I don’t think it’s a bad idea that you don’t believe in music as a culture…it doesn’t necessarily make you right…but I think music is more so a part of culture than a culture by itself (even though it is that too, for those who are passionate about it). Then again there is video game culture, and film culture, and nerd culture, and pop culture so it’s all really subjective isn’t it? At any rate, I had a ton of fun reading your blog, and had no idea you’d take it as seriously as a college assignment…however after reading the blog, I feel the need to expound more on why I’ve done this the past couple years, as well as do some self analysis on how I relate to music vs. how other people might.
Music for me is an everyday thing and has been for quite sometime. Sometimes I wonder if that keeps from focusing on more immediate things since I’m not currently doing anything musical (and even when I was it wasn’t on a professional/monetary level). I didn’t actually start liking music at all till I was about 7 years old and heard this:
I remember thinking to myself…maybe this music thing has something to it. During my youth, I would frequently make mixtapes (and blank cds when we hit the early 2000s) for other people (unsolicited, and for no particular reason…although if I was trying to impress or get someone’s attention…the amount would increase) of what I thought were the dopest gospel/Christian records to me, because it was fun to share music, and because I didn’t understand why so many people would always listen to the same thing over and over. My white friends only listened to Steven Curtis Chapman and Newsboys and my black friends only listened to Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. The radio stations went by the same similar programming, even though it’s all supposed to be Christian music. Back then I didn’t understand the whole music segregation/taste/culture/connection, but I still had some growing up to do (I still do).
Teenage years I was going through the struggle of family drama, as well as discovering what bits of the world I could in the one horse town of Aiken, South Carolina (virtually none). My mom started working during my home school days, so naturally that meant go outside and ride your bike to the library and elsewhere, hang with friends (there were none), and watch music videos ALL DAY LONG (the birth of procrastination habits). This was before the days of youtube, when between VH1, MTV, & BET, you could literally find music videos running for at least a 12 hour period during the day time.
This was literally the first video I saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra-Om7UMSJc
And just like that, I was done listening to the sugar coated Christian/Gospel hybrid of songs that I had been permitted to explore, because I wanted to hear something that I could relate to. Something that spoke to my hopes, fears, emotions, desires, etc. Something real. That was the end of 2005, and it probably took me about 5 or 6 more years to stop listening to Christian music altogether. I think my views/interests/taste changed…but the quality of the genre just gradually deteriorated into an amalgamation of cheesy inspirational themes & poorly done country music. (BLAME CASTING CROWNS FOR THIS)
Fast forward to now (skipping over me learning how to produce and discovering Kanye West and anime soundtracks and John Williams for influences). I haven’t really shared music with anyone the way I used to in a while because we have hit the age of technology where you can watch any music video you choose whenever you want, download/stream whatever song or album you want whenever you want (for free or not), and because I’ve recognized that nobody listens to the music the way that I do and for the reasons that I do (at least not anyone in my immediate circle). Nobody listens to as much music as I do (again, in my immediate circle). And nobody produces music the way I do…or have (I’ll just let that be a Kanye-esque statement… http://barryorchestra.bandcamp.com/) and that alone makes you listen to music differently than someone who just needs something to ride to work with or fall in love to.
The age of free and/or accessible music to all makes the “Would I buy this?” question null and void. The last album I bought was either Adele’s “21” or Dan Fogleberg’s “Nether Lands” and I ended selling them to McKay’s when I needed to put some food in my stomach. I’m pretty sure you’re not a Ke$ha fan Robby, but I can’t count how many times we laughed at the Tik Tok video back in the dorm (way too many…I was getting worried). Nowadays, those streams would contribute to song sales. Make of that what you will, but these days “meme”-ability is just as profitable as loving a song for it’s merit and scooping it up via whatever paid method you choose. Alright, time to disagree with you (I’m not going through them all, just the ones that I feel the need to discuss).
#40 - Bonobo
If you like chill beats…Pogo remixes…instrumental music…this is right up your alley. It’s relaxing, and it’s great to be productive too…and I love this album cover…so I posted it.
#39 - Elton John
Elton John is old and getting older. I think his golden era stopped at the Lion King. I spent about a year going through his albums and really became a fan (I got to see him last year at the McKenzie Arena…woo hoo!). As old and wistful as this sounds, it has a lot of the golden era EJ swag too it. I like the opening piano, and the chorus really sells the homesick idea. Not the best, but it’s Elton John, bishes. I didn’t get the video. In fact, I wouldnt recommend watching the video for every track that has a video next time around. If the video is bad, just listen to the track without it. Most of my emotional or personal connections with songs have very little to do with the video that accompanies it.
