#Billbored – A Look at Billboard Hot 100 (on Twitter)

The Top Ten Worst Songs of 2014

Well, another year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to say goodbye to many things. Of course, I will be more than happy to say goodbye to some of those things, including various pieces of music, many of which I wish had never transmitted themselves through sound waves into my brain. I will unfortunately never get to un-hear these pieces of crap, but I can take my vengeance on them by making a list of the ten very worst.

Now, if you’ve been following Knife Ink Reviews for a while, you know that my very first post was my Top Ten Worst Songs of 2013 list, so needless to say these lists hold a very special place in my rotten little heart. Not only does this mark the end of the year, this also marks the approximate 1 year birthday of Knife Ink Reviews, and what better way to celebrate than to recreate the list that started it all?

Some ground rules. 1 – only songs from Billboard’s year end Top 100 list, and 2 – Only songs that were released in or only made the charts this year, in 2014. There are plenty of songs, like “Wrecking Ball” and the like, that have stuck with us since the year they were released. They don’t count. Sorry.

All right then, let me just take a listen to some songs, I’ll be right back. How bad could it be?

[TWO HOURS LATER]

Those were possibly the two most painful hours of my life. Let’s just get this over with.


10. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry

Katy-Perry-Dark-Horse1

Katy Perry escaped my list last year, and she wasn’t going to make my list this year, until my history professor explained to us the misrepresentation of Cleopatra, and while the music video for “Dark Horse” doesn’t necessarily mention Cleopatra, it’s still pretty obvious that’s what they were going for. Anyway, the misrepresentation and blatant sexualization of Cleopatra is really getting tiring and is unfair as she was actually an extremely capable leader, more so than many men of her time. So there.

In actuality, though, this song annoys me because, like most Katy Perry songs, it gets stuck in your head, but unlike some Katy Perry songs it lacks the dumb enjoyability that I’ve managed to find in several of her singles. They may not be good songs, but I can understand the appeal to “Hot N’ Cold” and “Last Friday Night” – they’re stupid, but they’re fun, catchy, and when they get stuck in your head they just want to have a good time, like a little kid poking you over and over begging you to take him to the park or something. When “Dark Horse” gets stuck in your head, it wants to drill itself into your brain. It’s a disgusting earworm that latches onto your brain cells and sucks the life out of them. It has a dull, plodding beat that’s not at all fun and really the song doesn’t make much sense and the music video’s even worse. I just don’t get you, Katy Perry. Who – who are you?


9. “Chandelier” by Sia

Sia-Chandelier-Feature

Get out your torches and pitchforks, I don’t care. I just don’t see the appeal to Sia. She has a voice so grating it makes me feel like my brain is exploding. On the chorus of “Chandelier” she sounds like a wolf in extreme pain. She is literally howling the word “chandelier,” and I certainly wouldn’t be able to make out that word if it wasn’t the title.

I had to look up lyrics for this song because I couldn’t understand a word Sia was singing. She has a way of mushing words when she sings, making them virtually unrecognizable. And that’s not an accent or anything, because I’ve watched interviews with her and I was able to understand her fine; it’s just the way she sings. Maybe it floats your boat, but I find it annoying.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between “Chandelier” and “Habits (Stay High)” by Tove Lo because they have similar subject matters – coping with life, getting through day by day by drinking, partying, etc. I like “Habits” better because it actually sounds like someone who’s going through a tough time. I had to look at the lyrics to “Chandelier” closely to realize that it wasn’t an empowerment ballad, which is what it sounds like. Maybe Sia was going for the juxtaposition between the song’s subject matter and its tone, but I doubt it. In any case, I can actually understand what Tove Lo is saying, which gets her points.

“Chandelier” seems to try and make a point and loses it, and while I do appreciate that it’s not about merely getting high in a club and partying all night, it lacks focus and because of that, it turns into a song that has virtually no identity at all. Besides the screaming wolf.


8. “Rude” by MAGIC!

tumblr_inline_n8lbmrEsYH1sk3tmm

This song got really annoying really fast. I’m not sure what else to say about it. I suppose I could launch the usual criticisms at it – that it’s a rather poor take on “cod reggae,” that it’s slightly sexist, that it doesn’t really make much sense as the narrator claims he’s going to marry the girl anyway but still keeps asking for the dad’s permission – but it’s all been done before, and I find that what bothers me the most about this song is the fact that it stayed relevant for so long, that there are very, very few positive things about it but it still gets played a lot and yeah I just don’t ever want to hear it again.

Oh, and worst band name ever. Ick.


7. “Say Something” by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera

A-Great-Big-World-Say-Something-2013

I’m not going to make any friends for this one, either.

I can’t stand music like this – harmonically uninteresting, lyrically bland, falsely profound snore ballads that could be written by literally anyone. I could have written this song. You could have written this song.

This song deeply irritates me because, like most slow pop ballads, it passes itself off as something really moving and thoughtful when in reality it lacks substance. Its lyrics are generic and unclear, it’s slow and plodding, it’s harmonically boring, and I hate it I hate it I hate it.


6. “Summer” by Calvin Harris

Calvin-Harris-Summer

I can’t speak for other places, but where I live, this song was everywhere. It got played long past summertime, that’s for sure. So part of why I dislike this song is very much the same as why I dislike “Rude” – I just got sick of hearing it.

