Thursday, February 14, 2013

Editorial: 2012 Best Hit Songs Runners-Up

Since I had so many comments to make on the year's pop songs, I divided my runner-up list into the songs that almost made the worst-of list, and those that almost made the best-of list.  This also includes songs that didn't make the year-end Hot 100, but peaked within the top 20 any time during the year.  I might have to change the rules of my next year-end list to reflect that...  Anyway, a new wave of honourable mentions!

"Brokenhearted" by Karmin
from Hello
Year-end position: #59

Since I didn't hear anything from Ke$ha for the better part of the year, I thought she was done for.  And this song, which I assumed to be from a sobered-up Ke$ha, turned out to be the product of Karmin, a musical duo who got their start putting up cover songs on YouTube.  Its frontwoman Amy is an equally talented singer and rapper -- you don't mess with someone who can handle Busta Rhymes' verse in "Look At Me Now".  As for their original composition "Brokenhearted", the tight pseudo-disco beat gives the song a fun and funky vibe.  In the end, however, I kept it off the list because Amy's singing gets pitchy here and there, and the second rap bridge kinda sucks...
Anything you wanna do, I'll be on it too
Anything you said is like gone with the view
Business in the front, party in the back
Maybe I was wrong, was that outfit really whack?
For what it's worth, my interpretation of the lyrics differs from what I got from my usual sources.  But this is still some of the most (unironic!) fun I've had listening to a pop song all year.

"Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia
from Until Now
Year-end position: N/A

Full disclosure: I’m a fan of dance music. No, not that nigh-identical in-da-club pop-rap that passes for dance music these days; I’m talking real EDM, genres like techno, trance, house, drum-and-bass, even a little dubstep, from artists like Ian van Dahl, Armin van Buuren, Armand van Helden... a lot of "van"s. This sort of music doesn’t get popular, though, except for maybe a few hits in the early 2000s, but lucky for me, another such song broke the top twenty at the end of this year.  Isn't it nice to have a dance song that isn't set in da club, but instead talks about a meaningful episode of doubt and consolation?  And one that doesn't rely on a "dirty bit"?  Remember when I coined that phrase?

"Good Feeling" by Flo Rida
from Wild Ones
Year-end position: #16

If the world only needs one Flo Rida song, which is giving him way too much credit, then this should be it.  I can actually remember some of the non-chorus lyrics because, instead of just rapping about his material success, he devotes the second verse to the strength of his spirit and courage.  Just look at this:
Gotta drill it in, never giving in
Giving up's not an option gotta get it in

Witness, I got the heart of twenty men
No fear, go to sleep in the lion's den
That flow, that spark, that crown
You're looking at the king of the jungle now
Stronger than ever, can't hold me down
A hundred miles an hour from the pitcher's mound
Would you dare criticise him on his weak lyricism after hearing that?  It also helps that he doesn't try to rhyme "bottles" with "models" again.

"Lights" by Ellie Goulding
from Halcyon
Year-end position: #5

After seeing this clinch high spots on best-of-2012 lists by Marc Mues and ToddInTheShadows, I actually felt a little guilty about leaving this out.  I guess the reason I left it out was because I couldn't quite decipher the message of the lyrics.  Here, see what you can make of the first verse:
I had a way then
Losing it all on my own
I had a heart then
But the queen has been overthrown
Thought not.  Still, randomosity aside, this is the kind of pop song that takes itself seriously, that doesn't try to grab your attention with some flavour-of-the-month guest star or production technique.  Yup, leave it to the British to be better than us.  Except for that whole Cher Lloyd thing.

"Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars
from Unorthodox Jukebox
Year-end position: N/A

I make it a policy of mine that no matter how bad somebody fouls up, I am always ready to forgive them if they sincerely make up for their mistakes.  Even you, Capcom, but first I’ve gotta see results.  For example, no matter how much of a clusterfail “The Lazy Song” was, Bruno Mars managed to put out some half-decent music afterwards, such as this.  The first thing that hits me is the restrained, classic rock-style production, which automatically gives it a leg up over the competition.  And the lyrics take a more spiritual approach to a subject matter which has lost much of its spirituality over the years.  By claiming that he used to feel "locked out of Heaven" until he has sex with his girlfriend, he realises how much he's been missing by not having sex over the past few... however long it was.  As I'm writing this in February 2013, Bruno's next single "When I Was Your Man" is also showing promise, so forgiveness is certainly in the works.

"Skyfall" by Adele
Non-album single
Year-end position: N/A

Yeah, I wanted to put a James Bond theme on this list. With 007 being my favourite fandom, that should be no suprise, but allow me to justify. Coming off the past two James Bond themes, which for better or worse had more of an alt-rock bent, the theme from Skyfall returns to the brassy retro-soul sound which befits the elegance of Bond's universe. And who better to bring it to life than Adele? As for the lyrics, they have a clear message for once, one about making a stand against certain death. It really works given certain events in the film, and if you still haven't seen it by now -- you totally should by the way -- I won't spoil anything. But even apart from that, it works since people have been thinking about the end of the world recently.  Truly, the best theme songs are those which work in multiple contexts.

"Swimming Pools (Drank)" by Kendrick Lamar

from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Year-end position: N/A

We get a lot of positive representations of alcohol in popupar music these days, particularly in hip-hop.  So leave it to a rap song to take boozing down a peg.  In his relatively short verses, Kendrick Lamar paints himself as an unconfident person who drinks to fit in with the cool crowd, and whilst he tries to maintain moderation, he takes peer pressure which threatens to push him past his limits.  And he does this by playing multiple roles, not only him, but the jerk who's trying to get him drunk through the chorus, as well as his own conscience in the second verse  ...I get the sneaking suspicion that alcohol can be a bad thing.  If you don't believe me, check out the Rap Critic's review.

No comments:

Post a Comment