The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016: Part 2

I survived the first 20 songs with my sanity intact (such as it is), and with an eagerness to see what else lie ahead on Rolling Stone's Best 50 Songs of 2016 list. As I recounted at the end of Part 1, I was surprised that I genuinely loved 7 (and liked 6) of the 20 songs I heard, which put me on a pace to overcome my number of loves the 2015 list (I had loved only 10 and liked 18 overall).

So, are my defenses simply down this time? Have I opened up my heart at the same time as my ears and become more accepting of other types of music? Well, no. When you look at the songs that I hated or didn't really care about, they fall into the same categories of music (or had characteristics) for which I have had disdain in the past. The same is true for the ones that I liked; I have mostly kept to that which has pleased me over the years. There are a couple of outliers in there though (Helado Negro and Miranda Lambert), and I have to chalk that up to my willingness to give each song and artist their chance to win me over on equal terms. If a song hits my sweet spot, it just simply does.

[Note: Part 1 of this 3-part article was published on Friday, March 31 and can be read here:]

Without further ado, let's move to the second part of this project. Once again, to play along with me, the link to the original Rolling Stone story, with music videos and song samples, is:


The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016, Pt. 2:

#30 - A Tribe Called Quest, "The Space Program"
Heard of the artist? Who hasn’t? Ah, yes… my parents.
Own any of their music? A couple of songs.
Heard this song? Yes, on SNL.
Would you purchase this song? Quite possible.

Like almost anyone who remembers them from the ‘90s, I was oddly pleased to hear that Tribe was coming back to record a new album. While I did not own their albums in their heyday, I heard their music from time to time, especially since we still watched videos in those days. I would never call myself a fan of Tribe, but I was casually familiar with them. I heard one of their new tracks, The Space Program, when Jarobi White and Q-Tip made their comeback appearance on Saturday Night Live last November. Despite thinking it was cool Tribe was back, I was still somewhat skeptical, as one often is when a band makes a long-awaited return. Will the time away from the stage show? Will they just make us wish they went away again? No worries, though; Tribe did what real pros are supposed to do, because, in the words of David Letterman (even if his show is no longer around), A Tribe Called Quest preceded to blow the roof off the dump.

Well, the performance was a little shaky at first, hampered as they were by the need to clean up their first song, We the People… for TV, as well as the awkward but poignant use of a large graphic onstage to represent recently deceased member Phife Dawg, who spits out (via recording) the long second verse of the song. But We the People… has a great chorus that pretty much sums up the viewpoint of Trump and his evil cronies – “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways/So all you bad folks, you must go”. Given that the episode aired 5 days after the presidential election, it should have been decided by the Resistance then and there that this song should be a new ironic National Anthem. The sheer energy and emotion onstage could be felt even through the TV screen. By the time they got to The Space Program in the latter half of the show, Tribe was on it (helped out in its closing by guests Busta Rhymes and Consequence) and delivered their message loud and clear. For me, the success of the two songs made it pretty certain that I would buy them for my own collection down the road, though I will say that We the People… is really the stronger song. The Rolling Stone staffers obviously feel differently about it, since it is not higher up on this list, but them’s the breaks.

#29 - Cobalt, "Beast Whip"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of their music? Thought I might, but no…
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? I think it is possible.

While I have listened to a lot of variants of what may or may not be considered metal in my life, I am not a metal guy. No one that knows will find this surprising, but they also would know that I absolutely love crazy, loud guitar solos (depending on my mood, the lengthier, the better). I do have a fondness for a number of bands that are generally considered heavy metal, as well as many bands that have metal touches in their music. But I am still not metal. My epic guitar tastes run more towards Zappa, Built to Spill or Sonic Youth than, say, Shitsplat Avenger (which is a band name I just made up, but damn it, I think they just have to be a metal band of some stripe). 

