Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Hits of Today…Aug. 24, 2022.

As usual, I have consulted the following music charts to help me compile the songs in today’s post: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (from Toronto), Spotify, Billboard Magazine and radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle, Washington. In this week’s post, I looked at songs found in the #1 position on each chart. So, let’s stop with the prelims and get to the main event! Here are the songs in Today’s Top 40.

Super Freaky Girl by Nicki Minaj (Billboard Magazine).

The Queen of Hip Hop…Nicki Minaj.

This song is debuting on the charts at #1! It is not very often that a song does this. In doing so, Nicki Minaj has knocked Harry Styles, Lizzo and Beyonce all down a notch or two on the charts. Needless to say, there is a lot of buzz about Minaj and her return to the world of music. She had taken some time off because she became a mother just as the pandemic was starting. But she is back in a big way with “Super Freaky Girl”. For those who may not know, Nicki Minaj is highly regarded in the world of Hip Hop music. There are many who call her the “Queen of Hip Hop”. It is a title that is well-earned. Minaj has made quite the career for herself, with hit after hit, selling over 100 million albums in a genre of music that is typically known for male performers. One of the ways she has managed to make herself heard above the masculine din is because of the utter and unwavering sense of self-confidence she projects. Whenever she performs, she exudes power and strength. Thus, it is no surprise that she would mark her return to the music world with a song like “Super Freaky Girl”.

In order to set the musical tone for “Super Freaky Girl”, Minaj freely samples from the classic Rick James funk song, “Super Freak”. In addition to using a throbbing baseline, “Super Freaky Girl” hangs its musical hat upon the GOAT-mentality that shines throughout the lyrics. Let me be clear about the lyrics, they are extremely profane and sexually explicit. My age must be showing because, for the life of me, I cannot imagine this song being played during the morning drive time on any radio station. It is a filthy song…which, in turn, is used as a badge of honour. I won’t repeat the lyrical content in this post but, rest assured, if I sat down next to someone in a restaurant or other public venue who was talking aloud like Minaj sings in this song, I would move away. For me, I have no sexual interest in any woman beyond my wife so, when it comes to someone like Nicki Minaj, her sexual forwardness has no impact on me. In the end, all that is left for me is her music. To my mind, I don’t care for it. This is in addition to criticisms that she is using her position of influence to breathe new life into the career of a convicted sexual predator like Rick James.

However, there is no denying that she is a powerful female presence in a genre where strong women are not that easy to find. I wish her luck and am curious to see how “Super Freaky Girl” gets played on public radio. I know that there are “explicit” and “clean” versions of some songs but, in the case of “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj, if you take away the explicitness of the lyrics, I am not sure there would actually be anything left except a constant series of bleeps. Maybe this is just me talking. What do you think of “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj?

It is the #1 listed song in the US as you read these words.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Big Energy by Latto (CHUM-FM).

Latto.

Sigh! I feel old as I listen to yet, another new song by a female Hip Hop singer that is cloaked in profane expletives and sexual explicit lyrics. “Big Energy” is the sanitized-for-public-consumption title of this song. The real title is “Big D*ck Energy”. Latto is the former winner of a reality show in the US for aspiring Hip Hop artists. At the time of the competition, she went by Miss Mulatto. Then, she shortened her name to simply, Mulatto. Now she goes by Latto. The “Big D*ck Energy” she sings about is meant to refer to self-confidence and swagger. Latto states that many men exude this privileged air on a daily basis but that it is more difficult for women to do the same and not be labeled in some negative manner. So, she sings about sexual confidence and the fact that the men surrounding her need to up their game in order to earn her attention and affection. The lyrics to this song are very explicit, almost as if Latto is daring the music industry to censor her words and prove her point. Again, whether the singer is male or female, I am not generally a fan of songs built on a foundation of locker room talk. That may just be me. To some, having a woman speak boldly about her prowess in the bedroom is the height of feminism because she is claiming ownership of her body and how she uses it. Admittedly, there is power in that. As with Nicki Minaj and “Super Freaky Girl”, I will enjoy seeing how ”Big Energy”, in all of its frank sexual talk, appears on the public airwaves.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Mistakes by Sharon Van Etten. (KEXP-FM).

Sharon Van Etten.

