Jesse Jarnow

“this ain’t a scene, it’s an arms race” – fall out boy

Further forays into the alien world of actual pop
week of February 10, 2007

#2 this week, #2 last week, 2 weeks on chart (download) (buy)

(file expires February 13th)

The Wikipedia entry for Fall Out Boy’s “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race” notes that the song’s #2 placing is “the highest Hot 100 debut for a single by a rock band since Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ debuted at #1 on the Hot 100 in 1998.” While Fall Out Boy might be a rock band, I’m not so sure “Arms Race” is a rock song. That is, like BeyoncĂ©’s “Irreplaceable,” the instrumentation feels arbitrary. It’s got a big kick drum, sure, and — eventually — a chorus with power chords, falsetto ooh-ooh-oohing, self-effacing lyrics like “all the boys who the dance floor didn’t love” and such, but the beat could be constructed of anything and the drama is single-minded. The overwrought verses could be sung by a diva over a synth pattern. Fall Out Boy’s recent flirtations with Timbaland and Jay-Z only underscore this: pop is welcoming back the idea of rock, at least as a signifier. (FOB play with this notion in the video, too, apparently.) What’s really happening, though, probably isn’t so simple. Pop divas pretending to be singer-songwriters? Drama queen emo acts pretending to be hip-hop stars? Really, nobody’s pretending to be anything, though, because all’s equal in the top 10. Anything goes, be it Timbaland’s Egyptian samples or FOB’s earnest/”earnest” guitar riffage.