#38 - Earl Sweatshirt
So to contradict my last statement, I found this on youtube, and the video really hit me…various lines he spit (particularly in the first verse) I instantly connected with. It’s that kind of raw honesty that I want to be able to convey in my life and when I write. The odd future collective is still too all over the place for me to get with, but they’re trying harder.
#37 - James Blake and THE RZA OF WU TANG CLAN
So I love the video that you posted of this, and of course I love the Lonely Boy video as well. I would like to point that like another singer on this list that you claim to be hearing for the first time (coming up further down) Blake has been on all 3 of my top 40s. I like him, One minute he’s doing minimalist dubstep productions and featuring other artists on them, the next he’s singing his heart out like a soulful version of James Blunt. James Blunt isn’t the guy rapping on this, it’s the RZA of the Wu Tang Clan (aka the guy who did the music for Kill Bill and The Man With The Iron Fists aka CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME - CREAM). Blake is the one vocalizing, and of course he produced it. I like the minimialistic loops, it reminds me of some of the beats I’ve done with the requiem for a dream samples. The style doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I find it very interesting.
#36 - Mayer Hawthorne
I AM THOROUGLY CONVINCED THIS IS MICHAEL BUBLES ATTEMPT TO BREAK OUT OF HIS FAUX FRANK SINATRA SHELL DO YOUR THANG HOMIE I SEE YOU!
…when I listen to this I put myself in the girl’s place. I put on my headphones and rock out when I get home…and the world keeps turning/life goes on
…and yes, that is a killer bass line.
#35 - Quadron
I’ve spent the last couple weeks being obsessed with this album
And I’m enjoying it possibly more than Adele’s “21” or “19”. She takes way more risks (on this and her first record) style wise & structure wise. I love Adele, but I’d like to see her take some risks…collaborate, get behind some different production, etc. “Hey Love” is simple, and probably the most radio/tv ad friendly song on the album….someone is missing out on an promotional opportunity here.
#34- Big K.R.I.T (aka big king remembered in time)
as much as I hate the “big”, “little”, “lil” moniker issues that plague rap artists, I love KRIT’s honesty. He’s from the south, he’s got a religious background, he’s grown up in the hood, he tells it like it is. What I thought was really cool about this track (particularly during the second verse) was the way the production compliments the raps as jazz to a poetry reading. Even the way he was speaking on the second verse kind of felt like those black and white detective movies where the main character is doing a monologue. Also, if you havent had to ask yourself ‘WTF we gon do now’ you haven’t had to struggle much.
#33- Cage The Elephant
So I was browsing on the itunes store one day, and I saw this album under the new releases. I was like wow, interesting album cover. Clicked on it. Clicked on the song with the highest popularity rating. Come a Little Closer. What a cool rock song. This is really good. Robby’s probably heard of this band. (sure enough…I was right) This should be on the top 40. Literally my thought process. So I’m throwing a dog a bone, but it’s a really good bone. From start to finish this is a great rock song, and pretty fun rock album as well. The video is super colorful and trippy, and I’ve been lacking in rock these days. Just not enough fresh bands out. (Sorry Curtis, Mute Math doesn’t quite rock my world yet)
#32 - The Neighbourhood
I actually heard this on the radio at work, and any time I hear a solid rock song on pop radio I pay attention. I like the rap-like delivery of the second verse, as well as the hip hop influenced rhythm on the first half of the song, but the switch up at the end seals the deal. It’s just solid, and it sounds different without going to far out of the box for an easily accessible love song. I like this a lot, but I was throwing Robby another bone with this one.
#31 - John Mayer
So I listened to John Mayer’s last two albums back to back, and I think that his new country style suits him well. When I hear this I think about running around in the fields at a bluegrass country music festival…jamming and dancing around with an unnamed love interest. Very very fresh and what a terrible video to slap onto your first single, Mr. Mayer.
also, since haters gon hate…this is one of the best covers of all time Robby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20Ov0cDPZy8
Mayer got skillz.
