Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Looking at sophomore shows in 2016

Most Improved:

Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
My freshman year assessment: A decent and somewhat broad show with a few problematic characters but has its moments.
Choice Quote:
"An effeminate brat who’s likely gay but is restricted to asexuality at the moment (possibly because sex would get in the way of his daily sulking rituals), Dave is the weakest character on the show in that we know only what he doesn’t like (being around his sister, the town, daylight) and not what drives him. He would be more at home in the bratty teen comedies of the late 90s than he would in Doc Hollywood."

Sophomore year:
This year, I saw Schitt's Creek in a whole night. The three members of the Rose family not named Johnny are still all bratty and entitled but giving the kids jobs enabled their rough edges to be sanded off every so slightly while Moira went in the opposite direction. She became more overtly aloof which drew more out-loud laughter from me. The TV landscape is shifting more towards soft-laugh   dramedy and Moira's absurdist demeanor keeps "Schitt's Creek" out of that trap. It's partially my comfort with the show and partially a concerted effort for the show to deepen its bench that I started to really appreciate the entire populance of the town. In season one, the taming of the  David  through the power of Stevie's sarcasm was just about the only memorable character interaction the show had. In Season 2, I enjoyed the sweetness of David-Stevie's evolution but I also found myself suddenly becoming enamored with Twyla's tangential  blabbing, Jocelyn's eternal reservoir of patience and  Bob's creepy intrusions into  Johnny's space.

Another Period (Comedy Central)
My freshman year assessment: The period angles are generally pretty clever, jokes are too dense and haphazard to really get a solid tone going, there are two solid characters, but the protagonists in the middle are too mean-spirited and awful to really enjoy their company.

Choice Quote:
"The main drawing point of the show (and what keeps it watchable) is that it's a fun period piece and it's very rare to see "fun" and "period piece" in the same sentence of a synopsis....The show is too sloppy to be taken as much of a satire and its characters are too cruel to be taken sympathetically or even seriously. The bloated ensemble also leads to episodes that are overly crammed for the thirty-minute running time. Despite these flaws, the show is still watchable and worthy of a laugh here and there."

Sophomore Year: This show  is easily one of my favorite things on TV
A general evening out of karma certainly helped here. The girls were exiled then upstaged by Harriet Tubman and Hortense, the servants had a semi-successful strike, and even Blanche got a good 6 or 7 minutes of maternity leave. Of course it's just a silly comedy, but it's preferable to see characters get their due than to watch the same well-meaning people get beaten up. This is especially true of TV because of the week-to-week repetition.  The oscillating balance of power between Dido and Chair (I'm Team Chair for the record) for control of the house, the possibility that the Commodore might lose his fortune, and the secret reveal of the Commodore's secret brother all moved the show closer to the source material it was meant to parody in "Downtown Abbey." Like "Schitt's Creek," my love for this show also had to do with my greater familiarity with the character beats over time which made the multi-layered character jokes hit that much harder.

Slight Improvement:

Real O'Neals (ABC)
My freshman assessment: I found this show to be passable but hampered by some over-dramatic tendencies by the protagonist. This extends on a meta-level as the show thinking it's more socially significant than it is: Divorces, gay teenage children, and whatever was inflicting the two other children (which were clearly gimmicks) are not really taboo in 2015 or 2016.
Choice Quote: I've never written about this show before.

Sophomore Year: The first season can best be seen as overly prolonged exposition with many of the plots revolving around the O'Neal family restating their problems as if they were wearing character-defining name tags. With the new season, the O'Neals are moving past realization to dealing with life under these new identities. Eileen, for example, is now dating a guy but her baggage lingers as subtext so the establishing premise of the show is existent at a less blaring level. Additionally, Kenny gets served up enough doses of humility to keep him from coming off as too egotistical. At the same time, the show's level of humor isn't as solid as it could be and the show could use a little more definition for Kenny's older brother (younger sister Shannon has been relegated to comic relief which I'm fine with).

Fresh off the Boat (ABC)
My Freshman Year Assessment: Ranked in my top 10 last year.
Choice Quote: "The show is simultaneously a throwback to TGIF family-style sitcoms of the '90s with a modern edginess to it in the vein of "Everybody Hates Chris" or "Malcolm in the Middle." More than those two shows, however, the show approaches 90's sitcoms with an ironic self-consciousness without omitting that genuine sweetness that those sitcoms were known for. More often than not, 11-year-old protagonist Eddie Huang learns a lesson in a round about way."

