The 50 ________ Songs of 2015, Pt. 1

Screwing around on my phone the other morning, I clicked on a link that took me to some political story on Rolling Stone's website. I don't even remember what the story was, just that I had mild interest in the subject. While scanning the first few paragraphs, I saw a link on the right sidebar that read, "The 50 Best Songs of 2015".

Keep in mind, since I was about 15, I read Rolling Stone religiously. The music reviews were the very first thing that I flipped to in each issue and I read each one with ravenous glee. The slant of the rag informed my political side to where it is today, which was an added bonus, because it turns out they were on the correct side all along. I was a Rolling Stone baby. I still own the John Belushi issue that came out following his death in 1982 (my senior year in high school), amongst many others that have personal meaning to me. I had a subscription for about twenty years, and in the time since I stopped the subscription (all subscriptions to magazines really), I have continued to purchase it on occasion, depending on who was on the cover or if there was an op-ed piece that grabbed me. 

While fully admitting at this point in time that Rolling Stone has pretty much always been a major commercial entity for at least the past thirty years with little of their old "credibility" intact, I will say that the increasingly commercial direction it has especially taken the past couple of decades has gradually turned me off to the magazine. It just grew so far away from rock, the music behind its very existence, until it is really more about "pop" (with a nod to its continuing political pieces) than anything. I still look to it when I want to get a special edition that focuses only on the music of, for example, Pink Floyd or The Who -- classic rock is still at its heart, it seems, and they have the history with it -- but there have just been too many mindless pop drones and dull bands on the cover in the last few years to make me want to look at Rolling Stone regularly.

I listen to a lot of music, and I buy new music all the time; it's just not the music that Rolling Stone generally promotes anymore or that the largest chunk of the American music -- I shouldn't say "music-buying public" here -- music-sampling or music-stealing public listens to at all. And so I have grown old in a way that I always said I wouldn't. I feign interest in younger things, and can still keep up the facade for a while, but I really just don't get a chance to hear most of what is considered passable as music these days. I don't hang out in malls, I don't listen to the radio at all (I don't drive, and so I can't get trapped in rush hour traffic to the point where I might consider checking out random stations like I used to), and I don't have anyone of a younger generation hanging out around me regularly where I might hear such music. When I did have someone younger working with me, our tastes jibed and pretty much went straight to classic rock and some of the same current bands.

But I do keep an eye bent toward current trends and pop news, so I know the names, the faces, the figures... I've heard of Fetty Wap even if (until this article) I have never heard Trap Queen. (He even came up on Jeopardy a couple of weeks ago. Poor Alex.) I'm up on the big names right now and what it is they do, though it is most likely that if I have heard a single song they have done, I wasn't aware what it was or who it was doing it. And if by chance I heard a song while wandering through the grocery store that did catch my ear in a positive way, I most likely didn't have a chance to find out who it was.

Going back to the Rolling Stone article, it struck me that maybe I have been going about things all wrong. Instead of worrying about not catching up to today's culture (like I have ever actually worried), why not avoid looking like someone desperately trying to be with it, and just be someone who is only a few months behind? 

Since Rolling Stone played nice and added videos for every single song on their 50 Best Songs of 2015 list, this gives me an opportunity to not only hear music that is most likely completely new to me, but in some cases also put faces to the voices. 

And if you want to see their full list or watch all of the videos (some of them are just the music tracks) for yourself, visit:


Rik's Take on Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of 2015

#50 - Titus Andronicus, "Dimed Out"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of their music? No.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Interested. Need to investigate further.

OK, I really liked the video (though I am trying to not let the videos sway my opinion), with the lyrics doodled on a whiteboard. The cascade of empowering lyrics, if I ever took the time to learn them, might be fun to sing along with sometime. As modern punk-pop goes, this one sounds pretty good, especially since it hearkens back to better, older punk. But I am wary when I hear that their latest album is a 29-song rock opera. I'm always up for grandiose statements and ridiculous levels of chutzpah from a young band, but I will need to dig a bit further into Titus before I attempt to tackle a full album. Still, a good start to this list.

