Chart-Topping Vitriol

No point in getting famous if you can't publicly antagonize your ex

 Maroon 5
"Makes Me Wonder"
From It Won't Be Soon Before Long (A&M/Octone)

The Top 40 is saturated with uncut vitriol at the moment; underground chauvinists convinced that the mainstream only dilutes, should peep Billboard's current batch of breakup songs, most of which mince far fewer words than whatever's burning up Hype Machine. In "Makes Me Wonder," the lead single from Maroon 5's sophomore disc, frontman Adam Levine briefly considers trying to make amends with a lady friend; perhaps he'll even "deal with things I left unsaid." But then the percolating white-funk guitars give way to a leering synth-bass riff that draws out the toxic bachelor within. Promptly reminded that "it feels so good to be bad," Levine rethinks his shit hard enough that he's left wondering "if I ever gave a fuck about you."


Maroon 5, the world's best-dressed toxic bachelors
photo: Andrew Zuckerman
Maroon 5, the world's best-dressed toxic bachelors

Details

Maroon 5
"Makes Me Wonder"
From It Won't Be Soon Before Long (A&M/Octone)

Kelly Clarkson
"Never Again"
From My December (RCA)

Carrie Underwood
"Before He Cheats"
From Some Hearts (Arista Nashville)

Kelly Clarkson
"Never Again"
From My December (RCA)

The video for "Since U Been Gone"—in which Kelly Clarkson trashes her ex's apartment—gave all potential paramours notice that the original American Idol is not a woman to be trifled with. But some guys—guys like Levine, say—never learn. So Clarkson really lets the jerk have it this time, replacing the earlier single's sugar-sharp robo-garage vibe with a roiling guitar roar pretty much lifted wholesale from mid-period Sleater-Kinney. The song tallies up all the stuff Mr. Heartbreak can expect to miss out on (love, trust, etc.) but Clarkson can't resist mentioning one thing he's swimming in: "Bet it sucks to see my face everywhere."


Carrie Underwood
"Before He Cheats"
From Some Hearts (Arista Nashville)

Clarkson's fellow American Idol alum Carrie Underwood one-ups her predecessor in this honky-tonk cautionary tale: It's not dude's medicine cabinet that does some hurtin' here, but his "pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive," which Underwood bashes to bits with a Louisville Slugger while he's inside the bar teaching his new girl to shoot pool. Think she let Jesus take the wheels?

 
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