As for black or extreme or progressive or death, I prefer my vocals to be a little less screechy or growly (depending on the style), unless of course, a Muppet is involved. I tend to prefer lyrics that I can mostly understand without having them interpreted for me. But I have been listening to a bit more of the hard stuff lately thanks to my teenage nephew Aerin’s immersion into the Northern California death metal scene. Aerin is genuinely a 16-year-old beast behind the drum kit. Over the past year or so, he has been playing with multiple bands, often with much older musicians, and has been recording demos with them. On his Facebook page, Aerin often posts videos for bands and songs that he thinks are cool, often a lot of dark, growly stuff with multiple time signatures. Being the good uncle (and because I am always interested in new music from any direction), I have taken to listening to much of what he posts. And, surprisingly or not, I have heard a few bands that have interested me.

Speaking of beasts, sometimes beasts come accompanied by whips, as in Cobalt’s song in the Best 50, Beast Whip, and while PETA might rebel against the very notion of the title, we are all the better for it. I’d heard and read of Cobalt before but had apparently never given them a listen. Judging from my instant reaction, I could see myself not just listening to the band past this one-off listen, but possibly buying a copy in the future. Screechy? Yes, but new lead singer Charlie Fell’s vocals are a bit more than just that and entirely appropriate to the brilliant savagery of the music, performed solely (on the recording at least) by multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder. Sure, the song is over 9 minutes long but is a cauldron of tightly structured insanity (and therefore not really insane at all). Beast Whip is churning, seething, lightning fast, organized chaos that still seemed to be somewhat therapeutic for me the morning on which I listened to it. (I was feeling a tad bit "rage-y".) I just may be onboard with Cobalt now. I am certainly intrigued by whatever else the new album might hold.

#28 - Lady Gaga, "Perfect Illusion"
Heard of the artist? She is possibly taking over the world, it seems.
Own any of her music? One Xmas song.
Heard this song? Of course.
Would you purchase this song? Not my usual style, but perhaps on a Greatest Hits package.

The Lady named Gaga is rather omnipresent right now. It seems not a week has gone by in the past year where I haven’t encountered her music in some form. Just as when she performs, she kind of wears you down. Her music hits you, and you either give in to her eventually, or you just drop dead. OK, there is surely a middle area for people who choose to ignore her but its your loss if you do. The effect on me is that my initial belief that she was simply a Madonna clone when I first heard of her has given way to the knowledge that Gaga is not only a far better singer than Madge but is probably a better songwriter as well. 

While I do not hear her music in our household or car (we just don't listen to those channels or own her albums), just from sheer exposure to her songs over the years on the social periphery (chance encounters in stores, malls, theatres, and on television), I was given a real surprise during the Super Bowl halftime show this year. It turned out that I not only knew every song she was singing, but came pretty close to singing a majority of the words lowly along with the broadcast. And I loved her performance (which is not as surprising, because I have liked her very much when she has appeared elsewhere). Singing along with her wasn’t the same sort of embarrassment you feel when everyone discovers that you know the entirety of Styx’s Kilroy Was Here album either. (Sorry, but there was a time when that shit was new, goddamnit, and we all loved it!) 

Gaga did not perform Perfect Illusion at the Super Bowl, but I would have probably been humming along with this one as well. I had been exposed to it already upon its release, mainly when people started saying she had ripped off Papa Don’t Preach, at least lyrically. I just do not see why. There are no lines that are remotely similar as far as I can tell, and if all songs about finding out a guy first screwed you and then screwed you over are just to be considered the same song, well, then half of the pop songs out there need to start paying Madonna royalties. Besides, unless you interpret them differently, I don’t see anything in Gaga’s lyrics that is even close to suggesting she is “keeping her baby” in the same way as in Preach. Now, I will give you my real opinion: I think Perfect Illusion is a better song anyway. Never cared for that Madonna song in the first place. Done.

#27 - Angel Olsen, "Sister"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of her music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Yup. She's my new obsession. Soon, everything she has ever done will be mine. [Taps fingers together Mr. Burns-style.]

