Top 10 Songs of 2015

Hello again everyone, Kevin here writing my final annual music review blog. Instead of an awards blog I’m just going to list my favorite songs of the year as a going away present to myself. I’ve had fun writing about the billboard 100 since 2011, but I feel the time has come to switch mediums into film and television criticism since I still feel that A) The Film and TV genres still award creativity, and B) There’s still an audience for people who want to movie read reviews and show theories. I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of many artists, one hit wonders, and internet stars over the last few years, and I’m tired of living in an age of accelerated one hit wonders.

2011 was the year I felt I didn’t have to be ashamed of my generation’s pop music anymore (though 2013 nearly made me eat those words), and the following couple of years made me realize that every year of this past decade has been incredibly different with the music styles that have come out. Now that’s not to say that we haven’t had some great music, it’s just that I don’t want to be an indentured servant to trying to change the Billboard 100 forever. So without further adieu, here are my top songs for 2015.

1. Ariana Grande- “Focus”

I’ve always had something of a fan crush on Ariana Grande since I first heard her back in 2014 as I really love her voice, and dig the style of her songs. I enjoyed “One Last Time” in the first part of this year, but I posted this song since I feel like this her most edgy song with it’s risque lyrical content and the unique style of the music video. I like they include the horn section towards the end of the song as well. Lastly, this is one of the more different sounding songs on the top charts right now, and I enjoy listening to it for that reason.

2. Adele- “Hello”

Speaking of 2011, I’m a hardcore Adele fanboy because I often credit her for saving modern music from the bullshit and creative stagnation of 2010 (Refer to: “Call me Mr Flintstone, I can make your bed rock”). When her song “Rolling in The Deep” first came out, I felt very happy as I knew things were going to change on the charts. It’s been five years now since Adele broke into the scene, and when she came back her first single “Hello” was a huge success. I love that she’s continuing her story of how she misses her ex lover that was the basis for her album “21” from 2011. The song itself is a wonderful combination of sadness and melancholy, and Adele’s emotive and powerful vocals add to the soul of the song as their centerpiece.

3. X Ambassadors- “Renegades”

This particular song is one that I’ve personally taken into my heart as I’ve felt like a renegade and an outcast my whole life due to having lived with Autism Spectrum Disorder (given how the video helps promote the differently abeled). I love how the song builds into something from the opening chords of the guitar, into an enjoyable verse, and then to an amazing chorus. Plus I love that line “The Spielbergs, the Kubricks” as those two reshaped modern cinema together as friends, despite the differences in their styles. The lyrics are deeper than your average pop song these days This’s a theme about unity, something the world is really lacking right now.

4. Breaking Benjamin- “Failure”

Growing up as an angst ridden teenager in the 2000s had many ups and downs, and the band Breaking Benjamin in my mind perfectly captured that struggle of growing up with depression and anxiety (with their music). And dammit, they sound awesome doing it along the way. I’ve been waiting since 2009 for these guys to release an album like “Dark Before Dawn”, and it’s amazing flagship single “Failure”. I love this song because even as I approach my late 20s, these guys still release songs that speak to my soul. I have a powerful love of songs that start off slow, but quickly build into something much grander and powerful. Breaking Benjamin has been mastering that style since their first album “Saturate”, and this hard hitting anthem about struggling with the fear failure is no exception. There was some controversy a few years ago over lead vocalist Ben Burnley suing his old band mates for the rights of the band name, but I’m glad to see the new members of the band haven’t changed the core elements of what I love about this band’s sound.

5. Breaking Benjamin- “Angels Fall”

As such, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I should post this band’s second single of the year, Angels Fall. I actually saw Breaking Benjamin live last Summer, and they sound very consistent to how they do in the studio. As for the song, “Angels Fall” is more dramatic than “Failure”, and I find it to be the better song as well. I say that because I enjoy the visuals that singer Ben Burnley uses to paint a picture of the heavens themselves struggling to reclaim what they once were. It reminds me of my past struggles to better who I am as an individual. I’m happy that this band’s album this year was so successful, I can’t think of any other band that deserves said recognition more than Breaking Benjamin.