Sophomore Year (technically, we are in the top half of the 3rd season): The show started out being anchored by an amiable protagonist (Hudson Yang as Eddie), a breakout character in his mother Jessica (Constance Wu), a scene stealer in Grandma Haung (Lucille Soong) and an occasional choice moment by one of Eddie's younger brothers. Perhaps, it was a plus that Eddie's brothers weren't particularly well-developed in the opening season (I often joked that they were interchangeable). It gave room to flesh them out so much more in the second and third seasons. Similarly, Louis Huang has been developed although he sometimes is pushed into cliched aloof dad territory, he's often a solid foil for Eddie and Jessica and his own subplots can often be the strongest of the show. For the most part, the show continues to impress through strongly written plots that find ways to evoke sentiment and twists even with fairly standard set-ups.

For a show that prides itself on being so thoroughly engrossed in the past, it helps that they are slowly moving through the 90s at the same rate the show moves through the 2010s. We had the Bob Dole-Clinton election, Biggie Smalls death, and Shaq's Orlando move. Viva 1996!

Also in this category: Documentary Now (IFC)

Relatively Even:

Casual (Hulu)
My Freshman Year Assessment: I ranked it 10th on my year-end ranking for being one of the few character-based dramedies that is able to be both meaningful and entertaining (looking at you "Togetherness" and "Louie").
Choice Quote:
"Shows centering around flawed people dating are generally problematic because
it's hard to empathize with the trials and tribulations of good-looking actors with active sex lives. Few shows have highlighted the emptiness of sex like this show....Jason Reitman directed the first two episodes of this show and his penchant for combining a light comedic (or as they say "dramedic") tone and truthful character work is in full form here. With Tara Lynn Barr's character pushing the envelope of the bratty teenage daughter trope; Eliza Coupe as a manic pixie sexual nightmare, and one of the most meaningful sibling relationships on TV, there's a lot of great character work being done here."

My Second Season Assessment: Pro: More entertaining, Con: Lost steam towards the end
Shows automatically lose their novelty element in the second season which gets more problematic when novelty is why I liked the show in the first place. "Casual" took a brave approach by having a dramedy template but trying to entertain the audience entirely without jokes (my apologies to the show's marketing department, but who do you think you're kidding calling this funny?) and during the second season it appeared to work even better. I was thoroughly invested by the characters largely lateral movements in life. This would be in the improved column, but the show ran out of steam after around ten episodes when Alex got the girl and the last three episodes were an awkward mix of denouement and half-hearted plot recycling (Judd Apatow films are often said to experience the same problem).

Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
My Freshman Year Assessment: I found the show refreshingly novel in its coverage of the elderly. The closest examples ("Hot in Cleveland" and "The Golden Girls") treat their characters like punchlines next to the nuance shown here.
Choice Quote:
"Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin can act circles around all the young guns on TV so their arrival to serialized TV this year was a welcome surprise. The show is one of the few examples that shows about older people don't have to be tailor made for the AARP crowd. The trials and tribulations of Grace and Frankie were transcendent for all generations."

My second season assessment: The novelty was gone so the show had to swim upstream, to an extent, to maintain my level of interest but when it succeeded, it gave me a renewed appreciation for what the show was trying to do.

The two central characters had a few dragging plotlines. Most notably, the tryst with Phil (Sam Elliott) would have been worth it if it went anywhere but it went out with a whimper. On the plus side, a professional dimension was added to Gracie and Frankie's trials and tribulations. The kids have largely been phased out (wisely so) with the juiciest dynamic on the show being Brianna and Frankie. The tension resulting from personality differences between Robert and Saul finally erupted and the resulting scenes finally earned Robert and Saul the screen time they've been clamoring for.

Also in this category: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) (2nd season assessment here), Blind Spot (NBC),The Awesomes (Hulu)

Gone Downhill

Last Man on Earth (Fox)
My Freshman Year Assessment: I ranked it 2nd on my year-end ranking 
Choice Quote: "The novelty of the premise allowed the show to switch gears with new cast additions and subtractions which leant itself to one of the most unpredictable rides on television backed by one hell of a comic performance in Will Forte as the ever-evolving post-apocalyptic schlub Phil Miller 1.0 ."

