The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2017: Part 1

As I have for the past two years, I am continuing with an experiment of my own devising this winter with another ramble through the odd results of Rolling Stone's annual list of the 50 Best Songs for the current year. For the first out of the three times of which I have reviewed their list and then compared my personal reactions to each song (most of which I have never heard before), I am actually fairly close to the actual release date of the list. The magazine (with whom I have a love-hate relationship these days) posts each edition of their 50 Best Songs list online by the end of November of each year. The first time that I attempted this experiment, I reviewed their November 2015 list in January 2016. Last year, due to an ongoing hip injury that kept me from sitting at my computer for more than a few minutes at a time, I waited until deep in March 2017, after I started physical therapy, to tackle their November 2016 edition.

I will post the links to my previous editions of this experiment at the bottom of this post, but in case you just want to stick to this attempt for now, let me set the scene. This will also come in handy for novices to this site who may not know my tastes very well.

I turned 53 in September, and have a lifelong love of pop and rock music, to the point where it is sometimes a great distraction. If there has been a musical movement since the mid-'70s, with a handful of notable exceptions of course, there is a great chance that there is something or someone from that movement that I have followed either briefly or forever. I am fairly well-listened in swing, blues, jazz, vocal and novelty music from the pre-rock era; I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of early rock 'n' roll from the 1950s, pop music and classic rock from the '60s and '70s, punk rock and heavy metal in the '70s and early '80s (but cutting off pretty much around 1985), the alternative scene from its earliest beginnings, and indie rock through today (but I consider myself rather picky about that). I also have a massive collection built around all of this, but also the novelty, comedy, kiddie record, holiday, and outsider music genres. And I have a special fondness for power pop that will never go away. On top of all this, I am also a Zappa fanatic, and own the bulk of his catalogue.

I own a hell of a lot of music, and if you think "Oh yeah, sure, we all do," I will ask you for the numbers. Counting LPs, CDs, several hundred cassette tapes (though I no longer have a cassette player) and albums purchased online, I have access to well over 3,500 albums and 100,000 separate music files in my own iTunes alone. Most of the music that I have purchased in the past decade has been online, so I tend to no longer buy physical media, but if I had a regular inflow of cash again, I would probably still be buying vinyl. As far as services like Spotify and Pandora go, I find both of them annoying for different reasons, but I do use them sporadically to hear new music. [For the interested, you can survey an incomplete but rather extensive list of my musical influences at]

One of the reasons I started doing this experiment two years ago was because I felt, as I have been getting older, that I have grown out of touch with current musical trends. Sometimes this is a very good thing; just like with movies, new trends and artists can prove to be exasperatingly annoying, especially as the everyday world insists on committing to getting dumber and dumber by the day. On the other hand, if something or someone truly innovative comes along that also proves to be worthwhile listening, I could easily miss out on it. The first year's list didn't really introduce me to Courtney Barnett, but it did remind me that I had crossed paths with one of her videos at some miraculous point, so finding her on the 2015 list led me back around to adding her music to my collection.

Another problem for me is the radio. Top 40 radio has not been my thing since I was 13, so I don't really grant myself access to hearing current popular music. Also, I don't drive, so finding such a station is not a priority with me. I tend to stick to the bands that I have always loved and just keep my eyes peeled to new artists that I find on iTunes or Spotify, or that my friends tell me about from time to time. One big problem in the past year especially is that I have been out of work, and thus, I have no personal income except for that of my wife's. (I am just about to begin a new job, so that will change in the near future.) Thus, no spending money for a frivolous pursuit such as music for the past year. I have compiled a list of numerous new albums by favorite artists throughout these 12 months, so perhaps once I get settled financially a tad, I can start to winnow down that list bit by bit.

The Rules Going In...

OK, the rules are that I listen to each song on Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of 2017 countdown, one by one. (Rolling Stone usually provides a handy video for each song when able to make this easier.) As I said, I am hearing most of these songs for the very first time. I then write a quickie review of my experience along with my first thoughts upon listening to them. 

I further 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?

There will be three parts to this article. At the end of each one, I keep a running tally of songs that I have heard before or own already or that I plan to purchase.

The Previous Results...

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 | OK to Meh: 20 | Hated: 2
Songs that I planned to purchase: 14 definitely; 8 maybes.