#30 - K. Michelle
As an artist, no. The video, ehhh…in fact I really hate the video. Seriously…cleavage fail and weave fail. The song, yes. It explodes with warm tones, a bright & well used soul sample, in addition to a lot of soul on the choruses. The lyrics arent the best, but I loved the sound, and it’s fun to sing along with. I listened to some of her other songs and found them to be extremely ratchet (and not in the guilty pleasure way). She literally has songs like “Pay My Bills” that are about stripping to “pay her bills.” She really does have a solid vocal though. Sigh…where is Clive Davis when you need him…
#29 - Natalia Kills
Yet another UK artist who despite being signed by will.i.am to an american label, hasn’t really broke yet. I like natalia kills a fair amount. She isn’t as strong of a vocalist as a lot of the artists she competes with, but she’s sort of like what lady gaga would be like with less crazy outfits and a tragic childhood story of going from being rich to having her father getting arrested and becoming homeless (essentially what the “Trouble” album is about). It was hard to pick one song from this record, especially because “If I was God” was in my top 5 (NONARGUABLE). So I went with “Boys Don’t Cry”…one of the less vulnerable records with insane production…I mean insane…did you hear what was going on with the crazy drums? I’ve even sampled those drums before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luvcdrFw87s The bridge breakdown son!!! This song is fun, and not especially meaningful, which is fine sometimes, particularly in the context of this album. Anyway, I think she’s interesting, and I hope she gets more notoriety.
One of her better videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cnD_efmM6s
#28 - Bruno Mars
Either you like Bruno Mars or you don’t. He’s been selling funk and R&B to white people who could care less about it since 2010, and he amped the edge production wise last year, which made it work much better for my taste. I mean, throw “Treasure” on. This could easily be a MJ record. Thank you for helping to bring soul music back Mr. Mars…the game needs it.
#27 - Imagine Dragons
This is the best rock band I’ve heard in a long time. Their songs are huge and massive and experimental and great. The lyrics are great. Radioactive is clearly their magnum opus (and after the Grammys performance with Kendrick Lamar, they released the version with him to itunes, which is even more insane than the original), but who hasn’t heard that this year. I liked Working Man, and could relate to the lyrics on a personal level much more than Radioactive…or Demons. As far as the “do you things you do” line, I just interpreted it as insert person you look up to here and apply. That may not be what they meant, but that’s what I did.
#26 - Katy Perry
Who knew you were such a Katy Perry fan? I think Katy is a strong vocalist with great singles (thank you Dr. Luke/Max Martin/Bonnie McKee) and terribly boring/otherwise vapid albums. I typically don’t like her singles until after the radio has sold me on them, and then I can’t get them out of my head. ROAR however has a huge exception, as it is a undeniably powerful motivational anthem with a huge chorus and a killer beat. And the video is equally great. What more can I say?
#25 - Lorde
So this 16 yr old chick from New Zealand releases this song for free one day and KILLS THE FREAKING GAME in 2013. It’s very simple, but only production wise. The lyrics have layers, are meaningful, and poke jabs at the status quo of popular music. (She’s not quite as anti pop as you might think, as she’s made buddies with Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Drake) She thinks for herself, and is really well versed for someone so young. How’s this for irony…I was riding the bus yesterday, and the driver was listening to the rap/r&b station AND THIS SONG COMES ON. And right after that they proceed to play gangsta rap.
#24 - Emeli Sande
I have a friend who had been telling me to listen to Emeli for the better part of 2012. I had heard the name, I knew she had written for Alicia Keys and some other big names, and she’s from the UK. All good things. Then her song “Next to Me” broke over here in the States, and I was really impressed. I look up her name on youtube, and I come across the “My Kind of Love” video. The song has the slinky filtered drum vibe that Lana Del Rey’s music has (Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie certainly get around these days) and the sound is just explodes once the chorus hits. The lyrics are honest, and well written, and I’m really hoping this breaks on the radio at some point. It feels really good.
