The Song: Jessie J, “Price Tag”
The Crimes: Using what might be the entirety of her label’s marketing budget to convince the world that she actually functions on a higher, post-capitalistic level; “video hos”; “ch-chang-cha-chang”; “bla-bling-bla-bling.”
The year’s most grueling pop personality was, without a doubt, the BRIT School-bred British yelper known as Jessie J. Born Jessica Cornish and known before 2011 as one of the people who helped birth Miley Cyrus’s “Party In The USA,” Jessie drop-kicked herself into the American consciousness earlier this year with one of those “big in the UK, but unknown here” Saturday Night Live performances, then stuck around, thanks in large part to her handlers booking her in any venue—the MTV Video Music Awards, VH1 Divas Live, your mom’s 65th-birthday party—that might help up her Q rating.
While it’s true that she could hold a note or two here and there, Jessie’s barky voice and insistence on indulging every vocal trick in the book (stuttering, scatting, fake patois) turned her debut Who You Are (Universal Republic) into one of the year’s most excruciating albums to sit through, a Katy Perry-like bludgeoning through pop that lacked even the scant amount of charm or self-awareness possessed by that singer. No song on Who You Are was more aggravating than the Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly-penned “Price Tag,” a schlocky bit of lite reggae during which Miss J tries to be down with the recessionary populace she’s shoved herself in front of by claiming that “we don’t need your money, money, money” because “we just wanna make the world dance.” Wait, does that mean those Vevo ads for your new video were paid for in hip-shakes?
Over the self-consciously swinging beat, which clearly is designed to underscore the lyrics’ chilled-out vibe, Jessie barks out platitudes damning the capitalist pigs for being all interested in things like returns on investments and noting that “money can’t buy us happiness” while taking a stand against “video hos” and “bling” and making fun of pop puppets in the attendant video. Wow, way to take a stand against the system! Was the b-side for this song supposed to be a cover of “This Note’s For You”?
Much of what makes “Price Tag” so throw-your-stereo-out-the-window infuriating comes from the combination of Jessie’s utterly meldable persona (seriously, she’d probably change her name to Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum if you asked nicely) and the way that her gaping vacuity was somehow crammed into every open space this year. I figure that not seeing her touted in public bathrooms and on bananas merely means that I wasn’t looking hard enough—I mean, she did busk “Price Tag” in the Times Square subway station early on in its promotional cycle.
In the context of other artists, the slightly ignorant “screw money, let’s party” sentiment espoused by the lyrics might seem merely misguided, a tone-deaf attempt to capitalize on the bubbling anxiety about the world’s problems carried out by someone who hasn’t had to worry about what happens when “the money, money, money” runs out in quite a while. But in the context of Jessie J’s prolonged multimedia assault, it’s downright offensive; she comes off like one of those radical post-capitalist types who flings boogers at the idea of needing money to exist while having a nice cushion—happily provided by an indulgent parent who’s totally fine with giving her as much cash as she needs to keep flying around the world and forcing people to listen to her murder TLC while she sits on a grandiose armchair—to fall back on.That combination of hollowness and in-your-faceness, not to mention her self-satisfied scatting of cash-register noises and words like “bling,” makes this wretched piece of smarm-oozing pop the top contender for the 2011 edition of history’s musical dustbin; may it and she fade from the consciousness enough to not even merit a mention on VH1’s no-doubt-forthcoming special I Love 2011, which at current rates of retromania should debut sometime in early 2013.
The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011
11. Kreayshawn, “Gucci Gucci”
10. will.i.am feat. Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)”
9. Katy Perry feat. Missy Elliott, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (Remix)”
8. Tyler, The Creator, “Bitch Suck Dick”
7. Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger”
6. Bon Iver, “Holocene”
5. Rihanna, “S&M”
4. Brian McFadden, “Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar)”
3. [White Person], [White Person Cutely/”Seriously” Performing Urban-Radio Hit]
2. Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”
1. Jessie J feat. B.o.B, “Price Tag”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 29, 2011