Pitbull’s a fascinating musician to watch, not because his music’s any good but because he’s one of the most unabashedly mercenary (not to mention bankable) musicians on the pop charts. His work is motivated purely by profit, and from the start has remained untainted by any apparent ideas about art or urges to express his inner life. Pitbull makes music to make money, and that’s pretty much end of story.
The unbelievable success he’s had so far isn’t because he’s a particularly compelling performer, but rather because he and his team always seem to be a fraction of a step ahead of the pack when it comes to new tweaks to the club-pop formula that he works in. If you want to hear what the maximum number of average pop consumers are going to want to hear in the club for the next 12 months or so, check out whichever Pitbull song is currently on the charts.
Right now that would be “Timber,” featuring Ke$ha, which is currently number ten on the Hot 100. And if there’s anything that the song says to us—besides how great it is to go to the club and get fucked-up—it’s that pop life in 2014 is probably going to involve a lot of country-infused electronic dance music. Get ready.
The beat to “Timber,” produced by chart-conquering force of nature Dr. Luke, is mostly four-on-the-floor stomp and a nagging harmonica loop that feels less like an actual musical figure than a corny “country hoedown” signifier. It sounds like a blatant bid at crossing over with a country-music audience, and knowing Pitbull and Dr. Luke, it almost definitely is exactly that. They’re not the only ones trying that gambit. “Timber” comes hot on the heels of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” and Miley Cyrus’s Pharrell-produced “4×4,” which also trade in the odd combination of country and club music.
The success of all three tracks probably hasn’t escaped the attention of other pop producers, who closely follow the moves of all of the aforementioned hitmakers. With two out of the three hitting the top ten (“4×4” hasn’t officially been promoted as a single yet), it’s pretty much assured that there will be plenty of copycats looking to catch a draft off their popularity.
I’m fairly confident that pop has a lot of harmonicas, fiddles, and twangy guitar lines over dance beats in its near future. This is great news for line-dancing enthusiasts, who’ve been commingling country and club music for years. For the rest of us, including ones who like country and dance music just fine as long as they’re kept apart, it’s probably going to be a long year.