My Second Season (although technically this is the 3rd season) Assessment: Blah
I don't blame this show for taking some dive in quality. It was a very high premise show whose high aims resulted in a brilliant one and a half seasons. It was with that same sense of ambition that the show made some gambles that didn't result in a show I still wanted to see. The show's first season was mainly Phil Tandy verse his worst instincts whereas the second season flipped the script to show the shortcomings of the group in not yet accepting a reformed Tandy before escalating into a situation where the other Phil became the group's number one villain. Unfortunately, the show couldn't sustain the tension when it substituted the militaristic grit of other Phil with the playful sibling rivalry of Jason Sudeikis. I like Sudeikis as much as any casual SNL fan but does he merit this much good will? The show needs a palpable sense of danger and "Last Man on Earth"'s unofficial rule of seven is starting to make things predictable.

Also in this category: Narcos (Netflix), Daredevil (Netflix)


Friday, November 18, 2016

Capsule Reviews: Braindead, Night Manager, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Braindead (CBS)-"Braindead" has a strong enough premise has enough thunder out of the gate to get you past the slow expositional burn of the first few episodes that typically sees viewers drop out when their attention spans are tested the most. After that, the show fails to maintain a sense of escalating tension. Still it's watchable enough that I made it to the end with a sense of relative satisfaction.
The premise is that aliens, in the form of ants, have invaded the brains of several power players on Capitol Hill with an as-yet-to-be-determined agenda that is up for the protagonist. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Laurel, the sister of a senator who is forced to resign to a Capitol Hill job after failing to make it as a documentarian. As such, she brings a jaded sense of been-there-done-that to her jobs that turns out to be one of the series' best features: As opposed to the usual intensity of policy wonks we see on TV, Laurel brings a sense of irony and detachment.
Laurel is given a love interest in the form of a senatorial aide from across the aisle (Les Miserables' Aaron Tveit) that does a decent job of padding the running time along (markedly better than Laurel's daddy issues). Her chemistry with brother Danny Pino also works pretty well.
I started this review by saying the show isn't lovable but would have trouble pinpointing specifically where the show fails. The political commentary is decent but not particularly engaging. The pace at which Laurel discovers the truth is a bit slow to hold our attention. Characters such as Gustav add a lot to the plot but others (like the woman Gustav is hitting on) are somewhat and forgettable and Tony Shaloub's villainous senator is amicable but not worth the hype.
The Night Manager (AMC)- A continental spy thriller that has the advantage of not being particularly convoluted in plot and having a sleak look. The exterior shots remind me visually of of Michel Hazanvicius's "OSS 117," "The Brothers Bloom" or "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
Tom Hiddleston (not to be confused with Tom Holland, Tom Hollander, or Tom Hardy) plays a concierge who is seduced by a mysterious woman one night and gets caught in her web of intrigue. While he goes on adventures, the premise is that he continues to intrinsically be a concierge at heart and applies a congierge's perspective to saving the world. This plays into a pet theory that people have a serious fetish for British hospitality: Valets, butlers and concierges who do everything at their master's whim are pretty pervasive in media so it makes sense that a hotel concierge would make a very sexy spy. 
Hugh Laurie plays a Bond-like villain named Richard Roper who was on TV for nearly a decade as Roger Ebert's TV partner. Lines like "Richard Roeper is the worst, most ruthless, soulless man in the world. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants" sounds like the screenwriter has a vendetta against the guy for giving his last project a thumbs down (ed. note: I have recently learned that the book was written in 1993). 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 (Netflix)-The first season of this unusually quirky (in relation to Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's past work) show was defined by Kimmy's arc from impulsively freeing herself from her past to formally resolved. In contrast, the second season went out of its way to avoid any such grand movements in Kimmy's development. The Dong storyline -- a wonderfully racially unbiased romance -- zigged enough for one episode's filler (Dong can't see Kimmy), zagged back (Dong now can and will stop at nothing to see Kimmy) enough to fill another episode and resolved with a nice little bow. Consumation? check. Dong's put on a bus to his come country? 
Kimmy's main development this season was dealing with her inner demons through therapy. When a PTSD-related story arc is resolved through the victim resolving to ride the roller coasters, it's hard to take it as a serious treatment of the issue. 
At the same time, we have false expectations as viewers in TV's Golden Age (trademark) that all good TV must up the stakes every season and there's nothing inherently wrong with lateral development which is what can best be described here. The problem with "30 Rock" employing of such a strategy was that it kept going to the same well: Tracy's crazy, Jack's genuinely in love, Liz has one last chance for happiness before her ladyparts wither and it's with Matt Damon/James Marsden/Michael Sheen/whoever played the beeper guy. 
Fortunately, I have confidence that "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" can find new angles because it's about so much more than the typical workplace sitcom and gives room for the writers to find new beats and definitions of happiness for their characters.  
Elsewhere this season, there were a number of developments with the side characters. In particular, Titus found a boyfriend and it was a very refreshing portrayal of a homosexual relationship between two opposites. It was two guys awkwardly making their way through something they had never experienced before and had no road map for). 