For me, though, there’s another huge reason why this song irritates me, and that’s Calvin Harris’s voice. He sounds like he has a cold, but more than that, he just sounds so uninterested in what he’s singing. He has no passion for this song whatsoever. I may not like Sia’s voice but I do have to give her credit for at least caring about what she sings. Calvin Harris sounds like he’s half-singing, half-mumbling, totally not invested in the performance. Now, that’s not an assessment of him as a person; I have no idea what he’s like in real life. I’m just describing what he sounds like to me, on the song.


5. “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz

20140322061918!Jason_Derulo's_Talk_Dirty_album_cover

Okay, I’ll admit it. I put this song on the list somewhat out of obligation. Really, this song was #6 on the chart this year and I have a sense of duty to the human race which tells me that if I am making a Top Ten Worst Songs of 2014 list, I must put “Talk Dirty” on it. It is just something that must be done.

In reality, I do like one small, tiny, tiny thing about this song, and that’s the funky Latin-style riff in the chorus. I think it’s fun and catchy. The rest of the song is the dumbest thing to hit the charts with the exception of…well, you’ll see in a minute.

Jason Derulo, besides being essentially talentless, comes across in his songs as an incredibly gross individual and someone I really would not want to hang around. The “it’s just dumb dance music” excuse has been used for far too long when it comes to sexist, insensitive shit in our music, but, in fact, may be the most fitting description for this song. If I am insulted by anything in “Talk Dirty,” it’s that it’s the most brain-dead thing on this list (besides…well, you’ll see in a minute). It’s just dumb. The end.


4. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Shake-It-Off

“Shake It Off” is, without any fraction of a doubt, Taylor Swift’s worst song. The very worst she’s ever released. Now, I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan, but after hearing this song over and over again, watching the music video over and over again, I began to long for the days when Taylor Swift just sang about boys named Drew and never ever ever getting back together.

What’s more, “Shake it Off” made me realize something about Taylor Swift. While she may not be the most talented artist ever, she does (or did) possess lyric vision. Her songs, while they did sound like seventh grade textbook poetry most of the time, were identifiable and very much Taylor Swift. Identity is huge in today’s music world, and Taylor Swift seemed to have a firm grasp on it, much more than other artists (*COUGH* Miley Cyrus *COUGH*).

“Shake It Off” could have been sung by anyone. Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, any of them could have done it. There’s nothing that makes this song Taylor Swift, except for her extreme aversion to haters, which is by far the most irritating and actually quite insulting part of her personality which I just can’t let slide. We apologize profusely, Taylor Swift, for your “haters” and also for your fucking net worth of $200 million. We’re really sorry.


3. “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dog

jason-derulo-performance-tcas

“Wiggle” was the song I kept referencing in my “Talk Dirty” explanation. I didn’t even know this was possible, but it’s about ten times more idiotic than “Talk Dirty” and lacks the funky Latin-style riff that made “Talk Dirty” slightly redeemable. My reaction to the main riff in “Wiggle” was, I kid you not, almost exactly the same as Todd In The Shadows’s. Upon hearing this riff, Todd said:

That’s a goddamn recorder.

I feel ya, Todd. I feel ya.

“Wiggle” is even more disgusting and perverted than “Talk Dirty” and its lyrics – again, I didn’t even know this was possible, but its lyrics are even dumber than those of “Talk Dirty.” I don’t even want to think about how many of my brain cells died after listening to this “song.”

To give you an idea of how awful “Wiggle” is, let me say this: it is so bad, it is the only song Postmodern Jukebox could not rescue. (I mean, their version is better but it’s so stupid it still doesn’t work.) Yeah. It’s that bad.


2. “Maps” by Maroon 5

BqnvTX6CUAArk9S

So far, none of the songs on this list have really insulted me beyond being brain-dead or irritating to listen to. These top two songs genuinely insult me because of their subject matter, dreadful lyrics, and in some ways, the artists singing them.

So, with that said, hi, Maroon 5. How’s it been?

I really hate Maroon 5. I’m not sure any of the other members besides Adam Levine are even relevant – I certainly don’t know anybody else’s name, and he’s the one who gets featured predominantly in their videos – so most of this is going to be targeted at Adam Levine.

First of all, let me start off by saying that Adam Levine has my least favorite singing voice on this list and possibly of all time. I just can’t stand the way he sounds. I know that’s personal preference, but I don’t know how to describe it, he sounds like a jerk when he sings and his songs, this one in particular, really do a good job of reinforcing that jerkiness.

In the music video for “Maps,” Adam Levine’s girlfriend gets hit by a car and the song is all about how much he does for her, how she messed up and dishonored him, how he’s remained loyal and faithful to her even when she’s treated him like dirt. Oh, and she dies at the end.

giphy


1. “Loyal” by Chris Brown ft. I don’t care let’s just get this overwith

url

You know, for some things, I need to explain why they’re bad or why I don’t like them. For other things, I would hope, I would pray, I would beg, that people would be able to figure it out on their own. So I’ll just do this.

Remember when Chris Brown violently beat up a nineteen year old girl?

Here are some of the lyrics in his song “Loyal.”

These hoes ain’t loyal
These hoes ain’t loyal
Yeah, yeah, let me see

and

When I call her, she gon’ leave
And I bet that bottom dollar she gon’ cheat

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what Chris Brown accused Rihanna of before he…oh, never mind. I’m sure he’s grown up and moved past that in his life or whatever.

giphy


Things I Need to Clear Up

No, These Are Not Good Songs

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea – okay, it’s not really a good song, but I can’t bring myself to passionately hate it.

“All About That Bass” – again, I can’t bring myself to hate it, though it has numerous faults. (Making a swipe at eating disorders is not cool.)

