Genres must be judged on their terms. Just as we have with recent country and latin-pop charts, this week we grade Billboard's top 10 rock songs. The '90s are owning! The top three songs are the Last Man Standing of rock: nostalgic, familiar, and unsurprisingly resilient.
1. Foo Fighters, "Walk"
This is a VERY generic Foo Fighters song. Those are Foo Fighting words but I can't get too excited about the ultra-compressed go-get-'em alt-rock crunch of this song because I've heard it so many times already before. It gets a lot better toward the end when Grohl starts screaming about how he never wants to die. Grade: B
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie"
This nice tanned gentleman with the Hitler haircut, chevron mustache, and touched-up tribals wants to party on your pussy. Good to know that the RHCP have not changed an iota. This would be better without the perfunctory chorus. Grade: B-
3. Bush, "The Sound of Winter"
Hearing these '90s alt-rock vocalists with pitch correction really sends me to Uncanny Valley. Comfortably average voices from the past contorted into perfect ones, losing most of their character in the process and thus sounding profoundly unnaturally weird, but not in a cool trying-on-purpose way. I see a lot of fan videos for True Blood, Twilight, and The Vampire Diaries being made to this. Bush were always called post-grunge, as though "post" meant "corporate." I remember how corporate rock and independent rock and "selling out" were still these big important concepts in the '90s and then I think about Thurston and Kim breaking up and it gets kind of fuzzy like pink mohair after that. Grade: C-
4. Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kicks"
I guess summer isn't over yet. Grade: B+
5. Staind, "Not Again"
Again, it's not fair of me to compare a band to its earlier hits. But "It's Been Awhile" is a great classic rock power ballad in the pantheon with "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Dream On," and this is just a regular barn burner. Grade: B-
6. Seether, "Tonight"
Seether are from South Africa. How did I not (why would I) know this? "Tonight" is chock full of power chords and fighting-against-all-odds inspirational lyrics. I enjoyed Seether's hit "Remedy" because I like a good post-grunge song as much as the next bro, but this song is not as good as that song. The lead singer's Kurt Cobain affectations have been toned down significantly since then and he now sounds like any other alt-MOR vocalist. This song was used in a video retrospective commemorating former WWE superstar Edge in his hometown of Toronto. Goodnight, sweet Mr. Money In The Bank. Grade: C+
7. Blink-182, "Up All Night"
All house-party videos that are not "1979" invoke its ghost like teens with a Ouija board. Blink-182 have always crafted power pop anthems for prom night, and they're back to it. The lyrics of "Up All Night" are really depressing and troubling, but the music sounds like an earlier, more innocent Blink-182 song about going to the movies with your girlfriend (albeit with a a power-metalish breakdown that signals darker adult realist themes). Grade: B+
8. Coldplay, "Paradise"
Chris Martin and Kanye must sit around eating tea sandwiches on satin pillows and discussing string sections and samplers. More of the shimmering British colonial exoticism of "Princess Of China," but this time sounding more like South Pacific's "Bali Hai" and talking about a paradise of the mind. I predict Chris Martin writes a musical soon. Grade: A-
9. Rise Against, "Make It Stop (September's Children)"
A rock entry into the "It Gets Better" anti-bullying category. Is Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" the original anti-bullying anthem? Or was he a school shooter? What is that video about? I never figured it out. No wait, don't tell me. I prefer to leave it ambiguous. It's more satisfying that way. Oh, this song, it's okay. I liked the PSA inserted in the video. Grade: B
10. Nickelback, "Bottoms Up"
Nickelback are the schoolyard terror you can't help but feel sorry for because his home life is obviously so shitty and sad. I thought this song was going to be about strippers, but it is about hard drinking. Not that it won't be stripped to. Oh, it'll be stripped to. Perfect for picnics, air shows, horror mazes, and all kinds of hazings. Grade: C
Rock Songs [Billboard]