If there's one beef to be had with the show, it's on the humor level which had a lot fewer home runs. Tina Fey and Co. are generally go-big-or-go-home with their jokes so that you might remember something funny from "30 Rock" years from now. The first season of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" had the court trial, the dinner party and the GED quest which were brilliantly escalating comic plots that enveloped entire episodes. This season, we had a mentos gag which didn't dig as deep and Kimmy working as an elf which didn't lead to a single funny moment. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Reference List: Major Oscar Nominees of the 21st Century by Nationality

For this reference, I generally followed the John McCain/Ted Cruz rule of nationality where if you were born outside of your country to expat parents of a different nationality and moved back and grew up in the country (Lupita, Soisre Ronan, Roman Polanski) then your place of birth is not what I listed you as. I also split up the UK into its four member nations. The star connotes where the winner came from
Director: Mexico*, Ireland, Australia, USA X 2
Actor: USA X 3*, England, Germany
Actress: USA X 2*, England, Ireland, Australia
S. Actor: USA X 2, England X 2*, Wales
S. Actress: USA X 3, Sweden*, England
Director: Mexico*, USA X 3, Norway
Actor: USA X 3, England* X 2
Actress: USA* X 2, England X 2, France
Supporting Actor: USA X 5
Supporting Actress: USA* X 4, England
Directing: Mexico*, USA X 3, England
Actor: England, USA* X 3, Wales
Actress: USA X 3, Australia*, England
Supporting Actor: USA* X 3, Somalia, Germany
Supporting Actress: USA X 3, England, Kenya*
Directing: USA X 3, Taiwan*, Germany
Best Actor: USA X 3, England*, Australia
Best Actress: USA* X 3, England, France
Best Supporting Actor: USA X 4, Austria*
Best Supporting Actress: USA* X 4, Australia
Directing: USA X 4, France*
Best Actor: USA X 2, England, France*, Mexico
Best Actress: USA X 5
Best Supporting Actor: USA X 2, England, Canada*, Sweden
Best Supporting Actress: USA* X 3, England, Argentina
Directing: USA X 3, Australia, England*
Actor: USA X 3, England*, Spain
Actress: USA X 3, Israel*, Australia
Supporting Actor: USA X 3, Australia, Wales*
Supporting Actress: USA* X 3, Australia, England
Directing: USA X 5
Actor: USA* X 4, England
Actress: USA* X 3, England X 2
Supporting Actor: USA X 3, Canada, Austria*
Supporting Actress: USA* X 4, Spain
Directing: USA X 3, England* X 2
Actor: USA X 5
Actress: USA X 4, England*
Supporting Actor: USA X 4, Australia*
Supporting Actress: USA X 4, Spain*
Directing: USA X 5
Actor: USA X 4, England*
Actress: USA, France*, Australia, Canada, India
Supporting Actor: USA X 3, England, Spain*
Supporting Actress: USA X 2, England*, Ireland, Australia
Directing: USA* X 2, Mexico, England X2
Actor: USA* X 3, Ireland, Canada
Actress: England* X 3, USA, Spain
Supporting Actor: USA* X 4, Benin
Supporting Actress: USA* X 2, Mexico, Japan, Australia
Directing: USA X 4, Taiwan*
Actor: USA* X 3, Australia, England
Actress: England X 2, USA* X 2, South Africa
Supporting Actor: USA X 5
Supporting Actress: USA X 4, England*
Directing: USA* X 4, England
Actor: USA X 5
Actress: England X 2, USA* X 2, Colombia
Supporting Actor: USA* X4, England
Supporting Actress: USA X 2, Australia*, England, Israel
Director: USA X 3, Australia, New Zealand*
Actor: USA* X 3, England X 2
Actress: USA, England X2, South Africa*, New Zealand
Supporting Actor: USA* X 2, Japan, Mexico, Benin
Supporting Actress: USA* X 4, Iran
Director: USA X 2, England, Poland*, Spain
Actor: USA* x 3, England X 2
Actress: USA X 3, Mexico, Australia*
Supporting Actor: USA X 5
Supporting Actress: USA X 4, Wales*
Director: USA* X 3, England, New Zealand
Actor: USA* X 3, Australia, England
Actress: USA* X 3, Australia, England
Supporting Actor: USA X 3, England* X 2
Supporting Actress: USA* X 2, England X 3
Director: England X 2, USA*, Taiwan
Actor: USA X 2, Australia* X 2, Spain
Actress: USA* X 4, France
Supporting Actor: USA X 3, England, Mexico*
Supporting Actress: USA* X 3, England X 2