#49 - Carly Rae Jepsen, "Run Away with Me"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of her music? No.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Never.

The world's lucky-duckiest sort of cutie pie, Carly Rae Jepsen lost any possible hold on me because of her horrible first pitch at a Rays/Astros game a couple of years ago. What does that have to do with music? Nothing for most, but for me... everything. I don't care if throwing off the mound messed her up, or if she threw "strike after strike" in practice (as was reported on the news), or that she took it all in stride and pretended it was as funny as the rest of the world thought it was. No, it's mainly because the song that made her famous in the first place drives me insane with violent rage. Especially when it gets stuck in my head for a year when I only heard it by accident in the first place. And then gets all "lah-di-dah... my life is so perfect... watch me throw a ball... Oops! Hee-hee!" Ugh... (Oh, and this song was just too boring. And exactly what I expected.)

#48 - Major Lazer feat. Mø, DJ Snake, "Lean On"
Heard of the artist? Neither one.
Own any of their music? Hah!
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? To be honest... no.

Not the type of song or music that I would normally buy, or even listen to without an interfering factor such as a soundtrack or a party. But I also don't dislike it. I get the hook, and don't necessarily care for the "blow a kiss, fire a gun" lyric in the chorus, but I do really like the instrumental bridge. I would easily listen to this, though, in a mix if I were working on a project that required a lot of concentration where I didn't really care what was playing in the background.

#47 - Cage the Elephant, "Trouble"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of their music? Two albums.
Heard this song? Preordered the album already, and this was one of the released singles.
Would you purchase this song? See both previous statements.

I'm a member of the Cage the Elephant safari, and as I mentioned above, I've already preordered the album (coming out Dec. 18). My buddy Logan told me it was coming out when I was at Disneyland with him a couple weeks ago, and he expressed some concern with the production by Dan Auerbach, thinking it might come out sounding too much like the more recent Black Keys' work (he prefers the early albums, as do I, but I like their more expansive sound as well). I think Auerbach shows a deft touch with Cage on the first three songs I have heard, and this song is a dandy and is my favorite of the three. The Rolling Stone reviewer name-checks Tommy James, but I am picking up two others as possible influences here: Frank Black of the Pixies and E. from Eels. And that spells "O-K" with me...

#46 - Kacey Musgraves, "Biscuits"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of her music? No.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Surprisingly, I might add this to my country cornpone collection.

I'm not a country guy. That's has been long established. But I do like a lot of older country and western music, and when the mood hits, I've run into some modern stuff that I mildly enjoy (and sometimes love outright). But it either has to hit that "ol' country" feeling, be more "roots rocky" than modern country, or be something that kind of shocks me outside of what I am expecting from modern country. Musgraves isn't doing anything extraordinary here. It's a little bit homey and a little bit tough, and the lyrics are simultaneously corny but have a "get out of my yard, dammit" edge. I think the Hee-Haw style video kind of misses the mark for what seems like a really easy target, and I wish they had been more true to the way the show was actually filmed. But this list (except for the next song on it below) is not about the videos. And I actually lightly enjoyed this song.

#45 - Rihanna, "Bitch Better Have My Money"
Heard of the artist? What a stupid question.
Own any of her music? Falls under the "very early Mariah Carey" rule for me: Love the look, honey, but your music? Ouch. Sound can be turned down though, and the video seems to go on even longer then. Which is a good thing.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Probably not. Doesn't do anything for me without the astounding video.

Video. Watch the video. The song does nothing for me at all, its not my type of music nor do I care for the stance, and I don't care what Ri-Ri is singing or rapping. I am simultaneously repelled and entranced by the video, so I am not sure how to feel about it in the end. Except that I will probably watch it again. And again. Infinity.

#44 - Wolf Alice, "Lisbon"
Heard of the artist? Isn't this Letters from Cleo?
Own any of their music? One song, "Moaning Lisa Smile," off the KEXP Song of the Day podcast.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Absolutely. Sounds like something I would like to hear more.