“All Of Me” – boring, generic, and bland, but John Legend is a really good singer.

“Timber” Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Oh wait I’m supposed to hate Ke$ha and Pitbull, right? (*YAWNS*)

“Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake – …I kind of like it?

“Boom Clap” by Charli XCX – I can at least get behind this song, even if it is incredibly annoying.

“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj – Oops, I forgot to care.

Stay tuned for the Best of 2014!

The Sound of Music’s Worst Song – Random Musings

Note: In this post, I refer to The Sound of Music as a “movie.” Yes, I am aware that it is a musical and was a musical before it was a movie. Yes, I have seen both movie and musical multiple times. The song and its placement is the same in both, and since I am more familiar with the movie and I would imagine that is the case for most people, I am looking at this scene as it appears in the film. 


keep-calm-and-climb-every-mountain-3

Okay, before you begin to reach for your battle gear, let me say: I LOVE The Sound of Music. It’s easily in my top ten favorite movies of all time. I’ve seen it more times than I can count, and I could probably quote the whole thing if given some time to do a few more rewatches.

But there’s one part of The Sound of Music that’s always set my teeth on edge. It’s the scene where Maria has just left the Von Trapps and returned to the abbey, where she tells the Mother Abbess that she might be in love with the Captain. Maria is looking for advice, and at first she gets it – the Mother Abbess tells her that she has to go back to the family, she can’t run away from her problems. But the main piece of advice is of course supposed to be delivered through song, this being a musical and whatnot. Therefore, we must consider the Mother Abbess’s main piece of advice to be the song she sings, which takes us to “Climb Every Mountain.” And what does this song tell Maria to do?

Climb every mountain
Search, high and low
Follow every byway
Every path you know

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream

Ugh.

Basically, the Mother Abbess just handed Maria a musical Hallmark card. Every line of this song is one cliché after the next. Worst of all, it does absolutely nothing to help Maria.

True, the song does fit in nicely with the ending of the movie, where the family literally has to climb mountains to escape Austria, but that only makes the song worse. It almost sounds like it was written solely to be a nice little cap on the story, and then they realized they’d have to include it in the middle of the movie somewhere for the song itself to make sense.

If someone came to you and told you that they might be in love with someone and they were afraid to face this person, what advice would you give them? I’m serious – what would you say? Remove this scene and the song from your mind and imagine that Maria is coming to you instead of the Mother Abbess. What would you tell her?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t tell her to go climb a mountain and follow a rainbow. I’d most likely get a blank stare of confusion back. And, come to think of it, we never see Maria’s response or really any reaction to this song. Because well, how do you react to it? I’ve always imagined Maria saying afterwards “Well, that’s lovely, Reverend Mother, but what should I say to the Captain?”

Even the song itself isn’t very good, especially when you compare it to the others. It’s slow, it’s uninteresting, and, depending on my mood, unbearably screechy. Unlike the other songs in the musical, which say something different as the song develops, “Climb Every Mountain” just repeats itself, except louder and in a different key. “But wait!” you protest. “Doesn’t ‘Edelweiss’ also repeat itself?” Not musically or thematically, no. “Edelweiss” is such a meaningfully subtle song that it fits in well with the scenes in which it appears. It’s true to the story and characters. It is a song that could only be from The Sound of Music. 

“Climb Every Mountain” has no character. There’s no place for it. It’s so generic that you could honestly put it within any scene and it still wouldn’t make that much sense. Most of all, it’s a drop in the level of sophistication in songwriting, particularly lyrically, that we’ve seen from all the other songs in this movie. The other songs are masterfully crafted both lyrically and musically. But not this one. It’s almost like Rodgers and Hammerstein were told they needed to write a song at the last minute and this is what they came up with in their sleep. And the person playing the Mother Abbess in the movie was told she needed to make it as operatic and screechy as possible to give the song some sort of character, even if it was painful.

I kid you not – when I looked at “Climb Every Mountain” on lyric websites, this is how the last verse was transcribed. (Click here if you don’t believe me.)

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find, your dre-e-e-e-e-e-e-eam!

That’s 8 e’s. And an exclamation point.

Now, before you all begin conspiring to kill me, let me say again: I love The Sound of Music. This does not ruin the experience of watching the movie for me. It just makes it temporarily unbearable, is all.

And if you like the song, fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for me personally, I don’t see what purpose the song serves to the story, characters, or overall theme of the film. I mean, is the theme of The Sound of Music follow your dreams? Is that really what it is?

I mean, I guess you could argue that is the theme in some general, generic sense, but I think the movie goes deeper than that. The other songs go deeper than that. Even the cutsie, fun songs which don’t really go too deep go deeper than “follow every rainbow till you find your dream.”

Ugh. 

A Look At Billboard Top 10 – Week of 8/25/14

Oh, Billboard. Well over a month later and you’re still unbelievably uninteresting.

Okay, so that’s not strictly true. I will admit that this glance-over fared much better than the previous one, which you can read here. And once again I’m going to be indecisive on how I want to handle this whole Billboard thingy and stick with the top ten.

Also, because I’m a nice person, I’m going to shake things up and provide you all with the songs for listening, right here on this blog. That’s right – I am saving you the excruciating effort of typing in the names of these songs into Google, clicking the link, and waiting for that stupid leg lotion ad that won’t leave YouTube alone to finish playing. You can thank me later.

I will make a few exceptions to the Top Ten restriction before I start reviewing the Top Ten of the Hot 100 right now, and that is only to say that Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” is the best song of the summer and I absolutely, shamelessly, passionately, adore it. I never get tired of it.