When Dr. Seuss and Bennett Cerf published The Cat in the Hat in 1957, in response to an article about childhood literacy, Seuss purposely constructed the verse from a very tight list of under 250 different words that all kids should know before they entered primary school. I first got the impression that Angel Olsen’s song, Sister, may have been constructed from a similar list. None of this is meant to be a knock on Angel Olsen's songwriting abilities, but it is a knock on my ability to discern the quality of a song's potential through merely reading the lyrics. Yes, her lyrics for Sister are exceedingly simple and non-challenging on first glance; a lightning read through them made me believe this song would be nothing but a lightweight affair, another common pop song that I could write off in fairly quick fashion. It did not strike me as anything special. And then the music started, and I heard Angel Olsen sing those same deceptively simple words she wrote… 

Sister is a devastating record, but it sure hides it well. Nearly eight minutes later (yes, the song is quite long, but you won’t really notice that), I felt like my world had become slightly better just for having Angel Olsen enter my life. In a way that I rarely have felt from other singers, those words truly transformed once they were processed through her glorious voice, which Rolling Stone described as a mix between Dolly Parton and Patti Smith. I get the Parton comparison, but while Olsen ends some sentences with a quaver as Smith does so memorably, when considering similar female artists, I more immediately thought of Stevie Nicks. But the overriding sense when I heard Olsen’s phrasing on Sister was, believe it or not, Chris Isaak. 

By the fourth minute, halfway through the song, I had given up on figuring out who she reminded me of, because I had fallen into a trance. There simply is no voice completely like Angel Olsen’s; it is her own instrument, and she is the only one who can wield such a weapon. Honestly, hearing her voice almost made me renege on my steadfast atheism. On Sister, that voice will have you close to crying in the same manner that she does herself in the video for the song. When the lyric, “I want to live life/I want to die right/Next to you” crosses your path, you will have to double-check to make sure you are sitting down, 'cause it's gonna deck you; when she next starts repeating “All my life I thought I'd change” numerous times as the song suddenly builds to its guitar-heavy climax, you will start writing a letter to Neko Case to tell her that you are sorry but there can be only one, and now Angel Olsen is that one. At least, that’s how it went for me in my mind, but I am still delirious from the experience. Am I still living?

#26 - Vince Staples, "War Ready"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Possibly; definitely interested in hearing more from him.

This is closer to what I like in hip hop, more socially conscious, less concerned with material goods, lighter on misogyny (though not completely clear). It's a far shorter track than I expected, so there is no time to rap about anything but what is concerning Staples about the black state of affairs in America. Quick and to the point with a solid punch or three to the establishment's midsection. I found it darkly amusing that after he discusses a lynching in the first verse, when the motif pops up again in the second, he briefly reminds himself that he mentioned it already before. Always nice to see Edgar Allan Poe not just name-checked, but used well in furthering the song’s narrative. It gets extra mileage from the opening and closing culled from a track from Outkast's Andre 3000, which provides the hook for the song. A solid piece.

#25 - Leonard Cohen, "Treaty"
Heard of the artist? Read his name first on Neil Diamond’s “Stones” album when I was ten (and saw him live at Coachella). Have had many discussions with a couple friends about his music.
Own any of his music? Own several albums.
Heard this song? Yes.
Would you purchase this song? There is not a single doubt.

We lost dear Mr. Cohen recently, part of the Graduating Class of 2016 who got out before everything seemed to be tilting toward shit status. Myself, I was surprised he made it this far, knowing he had been in reduced health for a while. So much has been said about Cohen in the few months since he passed; unfortunately, most of it has been said by people covering Hallelujah one too many times. (Seriously, I love the song too, but let's put a moratorium on it. Besides, Jeff Buckley owns the song.) Cohen wrote so many songs, people; take a shot at First We’ll Take Manhattan instead. (Though, really, R.E.M. owns that one too.) 

I summed up my Cohen experience in the questions at the start of this entry. He has been a constant in my music life for so long, I really began to take him for granted. You can't see him live anymore, obviously, and I am happy that I took the opportunity when I did Coachella the year McCartney headlined. I will close this by saying that if you love Cohen, you will also likely love Treaty, and leave it at that. For others, Cohen is still an acquired taste when encountered as a singer on his own, and a lot of people likely know him better as a songwriter than performer. Or rather, they know his songs, but have no idea of the man who wrote them. (I am talking to you, millions of people who own the Shrek soundtrack.) If you are even halfway serious about creating a real music collection, Cohen's own recordings of his songs need to be part of it. End.

