Thursday, January 23, 2014

Editorial: 2013 Best Hit Songs Runners-Up

To all the critics who deemed 2013 the worst year for pop music in recent memory, well... I can't quite agree.  (I'd suggest 2007 myself, but that's another story.)  I'll be honest, in addition to the stuff that actively sucked, there was a lot of boring, safe schlock padding out the top 40 throughout the year.  Even some of the stuff I put on my best-of list couldn't hold my interest after just a few listens.  Sometimes being a critic is about letting your personal tastes take the bullet in favour of what really matters.  But seriously, folks, the fact that I could pick out so many other songs I liked in addition to my top ten should give the hint that maybe, just maybe, there was enough good to balance out the bad.

"Alive" by Krewella
from Get Wet
Peak position: #32
Year-end position: N/A

Among the EDM songs to hit it big this year, this was my second-favourite behind "Don't You Worry Child".  The beat is pulse-pounding, the instrumental parts have just enough melody for them to have their own personality as opposed to the usual background noise we're often subject to, and the lyrics are affirmative but just vague enough that they work as a party song but aren't strictly limited to the dance floor.  And as somebody who's suffered from the neo-disco storm of '10, that's all I ask.  Yes, it could've made my best-of list if it had been a bigger hit.  Sorry, Paramore, but consider yourselves lucky.

"Applause" by Lady Gaga
from Artpop
Peak position: #4
Year-end position: #37

Lack of personality was a common crime among the hits of 2013, but Lady Gaga was acquitted on that charge as far as I'm concerned.  "Applause" is one of the few "image songs" to come out from America, and the character Lady Gaga plays in the song is Lady Gaga herself.  She leverages all the fame she's garnered over her career thus far and invites us to learn her take on it all.  At least she would, except the second verse was just garbage.  "One second I'm a Kunst / And suddenly the Kunst is me", eh?  You do know you're just saying the same thing with the words switched around, right?  But apart from that, it incorporates tasteful, if watered-down, elements of dubstep without bringing its momentum to a screeching halt, as is often the case with dubstep, intentional or not.

"Hold On, We're Going Home" by Drake feat. Majid Jordan
from Nothing Was the Same
Peak position: #4
Year-end position: #34

One of the songs from my Best Hit Songs of 2010 list was "Find Your Love" by Drake, an emotional retro-R&B jam.  I'm not going to say too much about its spiritual follow-up, "Hold On, We're Going Home", because I'd just point to that mini-review and say, "pretty much that". Unfortunately, the emotional stakes aren't as high this time around.  Whilst both this and "Find Your Love" were about picking up a girl, the other song was more desperate in its approach, whereas "Hold On, We're Going Home" is instead more upfront with its promise of sexy time.  But hey, at least this would work better than some other songs Drake's been on...

"Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake
from The 20/20 Experience
Peak position: #2
Year-end position: #6

Among the Justins of pop music, for once the Timberlake:Bieber ratio was skewed towards the former.  It's not like Bieber didn't put out music last year, but it was relatively easy to avoid -- not like Timberlake's world-conquering The 20/20 Experience albums.  But I didn't know what to make of "Mirrors".  I think it's supposed to be a song about rekindling a dying relationship, about discovering the magic that had once been lost with his significant other.  But then he says she's like his reflection in the mirror, and I'm like, "What's that supposed to mean?  Is he realizing that which he thought was lost, or is he just stroking his ego?"  With "Mirrors" having come out after the uber-slick "Suit & Tie" (discussed below), it could go either way, really.  Also, this song lost some points for its haphazard beatboxing in the background, which sadly leaves it sounding more like "Cry Me A River" than "What Goes Around (Comes Around)".

"My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" by Fall Out Boy
from Save Rock and Roll
Peak position: #13
Year-end position: #40

When last year I described Linkin Park, Maroon 5, and even Nickelback as the only rock bands to have halfway decent success in the 2000s, I regret that I seem to have undercut Fall Out Boy by leaving them out of that statement.  Sure, they got lumped into the emo-rock scene which was apparently the only way we could get actual rock hits in the dark times that were the middle of the decade.  But now they're back with one of the most catchy and powerful songs of their career.  The beat has real headbanging potential and the lyrics involve fire motifs, so what's not to like?  Maybe that the lyrics are also mega-stupid.  See, whoever's writing the songs in Fall Out Boy, no one told them that the title phrase doesn't make any sense.  Also, the music video stars 2 Chainz.  But whatever, I'm still having fun.

"Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities
from In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
Peak position: #8
Year-end position: #29

The popularity-deciding public seems content with letting numerous indie-esque singles slowly filter up to the top ten, and "Safe and Sound" felt like a deserving success story when it did.  Even when compared to its genre peers, it's an incredibly bouncy tune, with judicious uses of retro synth washes and non-traditional instruments.  When's the last time you heard trumpets in a pop song?  Unfortunately, the same melodies are recycled throughout the verses, which was something I really paid attention to this past year.  Eventually, it was enough for me to change the station whenever this came on, and enough to keep it off my own top-ten list, but our times were good while they lasted.

"Still Into You" by Paramore
from Paramore
Peak position: #24
Year-end position: #100

In a year where so many female vocalists got through 2013 by the musical equivalent of sleep-walking, the same cannot be said of Hayley Williams.  True, I took it off my list because she sang off-key for much of the song.  But still, her staccato delivery on the verses of "Still Into You" provide a sort of '80s-rock swagger, and some much-needed edge to lyrics that could honestly have come off as lovey-dovey otherwise.  But lacking that, I'd still be loath to describe this song as "lovey-dovey".  I mean, this is a girl who knows times can be tough, and still manages to see the good in her significant other.  She and her song just ooze good times and pass those good times along to us.

"Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake & Jay Z
from The 20/20 Experience
Peak position: #3
Year-end position: #20

In the midst of the casual Internet's fascination with the word "swag" back in 2012, I saw an image macro with the caption "Swag is for boys, class is for men".  Somehow, Justin Timberlake exhibits both swag and class in his comeback single "Suit & Tie".  The vintage R&B music (it reminds me the most of the theme song to Diamonds Are Forever) provides the class, and the swag comes courtesy of Timberlake's reasonably self-confident lyrics and attitude.  Oh, except for the line "So thick / That I know why they call it a fatty".  Dude, I know you're talking about a girl's hindquarters being in pleasant proportion to the rest of her body, but you have to realise what you sound like.  Jay Z throws in a guest verse, and while it switches to a slower, chopped-and-screwed beat that dates his part of the song somewhat whilst killing the momentum, lyrically it doesn't exactly clash with anything before it.  Leave it to JT to pick a topic to which you could tack on any luxury-rap guest verse and no one would even notice.

Personally, if any of the songs from JT's The 20/20 Experience albums (yes, plural) would've made my list, I'd have placed "Take Back The Night" in my top 5 at least.  For having come out in the midst of the year's disco revival, this one arguably did it the best, with the funky grooves of its soundscape transcending the experience beyond the normal "carpe diem" anthem.  But sadly, it didn't meet my requirements, and I didn't think it noteworthy enough to warrant a Wildcard slot, but do check it out anyways.

"Timber" by Pitbull & Ke$ha
from Meltdown [EP]
Peak position: #2
Year-end position: N/A

I can't believe it!  This is the least awful Pitbull song yet!  How could this be!?  Maybe it's because they followed the same formula of "Feel This Moment", except the elements are more congruous this time around.  Whereas Christina Aguilera seemed more detached from the mood Pitbull was trying to promote in that other song, Ke$ha sounds like she's having much more fun in this one.  But any old Pitbull song could do that and I'd still think less of it because it's Pitbull; however, his own verses aren't as in-your-face this time around.  Instead of treating his good fortune as an exclusive privelege, he appears content with having a reasonably good time and letting everyone join in.  Sure, there are some questionable lines -- the Miley Cyrus reference is bound to become dated fast, and "slicker than an oil spill" is a Funny Aneurysm Moment waiting to happen -- but there's nothing that warrants a revision to my Top 10 Worst Pitbull Lyrics or anything.

"Troublemaker" by Olly Murs & Flo Rida
from Right Place Right Time
Peak position: #25
Year-end position: #82

Speaking of awful rappers having less-than-awful moments in 2013, Flo Rida's verse on "Troublemaker".  I don't know about you, but I'm used to him bringing out the same bottles-and-models lyrics for each one of his outings.  So you can imagine my surprise when his guest verse here actually carried the topic of the song!  Olly Murs is at least partially tortured over his less-healthy-than-desirable relationship, and by gum, so is Flo Rida!  Also, the instrumentation is what Maroon 5's last album should've sounded like.  I mean, cowbells and violin blasts!  Doesn't that spell funk to you?  I'd like to think this started the whole otherwise-inexplicable '70s-retro thing that we got this year.

