The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016: Part 1


Here we are, so deep into March you can taste April at the back of your brain, and I have thus far put off doing the second version of an exceedingly fun project that I inaugurated last year. In January of 2016, I had just read Rolling Stone’s The 50 Best Songs of 2015, and realized about halfway through that I had heard hardly a song on their list. While I own thousands of albums in my music collection, my interests in recent years has been in tracking down obscure items or adding to the discographies of my already favorite artists, not in seeking out new music that might expand my palate and range. I would perhaps purchase and download a couple of dozen new albums per year, but not really go out of my comfort zone. And radio was a mystery to me. My wife’s car radio is usually tuned to stations that play classics from the ‘70s, ‘80s and some ‘90s (and that radio is under her control). I only heard the latest pop music in malls and grocery stores, or if dropped into a TV show or movie that I was watching.

As a result, I undertook a project to present what was basically my own running commentary to Rolling Stone’s list, but which would also jumpstart my own interest in current music… it was hoped. The plan was to listen to each song on the list – the vast majority of the songs for the very first time – and then write a quickie review of my experience along with my first thoughts upon listening to them. I would also qualify my experience based on these four questions: 1) Had I heard of the artist before that listen?, 2) Did I already own any of that artist’s music?, 3) Had I heard the song before?, and 4) Would I ever try to purchase the song based on that initial listen?

The final tally from my listen to Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Songs of 2015 went like this:

Total number of songs: 50
Songs I had heard before: 13, with 3 maybes.
Songs that I owned already: 6
Reactions: Loved: 10 | Liked: 18 | Hated: 2 | Meh: 20
Songs that I planned to purchase: 14 definitely; 8 maybes.

I called my own article The 50 ________ Songs of 2015, since I was pretty certain that, overall, I wouldn’t think most of them were the “best” songs of the year. [You can read Part 1 of last year’s list here: http://cinema4pylon.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-50-songs-of-2015-pt-1.html, and Part 2 here: http://cinema4pylon.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-50-songs-of-2015-pt-2.html.]

Cut to 2017. Rolling Stone had actually released their Best Song list for 2016 on November 30 of that year, but there was a serious hitch in my ability to do the project at that time. (I also hate it when "Best of" lists come out before a particular year is even finished.) I was still tied up in recovering from my injured hip and could not sit at the computer and write for very long during nearly all of December all the way through the first two weeks of February, I decided that I should, in addition to most of my normal writing, postpone doing such a list for a bit.

Taking into account listening to every single song, researching each artist in a cursory fashion, writing paragraphs for 50 separate songs, and then building the articles on the blog (not to mention possible graphics), doing this project is a pretty involved piece. It takes a good amount of hours to knock it out properly. So, since I am not working right now, I decided to do it during a week while I sat around waiting to find out if I had jury duty or not. But then I just got caught up in other family stuff, trying to secure physical therapy appointments when the gym I use is short-staffed for the week because the doctor is on vacation, worrying about having to do jury duty the next day, and my main vice, watching movies endlessly. Thus, any momentum I had in being excited to do the project fell apart quickly. Luckily, after three days of calling in to the courthouse, I was let off the hook and found myself with a solid couple of days free and open to really dig into this thing.

To play along at home (or on the mobile device of your choice should you be a-ramblin'), here is the link to the original Rolling Stone story, which has links to the full music videos (or a couple of select live performances) for all 50 songs (though a few short samples are on only on Spotify): http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-best-songs-of-2016-w452313

And so here we go, the first part of what I am now calling The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016, Pt. 1:

#50 - Van Morrison, "Going Down to Bangor"
Heard of the artist? Do we still breathe air on this planet?
Own any of his music? Over a dozen albums.
Heard this song? I’ve heard plenty that sound like it, and yet…
Would you purchase this song? There is little chance that it won’t end up in my collection within a short while.

