical cottonmouth vocals.

Dunphy: Damn, I thought Chris Daughtry was doing all right on his own. When did he have to go be a part of somebody else’s band? This ain’t Daughtry? Are you sure? I don’t know who to feel sorrier for, then.

Jeff: There’s a difference between majesty and cheap melodrama, and Jet Black Stare are solidly on the wrong side of the line. On the other hand, the singer apparently OD’d and briefly died, which gives him sufficient angst, I suppose, to scream generic crap like “You could give me the strength to carry on.” (Fun fact: You can catch Jet Black Stare on tour this spring, opening for Candlebox. Ha, ha, ha!)

Scott: Christ, I thought this was the “rock” category. The previous song is a better rock song than this mopey Nickelback wannabe shit. Seriously, I’ve heard better songs from American Idol rejects. If this is the state of rock music these days, I’m a very, very sad man.

Ken: Another stab at mainstream success. This band seems to be aping megastars Nickelback. It’s the kind of song you can hear being played by cover bands in clubs throughout NJ tonight. There’s nothing really interesting about it for me. Too slick by half. It’ll probably be huge.

Zack: Woo hoo! Disciple rules! Wait, I mean Advent rules! Having a quick look at this band’s bio and touring partners (Puddle of Mudd, Staind, 3 Doors Down) confirms what their music already suggested to me: I hate them.

Lifton: Any time I hear a song this literal in its narrative, it reminds me way too much of “The Search Is Over” by Survivor. Is that what we’ve come to, rewrites of fucking Survivor power ballads? The way he emphasizes “sacrifice” in the chorus is also way too reminiscent of Creed, another nail in its coffin.

There’s a great line from a great episode of The Office where Michael is accused of making homophobic statements to a gay employee. In a talking head segment, he defends himself by saying that he wouldn’t have said that if he had known he was gay, and that, “You don’t call retarded people ‘retards.’ It’s bad taste. You call your friends ‘retards’ when they are acting retarded.”

This song is both gay and retarded.

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Country: Dierks Bentley, “Sideways”

Mike Heyliger: Lyrics and vocalist are generic as all hell, but I can’t be mad at a song this fun. I just wish it had a little bit more originality.

Beau: Strange logic here:

1. I’ve never been drunk, and I’ve never hit on anyone in a bar.
2. I don’t like country music.
3. But I generally like country songs about being drunk and hitting on people in bars, as long as they have some searing guitar and perhaps some good banjo. And as long as they’re clever.

So yeah, I can deal with this.

Medsker: It’s as empty a song as I’ve heard in a while, but I have to admit, it’s got a hook.

Ken: I’m not a good judge of this stuff. I hate what’s passing for country music these days.

Jon: How many times can Nashville rewrite the same song? I gave up when this was called “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” Actually, before that — when it was called “Chattahoochie.” Do they actually give IQ tests to male singers when they hit the city limits, and reject everyone who scores above 105?

Scott: Well, you know it has to be a country song because, you know, there’s a banjo in it! Sounds like a Big & Rich production to me. If I heard this on the radio I wouldn’t turn it off; of course, I would wonder why I was listening to a country station in the first place. Furthermore, if “Sideways” came on in a bar, I’d probably enjoy hearing it.

Dunphy: I’d like this better if Dierks Bentley sung with a thick “Churman” accent, and if it wasn’t yet another ‘Friday night I’m getting drunk to forget my week’ type of song, I could give it a little credit. Instead, it’s just standard operating procedure for a country party anthem.

Zack: While I applaud country music’s tradition of generally keeping songwriting and performance separate from one another, there are very few country songs that I find tolerable. This isn’t one of them. Is it good music to drink to? Nope. Is it good music to hunt to? Certainly not. Is it good music to dance to? Maybe. I guess.

Jeff: Not bad. Better than fake blue-collar BS from guys like Kenny Chesney, anyway. Plus, anyone who doesn’t change his name after being born with a lifetime disadvantage like “Dierks Bentley” either has an excellent sense of humor or an elephant-sized pair of balls. Maybe both. This guy’s all right in my book.

Lifton: This has everything that keeps country popular: likable singer, simple hooks, solid musicianship, quality production. My only objection is that, like the Airborne Toxic Event song, there’s no bridge. The breakdown is right after the solo and then the chorus continues for another minute until the fade. How hard can it be to add another section in a country song that takes place in a bar? Lazy songwriting, and there should be no excuse for that in Nashville.

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Urban: Birdman feat. Lil Wayne, “Always Strapped”

Lifton: Was this written by a rap-lyric-generator site?

Jon: I’m going to have to recuse myself from commenting on this song. I have nothing intelligent to say about it. Is there anything intelligent to say about it, shawty?

Medsker: It’s funny how R&B stations wouldn’t play Public Enemy back in the day, but they’ll play any old piece of shit non-song now. This is like listening to someone talking in their sleep. Awful, just awful.