6. Five Finger Death Punch-“Wash it All Away”

Five Finger Death Punch has always been something of an anomaly to me in that they are probably the most popular metal band of the current decade, yet many metal purists swear them off as not being “real metal”. Well, this song to me shows that FFDP doesn’t really give a damn that you dislike them. They care about their fans, not their haters, and they also care about trying to help veterans. I suspect that the members of FFDP are conservative, but they’ve (wisely) side stepped getting involved in most politics. As for the song it’s self, I really enjoy the chorus of the song as FFDP knows how to write songs around a powerful refrain. I also someone will come wash away the evils of this world, God knows there’s too much evil in it now.

7. Sam Smith- “Writings on The Wall (from Spectre)”

I first heard this song when I saw Spectre back last year when it first came out, and I’ve got to say this song is probably the most grandiose song on the list. I say that because Smith’s vocals and the old school Bond brass band accompaniment offer grand choruses, and the emotive piano tells of a softer side to the man we know as James Bond. Smith does an amazing job carrying the type of tone that sets such a great film, and the man has one hell of a voice. It rivals Adele’s performance on “Skyfall” from 2012. Bravo!

8. Taylor Swift- “Style”

I’m not normally a fan of Taylor Swift’s music as I think her song writing as too simplistic, and she reuses the same lyrical content over and over, but that’s not the case with this particular song. This song has a great mellow beat, a relaxing feel to it, and a chorus that tells of how Swift’s love will never go out of style. I enjoyed some of the songs off of her latest album, and I feel no shame in admitting that I’m not afraid to listen too music marketed to a largely female demographic. Why? Because my masculinity isn’t toxic or frail.

9. Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats-“S.O.B”

That last comment had a strong Feminist undercurrent to it, but I may have to revoke any brownie points for posting a song with a sexist word in it (“b*tch”). All the same, the song itself isn’t sexist, it’s just a sort of throw back to the Doo Wop era where the song’s singer is asking for drinks to drown out his troubles. I love the strong old school feel of this song, as half is only A’capella vocals, and the other half is an old school rockabilly band playing during the chorus. Not to mention how catchy said chorus really is. And I how things look with current events, I sure could use a drink myself.

10. Marcus Miller- “I Can’t Breathe FT. Chuck D and Mocean Worker”

Speaking of current events, 2015 was a year of social and political unrest as cops gunned down minorities, and protesters stopped traffic on highways to prove that black lives matter. This groovy song is a direct reference to the police murder of Eric Garner, who inspired the hashtag “I can’t breathe” as he needed an inhaler before he died. This came off the album Afrodeezia by virtuoso bassist Marucs Miller who set out to create an album that emulates African American music through out modern history. I posted this as my final song because Marcus Miller is a personal hero of mine. I discovered his work after learning bass myself. The rapper on this song is named Chuck D., and his words paint the picture of struggle and unrest that was experienced this past summer. Beyond the sobering subject matter, I love just how funky sounding the instrumentation sounds on this song. The bass playing really is the central focus, and it delivers in creating some amazing musical textures.

With that, I conclude my blog post by saying I’ll keep trying to promote small bands that haven’t “made it” in the big leagues yet. But I’ve also come to realize why modern pop music sounds the way it does is to cater to the demand of modern day audiences, while the further down the chart you go the more progressive things become. I know no that everyone shares my visions and opinions musically, but I’m happy that my readers have read my rantings and semi-educational analysis on music. it’s been fun, I’ll see people again when The Walking Dead returns on February 14th.