 

 

And if you want another good listen, the Michael Jackson/Justin Timberlake song “Love Never Felt So Good” isn’t half bad either. No, not even the Justin Timberlake half.

 

 

There have been a few other good ones here and there, too. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” has still managed to stay in the Top 20 and is actually crawling back up, if you can believe it. And yes, I can hear the moans and groans even from this side of my computer, but honestly, out of all the songs in the universe that could be overplayed as much as “Happy” I’d say we got pretty lucky, wouldn’t you?

(Wait a minute…got lucky? Like “Get Lucky”? Get it? It’s another Pharrell Williams song? Get it? Get it? I didn’t even realize I made that joke until after I wrote it!)

Anyway, you guys don’t want to hear “Happy” again so I’ll just leave the Weird Al version below instead.

 

 

But let’s talk about the Hot 100 Top 10 of right now, because there are a few surprises. A few.

1. “Rude” by MAGIC! 

 

 

You know, I’ve never particularly cared for “Rude,” but unlike most pop songs where I can kind of see the popular appeal, I just can’t figure this one out. Ever since “Rude” replaced “Fancy” as the #1 song on Billboard, I kind of stopped following Billboard for a few weeks – not for that particular reason or anything, just to take a break. I check back in a few weeks later expecting to see a whole new list, and I was honestly shocked to see that “Rude” was still at the top. Who knew that reggae-influenced pop had such staying power?

If I had to guess, I’d say that “Rude” will probably be MAGIC!’s one and only claim to fame, but I have been wrong before. If you keep going down this list you will definitely see.

2. “All About That Bass” – Meghan Trainor

 

 

When I checked back in on Billboard’s list, this song immediately popped out to me because it was one of the only songs that was marked as actually moving up in the charts, and not down, as most of the songs in the top ten have been doing as of late. And – yeah, I’m kind of surprised about the success of this one. It’s a pleasant surprise, though.

What is happening to Billboard? Some of the year’s biggest hits have very much deviated from traditional pop sounds, going for a reggae or retro feel instead. And, yeah, I’m totally a big supporter of it. Forget the loud, buzzy, repetitive EDM crap, bring me more of this.

Anyway, about the song itself, as it is by far the most interesting thing on this list, it’s…good. I had to listen to it a few times to come to that conclusion, but I think I’ve made up my mind that compared to other songs on the list, it’s good. It’s not great, but good. I think if I had to make one complaint, it would be that it doesn’t really know how it wants to get its own point across. I get that it’s criticizing societal views of weight or whatever, but I’m not really sure what being “all about that bass” has to do with body weight, unless that’s a slang term or something I’m not aware of. Also it might not help that the song contains the lines “Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that. Naw, I’m just playing, I know you guys even think you’re fat, but I’m here to tell you that you’re perfect” which barely escapes being hostile towards these supposed “skinny bitches” especially since being underweight can be a serious health problem, yadda yadda yadda. I’m not going to take it that seriously. Especially since the singer, Meghan Trainor, apparently said this in response to that line: “But, I’m not bashing skinny girls. Some girls have commented, ‘I’m a size zero, so you must hate me.’ But that’s not it at all! There have been battles on my YouTube page, like, ‘You don’t know what she’s talking about. She’s actually saying, ‘I know even you skinny girls struggle’.’ And that’s exactly how I feel.” Well, you might have articulated that a little better in the actual song, but for now I’m giving you the thumbs up.

3. “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith

 

 

Sam Smith, the guy with possibly the most boring name in pop music history, has written a song that isn’t actually as good as it thinks it is. It is the epitome of a mediocre song with too much false hype. Still, I do recall writing this over a month ago:

This poor guy is going to be gone by next month.

-Knife Ink, “A Look At Billboard Week of 7/11/14”

Ugh. I am bad at this.

4. “Break Free” by Ariana Grande

 

 

This is a good season for Ariana Grande, let me tell you. She has three hits in the top ten right now. Unfortunately “Break Free” is my least favorite of those three. The last time I heard it, I actually forgot it was Ariana Grande singing.

5. “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX

 

 

Okay. This is ALL I want to say about “Fancy” ever again – I sincerely wish that it had come out earlier so that Weird Al could have made a parody. That is all.

6. “Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz

 

 

You know, I just don’t get “Am I Wrong?”. And for all it repeats “that’s just how I feel,” I find myself screaming at the song, “HOW, SIR? HOW DO YOU FEEL?” Can anybody explain this song to me because I just. Don’t. Get. It.

7. “Problem” by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

 

 

I’ve already spoken about “Problem.” Not Ariana Grande’s best song, but it is admittedly catchy as hell.

8. “Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora

 

 

I WAS RIGHT! I WAS RIGHT ABOUT SOMETHING!

Okay, I know I’m basically wrong about 95% of the time when it comes to predicting chart success, but remember this?

There’s a new Iggy Azalea song at #97 right now. Why do I have a feeling it’s going to be higher?

-Knife Ink, “A Look At Billboard 7/11/14”

Oh yeah! Who called it?

“Black Widow” is so much worse than “Fancy” it’s not even funny, and “Fancy” wasn’t even that good. I’m nobody to start judging rap, but I don’t even thing Iggy’s that great on this one. And she seems to have star quality, like she could end up making some good stuff eventually. But then again, “Black Widow” could be the greatest rap song of our generation and I wouldn’t know the difference, so I probably shouldn’t be saying anything.

9. “Chandelier” by Sia

 

 

I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, don’t like this song.