#23 - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore gets so much hate these days. So much hate. This is largely due to the culture vs. genre war that I mentioned earlier. Here you have a white man participating in a dominantly black musical art form and he’s rapping about gay rights and discrimination…something which has never been tackled to this level in this way musically (and certainly no rap song with even a hint of this subject matter in a positive light has ever reached the radio…this one did 2 million copies). I have nothing but good things to say about Macklemore. He’s honest, he’s very talented, he makes dope music. However, he’s white, and safe and family friendly (despite the fact that he’s cussing his ass off in Thrift Shop, the label still gets slapped on him) in a way that Eminem wasn’t when he came on the scene and never will be. Also, with him winning just about all the rap categories in the grammys over Kendrick Lamar (most damnably, best rap album), the culture bias/agitation works against him. A good example (no offense meant, and this is just a face value observation) is Robby’s reaction to this record (and other Macklemore songs) and the Kendrick Lamar song. Is it easier to take soft and easy over raw and real? It’s an interesting discussion. Also, whatever you may feel about homosexuality, this song got a lot of my friends re-evaluating what they believe about it and how they even approach the subject at all, which makes this record even more important in my eyes.
#22 - Iggy Azalea
I just realized that there are 4 white rappers on this countdown (not that it matters), but that just goes to show you THINGS IN THE GAME DONE CHANGED. This is the song I feel Nicki Minaj should’ve put out last year. It’s hood, but not too hood. It’s ratchet, but it’s still pop at the same time. The beat is so bouncy and bright during the chorus bit, that it’s hard not to rock with it. This is also a personal motivation anthem of sorts from me. The whole Started From The Bottom angle wrapped up in a pop sounding rap song that bangs. I liked the video also.
#21 - Eminem
I really didn’t mean to put two Eminem songs on this countdown, the #15th was supposed to be a Marina and the Diamonds record. But as I was putting the zip file together I was trying to decide between the two, so…this is a top 41 I guess. I should’ve cut “Survival” though, cause after repeat listens it doesn’t excite me as much as when I first heard it. I like that Em is 40 plus and still rapping with the ferocity of an unsigned artist ready to get their shot. Some of his metaphors lately have been Lil Wayne level of cringe worthy, and this track isn’t without some of those (you pointed a few out). But, this is a battle rap track with a solid rock edge, and there are some pretty solid lines here (love the last verse and the opening of the first).
#20 - Mothereffing Robin Thicke
So, I’ve been a fan of Robin Thicke’s voice since he was just a B list R&B guy who was never quite pop enough to be pop, and sounded as good as Marvin Gaye when it came to falsetto territory (seriously…dude has a really clean falsetto). There’s been some degree of controversy to Blurred Lines (i.e., video with naked women and the “I know you want it” line). It’s funny, because a few weekends ago Curtis and I were discussing whether or not it degrades women or not, and I was in “eyeroll” mood as far as that question goes. First let me say what I like about the song. Catchy as hell. Pharrell’s minimalistic and funky production always creates room for lots of sillyness and memorable songs (this is the guy who has produced “Milkshake”, “Hollaback Gurl”, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, “Hot in Herre” and about a million other things since 1992: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neptunes_production_discography )
Second, this song (like most other songs with sensual themes), is a 4 minute sexual come on. Hey, there’s a good looking chick (setting is probably at a club or other probable place where good looking chicks would be randomly loitering around and not off to work or otherwise responsible duties). Let me smooth talk her using my charm, good looks, and SWAGGG. Hey girl, I know you want this loving. Girl’s response: That’s debatable, but I like the attention. Guy: So I can’t really tell if she wants this loving or not. Damn, I hate these Blurred Lines. That’s pretty much the whole song. Not especially meaningful or inspirational, but it’s catchy & fun, and not degrading in my opinion. I don’t believe the naked women in the video were exploited (they’re models and those chicks got paid)…and the video director is a FEMALE with a long & very successful track record: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Martel . So there’s that. The biggest reason why this is the halfway mark of the 40 is that there’s been several post-surgery dance parties to this record while co-workers and I would be cleaning up an operating room. Dance records take on a whole new life when you get out and actually DANCE to them. Try it sometime.
#19 - The Weeknd
I like the Weeknd a lot. I think he has a unique vocal somewhat similar of Michael Jackson (at least quiver worthy anyway). I thought you’d appreciate this a bit more…but perhaps it’s too moody for you. The Weeknd typically does a lot of concept heavy albums that are something of a cautionary tale to the drugs, sex, and rock & roll lifestyle sung in the R&B fashion, while experimenting with approaches to the sound that are at a Kanye level of experimentation. In short, his projects work better in full than from song excerpts. I thought “Adaptation” it was meaningful. The distorted Sting sample filled it out eerily: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz1mEMiNPHQ And once it gets to the climax he exclaims: “SHE MIGHT JUST BE THE ONE!!!!” I’m sold.
