Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This week in music only half sucks...

Sometimes I’m a bit surprised at how quickly a song can mysteriously hit the top of the Top 40 charts with minimal airplay. I think it may have something to do with this being the digital age of downloads and when a song becomes available it can become #1 damn near instantly. When people want their mediocrity, they want it FAST.

A shining example is this week’s release of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by elfin pop/country crossover chanteuse Taylor Swift. Billboard said on Wednesday that the infectiously catchy song was already among the 40 most-played tunes on U.S. radio just two days after being released. The song went to the top of iTunes’ Top 25 in the United States just an hour after it was released on Monday, and has since reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Brazil, Finland and 20 other nations.

The song itself is typical Swift material, dreamy lamentations that sound like a 13-year old’s diary entries, this time sounding more like Avril Lavigne but without the cheerleader kitsch that Avril seems so fond of. I’ve only heard it three times so far this week, and I think by the fifth I will detest it.

After doing really well on the UK charts, Flo Rida brings us what very well may be his first hit single without a guest vocalist, called “Whistle”. Of course, he whistles on it, and the slower tempo and acoustic guitar is interesting for a few seconds, but over all I was bored with it because, of course, deep down it’s pop crap. Of course, it went to #1 immediately.

I often wear enormous gold chains to the beach so that they can weigh me down in the water...

Another one that hit the top five almost overnight was when Katy Perry released what might be the 436th single from her last album. Seriously; I think she has released the entire effing album as individual singles over the past two years. “Wide Awake” is the eighth single from her 2010 album “Teenage Dream”. It’s a decent song, quite likeable, as is Katy herself when she’s not adding extra syllables into words to lengthen them to fit the beat scheme of a song. However, as is the case with anything on Top 40 pop radio, they play the living crap out of it.

How many different single covers does a song really need?

I had a feeling that the band fun., who brought us “We Are Young” was going to be a one-hit wonder but it seems they are proving me wrong. They did release a second single, “Some Nights”,and as I predicted, I don’t really like it. I can’t exactly put my finger on it as to why. Maybe it sounds too much like Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 song “Cecilia”, which I never liked either. Or it could be that radio is spinning it every 27 minutes, thus compounding a bad situation.

Back in June, I mentioned the new single from Owl City, called “Shooting Star”, and while I have been scathingly critical of Owl City in the past as being estrogenic, testosterone-free sugar-frosted rubbish, I thought this new song of theirs was pretty good. Of course, I never heard it on the radio, not once. Instead, radio is now playing a song called “Good Time”, a duet between Owl City and ……grrrrrrr…annoying bubbly sugary saccharine-soaked Carly Rae Jepsen, the little waif who tortures me non-stop with that pukefest “Call Me Maybe”. If I were 14 again, and all my freshman friends were jamming to this in the back of mom’s minivan on the way to the mall, I’d still say it sucked and lapse into a sugar coma.

This song sucks and we know it.

Everyone’s favorite in-your-face girl, Pink, returns from a childbirth and mommyhood break with another really fun middle finger salute to life with Blow Me (One Last Kiss). I love Pink. She’s fun, she’s quirky, she’s different, and she has a great voice. And pop radio usually plays each song to death & ruins it for me. I best enjoy it while I can.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to being sorely disappointed by most of what comes out of American Idol. So few of the kids who make the Top 10 from Idol actually A) succeed, B) are worth a damn, C) are relevant 12 months later. After 10 seasons, of the 100 kids from the Top 10 finalists, there’s maybe, what, 5 bonafide stars? And maybe another 10 tops who had a second album or had a charted single? This year’s winner was Philip Phillips (why? Why, parents? Seriously?) and while I liked him as a person, with his shy “aw-shucks” charm, I found his songs to all sound the same on the show; forcibly quirky covers that sounded like he was doing his best Dave Matthews impersonations. It really made me feel the kid, though likeable, was a one-trick pony. At least he has a single out already, only a couple months after winning this year’s competition. I’ve always said that they take way too much time putting out material from the winners and that by the time they get heard from again the fickle, 2-minute-attention-span music audience in America has moved on to the next flavor of the minute and the Idol winner is no longer relevant.

