My Fellow Americans,
I come to you today with a dire proclamation: We may no longer be #1. I am not talking geopolitically, militarily or calorically, since everyone knows we’re still the top dogs when it comes to blowing stuff up or injecting cheese into pizza crusts. Instead, I’m here today to discuss pop music, a field which we’ve dominated for more than a decade now, yet one where our standing currently appears to be shaky at best.
With Britney in “X Factor” mode, Gaga in-between albums and Katy off cycle entirely, we are a nation currently without our biggest and brightest, and as such, I am afraid we can no longer lay claim to being the world’s top exporter of pop music. For too long, we had it too good, and now it seems the rest of the globe has closed the gap, if not overtaken us entirely. As a proud American, it pains me to say this, and yet, I fear things are only about to get worse … especially since our shores are currently under siege from British boy bands and our borders perforated by inferior Canadian product. It seems there is little we can do to stop the advances of the Wanted or One Direction (aside from putting the Navy on high alert) and now, we face a creeping insurgence from the North as well, in the form of 26-year-old Carly Rae Jepsen and her upcoming Kiss album, which not only has the audacity to steal its name from one of our greatest rock acts — an affront to our Stateside sensibilities — but to be really good, too.
Not content to play second fiddle to fellow Canadian Justin Bieber (who, for years, has systematically eliminated each our nation’s best hopes for a male pop star), with Kiss, Jepsen is looking to bring our entire pop-economy crashing to the ground. Her first salvo was “Call Me Maybe,” an inescapable smash that grabbed the #1 spot on the Billboard‘s Hot 100 and didn’t let go for nine excruciating weeks. It should have served as a warning to us all, and yet, we largely ignored her, dismissed her as a one-hit wonder and no real threat to our pop superiority. And then came “Good Time,” her team-up with Owl City (who, as an American, ought to be brought up on charges of treason), and it began to feel as if we were caught in a current, one slowly, inevitably, pulling us away from our shores. Now, finally, she’s about to release her second studio album, and it may very well be too late for us all.
Because Kiss seems destined to dethrone Katy, Gaga or even Taylor Swift (who, after a few listens, seems to her next target). It is a diabolically catchy album, one that brims with bright choruses and slick production, from the disco-lite pump of opening track “Tiny Little Bows” and stupendous synths of first single “This Kiss” to the saccharine sentiments of ballads like “More Than a Memory” and “Beautiful” (featuring Bieber, of course). It is top-notch, all-encompassing pop, personal-yet-universal in subject matter, colossal-yet-cute in scope .. the kind of stuff this great nation once churned out like so many Doritos Locos tacos.
Now, there is little we can do but watch as Jepsen snatches our collective wig. Perhaps we should have shut our borders, or rallied behind the likes of Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez, but all of that is hand-wringing hindsight. We grew complacent, we let slackened our resolve, and, as a result, we have finally lost our grip on the pop universe. We should have seen this coming with Rihanna, or Robyn, or K-Pop, or even Cody Simpson (never trust an Australian), but now, our cupboard is bare, and bereft of stars, we have begun to sink. It happens to all great empires, but rarely does it happen so quickly, and soon, our pop ranking might resemble our global standing in education (hint: it’s not good). And I, for one, cannot stand to see these United States drop that low. C’mon folks, we’re better than the Slovak Republic.
So let this letter serve as a warning call. Sure, the late ’90s may be forever gone and N’Sync is not walking through that door, but surely, we can do better than this. As a nation, we should pride ourselves in our pop superiority, and we should get back to the things that made us great in the first place. There was a time when we developed the best pop stars on the planet, when all other nations trembled at our feet. I am calling for a return to those days, a reboot of the Svengali system that gave us Justin and Britney and Xtina and all the rest. Free Lou Pearlman. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and he may be our only hope.
Because without a new generation of pop stars to carry the mantle, I fear our best days may be behind us. Katy and Gaga and Taylor can only take us so far … it’s time for someone, anyone to step up and lead us back to the top of the pops. It is our birthright as Americans, our manifest destiny, and I’ll be damned if I stand idly by and watch as a Canadian shunts us down the list. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to go scout some 14 year olds … sure, it may be creepy, but it’s also my duty as a citizen. You may have won this round, Carly, but America will win the war. We always do.