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.

Kevin Card’s “Fill in the Blank” Music Awards of 2012

Aye, we are already past two weeks into the new year and I’ve been slowly moving along looking for a job with some promising leads here and there. I honestly haven’t had the the time or will to write lately, but life demands that we shake out of our personal funks back into productivity for the betterment of society. And the society of music from 2012 needed A LOT of betterment. I then hereby welcome you to Kevin Card’s “‘Fill in The Blank’ Music Awards of 2012.” Here, I will name what I believe to be the most fitting title of each single like  ‘”Call Me Maybe’ was the most Bubble Gum Song of 2012.” Drum roll please…

1. I hereby award the Most Overplayed Song of 2012 to…

This particular song took North America by storm back in March alongside it’s “hipster” partner on the charts “We Are Young” by Fun. “Somebody that I Used to Know” was released back in 2011, which makes sense since 2011 was a real game changer on the Billboard 100. It makes sense that this track got popular because on your first listen through you’re likely to think, “Oh my God, this is so different! And it’s a great breakup track!” which everyone DID think, until this song got too big for it’s own good and was milked dry by the radio stations who even now are still releasing remixes of this song. That being said, I still enjoy the song and respect Gotye for being an original artist who is actually succeeding at it. People who may not have liked THIS song should check out Gotye’s other works before they trash him.

2. And the award for Blandest Song goes to…

It was almost a tie between this and “Diamonds” by Rhianna, but I like the strings and the beat of “Diamonds” better than this track. “Wide Awake” is very empty sounding to me and lacks any real tonal center, by which I mean it comes out sounding very flat and predictable. However, I understand that Ms. Perry is showing the world that she is a strong independent human being. Now let me please clarify to the legions of angry Katy Perry fans right now, I don’t hate her as a person. Perry is making money while making music, and that is a dream of mine as well. However, I dislike the way Perry makes money because I can’t stand her songs since to me they are very bland and overly simplified.

3. I hereby award Most Bubblegum Pop Song to…

The biggest butt of internet joke memes for better AND worse of 2012; this song seems to be hated and loved equally by many. The reason for that is very simple as it’s a standard song formula used in every other pop song ever. It’s made to get stuck into your head with repetitive and minimalistic music while revolving around the main hook. It’s like a bad cold; you listen to the song, hate it for three weeks while it’s stuck in your head, and then you move on stronger than before. The sad thing is this formula and those who argue over how “good or bad” it is will be around forever.

4. Category: Most Disappointing Underground Song of 2012, “Analog Man” by Joe Walsh

Sorry that there is no music video. For those wondering who Joe Walsh is, he’s the lead guitarist from The Eagles (Hotel California, Love Will Show us The Way, etc.) Naturally, I would have expected something really killer and a strong throwback to classic rock, which was the majority of his latest album. Instead he released the title track which happens to be the worst on the CD. What we’ve here got is a man complaining about modern recording technology in a typical blues rock song with too much reverb, which was also recorded DIGITALLY. If people want strong throwback music recorded on analog technology then listen to underground punk rock, not this song of an “analog” man telling the digital kids to get off his lawn.

5. Most Enjoyable Pop Song: “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

I don’t hate commercial music, I hate ear-grating music that plays it’s self too often and fails at its purpose. This song is a pop song about sex, done in a very 80s style (ala The Police and Micheal Jackson) that was done right because of the strong build up in the chorus and the nice changes between the other song sections. People have heard it before many times, but what makes this a winner for me song is Mars’s strong emoting because you can tell he really feels it, unlike some other singers out there. Mars may be very commercial as an artist, but at least he’s skilled at it.

6. Best Viral Hit- “Gagnam Style” by Psy

I don’t feel the need to explain why this song got so popular, but I will anyways. People find this song hilarious because of the jokes in the video, that and the song is reminiscent of LMFAOs better singles. However, the song is actually about a girl who would fall for a sensitive “nerdy” guy rather a really muscular hunk, and for that reason I love the song even more since I was a nerd growing up (and still am). Also, well done Psy for beating out Justin Bieber’s views on Youtube.

7. Song Most Likely to Blow Your Socks Off- “Skyfall” by Adele

Now understand I have yet to see the movie Skyfall, but this song is the best Bond theme I’ve ever heard since Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” because of Adele’s amazing voice and the climactic chorus. I also love how they sew in the Bond theme as a medley so seamlessly. When you hear the first chorus with Adele’s high register and the orchestra playing behind it, you know that it will blow your socks off. Well met Adele. Well met indeed.

8. Most Surprising Song of 2012- “Die Young” by Ke$ha

Those who remember my old blogs know that I was no fan of Ke$ha due to her first album and the musical travesty of the track “Dinosaur.” However, I did enjoy some of the songs off of “Cannibal”, and the singles from “Die Young” thus far are of a better song quality then her previous works. Her signature off pitch “bad girl” rapping is still there unfortunately, but I doubt she will ever stop doing that. I would put this song as a guilty pleasure as it has grown on me the more I listen to it. I am surprised I would enjoy a ke$ha song this much. By the way, I think Ke$ha has a decent set of vocal chords despite using pitch correction often. I don’t view Ke$ha as a sell out in the music industry, I view her as a victim of a fickle audience with a short attention span.

9. Worst Song of 2012-  “Starships” by Nicki Minaj

Honorable mentions for this category: “Payphone” by Maroon 5, and “One Thing” by One Direction. However, this song won because it tries so hard to blend the styles of other pop sensations (Ke$ha’s rapping, Katy Perry’s vocals, and Skrillex’s dub-step), but just falls flat on its face with how horrible it all sounds. I think Minaj does have an okay voice, I just really hate the way this song was written. It also fails to mention any of the COOL things that star ships do, instead she is just using the title as a pun for someone to get high while partying. Lame, this track is. Worse song of 2012, it has won.

10. Best Song of 2012- “Some Nights” by Fun

Honorable Mentions include “State of the Art” by Gotye, and “Bangarang ft. Sirah” by Skrillex. However, this song just fills me with positive energy due to the heroic marching beat and the lyrics against war that are to die for. Sure lead vocalist Nate Ruess is auto-tuned like crazy here, but in this case it’s just used for stylistic effect. This is a very triumphant song with a chorus reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia.” And this is a great song to welcome the new year (despite the track being released around last March).

Overall I’m glad that 2012 had a handful of nice songs because the majority of said songs were just garbage for how under-written and over-produced they were. People are free to agree or disagree with my opinions on the music industry and how I want to change it, but my views are still my own.

Happy New Years.