#18 - Mac Miller
I feel like you missed out on the beauty of this. Mac Miller is (like Macklemore) an independent rapper who’s managed to make enough noise to be on everybody’s radar and even score a major collab with Ariana Grande (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sV0S8qWSy0).
Watching Movies With The Sound Off was one of my favorite albums of last year, because he took all the complexities and pitfalls of life and questioned them…whether it be religion, race, unemployment, death, love, etc. Dude flows exceptionally well, but he takes a free form approach on some of the songs like this one, and I think that was what made it hard to follow for you. Oh well. Love the chorus too.
#17 - THE HOMIE DRIZZY DRAKE
So I am a huge fan of Drake and have been since he came on the scene in 2009. In the same way that Kanye made it ok to rap about things other than “Guns Sex Lies Videotape” when he came on the scene, Drake has made it acceptable to be completely and utterly honest and emotional with little to no filter. Here’s a line from his first album. “I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home, And I be acting like I don’t know how to work a phone
But hit “redial”, you’ll see that I just called
Some chick I met at the mall that I barely know at all and
Plus this woman that I messed with unprotected
Texted saying she wished she would have kept it
The one that I’m laying next to just looked over and read it
Man, I couldn’t tell you where the f*** my head is”
I mean, who says admits to things like that ON RECORDS?! Nobody. Because of his honesty and penchant for showing emotion rather than hiding it, as men are typicially programmed to do, he’s made a hefty amount of fans and haters. But, love him or hate him…the guy can rap his ass off as well as sing, and I think he does a good job mixing the two.
Hold On, We’re Going Home: I honestly didn’t think you would hate this as much as you do. It probably shouldn’t have made the top 40, but it was hard to decide with this album since I love ALL OF IT. It’s simple. It’s repetitive (but seriously, though started from the bottom is way MORE repetitive). I thought it was a solid R&B throwback record.
His words: “It’s not a rap record,… It’s not ‘Versace,’ it’s not ‘Started from the Bottom.’ In approaching this album I was like man, it would be great if we had a record that was played at weddings in 10 years or that people that are away from their families in the army could listen to. Something that just [has] timeless writing, timeless melody.”
I honestly feel like he achieved that. But yeah the ‘hot love and emotion line’ was in poor taste, but it doesn’t bother me.
#16 - MIKA
Honestly, I thought the religious references/takedowns in this song would bother you a lot more than “hot love and emotion endlessly”. The fact is this is a beautiful record, with a beautiful video, and a killer ending that hits you right after the bridge. MIKA is underrated.
#15 - Eminem or Marina & the Diamonds
I messed up at this point when I was putting together the zip file, but I’m actually glad that I did. Eminem’s “Headlights” is probably one of the best records he’s ever made. The more I listen to it, the more it resonates. It’s a powerful letter of apology, reflection, and regret to his mother that did for me what Katy Perry’s ROAR did for you, Robby. It should probably even be higher on this list. I can’t leave out Marina and the Diamonds tho (even tho I kind of did.)
Marina Diamandis is a welsh singer who has a really crisp, clean vocal (like Florence Welch without the shakyness and alternative vibe or maybe a stronger Ellie Goulding). A lot of her songs deal with sexism, gender roles, societal takedowns, and general love nonsense, and they’re all well done. I thought “Buy The Stars” was well written…there are certain lines that pop out as quotables throughout, and it’s a good reflective piece. YouTubeLinkforRobby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf8e3OozHlI
#14 - Avicii/Aloe Blacc
Avicii has become the new David Guetta. Calvin Harris has become the new David Guetta. Zedd has become the new David Guetta. Remember when dance music wasn’t a thing in the US? I like dance music okay, but it’s gotten stale over the past few years after every single artist tried to replicate David Guetta beats or get on David Guetta beats after the Black Eyed Peas did their dance album with him. I think Avicii realized that and woke up one day and decided, “I’m going to go as far out of my comfort zone as possible. What style hasnt been tapped with pulsating four on the floor beats? COUNTRY and FOLK!” ding ding ding. (seriously, the guy’s next single features this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Tyminski) I didn’t like the video much, as it seems to just be a 4 minute long ad for people who don’t fit in to fit into levi jeans and ride off into the sunset where there is a EDM festival a-waiting, but the song smashes. I love the way the guitars filter in and out of consciousness, I love the transition from no drums to handclaps, to full on dance dance revolution style madness. Most of all I love the lyrics, which Aloe Blacc wrote and sang on this cut. I hate that anywhere you look this song up, you don’t see his name unless you look at the album credits, particularly since the guy is carrying the entire song. Aloe Blacc’s warm, un-digitized vocal, as well as the guitars give this dance track a human feel, and it’s pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned.
