Thursday, February 5, 2015

Music Review: 2014 Honourable Mentions, Part 2

Previously on the SDP, I shared my thoughts on songs that didn't quite make my top-ten and bottom-ten lists of 2014.  That list continues now.

by Pharell Williams
from G.I.R.L.
Year-end position: #1

Once again, America's number-one song of the year is one I'd consider a good song.  Actually, "Happy" is not just a song, it's a state of mind, because everything in this song comes together to create the titular mood.  However, there's a reason why this song didn't make my top-ten list.  The entire final minute of this 4-minute track is repeated parts from the rest of the song.  And it's bad enough that that the song tries to get too much mileage out of its hook even after repeating it once.  That's what Weird Al Yankovic's parody version, "Tacky" has over the original.  Not only did he end the song at the 3-minute mark, but he also changed the lyrics for each repetition of the chorus.  If "Happy" had ended at the same point, it would have been much stronger for it.  Heck, it could even have contended for #1 on this list, were that the case!  But as it is, "Happy" is still a fun song, just a little too long and repetitive for its own good.

"Hey Brother"
by Avicii
from True
Year-end position: #60

One of the songs I considered for 2013's top-ten list was Avicii's Aloe Blacc's "Wake Me Up".  Another year gone, and another of Avicii's singles has gone through the charts (in addition to "Wake Me Up" again).  Pretty much, everything I had to say about that song, good and bad, I could apply to "Hey Brother".  With two exceptions: I like this song better for its darker melody; it sounds like the sight of storm clouds gathering on the horizon, if that makes any sense.  But two: why pray tell doesn't the actual singer, a mister Dan Tyminski, get a featuring credit?

"La La La"
by Naughty Boy & Sam Smith
from Hotel Cabana
Year-end position: #82

See: "Latch".

by Disclosure & Sam Smith
from Settle
Year-end position: #28

Believe it or not, I wanted to put this on both my top-ten and bottom-ten lists, because this song is so, once again, "Janusian".  What's good about it?  Well, the beat, first of all.  The musical production provided by Disclosure sounds like music of the future, which I surprisingly don't get from a lot of EDM these days.  So where does it go wrong?  The chorus, that's where.  First of all, Sam Smith abruptly shifts his voice up an octave, into screechy territory.  But more than anything, the lyrics go from him simply expressing a crush in the verses, to being a possessive stalker in these parts.  If any other song from the Settle album had been a hit, it would've secured a spot on my top-ten list with no questions asked, but "Latch" was a tougher sell.

"My [noun] / My Hitta"
by YG, Jeezy, and Rich Homie Quan
from My Krazy Life
Year-end position: #58

I probably should have put this song on my bottom-ten, and indeed I almost did. But what is there to say about a song with a DJ Mustard beat, and whose hook (in the explicit version) is almost just a repeated profanity?  Sorry, I've got nothing.

"She Looks So Perfect"
by 5 Seconds of Summer
from 5 Seconds of Summer
Year-end position: #93

I wanted to put this on my list simply for the following line from the chorus: "She looks so perfect standing there / In my American Apparel underwear". The most glaring issue with that couplet is the use of a brand name like American Apparel. Now, I don’t know if that was paid product placement or not, but either way, stunts like that just take you out of the moment, you know? Also, from what I can gather, "she" is currently wearing mens’ underwear. Does this, by any chance include an undershirt? If not... I guess I understand why she looks so perfect to you… Still awkward. But in the face of other teen idols, I can’t stay mad at 5SOS for long. For one, they’ve got more of a rock edge to their music, compared to not only other teen idols but other pop acts in general. Case in point: one of their more recent songs is a cover of "What I Like About You", which actually improves upon its source version in a number of ways. So I suppose I’d be happy to let them into my life, just as long as they keep "She Looks So Perfect" as far away from me as possible.

by Jason Derulo
from Tattoos [EP] / Talk Dirty
Year-end position: #61

I put two Jason Derulo songs pretty "high" on my bottom-ten list, and suffice it to say they were both freaking terrible. But absent from that tied spot was his latest single, "Trumpets". Quite frankly, I find it weird more than anything else. This ode to synesthesia is loaded with all kinds of awkward moments, from the cheesy synth trumpets, to the references to Kanye West, Katy Perry, and Coldplay. And of course, Derulo’s voice is unbearable as always. But in the face of "Talk Dirty", which was offensive in its snobbery, and "Wiggle", which operated on a more so-bad-it’s-good level, "Trumpets"'s version of bad just wasn’t as potent.

"Turn Down For What"
by DJ Snake and Lil' Jon
non-album single
Year-end position: #

I said a few words about this song in my blurb for "Animals", which made my bottom-ten list.  To summarise: Yes, "Turn Down For What" can sound abrasive upon first listen.  But by being exposed to worse EDM, like the aformentioned "Animals" or "Summer", one can appreciate what this song gets right.  Each "verse" brings with it a new musical movement, and each of those is brken up every few measures with a minor variation, such as a change in pitch or an added drum track.  Perhaps most importantly, the beat never feels tooty or repetitive.  But let's not kid ourselves, Lil' Jon is what holds this song together.  It takes a strong presence to truly sell the rebellious ideals of getting "turnt up".  Rock and roll might be dying, but its ideals live on with the King of Crunk.

"Wild Wild Love"
by Pitbull & GRL
from Globalization
Year-end position: #N/A

I may have buried the hatchet with Pitbull over the past year or so, but I am still not willing to stick my proverbial neck out in his defence, either. Songs like "Wild Wild Love" are reasons why "The Artist Formerly Known As Mr. 305" isn’t ready for prime time in my book. "Wild Wild Love" is one of those songs wherein the chorus and the verses have nothing in common with each other, almost as if they were planned for two different songs entirely. The former, performed by the girl-group GRL, seem to tell the tale of a relationship fraught with both risk and reward; one that is both a blessing and a curse, in their words. So what, specifically, does this entail? Well, [verb] me if I know, because in lieu of elaborating on this intriguing development, Pitbull chose to focus on his fame and fortune -- you know, like in every other one of his songs. Even the musical stylings of their two parts are detached from each other -- acoustic pop-rock for GRL’s parts and electro hip-hop for Pit’s -- which in itself serves as a metaphor for how broken this song turned out.

"White Walls"
by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Schoolboy Q and Hollis
from The Heist
Year-end position: #92

I'll keep this brief, because I plan to do a full review of The Heist.  2013 VIP Macklemore wrote a song about a custom car, apparently.  Any boob with a mic could pull that off, right?  Not the way he does it.  In "White Walls", he doesn't just rap about owning the car, he spits off lines (and impressively fast lines, too) about all the work he put into getting the money for it.  You just don't hear about that kind of dedication from most rappers these days.  Including the guest on this very song, a mister Schoolboy Q.  It's not a bad verse; there are some halfway clever lyrics to be had within.  But once again, his part's more about the destination than the journey.  I think life should be the other way around, although I have read more than my share of motivational posters in my day.

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