The quintessential Northern Irish soul belter. (Who knew that was a job description one could have?) I have an odd memory sense that I saw Van Morrison live at some point in my childhood, and yet, all evidence seems to point to that being a falsehood. (A phony form of Deep Purple in 1980 is usually considered to be my first true concert experience, though I had seen other live music before that in sporadic instances.) His music is all pervasive in my memory, whether it be his early days with Them knocking out Gloria, his purple suit-clad self ambling onto stage in Scorsese’s The Last Waltz while earnestly growling and kicking his way through Caravan, hearing Moondance at nearly every theatre party or shopping mall that I have entered, or simply having owned some of his music at most points of my life. 

While I have owned numerous albums of his in my lifetime, the last time that I bought anything with Van’s name on it was his 2000 live collaboration with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber, The Skiffle Sessions. I knew that Van was still touring and putting out albums, but as my music budget degraded, so did my interest in keeping up with the man. As a result, I didn’t even know about his latest album – his highest charting one in the U.S. ever – Keep Me Singing. If this basic blues take is an example of what is to be found on the album, I will probably give it a go. The lyrics are no great shakes, but it is fun to hear the man sing about things not usually listed in what is otherwise a blues song: Bangor in County Down, Pickie Pool Funpark, Northern Island and geographical features like Napoleon’s Nose at Cavehill. (It is the first time I have ever heard the word "charabanc" in a song, so it has that going for it as well.) I guess some would see it as cultural appropriation; I see it as an experienced musician using music that he deeply loves to give a shoutout to the roots of his younger self, bringing his influences full circle.

I pulled up some live performances of Morrison doing other songs from Keep Me Singing, and yes, we should keep him doing just that. His voice is still remarkably supple at 71, and his music, even with (and especially because of) the occasional purposeful growl, still goes down smooth without making you feel like you are being used. Since it is becoming increasingly more obvious that we are all just seen as mere products on a conveyor belt by our would-be global masters, we need Van’s voice to remind us there is still something beautiful left somewhere in this world.

#49 - Nicki Minaj, "Black Barbies"
Heard of the artist? Ow! Her incessant twerking just dented my head…
Own any of her music? Oh jeez, I hope not… Ahhhhhhhh… NO.
Heard this song before this? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Only at gunpoint. (Don’t test me…)

The description on Rolling Stone’s piece about this song is that Black Barbies is “Nicki’s answer to Black Beatles”. When I started listening to her track for the first time, I immediately thought, “But it IS Black Beatles, Rolling Stone. IT IS!” (Sorry, been watching Feud: Bette vs. Joan pretty intensely lately…) Nicki's version is really a remix of the Rae Sremmurd w. Gucci Mane track that took the charts (and the viral video world) by storm to the point where even I have heard it a zillion times, as self radio-deprived as I am. Minaj’s take splashes the original with a gender viewpoint switch, tosses in the obligatory (already by then, but still necessary) Trump dig, and a lot more profanity. Nicki has been in my purview for a few years now – but not my “perv-view”, because frankly, she doesn’t do it for me – and I have heard or seen her perform her songs a handful of times now. She is not un-entertaining on stage, but even with that I cannot find an entryway into her music for me. Even with the fact that I may possibly actually like Black Beatles (stay tuned, because it may reside a good deal higher up the rankings on this list), Black Barbies is not that ingress to the greater Minaj world in my case. Outrageousness, influential fashion sense, and twerking skills aside, I just see superficiality in her music. I get that there is a "power" aspect at play within her posturing and attitude, and I am not one to take that away from her, but I would like to understand her music beyond that level. I don't want this to be simply a case of "It's not meant for you." I like a lot of things that aren't specifically meant for me. Anyone care to change my mind on Darling Nicki?

#48 - Sturgill Simpson, "Keep It Between the Lines"
Heard of the artist? Oh, yes…
Own any of his music? Sure do.
Heard this song before this? Sure have.
Would you purchase this song? Already have it.