So, how different were the results for the following year, now that I had been introduced to many more current artists? Surprisingly, the results for Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of 2016 were actually pretty close to the first time...

Total number of songs so far: 50
Songs I have heard before: 19
Songs that I own already: 5
Loved: 13 | Liked: 20 | OK to Meh: 11 | Hated: 5 | Couldn’t Rate: 1
Songs that I plan to purchase: 21

The ups and downs between variances (when combining maybes with yeses in the first year's results) makes me even more curious to see what will happen this year. Is this just the average range it will be from year to year? Will knowing these results make me more guarded going into the experiment? As with film, though, I will attempt to center my emotions and responses before I give an opinion on anything. Hopefully the same will prove true for this list.

And so here I go, as I tackle The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2017, Pt. 1:

#50 - 21 Savage, "Bank Account"
Heard of the artist? Yes, on last year's list.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Not a chance. Not a goddamn chance.

Well, we are starting things out with someone that I can hate just for being a useless douchebag. I prefer my hip hop to lean to the side of social concern and change, and I care not for braggarts of any stripe. The music for Bank Account has an ominous, pulsing groove that provides the only element of interest in the entire song. As usual in these sort of affairs, 21 (at least he isn't yet another "Lil") brags about his bitches, his guns, and his dick, but mostly about his bank account, hence the shockingly imaginative and accurate title. He provides a counting up of the millions in said account in what can only be described as "made for Sesame Street" style, though they would never approve of the material involving his dick or his bitches. This would all be fine if 21 Savage didn't sound like a humorless ass-wipe because he is too desperate to impart to us both how rich and how tough he is. 

Hey, 21? How about shutting up about how much money you have in the bank, and then you wouldn't have to worry about keeping your Glock cocked or your cock Glocked or whatever it is that you fondle with your itchy trigger finger? And this song may contain the largest sheer number of repeated mentions of "God" in a song configured in direct opposition to any form of saintliness. Catchy pulse, but empty-headed and awful. Can't one just throw a rock in any direction in a room full of hip hop CDs and find umpteen similar tracks equally as vain and vapid? The credentials of the magazine's list title are already thrown into question...

#49 - Haim, "Want You Back"
Heard of the artist? Yes, for several years now.
Own any of their music? An EP and a single; so, 6 songs total.
Heard this song before this? Yes, on radio and on SNL, for starters.
Would you purchase this song? Don't know if I need to, since it is played in department stores now...

So, I have discovered in recent months that I cannot escape this song. It is getting played on the one radio station that my wife listens to, which itself plays very little in the way of current hits. Somehow, it made its way into the rotation. I have heard the song online, in Target, in Nordstroms Rack at the outlet malls, waiting for a movie to start, selecting soup at the grocery, and in a live appearance on Saturday Night Live. I first ran into the sisters of Haim in 2012, and was interested enough in their shimmery Cali pop-rock sound to give them a shot by grabbing the EP that was then their only available longer release, as well as their Don't Save Me single. The songs were all fine, but I kind of lost track of the band, as I expected to do.

Nice to see Haim is still around in 2017, but I don't know if I will join them any further. Want You Back is catchy and might make a fun singalong, but I also find it a little too repetitive. I would need to hear more of the full album to make it worthwhile to me. Plus, the bass-playing sister (Este), who is what one can charitably call "lightly expressive," kind of gets on my nerves after a little while, even if it is clear that she is just having a ball doing her job and putting the songs across to the audience or cameras. Let's put Haim and their latest album in the "maybe" category for now. The truth is they have the talent to possibly come out with the next pop-rock masterpiece album à la Fleetwood Mac, and for that I will wait and see. The video here, though, is kind of ramshackle fun, since if looks like they can't sing and dance at the same time (or especially because it looks that way).

#48 - YFN Lucci feat. PnB Rock, "Everyday We Lit"
Heard of the artist? Of course not...
Own any of his music? Ha!
Heard this song before this? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Sorry, not my scene.

So, what is the difference between this song and the one I just heard at #50 by 21 Savage? Well, not much, except perhaps a little more gratitude and humor and less promise of violence. Still, it's all bitches, dicks, guns, and money, though they point out repeatedly how hard-earned it is. That's fine... you can be proud of your accomplishments. At least you guys aren't being in-your-face assholes about it like 21 Savage. YFN Lucci and his pal seem pretty stoked at suddenly being rich and just want to have a good time with all that money. But the song is a party to which I will never wish to have an invite; it just doesn't speak to me at all, even if I am happy that they are happy. We should all be so happy...