10. “Bang Bang” by Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj

 

 

And so we come to the final song on the list, which is also the third song in the top ten to feature Ariana Grande. Kind of. When you have three major pop stars on your song you kind of have to share, if you know what I mean. And Jessie J has such a loud, blasting, grating voice that she pretty much dominates whatever song she’s in, whether it’s intentional or not. Ariana’s got a nice voice and all that, but she’s too sweet and cute to be appearing in a song with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. There’s an imbalance here that just doesn’t make this song completely work for me. Still, I can at least see why it’s gotten popular. It is, as is now becoming associated with Ariana Grande, catchy as hell.

Besides, it will never replace the one and only “Bang Bang”.

 

 

Well, that’s all, folks. I leave you with a present: Al Stewart’s “Soho – Needless to Say” and if you find better lyrics than these in the Billboard Charts I will applaud you. Spoiler alert: you won’t.

 

 

Also follow me on Twitter. It’s for the good of humanity. Just kidding. But follow me anyway.

Random Stuff – Legend of Korra Season 3, Other Random Musings, with Special Guest!

I’m excited to share with everyone a lovely conversation I had with a very good friend of mine. We discussed Legend of Korra Season 3 and other random things. I split our conversation into two videos, 1 about Korra, 2 not about Korra. If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender or ANY season of Legend of Korra, do not watch the first video. And then go watch Avatar: The Last Airbender because it’ll change your life. 

Thanks to my friend for having this conversation with me, and hope everyone enjoys it!

Disclaimer: We were drinking tea during this recording so there is much scuffling, clanking, and general annoying-noise making. I apologize. One day I promise to record with something better than an iPhone. 

 

VIDEO 1: LEGEND OF KORRA SEASON 3

VIDEO 2: RANDOM MUSINGS (NOT KORRA)

Upcoming Reviews

Hello invisible audience, I just thought I’d give everyone an update on what my plans are for future reviews and stuff, since I’ll have a little more time now and because you really, really wanted to know. I can tell.

I thought I’d just go by category, since I’m crazy enough reviewing a bunch of different entertainment mediums anyway.

Books – this category has been pretty stagnant for a while now. Books are the most time-consuming things I review, since they take the longest to get through and I usually don’t bother writing a review for one if I don’t have much to say; it’s just not worth the effort. That’s why I rarely read books solely for the purpose of reviewing them. If I happen to read a book that I think warrants a review, I’ll go ahead and do one, but you really can’t tell which books those will be until you, well, read them.

That being said, I am going to do a review of The Hobbit pretty soon, mainly because I am planning to watch the movies, which I haven’t seen yet, and I’ve been rereading the book in order to prepare. Since I’m going to post reviews of both the movies, I figured I might as well do one for the book too. So keep an eye out for that sometime soon.

Movies – Like I said above, I’m planning to watch both Hobbit movies and do reviews on them. I’m a little scared based on what I’ve heard about them so far, but I will try and ignore all other opinions in order to form my own.

Aside from The Hobbit, I think I might try to do all the X-Men movies, or at least watch all of them, sometime this summer. That’s right, I haven’t seen any of the X-Men movies, and I really hope I don’t have to have much background in terms of the comic books or the TV show because I really don’t have that kind of time. It may or may not happen depending on my schedule and how much time I want to give the series, but I’m curious about the franchise, especially about this new movie that has just come out and is supposed to be very good. We shall see.

Music– Music is the easiest and most flexible category simply because it doesn’t take as much time (apart from the Top 10 list, which took forever). I literally do music reviews whenever I feel like it, and I will review anything, except for rap, since I don’t know anything about it.

Everything Else – Short stories are whenever I have time. Random stuff is whenever the spirit moves me. X-Files reviews are also on a whenever-I-have-time basis, although I think I might try and start a regular schedule with those. We’ll see.

Oh wait, one more thing– This is my second shameful attempt at self-advertising. If you happen to like something you’ve read in this blog, share it! Help a writer out, will ya?

Thanks everyone. Hope to review lots more soon! 🙂

A Look At Billboard Top 10 – Week of 5/25/14

Wow, finally things have changed!

As of right now, Pharrell’s song “Happy,” which sat at No. 1 for weeks, has dropped to No. 4 and has been replaced with…

…John Legend’s “All Of Me.”

…..

………..

…I just don’t know what to say. I mean…really? That song? You guys picked the blandest, most boring-as-hell, underwritten song out there?

Um, whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Anyway, let’s see what’s new on the list. And from now on, I’m only doing the top ten, simply because I don’t feel like going through the top twenty. I just don’t. Have mercy on me.

All right, let’s see what we have here…

Anything in bold is me before I listen to the song, normal type is after.

No. 2 – “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX. I’ve never heard of it. Be right back after a listen…

Well, that was a miserable 3 minutes and 24 seconds of my life. How do I describe this? It was like an endless ear raping. And it only lasted three minutes and 24 seconds. Just the same monotonous, shallow, horrible chorus over and over again, with verses that were either equally intelligent or completely unintelligible. No. 2. Huh. Billboard, you’re really starting to suck.

No. 3 – “Problem” by Ariana Grande. Oh, good! Ariana Grande. I like her. She’s actually quite talented. Let’s see what she’s got for us here.

Well, she took a leaf from Jason DeRulo’s book and added in the irresistibly catchy horn, but other than that, I’m sad to say that I don’t see anything particularly special about this song. It’s not even close to her best work, and it’s kind of annoying. Still, it’s better than the two that come before it, that’s for sure.