"Wake Me Up" by Avicii & Aloe Blacc
from True
Peak position: #4
Year-end position: #19

So folky indie-pop and electronic dance music were two genres that gave us a good number of hits in 2013.  Who'd've thought that combining the two would yield such a good result?  I don't care what some of the critics say, I think the transaction between the acoustic and electronic parts are handled rather smoothly... for the most part.  The occasional cliched lyric holds it back, as does what they did with the chorus.  In the original version, Aloe Blacc sang a bunch of long "oh"s over the interlude, but the remix dropped them out in favour of a completely instrumental break.  Yeah, if I have any problems with vocal dance music, it's when they try to restrict any efforts for the singer to show off his or her personality.  I'm looking at you, David Guetta.  But it'll take a lot more than that for me to kiss off the genre, and for that matter, 2013's music in macrocosm.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Editorial: 2013 Worst Hit Songs Runners-Up

It's that time again.  With a worst-of list comes the stuff I had to leave off it.  Some of it just wasn't bad enough, some of it failed my last-minute requirements for being on the Billboard Year-end Hot 100, but as always, my mind's been on overdrive whilst listening to the radio this year, so why let all that thinking go to waste?

"23" by Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, & Juicy J
non-album single
Peak position: #11
Year-end position: N/A

If I hadn't made the last-minute decision to restrict myself to Billboard's Year-end Hot 100, "23" would've made my worst-of list for sure.  First of all, there's producer Mike Will Made-It, who technically gets top billing on this song (I took his name off the artist tag out of protest).  He's produced hits like Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" and Lil' Wayne's "Love Me" (no), and while his drunken beats weren't the key factors that made me put both of those on my hate-list, they certainly didn't help matters.  The stuttering rap delivery of Miley and Juicy J (at least Wiz Khalifa gets a pass), not to mention the egregious product placement (assuming you know that "J's on my feet" refer to Air Jordan shoes) only make things worse in that regard.

"Berzerk" by Eminem
from The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Peak position: #3
Year-end position: #67

What a disappointment.  I wrote up this long, beautiful paragraph on why Emimem's "Berzerk" [sic] belongs on my worst-of-2013 list, when it manages to grow on me.  Maybe it's because of his other new singles (namely "Survivor", "Rap God", and even "The Monster") which I really liked, but eventually I learned to appreciate the old-meets-new-school hip-hop approach to "Berserk" as well.  But never let it be said that I'd willingly withhold finished content from my consumers, unlike a certain games maker I could Capcom mention, so here is why I used to hate "Berserk":

"My opinion of Eminem is... complicated.  I like him when he's serious (e.g. "Lose Yourself" and most of the Recovery album).  And I like him when he's less rapping and more doing a stand-up comedy routine with a beat (i.e. "My Name Is" and "Without Me").  But he also tends to fall back on obnixiousness, and I'm sad to say "Berzerk" falls into that camp.  For example, he throws in a grating, rather un-ironic "bow chicka wow wow" somewhere in the second verse, and has the balls to rhyme it in the next few lines.  Also he sings his own chorus, which in theory is admirable, except for the fact that HE CAN'T SING WORTH BEANS.  As anybody who's suffered through the Encore album can attest to.  Meanwhile, the Billy Squire sample and old-school beat are equally promising, but even when he's not inflicting his demonic attempts at singing upon us, his rapping style is just too dark for me to enjoy it.  And another thing, he dared make a Kevin Federline reference in the chorus?  In 2013!?  Are you trying to make up for lost time or something?"

"Come & Get It" by Selena Gomez
from Stars Dance
Peak position: #6
Year-end position: #33

The teen pop machine chugged on in 2013 with "Come & Get It", or as I like to call it, "What not to do with an interesting beat".  The beat, by production team StarGate, starts out slow and subdued, with an Indian bhangra-esque influence, when suddenly the first chorus kicks in and everything unique about the song thus far is drowned in a torrent of indistinct synth.  And that's before you get to Selena's performance on the song; she sounds like a tired Rihanna rip-off, with all those stuttering edits and that bad Caribbean inflection.  I thought the world didn't need any more Rihanna, but come on guys, presenting the same thing under a different guise doesn't count!

