Grading the Top 10 Songs in … ADULT ROCK!

1. Dave Matthews Band, “Mercy”


Bummed that this is not a cover of the Kanye song. I saw Dave Matthews Band play live when I was in junior high. I think everyone did? They were the Journey of the mid-’90s. It was the first arena rock show I went to without adult chaperones. It smelled like Tommy Girl, weed, and dudes wearing white baseball caps. In an update of the “Disco Sucks” movement, a lot of the YouTube commenters bring up the relative authenticity of DMB in comparison to the pop-house that dominates top 40 nowadays. I guess it makes sense that the recent boom in the U.S. popularity of electronic music would set off a rockist backlash. I’m not too cool for adult rock, but this song is some corny neo-hippie bullshit. Ever since someone described Dave Matthews’s voice as “a saxophone full of mayonnaise,” it’s all I can hear.

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “DMB sucks? I wish I could suck at something that sells millions of tickets, records, and has lasted for over 20 yrs. Be positive.” — mattchu8

2. Lumineers, “Ho Hey”


The only thing worse than a guy wearing suspenders or a jaunty little hat is a group of guys wearing both of those things at the same damn time. The Lumineers are some sort of fedora-sporting Bonnaroo boy band from Denver, Colorado. The song itself is fine — a little twee, but not offensively awful. But ugh, those suspenders and hats.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “One fedora per group, guys” — Weener92

3. Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”


What hath Fleet Foxes wrought? Imagine Dragons make MOR rock that sounds like The Killers. Just like The Killers, they are from Las Vegas and their anthemic rock comes laden with possible Mormon undertones. Several members of the band are LDS, and the band’s name is an anagram of “I am in God’s range.”

Grade: D

Best YouTube Comment: “THESE GUYS……know how to make sick music!!!!!!” — 4everEra

4. John Mayer, “Queen of California”


As much as I hate John Mayer’s recent Johnny Depp makeover and his past bigmouthed media antics, after the first three songs on the chart this faux-classic tonic (equal parts Allman Brothers and Cat Stevens) is like a warm slide guitar bubble bath.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “My friend said Skrillex was better than this and Johnny Cash. I almost ripped off his scrotum and strangled him with it.” — PlatyChavez

5. Brandi Carlile, “That Wasn’t Me”


Folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile enlists Kris Kristofferson to play the role of a released convict in this soulful ballad with gospel accents. Carlile met Kristofferson at an Austin concert for Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday and talked him into doing the video. She has also opened for Dave Matthews, with whom she sang a duet of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” She came out as a lesbian 10 years ago and got engaged to her partner earlier this year. She sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt, who also famously covered “Angel From Montgomery.”

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “oh! it’s mr Kristofferson! he’s one of the greatest actor alive…and I don’t even talk of his recording career…this is a Man…” — BohemianConspiracy

6. Green Day, “Oh Love”


What’s with all the kohl-lined Suicide Girl–type models sitting around bored and topless like it’s a Duran Duran video? Who knew Green Day would turn into U2? How could the director of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Doll Parts” make something as dull as this? When did I get so old? Am I just paranoid?

Grade: C-

Best YouTube Comment: “They are where all punk want to be … Famous, Lots Lots Lots Lots of girl and what any punk would start a band Money!” — Horafidaputa

7. FUN, “Some Nights”


Newsies? Is that you? This makes me feel the same way I feel when I hear a cappella (embarrassed). Everything is so bizarrely retro/Civil War–themed on this chart. None of you are The Band. Oh god, the Autotune falsetto improvising. Make it stop. I bless the rains down in Africa.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “It can’t be auto-tuned they didn’t have that in the 1860s DUUUUHHHH!!!!” — Confederatepictures

8. Matt Nathanson, “Modern Love”


Man, I am getting schooled in modern college folk-rock today. Matt Nathanson is someone who came up through having his songs placed on a billion TV shows. He is currently opening for Kelly Clarkson on tour. This reminds me of Train, for whom he has opened. Can you die of sustained folk-rock?

Grade: F

Best YouTube Comment: “This song is SOOOO SAN FRANCISCOOOOOO!!!!!!!” — TheJJVideos

9. Grouplove, “Tongue Tied”


I wondered where this suddenly inescapable song came from. I appreciate the dry delivery of relentlessly upbeat lyrics and the unusual song structure. At its best it sounds like Todd Rundgren. The drummer is the son of Trevor Rabin, who wrote YES’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” This song is similarly catchy and impossible to scrape from your brain, which is why it was featured in an iPod commercial.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Oh No! this song is popular now! All you hipsters are gonna get mad at success now” — Jreezy19

10. The Killers, “Runaways”


More clumsy fake Springsteenisms from The Killers. Brandon Flowers is the male Lana Del Rey. It seems like he’s really going for Ric Ocasek here, but the singer he most resembles vocally is Kim Carnes (whose “Bette Davis Eyes” he’s been known to cover live). This is honestly much better than I expected, but I also expected nothing.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “They’re officially back! This is the Real MUSIC Justin Bieber! BEST BAND EVER!” — ayumocruz

Filed Under: Grading the Charts, John Mayer, Top Ten

Photo on 2014-01-10 at 12.58 #3

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert