Grading the Top 10 in … THE U.K.!

1. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”


I bet all you Timberhaters who predicted Justin would flop after “Suit & Tie” feel dumb now that you heard the album! Unless you don’t like grown and sexy music to make babies to, in which case I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. There was a worldwide collective sigh of relief after Justin dropped his second single from The 20/20 Experience. “Mirrors” is considered a safer bet than “Suit & Tie” even though it’s more than eight minutes long. Maybe it’s telling that Justin’s big love song about his ideal partner compares her to a mirror by which he may better look at himself, but look, I choose to interpret it as a sweet “I’ll Be Your Mirror”–type thing. As for all the people who thought Justin should bench Timbaland because his beats are tired, do you still like those Aaliyah songs? Because Timbaland is still the guy who made them, so sit down. Sure, it’s a little embarrassing to hear Justin sing so earnestly about love and know it’s about Jessica Biel, but it’s exactly what we all love about Justin: He commits! And then he gives 100 percent. If your heart doesn’t crack when Timberlake’s voice does at 4:35, I can’t help you. No one can.
Grade: A
Best YouTube Comment: “Move over Bieber, Daddys Home.” —Drew Carrey

2. One Direction, “One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)”


By far the best One Direction single so far, because it’s a cover of a song that’s actually great. Actually, it’s a mash-up of two covers: Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and the more obscure “Teenage Kicks” by Irish punk band the Undertones, known for being John Peel’s favorite song. This video is weird because it intersperses shots of the One Direction boys visiting African children with malaria with their otherwise lighthearted gallivanting around the world. One Direction can’t dance, but they make up for it with Beatles-movie Running Jumping & Standing Still–style antics and a lot of intraband flirting. I wish they would do more light punk and New Wave like this than the dreck they put out now, which is more like bubblegum glam pop. This video was made for the British Comic Relief fund-raiser, hence the terrifying Killer Tomato–type noses.

One Direction power rankings are: (1) Harry, (2) Zayn, (3) Liam, (4) Louis, (5) Niall. Zayn is the cutest one (OBVIOUSLY), but Harry is the shrewdest and the only one with a decent chance at a solo career. He might be the next Robbie Williams, but he’ll never break America. Taylor Swift will see to that.
Grade: B+
Best YouTube Comment: “harry marry me!!!! mi amor” —cristinahuerta

3. P!nk ft. Nate Ruess, “Just Give Me a Reason”


Do you wish modern pop music sounded more like blockbuster musical theater? You better hope the answer is yes, because that’s all you’ll get from Nate Ruess and P!nk. This song has a corny ethereal “Lady in Red” vibe that almost works until Nate Ruess’s shrill Auto-Tuned tenor tips over the whole canoe. Sounds like: “Written in the Stars,” the Elton John and LeAnn Rimes duet from Elton’s Broadway musical, Aida.
Grade: C
Best YouTube Comment: “this song shows a softer side of pink … and I really like it when rock singers show some vulnerability in their piece … makes them a lot cooler” —crimsonchick12

4. Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”


“When I Was Your Man” isn’t a Prince title, but it is a lyric from the artist’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” All I’m saying is that if you’re going to invoke his purpleness, you have to bring it so heavy. Miguel has the babymaking jams covered and Justin Timberlake makes the futuristic prog R&B, so it’s only natural that Bruno Mars would go for the piano rock crossover ballads. The main problem with this song is that it isn’t “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” which to be fair is the problem with most songs. Bruno might not evoke Prince, but he evokes the Prince of Cold Spring Harbor: Billy Joel.
Grade: B-
Best YouTube Comment: “reminds me of billy joel … for some reason” —PedroCenteno

5. Bastille, “Pompeii”


Like Coldplay made a child with Toto. Bastille’s first album is called Laura Palmer. This is the world we’ve made!
Grade: C+
Best YouTube Comment: “I listen to metalcore but I like this song nice contrast” —benjones

6. Nicole Scherzinger, “Boomerang”


“To be honest with you, I sometimes wish I were more slutty. I’d probably be a lot more successful if I were. This is such a tough industry, you know. To make it, you really have to sell your soul to the devil.” —Nicole Scherzinger.

No, Nicole: You’re just never going to be a one-name pop star, no matter how much you want or deserve it. You will always be Nicole Scherzinger, the chick from the Pussycat Dolls and Eden’s Crush. Jai Ho.
Grade: F
Best YouTube Comment: “nicole need to stop this good girl music and go back to her old bitchy, vain sexpot pussycat dolls days” —azrulaznizan

7. Macklemore ft. Ryan Lewis & Wanz, “Thrift Shop”


I already got into this hit more deeply when it was the Overplayed Song of the Week, but I still have nothing but love for “Thrift Shop.” Even on the billionth listen, it’s still infinitely less annoying than most of the top 40 that you’re forced to hear ambiently, for example any Flo Rida song not involving “boots with the fur.”
Grade: B+
Best YouTube Comment: “Thrifting Forever!!” —AnnaChambers

8. Bridgit Mendler, “Ready or Not”


Bridgit Mendler is a Disney Channel star, from the show Good Luck Charlie and the movie Lemonade Mouth. Her agent is probably trying to get through to Harmony Korine as we speak. This song is much better than I expected, even though the video involves a bunch of fake hipsters doing a Polaroid scavenger hunt all around Los Angeles. If you’re down with Carly Rae Jepsen, you’ll be just fine with this frothy summer pop song that interpolates the Delfonics’ “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)” by way of the Fugees via Gwen Stefani’s solo career.
Grade: B
Best YouTube Comment: “Waka Flocka Flame is boning Selena Gomez, check his twitter” —xXxTheLeGaCxXx

9. AVICII vs. Nicky Romero, “I Could Be the One”


I love when electronic music videos totally ignore performance footage in favor of an unrelated narrative. I especially like it when they’re funny. For this Avicii & Nicky Romero song with vocals by Noonie Bao, we get the story of an average woman trapped in a shitty job with annoying coworkers whose boring life turns awesome overnight in her dreams as she tears up Barbados’s hot men, spicy food, and weed stash. It’s part Office Space and part Inception. I wish this were an actual movie, because I would watch the hell out of it. This reminded me of the old days when you’d see a video like this on the Box or MTV’s Amp and it would haunt you forever. I liked this video so much it made me like the song!
Grade: B+
Best YouTube Comment: “This video helped me quit my job where I was being taken advantage of and treated unfairly” —CarlyEden

10. Disclosure ft. AlunaGeorge, “White Noise”


Disclosure are an electronic duo that Wikipedia labels as “post-dubstep.” They remixed Jessie Ware’s flagship hit “Running” for BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac’s compilation Annie Mac Presents. AlunaGeorge are another electronic duo. They favor minimalist production inspired by ’90s R&B. Post-dubstep means you wait for the dubstep drop and nothing happens, but it’s OK. The absence of a drop becomes the new drop, as Aluna Francis’s baby voice echoes. The beat kind of sneaks back in instead, and you anticipate it just as much. The video was filmed in Detroit, a very exotic destination for techno history -bsessed Brits.
Grade: A-
Best YouTube Comment: “this song is nearly sex its so good” —PatrickBrazil

Filed Under: Billboard, Bruno Mars, Grading the Charts, Justin Timberlake, Nicole Scherzinger, One Direction, Pink, Top Ten

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

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