CHART WATCH: Shoot Your Fireworks and Raise Your Glass: "It Gets Better" Pop Takes Over America

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

Katy Perry’s “Firework” rises 2-1 this week, becoming the singer’s third No. 1 from her Teenage Dream album, as well as the sixth No. 1 in six weeks. That kind of turnover rate has not been seen in over twenty years. “Firework” replaces Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” which replaced Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” which replaced “”Like A G6″ by Far East Movement which replaced Rihanna’s “What’s My Name?” featuring Drake which replaced “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha a whole month and a half ago. All six of those songs are still in the top ten.

This high turnover could be attributed to a lot of things, but the biggest factor seems to be that none of those songs are that big of hits. Not one of those songs has radio on lockdown, and none of them are selling that phenomenally. “Firework” is only the eighth most played song in the country and digital sales were down 9% from last week with 212,000 downloads. Although “Firework” might keep its spot next week, it’s likely one of the former No. 1s could retake the top slot at any time.

But I’m guessing Miss Perry doesn’t care how long “Firework” spends at No. 1 because all that matters is it got there. With “Firework’s” ascent to the penthouse, Perry becomes the second female in Hot 100 chart history to pull three No. 1s from one album in a calender year. (“California Gurls” [sic] feat. Snoop Dogg spent six weeks at No. 1 starting in June and “Teenage Dream” was No. 1 for two weeks in September.) The only other female to do that was Paula Abdul in 1989.

You can chalk Perry’s 3-for-3 to America’s poor taste in music, but the 3-for-3 that’s more interesting is for what is being referred to as “it-gets-better” pop.

Following a string of highly publicized suicides by gay youth, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage posted a video online where he told gay youth that despite the struggles and harassment they face, life gets better. Soon, everyone from Secretary of State Clinton to Ke$ha recorded their own “It Gets Better” videos. Ke$ha took the movement a step further when she finished her performance of “We R Who We R” at the American Music Awards by smashing a guitar that had the word “hate” written on it.

Although it seems like Ke$ha hitched her wagon to the rising anti-bullying movement, she insists that she wrote the song specifically as an anti-hate anthem. Regardless, “We R Who We R” debuted atop the Hot 100 a month and a half ago and it was only a matter of time before other artists followed K-Dolla’s lead. “Raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways,” Pink sings in “Raise Your Glass”. The video featured two guys kissing, officially aligning this new brand of celebrate yourself videos as pro-gay. By the time Katy Perry released the music video for “Firework”, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the “I Kissed A Girl” girl showed a guy kissing a guy and liking it as she sang, “Baby you’re a firework, so come on let your colors burst,” as fireworks awkwardly shoot from her bosom.

All three chart-toppers are but a precursor to what will likely be the mother of all “It Gets Better” pop, Lady Gaga’s forthcoming Born This Way. If we’re to believe what Gaga and friends are saying about her next album, it will define our decade, become an inescapable part of the fabric of pop culture, and follow other anti-bullying, pro-gay songs to the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100.

My only question is, why are all the artists who are coming to the defense of homosexuals all straight women? Sure, the four aforementioned artists have a large and loyal gay fan base that they are happy to have, but are these pop stars just jumping on a convenient bandwagon to give meaning to their music? There is nothing great about “We R Who We R”, but what if it has a social message? Also, the inclusion of Katy Perry in the list of “It Gets Better” pop stars is interesting considering the way she appropriates homosexuality in her music. The implicit message of “I Kissed A Girl” is that homosexuality is cool only if it’s girl-on-girl and only if it’s a joke, and she reinforces stereotypes in her song “Ur So Gay.”

But maybe Miss Perry has a point. Maybe in an America where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell still exists, homosexuality is only OK if it’s girl-on-girl and a joke. Maybe the only people who can come to the defense of harassed gay youth on the radio are these female pop stars. If that’s the case, let’s just hope they can start cranking out some half decent jams.

Here’s what’s happening on the rest of the Hot 100:

  • Rihanna’s “What’s My Name?” featuring Drake is looking like the most likely song to knock Perry from the penthouse. It’s been over a month since the track topped the chart, but it rises 5-3 this week.
  • My hopes that the Black Eyed Peas would completely bomb with their new album and stop making music are diminishing as “”The Time (Dirty Bit)” moves up 9-4. Let’s hope that song is out of the top ten by the time the Super Bowl rolls around so it won’t have a shot of becoming their fourth No. 1.
  • Florence + the Machine match their previous peak of No. 21 with “Dog Days Are Over” thanks to a performance by the cast of Glee. The track originally peaked at No. 21 in September following the VMA performance.

Here’s this week’s top ten:

1. “Firework” – Katy Perry (1st week at No. 1)

2. “Raise Your Glass” – Pink

3. “What’s My Name?” – Rihanna feat. Drake

4. “The Time (Dirty Bit)” – Black Eyed Peas

5. “Grenade” – Bruno Mars

6. “Only Girl (In The World)” – Rihanna

7. “Just The Way You Are” – Bruno Mars

8. “We R Who We R” – Ke$ha

9. “Just A Dream” – Nelly

10. “Bottoms Up” – Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj


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