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Because it's the time for top ten lists, I was thinking of making a top ten list for songs of the year. Then I reconsidered whether there was a point to comparing and quantifying songs. A song is something like three minutes long. It's somewhat pointless to debate single scenes within a larger movie. Bloggers do it anyway and I'm sure there's a viral blog post somewhere out there called "Best movie scenes running three minutes or less" because we as bloggers are in the business of finding pointless things to rank. Even scenes have so many elements to them: the acting, the written dialogue, the technical aspects, the set design, the music. Because a song is just one of those elements and therefore it's very subjective.
The longer I try to quantify good music, the more I realize that most songs seem to affect me the same way within the same life cycle. "True" fans of music will read this and basically label me as the scourge of society while the top 40 music executives will read this and high-five each other because their business model is working perfectly:
1. Discovery-I am driving and want to listen to music. I tune in the station I'm most familiar with because I expect to hear my favorite songs (see stage 3B or 3C). In between listening to my favorite songs, a new song comes on the air. I tolerate it because eventually one of my favorite songs will come on.
2. Song grows on me-The song comes on again, maybe I'm in a department or grocery store and I recognize it further.
The song will keep playing and it can go in three directions
3a) Find the Song Annoying-I usually am suckered into liking the song after enough listening. As long as it's not from a genre I don't like (rap, country, heavily synthesized dance music), my defenses are slowly eroded by the barrage of repeated playings. There is occasionally a song I've heard a million times and still shrug my shoulders with "what's the big deal?" The creators of these songs must really suck at what they do because I basically have admitted to being a passive sheep when it comes to pop music.
It's also worth noting that I'm even generous toward a song if it's song by the wrong person. I had no tolerance for David Gray's Babylon or Coldplay's Yellow until I heard them covered by Howie Day who makes the lyrics sound intelligible (take notes here, Mr. Gray, diction matters!) and doesn't whine when he sings (ditto, Coldplay).
If I wanted to devote more time and energy to this direction of inquiry, I could properly categorize all the ways in which songs fail to connect to me and find some trends. For instance, I just noticed that three songs that I've never liked- Beyonce's Crazy in Love, Beyonce's Naughty Boy, and Kelly Clarkson's Miss Independent- all repeat the same phrase over and over. Without looking it up, I would guess that the phrase "Crazy in Love" makes its way into something like 80% of the songs lines. So repetition = bad
3b) I like the song and don't change the radio station if it's playing. I also tend to associate the song with when I heard it.
3c) Flat-out obsession-After about 7 or 8 times, it hits me: I f-ing love this song! It's almost hypnotic because it's like I've never played it before. I start to look up the lyrics. I want to learn how to play the song on the piano. I'm singing it in my head and love when it comes on the radio (never mind that i can just watch it on youtube whenever I want).
4. Calming Down-I slowly stop wanting to listen to the song all the time. Like 3b, it becomes associated more with a memory or place in time
So my way of reviewing music this year is to mention all the songs that I would recognize if someone said they're name. Getting me to recognize the name of the song is the first step to making step 2 happen. Then, I'll tell you which categories they go under:
Songs I've been obsessed with:
Teenage Dream, Katy Perry
Misery, Maroon 5
King of Anything, Sara Bareilles
Hey Soul Sister, Train
Haven't Met You Met, Michael Buble (Ironically, I don't believe in that attitude in my own romantic life. It's a song that I love without embracing the lyrics)
Songs straddling obsession or songs that I could see myself falling madly in love with if I was bombarded with them just couple more times:
Break Even, The Script (I have absolutely no idea who The Script is)
Tik-Tok, Keisha (I usually don't like clubbish songs like that, but it's very catchy)
Falling for You, Colbie Collait
Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars (A little early in its run for me to embrace it just yet, but it's growing)
Songs I like:
Mine, Taylor Swift (Although it sounds a lot like her last couple of songs)
Telephone, Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce (To call it a little synthetic is an understatement. Is there an instrument in there?)
Half of my Heart, John Mayer
If It's Love, Train*
Dynamite, Taio Cruz
All the Right Movies, One Republic
Live Like You're Dying, Kris Allen (I like the half-rap syncopation part. There, I said something almost musical)
Bulletproof, La Roux
Need You Now, Lady Antibellum
Waka Waka (It's Time for Africa), Shakira
Songs I like if they're covered by someone other than the original artist:
Valerie, Amy Winehouse (as covered by Glee)
Natasha Bedingfield, Strip Me (just don't like Natasha's voice)
In My Head, Jason Derulo
Songs I'm completely on the fence with depending on whether I'm sober or not:
All Summer Long, Kid Rock
Songs I still have successfully resisted:
Heartbreak Warfare, John Mayer
California Girls, Katy Perry (This has been played a million times, so I'm not sure why my ears have resisted. Perhaps the rap in the middle takes me out of any potential hypnotic effects)
Break Your Heart, Taio Cruz feat. Ludacris
I Got a Feeling, Black-Eyed Peas
Nothing on You, Bruno Mars (too insipid)
Baby, Justin Beiber
*Listen closely to the lyrics, it's really just incoherent rambling. The guy believes he can "win it" by staying in bed all day, because he's in love. I don't think being a full-time bum is the way to ladies' hearts