Yeah, this one is a no-brainer. I don't have a brain anyway, but I just wanted to point that I didn't need one to discover that I like this song. It's the '90s all over again, to the point where I was wondering when Belly got back together. Vocals, kicked up guitar-and-drums craziness, vocals, more kicked up guitar-and-drums craziness... I can always get behind that formula. Fuzz, fuzz, and more fuzz! So far, this is the first song I have played more than once while writing this.

#43 - Mumford and Sons, "The Wolf"
Heard of the artist? Are you alive in the 21st century?
Own any of their music? The Sigh No More LP, like everybody else in the Western world. But nothing else.
Heard this song? On Saturday Night Live and Jon Stewart. And, for once, on the radio.
Would you purchase this song? Going to hear it for years on the wife's car radio. So, why should I buy it?

I bought the Mumford boys' first album when everyone went nuts. And then I never listened to it even once because I heard it everywhere: in malls, on buses, on talk shows, on the radio, down the hall at work... everywhere. I don't dislike these guys, but I also don't really care about them. I recognize the talent, but the folky hipster vibe wears me down after a very short while. The Wolf rocks it up a bit more than their usual stuff, and I thought their performance of the song on Saturday Night Live earlier this year was one of the better musical guest appearances that show has had after a flurry of pop singer unpreparedness. But once again, it comes back to over-familiarity blocking my need to own any of their material for my own. (Except for the one that I already bought, of course.)

#42 - Sheer Mag, "Fan the Flames"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Possibilities run rampant.

OK, so Sheer Mag has me interested. Just how gimmicky is the sound? Is it just for the video or is this a concept thing, like the one chord per album that the Raveonettes used to tout? Broken speaker vibe aside, the funky '70s pop-rock sound is pleasing. Apart from seeing her sweating in a club singing this song, I don't know who the female vocalist is, but I am getting a little bitty Michael Jackson vocal drive through the scratchy sound, and the band grooves nicely. I might want to hear more.

#41 - Coldplay, "Adventure of a Lifetime"
Heard of the artist? Duh.
Own any of their music? Embarrassingly, the first two albums. But I only ever listen to one particular song, and only when I got really mad at my old job. Can you guess what the song was?
Heard this song? Not yet, but I guess that I was bound to hear it. Might as well get it over with...
Would you purchase this song? Let's just say Coldplay and I consciously uncoupled years ago. Call me Gwyneth. 

Light disco wallpaper I don't need to hear, though I doubt that it can be avoided. Does not do a single thing for me. Bland as dry toast. These guys would have to murder another band live on television before I looked at them with interest again. Next...

#40 - Unknown Mortal Orchestra, "Can't Keep Checking My Phone"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Need to look into their other music, but I might get this song.

Even without the oddly humorous video, this one is kind of delightful. The lyrics are pretty goofy but not boring in the least, and I want to know more about why we are eating crickets in the future. (They apparently taste like "far from home".) It's disco with a dryly funny bone, and that is just enough to have me research Unknown Mortal Orchestra a little bit more.

#39 - The Weeknd, "Earned It"
Heard of the artist? Kind of all over the place right now.
Own any of his music? No.
Heard this song? Not sure. Heard "Can't Feel My Face," that's for certain.
Would you purchase this song? Not on the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack, but it's possible I would check out the song.

Damn, I love Abel Tesfaye's falsetto on this song. Not sure if this is the first time I have heard Earned It, but if its a thing right now, I get it. Pretty catchy, and a nice drive to the music behind him. See? I'm getting seduced, and the song is not even meant for me. I feel weird... but I am OK with it... ummm...

#38 - A$AP Rocky feat. Rod Stewart, Miguel, "Everyday"
Heard of the artist? Just one of them. Want to guess who?
Own any of their music? Well, I own tons of early Rod Stewart, Faces, and Jeff Beck. But not the other guys.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? The only part that interests me is the Stewart vocal. And the middle section. And the end.