Like too many young women, Sharon Van Etten found herself in an abusive relationship. She entered that relationship as someone with aspirations of becoming a singer/songwriter. However, as part of the abuse she endured, she was not allowed to sing, write nor to attend public music concerts by her partner. Eventually, Van Etten summoned the courage to leave and strike out on her own. She is now five albums into a journey that began with her simple desire to have her voice heard. I first became aware of Sharon Van Etten because of a standout performance she gave at the Glastonbury Music Festival in 2019. The performance was of a song of hers called, “Seventeen” which is basically a song written in the form of a letter to her younger self. *(You can watch that performance here). Like many performers, the pandemic sidelined her career for a while but now she is back with a brand new album called We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong. The first single from this album is a song called “Mistakes”. The performance you will see in the video is from a recent appearance on the Late Night With Stephen Colbert Show. Van Etten recently performed at Massey Hall in Toronto. From all reports, she was excellent.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Afraid To Feel by LF System (BBC Radio 1).

LF System: Larkman and Finnigan.

LF System is the name of a DJ duo from Scotland composed of Connor Larkman and Sean Finnigan. They are known for producing House music, which is a style of electronic dance music in which song lyrics are sampled and used in rhythmic, pulsating ways that drive an emotional response in those who are listening. In the specific case of the song, “Afraid To Feel”, Larkman and Finnigan sampled liberally from a 1979 song by Silk that was called “I Can’t Stop (Turning You On)”. *(You can listen to Silk here). In this sample, Deborah Harry from Blondie lends vocal assistance during the chorus. What Larkman and Finnigan did was to play around with the samples in ways that caused them to sound soulful, at times and, at other times more like a Disco vibe. All in all, “Afraid To Feel” has a good beat and is easy to dance to as they used to say on American Bandstand. It is definitely a song that will get your toes a-tapping. Enjoy.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

I Ain’t Worried by One Republic (Spotify).

One Republic on the beach as part of their video shoot for “I Ain’t Worried”.

“I Ain’t Worried” is the second single to be released from the soundtrack of the Top Gun movie sequel. *(The first song was “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga. It was reviewed in a previous post that you can read here). The story behind “I Ain’t Worried” is that Top Gun star Tom Cruise was heavily involved in compiling the music that was to be used throughout the movie. For one particular scene that was being shot on a beach, Cruise went searching for music that would lighten the mood of the film and lessen the tension from all of the action and danger being portrayed on screen. The band, One Republic were made aware of his desire for a “fun, carefree song” and set about creating an original song for the film. Their record label submitted “I Ain’t Worried” to Cruise for his consideration. He loved it and thought it captured the essence of that particular scene perfectly. When you watch the official video for this song, you will see it used as Tom Cruise had envisioned it in the movie. For those interested, One Republic has been around for over a decade now. They had a huge hit a few years ago called “Counting Stars” which was a favourite of my own family for a while. You can listen to “Counting Stars” here).

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Scratch the Surface by Sloan (Indie88-FM).

Sloan: Murphy, Ferguson, Pentland and Scott.

Sloan have been one of Canada’s premier Alternative/Indie bands for over three decades now. They formed in Halifax in the early 1990s and quickly became one of the most loved bands in the country. They had a string of hits including “Underwhelmed”, “Coax Me”, “The Good in Everyone”, “Money City Maniacs” and many more. One of the funny things about Sloan is that, despite their success, they are still relatively unknown outside of Alternative music circles. For instance, in a household like mine that is filled with Pop music lovers, I am reasonably confident that I am the only one who has ever heard a Sloan song before. They are under-rated only in the sense that their songs are not written in a Pop formula and therefore don’t usually end up in the rotations of many Top 40 radio stations. But make no mistake, Sloan have been bringing it for many years now and are easily one of the most respected bands in all of Canada.

Which brings me to today’s song, “Scratch the Surface”. The term “to scratch the surface” usually refers to someone or something that has only just begun to realize their potential. The term indicates that only a small amount of what is possible has been shown and that there is much more waiting to be discovered. In a funny way, “Scratch the Surface” perfectly encapsulates Sloan’s career. After taking a brief hiatus for a few years, Sloan reformed, moved from Halifax to Toronto and released a new album. The video for “Scratch the Surface” shows Toronto at its glitziest, all the while the various members of Sloan (Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson and Andrew Scott) walk around the city unnoticed by the public. The band pokes fun at itself and at its position in the social media landscape all throughout this video. My favourite part of the video (among many parts that I liked) was Jay Ferguson riding a bicycle through a park and discovering a box of records that were being thrown away. Needless to say, as he flips through the stack, many of the records relate to Sloan and/or to bands and singers who influenced them). The video displays a sense of humour and intelligence that has always been a hallmark of the songs Sloan produces. Sloan definitely has a trademark “sound” and “Scratch the Surface” fits seamlessly into their musical catalogue. Enjoy.

***Unfortunately, the link to the lyrics video for this song cannot be found here. So, in its place, here is one of my favourite Sloan moments…”Coax Me” with the folks from Choir, Choir, Choir. Enjoy.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

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