Jeff: This song is boring as hell — where’s the hook? — but I can’t turn away from that picture of Lil Wayne. Not…an…attractive…man.

Zack: A soft pillow, a warm mug of hot chocolate, and this song would be pretty much the perfect bedtime companions if I were looking to get a good night’s sleep. Seriously, how can something so profane turn out to be so damned boring?

Beau: This is a parody, right? No rapper today still does this sexist horseshit, right?

All I can say is I hope some “bitch” knees him in the balls every time he tries to perform this crap.

Dunphy: Oh, and what was I just saying about lazy? Same old crap about bitches, hanging in Da Cloob, niggaz be muggin’ me… Wasn’t Lil Wayne supposed to be some new paradigm in the hip-hop scene, because something like this comes out of urban radio every fifteen minutes. I hear nothing new here. It’s lame for rap, and if that grinding guitar sample is supposed to make this one of Lil Wayne’s supposed “rock songs,” then it’s lame for rock too.

But what do I know? The song’s all about getting rich and getting laid because all women care about is the green, so the dumb kids who don’t realize how insulting it all is will just drive the track to number one regardless.

Hi, I’m old AND white. Pleased to meet ya.

Mike: After almost a year, I finally decided to give Lil’ Wayne a pass and bought Tha Carter III used for eight bucks. To my surprise, it wasn’t awful. Then I hear crap like this and I have to figure that the halfway-decentness of Wayne’s last album was an anomaly. Songs like this make me embarrassed to be a hip-hop fan.

Scott: Man, I hear nothing original in this song, if that’s what you call it. I recall a time when rap was interesting and it felt like the artists were saying something. This…this is just…

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Smooth Jazz: Julia Fordham feat. Michael McDonald, “I Keep Forgettin'”

Jeff: I fucking dare Warren G to sample this.

Medsker: Ahhhhhh hahahahahahahahahahaha! Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it, McD?

Beau: So smooth it fell right out of my head. Big Mike even sanded down the edges on the main hook of the song, taking out the urgency and frustration until it sounds more like Gregorian chant than soul.

Mike: I’ve never heard (or at least paid attention to) Julia Fordham before, and the one thing that strikes me right off the bat is that her vocal style is way too mannered for this song. She sucks the soul out of what was once a great song. Even McD’s presence can’t redeem this one.

Zack: I figured that the bar was set low enough that for the first week ever I might be able to declare a smooth jazz track as my favorite new song, but alas, it was not to be. Everything in this song is just too high-pitched.

Jason Hare: What the fuck, Jeff? Why would you do this to us? Why would you call our attention to the apparent merge of the best and worst things in music history? This is just terrible. It’s just a mush of music, and as Beau said, the edges are just…gone. I have to believe that she’s sleeping with McD or something. I just…I don’t know what to think.

And on another note, Julia Fordham totally does not sound like she looks.

Jeff: I did it because I knew it would guarantee at least one comment out of you, you lazy sack!

Dunphy: It must be hell to have Rick Astley Disease, and Julia Fordham certainly does. But she doesn’t have to take her revenge against life out on poor McD as hears his big hit constantly kicked in the balls. Passion — kick in the balls! A pulse — kick in the balls! He must have done something horrible to have to actually be a part of this…or he lost a buttload of cash to Bernie Madoff.

Jon: Julia’s really sweet — I had a drink with her once after a gig at Fez in NYC. My wife’s a huge fan of her old stuff. That said, this is shite. The translation of a pop song into smooth jazz is almost as incomprehensible to me as that Birdman track. It gives clarinets and alto saxophones a bad name.

Ken: I’m a big fan of Michael McDonald, and I’ll listen to anything he’s involved in vocally. This of course is a remake of Michael’s hit from his first solo album. It’s pretty interesting. I’ve never heard Julia Fordham before, but I like her voice. She often sounds like a female Michael McDonald, so they’re well matched her. Yeah, I like this.

Dunphy: Ken, you’ve clearly never worked in a department store with Muzak if you’ve never heard Julia Fordham. Is it just me, or does she kinda sound like Tracy Thorn with a head cold?

Scott: Whoa, I didn’t expect this voice. I actually dig this one a lot. Fordham has taken a rather bland McDonald song and turned it into something much more interesting. I’m no expert in jazz, but this is way more enjoyable than what I would ever call smooth jazz.

Jason: You…dig this?

The original is…bland?


Scott: Easy, Cheetah. I have a pitcher of pina coladas with your name on it. Put the knife down. PUT THE KNIFE DOWN!

Lifton: Fordham has such an amazing voice, but this is lousy, even by the standards of smooth jazz covers of songs that were already smooth jazz. McD has apparently run out of great Motown classics so he now has to cover his own song? If he was once managed by Saul Zaentz, he’d be sued for plagiarizing himself.

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