#13 - Fall Out Boyz
this album cover is so bad ass
Really? You didn’t like this either? Well it is all about ANGST, and since you probably have no need for angst, you probably spent most of the time decoding the lyrical meanings (or lack of) here. Shame on you. This is an explosive record. The video is one in a series of 11 (all the tracks off the new album), and they’re not that interesting, but there’s TWO CHAINZ! Speaking of which, who says he’s not competing for market share? Lies you tell: http://youtu.be/w3DsNxXxk7Y
#12 - Mothereffing Miley Cyrus
Miley killlllleeeddd the game this year. And I’ll tell you why. She’s had Disney’s thumb under her since she was like 12. She wanted to branch out and grab pop culture by the balls just Madonna, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and so many female pop artists have done. She went for it, she rebranded herself, and now she’s arguably bigger than Lady Gaga was 2 or 3 years ago. The fact is, she can really sing, and she’s having a lot of fun (some of it at her own expense, but she’s obviously ok with that), and the records sound good. Talk about her appropriating black culture for own benefit is no different than people who say Macklemore is white washing hip hop, or hating on Adele for singing R&B and selling 10 million records off on 1 album versus any black R&B singer. People always want to pull the race card. I remember Lorde saying in an interview something to the effect of ‘We grew up in a time when rap music WAS pop music, so obviously it influenced the songwriting of the next generation, if nothing more than references alone.’ Thanks to Miley Cyrus, I can say ‘turnt up’ and ‘bout that life’ and everyone knows what it means versus just the rap heads. You spent way too much time arguing about this with DEELITE and way too much time blogging about it, so for that reason I win, and in a small way, so does Miley Cyrus.
#11 - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
this is the album cover
this is the music video (which wasn’t out at the time you blogged): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxkZFj60piw
How did you not like this? Wow, you are really hard to please sir. Next top 40 I giveth no f**ks. Instead of listening to Mumford and Sons or Noah and the Whale, I now listen to this band. They’re inspirational, a bit hippie, a lot of folk, a lot of soul, and a TON OF FUN. Nothing more needs to be said. Kindness is a form of love, ya bish.
#10 - Kanye West
When I initially heard New Slaves, I really really got excited. I had recently viewed the documentary “The House I Live In”, and judging from the commentary in this song about privately owned prisons, I have a feeling that Kanye did too. Or maybe he’s just done the research. Anyway, I was excited because I was thinking, “Yes, Kanye’s finally going to back to talking about social issues again instead of how much money he has, or the fact that he is now literally wifing a GOLD DIGGER”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vwNcNOTVzY
Kanye is known for going the f**k off at any given moment when he feels it’s necessary, and compared to his prior incidents (various award shows, the whole taylor swift thing over a stupid beyonce one take bob fosse rip off, jimmy kimmel, The today show, etc.)…other than the George Bush comment, privately owned prisons and the disproportion of black people getting locked up for life in the US over nonviolent crimes is something to get “turnt up” about. Hell, I’m turnt up about it. Then I eventually heard his 10 song album with no cover. Every other song is about having sex and being frustrated with everybody and everything. There’s literally a quote on the song “I Am A God” (yep) that goes, “HURRY UP WITH MY DAMN CROISSANTS!” I love when Kanye is mad about real injustices, I love when Kanye gets creative and changes the way the public looks at music. Now I’m not really sure what he’s going for. I liked the guy that rapped about family, racism, love, struggle, social issues, over the dopest beats possible. Nowadays we have moments like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y4LdvAi05s
Kanye’s spent most of 2013 going on rants about how Nike and other fashion companies/gatekeepers wouldn’t endorse him and let him create product. Eventually he got a sneaker deal with Adidas, but the way he went about totally devalued the one song on his album that really went against the system. With all of that being said, I think New Slaves is a powerful song, Kanye is still one of my favorite artists/producers, he is probably one of (if not the) most impactful artist of the last decade, but dude, I don’t wanna hear YOU say that. And if I want to listen to “sexscapade” rap, I’ll just listen to Lil Wayne or 2 Chainz. You’re creative, but just because everyone doesn’t just hand you the keys to every creative venue, doesn’t mean it’s automatically racism. Get your life son. RANT OVER. Also, this thing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/10/kanye-west-college-dropout_n_4757582.html
#9 - The Game
First of all let’s look at this album cover.