If I tell you I am a Nirvana fan, it should be of no surprise that I came around to singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson mostly because of his low key, countrified cover of In Bloom on his Grammy-winning third album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The Daily Show also gets some of the credit, because that is precisely where I saw Sturgill first perform the song, though I also know him more recently from his appearances (not all musical) on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Just as I complained about finding an in-point to Nicki Minaj’s music, on a fairly regular basis I might gripe about finding a similar entrance into the current world of country music. Sturgill has provided that for me, though I am still looking for anyone in the current batch of artists that I like as much. What could have been tremendously cheesy or come off like a mere novelty in lesser hands turned out to be a revelatory moment for Cobain’s song, giving it even greater depth. For a country artist, Simpson’s music fairly rocks when he allows it, but not in the “aiming for the stadium sellout” way that has made modern country mostly an annoyance to me. The odd psychedelic and alternative rock influences and the addition of R&B-style horns gives material overall a greater range as well, but still reverent to his home genre. The effect is more Steve Earle than Garth Brooks for me, and delivered so evocatively that it makes me believe that if more country music were like this, I would visit more often. I’d love to see Sturgill co-headline with Drive-By Truckers. As for Keep It Between the Lines, yes, it is driven along pleasingly by the Dap-Kings horn section, but what comes off most for me is how immediately I was reminded of the great Delbert McClinton due to Sturgill’s impressively soulful vocals on the song. If anything, Simpson has combined genre in such a way as to nearly become anti-genre, despite the Best Country Album Grammy. Sounds like I will keep listening to this sailor as long as he tacks to the current wind…

#47 - D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty, "Broccoli"
Heard of the artist? Not a chance of it.
Own any of their music? Hell, no.
Heard this song before this? I suppose that I could have just written “Not a chance of it” for each of these answers.
Would you purchase this song? Um… Not a chance of it?

Reefer, solo cups, twerking, partying in general… junk that everyone else seems to adore but not me. OK, the recorder playing and the piano creek placement in the video are humorous to me, but I am not basing my opinions on whether the videos for these songs are entertaining. This is about the song itself. Other than the video elements, and apart from a couple of clever lines, this song does not a thing for me. And let me enter Lil Yachty in the sweepstakes for Dopiest Hip-Hop Name…

#46 - Helado Negro, "Runaround"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of his music? Not yet.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Absolutely. Plan to get it rather immediately.

Here is the first song where my immediate impulse is “I simply must have this in my life.” (There are bound to be at least two or three others in the list.) Rolling Stone describes it as “a song about robots in love”. Further digging on my part reveals that the key line in the song, “No love can cut our knife in two,” is derived from an Isaac Asimov story, Runaround (also the song’s title) from his I, Robot collection, wherein Asimov laid down his famous Three Laws of Robotics for the first time. While the story itself is more about a robot’s confusion and eventual self-destruction in trying to maintain its protocol in relation to the Three Laws, if Helado wants his song to be about robots in love, then that is fine as long as the results are as intoxicating to my ears as this. Asimov’s lines spoken by Speedy, the robot in the story – “Hot dog, let's play games/You catch me, I catch you/No love can cut our knife in two” – are sandwiched by Helado’s words, equally non-sequiturs in their own right, but once together, the basis for what could be robotic romance may be derived from them. The backwards walk through this leopard garden is enjoyable enough for me that I want to see what else surrounds the song on the album.

#45 - Car Seat Headrest, "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"
Heard of the artist? Yes, during last year’s 50 Best Songs review.
Own any of their music? I do now.
Heard this song? Not yet.
Would you purchase this song? I will, once I decide to pony up cash for the latest album.

I said on the previous song on this list that “I simply must have this in my life.” That is precisely what I also said about a song by Car Seat Headrest on last year’s list, Something Soon, and I did not lie. I found the style invigorating enough that I truly did require its presence in my life at the time. Do I feel the same way about Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales? Not exactly, or at least not ye. While I find its metaphor and title a little strained, it is still pretty topnotch work from a band that I fully intend on following as long as they maintain this level of quality. Once I am in better financial waters, main member Will Toledo’s new album, titled Teens of Denial, will be mine.

#44 - Desiigner, "Tiimmy Turner"
Heard of the artist? Yes, surprisingly.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Not my scene, man, but don’t count the artist out yet.

Not only am I hearing the vast majority of these songs for the first time, but often the first tidbit of information that I read about each one is included in the paragraph that Rolling Stone has paired with it in the original article. Having only seen one episode of The Fairly Odd-Parents (the pilot, and I did not enjoy it, an example of overly obnoxious voicework absolutely crushing any actual animation fun that might have been had), I had no memory that Timmy Turner was the main character in it. Thankfully, Stone reminded me of this, and so the line about Turner “wishing for a burner” made sense when I heard it (though Desiigner added an extra "i" to Timmy's name, just as the rapper did to his own). The “wish” part I should have expected because of the character, but in the song, Turner seems to have gone pretty dark with that wishing. My own wish would have been for the song to not be quite so repetitive and about a third shorter, but my wishes are never heard. Why Desiigner’s Panda, a better, more artistically intriguing song with a distinctive sound that does not grate on my nerves after a couple of minutes, is not on this list instead of Tiimmy Turner is beyond me. Panda makes me believe that with a couple more interesting songs, I might actually buy an album of Desiigner's in the future, at least a greatest hits collection. Of course, I would then probably have to hear Tiimmy Turner more often, but who knows? Maybe I should wish hard that I would get used to the song by then.

#43 - Free Cake for Every Creature, "All You Gotta Be When You're 23 Is Yourself"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of her music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? It seems likely for one reason or another.

Just like with the brief Rolling Stone paragraph providing my first info on many of these artists, so too do the accompanying videos aid me in often providing my first visual sense of them. I have decreed that I don’t want the videos to color my opinion, but there is just enough Phoebe Cates with a bob-cut (and maybe a little bit of Aubrey Plaza) in singer Katie Bennett’s look in Free Cake for Every Creature's video for this song to keep me hanging around for a little while longer. (Cates, like most males of my generation, had a longstanding effect on us, though mine is not necessarily from the red bikini scene in Fast Times, glorious as it is.) While I do find Bennett's sound a little bit twee (though it is likely the intent, and tweeness is not necessarily always or even mostly a bad thing for me), sometimes twee is exactly what the moment or even the sentiment requires. Bennett’s voice seemed more hushed and often monotone on a couple of her other songs that I listened to after this one, but here her voice occasionally breaks into a slight squeakiness when she attempts to go higher, and it is pretty endearing. The name of her group is as absurd as any band name and I could see some being annoyed with the overarching cuteness, but it sure sounds like a party that I would like to attend. Who doesn’t want free cake (as long as it is gluten-free)? And I am simply all about creatures. Based on this song, Bennett could whisper-squeak me into doing just about anything right now… 

#42 - Bob Mould, "Voices in My Head"
Heard of the artist? Absolument.
Own any of his music? Oooohhh yeah…
Heard this song? No, but had planned to get the album regardless already.
Would you purchase this song? See above statement.

A longtime fave of mine, both in his bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar as well as his solo efforts, Bob Mould is always on my “to get” list when a new album is on the horizon. It may take me a while to get that album, but since music appreciation is timeless to me, I can listen to it whenever I get it. The song itself is a solid reminder of just how perfect Mould is nearly every time he straps on a guitar and sings. I just watched the documentary focusing on old bandmate Grant Hart, and Mould comes off like a major dick throughout (though, since the movie’s only interview subject is Hart, we don’t get the other side of anything). He may be a major dick – hell, he may have a major dick – but who the fuck cares? I don’t know him personally, except through the glimpses we get via his superlative songs.

#41 - Yohuna, "The Moon Hangs in the Sky Like Nothing Hangs in the Sky"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? If Mazzy Star or Julee Cruise don’t do anything new, I could definitely make room…

I don’t know how the moon hangs, but I prefer the Douglas Adams line that goes “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” Yohuna is all synthesizer build over soaring, ever more layered vocals, and it makes my brain hang in the sky in the way that only the best dreamy pop can. This is pretty gorgeous sounding and makes me feel a bit out of my body. I feel like I should say more about it, but all I want to do is listen to it again. Ethereal.

#40 - Lil Uzi Vert, "Original Uzi (4 of Us)"
Heard of the artist? Oh, fuck no…
Own any of his music? Unlikely. Nope.
Heard this song? I have now.
Would you purchase this song? Nah.