#47 - Willie Nelson, "Delete and Fast Forward"
Heard of the artist? Willie's the man.
Own any of his music? Yes, of course.
Heard this song before this? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Yes, a more than excellent chance of it.

Given how most of my friends and family know full well my political inclinations (super progressive but with an eye towards the center), it must be that none of them have encountered Willie's sobering look at the threat for the world at the rise of Trump. What other explanation for their not having pointed my way to this most excellent song? Surely, they would have, yes? If I find out someone of my acquaintance was negligent on sharing this with me, there will be hell to pay. As sharp as ever with his songwriting (a credit shared with Buddy Cannon), the ol' Red Headed Stranger allows one to wallow briefly in the gloom and doom that we are feeling at his current moment, but still insists on raising the room's spirits a bit by raising the spectre of hope. Maybe we can get past all this divisive shit and do the right thing in time, he seems to posit, we just have to stop the media wars and sit down and talk things out like we used to do. Sure, that's pretty much a pipe dream right now, but coming from a man who has probably engaged in a great many pipe dreams, it still sounds hopeful.

#46 - Laura Marling, "Wild Fire"
Heard of the artist? I guess that I have. Won't forget her now.
Own any of her music? I apparently own an EP she shared with the Mumfords, but forgot about it.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Absolutely, without any hesitation.

This is the first song on the list to not only have me anticipating my purchase of it, but also has me antsy to dig into the rest of the album, Semper Femina, as quickly as possible. Just like with Angel Olsen last year, hearing even the first notes from Marling's voice on this song was to fall in love instantly with her instrument, so lush I want to sink into it forever and forget this world. Sure, I hear a studied Joni Mitchell tone in that voice, just as Stone and others have pointed out, but there is a deeper soulfulness to her Marling's performance on this song. Most remarkable on this song are the lyrics, spoken by a character who is tired of bullshit from her lover...

"Chasing down a wild fire
Are you trying to make a cold liar out of me?
You want to get high? 
You overcome those desires, before you come to me"

It seems at first we are being shown the relationship from one side, as it seems to be merely about one more rational partner trying to bring peace to the less stable personality in the pair. But it becomes clear that there is hurt and hesitation, and probably duplicity, on both sides. Regarding her lover's tendency to write out her feelings, Marling sings...

"Of course the only part that I want to read
Is about her time spent with me
Wouldn’t you die to know how you're seen
Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?"

We start to see hints that perhaps the singer, despite her efforts, is equally irrational in dealing with this relationship, as she seems to get angered about trivialities and passing comments...

"You always say you love me most
When I don’t know I’m being seen
Well maybe someday when God takes me away
I’ll understand what the fuck that means"

She seems harsh at this point in their love, but this seems to be less a lament than a last ditch attempt to hang onto that love despite the odds. Wild Fire is the best song so far on this list. The top ten at the end of this list had better turn out to be magnificent, because Wild Fire would already be in mine. Of course, I don't know what is ahead of me...

#45 - Miley Cyrus, "Malibu"
Heard of the artist? I have even seen her live... accidentally.
Own any of her music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? It offends me in no way, but neither does it speak to me.

OK, let's not go crazy here. The song Malibu is nice, in the way that Cobie Caillat's Bubbly is nice, but it's not "Best 50 Songs of any given year" nice. Miley greatly tones down the ho-ness (while still wandering around a beach and grasslands in next to nothing), and hushedly under-sings simple words in the guise of a sweetly patient girlfriend. (She even forgives the male of her affection his moment of mansplaining about "the current".) She sings about sitting by him while writing the words to "this song" and I can quite imagine Miley at the beach with her beau writing the same words, none of them too difficult for the audience to understand. Again, it's all just so "nice" and accompanied by a predictably gorgeous-looking video with beach and bikini shots. For making me watch my first Cyrus video since Wrecking Ball, I thank Rolling Stone for the eye candy, but the song is too, too mild to make it past merely OK for me.

#44 - Carly Rae Jepsen, "Cut to the Feeling"
Heard of the artist? Of course... she's a better pitcher than a singer. And she's a shitty pitcher.
Own any of her music? One song on a Little Mermaid comp that I got free from Disney Rewards.
Heard this song? No, maybe, perhaps in a store... so tame and blank, who could remember?
Would you purchase this song? Not on a dare.

