Hot 100 Review: Roxanne by Arizona Zervas (and On by BTS…)

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It is incredibly ballsy to make a song called “Roxanne.” It’s one of those song names that have been thoroughly ruined by the fact there is one big song that uses it and is such lightning in a bottle that trying to copy any part of that shows a certain amount of ambition at least. That person with ambition is Arizona Zervas. He is an American rapper from Rhode Island. He has been working in music for a long time, but this is his big hit that has come mainly from streaming and TikTok use of all things over normal radio play.

The hit itself is certainly strange and feels like it is pulling some from the original song by the Police in ways that I see as an update of that for modern times. Its beat is not. The song has a very simple beat that is spiced up with sound effects. Not like in the Quavo style, but instead with regular sound effects. It’s serviceable and sounds like it’s trying to be Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee (that might be why Swae Lee is on the remix).

The song starts with an intro where he says to do it for the gram and that ladies (I’m being nice here) love the gram in wordplay of how you do something for Instagram and also a gram of cocaine. At least I assume it’s cocaine based on lyrics later in the song. This intro does not feel like it’s setting up what the song is about, but more tone setting I guess. It gives us the beat and some sound effects we’ll get later.

Unlike most songs where I go verse-by-verse this one is different. The main thrust of the song is describing this girl Roxanne. We get an interesting but kind of shallow portrait of this woman. The biggest traits are her love of partying, only liking guys with money, spends her dad’s money, doesn’t like to wait in lines, and only likes guys who drive foreign cars. I mean I assume that’s what the line “If you ain’t got a foreign she gonna laugh at you means.” Which gets me laughing because with it being so open as a foreign car then I fit that mold by driving a Toyota.

That seems like a lot of details, and gives us a great sense that she is a partier, but it is held back by the narrator describing how he’s viewed as a jerk (my word not his. Again I try to keep this as family friendly as possible). It does give some good setup and pay off where the narrator says she only likes rich guys that drop money on her and drive foreign cars, so he does that and eventually does get the girl. I think that is interesting and is satisfying that even after it that Roxanne still doesn’t like the narrator, but it takes away from more descriptive details (Ie what kind of foreign cars).

There is one line that I think perfectly encapsulates what this song could have been. It is “Shorty only like cocaine and Whole Foods.” There is so much character in that single line. Roxanne loves partying so much she does cocaine, but is also classy and basic so she only shops at the the equivalent to a Walmart Farmer’s Market. Like I can just imagine the kind of girl she would look like, and feel like I’ve met before. Especially with in the preppy college town I live in. It’s great.

This song will always be compared to Roxanne by The Police. I did so a couple paragraphs ago. The difference is that the Police’s song is closer to Pretty Woman than this. No, the song this reminds me of more is Girl All the Bad Guys Want by Bowling for Soup. That seems to be a strange comparison on the surface, yet they are increasingly similar. They are both about painting a picture of this girl the narrator wants. The woman is very performative about their personality, and that the narrators are not like the guys that girl likes. They diverge by having the narrator of Roxanne eventually succeeded in some regard. I still get the feeling this woman has as much disdain the narrator as Nona does from the narrator of Girl all the Bad Guys Want.

However, in comparing those two songs I feel Girl all the Bad Guys Want succeeds more than Roxanne. It gives us more details about the girl that are not as shallow as only takes pics with her butt hanging out. However there is no line as great as “Shorty only like cocaine and Whole Foods.” That single line sells the rest of the song for me because it is such a great descriptive detail I feel like I know so much about this woman.

The video for this song is that episode of Supernatural where Dean keeps dying in comedic ways in season 4. The difference is that this time the reset is set around a short haired girl who is supposed to look like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, they even have a scene where two people storm a diner and try to rob them. The story though centers on the Roxanne getting attached to Arizona eventually kill him and confronts him the very morning it’s supposed to start only for Arizona to sink into his bed grave I guess. It’s not clear. What I think is interesting is how this song interprets the idea of Roxanne of being a bad girl that corrupts and makes your life Hell over being a party girl that’s hot so you want to get with. I think having more images that match with what is being said would help, but sells the song well and plays with time loops in fun ways.

So, really I cheated by doing ROXANNE since that was not the newest song. ON by BTS entered the Hot 100 at number 4 this week. The problem is that I am nervous tackling a foreign language phenomenon like this K-Pop supergroup has become. I mean since I spend so much of my listens and articles dissecting lyrics that is hard to do with a language I cannot speak. I can see what they mean in that language, but it won’t resonate the same. Also from what I understand their fans are rabid and want to give as succinct an option as possible.

With all that said ON is an epic in song form. I don’t just mean the video, which is insane fantasy journey to an epic land that happens to have a random giraffe and they restore Pride Rock like it’s lion king. Instead I mean that the song is big and tries so many different beats, chord progressions, and instrumental combinations it’s impressive. I watched the video with the song a couple times. I can’t really tell what it’s about other than general perseverance.

It’s pretty tightly constructed overall as well, which, for a long song like this is impressive. That is except for the dance sequence interlude that could be cut. I don’t know if I really like it or love it. I get the appeal though. I don’t want to assume the audience for this song, but I loved a lot of J-Pop and anime OPs of this type (mainly all the Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Japanese OPs. They’re all really fun) when I was a teenager so I get why this connects with so many (the subtext here is that if it were all in better, more consistent English I might actually like the song).

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