For the past six decades, music for the youth symbolized a challenge to the status quo. It was a deceleration of independence. It represented a challenge to “the system,” or the mainstream. From jazz, to rock n’ roll, to psychedelic, to punk, to heavy metal, to hip-hop, (and a few genres in-between), the message has been, “We’re not going to do what you want us to do.” A half century later, anti-authoritarianism has become mainstream. Protesting for the sake of protesting became the new status quo. To paraphrase Against Me!, “The scene got too legit.” When nothing is too shocking; when there is nothing left to protest; when there are no other causes to take up , complacency sets in. Let’s face it, Lady Gaga is no feminist. Will.i.am is no civil rights activist. Miley, Brittney, and Ke$ha are not looking to start a dialogue about gender roles, wealth redistribution, gay rights, or even the legalization of marijuana. (For all this, we have to turn to… Macklemore (?!)). Even folk rock, which hasn’t been this popular since the original Woodstock, has no social messages to say. In 2013, the artists’ only cause they promoted is themselves. And self-promotion is quite boring. Perhaps Bruno Mars will trip over the skeleton of Jimmy Hoffa during the Super Bowl. That will shake things up a bit.
The False Advertising Award – “Scream and Shout” by will.i.am and Brittney Spears (bitch). Not only is there no screaming, or shouting, there is no singing, no verses, no melody, and no excitement. Worst of all, there was a harbinger of things to come: boring, half-completed songs.
The Best Song Ever by a Band with “One” in its Name Award – “Counting Stars” by One Republic. It’s not really 1R’s best song. I do have to hand it to them – they’ve been able to achieve this much success without any of the backlash (yet). They are as talented as Coldplay without all of the pompousness or pretension. And they have upbeat and catchy tunes as Train without the awful, nonsensical lyrics. Too many of my recent guilty pleasures have been One Republic songs.
The Department of Redundancy Department Award – “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips. Maybe all of this doubling and tripling up is to compensate the fact that his hits are only half-completed songs.
The Song that grew on me the Most – “Chocolate” by The 1975. A catchy beat, and an euphemism for a title. Consider this the first of my Honorable Mentions.
Worst Song to be added to a Greatest Hits Album Award – “Shot at the Night” by The Killers. I love the band, but I’m sorry. This sounds like a rejected track from Brandon Flowers’ solo album.
Best Impression of a J-Pop song (from 2006) Award – “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. I swear I heard this song on one of those Dance Dance Revolution arcade games years ago (when arcades still existed).
Worst Anthem Song (possibly ever) Award– “Roar” by Katy Perry. It took years for the Cincinnati Bengals to gain respectability, and they nearly lost all of it in one week. The fans revolted. The players revolted. This song did the near-impossible: it made me, and many others gain a new-found appreciation for the band Survivor.
Most Deserving of a Breakthrough in 2014 Award – Avenged Sevenfold. Metal fans are hoping that “Hail to the King” can achieve some mainstream airplay. I’ll do my part right here.
Least Likely #1 Song that was inspired by a Major League Baseball Player Award – “Royals” by Lorde. Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor recently revealed that the title was inspired by a National Geographic photograph of Kansas City Royal superstar George Brett signing autographs to a group of fans in 1976. Imagine if the magazine went with a picture of Steve Garvey, Johnny Bench, Jim Palmer, or Willie Stargell? (“And we’ll never be PI-RATES….”)
Worst Party Song (ever) Award – “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. This reminds me of any 1970’s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, in which a character is hypnotized/cursed/compelled by a curse to do something he or she doesn’t want to do. With such little enthusiasm, maybe this is the greatest Zombie Party Song.
Worst Straw Man Argument Award – “Applause” by Lady Gaga. “Nostalgia’s for geeks”? Who said that?! Nobody, that’s who! Pop, by its very nature, is art that panders to the lowest common denominator. You, Ms Gaga, are an artist, the same way a Subway employee is a sandwich artist. Pop culture, also by its nature, is usually a matter of “here today, gone tomorrow.” There are some pop artists that are immortal. But not only are you not in the same league as Elvis or Michael, you are not even in the same class as your inspiration, Madonna. I admire your work ethic, but the only time future generations will listen to your songs will be only for the sake of nostalgia.
Worst Inside Joke Award – “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. So… the justification of this date-rape-y song is that it is an inside joke between you and your wife. Riiiight. Ever heard of TMI, Robin? I assume the part in the video about your penis size is also a joke, correct?
Earworm of the Year Award – “Pumpin Blood” by NONONO. Did I ever mention that I’m a sucker for bells and whistles?
Wisest Career Move Award – Selena Gomez for dumping Justin Bieber. I don’t know if she came to this epiphany on her own, or if her managers and handlers told her to do so. Either way, she is the only ex-Disney product that wants to retain a squeaky clean image. And so far, jettisoning the excess baggage that is the Biebs looks brilliant in the short term.
My god, there is a lot of “worsts” in these awards. In order to balance the scales, I need to list some good songs. So I’ll end this with a list of songs that were almost my “Song of the Moment.” (Some of them should have been.)
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order) – “From a Window Seat” by Dawes; “If So” by Atlas Genius; “17 Crimes” by AFI; “Miss Jackson” by Panic! At the Disco; “Reflektor” by Arcade Fire; “Team” by Lorde; “Nothing More” by Alternate Roots; “Are you Listening” by Kopecky Family; “Dreaming” by Smallpools.
- The I, Omnibus 2012 music year in review (iomnibus.wordpress.com)
- The I,Omnibus Top Ten songs of the Summer of 2013 (iomnibus.wordpress.com)