#24 - Courtney Barnett, "Three Packs a Day"
Heard of the artist? Yes!
Own any of her music? Yes!
Heard this song? Nope, this one slipped by me.
Would you purchase this song? Yarp, but not sure I want the compilation on which it appears.

Last year’s list reminded me that I had already bought and downloaded Courtney Barnett’s first (and so far only) album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, but had yet to listen to it all the way through. A year later, and I have listened to her (still) only album a whole lot, and am now champing at the bit for a sophomore release. This track is her only cut on a compilation that is available through Bandcamp, and it is one of those $8 for the whole thing affairs, with no way to order just a single song. Luckily, I looked on iTunes and found it has been released as a single as well, so I was able to snag it for far cheaper. Did I enjoy this song as much as the ones on her album? Not really. It’s OK fun, but it one of the less challenging songs that I have heard from her thus far.  I am definitely happy that the title refers to instant ramen instead of smokes. I am not an instant ramen fan myself; too much of a wannabe foodie for that. But since I have somewhat fond memories of those cheap eats, I would say that I am similarly only somewhat fond of the song.

#23 - Little Big Town, "Better Man"
Heard of the artist? Yes.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Ugh… Taylor Swift wrote this. Oh wait... it's not bad at all. So torn right now, because I have to honestly say that I thought this song was pretty well done by Little Big Town. While the music is pleasantly done, a lot of the credit comes down to the song being a decent piece of songwriting. I am going to have to hand it to Taylor, though I might use one of those robot arms to hand it to her. You never know where she’s been…

#22 - Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj, "Side to Side"
Heard of the artist? Ohhhh, yes.
Own any of her music? Can’t say that I do.
Heard this song? So many, many times lately…
Would you purchase this song? Hell, no. But I don’t need to…

To this point, I have mostly thought of Ariana Grande as this kind of puppy who has been hopping up and down frantically around some of the same pop culture places that I frequent, such as Saturday Night Live and Scream Queens. This is not meant as a put-down at all. It’s just that in those venues, she has appeared all cute and bubbly and adorable (and with a surprising knack for impressions and comedy). I know she is a grown-ass, powerful woman, but her tiny, skinny frame has previously made her appear to be about 12 years old to me, and therefore far out of my ogling range. As a result, I not only haven’t seen her as a mover and a shaker in the entertainment industry, but it also means that I have completely neglected that which actually makes her famous. This is totally on me, and my own problem with which I must deal. 

Listening to Side to Side, I know immediately that I am probably never going to actually own an Ariana Grande record, because it has no replay value for me and I have no actual use for her music on a personal level. (I rarely feel the need to get into formation and break out my dance moves.) But that doesn’t mean Side to Side will ever be out of my head. I know the song exceedingly well by this point, because for the past six weeks, I have been going to regular sessions at a gym for physical therapy. Side by Side has been played at least once at every single appointment at the gym. I didn’t know even know it was Ariana Grande that sang it, but the very first second it started playing after I clicked the video on the Rolling Stone article's page, I knew every single bit of Side by Side. I will openly admit that I actually rather like Ariana's Bollywood-style vocals on portions of the song. The most surprising part was that I do not hate the song after having it jammed into my ears over and over. 

So, the song listening portion was done in advance for me, but I still watched the video to its conclusion. I found it immediately ironic that the video takes place in a gym setting. And now, after watching it, everything has been shattered for me. I know full well from the evidence at hand that Ariana Grande is a grown-ass woman. Combining this new knowledge with thoughts about the song’s actual subject matter (read the lyrics if you don't know), I now ask that you each say a prayer for me. The next visit to the gym is going to destroy me for completely different reasons when this song starts playing. (Men are such idiot children…)

#21 - 21 Savage and Metro Boomin feat. Future, "X"
Heard of the artist? HELL, NO! WHO?
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Not a fucking chance.

OK, Rolling Stone did this crap on purpose, putting an artist that has 21 at the start of his name in the 21st spot. Now I know there is no rhyme or reason to many of these song placements. Another reason I know this, after having listened to over half this list so far, there is no way this mind-numbingly dopey track is better than at least a dozen of the songs I have passed already. Oh well, their list is not my list; I am just using it to figure out what I like and don’t like. 

