Before I wrote this post, I tried doing a mini-essay on Die Meistersinger which had the potential to turn into a 10,000-word monsterpost that I’ll be nowhere near finishing for the next few years. So to cool off, I decided to finish my mini-reviews of Rolling Stone’s top 50 songs of last year. As always, I am truly amazed by how efficiently popular culture allows me the chance to turn my brain off completely :).
31. Low Cut Connie - Boozophilia: Harmless, catchy, kind of fun in a I want to dance drunk next to 200 people way. I like the idea of a paean to the low-life hangout dives around America. Certainly a few cuts above generic pop with some interesting piano work. But both Rolling Stone and Christgau rave about these guys like they’re the best thing since Blues itself. If this is the best they can do, we’d better turn in our music card America.
32. Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own: The Boss in Born in the U.S.A. mode, so much so that it can almost be heard as a sibling song. Bruce does irony, and does it well, but every time I hear one of his ironic songs it comes as a complete shock, and it takes me a few minutes to realize that I don’t have to re-examine everything I ever knew about life. On the surface, his ironic music sounds exactly like his sincere music. I don’t know whether this is because Springsteen has a complete lack of self-understanding or because he understands himself all too well. It’s extremely effective, but what it ultimately does is to undercut the exuberance and hope which so many of us gather from Bruce in sincere mode. But perhaps that’s the point, so either way, it just proves that The Boss is still boss (I can’t believe I wrote that phrase down...).
33. Miguel - Adorn: Two reviews. From Rolling Stone: “Up to the minute fresh, yet steeped in Soul Tradition.” From Youtube: "hey if it only takes him 2mins and 34 sec muuuust be good ;) :D lolololololol" - One of these reviews is correct.
34. Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools: I am kind of shocked to say that I liked this song. I mean, it’s not THAT good. But the alternate voice in which he ‘portrayed’ his conscience did make me laugh. I can do without most of the rest, but it least shows that this guy’s got talent.
35. Icona Pop - I Love It: Who’d thunk that “Euro-slut club jam” music would be this dumb? I could go on a rant about the fascist evil of pop dance music, but everybody reading this would know exactly what it would say.
36. Himanshu - Womyn: Well, it’s dumb, but it’s pretty funny. One youtube comment descirbed it as Mitch Hedburg reincarnated as a song. That pretty much sums it up. If you think Mitch Hedburg a genius rather than a mildly funny stoner, listen to this right away. I can pretend that I’ve ever said anything smarter about wome(y)n than anything here, but... well...
37. Muse - Madness: Prog Rock simplified. No amount of finely constructed music (and it really is) can cover for the fact that the lyrics are insipid in that way which makes you know that their writer thinks he’s brilliant (hey, it worked for Wagner...). Still, the music here is really, really good.
38. Teen - Better: If the girls from Girls made a girl-band... it would probably be more entertaining than this. I mean,... it’s not bad, in fact it’s slightly better than your average band with a label. It’s just not up to the extravagant claim of the song. …And what the hell is it with indie bands and believing that putting a full chord on every sixteenth note generates energy?
39. Dwight Yoakam - A Heart Like Mine: I’m not sure when I’ve ever listened to a Dwight Yoakam song. This is, almost, exactly what I expected. Competent, but sentimental, overly sincere, and no more ulterior meanings or unexpected harmonies than the dullest-witted listener can understand. Songs for the lowest-common-denominator. Nice yodels, but I’ll stick with his old-country cousin Eugen.
40. Craig Finn - Rented Room: One of those songs that is not quite as dark or shocking or moving as it thinks it is. Drug addiction is terrible, this song isn’t. But it’s not exactly a moving depiction of it.
41. Danny Brown - Grown Up: It’s a dumb rap song that doubles as a smart one. I mean, it’s clearly a true rags to riches story with a morally neutral point of view as to whether he deserved his good fortune. Whether you like it depends on which side of the pillow you woke up...
42. Bear Hug - The 2 Bears: Even if this song didn’t sound like it was about pedophillia, it would be creepy as hell.
43. Tanlines - All of Me: One of the two most repeated lines in the song is ‘cut off emotions.’ Were there any?
44. The Wanted - Glad You Came: Apparently this is the Irish equivalent of the Jonas Brothers. But the Jonas Brothers never used accordions, nor did they talk so clearly in double entendres about teen sex. I guess that’s a good thing?...
45. Justin Bieber - Die in Your Arms: I’ve listened to perhaps one Justin Bieber song in all “these years.” It’s unfortunate to know that his music is exactly as annoying as the rest of his phenomenon. This is so unbelievably scripted and packaged for an exact demographic so as to be as noxious as carbon monoxide. Hopefully some pre-teen girl somewhere accidentally downloads a Heinrich Biber track and it changes her life forever.
46. Maroon 5 - Payphone: What must surely be a masterpiece of non-annoyingness in the history of a truly irritating pop group.
47. Superchunk - This Summer: Almost moving. It would appear that indie rock has matured to the point that it can ‘do’ nostalgia. I’m impressed. Not quite impressed enough, but still impressed.
48. Deadmau5 - The Veldt: Much has been made about the way this song was made (by the children, apparently...). But if songwriters are worried about the potential for crowdsourced songs to eclipse them, they can rest easy for a while. Songs by committee are usually a bad idea, but this song takes that idea to the next level, and is colossally terrible. If you saw the video that accompanies a 3-minute version of this song, you’d come away thinking it’s a bland song that accompanies a rather more interesting video. But if you sit through all 8 minutes, you’d be overjoyed that there are only two songs left in this list.
49. Kacey Musgrave - Merry Go’ Round: I’m shocked, stunned, and completely embarrassed. This song restores my faith that Country Music written after 1970 might be worth listening to. And it’s some 24 year old I’d have probably dismissed as another country music ditz before I’d ever heard the song. A masterpiece? Not quite, too much repetition, but this is damn good. Watch this girl.
50. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe: It’s inescapable, and it just might pass for bland and non-annoying if we hadn’t heard it 50,000,000,000 times in the last year.
So, from these fifty, I’ll make my own list of what’s worth listening to:
1.Bob Dylan: Pay in Blood
4. Grimes - Oblivion (begrudgingly)
BUT. The best song of 2012 clearly did not make this list at all. We all know what the real #1 song of the year is; the song which expresses the folly of our country, the spirit of the age,and mankind’s eternal longing for transcendence and pure being:
The Birthday Song (Thanks Ethan...):