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Fill in The Blank Music Awards 2014

Happy belated new year to all of my readers, new and old! It’s time again for my annual Fill in The Blank Music Awards as we embrace the new year and look back at the best and worse music of 2014. I reflect back on all of the hits of the year I look back and see a year that was the best of the new decade after 2011. While 2011 had epic break up songs and party anthems,  2012 had a great indie boom, 2014 has been a year of mellow and optimistic music. From the best and the worst to the most random verse, here are my top choices for 2014.

Most Random Top 100 Song- “Hanging Tree” by Jennifer Lawrence and James Newton Howard

I use the word “random” to describe my surprise at this song making it onto the top of the charts so quickly because it’s so experimental and minimalist, but I guess that’s what happens when it’s sung by a famous celebrity and is part of the official sound track of a huge movie series. Now this’s a pretty good song because of how different it is, though it’s not my cup of tea stylistically. If anything it just shows me that 2014 has been a year of strong musical variety given how a modern Jazz song is on the charts right now.  And that’s why music interests me so much, because it’s an evolving science as much as music’s an art.

Most Mellow Song of the Year- “Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz

This isn’t mellow in the same sense as Regae hits like “Rude” by Magic that also came out in 2014, but it’s relaxing and leaves me with a really positive feeling in my heart. The song’s about dreaming for a better life, and I know exactly how that feels with how events in my life have unfolded this past year. I also love how this song progresses from mellow, to happy, back to mellow again, then to uncertain, and back to sounding happy. It’s a great song, so much so that I will check Nico & Vinz’s other works when I get some down time.

Best Party Song- “Fireball” by John Ryan and Pitbull

This song always sets my spirit ablaze and always makes me laugh in a joyous manner. It’s like an awesome Cuban jazz throwback that announces itself to make you want to have a great time. I imagine it was inspired by Fireball Whiskey and similar drinks, and the song reflects the party like atmosphere of many liquor commercials. Now I also love how catchy Pitbull’s rhymes are in this piece, because I actually referenced this song as a joke in my last Walking Dead review. I normally don’t listen to Pitbull’s music, but this one is a pretty damn awesome collaboration that Pitbull did with John Ryan.

Best Dance Hit- “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias

I really love this song in both the English and the Spanish versions. The lyrics are pretty straightforward and telling of man falling in love with a woman on a dance floor, and how he wants to spend every waking moment with her.  What I love most about this song is that it’s more traditional sounding than most dance music these days with its dark feel and expressive classical guitar work.

Best Metal Song- “Wrong Side of Heaven” by Five Finger Death Punch

I’ve loved this song since it came out in the summer of 2013, and for good reason. It starts off slow and sad, and then builds to an amazing series of climaxes. I also love that the video serves as a PSA for homeless veterans.  Metal heads have turned their noses up at FFDP lately for their “simplistic guitar work and lyrics”, and non-metal fans just ignorantly consider them “screaming music”, I’m just sitting here twerking to Mastodon.  I mean, I’ve always loved this band for their awesome guitar riffs and straight forward lyrics. FFDP is a great blend of modern metal core and hard rock music. On a separate note, 2014 was the year that Gene Simmons decreed “rock is dead”.  While music never actually dies, some Rock musicians have resorted to advertising their music in strange ways.

Most Random Music Video- “The Motherload” by Mastodon

Speaking of Twerking to Mastodon and strange advertising, this song caused quite a stir in the metal and feminist communities because of the use of black erotic dancers to add a “surreal” and “hysterical” atmosphere to the video. Some people were offended and labeled the music video as sexist, and I agree that using women’s bodies to get attention for your video is sexist by nature. I just also think that this video isn’t worth being offended by. If you’re going to make a portal come out of a woman’s arse from twerking a lot then it’s quite clearly a bad joke, not something to justify labeling the band members as sexist. The song itself is great, I truly love how loud the bass guitar and how the vocals are used as a supporting instrument rather than the central focus of the song.