By the 1:50 mark of the almost 4-minute video, this song has said everything it can say in its empty little head, and cute little Carly Rae just spends the rest of the time repeating variations of what came before. Honestly, it ran out of ideas after the first words were sung, but I will cut her a little slack. Oh, Carly Rae, it's hard to cut to the feeling if all you feel is numb from dull commercialism. This is just absolutely, instantly forgettable product... bland, bland, blandness to match her blonde, blonde, blondeness in the video. I forgot it halfway through the video. What song is this video for anyway? Did I even just watch a video? What am I doing here?

#43 - Big Thief, "Shark Smile"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Instant classic tune in my book. This album will be bought.

Wow. Stunning and heartbreaking, Shark Smile is exactly the sort of song I expect to find on such a list as this. With their sharp songwriting about a passionate pick-up that ends in a roadside tragedy, Big Thief surprised me, chiefly because (as per my habit) I watched the video accompanying the text before seeing what Rolling Stone said about the song. Given the name of the artist and even the title, I was half expecting this to be a hip-hop track (the genre is overloaded with Bigs and Lils, so c'mon on...), but I was surprised to find a true indie rock classic worthy of the Boss in its stark, black and white depiction of love scraping against the guardrails. This album will be in my collection someday. Woo, baby... take me.

#42 - Kodak Black, "Tunnel Vision"
Heard of the artist? Never heard of a camera with this name, but I am open to the company expanding their brand. But I ran into Kodak Black on last year's list.
Own any of his music? What do you think?
Heard this song? Nuh uh.
Would you purchase this song? Seems a waste of my time and money.

OK, so Kodak Black has a killer line that would make William Faulkner crawl out of his grave, build a time machine to go back in time and kill himself before he ever wrote a word because he knows he can never compete with the great Kodak Black. (Yeah, there's a time paradox at work there, but I don't care.) Kodak wants to make his new line fit his slinky rhyme scheme in order to pair up with the syllable "-cate" at the end of the previous line. (Most of the verse lines up with a series of syllables featuring hard "a" sounds.) So he takes what will undoubtedly go down as one of the classic quotes in music history – the line being "Uh, I'm the shit, I need some toilet pap-er" – and then rhymes "pap" (said "pape") with the "–cate" in "okay," and then drops the "er" in "paper" to the start of the next line. Bravo! Mad skillz, Kodak! A Pulitzer and a Peabody are surely on their way! (I'd mock his winning a Grammy, but seriously, the levels are low with that organization. He'll probably win one someday.)

Lest you think I am being harsh on his lyrics, the previous line with the "-cate" syllable was exactly what you might expect it to be. "That money make me cum, it made me fornicate"... Yeah, Kodak Black is telling yet another story about being true to himself and keeping focused on his goal of making millions of dollars singing about bitches, dicks, guns, and money. Oh, he does also add cars ("Kodak bought a Wraith") into the usual hip hop braggart's mix this time, so let's give him some credit for a widescreen vision. He wants to keep focused so that he knows his "bae" won't go "iggin'" him, but I could easily ignore him possibly for the rest of his career if all his tales are as dull and predictable as this Codeine-binging nightmare.

#41 - Kamasi Washington, "Truth"
Heard of the artist? Nope.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? I think perhaps I will. I want to see how the rest of the suite sounds.

What a marvelous surprise to find not just an outright jazz track on the Best 50 Songs list, but a 13-minute-plus jazz track nonetheless. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington's name and music is new to me, but if I had wished in the past for an entry point into the current jazz scene – and I have a few times, being quite lost at this point – I think that I may have found my answer. This song is apparently the 6th and final part of an EP suite that seeks to bring an answer to our country's deep political divide. Truth builds slowly for its first five minutes into a rich tapestry of sound, and then Washington kicks in with his sharp soloing. Even when his riffing finishes a couple of minutes later, the song never loses its focus and carries strongly to its finish, where a choir joins in to help the song impart in gorgeous sound what its title promises. I have wanted something like this for a long time, but now I need to hear the rest. A promising first look at what appears to be a monstrous talent to me.

