Welcome to the Weekly Fiver, where I’ll pick five recently released songs of varying degrees of quality and thoroughly break them down for you. No two songs will be on the same tier, and they’ll be listed from best to worst. The top song will be an excellent must-hear tune, while the bottom song will be one you ought to stay away from or else you will make your ears sad. It’s all very scientific.
For all their melodrama, the Las Vegas quartet has always had a sly sense of humour present in their music. Their “Derelict Santa” Christmas trilogy is a good example, as are their sketches with Jimmy Kimmel. This humour’s helped offset their towering statements with a wink and a grin, and it’s amped up a bit more than usual in this song for any listeners who don’t understand subtlety. Brandon Flowers plays a swaggering caricature of machismo with an ego so big it almost matches those of real celebrities. It’s beefed up so much you couldn’t possibly take the words at face value, particularly lines like “Baby I’m gifted/ See what I mean?/ USDA/ certified lean”. In case all that isn’t enough- there’s a sound effect of a champagne cork popping to hammer the sarcasm home.
The lyrics match the thick, brawny riff perfectly, and the Bowie-esque strut (including a shout out to Fame) makes for a confident first single that sets the stage for an exciting new sound from the band.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
Alright, this is the weirdo-indie we wanted! It’s full of the band’s trademark touches, from the sampled SFX acting as surrogate percussion to the nonsense lyrics. They also dabble with some modern tricks like pitch shifted vocals that float in and out throughout the song. Most importantly though, it’s got a defined structure and unique but complementary chord progression. It’s the most accessible moment on the new album, and a single-worthy contribution to modern alternative music.
Meh Song of the Week
One of the more welcome changes that the modern media climate has brought to the music industry is a sense of urgency- artists release music more often. A few weeks back I wrote about the “I’m sorry single“, a song major artists release if their album tanks. This is a good trend! There’s no reason we should be waiting two to three years for new music anymore. Entire genres come and go in that time!
So what does all that have to do with this song? Because it’s good, but it’s not good enough. The band has a really interesting pallet- think Animal Collective vis-a-vis Imagine Dragons with the tiniest hint of modern indie-folk. They have the potential to be huge, but only if they start writing melodies that match their sonic ambitions. Sorry guys, but a chorus of “only you only you only you only youuuu” isn’t particularly memorable.
This is why the band needs to forgo the antequated album cycle and put out more, better, songs fast. They are vastly more interesting than many Canadian acts at the moment, and need to capitalize on their unique vibe. They could be huge if they just augmented their tunes a little bit.
Below Average Song of the Week
Where did Hailee Steinfeld come from? That’s a rhetorical question; the erstwhile Hollywood actress leveraged her star power to elbow her way into the bottom tier of pop where she sings filler material that didn’t even grace Kelly Clarkson’s rejection basket. It’s all very bizarre, as there was absolutely no indication that the demure girl from True Grit and Ender’s Game wanted to be a pop princess.
Origin aside, there’s also a strange air of exclusivity to this song that’s pretty uncommon for empowerment anthems. When Christina Aguilera sang “You are beautiful/ in every single way”, she didn’t qualify it with a “probably”. Beyonce proclaimed that girls ran the world without a disclaimer either. But Steinfeld pointedly sings “MOST girls”, clearly implying there are some girls who don’t meet her criteria. Imagine being the impressionable pre-teen listening to this generic anthem and wondering if you don’t measure up to Hailee Steinfeld’s standards? Wooowowowowowoowwwwwww
Disappointing Song of the Week
Well, this is the first song of the summer by proxy. The inescapable “hit” is one of the most generic tunes to ever be put into heavy rotation, with a monotonous melody that barely strays from about 4 notes for the whole song and a bare bones version of pop music’s second most common chord progression. It’s popular strictly thanks to luck and Bieber’s brand power, and if there’s any sort of justice in the universe it’ll be dethroned by something a little more memorable in the coming months.