Most Overplayed Pop Hit- “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

Another song big in the feminist blogosphere, I support the idea of body postivity in the lyrics, but the hook in this song is just God awful. The hook of “I’m all about that bass, no treble” is catchy in the same way that you can catch a cold (it stays in your head, but you wish it would go the hell away).  Other than the hook sucking, I dislike how long this song dominated the charts for almost four months straight. It gets annoying listening for that long. Overplayed doesn’t mean overrated, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  I have nothing against Meghan Trainor as an artist; I just feel that this song could have been a great 50s throwback were it not for the awful hook.

Catchiest EDM Song- “Prayer in C” by Lily Wood and the Prick

This song really stands out to me for the mellow beat, emotional vocals, and damn catchy guitar riff driving the song.  The lyrics in the song question the existence of God, which offends some who don’t really know how common this sort of thing is. I enjoy this particular song because it’s the odd man in the charts, and it shows that 2014 has been a strong for variety. And God knows that guitar riff is epic.

Best 80s Throwback Song- “Rollercoaster” by Bleachers

Here’s a song that I really fell in love with since the first time I heard it. I never grew up in the 1980s, but even I feel nostalgic listening to this piece. I imagine the singer is recalling tales of being in love with his high school sweetheart by calling her a “rollercoaster” (meaning she’s a fun person). I also love the Queen reference they throw in there during the chorus. The only thing I dislike about this song is that it’s less than four minutes as I want to enjoy this song for much longer than that without having to loop it constantly.

Song that Deserves to be on the Top 10- “Give In” by Lecrae ft Crystal Nicole

Lecrae is a Christian Rapper who covers some very real and current subject matter happening in the US, and he’s one of the few Christian rappers I take seriously. The first time I heard this piece I was blown away by how epic the vocals and the rapping are. I love how they layered the synth vocals to sound like an electric guitar, now that’s how you properly use auto-tune to stylize a song. “Give In” has an interesting blend of organic A’capella and computerized instruments, plus I LOVE that beat. It makes me sad that this wasn’t a bigger single, but maybe it could happen in 2015. Listen the heck out of this song folks; it deserves to be an international hit.

Best Rap Song- “Don’t Tell Em” by Jermih Ft. YG

I like to think of this song as a good balance between risqué lyrics and relaxing beats. I love the singing and the rapping; it’s a nice mellow rap song that I can enjoy hearing on the radio. It’s not as impressive as “Give In”, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s down tempo to capture that secretive feel of being in an affair with someone.

Worst Rap Song- “I Don’t F*ck With You” by  Big Sean Ft. E-40

I’ll just be frank and say I find this song to be petty and that it sounds awful. I dislike the concept of writing a song about someone and saying that you don’t care about them, when the song clearly shows you do care. It’s why I shied away from writing a breakup song of my own. The other thing I dislike is that whining sound they sampled in the background, it sounds weird and creepy. There are worse songs in existence, but this definitely isn’t my favorite.

Worst Song of the Year- “Only” by Nicki Minaj Ft. Lil Wanye Chris Brown and Drake

Speaking of worse songs in existence, we have this one. It’s not that I hate Nicki Minaj as a person, it’s just most of her discography is a blight upon the music industry. This song has horrible lyrics, horrible imagery, and the music is so empty sounding I can’t even say the cadences in the chorus sound good.  I already reviewed this song a few months back, but it’s a song about the biggest names in the rap industry in the last decade saying they don’t have a love triangle with each other. We could have TMZ tell us that, and TMZ wouldn’t use Nazi inspired imagery to do so.

Song of the year- “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a song that has upbeat lyrics about partying, awesome slap bass work, and a groovy song that definitely reminds me of the best funk work of the 70s and 80s. Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson have made an awesome contribution together, and I truly look forward to hearing more work between these two artists. I’ve always had a soft spot for the music of Bruno Mars, and I love that he’s using his fame to bring attention to music genres that shouldn’t have been forgotten from the mainstream conscience.  The end of 2014 had a lot of throwback songs to the styles of previous decades in music history, and I can imagine the same thing being a trend in 2015. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

-Tatteybye