As controversial as this is, I think it’s genius. The Game is underrated. I don’t listen to him all the time, but he’s easily one of my top lyricists in the game (that was a bad pun). I love straight forward writing. Metaphors and similes and reference points and twists and turns are great, but at the end of the day, I’ll take a simple straight forward message to the head before I take a puzzle piece. Yes, the message in here was great, the production was great, his flow rode the beat like…something that rides very well, but what I liked most was what I like to call his “hood knowledge” and the sheer amount of name dropping that he always does. This is particularly displayed in the final verse where he’s like JOHN WILKES BOOTH KILLED LINCOLN AND YOU THOUGHT HE FREED SLAVES, WHAT THE UFF WAS YOU THINKING!…and…WHERE THE UFF IS THE LOYALTY KNOCK THESE N***AS UFFIN TEETH IN, IN THE HOOD SINGING LIKE THEY AUBREY (drake) OR THE WEEKND! This song is interesting, informative, passionate, and somehow ratchet at the same time. So it basically succeeds everywhere “New Slaves” fails.
#8 - The Weeknd (again)
I listened to the Weeknd a TON in 2013. I like the story narratives, I like the unexpected depth, and as I’ve said before, dude has a killer voice. I gotta say he’s got some killer production behind him as well. The Party/After Party starts with another sample based beat that cuts out to some straight up acoustic guitar, drums, and filtered background vocals and heavy drums. It’s very moody and melancholy, but above all smooth. This is by no means the best song on the top 40, but it’s up this high because it sounds good to me, and I played this trilogy album for at least half the year.
#7 - Pharrell Williams
I’ve always loved Pharrell as a producer, and even as a vocalist. He did one solo album about 7 years ago that was decent, but 2013 he took and grabbed it by the throat. Blurred Lines was a worldwide number 1, Get Lucky was a worldwide number one (probably should’ve made the list, but it had to grow on me and it took too long), and Happy (which was not getting any radioplay when I made this playlist) is number 1 in almost every country in the world including these united states of MURICA and is nominated for an Oscar. Go watch Despicable Me 2. Go back and watch some more clips of the 24 hr video. The only drawback I could say about this song is that it is a little repetitive, but it’s so catchy and joyful and soulful that I probably could listen to it for 24 hrs straight (or at least 1 hour anyway).
#6 - Ellie Goulding
"Atlantis" is not a song I intellectualize. I didn’t even like it at first. She certainly has more instantly accessible songs and more lyrically coherent ones. I close my eyes and listen to the airy quality of the atmosphere, the breathyness (it is TOO a word) of the vocals, and the soaring energy of the chorus. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud. Oh, there was autotune? Was there? Is the chorus just one line over and over? I was flying through the skies and didn’t even notice.
#5 - Natalia Kills
Once again, I must recognize a dope album cover. Now granted, this was her first album that dropped in 2011, not the one that came out last year. And it very wants to the production style of Lady Gaga (back when she wanted to Just Dance) combined with Kills own anecdotes on love, sex, control, hopes, fears, vanity, etc, etc. What I really like about “If I Was God”, and about Kills in general is that it/she is very personal. I myself have dealt with the very same issues in trying to protect someone I love from disappointment, and still failing, and wishing that I could just fix the relationship, as well as all the other problems in my life. What’s more stressing than love, war, lies, and money? Very little. The beat is huge and crashing, and her vocals slide right under it rather nicely. It’s the kind of beat driven production I’m drawn to, and I couldn’t think of a better way to accentuate an important, emotional topic.
#4 - Justin Timberlake
Stylistically, Timberlake has better records than this on his 20/20 album. But lyrically, message wise, and as far as full on punch, this is probably his best. I can see where Robby is coming from, but honestly, I feel like you over thought a simple song again. How deep do you want to take the mirror metaphor? I don’t think he went that deep. This song hit me in the summer, and it gave me, for a moment, the hope of ultimately finding love and having the happy ending that we’re all promised at the end of every disney movie. The melodies are strong, and the 2nd half of this song is killer.
