Who better to judge this season’s biggest hits than a panel of their makers’ peers? EW played jukebox jury with hip-hop icon Big Boi, late of OutKast, now readying his one-man debut; Hayley Williams, of emo-pop stars Paramore; Gym Class Heroes frontman-turned-solo singer Travie McCoy; and producer and artist The-Dream, part of the Grammy-winning team behind smashes like ”Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and ”Umbrella.”
Katy Perry ”California Gurls”
Hayley Williams I actually downloaded this within the first couple days it came out…. I kept seeing it on the iTunes chart and I was like, ”Sweet! New Katy Perry!” It’s a good departure from the first record without being so far gone that it’s too different — it still sounds like her, and there’s so much personality. That’s what I like about it.
The-Dream Love it. She did a great job on that record. She kind of did it as a response to Jay-Z’s ”Empire State of Mind.” I’m from Atlanta, and I wish [ballad standard] ”Georgia on My Mind” was more popular so I could remake it and have a state song too. I should probably just go ahead and start on a new one now.
Big Boi I like the bass guitar, and I like [guest rapper] Snoop. It’s definitely got kind of an ’80s thing going on.
30H!3 featuring Ke$ha ”My First Kiss”
Big Boi Um, it reminds me of [chanting the 1982 Toni Basil hit] ”Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine it blows my mind.” Right?
Kanye West ”Power”
The-Dream That’s a classic Kanye record — and I’m not just saying that because we’re cool. He’s talking about so much, his songs work on so many levels. And then the music is so strong.
Big Boi That’s a nice little jam. What’s the sample? [Ed. note: It’s from prog-rockers King Crimson’s 1969 epic ”21st Century Schizoid Man.”] I like it. I just sampled a song from a London opera, actually.
B.O.B Featuring Hayley Williams ”Airplanes”
Hayley Williams Garbage! It’s garbage. [Laughs] Honestly, this is my favorite collaboration that I’ve ever done, because before I was aware of punk music, I grew up in Mississippi loving Aaliyah and Missy Elliott and Cash Money. So it’s amazing to me that I get to be on the album of a hip-hop guy I really admire who is also Southern. Plus, he’s just hilarious and rad.
Travie McCoy I think Hayley’s voice over that beat, the juxtaposition of hearing her on a hip-hop track, is amazing. She’s a little firecracker. She gives that song the oomph that it needs.
The-Dream Plain and simple, that’s an incredible record. B.o.B can’t miss right now.
Travie McCoy When I first heard this, I was with a group of people all looking at each other like ”What the f—?” Will.i.am [who produced it] — he’ll go to these crazy places and we won’t get it, but two weeks after listening to it, you’re like, ”This is amazing.”
Big Boi This is my favorite song at the moment. The energy, the beat, the melodies, it’s kind of freaky.
Hayley Williams I’ve been an Usher fan since I was little, but this one’s just not really doing it for me so far. Maybe it will grow on me?
Lady Gaga ”Alejandro”
The-Dream Love it! Gaga is an incredible storyteller. It’s kind of a long song. She took that risk. Radio only wants songs to be three minutes and 15 seconds. But she won that battle.
Hayley Williams Just like everyone else, I’m in love with her. And I love this song because it sounds different for her — it’s chill, as much as you can dance to it. It sounds like Madonna’s ”La Isla Bonita.” Though maybe she doesn’t want to hear that? But that’s why I like it!
Big Boi Well, I’ve only heard the song with the video, but I could not stop looking at that video.
Travie McCoy Featuring Bruno Mars ”Billionaire”
Hayley Williams I think it’s cool that this is different enough from Gym Class Heroes, which is what Travie is to me in my head, so I have to get rid of that association, and I think this is a good song for that. I just love him.
The-Dream It’s a great record. My man Travie did his thing. So did Bruno Mars — he produced and featured on B.o.B’s ”Nothin’ on You,” too. All he needs now is a record of his own and he’s going to blast off.
Big Boi This one’s a reggae jam, like some mojito on the beach. [Laughs]
Travie McCoy It kind of has that Sublime vibe, and I’m a huge Sublime fan. It’s a no-brainer, and I’m just glad it’s mine.
Jason Derulo ”In My Head”
The-Dream I love this record. But I love it because it sounds like a lot of records I already love, so I’m not sure how much he has to do with it. It’s great, I just don’t think he’s connected.
Hayley Williams It sounds like [Lady Gaga’s] ”Just Dance” to me. It’s ”Just Dance,” with pants on! I just can’t, I’m not into it.
Big Boi Okay, um, I don’t know about that one. You should have put [Boi’s own new single] ”Shutterbug” on the list instead.
Carrie Underwood ”Undo It”
Big Boi It’s pretty rock-y, she’s got a really strong voice. I don’t know if I’d be down with the top down blastin’ this, but she can sing.
Hayley Williams I think her voice is awesome, and it’s crazy because I don’t ever associate her with Idol, which…hopefully that’s a big compliment to her, even though that show gave her everything. I think it’s a big deal when an artist can separate from it, you know?
The-Dream I don’t like this record yet. I think it’s kind of typical. Whenever I buy Carrie’s stuff, I buy the whole album. And when I hear this, I just don’t think of her as this kind of artist.
Miley Cyrus ”Can’t Be Tamed”
The-Dream I love it. This is her coming-of-age record. And that’s difficult, trying to figure out how to grow up from being a teen queen. But she’s pulling it off here.
Big Boi Wow, her daddy allows that? Okay, cool. I saw that video where she kissed a girl [during a recent live performance] and I was like, ”She came from Disney?” I like girls that kiss, but not my f—ing daughter. Katy Perry can do that, but not Miley. (Additional reporting by Brad Wete)
it still sounds like her, and there’s so much personality. That’s what I like about it. The-Dream Love it. She did a great job on that record. She kind of did it as a response to Jay-Z’s ”Empire State of Mind.” I’m from Atlanta, and I wish [ballad standard] ”Georgia on My Mind” was more popular so I could remake it and have a state song too. I should probably just go ahead and start on a new one now. Big Boi I like the bass guitar, and I like [guest rapper] Snoop. It’s definitely got kind of an ’80s thing going on.