One of the dumbest rapper names I have seen yet meets a far superior (and way older, thanks to sampling) musical talent. The middle portion is just trip-hoppy enough that it makes me want to listen to some Tricky or Portishead instead. I kind of liked three-fifths of this, I just didn't give a shit about the rap parts.

#37 - Blur, "Ong Ong"
Heard of the artist? I own everything Blur has done.
Own any of their music? I own everything Blur has done.
Heard this song? I own everything Blur has done.
Would you purchase this song? I own everything Blur has done.

I own everything Blur has done. If I can ever get the wife to really listen to them, she is going to thank me for it.

#36 - Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney, "FourFiveSeconds"
Heard of the artist? I should have just pulled this question for this one.
Own any of their music? One out of three ain't bad. In my case, for this trio, it's preferred.
Heard this song? Nope, and I am surprised.
Would you purchase this song? Tah-dah! Wonders never cease. Most likely.

And now I going to do an about face on Rihanna, because I really like her vocals on this song, where it seems Paul McCartney is happy to just bop around, hit his guitar, and collect another Grammy someday. And I never thought that I find something on which I found Kanye West even partially interesting, and his vocals do not bother me at all. I have listened to six other songs since hearing this for the first time, and the chorus is stuck in my head. In a good way. This is a healing song, and I may need it someday.

#35 - Car Seat Headrest, "Something Soon"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope again.
Heard this song? I have now.
Would you purchase this song? Not a chance that I won't. I need this in my life.

Robert Pollard much? I like this very much, and I will buy it. Going to their Bandcamp page right now.

#34 - JD McPherson, "Let the Good Times Roll"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of his music? One song... this one.
Heard this song? See previous comment.
Would you purchase this song? Got it, but may have to look into him more now that I am reminded that it exists. Kind of forgot with everything going on in my life.

Let me state that I am a big Blasters maniac. This falls right into my roots rock wheelhouse, and his vocal definitely reminds me of Phil Alvin. Looking at my collection, I already own this song because of KEXP and told myself to look into JD's music after I first listened to it. And then stuff went kablooey in my life, so I forgot. I will remember now. Fun song.

#33 - EL VY, "Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo)"
Heard of the artist? Not under this name, and only half of the duo.
Own any of their music? I have some stuff by The National, but I am not crazy about them.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Oh, hell yeah.

Scratched a ticket with a leg / Of a cricket / And I got triple Jesus”

If that doesn't tickle you, I don't care. It tickles me, and immediately carried me into the song straight through. I don't know if the National's Matt Berninger is being sincere, but I too would like us to return to the moon and beyond, so this has enormous appeal to me. The titular nod to the Minutemen's Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing is also greatly appreciated. And this is the second song on the list where someone sings about crickets. I think Buddy Holly would be proud.

#32 - Disclosure feat. Lorde, "Magnets"
Heard of the artist? Full disclosure? Just Lorde.
Own any of their music? I own Foil by "Weird" Al Yankovic. And I know Randy Marsh.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Not opposed to it, but doubt I would get around to it. And not really what I listen to anyway.

The existence of Lorde for me has pretty much been wrapped up in the comedy of others: Yankovic, Parker, and Stone. I haven't really listened to her, and I am not sure that I am in her demographic. That said, I thought the song was fairly catchy and tried to do a little bit more than the usual dance pop that I generally eschew. Don't know what else to say except... Lorde! Lorde! Lorde! I'm Lorde!

#31 - Kurt Vile, "Pretty Pimpin'"
Heard of the artist? Yup.
Own any of his music? One song: Jesus Fever.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? There is not a chance that I won't.

I have had a couple of friends tell me to check out Kurt Vile, and because I have exactly one song by him that I got from somewhere I don't remember, I would go, "Oh yeah, I've heard him. I like him." Neither response is a lie: I have and I did. Hearing Pretty Pimpin', I am instantly reminded of the Meat Puppets, which is never a bad thing at all. Kurt has his own thing going though, and I now realize that I have waited a little too long not to be listening to more of this music. This song is wonderful. It might be my favorite one thus far in this list. Nah, scratch that "might"... it is my favorite.