#3 - Sia
I love female vocalists. And Sia is arguably one of the best of our time, as well as a great songwriter as well. It pains me to hear you say “I’ve never heard of this artist before”, since she’s been in the top 5 of my 40 for the past 3 years. (get yo life son)
Titanium with David Guetta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRfuAukYTKg
My love from the Twilight soundtrack: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf4ftj_sia-my-love_music
Kill and Run is another incredible performance.
#2 - Kendrick Lamar
So to any of my Caucasian brothers and sisters who may be reading this, please do yourself a favor and never tell me how bad rap is and how degrading and blah blah blah and that’s not even music poppycock and balderdash. If you haven’t listened to Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid MAAD City you can’t say shit to me You can hate Kanye for his ego, You can hate Drake because you feel he’s soft, or he sings too much. You can hate ratchet music for being ratchet. Whatever. I hate when people say things like “when rap started it was for the people and they told stories”, etc etc. Those same people probably have never heard a Nas song. They were thinking about Vanilla Ice and Will Smith or some shit like that (no disrespect to them, but)…If you’re going to criticize a genre at least familiarize yourself enough with it to know what you’re talking about. RANT OVER (not really)
Robby’s reaction to this one epic 12 minute two part song alone proves my point about this album…and about how most people feel about rap when it paints a picture that is offensive, but not in the sense of profanity or sexually/violent or otherwise content, but in the sense of an offense to your comfort zone. If you’ve never had to struggle ( I mean really struggle) on that level of reality where there is nothing else, it’s hard to picture this actually being a real scenario. It’s hard to relate to it, even though you feel you should feel empathy for the persons involved in the story being told. I think that’s what Robby felt here, and I think that’s why he avoided “Sing About Me/Dying Of Thirst” for as long as he did.
Here the lyrics (with some explanation as well) for those of you that are too punked out to listen to the song: http://rapgenius.com/Kendrick-lamar-sing-about-me-im-dying-of-thirst-lyrics
Some context for the album if you do decide to check it out: The album centers around a day in the life of Kendrick, a good kid who resides in Compton, LA. He’s taking his mother’s van out for the day so he can go hang with his friends. His friends are gang affiliated and plan and execute a robbery that day, and ultimately get caught in an altercation that kills his brother. This is a turning point of sorts for him, as he decides he doesn’t want to end up caught in the empty lives of those around him. The production is great, the storytelling is spot on, the skits here are probably the best usage of skits in an album I’ve heard before…it’s like watching a movie with your ears. This was a powerful album and song, and the fact that it won 0 Grammys still baffles me (sorry Macklemore and Daft Punk, but your albums don’t even compare to this). If anyone wants to borrow this from me, I’ve got a clean version and a deluxe version. Or give it a shot yourself. It’s definitely worth it.
#1 - Lana Del Rey
This is the second time I’ve put Lana Del Rey on top, and maybe I really shouldn’t have because this has been out since 2012 and Kendrick Lamar is easily more deserving this go round. However, Summertime Sadness broke onto US radio out of nowhere and became a thing. Then it won a Grammy this year. More important than that, I’ve cried to this song. I’ve healed to this song. I’ve literally spent whole days and weeks only listening to this record, last summer and the summer before that. (Winters too if they count) The song is one of the most unapologetically depressing songs I’ve ever heard, and when I’m unapologetically depressed, it’s right there waiting in my corner. Lana del Rey’s songs mean more to me than they probably should, because I can somewhat relate to the character she is portraying. Much of it is moody, but there is beauty there too, and it also helps that this is my favorite style of production. Giant ass beats over giant ass string sections, underscored by distorted clips of Rick James trying to get his live crowd worked up. Anyway, as a final treat, here’s the remix version that made it to radio & won at the Grammys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akhmS1D2Ce4
Well, that’s all folks. Until the end of the year I suppose. Gosh this was a task. Maybe I should shorten the list. Nah, screw that. I’m still thinking about shooting you a couple smaller playlists as well. Ratchet music is next, but I dont think I’ll let you suffer through more than 10 songs, you might die…or your eardrums might. To everyone who isn’t Robby or Janelle or Ashlee and wants to download the playlist and have it bump in the whip while you decide if any of the songs were of merit, here are the links: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11889634/Top40of2013.zip
And the clean version of Headlights, as it is not in the zip file.
Keep rocking in the free world, and we’ll try this again around December this year.