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Song Analysis: Favorite Songs for their Lyrics: Part VIII

This is another edition of a series where I dissect and analyze songs I like for their lyrics. I'm generally only approaching the lyrics because I don't really believe qualitative value can be assigned to melodies and chords. It's also worth  noting that in the same way that some of my culture writer peers will wear their knowledge of obscure bands like a badge of honor, I tend to do the opposite and try to remain as openly unashamed as I can about owning records by Maroon 5 and Katy Perry.

Lastly, check the lyrics tag down below for other versions of this series.

Silent All These Years, Tori Amos-The implication on Genius is that the barking dog and antichrist referenced in the first verse indicate the narrator is an abusive relationship. As Freud said, sometimes a barking dog is a barking dog and an antichrist is just something you throw in to be poetic. The abusive lover theory also doesn’t hold up when you consider that she is upset that this subject is with another woman in the second verse (the one with deep thoughts though I think Tori Amos could give her a run for her money in that department) and strangely seems to be back with him by the end of the verse. There’s also a very clear case of changing subjects: At first it’s a passive observer she wants to trade places with, and it’s very unclear who she wants to stand where she stands when the mother shows up in a nasty dress (although isn’t it superficial to harp on her wardrobe?).

The confusion in narrative focus leads me to believe that the song’s unifying element is what’s there under our very noses: the song title. Amos’ relationship (and her life) isn’t one that can be easily characterized and she just wants to express it. The line “sometimes I hear my voice” indicates that only occasionally does she have any sense of inner clarity.  The more the narrator expresses herself, the more empowered she is. Threatening her boyfriend what can either be a pregnancy scare or physical evidence of abuse (“boy you best pray that I bleed real soon”) is followed by a dropping-the-mic  equivalent of “how’s that thought for you.” On the other  end of the spectrum, silence worries her that she will be “stripped of her beauty till there’s nothing left.”

There’s also an indication that this imperfect boyfriend is bound to her through economic hardship. If twenty-five bucks and a cracker (I’d like to hope it’s a whole carton of Ritz bites because one single cracker seems tough) is all she has to get “there”, then leaving a romantic partner who could potentially break into money isn’t an option. 

Changes, David Bowie-My knowledge of musicians in their prime before I started consistently  listening to the radio (1997-1999) is pretty embarrassing and it’s only through commercials and film soundtracks that I’m familiar with most of them. David Bowie is an artist I only came around to in a roundabout way: Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” in which his songs are covered on-screen with a sole acoustic guitar in Portuguese. It was only upon his tragic death earlier this year that I became aware of how beautiful of a man Bowie was.  

One thing about Bowie that I imagine to be both a blessing and a curse was his propensity for recrafting himself musically. For all his musical generosity and his inspiring sense of openness to every which musical genre imaginable, there seemed an underlying dissatisfaction with sticking with anything else too long. He best expresses this in the ubiquitous “Changes.” There are both hints of being trapped by society’s expectations of him (“How the others must see the faker”) as well as liberation. There are also signs of Bowie’s curse here too: He speaks of the taste not being as sweet when he realizes a goal which seems moderately tortuous. Either way, there’s a sense of pressure to stay ahead of the curve (“I’m much too fast to take that test”) but whether it’s legitimate (hitting “a million dead end streets” is a problem whether society is pushing you or not) or some externalized threat from the next generation (“oh look out, you rock and rollers”) is curiously left vague but in a way Bowie has never known himself if you follow the opening line: “Still don’t know what I’ve been waiting for.”

