Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Zrbo's Favorite Songs of 2014 (All Girl Edition)

Here we are, another year come and gone. 2014 was a bit of an off year when it came to entertainment. The world of film didn't make much of an impression on me (even though everyone told me I was required to love Guardians of the Galaxy, it was just another summertime spectacle that disappeared from my mind the moment I walked out of the theater). The world of videogames was rocked by the utterly baffling Gamergate controversy. And when it came to music... I basically just listened to a lot of Top 40 radio on my way to work. So what you'll find below is a bunch of Top 40 tunes that I found pleasant. Is my enthusiasm showing too much? This year I've also abandoned rankings, so here ya go:

Paramore - "Ain't It Fun"

Hey look! It's every teenage girl's favorite quasi-Christian rock band Paramore! I've never listened to one iota of Paramore before I heard this song, but during the summer this song really got caught in my head. The song bounces along and I while I like it I can't really relate to the message, that being: "Isn't it fun to be an adult now that you're old enough!". But what really makes the song memorable in my book is that Paramore have run with the Madonna playbook and deployed a black gospel choir beginning about halfway through. While the message the choir sings is a bit silly, I just can't help but get caught up in the gospel fervor of it. You'll notice I've linked to the "lyric video". I did this because the official video is the same as the radio version where some genius thought that the perfect place to fade out the song is right when the choir kicks in. Great job there, buddy.

Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Izalea - "Problem"

Ariana Grande is some Nickelodeon star turned ahem (clears throat)... musical artist. Everything about her screams entitled over-privileged diva whose parents probably paid her way to fame. And everything in this song is full of things that annoy me: the way she's not even trying to hide that she's lip synching, the misappropriation of the mod look when her song is clearly trying to be a throwback to doo-wop girl groups, the whispered rapping that forms the chorus, and Iggy Izalea who arguably has the most irritating voice I've ever heard on a human being.

Yet somehow I can't get this song out of my head. But if that were solely the case it could be just another All About That Bass, but I guess what I'm trying to say is... I like this song. Some sort of diabolical alchemy has occurred where all of these horrible elements have been mixed together and out comes this song I like. Also, Ariana Grande is ridiculously cute, though I feel awkward saying that because though she's 21 she looks like she's just turned 12. I also like the saxophone work, but then I always like saxophones. She could stand to work on her dance moves more (the quick cuts try to hide the fact that she's basically just standing around most of the video) and as others have said, she really needs to work on her enunciation. Her other songs "Break Free" and "Love Me Harder" are also pretty good if you're into that modern club sound (also: good luck trying to decipher what she's saying).

Taylor Swift - 1989 (the whole album)

What can I say about Taylor Swift that hasn't already been said? Before listening to her album 1989 I've never consciously known I was listening to a Taylor Swift song. Like Ariana Grande, she too seems to be overly-privileged, and I couldn't care less about her dating life, even though that seems to be the only thing she sings about. I'll just tell you what happened to me: When her album 1989 came out I initially heard the song "Out of the Woods" and thought "Wow, this is Taylor Swift?" because with all it's synthesizers I thought it was some spare track from Chvrches, who you might recall had my favorite song from last year.

It seems that Taylor Swift has decided to completely reinvent herself, no longer an ostensible country artist, she's now gone the pop music route. And while I'll have to turn in my goth-industrial membership card upon completion of this sentence, I really like her new album. If you want to hear what pop music sounds like in 2014 look no further than 1989. With the help of Max Martin she's gone ahead and made a great pop album.

Supposedly styled after what Swift considers music sounded like in 1989, the album does have a slight 80s feel to it (there's a hint of New Wave there too, though that was pretty much over by '89). I can listen to the first eight tracks without skipping any of them - even Madonna albums can't do that. I listen to a song, like it, think "okay, well the next one's gotta be filler", prepare to skip it, and then find that I've listened all the way through to the next song.

You might have noticed by this point that I haven't linked to any videos. Well, the album is fairly new and most of these songs aren't on there yet. Also, since she's currently the hot music industry property, there's a crackdown on unlicensed uploads. The only thing I can find are uploads where they've slightly sped up the song to avoid Big Brother's copyrighted musical detector, and I don't want you to suffer through a Chipmunks-sounding (Chippettes?) version. So far you can only watch the videos for "Blank Space" and "Shake It Off", neither video of which I'm a huge fan. My personal favorite song off the album, "Style", doesn't even have a video yet (though it's rumored to be the next single), but you can find various cover versions on Youtube.

I've only got one chance for redemption so let's make it a good one:

I seem to have a thing for including songs not from the current year on my best of the year lists, so I suppose this song is this year's entry. I'm been familiar with The Chameleon's "Swamp Thing" because it is a staple, no, perhaps the quintessential song, at my local goth club. I've heard this song played on the dank, sweaty dancefloors for 15 years, and it wasn't until this year I bothered to ask "What's the name of this song?". Now that I know I'm just plain old obsessed with it.

Let's just talk about that opening, I could just listen to it on repeat again and again. My favorite part is right at 1:37 where it sounds like the intro is over and the lyrics are going to kick in and they just let the music linger for another 10 seconds and I love it. And then the lyrics begin and they're just pure poetry:
I can already hear your tune
Calling me across the room
When the world and his wife
Are on my back again
Not enough pleasure
Too much pain
Then the drums come crashing in and I just lose my mind completely. The old man in me is telling you they just don't make music like this anymore!

Well, another year down. What will 2015 bring? Considering the Back to the Future Part II vibe in the air, here's hoping Huey Lewis and the News make a comeback. You heard it here first!


Little Earl said...

Were we going to get an All Boy edition, or is this it?

Two completely trivial reasons why Taylor Swift annoys me (that have nothing to do with her music):

1. Her name. It's a really boring name for a singer. It sounds like a high-end clothing brand.

2. Her lipstick. She wears too much lipstick. All the time. It makes her look like a spoiled little brat. Enough with the lipstick already.

Lo and behold, I have one Chameleons album in my collection (Strange Times), and it's the one with that song on it! Am I an honorary goth now?

Lastly: I think Paramore might be trying to spearhead an Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians revival.

Herr Zrbo said...

No All Boy edition, this is all you get.

I'm not a huge fan of Taylor Swift as a person, she seems fairly obnoxious, I'm just advocating her music here. I agree, she does seem to wear lipstick that's a shade or two darker than it needs to be.

That's an interesting observation on the Paramore song, there is a bit of an Edie Brickell vibe there.

I'm a bit surprised that you aren't more familiar with the Chameleons, they seem like they'd be right up there in your British post-punk alley.