I don’t completely hate this song, just mostly; the low-key groove that propels it is interesting, and there are a couple of evilly funny rhymes. But X is an atom bomb of misogyny. There are no hos here to be sure, just “10 bad bitches in a mansion,” including some model bitches, and ex-bitches on whom the narrators are “stuntin on’” and “flexin’ on” at various times. 21 raps “Last name Savage bitch, but no I’m not Randy/Hit her with no condom, had to make her eat a Plan B”. One of our heroes has a “new bitch wetter than a lake/(Hold up) And she love to let me paint her face/(Hold up) Fell in love with some good throat”. Those model bitches? Why, they “wanna lick me like some candy/And them drugs come in handy”. At another juncture, “Bought a necklace on that bitch, hold up/Her friend gon’ lick me like a fruit roll up”. There’s more, but you get the gist of it.

Look, I have no problems with legal porn – if used properly and responsibly, it cleans one's pipes and keeps down the Gross National Testosterone level – and I am not saying there is no place for graphic sex in music as well. I am by no means a prude (and my pals will back this up). Despite my impulse to better myself, there is much in the way of what many would term "filth" or even outright obscenity that I enjoy unreservedly. But I also appreciate cleverness. Hell, the song we discussed before this does it in a way where you don't really realize how raunchy the notion is, at least until Nicki Minaj jumps in to apply a nice layer of actual filth, shellacking the song with direct language so you cannot dispute what the true topic is. 

Hell, the caveman-slash-sophomoric teenager that crashes inside the dingier chunk of my mind even gets a kick out of this song too – even its worst woman-hating parts – despite the internal protestations of the rest of my mind and soul. But my question ultimately is not one of content so much as it is of worthiness. I am questioning whether this particular song belongs in a list that claims to represent the best (Rolling Stone's word in the title not mine) examples of pop and rock music for an entire year. Unless the only music that you enjoy at all are songs where all of the women are consistently only referred to as “bitches,” there is just no way this song could be better than nearly every song that has been below it on this list so far. Especially when some of the selections have been surprisingly powerful and moving as they have. I know that option is subjective, but this is a list that I believe is compiled by the entire staff at Rolling Stone. I guess there are reasons why I stopped subscribing to the magazine long ago…

#20 - Bob Dylan, "That Old Black Magic"
Heard of the artist? A legend, a master, and a bit of a charlatan. I even like his voice, in all iterations.
Own any of his music? Over 30 albums. (I even own his stream of conciousness novel from the '60s.)
Heard this song? Yes.
Would you purchase this song? Without a doubt.

Bobby Z. sounds like he is having a ball while croaking out this standard. At this stage in his career, why not? I like the results of Dylan far more than when Rod Stewart tackled the Great American Songbook. (I really wish he had just gone back to his singer-songwriter stage, which he apparently has lately.) Not much more I can say about this song. Love the song best when done by Louis Prima and Keely Smith, and this version seems fairly close to Prima's arrangement to my ears, but this is just fine. Best songs of the year, though? No, I am not too sure about that. As fun as this is to my ears, this is a little too lightweight and more of a throwaway track than should be on a Best of the Year list.

#19 - Danny Brown feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt, "Really Doe"
Heard of the artists? Heard of one of them.
Own any of their music? Nothing at all.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Nope, but I kind of like it despite myself.

Four artists, only of whom I have heard about at all (the obvious one), each taking a verse on a hip hop track that has a really memorable, hooky chorus. Sure, there is still misogyny unleashed (more oral satisfaction, from the guy's POV only, of course) but with a quartet of viewpoints on display, the subject matter gets a little more varied than merely blowjobs. Some fairly clever rhyming makes at least a couple of the verses worthwhile of attention, but really, the best part is the chorus, which got stuck in my head for about 36 hours since I first listened to it. Really doe, really doe...

