Whatever by Hot Chelle Rae
It’s been a long time since the Billboard Hot 100 has been invaded by a band that could draw out a single vowel with the optimism of a fourteen-year-old girl plucked out of the audience to go backstage after a Taylor Swift concert. The vowel in question is the “O” in the chorus of “Radio,” a song by Hot Chelle Rae that manages to sweep every cliché of teenage suburban pop culture under one infectious toe-tapping anthem for the digital age. There’s the lyric about falling asleep while Skype-ing, the white guy rapping in urban dialect (“I hope dis song in yo head like hairspray”), and the aforementioned vowel that stretches the word “radio” from three to seven vowels. It’s hard to listen to, but once you hit play, it’s even harder not to listen.
Hot Chelle Rae is a traditional rock quartet from Nashville (though most of the members hail from California) that lists guitar, bass, drums and vocals as the primary instrumentation. However, the record is so drenched in synthesizers that the band seems to follow from the tradition of ’NSync more than, say, Jimmy Eat World. Indeed, those synthesizers lend the band’s RCA debut album, “Whatever,” the enthusiasm that makes it so much fun. How else could lead singer Ryan Follese have the confidence to declare in “Tonight, Tonight” a party on the rooftop of the top of the world, or that the partygoers would eventually land at a rave on the edge of the Hollywood sign?
Named after an intrepid Myspace page stalker, Hot Chelle Rae is Ryan Follese, guitarist Nash Overstreet (whose younger brother Chord has starred as Sam in the hit television show Glee), bassist Ian Keaggy and drummer Jamie Follese. Love (and unrequited love, and lovers who cheat, and failed love) is the thread running through the upbeat anthems on the record. In “Forever Unstoppable,” Follese declares, “When you're broken, and you're shattered / love will save you from disaster / You can take my heart, if yours won't beat.” “Why Don’t You Love Me” pleads with (presumably a girl), “Why don’t you love me? Baby open up your heart tonight / I could be all that you need.” And the party in “Tonight, Tonight” stems from an infidelity that alerts the singer it’s time to say,“Whatever” and just live it up.
Though girls are the focus of the album, it is the lyrical shoulder shrug that gives the album its title track as well as the line that is surely the greatest teen-ism Facebook has yet seen: “Three in the air if you just don't care.” According to the song, there are lots of reasons to throw the big “W” in the air, including when the girl you like thinks you’re gay. That may run against the grain of inclusion that permeates Nash’s brother’s show, but whatever. The boys in Hot Chelle Rae party on, and “Whatever” is upbeat, danceable and just loads of cheesy teenage fun.