"Cruise" / "Cruise (Remix)" by Florida Georgia Line & Nelly
from Here's to the Good Times
Peak position: #16 / #4
Year-end position: N/A / #9

Good news and bad news: it's getting harder to say you don't like country music these days, but that's only because it's adopting elements of all other genres in the blandest way possible.  The original version of "Cruise" barely had any country soul in its instrumentation, so why not add a drum machine and a forgettable guest verse by Nelly for the remix?  I'll give it this: that revised approach made for a more palatable hit... unless your tastes require good music.  And even then, the lyrics still bring up topics that I just can't relate to, like their obsession with trucks and relating girls to them.  In a year where rappers made references to brutal, racially-charged murders in relation to rough sex, I can't call this stuff un-palatable, but either way, I guess it isn't getting harder to say you don't like country music these days.

'[verb]in' Problems" by A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar
From Long. Live. ASAP
Peak position: #8
Year-end position: #41

The title of the song comes from the line 2 Chainz repeats in the chorus: "I love bad [noun]s, that's my [adjective] problem / And yeah, I like to [verb], I got a [verb]ing problem".  In case you're wondering what I censored, just picture the joke from Airplane! about the "drinking" problem, and filter it through the lens of luxury rap.  Did you like it?  Well, you needn't worry about that, because he beats that horse right into the ground!  In fact, I like the way Drake takes over the last two lines of the chorus, as if to save us the precious brain cells we could be using for more important things.  Yeah, the song could've made it on my list based on that line alone, but the rest of the song is actually kind of okay, inasmuch as mainstream hip-hop can be considered "okay".

"Gentleman"
by PSY
non-album single
Peak position: #5
Year-end position: N/A

Do me a favour and click back to my video review of "Gangnam Style".  You can find it here.  I'll wait.  So assuming you have it fresh in your mind, I'd like to you to flash back to my comments at the end.  You know how I despaired over the fact that PSY's follow-up to "Gangnam Style" was just a remake of the original song?  Well, I could very well recycle the same complaints for his real follow-up, "Gentleman".  And in case you're thinking, "Kevin, you liked 'Gangnam Style', so why should this be any different?"  Well that's just it: it isn't any different -- except the stuff they did change wasn't exactly for the better.  There's no soaring sing-along, PSY didn't bring as much energy to his rapping, the beat is dingier and less remarkable, and even the prerequisite dance in the music video doesn't have enough to it.  "Gentleman" would have potentially been the third viral-video hit on my worst-of list, after "The Fox" and "Harlem Shake" (at least before I took it off), and despite how much I like a good theme, "Gentleman" just wasn't the kind of bad I look for in making these lists.

"Harlem Shake" by Baauer
Non-album single
Peak position: #1
Year-end position: #4

The powers that be at Billboard must have been as frustrated as I was when "Gangnam Style" failed to wrest control of the top spot last year, so they've since changed their rules to include YouTube plays in the criteria for their charts.  Unfortunately, this resulted in "Harlem Shake", the song used for a briefly popular video meme, sitting at number one for five weeks despite lacking any personality whatsoever.  Now, I have the patience for extended dance mixes, but that's usually for vocal trance songs, stuff with distinct verses and chorus to mix it up.  "Harlem Shake", on the other hand, recycles the same musical idea for all it's worth and then some.  There's a reason all those videos only used the first thirty seconds of the song, and it's also the same reason I've never heard it on the radio -- and mind you, I have heard "Gangnam Style" on there.  Actually, there was this one time where a station played a sort of remix of this song, where they worked in a bunch of other songs about shaking.  Which illustrates "Harlem Shake"'s quandary perfectly: its best purpose is as a medium to convey other, more interesting media, sort of like the musical equivalent of, say, Melba toast.  Still, my disdain for "Harlem Shake" has less to do with the song itself than with how it got popular, so when the the time came for "U.O.E.N.O." to budge its way on the list, this was the one I felt the least guilty about forgiving.

"Royals" by Lorde
from Pure Heroine
Peak position: #1
Year-end position: #15

I wanted to like "Royals", I really did.  As a self-professed hipster, I'm inclined to welcome any attempt to tear down the excessively materialistic status-quo preached in popular music.  And I was pleasantly surprised when it started getting airplay on top-40 radio.  But then I listened to it again.  And again.  And again.  Sure, many, MANY songs this year wore out their welcome for me this year, but it felt like "Royals" achieved this task faster than any of its peers.  Personally, I blame its horribly lopsided verse:chorus ratio.  It's as if Lorde saved all her words for the parts that would get repeated the most.  And judging by her follow-up single "Team", this is a very real possibility.

"Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix)" by Lana Del Rey
non-album single
Peak position: #6
Year-end position: #45

I can't say I've ever bought into the whole Lana Del Rey thing; it's hard to describe, but it's like she's a quirky kind of boring.  And what better way to take the "quirky" part out of the equation than to shoehorn one of her songs into the growing EDM fad?  The original version of "Summertime Sadness" had little staying power on its own, but Cedric Gervais's remix does it no favours.  The electro parts they added in lack any intricacy whatsoever, which only serves to highlight how dull Lana's voice is.  Sadly, "Summertime Sadness" was just one example of how  2013 was a very, very dull year for pop music.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dance Dance Retrospective: DDR X2

The advent of a new decade (get it, "New Decade" is a song from this game... read on) brought with it a chance for the Dance Dance Revolution franchise to redeem itself.  On the one hand, there was the arcade release of DDR X, an otherwise okay entry which got shafted by poor machine construction outside of Japan.  And on the other hand, there was the one-two punch of the home games X2 and Hottest Party 3, which couldn't decide whether they wanted to appeal to casual or hardcore DDR players.  Well, with such stakes as I've described just now, I'm proud to mention that the arcade sequel DanceDanceRevolution X2 (not to be confused with the 2009 PS2 entry of the same name) was good.

...

I assume.  Regrettably, I've never played on an X2 machine, ever since its rollout in 2010 (Asia: 7 July, NA: 31 December).  Sure, I've played its new songs on other DDR games, but the nearest X2 machine to where I am is up around New York, and we all know what I think about the Big Apple.  Even worse, I took a vacation to Japan just weeks before its launch over there, leaving me stuck to play on those crummy old deluxe X cabinets.  And even worse worse, I'm planning to visit again early next year, but by now all the arcades in Tokyo have replaced their X2 machines with newer entries in the series (if the arcade listings on zenius-i-vanisher.com are to be believed).  EDIT 16 September 2014: Never mind, I've finally managed to play on a real X2 machine.  And it was good.  But enough about my personal anecdotes, let's talk about the game.

The new music menu screen with the Cover Flow layout.
DDR X2 -- that is, the real DDR X2 -- has a green-dominated colour scheme and (re-)introduces the Cover Flow format on its music select screen.  As far as actual gameplay is concerned, X2 introduces new gameplay options which I'd say are useful for pro players.  First are the Hidden+ and Sudden+ modifiers, which like the original Hidden and Sudden mods hide the arrows at the bottom or top of the screen.  The difference with the "plus" versions is that you can adjust how far you want to hide the arrows by pressing the Up or Down buttons on the console during gameplay.  (Arrow-speed mods can also be adjusted on the fly in this fashion.)  And second is the Risky option, where missing one step or Freeze Arrow will kick you out of the song instantly, except you can still play any stages you have left.  On the flip side, beginner players can eschew the traditional, full-featured Pro Mode in favour of Happy Mode, which features a limited songlist focusing on easier charts, so if that makes you comfortable, then go nuts.


Hidden+ and Sudden+ look something like this.
(From Beatmania IIDX 12: Happy Sky.)
Once again, X2's hidden content requires an e-Amusement profile to unlock.  And once again, Konami released unlock codes for regions that were never graced with the presence of e-Amuse (read: America and Europe).  Furthermore, X2 is the first arcade DDR game to support PASELI, a debit card which can pay for games coinlessly.  In fact, there's also a Marathon Mode in which PASELI users can pay to play up to seven songs in a row.  As with e-Amuse, it's only available in Japan, and you can't even set up a PASELI account over the Internet if you don't live in Japan, so don't get your hopes up.  Fortuantely, the international versions of X2 bring back the ability to save high scores for each song and chart on the machine itself, a feature which was created for SuperNOVA but dropped from the sequel in favour of doing so with e-Amuse.