#18 - The Monkees, "Me & Magdalena"
Heard of the artist? A fave since I was four. I eventually ended up with my cousin's LPs. And I walked down some stairs besides Mickey Dolenz and met him leaving a concert late last year.
Own any of their music? Most of it, including this latest comeback album.
Heard this song? Yes. Yes Yes.
Would you purchase this song? Pre-ordered well ahead of time.

Depending on who you are in my circle, the Monkees TV show was either instrumental in developing my sense of humor as a child, or almost completely to blame. The only thing better for this Monkees fan of longstanding than Scott McCaughey and the Minus Five putting out a full album of original tribute songs to the Monkees last year (Of Monkees and Men) was the surviving members of the band actually giving it one more shot themselves before it was too late. Their latest release, Good Times!, was a surprisingly lovely album, and it had to make them feel good that some of the current crop of artists and songwriters were more than happy to contribute songs to the project to pay tribute to their heroes. And could there have been a more perfect producer to choose for the project than Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne? Myself, as I always do, I wanted more Nesmith songs. But other than that and wishing Davy Jones were still alive to participate (they do use Jones' voice from a 1967 outtake on a Neil Diamond-penned song, Love to Love, and add new backing vocals to it, meaning all four of the Monkees are on the album), it was as grand an outcome as one could expect. I am just hoping more people will come around to the album eventually. Enjoy them while we still have them.

#17 - Lucy Dacus, "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? I will check out more of her music and then decide.

Sure am happy seeing so many women on this list wielding electric guitars. Here’s another such example, and it appears from this song that I will have to keep my eye on Lucy Dacus in the future. I am not as gung ho over this track as Rolling Stone seems to be, or over her voice, which is fine and holds possibility. (But give me a break! I only just fell for Angel Olsen’s vocals. Anything else right now is going to wither and die under the power of that connection.) I think the production here is a little too understated, and I would prefer the song open up a little bit. It seems a little too spare to be able to base a real opinion on her talent overall. That said, I like the title sentiment, as I have definitely been in the same boat many a time. (“Lately, I've been feeling like the odd man out./I hurt my friends saying things I don't mean out loud.”) I do hear you, Lucy. And I plan to hear more of your work soon.

#16 - Chance the Rapper feat. Saba, "Angels"
Heard of the artist? I’ve seen television.
Own any of his music? Not yet.
Heard this song? Not this one.
Would you purchase this song? Mulling this over for a bit, but it seems certain now.

By this point in the project, I am thinking of how my lifelong Saturday Night Live habit has directly influenced my opinions of at least two artists so far, and now Chance the Rapper is the third. (There will be a fourth to come.) The Chicago-based um... – what is his occupation again? – well, whatever he does for a living, Chance's name had crossed my path a few times, but the first time that I really knew anything about him is when Spike Lee's most recent movie, Chi-raq, came out and Chance had taken some issue with the film. I am not going to get into that here, not having seen the film yet, but I did take notice. Then I saw him in those Kit Kat ads and actually found him to be somewhat appealing (even if I cannot eat Kit Kat bars, nor do I like them). 

It is through his appearances on three Saturday Night Live episodes since December of 2015 – twice as the musical guest and once in a cameo in a Kanye West performance, Ultralight Beam (later on this list) – is how I have gotten to know his music. I must admit that I have completely enjoyed all of his performances of his own songs on the show (Sunday Candy, Somewhere in Paradise, Same Drugs, and Finish Line/Drown) and am now seriously wondering if I should get some of his music. 

Yes, Chance is a true believer, and I only am such a being in regards to Marvel Comics from the 1970s. Despite this, what has appealed to me beyond Chance's songs is his showmanship, which includes a lot of gospel-inspired theatrics and choir work. I have never shied away from singers or songwriters who have included their spirituality in their work; for me, even if on a personal level I might consider that they are merely lying to themselves, I would rather have such artists reveal themselves as honestly or sincerely as they can (or, in the case of someone like Bowie, as honestly as he allows his characters to be). I do not doubt for a second that Chance isn't as he presents himself, and it comes through in his onstage persona and the genuine joy he seems to get from performing. I think what appeals to me most in his music is that Chance's rhymes are less full of the macho boasting that seems to come with the territory, and he isn't afraid to reveal actual emotion.