#40 - Fergie feat. Nicki Minaj, "You Already Know"
Heard of these artists? Sadly, yes…
Own any of their music? I thought not, but I have 2 BEP songs on CMJ collections.
Heard this song? I have now.
Would you purchase this song? I have no use for it musically. Unless I opened a strip club...

Man, I was expecting to hate this. After hearing the Kasami Washington track, my immediate thought was "Seriously?" Fergie? Nicki? And no, this song does not deserve to be placed one higher than the sublime Washington composition. Or even twenty below it. Hell, it really doesn't even belong on the same list, but I will make this admission: I didn't hate You Already Know. Much like the Ariana Grande/Nicki Minaj track for which I revealed a secret liking last year – Side to Side – I kind of came out of my first listen thinking it was pretty catchy. Which is how the pop music game is played, I totally understand. Most of the music on the Top 40 is catchy in some aspect; it's meant to suck you in so they can insert an earworm or two. The song didn't quite catch me, but the second go-around didn't repulse me either. I think the "Life's a movie/let the camera roll" junk, as trite a lyrical convention as anything, in the chorus still probably got to this film fanatic. And that's totally on me. However, it will not translate into a sale down the line, and I assume that the next time I hear the song will be during a timeout during a Celtics telecast.

#39 - Dan Auerbach, "Waiting on a Song"
Heard of the artist? Oh, yes.
Own any of his music? Yup.
Heard this song? How can you escape it?
Would you purchase this song? His new album was on my list already.

At this point, shouldn't we accept that the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach is the modern version of John Fogerty (minus the growly voice), a singer-songwriter with serious guitar skills who squeezes out one bluesy, soulful, slightly countrified rocker after another without seeming to sweat. Auerbach must be in a race to make us forget that he even has a regular band, forcing himself to put out as many side and solo projects as he can. I appreciate a guy who realizes he can score as much expensive studio time as he would like now that he is famous, but c'mon, Dan... take a break once in a while. I can't even keep up with your discography. Great to see him co-writing with the legendary John Prine, a personal favorite (thanks, Glenn!). Once I get firmer financial footing again, this one is mine.

#38 - Gorillaz feat. Popcaan, "Saturnz Barz"
Heard of the artist? The Gorillaz, yes. Popcaan... what a stupid name. I like it.
Own any of their music? All except the new album.
Heard this song? Hadn't gotten around to it yet...
Would you purchase this song? It was already on my get list.

So, you may have surmised from the past couple of years that I am not exactly a hip hop or rap guy. You would be right. And it might seem from my comments on this year's list thus far that I don't have much respect for a lot of what passes for hip hop lyrics today. Once again, correct-a-mundo. Oh, I respect some hip hop lyrics just fine; take a look at several of my reactions last year to prove this out for several artists that I lauded. (And there may even be more positive stuff to come on this list, though I can't know that yet right now.) I just get disappointed when rappers make it all about commercial success, and can't find lyrical content beyond telling me how their dick equals the size of their gun, and how many bitches they have back in their crib, trap, or whatever the term for shitty apartment is this week. I find it rote and lazy by this point, no matter how clever you think your rhyme scheme happens to be. (Sadly, it still sells millions of units.)

Damon Albarn's all-star cartoon band Gorillaz tends to straddle the hip hop genre for most of its tracks. And if you want to say that the band exists as an easy access point for white people to get into hip hop, I wouldn't dispute such a claim. It hasn't turned me into one, that's for sure, but I sure love what I have heard on their first three albums and a myriad of singles and EPs.

Part of this acceptance is because I am, without any reservation at all, a massive fan of Albarn's "day job" band, Blur, and go nuts for even the slightest hint they are going on tour or thinking of putting out a new single. Luckily, though, Albarn is as busy with side projects and bands as Dan Auerbach, and so one never has to wait too long for his next release, whatever it is. We had to wait seven years for the fourth Gorillaz joint following Plastic Beach back in 2010. I felt that last album was their strongest overall effort yet (though I will always hold the most love for the original Gorillaz). This was one of those times where I was quite aware the album was coming out this year, and I wrote it on my To Get list, but of course, still have to wait to grab it. I kind of avoided watching the video until this point because I was too butt hurt at not being able to buy Humanz.