Evaporated, Ben Folds Five-Perhaps I should be more certain but I’d give 7 out of 10 odds that I know what this song is about and if it were any more specific I’m sure I would like it less. My theory is it’s about a deadbeat dad who’s been riddled with guilt by the choice he made. The biggest hint I can gather is his comparison to his old man and the conclusion that it’s the nature of “all men [to] want to get into a car and go.” Rather than try to correct his wrong, the narrator has resigned himself to his fate and without a possibility of changing his future, he is textbook depressed (“don’t you know I’m numb man, I can’t feel a thing”). Going by that old saying about children being prone to making the same mistakes as their parents when they grow up, perhaps the narrator has felt that his failure would be pre-destined.

My favorite line is in the second verse: “I’ve faith that there’s a soul somewhere that’s leading me around, I wonder If she knows which way is down.” If faith in some overarching spirit to guide you somewhere is your saving grace, why would you want them to lead you down? In this case, the narrator is in a purgatory-like state and while he doesn’t have an explicit death wish, the divine spirit is keeping him from falling any lower (the narrator is numb but still alive). He imagines he deserves worse and wonders why a bigger punishment hasn’t yet befallen him.

Angel, Sarah McLaughlin-While these entries are supposed to be about lyrics, it’s hard to deny the contributions to McLaughlin’s serene voice to these lyrics. This song is pretty ubiquitous for good reason: Few songs soothe me on a bad day as this one and I find few songs whose status as a good is indisputable. McLaughlin perfectly captures the feelings of weariness and fatigue: Waiting for the “break that will make it ok”, being “tired of this straight line” and the imagined paranoia of “vultures and thieves at your door.” McLaughlin’s song is so powerful that it almost makes me want to celebrate the way life can run over you. The line “In this sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness” says this is all part of the human experience and can even be sweet and glorious if you take a step back and appreciate the value in these struggles. It’s not easy to do but this is a song that helps me get there.

On the Western Skyline, Bruce Hornsby and the Range-One of my two favorite piano players, Bruce Hornsby is a rare piano rock star who draws from bluegrass music: Rich portraits of place and somber portrayals of hard economic times often color his songs. Interestingly enough, Hornsby is from my home state of Virginia (he made several donations to my alma mata’s music department) and he hails from not the mountainous part but the Eastern tidewater region which is mostly known for producing rappers (Mary J Blige, Missy Elliott).

Although the song’s most repeated line is “I hope she’s out there somewhere on the western skyline,” he seems to be singing from a resigned sense of loneliness. Rather than seek love in the place where the “rooftops sag on second street,” he’s simply a passive observer to what’s happening around him.

As love is both an end to itself and a metaphor for some larger truth in much of music, it seems that pining over lost love (also explored in “Mandolin Rain” and “River Runs Low”)  can easily be read as a metaphor to pining over lost economic opportunity. His line “too many dreams, not enough hope” speaks directly to the kind of imbalance in jobs and job seekers that could set a community on a downward spiral. It’s also important to note that everyone seems to be affected since the lonely woman also say a prayer.

Time, Ben Folds-I’m reminded here of the biggest heroic act in the notorious tear jerker “Rudy.” It wasn’t anything that happened in the film but rather that the real-life coach  volunteered to become the villain In the screenplay so that the film would have more conflict thereby increasing its chance of being greenlit. Similarly, Ben Folds feels enough for his subject that he’s willing to be a transference of negative emotions and blame. “Think of me anyway you want. I can be a problem if it’s easier,” he sings. It’s a generous offer to say the least.

As the title suggests, the song is about time, and there’s a deeper connotation here. Ben Folds is willing to be whatever his subject wants because he sees emotional wounds as inconsequential. Mainly, they abate with time. “In time, I’ll fade away, in time, I won’t care what you say, and in time….time takes time you know”

Boston, Augustana-Because I saw the song covered by a heart-broken Leonard on “The Big Bang Theory”, I’m a teensy bit ashamed to list this one. Fortunately, I’m defiantly against musical shaming so here we go: The song is about a sad, jaded girl in need of a life change and one of its strengths is that it seems like it’s exactly as long or as short as the word count should be. While the narrator has empathy for the subject (“oh dear you look so lost, eyes are red and tears are shed”), he is mostly a passive observer (as opposed to “Annie Waits” which I’ve covered). As such he doesn’t have the capacity or obligation to fully present us with the why and how of this girl’s rush to get to Boston.