This track, Angels, is a massive dose of positivity and unadulterated joy; even if you don't watch the accompanying video, you can't help but feel a bit of civic pride for Chance's hometown, even if, like me, you have only set foot briefly in their airport twice. 

So, when you listen to someone and have heard five of their songs overall, and you have either loved or liked every single one of those songs, does it automatically make you a fan? It will probably happen in the next few months, but, it is highly likely that I will be purchasing Coloring Book, Chance's latest "mixtape" (not album), even if it includes guest appearances by Kanye and Bieber on it. It takes a hell of a performer to get me past such a crime.

#15 - Kendrick Lamar, "Untitled 05 | 09.21.2014."
Heard of the artist? Most definitely.
Own any of his music? No.
Heard this song? No, and apparently won’t unless I pony up some cash.
Would you purchase this song? Can't say right now. No decision.

A solid disqualification. Rolling Stone only presents a 30-second snippet from a Spotify sample of the song. Unlike the horrid Britney song, though, I cannot find this track anywhere on the YouTubes. (I like the sound of what I hear, so too bad.)  iTunes provides a slightly longer sample, but it is still not hearing the entire song. My feelings about basing an opinion on hearing only a fraction of a whole song are the same as if one fast-forwarded through a movie or TV show. Short of purchasing Untitled 05 | 09.21.2014 right now (which is not going to happen), this one will have to be considered a no-show.

#14 - Mannequin Pussy, "Romantic"
Heard of the artist? Nope, but glad that I have now.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? I most certainly will. I’m all “romantic” over it.

All bets are off now. “Pussy” talk is everywhere now. Pussy Riot, “grabbing ‘em by” it, and pussy hats. Thanks to all of these developments, the word is now said on the news, and sometimes even without some of the commentators pausing beforehand. (It actually may have gone a little too far in that direction already.) The concept of this band’s name, however, is a Mannequin Pussy riot in itself. LOVE IT. The band though? Loving them as well. These guys (well, two girls and two guys) rave and rage in appropriate measure, and its hard to figure out exactly which bands they remind me of at times. The only thing that I can definitely pin down is a little Sonic Youth vibe from a couple of older tracks I have listened to since, but their current stuff doesn't sound remotely in that area. What I do know is that I love the noise they make, and I now can't wait to hear a full album of their bratty roar.

#13 - Wilco, "If I Ever Was a Child"
Heard of the artist? Absolument.
Own any of their music? EVERY SINGLE BIT OF IT. (Of which I am aware…)
Heard this song? Yarp.
Would you purchase this song? Pre-ordered the last six albums.

Yes, I am a cherry ghost... Having been in on Jeff Tweedy's Wilco game since A.M. (and his early days with Uncle Tupelo before that), in my head, Wilco has had a dozen huge hits by now, if not even more. That is not reality. This is where the commercial, mainstream world and I part ways. Tweedy is one of the most adept and interesting songwriters around these days, but while Wilco sells out concerts worldwide as an already legendary live act, they just don't have that song that I can use to point the unaware towards where they respond, "Oh, yeah. I've heard that." Even after at least 18 singles released in their career, not a one has made the Hot 100 charts (though they have scored big on other, more defined Billboard charts). They have had four Top 10 albums though, and two others landed just outside of the Top 10. So, they aren't hurting for attention, but it is hard to convert mere strangers into fans without that big hit recognition. (And I would rather not do it through a series of VW ads from 10 years ago...)

Is If I Ever Was a Child that song? Well, it has a gentle, country-ish sweetness to its sound that might win some people over, but it might be a false entrance for some, since it never comes close to betraying the stark, personal material and artful, guitar-frenzy angles at which this band tilts elsewhere in their recordings and in their live performances. While they have never gotten fully away from it, they have returned to their folkier roots as of late (fatherhood did wonders for Tweedy), and every one of Wilco's albums has a sunnier song or four that balance out the occasional bursts of darkness. I think that if Wilco ever released and promoted a compilation that concentrated on just those songs, they might find another audience. (Here's the beginning of my mix: I'm Always in Love, Wilco (The Song), Theologians, Summer Teeth, I Got You (at the End of the Century)I'm a WheelThe Thanks I Get, I Might, Candy Floss, The Late Greats, Random Name Generator, HummingbirdSomeday Soon, Dawned on Me, Heavy Metal Drummer, etc., and then I would close it out with California Stars from their Woody Guthrie albums with Billy Bragg). It wouldn't be the whole truth of Wilco, but it would spotlight their lighter, more poppy side well.