#30 - Selena Gomez, "Good for You"
Heard of the artist? Um...
Own any of her music? No, but um...
Heard this song? Am I hearing the song? Um...
Would you purchase this song? I would do anything for her. Even purchase this song. I am a married adult male that is 2-1/2 times her age. Stop watching this video!

I have gone this far in my life without having listened willingly to a Selena Gomez song. The same goes for her old beau Bieber, and I know he is coming up later on this list, so I might as well just get it over with and not complain. Gomez is a really pretty girl, but this video made me feel like a dirty old man, and not in a good way. (You didn't know there was a good way, did you? Well, there isn't.) I need to take a shower, but far, far away from the one she inhabits in the video. Surprisingly, I thought Good for You was far more understated than I expected (I thought there was Disney kid belting in store), and it is definitely sexy. And that is just so, so, so, so very wrong. That Bieber kid is a stupid idiot.

#29 - Drake, "Know Yourself"
Heard of the artist? Can't avoid him, even in movie theatres.
Own any of his music? Not a chance.
Heard this song? A snippet here, but not fully.
Would you purchase this song? Probably not.

Another artist of whom I have never listened to a full song until now, Drake (and talk of Drake; mostly talk of Drake, endless talk of Drake) is rather omnipresent these days. It is amazing that I mostly know him from a Sprite commercial and those stupid headphones. But I will admit that I didn't hate this song when I listened to it just now, and found the beat rather comfortable, even if the lyrics (yeah, I read along while I listen) mean zero to me. I get what he is saying, but I just don't give a shit. "But you know how that shit go." Yeah, I do, Drake. I guess one of the lyrics meant more than zero to me.

#28 - Eric Church, "Mr. Misunderstood"
Heard of the artist? No.
Own any of his music? Not yet.
Heard this song? I'm pleased that I have now.
Would you purchase this song? I would be Mr. Misunderstood if I didn't.

Oh, this is so good. "But you love your daddy's vinyl, old-time rock and roll / Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother..." That's right... a Wilco name-check! No, please, Mr. Church, don't try to win me over. A nice alt-country groove (alt-country is still a term, no?) gets laid down, and then Church reels off memories and influences like he is writing his version of American Pie. Truly enjoyable; a must get for me.

#27 - Miguel, "Coffee"
Heard of the artist? Only because he is on the A$AP Rocky song farther above.
Own any of their music? Oh, hell no.
Heard this song? I think that I have heard part of this song somewhere, maybe a TV show.
Would you purchase this song? Not a chance.

It's not a bad song, but really just generic. I have only heard the cleaned up version in the video on the Rolling Stone site (which is odd, since they included the absolutely filthy Rihanna video; "filthy," both in a blood level and a nearly porn level, is meant to be a positive), and so maybe it would play better with the chorus altered to a more adult (though sophomoric) level. I am guessing the ladies love this song, but I am not a lady, so it won't work on me. (Not like that song above by The Weeknd... damn you, The Weeknd...)

#26 - Florence + the Machine, "Ship to Wreck"
Heard of the artist? Of course.
Own any of their music? The Lungs LP and a Buddy Holly cover.
Heard this song? Yes.
Would you purchase this song? Still not sure I really like them. I appreciate them more than actually like them.

I think that I were someone in Florence Welch's circle of friends, I would be astounded constantly that I personally knew someone who could sing like she can. Florence has a stunning voice, but for some reason, the music she and her band create never really sends me. I hear their songs, and I think "Wow, that is cool how they did that," but then I forget the songs as quickly as they came. 

To be continued... Pt. II of The 50 _______ Songs of 2015 can be read by clicking here:


Eric said…
I'm relieved to see that I actually recognize some of these artists. Even more remembered to realize I kinda like summer of them.

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