It’s a yearly tradition as esteemed in the pop world as Justin Bieber getting snubbed at some award show or Adam Levine complaining about the crowds at Coachella: DJ Earworm’s year-in-pop retrospective mashup, part of the “United State of Pop” series that goes back to 2007. His productions are always excellent 25-songs-in-1 encapsulations of the year that was in Top 40 hitmaking, and they’re put together with a passion and creativity that makes the final product just as fun to listen to as many of the songs contained therein, and replayable far beyond the lifespan of an average mashup.
Earworm’s recently released 2012-summarizing mash “Shine Brighter” is certainly no exception to this, a breezy run through the year in pop music focusing on a couple recurring themes—the phrases “Tonight!” and “C’mon!” the number of songs concerned with stars and shining—and using that as a launching-off point for a journey that touches on the disparate likes of Ellie Goulding, Psy and the Lumineers. It’s a blast, both as a Top 40 IQ-testing review of the year that was, and as just a joyous celebration of all things pop.
There’s one glaring issue with it, though: A critical under-representation of Our Girl Carly Rae Jepsen. Now, we’re a little prejudiced, “Call Me Maybe” being our favorite song of the year and all, but even non-fans people would probably agree that the song played an absolutely critical role in pop music this year, and that only appearing in a tossed-off “And you should know that” lyric fragment is a disservice to one of the year’s biggest hits. (Even Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” is more prominently featured, and that song was a much lesser hit that peaked on the charts in December of 2011.) Meanwhile, “Good Time,” another top ten hit of Carly Rae’s that would have fit seamlessly into the song’s hi-NRG thump, is completely absent.
In its place, we get a whole lot of Ke$ha’s “Die Young.” With each of DJ Earowm’s “United State” mashups, there’s usually one song that provides the backbone of the production, and it’s usually one of the year’s biggest hits—Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in ’07, Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” in ’09, Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” in ’10. You’d think “Call Me Maybe” would be the obvious choice for the core track of this year’s, but Earworm goes with K-Money’s hit instead—a fine song, no doubt, but not the kind of super-obvious, world-dominating smash his productions usually lean on. (Tellingly, “Die Young” is the first “United State of Pop” backbone track to not have topped the Hot 100.)
So why no Carly Rae? Well, in an interview with Chicago Magazine earlier this month, Earworm answered the interviewer’s specific, unprompted question about how much “Call Me Maybe” would appear in his mashup (SEE OTHER PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THIS TOO) with a dismissive “Very little!,” further explaining “I feel like other songs are more expressive of what I’m feeling.” Fair, but not satisfying—even if “Maybe” doesn’t have some of the recurring lyrical themes of the other songs, it’s just not acceptable for a producer as clever and creative as DJ Earworm to not find a way to shoehorn more of it in then a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lyric snippet.
Also, there’s an absolute dearth of hip-hop in the mashup this year—there’s only four songs classifiable as “rap” included, and three of them are by Flo Rida. Unlike the Carly Rae snub, this isn’t something Earworm can really be faulted for—he goes where the hits are, and there just weren’t that many hip-hop mega-hits this year. Still, a disturbing trend, especially considering that back in ’07, these mixes were littered with time-forgotten hits by the likes of Mims and Shop Boyz. Where you at, hip-hop one-hit wonders?