I love this song (which would belong on such a comp) as much as I do the others that I listed, but that's no surprise; I had their latest album, Schmilco, the second it was released. And that's just how my relationship with Wilco will remain until either one of us stops. Hopefully, I go before they do, because I don't think that I could live knowing they had stopped playing music.

#12 - Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Dark Necessities"
Heard of the artist? Oh yeah.
Own any of their music? All of it except this particular album.
Heard this song? Yes.
Would you purchase this song? It seems to be a situation where I will.

I don’t know why it is being called a comeback by Rolling Stone. Their last studio album was only in 2011, a relatively normal gap between albums for a group that has never broken up at all. (The studio album before that, Stadium Arcadium, brought about another 5-year studio gap.) These guys are consistent in their habits (well, maybe not THOSE habits anymore) and consistently solid as well, even if I had reservations about the last album. Maybe they wanted a different  studio experience after having been produced by Rick Rubin for every album since Mother’s Milk in 1989, but if they had to switch heads, Danger Mouse would have been my choice for them. I have been a bit behind on some artists, so I don’t have the album quite yet, but judging from the deep funk pouring out of Dark Necessities, it has worked out beautifully for them. Definitely one of their best songs in this century, and I would put it up against their best in the last one. Magik-al.

#11 - Young M.A, "Ooouuu"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Once again, the song is not my style. It has bounce though…

So, all of the issues I addressed earlier that I have with the misogynistic tendencies that appear over and over in so many hip hop releases leads me to this question. If the MC that is singing such lines is actually female and lesbian, is it still misogynistic? At first, the lyrics are indistinguishable from male-dominated songs: “I ride for my guys, that's the bro code/Baby gave me head; that's a low blow/Damn, she make me weak when she deep throat/I need a rich bitch, not a cheap ho/They be on that hate shit, I peep though.” 

As the song progresses, though, we start to see the difference: "I don't open doors for a whore/I just want the neck, nothin' more/Shawty, make it clap, make it applaud!/When you tired of your man, give me a call/Dyke bitches talking out they jaw/Next minute, calling for the law.” It's great to see an LGBT prescence in hip hop, considering that homophobia has been an issue over the years, and from what I have read, it seems the song has won over audiences, critics, and other hip hop artists as well. For myself, the lyrics of this song – which admittedly is quite catchy – threw an angle at me that I was not expecting. I doubt it has play with me beyond my listening to it for this list, but I like it when music keeps me on my toes.


We have finally gotten to the 40-song mark, with Rolling Stone's Top Ten of 2016 left to go. This group of twenty saw some interesting changes in my love/like/hate counts. While I had heard far more songs out of this group before (8 songs to 3 the first time), I owned just as many already (2 songs only each time), but I only genuinely outright loved 4 songs this time, while I went crazy on 7 in the last part. Not being able to hear one full song threw things off a bit (the Kendrick Lamar track with the odd title). And I ended up truly hated only 1 song this round, when I squared off against 4 songs last time. Here are the totals this go-around along with the combined totals for both:

Total number of songs this round: 20
Songs I have heard before: 8
Songs that I own already: 2
Loved: 4 | Liked: 8 | OK to Meh: 6 | Hated: 1 | Couldn’t Rate: 1
Songs that I plan to purchase: 8

Total number of songs so far: 40
Songs I have heard before: 11
Songs that I own already: 4
Loved: 11 | Liked: 14 | OK to Meh: 9 | Hated: 5 | Couldn’t Rate: 1
Songs that I plan to purchase: 18

OK, we have ten songs to go. We will see you in the conclusion soon!

[To be continued... Pt. 3 of The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016 will be posted soon here on The Cinema 4 Pylon!]


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