No. 4 – “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I’ve already spoken about this one many, many times. It’s wearing out its welcome, but it’s still a good song.

No. 5 – “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon. I’ve already spoken about this one too. I’m going to do something absolutely shameful and quote myself.

“Turn Down For What” is not a song, but a conglomeration of the various noises emitted by autotuned robot chipmunks. It is unbearable.

I’ll keep quoting myself until the song’s taken off the list. So there.

No. 6 – “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry. GO AWAY. GO AWAY. GO AWAY.

No. 7 – “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo. Man, maybe the charts aren’t so different after all.

No. 8 – “Not A Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake. Okay, I take everything back. Nothing has changed. There is absolutely nothing new on this list. Billboard sucks. The most boring song ever written is at No. 1, autotuned chipmunks dominate the No. 5 spot, Katy Perry still controls half the country’s minds and Justin Timberlake is still making bad music. Forget it. This is stupid. I’m never doing one of these agai –

No. 9 – “Love Never Felt So Good” by…Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Wait, what? Michael Jackson? What? What is this? *Goes to Wikipedia page to find out what this is* No way! They released a new Michael Jackson song? And had Justin Timberlake sing on it? Could this possibly mean that Justin is actually going to show off some…talent for once? And in a freaking Michael Jackson song? Oh my gosh, I’ve got to listen to this right now! *Hurriedly goes to YouTube*

God bless you, Billboard.

Okay, I’m not a Michael Jackson fanatic or anything, but compared to the other songs on this list, this is golden. Say what you want about the music or the man, but Michael Jackson was a phenomenal singer, and listening to this song reminded me of just that. Throw in a catchy beat, some nice chords, and a good Justin Timberlake and you have what I consider to be a pretty decent song. The fact that Justin can hold his own against Michael Jackson is PROOF of my theory that Justin is way more talented than he’s willing to let any of us believe. Well, you don’t fool me, Justin. I can see right through you.

Well, I’m pumped! Who’s at the No. 10 spot?

No. 1o – “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay. The thrill is gone.

Well, what do you know, ten seconds in and it sounds like EVERY OTHER COLDPLAY SONG IN THE FREAKING UNIVERSE.

Actually, this song is a perfect representation of why I don’t like Coldplay very much. They’re not the worst thing out there for sure, but they’re nowhere near as good as people think they are. Just look at the title of this song. “A Sky Full of Stars.” How original. Next they’ll be releasing singles called “An Ocean Full of Water” or “A Dog Food Container Full of Dog Food.” The song itself starts like pretty much every Coldplay song starts – piano entrance, bland lyric here, bland lyric there, uninteresting four chords of pop. Not even worth a full listen. I’m going back to the Michael Jackson song now.

Well, there you have it. Billboard slowly getting worse. Or possibly better. Only time will tell.

………I couldn’t help it.

dog-doodles-dogs-accessories-illustrated-doodled-style-32472605

Music Review – Al Stewart

220px-Mccabes19

We’re going back in time, folks.

Al Stewart has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time and it’s a little sad he isn’t better known. For those who are familiar with music from the 70’s, he’s the guy who wrote the song/album “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages.” Both of which are really good albums, but he’s made more. A lot more.

What appeals to me about Al Stewart is, of course, highly personal. As a soon-to-be history major, I rejoice at any historical reference made in songs, books, movies, etc. Al Stewart is a history buff and many of his songs are about just that – history. It’s extremely refreshing to listen to songs that are about things that actually happened, and not just vague love ballads. I mean, I love vague love ballads as much as the next person, but we have plenty of them. Plenty. What we need are more songs about the French Revolution, the Winter of 1708-1709 in Western Europe, female pilot Amy Johnson, the League of Nations, English Naval Commander Lord Grenville, immigration to the United States in the late 19th – early 20th centuries, and 29th US president Warren G. Harding. And yes, Al Stewart has written songs about all of those things.

My inner history geek persona is salivating right now.

Did I mention he’s British?

And Al is short for Alistair?

And Jimmy Page played on one of Al’s earliest albums, pre-Led Zeppelin?

And that he’s a wine collector?

And that even though he hasn’t enjoyed as much fame as many other artists he still continues to make music, simply because he enjoys it?

Al Stewart is probably the most consistently good lyricist I’ve heard, especially for the amount of work he’s done. You could literally take 90% of his songs and read them as poems, and they’d be absolutely lovely. They’re very word-heavy and vocabulary-rich, but not in an overwhelming or convoluted way.

For first-time listeners, I would recommend starting with the albums Year of the Cat and Time Passages, since that’s classic Al Stewart and they’re both just fantastic albums. But I also really love 24 Carrots, which is probably his best album in terms of how it works as a whole, and Modern Times.

Have a listen! He really is one of my favorites.


For the extra curious, here’s a link to Al Stewart’s website and Wikipedia Page.

 

Movie Review – Gravity

One day I’m going to stop making the pre-review spoilage disclaimer, but unfortunately I don’t have enough readers yet. Whatever. You know the drill: don’t read the review if you haven’t seen the movie. And if you haven’t seen this movie, please. Go watch it.


Gravity_Poster

I’ve been waiting for the chance to review this movie ever since I saw it in theaters (for the first time), and I promised myself I wouldn’t do it until I’d bought the Blu-Ray and watched it again. Because when I saw it for the first time, a little voice whispered a very powerful something in my ear and it’s a thought I haven’t been able to shake off since, but wanted to verify before I declared it true. After seeing this movie four times now, I think I may be starting to listen to the voice more.