As for the track itself, Saturnz Barz, dancehall star Popcorn is previously unknown to me, but I think his vocal tricks are pretty terrific on the song. Even if I can't understand a word he says without a lyric sheet. Apart from later choruses, though, Popcaan's part is mostly over by the time Albarn lounges in to stretch about and croon for the remainder of the surprisingly short track (just 3 minutes if you remove the video portions before and after). I really like what I hear, but its brevity only serves as an appetizer for the rest of the album. Sadly, I have to wait a little while longer to get it. And that's really just on me and my inability to bring home the bacon. I have definitely not run my recent life like a boss.

#37 - Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, "In My World"
Heard of the artist? Part of my upbringing...
Own any of their music? Much, much, much...
Heard this song? Nope, but aware of it.
Would you purchase this song? A definite purchase is on the list.

Given my love of power pop, it should come as no surprise that I also hold onto an lifelong affection for all things Fleetwood Mac, most especially the slinky guitar lines, studio experimentation and nervous vocals of Lindsey Buckingham. From what I had heard, this team-up between Buckingham and his Mac compatriot McVie is, on some tracks, actually four members of the five-person Mac minus Stevie Nicks, who decided to concentrate on a solo album instead. Whatever the circumstances, I will take "close to full Mac" – which would include McVie's ex John on bass and Mick Fleetwood himself on drums – over "no new Mac at all" any day. Besides, sometimes I skip the Nicks songs on replays of the old albums to stick to the more upbeat tracks. From the start of this Buckingham-penned wonder, McVie's keyboards bring back old memories of those past albums, but Lindsey's lyrics are sheer heartache, as the fantasy he spins in the chorus is betrayed by the harsher reality of the verses. It's grand to hear the two of them at least making magic once again. Flexing the "Old Guy" rule here, this will be a must buy in my future.

#36 - Dvsn, "Mood"
Heard of the artist? Not at all.
Own any of his music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Interested in hearing more from this duo, but no purchase yet.

Slow, sexy and seductive songs are not usually my sort of thing, and if you say, "Well, you aren't using them correctly," I would add that they aren't my wife's thing either. It's the same reaction I have when I tell people we don't celebrate Valentine's Day, and they give me crap because surely this is not her decision. And those people are dead wrong, and they don't know my wife at all, who mocks the day far more than I do. Still, I have enough Prince albums (and a bunch of old school R&B/funk ramp-ups from the '70s) to know sexy when I hear it, and this song has it. Falsetto vocals and a truly strange guitar solo deep in the proceedings lead to some nastiness in the bedroom by the end. It's a Maxwell song without the abs, and I'm not going to get in the way if someone wants to get down tonight. Have fun, kids...

#35 - Dirty Projectors, "Up in Hudson"
Heard of the artist? Yes. Great name.
Own any of their music? A quick check reveals a pair of songs via compilations.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Yes, and after listening to the other 2 songs I own, want to get more from these guys.

So I am really getting to the Dirty Projectors pretty late, after eight albums and having more than one shot at digging into their music but putting each attempt aside before I started. This song is about the relationship of the band's two vocalists (Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman), one of whom is not on this album except as a subject. Boy meets girl, girl joins his band, girl moves on to a solo career, and boy hangs about attempting to convince himself boy and girl still have a connection through she is long gone. It's a love gone wrong album and Up in Hudson is its grand statement. He lyric-checks Roberta Flack, samples Peggy Seeger, mentions songs he wrote for her, and works in references to Kanye and 2Pac as their respective healing artists of choice. Over a burbling horn section, Longstreth sings wide-eyed about how their love "felt like it bore the impress of destiny" but later admits...

"This is how we saw the world
side by side from the road and the stage
So our lives were twined and curled
and mixed up like the code we obeyed
And that was basically my dream
and I dreamed it with you 'til we betrayed it"

Longstreth closes the 9-minute sprawl with a fuzz-soaked guitar solo that trips along lightly over the rhythm section and horns until he finally has nothing left to say about the whole affair. His brain seems spent, his guitar seems spent, and so does the subject. A most intriguing song, but one that makes me want to dig more into their past work when Coffman was there to see what the hubbub was about, rather than selling me the latest album.

#34 - Dua Lipa feat. Miguel, "Lost in Your Light"
Heard of the artist? Miguel, yes, but not Dua Lipa.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? Probably not, but it's OK for what it is.

