I promised a few entries back that I would try my best to avoid writing tepid praise about songs that were neither fantastic nor dreadful. I have also mentioned several times that I have been trying to be more positive when it comes to critiquing music as I get very little joy from tearing down artists’ work unless it is truly terrible.
What I’m getting at is that I haven’t written for a while because there has been no good music lately and I don’t want to spend time saying “meh, it’s OK” about every song I’ve downloaded in the past month. I feel no need to write the same halfhearted semi-approval about the latest offerings from: Jimmy Eat World, Enumclaw, Imagine Dragons, Sharon Van Etten, or Broken Bells.
This has left me with precious little to dissect. So I am afraid I must get mean.
We are now halfway through the year and surprisingly enough, a hit emerged in the first six months of the year. It’s not very good, and it’s not quite the stratospheric smash one would hope, but Harry Styles’ “As it Was” has reached enough of a level of ubiquity to be considered something that could be classified as somewhat a “hit”. Aside from its derivative nature the song also extends the shelf life of 80s revivalism, which I am begging artists to stop relying on. “Please,” I cry, “80s nostalgia has been around for twice as long as the 80s now.”
My feverish pleas will likely go unheard however, because the actual most popular song of the year is also steeped heavily in the 80s sound. That is because it is from the 80s.
Yes, the first and only real chart-topping conversation starter of 2022 is from 1985. Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” rocketed to # 1 on every conceivable chart and streaming service thanks to its inclusion in the latest season of Stranger Things, guaranteeing that yet another generation will be inspired to pull out the 808s and synths. It’s a tremendously well-written song (although I prefer the Placebo cover), but it only adds more fuel to the fire of unoriginality. The 2010s had barely a whisper of innovation, the 2020s so far have not progressed an inch since December 31st 2019 – literally and figuratively.
Jack Harlow was a name and face I saw everywhere without a single bit of context. He was just some random curly haired goon with a blank stare that rarely said a word, just stood beside Drake in a lot of photos and videos. He’s finally got himself a semi-hit in “First Class”, which I’ve heard three times on the radio so far. That is twice more than every single other song I’ve heard on any other pop station.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back with the most generic sounding song I have ever heard in my life. The hook in “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is on the same uninspired level as Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound”, Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” or Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”. It’s a monotonous dirge that attempts to replicate the grandeur of an M83 song but without any grandiosity, an embarrassing comeback single that is far beneath their talent level.
I am the very definition of “mixed emotions” when it comes to the soundtrack to the latest Minions movie. I loathe every song on this album, as well as the overarching mood it conveys. A collection of sunny, excessively funky funk, it is very much part of the Smooth Vibes school of thought – even if it’s largely uptempo.
But I am absolutely thrilled that a movie soundtrack once again exists.
I’m also cautiously optimistic that both Drake and Beyonce have decided to go in a more dance-oriented direction for their new records. Neither one produced anything necessary – Drake’s stream-of-consciousness and lack of melodic discipline prevents any hooks from congealing while Beyonce’s single is just a straight up boring flop – but it indicates that pop music might be gaining a newfound sense of urgency, which I wholeheartedly welcome.
Oh, how I enjoy when I can unreservedly call something truly horrendous. Perfume Genius, who despite being relentlessly hyped, has only ever written one song that just barely misses being considered a good song. “Slip Away” had the potential to be a classic for the ages, but he fumbled the execution so badly that it will always remain a perfect example of disastrous structure. He then followed it up with two bad albums, a smarmy and glib “remix” of Live’s “Lightning Crashes” and now an absolute trainwreck of a record called Ugly Season.
Quite possibly one of the worst albums I have ever heard in my life, it was of course written for a “contemporary dance” piece which means that the tuneless mess is meant to be paired with similarly disjointed flailing of arms and cringeworthy examples of “self-expression”. This album is a true 0/10, a meaningless mess that solidifies Perfume Genius as one of the great failures of our generation.
Surprise – I will close this entry on a positive note. Bedouin Soundclash have once again returned and this time with a fun tune recalling their biggest hits. “Something Lost + Something Found” is no doubt an attempt to remind audiences of “When The Night Feels My Song” and “Walls Fall Down”, and it succeeds. It’s a jaunty roots-styled pop song that plays to the band’s strengths.
In some alternate universe the band released this song in 2012 and it landed them yet another # 1 hit. In this universe it will comfortably lead in or out of one of their aforementioned singles during concerts and hopefully garner them a few million plays on Spotify