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2014/07/16

Is It Summer Yet? – Pop Reviews for an Indifferent July


Is It Summer Yet? – 
Pop Reviews for an Indifferent July

Where’s the heat?  Where’s the sun?  I want me some summer!

Okay, so the weather here in Minnesota is not exactly bringing on the warmth, but musically we are exactly where I thought we’d be – lot’s of empty, delicious calories for you to consume while coasting through July. 

There’s some good: Joywave, KONGOS

There’s some bad: Kenny Chesney, AJR

And, boy, is there some ugly (coming out of such beautiful mouths): Trey Songz, T.I.
You know, when I review these songs, I can’t help but look at the big picture and consider their place in musical history and in relation to social change.  I think that’s what forms the foundation of my opinions.  And that is why some of these songs leave me wanting…

…while others make me so damn mad and embarrassed of the world we live in, I hesitate to call them music.  We have come a long way, baby.

But we have so much further to go.

Get enlightened!

Cool Kids
Echoesmith

Okay, put on your wayback machine headset and try to stay with me here: Do you remember Quarterflash or Eye to Eye?  They were two groups with female lead singers who had a couple hits.  The thing that binds the two groups in my mind is the way they represented a sound (Pat Benatar and Steely Dan, respectively) without actually embodying that sound.   In other words, they both struck me as rather empty; mannequins wearing the correct musical clothing. 

That pretty much sums up how I feel about Echoesmith and their single ‘Cool Kids’.

The song and the group’s sound is an approximation of other groups.  Then there is how emotionally hollow and vapid the lead vocalist sounds – which is what brought to mind Quarterflash and Eye to Eye.  I can’t help but be suspicious.  I can’t help but wonder if history is repeating itself.

Cool Kids’ lulls by with just enough propulsion and fancy synth sounds to keep the ear plugged in.  It will be a somewhat big hit.  And, I guess, that, in and of itself, is enough to secure it a place in musical history… like Eye to Eye and Quarterflash.

Break Free
Ariana Grande Featuring Zedd
Ariana has a nice voice.  Even when she is heading into Demi Lovato helium high territory, hers is the mellower, fuller instrument.  ‘Break Free’ is a rather rote piece of dance pop, also serving as a slightly snarky kiss-off song. 

Ably assisted by Zedd, all those Atari sounding synths and space-age touches sound great on the radio, so you can expect this one to have a full run until the end of summer.  

Not a bad thing, but something tells me Ms. Grande is capable of a lot more.

American Kids
Kenny Chesney
This song is not so much music as it is a slice of propaganda.  Far be it for any country song to ever be critical about anything American, and apparently that includes its over-indulged kids.  Even though it makes reference to it, this is not John Cougar Mellencamp’s ‘Little Pink Houses’. 

Rather than look at the reality of most of his younger listening audience, Kenny chooses instead to wax warm, rolling off a shopping list of safe, hazy, happy memories.  Insulated in a blanket of privilege, without a care in the world, his ‘American Kids’ live in a gated community of sunshine, Jesus, and blue jeans, where the very worst thing that can happen is that Daddy will disapprove of your boyfriend, or you lie about getting to second base on a first date.

In other words, absolute bullshit, having nothing whatsoever to do with reality. 

And that would seem to be the purpose of most country music; to present an idealized picture of life, harking back to a simpler time, when love was pure and so were the hearts of ‘American Kids’. 

In other words, a time that has never ever existed.

Musically, Mr. Chesney coasts by on a gruff kind of charm and a shuffle beat.  You’d think at this point in his career he might ask more of himself, but then, anything more serious might jeopardize his lucrative career and hallowed station in the homogenous world of country music.

Come With Me Now
KONGOS
Anchored by the hearty moan of an accordion and plenty of homemade percussion, ‘Come With Me Now’ comes off like a piece of bluegrass Cajun jungle music.  The fuzz-toned vocals are gravelly and once the chorus kicks in?  They feel downright threatening.

The sound is unique and has all the hallmarks of a one-hit wonder, a la Blues Traveler, or Blind Melon… for that is the time ‘Come With Me Now’ would seem to hail from.

For a time, it was seated in the #1 slot on the Rock Songs chart, while rummaging about in the low end of the Hot 100.  Now that I ‘Heart’ Radio has added it to their playlists, look for the KONGOS to experience some widespread (albeit brief) success.

No Mediocre
T.I. Featuring Iggy Azalea
This song is so nasty.  If straight men really cop this sort of attitude then they deserve to never get laid. 

T.I. may “want no mediocre”, but that seems to be exactly what he’s serving up here – simply more of the same boring, misogynistic crap.  If being the Andrew Dice Clay of rap is what he’s aiming for?  Dude’s hit the bullseye with this one.

Iggy Azalea, seeking to further endear herself to the masses and extend her fifteen minutes, whores herself out for a mid-break rap that barely ties into the crass bullshit T.I. is spouting.  One would hope she would have enough self-esteem and self-respect to call T.I. on his shit, because… you know, that would have made this song interesting, by adding some tension, but, no, girl is all about the money and the posing.

The groove and backdrop is smooth and fine, but this one won’t be getting any love on the radio.  It is simply too explicit and nasty mean.

I'm Ready
AJR
Every summer there is that one song that irritates the hell out of you.  Whether it’s this song remains to be seen, for it has only just entered the bottom of the Hot 100, but something tells me I ‘Heart’ Radio and tweens everywhere are going to embrace ‘I’m Ready’ harder than a giant cuddly teddy bear.  It’s like Hanson’s ‘’MMMBop’, but shrill and industrial instead of sweet and nostalgic.

AJR consists of three savvy, clever, nerdy, auto-tuned, do-it-yourselfers (they record and mix their songs in their living room) with more ambition than talent.   This quirky, ear-splitter features plenty of strange sounds, odd doo-wop-like harmonies, peculiar percussion, and the most banal lyrics this side of a song on Nickelodeon. 

Brace yourself.

Foreign
Trey Songz
I didn’t know misogyny could come in such a cute, sexy package.  But, yeah, it do.

Trey, honey, Imma gonna shake my head, too, just like you, cuz I do not get why someone as photogenic as your fine self feels the need to treat woman like commodities.  You’re talented, too, boo and with all that charisma you got going on you could distinguish yourself from the pack and steer far clear from the likes of that evil Chris Brown. 

But, no… you content to present your bad self as a playa who treat woman the same way you do your automobiles; ride ‘em, dent ‘em and trade ‘em in.  Dat so sad.  Imma be sad for you and your Momma.  

Your grooves may be smooth, Mr. Songz, but you gotta lotta growing up to do, something that in that insolated world you are currently living in just ain’t gonna be  happening anytime soon. But that’s what happens when you view music like you view women; as nothing more than product.  Music should be about individuality, creativity, self-expression, and artistry – not market placement, brand reliability, and delusion.

Tongues
Joywave Featuring KOPPS
Oh, goody, more goofy popcorn music.  Kicking off with some military marching drums, ‘Tongues’ quickly devolves into quirky, sampled, layered, ‘boom-boom’s popping all over the place, before deciding to be a rather straight-forward pop song - think Fun. meets Scissor Sisters as performed by a synth group from the 1980’s.  It’s all upbeat, delightful and super idiosyncratic.  The bridge even features mournful sounding Spanish horns! 


This song is currently enjoying success on the Dance Charts, but given that the likes of Naughty Boy and Disclosure have found a place on the Hot 100, I don’t see any reason why ‘Tongues’ shouldn’t follow suit. 
















1 comment:

whkattk said...

I think my favorite new song of the summer is Weird Al Yankovic's "Word Crimes." Yup. LOL.