So what is the deal with rappers starting their names with either Big or Lil? Where are the rappers with "Mid" names, like Mid-Syze Kompakk or Mid El Earth? (Copyright on both of those, BTW, 2017 Rik Tod Johnson.) Here is another Lil, this time with Uzi Vert attached, which I guess is supposed to make him sound dangerous. (Look out! He could go off at any time!) He does go off in this song on the usual gangsta subjects: bitches, guns, jewelry, banging other bitches, Greek cheeses (you think that I am joking, just you wait), having his bitch have a threesome with he and another bitch, etc. Like much music built around such a superficial sense, this is all pretty much a wash with me. If lyrics are truly inventive or at least catch my year with clever rhyming, I will take note, but this really had nothing that made me do so. Outside of a couple of fun lines (I liked “But I want World Peace just like Metta/Wait, countin' cheese that’s that feta”), it’s really just business as usual. Lil Uzi Vert is simply not my weapon of choice...

#39 - Paul Simon, "Cool Papa Bell"
Heard of the artist? Been with me my whole life.
Own any of his music? A vast amount, but much of it with some Garfunkel guy.
Heard this song? Very surprisingly, no.
Would you purchase this song? Is our world doomed?

The fact there is a new Paul Simon out for the past so many months and I have not heard one thing about it is absolutely staggering to me, especially since it charted so high (his highest ranking on the U.S. album charts ever as a solo act) and seems to have garnered massive critical acclaim. This track could almost have been a cut left off of Graceland, with its gentle, off-kilter African guitar and rhythm, but the lyrics would have been entirely different at that point in the late ‘80s. Here, Rhymin’ Simon muses on matters existential. This is nothing new for him, but one of those matters involves the usage of “motherfucker” in the current lexicon (“Ugly word/Ubiquitous and often heard/As a substitute for someone’s Christian name"). I don’t think the resulting joke involving the repeat of the word is all that funny and sounds a bit hokey – the man has been in the music biz for a full 60 years now – but I still enjoy how pliable his range of lyrical interest remains after all that time. The chief takeaway for me is this: Paul Simon sings (well, half-speaks) “motherfucker” twice in this song. He should also get a thank you for singing about James “Cool Papa” Bell, the base-swiping speed demon from the old Negro Leagues. I cannot resist baseball references in music in the first place but in a song this odd and ultimately fun, my resistance deteriorates even further. A must buy for me (eventually).

#38 - Maren Morris, "80s Mercedes"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of her music? Nope.
Heard this song? I believe that I did in Downtown Disney, but did not know who it was.
Would you purchase this song? Nope. Once again, not my sort of ride.

This one sounded a bit familiar to me, but that might have been just because it just sounds like generic fake country cum pop to me. It has a chorus that will have all the soccer moms singing along for the next twenty years, and yeah, while that may mean Maren Morris is going to make a lot of green for herself, it is still a knock on soccer moms. Wait a minute… OK, at the end of watching the YouTube video, I saw an ad for a video from Morris for her song My Church, and it just made realize where I definitely heard 80s Mercedes before: Saturday Night Live late last December. Morris appeared as the musical guest on that show, and after being subjected to her music for the first time that night, I mentioned the next day to someone else that Maren’s songs made me angry at just how obvious and vanilla her lyrics were. I also may have said that her performance was under-baked but still exactly what I expected from her when she appeared onscreen. Oh well, sometimes a certain style is just not a good fit for everyone. I find this entirely disposable and not worthy of my continued attention. No apologies for that either.

#37 - Tacocat, "Night Swimming"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Oh yeah.

Ooh, Tacocat! Great name. Stupid name. Great stupid name. Ooh, and it's a palindrome! Makes me want to own the album just for that aspect alone. The song is dopey fun, with amusing lyrics about skinny dipping in the lake at midnight, trying to “see some UFOs,” and banning a certain Athens, GA band from being played on the boombox, even if that more famous band also sang a song with the same title (albeit, with no space between the words). The vocals sounds a bit like a punkier Go-Gos but backed with crunchier guitars, and to that I say... Let my Tacocat Go-Go! (But please stick around for a while, Tacocat, once I purchase your album. Hmmm... now I want to name a dog Tacocat...)