The narrator uses a lot of colorful imagery to describe her but the song sticks out more for the second hand perspective. The narrator doesn’t have the answers to her sadness  either  and also ponders about “the world you must’ve crossed.” Appropriately enough, the girl wants to start a new life where no one knows her name and the narrator grants her that anonymity throughout the song.

Seven Wonders, Nickel Creek-History’s first tourism campaign was the seven wonders of the ancient world (of course, then the word “ancient” wasn’t there). But of those seven, only the Great Pyramids at Giza remain which can be seen as a lesson on the fallibility of man.

Fittingly, the song centers around a man (or perhaps an unusually weak diety) coming to terms with his limits. He can’t “unleash the hands of time” or prevent the rain from falling. It’s a broad metaphor for man’s struggle to control his circumstances but this is bluegrass and (as I said with Bruce Hornsby) it’s a genre that thrives on the specifics. For instance, the subject is consigned to “never owning more than second place.” It’s a throwaway line that gets you thinking more about whether the protagonist’s feelings of inadequacy stem from being second place to some  rival, his internal nature or nature itself.

Raise Your Glass, Pink-Pink’s persona is one of punk-inspired defiance mixed with girl power. Songs like “Try” “Just Give Me a Reason” or “F---ing Perfect” aim to be inspirational and I won’t deny that they succeed. But sometimes her lyrics just seem sloppy. “Who Knew” is a poignant anthem to lost love, but Pink can’t resist throwing in the line “If someone said three years from now, you’d be long gone, I’d stand up and punch them out.” It’s almost as if Pink knows  she’s about to get too mushy and throwing a line about randomly punching someone will maintain her “in your face” cred. Attempting to split the difference between sentimental Pink and punkish Pink is what often makes her sounding silly.  

“Raise Your Glass” works because it embraces the “in your face” side of Pink without irony . According to Pink, we’re supposed to turn off the lights, call her up if we’re gangsta and snatch some panties (if I got that line right). She makes up words (“Dancey” which is apparently the opposite of fancy) and just flat-out laughs her way through the bridge. It’s reminiscent of Kesha’s “Tik Tok” in knowing exactly what it is but it’s got a bit more depth. I especially like the line about being “wrong in all the right ways.”

All Songs I've Analyzed at this point:
Anna Nalick: Breathe
Augustana: BostonAvril Lavigne: I'm With You
The Bangles: Hazy Shade of Winter
Ben Folds: Landed, Annie Waits, Time, Evaporated
Barenaked Ladies: Testing 1 2 3
Bruce Hornsby: On the Western Skyline
Cat Stevens: First Cut is the Deepest
Charlotte Martin: Your Armor
Coldplay: Speed of Sound, Viva la Vida
Counting Crows: She Don't Want Nobody Near, Hard Candy, Rain King
David Bowie: Changes
Dave Matthews Band: Gray Street, #41, Dancing Nancies, Grace is Gone
Ed Sheeran: The A-Team
Fall out Boy: Dance Dance
The Fray: You Found Me
Foo Fighters: Learn to Fly
Gin Blossoms: South of Nowhere
Goo Goo Dolls: Broadway is Dark Tonight, Better Days, Here is Gone
Green Day: Wake Me Up When September Ends
Jason Mraz: On Love in Sadness
John Cougar Mellencamp: Jack and Diane
John Mayer: Clarity, 3 X 5, No Such Thing, Bigger than My Body, Why Georgia
Howie Day: Collide
Hootie and the Blowfish: Time
Leona Lewis: Better in Time
Lorde: Team
Macklemore and Lewis: Thrift Shop
Mamas and the Papas: Dance Dance
Matchbox Twenty: Downfall, All I Need, Let's See How Far We've Come, Black and White People
Michelle Branch: Game of Love
Nickel Creek: Green and Gray, Seven Wonders
Paramore: Ain't It Fun
Pink: Raise Your GlassSara Bareilles: Bottle It Up, Fairytales, Hold my Heart
Sarah McLachlan: Adia
Smashing Pumpkins: 1979
Script: For the First Time
Sister Hazel: Your Winter
Steely Dan: Barrytown
Switchfoot: Stars, Dare You To Move
Sum 41: In Too Deep
Taylor Swift: Blank Space
Tori Amos: Silent All These Years
Whitney Houston: I Want To Dance with Somebody
Zedd: Clarity