DDR X2 features a total of 444 songs, including the following:
  • A handful of classic Dancemania licences (including "If You Were Here" from 2ndMIX, and "Captain Jack" and "Dam Dariram" from 3rdMIX) have been revived, in the fashion of the X-Edits from the last game, including Challenge charts with Shock Arrows.  This time, however, they actually stuck to the original cut of the song and just stretched that out a bit at both ends.
  • "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.  Yup, the same cruddy version I tore down in my last entry.
  • Since Konami also sold X2 in the rest of Asia outside Japan, they threw in unlockable Chinese-langauge versions of a few songs, including "iFuturelist" and "Nijiiro" from SuperNOVA.
  • "Gold Rush" by DJ Yoshitaka-G feat. Michael a la Mode, a crossover from Beatmania IIDX 14: Gold.  A lovably infamous song recogniseable by fans for its energy, stupid lyrics (like the recurring reprise of "Make it make money"), and the sequential name-dropping of the Beatmania games mid-song.  In X2, it is joined by two alternate versions, the "DDR AC" and "DDR CS" versions, which replace those references with the arcade and console DDR games, but otherwise use the same charts.
  • "smooooch" by Kors K, a crossover from Beatmania IIDX 16: Empress.  A bouncy happy-hardcore track whose background video, with three cartoon princesses bouncing about, has inspired parodies and tributes from both sides of the Pacific.
  • "Mei" by Amuro.  Not a boss song, but it should be.  In its IIDX appearance, the hardest chart on this two-minute track had two thousand notes, and whilst its DDR counterpart is nowhere near as complicated, with a level-18 Challenge chart, it's still among the hardest songs in X2.
  • "ΔMAX" (read: "Delta Max") by DM Ashura, a revival from DDR Universe 3.  Not a boss song in this game, but its tempo starts out at 100 and, throughout the song, gradually increases to a blistering 573.
    • Fun Fact: The number 573 appears elsewhere in DDR, namely the default high score in certain versions, and other Konami games as well.  That's because the name Konami can be "translated" to "573" through a system of Japanese wordplay known as "goroawase".
  • The boss songs are revivals from the 2009 series:
    • The Extra Stage is "Kimono Princess" by jun.
    • The Encore Extra Stage is "Roppongi Evolved" by TAG Underground.  The first time an Evolved song was used in an arcade release, this one boasts an exclusive fourth version not found in the 2009 home games.
  • In addition, X2 introduces a new system for boss songs called "Replicant-D Action", lifted from the newer Beatmania IIDX games.  For all intents and purposes, this doesn't work without an e-Amusement profile.  The songs in RDA and their requirements are:
    • "Pierce the Sky" by JAKAZiD feat. JN.  Unlocked by clearing any 20 songs from the X2 folder.
    • "Sakura Sunrise" by Ryu☆ (Ryutaro Nakahara).  Unlocked by clearing any 2 songs from each of the 12 folders.
    • "Shiny World" by Capacity Gate.  Unlocked by clearing 6 courses and one Drill Course.
    • "Posession" by TAG Underground.  Unlocked by clearing any 100 Challenge charts, and getting an AA grade or better on "Pierce the Sky" and "Sakura Sunrise".  The difficulty level on which those AAs were achieved determines which difficulty "Possession" can be played on.
    • "New Decade" by Sota F.  Unlocked by getting a full combo on any 15 charts, and getting AA or better on and "Sakura Sunrise" and "Shiny World".
    • "Anti-Matter" by Orbit1 & Milo.  Unlocked by playing Trial Mode (where two players can play one song for the price of a single-player game) three times, and getting AA or better on "Pierce the Sky" and "Shiny World".
    • Getting AA or better on each of the above songs earns a medal.  When all six medals are earned, the song "Valkyrie Dimension" by Spriggan (Yoshitaka Nishimura) is automatically selected as an Encore Extra Stage.  When this song is finished, pass or fail, all six medals are erased from the player's profile and can be earned again.  Rinse and repeat.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Well... remember how I said that X2 machines were few and far between in my sphere of experience?  What hurts matters more is that there was never a home port of X2.  Sure, the individual songs showed up in other games, but this was Konami's big chance to bring Dance Dance Revolution into the seventh generation, and they blew it.  Again.  But think about it from their point of view: by 2010 the last console generation was for all intents and purposes dead, and the Guitar Hero/Rock Band craze was about to fade as well, so perhaps consumers wouldn't have the stomach to purchase another plastic peripheral for another system.  Konami did bite the bullet after all and make a DDR game for the latest and greatest systems, but... ah... that's a story for next time on Dance Dance Retrospective!