#36 - Drive-By Truckers, "Ever South"
Heard of the artist? Indubitably. 
Own any of their music? A good deal of it.
Heard this song? Yes.
Would you purchase this song? Already have.

You want lyrical depth? Drive-By Truckers has it in spades, and always has, especially since they have always relied on multiple songwriters within the group; two now, but three for a big chunk of their history, and all keeping to the same high mark of lyrical excellence. The thinking man’s Southern Rock band (not that certain other Southern Rock bands weren’t capable of intelligent lyrics… and then there was Molly Hatchet), Drive-By Truckers has been a favorite on my iPod and computer since their epic Southern Rock Opera appeared over 16 years ago. I haven’t liked them quite as much since third songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell (not an original member anyway) left (not happily) in 2007. Oh well, they still have Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley to spin exceedingly detailed yarns about nearly every aspect of modern Southern life with the occasional foray into name-checking pop culture tokens such as Buford Pusser and the one-time friendship of Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young. “Ever southern in my carriage, ever southern in my stance/In the Irish of my complexion and the Scottish in my dance/In the way I bang my head against my daily circumstance” goes the emotional steeling of the soul in Ever South, a high lyrical point that nonetheless lies deep within a rather long song, where the music’s inability to open up wider means that the song overstays its welcome with me. It makes me admit that Ever South is not amongst my favorites in their catalogue. It’s a solid turn, however, and if it brings new listeners to the band, that’s great. I am already there with them.

#35 - Japanese Breakfast, "Everybody Wants to Love You"
Heard of the artist? Sort of…
Own any of her music? Not yet.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Fell in love with the music straight away.

This is precisely why I made it a point to do this project again, even a couple of months late. I did not want to miss out on discovering a band like Japanese Breakfast, really just a front for non-Japanese singer, guitarist, and songwriter Michelle Zauner (she is actually Korean). The vocals made me think of Blondie;s Deborah Harry at the very beginning, then veered sharply from that feeling (but only in the most positive way). The lyrics are so brief as to almost be non-existent, if one could describe a song where its title refrain is sung over and over again through its length. What words there are in its two verses, however, are teasingly memorable [“Can I get your number?/Can I get you into bed?/When we wake up in the morning/Will you give me lots of head?”], and while I said that the videos were not to interfere with this process, I must add that it is quite amusing to see Zauner wandering the streets of Portland in a kimono/wedding dress combo in full geisha wig, while she is also seen sitting (or otherwise) while smoking in a pool hall toilet, drinking beer while playing billiards, gassing up her hog, and playing the guitar solo on the hood of a semi. One of the more charming videos I have seen in a good while, and it just so happens to accompany an equally charming song. [Bonus points if you watch her KEXP performance of four songs while also discussing her mother’s death on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP3oo08kfis.]

#34 - Britney Spears, "Clumsy"
Heard of the artist? Geez…
Own any of her music? I own Fountains of Wayne covering “Oops, I Did It Again”… Does that count?
Heard this song? I sure hope not. If I did, it blended into all the other pap playing on the tinny speakers at the outlet mall.
Would you purchase this song? Goddamn, no!

Good… Christ. Seriously, Rolling Stone, you are having me listen to… H-H-HER? Thankfully, YouTube blocks out most of the videos containing this song, so I had to resort solely to the Spotify clip that Rolling Stone provided. (Rest assured that I will not head to that app to hear the full song as requested.) So, this will have to be based solely on the 30 seconds in the clip, and from that listen I am able to determine that a) everything that I heard sounded like any humanity within the song had been Auto-tuned, synthesized, and beaten to an inch of its life, b) girl chipmunks in Walt Disney cartoons might be sporadically sexy but adult women singing like a chipmunk is not just not sexy but also highly irritating, and c) I just fucking hate this dead-eyed style of dance music. She may have needed to make a comeback, but I didn’t need to be around for it. This selection on their list really makes me mad at Rolling Stone and makes me wonder if some inclusions are bought by record companies.