Just like the Haim video, more awkward walking down streets that turn into awkward dance moves. But I try to avoid the videos when listening to these songs, so I hide the video behind a window on my desktop just as the rather fetching Lipa is hoisted up into the air Harry Styles-, um... -style. And just before Miguel pops into the song to sing about "torture tempted with pleasure" and share the remainder of the vocals. The song is light dance simplicity, with romantic longing in the words, and nothing more strenuous than an old Anita Ward song. It's actually rather pleasant sounding, but also does nothing for me musically but fill space.

#33 - Lil Yachty feat. Diplo, "Forever Young"
Heard of the artist? Ran into both of them on the previous two years' lists.
Own any of their music? Nope.
Heard this song? Nope.
Would you purchase this song? It's kind of sweet, but not my thing.

Oh, boy... this song starts out using way too much Auto-Tune. Yeah, I know they were doing it on purpose, but my general rule is that my brain shuts out the rest of the song immediately when that is the case. If it is used for comedic purposes, I am a little more forgiving, but that is not the case here. And the Auto-Tune keeps coming, all through the rapped verses, and again, yes, I know that is the style here. I just don't have to like it. It's sad, because I actually think the chorus is pretty catchy, and when he Biz Markies the "forever young" part at the end, I think it's sort of cute. I also think it is funny when Yachty speaks in his bae's voice to call him "Boat". There is a video on YouTube about Auto-Tune where an L.A. producer is asked about the use of the program. He says, "When I can't hear it being used, it's great." That's me in a nutshell.

#32 - Margo Price, "Pay Gap"
Heard of the artist? Yes. Seen her multiple times on TV.
Own any of her music? Nope.
Heard this song? Not this song, but others.
Would you purchase this song? There is a good chance that I might check out one of her albums by this point.

"We are all the same in the eyes of God
But in the eyes of rich white men
No more than a maid to be owned like a dog
A second-class citizen"

Yeah, preach it, Margo. I've come around on the girl since I first heard her on Saturday Night Live a while ago. I dismissed Ms. Price in that way that I am generally dismissive of many populist acts on the interminable wait during the first music slot for Weekend Update to start. I listened to her, but didn't really listen to her. Then she started popping up on Colbert and Noah, and I became entranced by her voice and the increase of a political stance in her lyrics. Luckily, that stance seems to be on the same side of me, so... yeah, go for it, Margo. This is pretty good stuff.

#31 - Craig Finn, "God in Chicago"
Heard of the artist? Yes, via The Hold Steady.
Own any of his music? One album, and a couple of songs on comps.
Heard this song? No.
Would you purchase this song? Yes. Goddamned yes.

More of a monologue than a song, God in Chicago tells a story of delving into the dark side  so rich in detail and desperation as to be frightening. The death and the drug deal that form the first half of the story are the easy part. It's the brief relationship that ignites during it in the second half that hold the real drama and sadness. The chorus is sung only once in the middle, and that's because it forms the transition between the parts. God in Chicago reminds me of some of the story-songs in the early Drive-By Truckers' albums, stock full of rich tidbits of character notes and just the right lines of dialogue. In a different way, it takes me back to the moody, character-driven tales that Stan Ridgway would spin after he soloed away from Wall of Voodoo, albeit with a markedly different musical style.

I really enjoyed the single Hold Steady LP I have, and had planned to hear more, and now that is probably going to have to happen eventually. Nice work, Craig. Along with Marling's Wild Fire and Big Thief's Shark Smile, Finn's dark tale becomes my third favorite track thus far on this list.


Twenty songs down. More next time. For now, my score reads:

Total number of songs: 20
Songs I had heard before: 2
Songs that I own already: A big fat 0.
Reactions: Loved: 7 | Liked: 5 | Don't Care at All: 5 | Hated: 3
Songs that I plan to purchase: 10

So that's not bad for the first score. When I get up and running with the music factory again, it looks like I have lined up half of these tracks or artists to be added to my collection. I do worry when I find a handful of really excellent songs surrounded by chaff at the bottom of the list, because it says to me these things were not measured out by quality but rather some other system. But we can discuss that after we see what Part 2 brings me in a few days. See you then!


[To be continued next week in Pt. 2, featuring Songs 30 through 11…]



The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2015 
Pt. 1: 
Pt. 2:

The 50 Something or Other Songs of 2016
Pt. 1:
Pt. 2:
Pt. 3:


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