This debut single from Phil² is “Home”, and at first I had no idea it was him. In fact, I’d forgotten completely that he sang it on the season finale when he won. It’s a likeable song, with Phil² channeling his best Mumford & Sons impersonation over what sounds like a Coldplay backing vocal from a lost B-side track. I’m trying my best to not get sick of hearing it, but it’s getting a lot of airplay on multiple station formats and by next week will likely be in the Top 5.

This past week I’ve found a song creeping into regular airplay rotations on pop radio that had been a #1 for a few weeks on the Alternative charts, “Tongue Tied” by the band Grouplove. It’s catchy in the way that “We Are Young” was, and also rides that precarious ledge of being easy to get tired of if heard too often. In fact, the vocals kinda remind me of the singer from fun. (Nate Ruess) singing a Modest Mouse song with some Peter Hook bass riffs from a long-forgotten New Order track in the background, and a bridge in the middle that was borrowed from Paul Oakenfold’s “Starry Eyed Surprise”.

Also getting some regular airplay is “Too Close” by Alex Clare. You’ve been hearing it for months in snippets on the commercials for Internet Explorer and it’s finally taking the world by storm. It’s best when played really loud, a brilliant mix of acoustic guitars and dubstep synth beats, with some rather powerful vocals. This track is getting a lot of plays on my MP3 player and in my car. 

Yes, all that voice comes out of that unassuming guy...

After a bit of a hiatus, No Doubt is back with “Settle Down”, a quirky track with a bit of a reggae feel, not a real stretch considering when they started, No Doubt had serious ska influences. This is the lead single off their first new album in 11 years, and while it struck me as a bit odd at first, it’s quickly become one of my current favorite tracks. Almost 43, and with two kids (with the obligatory silly Hollywood names), and Gwen Stefani is still one of the hottest babes in alternative music. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

Finally, well over a year after releasing their last single “The Sun” while working on their new album, Shiny Toy Guns finally released a second new single, “Waiting Alone” ahead of the October release of their long-awaited and highly anticipated third album, to be simply called “III”. It follows the tried & true STG formula of back & forth shared vocals between Chad Petree and Carah Faye, and Carah has never sounded better. I’m a huge fan of Shiny Toy Guns and can’t wait for the full album. I’ve loved both of their new songs from the sessions so far.

Another song that finally grew on me is “Give Me Something” by the band Scars on 45. I’ve been hearing it for what feels like months on my local Adult Contemporary station. It sounds rather folk-ish at first but has really nice melodies and harmonies. The acoustic side of indie rock isn’t my usual fare but when regular pop music and most alternative music sucks so badly, one must branch out and broaden one’s horizons. 

Surprisingly, the new one from The Killers hasn’t caught fire with me yet. I’ve been a big fan of the Vegas quartet since their debut single in 2004. Usually their singles grab me & shake me violently to get my attention but so far “Runaways” is still just a few more listens away from really captivating me. Maybe it’s the four-year break since their last album, which was a bit hit or miss with me. The jury is sorta still out on it, so check back with me.

And freshly released is "I Will Wait", the much-anticipated new single from Mumford & Sons, ahead of the album "Babel", coming out next month. I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as a bad song from these guys. Every song is a soaring triumph.


And in future music news:
After the understated success and critical acclaim of their single “Winner”, timed to accompany the Olympics and paired up with diverse B-sides like a musical version of Rudyard Kipling’s poem“The Way Through The Woods” and a cover of the Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke” as a tribute to the late Robin Gibb, Pet Shop Boys will release their eleventh studio album “Elysium” in a couple weeks. 

It looks like an April 2013 release for the new album from Depeche Mode, and the latest news is that there are over 20 songs being worked on, Ben Hillier is producing it, and the legendary Flood is mixing it. There continue to be deeply underground rumors surrounding some sort of collaboration with former Mode member Alan Wilder on the project as well. And I can’t wait to get it.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like your post! You've pretty much summed up the sour state of pop music these days. What kills me is there so many truly talented artists out there cranking out stuff most of us will never hear, while the pop-crappers rack up sales and airplay. Such a cruel world! Sorry, I lost my credit card years ago and my bank account was cleaned out. I live on the sidewalk with my smartphone.