"California Gurls"

by Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg

Some hit records are forces of nature that you can only admire as they realign things in their image. It's not even worth resisting them. That's basically my response to this one. If there's a record I'm predisposed to not liking, it's a summer romp by the woman whose "I Kissed a Girl" felt like a cultural low two years ago, when it provided the soundtrack to the media ascendance of Sarah Palin. I'm not all that into Snoop, either. But damn if they don't pull this one off. Perry is still a grating singer, even through layers of filtering and futzing, but I'll take this chorus over "Empire State of Mind" (Perry's acknowledged inspiration) anytime. Sometimes that's enough.

"Don't Pull Me Over"

by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I once told my family that if any of them bought me the book-length interview with Tom Petty that somebody actually published, I would stop speaking to them. So I was primed when an editor tipped me on this number: "It may be the worst song ever whose maker has recorded it in all seriousness. It is to drug policy what 'Zombie' by the Cranberries is to defense policy." No, it's worse, way worse—so ridiculously straight-faced, it exists in a place just beyond camp. Not only do the Heartbreakers play reggae for every hidebound 1970s cliché they can, complete with "tasty" lead guitar and solo, but Petty actually sings with an accent. And the words! "Don't pull me over/Should be legalized." Jesus—whoops, I mean Jah Rastafari, of course. This might be the most self-delusional thing I've ever heard. (HT: Michael Hann.)

"Believe in Me"/"Raaatid Einstein"

by Altered Natives feat. Sacha Williamson
(Fresh Minute)

Splendidly curvaceous get-your-hair-did UK funky house, "Believe in Me" stamps into memory by way of quick-tongued repeats of the phrase "need to know," making it sound both urgent in speed and mocking in tone. Zed Bias's remix puts it to a friskier beat and turns the vocal inside out, but subtly: stretched vowels here, cut-up repeated phrases there. Aphrodisiax's remix gives it more of a Chicago flavor—heavier on the kick drum, not as syncopated, and with bubbly keyboards adding some gloss. The B-side is pepperiest of all, drum-wise, which anchors the weightless glide of the bass and organ. recommended