Every inspirational rap-rock cliche in one handy package | Bleader

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Every inspirational rap-rock cliche in one handy package

Posted By on 01.15.13 at 02:00 PM

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The Wikipedia page for "Hall of Fame" by Irish pop-rockers the Script calls it the group's "first cumbia song," which is hilarious considering that cumbia is a type of traditional Colombian folk music whose modern electronic incarnation contains some of the most daringly innovative sounds being made in the world right now, while "Hall of Fame" is almost fascinating for its total absence of anything even approaching ambition. At one point there could have been something mildly adventurous about combining the broad sweep of a vaguely U2-ish rock anthem with the vocal cadences and aspirational narrative of a rap song, but that was well before a vast number of "Lose Yourself" knockoffs drained every last bit of the small amount of excitement that concept ever had.

"Inspirational rap-rock" is practically its own subgenre now, riddled with cliches, and "Hall of Fame" is dead serious about fitting all of them into one song. There are the vague promises to the listener that they can be not only "the greatest" but also "the best." There are the weirdly specific promises, like how we can possibly become astronauts. There is the Coldplay-esque chorus engineered for maximum sweep. There is the rolling approximation of a rap drumbeat by someone you suspect doesn't listen to much actual rap music. There is a featured appearance by Will.i.am.

If the song itself is milquetoast and pandering it's nothing compared to the video, which stars an aspiring boxer and an aspiring ballet dancer who are both struggling against oppressive odds—she's deaf and of indeterminate non-Caucasian ethnicity, while he's poor and Irish. Like the song, the video leaves nothing up to chance when it comes to an audience interpreting it, and it's eager to explain exactly what's going on. The other girls hate her because she's deaf. He has a bad life situation and his mom smokes. Even if it has no other value its sappy kitsch quality is through the roof.

Sometimes when I tell serious music fans that I listen to pop radio I can sense that they imagine it as a never-ending loop of Taylor Swift, Kanye, and songs like this. In fact one of the most consistent qualities of the pop charts in recent years is the amount of experimentation happening on them as weirdo superstars like Kanye and Nicki Minaj inspire their contemporaries towards edginess. But it's almost comforting in a way that there's still room for something like "Hall of Fame" that dispenses with any and all pretense that it's anything like art, and just tells you what it has to say in no uncertain terms: You are the greatest. You are the best. Will.i.am and I think you can be an astronaut.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.

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