The voice essentially told me this: Gravity may just be one of my favorite movies of all time. When you’re a film lover like me, that’s not an easy declaration to make, hence the reason for my delayed review. It’s certainly the only film I’ve ever seen twice in theaters, so at the very least I know I loved it enough to spend two (expensive) movie tickets on it. It took my breath away the first time I saw it, it took my breath away the second, and the same happened the third and fourth time I watched it, despite the fact it was on a little screen and not on a big movie theater screen (which is really the best way to watch it). And, after mulling it over, reading the Wikipedia article for the umpteenth time, and replaying it over and over again in my head, I think I can safely say that Gravity is one of my favorite movies. Of all time.

Keep in mind that over the past few years I’ve had very, very few chances to see a lot of movies in theaters, and generally don’t watch movies until two years or so after they come out. This year I watched more movies of 2013 in 2013-2014 than I’ve ever watched before in my life, and I still didn’t see that much. I saw Gravity, Her, Twelve Years A Slave, Catching Fire, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Frozen.  (Oh, and I also saw Epic, but I can barely remember what that one’s about.)

Of all the ones I saw, Gravity was by far my favorite (although Frozen came close).  And every single one of these movies had something good to offer. Gravity had the most realistic special effects I’ve ever seen (among other things which I will discuss soon); Her, as I said in my previous movie review, had the most original idea of all the movies of the year; Twelve Years A Slave was extremely well done and effective; Catching Fire was such a good adaptation that it was better than its book; and Frozen was just a pure joy to watch. Star Trek: Into Darkness sucked, but I’ve already reviewed that. I’ve heard many people say that 2013 was a rough year for movies in general, but I personally don’t see it. It was a rough year for music, as I’ve already explained, but these movies are solid. They’re good.

So now, onto Gravity. Oh, where to begin?

First of all, this movie is much more than just a space disaster movie. The writers were very clever in that they gave this film an – gasp! – actual story, and not just Sandra Bullock jumping from one exploding spacecraft to the next. This movie has an underbelly that is, in actuality, the heart and soul of the whole flick – it’s a character study.

If you’ve read any of my X-Files reviews, you know that I’m an absolute sucker for character studies and can sometimes let my judgment of them overwhelm my judgment of the work as a whole, even in light of other things, like plot, aesthetic elements, and execution. I feel somewhat justified in my love of character studies, though, because for one thing they’re the most relatable and impactful, and for another, there’s a lot you can do with them. So many movies, especially the ones that are well known for their fan service or special effects, make the horrible mistake of trading good character study for action sequences (Into Darkness, I’m looking at you). You can make a suspense, adventure, or action movie into a good character study, too. Gravity did.

The best thing about Gravity’s character study is that it’s present and effective but doesn’t overwhelm the film. We see very clearly from the beginning that there’s something wrong with Dr. Ryan Stone – she’s a tad snippy and very distant. Unlike her colleague Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut, Dr. Ryan Stone is extremely uncomfortable in her astronaut suit and just wants to install her technology and get back to earth. She appears not to take any notice of the awesomeness of her surroundings, as is evident when Kowalski tells her “One thing’s for sure…can’t beat the view” and the movie goes into a beautiful sequence displaying earth from space.

Later, we find out why Ryan is the way she is – she had a very young daughter that died. Not from anything like a disease or a murder, but from a careless accident – “Slipped, hit her head, and that was it. Stupidest thing.” And now we know Ryan’s defining characteristic – she’s a mother. She’s a mother suffering the loss of her child. As Kowalski says, it doesn’t get much harder than that.

It would be stupid of me to go scene-by-scene through the movie, and honestly no review I could ever write would possibly capture the awesome experience that is watching this film. But I do want to point out that there’s a lot of subtle (and not so subtle) symbolism here that flows very well with the movie’s story. Ryan turns off the dead pod because she’s given up; she lost her daughter, so what does she have to live for? What’s the point of returning to earth, returning to a sad, miserable existence?  It takes that modicum of courage within herself, which manifests itself in the form of Matt Kowalski, to find the will to keep going.

I have heard arguments concerning the hallucination scene against the so-called “feminist fans” of the movie. You see, this movie was rightly and justly praised for its use of a female character that has no romantic involvements with anyone of any kind, a female character that, for once, gets through her own story without becoming a love puppet. These critics argue that, despite these facts, Ryan’s hallucination that saves her life takes the form of a man and therefore shows that, in her crazed mental state, the vision of a man was all that could save her.

To this, I refer you to the sentiments expressed by my peeps Mulder and Scully in this link.

Talk about overthinking it. Kowalski was the veteran astronaut on the mission. He knew more about how to survive in space than anyone, and his expertise kept Ryan alive. It makes sense that her subconscious would cook up a form of Kowalski to tell her what to do. There’s no more to it than that.

The whole movie is filled with moments of silence, and the film does an excellent job of utilizing silence as a means of saying so much more than words could. The expressions of the astronauts when staring at Earth, the focuses on the personal objects of the absent astronauts floating around, the lack of sound in space, create some absolutely beautiful and breathtaking scenes.

And, how amazing is Sandra Bullock in this movie? Sandra Bullock has had the extreme misfortune of mostly starring in pretty bad movies, which is a shame because she’s really quite a talented actress, as her performances in both The Blind Side and Gravity demonstrate. There’s a lot of subtlety in her performance as Ryan Stone, and subtlety is what I like. I’m so glad they cast her; maybe now she’ll start starring in more good movies.