#33 - Mitski, "Your Best American Girl"
Heard of the artist? Yes, but only fleetingly (explanation below)…
Own any of her music? Not yet, but it will happen for sure.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Absolutely. On the list.

Stunning. Simply stunning. This is probably the best song I have heard thus far. I have only run across Mitski Miyawaki’s music once before, and that was when Marceline covered one of Mitski’s songs on Adventure Time, which made me look up the song after watching the episode. It didn’t make me buy it, but it did make me wonder about the artist/band. This may be the deepest song lyrically on this list thus far, with a sharp point of view ogling the heartbreak and resolve at the center of sexual politicking. I am now not just highly interested in the full album, but everything else Mitski has produced. There will be a day in the near future where I will end up purchasing all four of her albums in one shot and digging in for an afternoon. Once more, the rather provocative and excellently produced video for this film was somewhat instrumental in making me give this song more attention. As did some further listening to her output. I felt it necessary to know more immediately. Sublimity defined. 

#32 - Kodak Black, "Everything 1K"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Not out of the discussion.

I have been pretty down on the hip-hop tracks that have been represented thus far on this list, though I did note that I thought Desiigner might still get my attention owing to a different song not on this list. But this is the first such track that I didn’t dismiss outright after my initial listen. I didn’t know anything about Kodak Black going into the listening, but I came out of it enjoying the sincere concern at the root of his words: a man who has seen the inside of a prison cell, who now shows a genuine empathy for those falling into the same traps that he did. Judging from the news articles and biography I have now read about him, he is still not immune himself to trouble, but who better to rage against the system than someone who is trapped within it? 

Listening a bit further to his output just now, I am finding that Kodak’s songs fall more in line with what I find most – not troubling, no – but BORING about the genre, as I have similarly expressed already above. My further comments on this subject will be taken merely as evidence of my supposed white privilege, and therefore expendable in the greater conversation. If you want to discuss it with me in the comments, I am more than happy to oblige, but in the interest of finishing this first part up, let’s move forward…

#31 - Miranda Lambert, "Vice"
Heard of the artist? Of course.
Own any of her music? One song on a New Music Sampler from Amazon.
Heard this song? Not before this.
Would you purchase this song? Surprised to say… yes.

Color me shocked… I loved this song. I guess it falls into the country music category, especially owing to Lambert’s vocal style, but the marvelously produced music is pretty indistinguishable from the rock form in recent years. I know that part of why I dislike certain country music was the gradual switch years (now ages, really) ago to a more rock-based sound in order to capture a slice of the pop audience, but when it is done at a high level like this and still has a sincere edge to it, I respond accordingly. (Unlike say, Shania Twain's obnoxious themes... sorry, not sorry.) This is a terrific song, no matter the genre or mixed genres. Smart lyrics, perhaps reflecting her trouble dealing with her famous divorce from Blake Shelton, lay out in steady detail each resulting vice in her life in succession of the damage each may be causing. (This song, too, has a fairly standard but well-conceived video, but I chose to not watch it and read the lyrics instead during my first listen.)


*****

Well, that is twenty songs down and another thirty to go. My score thus far reads:

Total number of songs: 20
Songs I had heard before: 3
Songs that I own already: 2
Reactions: Loved: 7 | Liked: 6 | Don't Care at All: 3 | Hated: 4
Songs that I plan to purchase: 10

That is pretty astonishing to me that there are already 7 songs that I really loved out of just the first twenty. Last year, there were 10 out of the full 50 songs, and even that shocked me. Now, one's tastes shift constantly, and I do wonder how I would rate last year's list right now. Who knows if I would even give some of those songs I marked as having loved at one point even a nominal butt-sniff 6 or 12 months later? I will save such musings for a possible future date.

See you in Part 2!

[To be continued in Pt. 2, where I will count down Songs 30 through 11…]


Comments

Aaron Lowe said…
This is a really fun idea and a really fun read. I think you had a good idea there at the end, and next year you should have a brief 'look back' at selected tracks. I'd love to see how you feel 12 months on, or if the songs joined your regular rotation.

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