I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it. I just love it. A+. Two thumbs up. 10/10. Best movie of the year.

Music Review – A Look at the Billboard Top 10 (for this week)

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve made an effort to listen to more pop music. I can’t say that I’ve necessarily enjoyed doing so, but I do enjoy the thought that I’ve at least kept an open mind in regards to what I listen to. And I will admit there have been some surprises.

Still, even though I am getting more acquainted with the genre, I can’t pretend to know what the most popular songs are, because I don’t really listen to the radio and very few of my friends listen to popular music (they’re all like me). So I instead have to turn to the Billboard Hot 100 each week to get a feel for what people are listening to. Now I realize that one must take Billboard with a grain of salt, but as of right now it’s the best I’ve got.

As part of the music review section for this blog, I’m going to make an effort to take a look at Billboard once a month or so, just to see how things are changing. Every time I do, I’ll write a blog post about it.

I’d also like to say that I have no idea how Billboard updates its list. I literally went on their site yesterday and it had a slightly different ranking. So all of this may be changing as I write this now. I have no clue.

Because of the ever-changing nature of the rankings, I’m not going to go in order. Instead, I’ll point out songs I either already know or ones I’ve just listened to for the purpose of these posts. I will comment on No. 1, though. Make no mistake.

So without further ado, let’s begin.


First thing I noticed right off the bat, and it wasn’t even at #1: KATY PERRY.

I mentioned in my Top Ten Worst Songs of 2013 post that Katy Perry has a King Midas ability to turn every single she records into a smash hit. I don’t know why. I haven’t heard a single song by Katy Perry that I ever thought was good, or even so bad it was good (well, maybe some of them are, depending on what mood I’m in). Katy Perry herself isn’t that remarkable, either – she doesn’t have much vocal ability and I doubt very seriously she contributes much to her own songs. That being said, she doesn’t irritate me quite as much as other pop stars because of her refreshing lack of pretentiousness. Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Lorde, etc….they all carry with them an air of superiority that screams LOOK AT ME. THIS IS ART.

Katy Perry doesn’t do that. Her songs and videos are unbelievably stupid, but they’re genuinely stupid. Perhaps that’s why Katy Perry gets so popular – her songs are stupid but in a way sincere.

And they NEVER LEAVE YOUR HEAD.

Maybe that’s the mad genius of Katy Perry. She’s able to record really stupid, bad songs that, once entering your head, never leave. It would certainly explain why she’s had hit after hit after hit.

Or maybe not.

Her newest song, “Dark Horse”, is so forgettable I couldn’t hum it for you if I were chained to a stake about to be burned alive. How this got to #2 (and it was #1 earlier this week!) is completely baffling to me. There is nothing memorable about this song whatsoever, and the music video just might be her stupidest yet. The music is so slow and plodding. Nobody can dance to this. HOW DID THIS GET TO #2??!!!!

I’m telling you, Katy Perry is King Midas. Soon she’s going to transform the entire world into one bad pop song. Be very afraid.


Movin’ along…hmmm, let’s see.

“All of Me” is pretty boring as far as songs go. There’s nothing in it musically interesting – familiar chords, cliché lyrics, etc. But John Legend, whoever he is, is a very good singer, so that’s something.

“Talk Dirty” is atrocious. The lyrics, such as they are, are incredibly moronic and shallow. But I can see why this song is so popular, at least for the time being – there’s something strangely, disturbingly catchy about those trumpety interludes.

“Drunk in Love” – it’s another Beyoncé song….? I feel like I should have more to say about it than that, but I don’t.

“Pompeii” – THE MUSIC VIDEO IS AN X-FILES RIPOFF! Granted, I think everything is an X-Files ripoff, but still IT’S TOTALLY A RIPOFF DID YOU SEE ALL THE DARK EYES IT LOOKED LIKE THE ALIEN VIRUS! ALSO I’M PRETTY SURE THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PEOPLE IN POMPEII.

Lorde’s “Team” is basically the exact same thing as “Royals.” I admire Lorde’s attempt to make pop music about the masses, but she might want to come up with a slightly different approach. Maybe make her music a little less pretentious. I mean, she’s how old? Seventeen?

“Counting Stars” – I have no idea what he’s talking about. His lyrics mean nothing. Makes sense, as OneRepublic is basically the exact same thing as Imagine Dragons. That band I hate.

“Say Something” – I don’t like this song. But I can’t bring myself to really hate it, either. I think there could possibly be a situation, a low moment in my life perhaps, when I’ll hear it and think, “okay, that’s a little pretty.” As long as I don’t have to watch the world’s most depressing music video ever again. Jeez.

“Timber” – Wow. This song manages to combine everything I dislike into 3 minutes and 33 seconds: country music, bad pop music, and Kesha. Way to go, guys. Way to go.


And now, here’s something positive! (I know, right?)

#1 on the charts right now: a little song by Pharrell Williams called “Happy,” and I am very pleased to say that I like this song very much. It’s upbeat, it’s positive, has interesting chords, is catchy, and generally makes me feel, well, happy. Plus, it actually sounds like thought and effort were put into both the music and the words. Pharrell Williams seems to be trying to redeem himself after collaborating with Robin Thicke on “Blurred Lines”. He released “Get Lucky” a few months later, another song I rather enjoyed, and he seems to be adopting this nostalgic funk feel. I like where this is going. Hopefully he can keep it up, and hopefully, so will the charts. If this remains at #1 for a while, I will be very…happy indeed.

Well, that’s it for now. See you next time.