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Ashley’s Favorite Music of 2013

Well, here it is. The grand finale of my favorites of 2013. It took me two weeks to compose my thoughts on this topic… Or rather, I’ve been stupidly busy with work that I haven’t had a chance to write it. I like the first excuse better though.

Last year was a pretty damn good year. Favorites returned, new people surprised me, and there were some great indie stuff that popped up in my personal circle. I talked about some of it in the middle of last year, but what made it to the end? Well, let’s start with

Favorite Singles

Honorable Mention: ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

I hate that I like this song. I hate that Katy Perry songs keep getting in my head and every time I say I don’t like it, it beats me into submission until I do. It happened again with ‘Roar’ to the point I would turn it up and belt Katy’s turn at an empowerment anthem after her divorce from Russell Brand. Though, due to Katy’s writing style, I still think she’s writing about Travis McCoy.

6.) TIE: ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk and ‘Holy Grail’ by Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake

Lots of people got sick of these songs rather quickly, but strangely, I never did. Even though I couldn’t get into Magna Carta Holy Grail the way I did Watch The Throne, there were several tracks on the album that completely stood out to me like ‘BBC,’ ‘Picasso Baby,’ and ‘Jay Z Blue.’ The lead single of ‘Holy Grail’ was completely entrancing. I think I might have ended up liking Justin on this track more than on most of his singles from The 20/20 Experience. Well… most…

As for ‘Get Lucky,’ it really was everyone’s song of the year. It was a fun disco track that felt more genuine than any other track on the radio this summer. It also probably sealed the deal for the awesome year Pharrell had. Well, maybe it was that OTHER song, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Canadian Creep.

5.) ‘This Is Gospel’ by Panic! at the Disco

I really only liked about half of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. The half I really liked was sexy, catchy and weirdly emotional. The half I didn’t was boring to the point it began to run together. Thankfully, the second single ‘This Is Gospel’ was on the half I liked. It’s a stand out song on the record even without single status due to the sung in a church like feeling of the song and the pure brutal emotion. I’ve cried to this song, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Even if the rest of the album is dull, I’m glad that this is the song that shines.

4.) ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’ by Fall Out Boy

It’s been a year and a day since this song roared into my life and it hasn’t gotten old yet in the million times I’ve listened, screamed, drove and rocked out to this song. The band came back with a vengeance and this song did a great job of staking their claim in the year of music. Not to mention the Butch Walker handclaps certainly help.

3.) ‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills

This was the year I discovered Natalia Kills and I feel like it improved my life in so many ways. The album Trouble is full of gems, but the lead single ‘Problem’ was blowing cigarette smoke in my face with a smile and I was loving it. ‘Problem’ is an anthem for bad girls everywhere who love their vices and don’t give two fucks about who judges them. As I slipped into that side of me throughout the year, that song played in my head and guided my steps.

2.) ‘Closer’ by Tegan and Sara

I feel like a bad queer girl when I admit that I haven’t really listened to Tegan and Sara seriously. I know I would like them and I love the song ‘Hell,’ I just keep forgetting to listen to them. Still, even with my constant forgetfulness to listen to Tegan and Sara, I fell in love with the song ‘Closer.’ Never has a song so accurately reflected what it’s like to be so completely smitten with someone that all you want to do with them is get them to sit a bit closer to you. You bet I turned this up when I finally heard it on the radio.

1.) ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu

In an alternate universe, this song became a massive hit, Janelle Monae gets the fame she so rightly deserves, and everyone recognized ‘Blurred Lines’ for the date rape song it is and lets Robin Thicke wallow in obscurity forever. Unfortunately, my physical body does not reside in that universe. However, I still have ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and I still have Monae rising, showing the world what she’s made of.

EPs

I should note that I usually never cover EPs, but this year had three that definitely stood out to me that are worth noting.

Who's gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

Who’s gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

3.) True Trans by Against Me!

This EP was more of a two-sided single to tide people over as they waited on Transgender Dysphoria Blues (that review is coming, by the way), but splitting hairs doesn’t take away from the fact that this EP is fantastic. It features acoustic versions of the song ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ and ‘Fuckmylife666,’ which are probably two of my favorite songs on the record. On the record, the songs are plenty emotional, but there’s a personal vulnerability in the EP versions that pack more punch than their electric counterparts.

Must Hear Track: The entire thing. It’s two songs.

2.) Pax-AM Days by Fall Out Boy

This eight song EP that the band recorded over a drunken weekend in Ryan Adams’ studio only clocks in at 13 minutes. It’s the very definition of loud and fast with the band only taking one or two takes for each songs. It was an interesting experiment considering how perfectionist they can be. It was loud, fast, and rage filled like the early days, but with skills that don’t make the record too painful to listen to for long. I’m sad I didn’t get to run around a field blasting this album like I originally planned. THIS SPRING IN THE MOUNTAINS…

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside,’ ‘Caffeine Cold,’ ‘Love, Sex, Death’

1.) Peachtree Battle by Butch Walker

Wherever you are, that's my home. [butchwalker.com]

Wherever you are, that’s my home. [butchwalker.com]

I cried like a baby listening to this EP. I’ve cried even harder hearing these songs live. Butch has always been an emotional songwriter, but Peachtree Battle drives right to the heart. When Butch began writing the songs, his father had been on a slow decline in health and Butch began writing the five song EP to come to terms with his father’s mortality. Before the EP released, Big Butch Walker passed away, which ends up magnifying the emotional impact of the songs even more. It’s a personal reflection on the effect one person can have on our lives, especially one as big as a parent. Still, it’s not all about death. There are plenty of life lessons that Big Butch taught Butch in these songs too. Ones that we can all learn from.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This,’ ‘Let It Go Where It’s Supposed To,’ ‘Peachtree Battle’

Favorite Albums

Well, here they are. The cream of the crop. What albums prevailed to be my favorites in 2013?

I’m up all night to get lucky.

5.) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

I think I ended up liking this album less as the year went on, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it gets ragged on way too much. Daft Punk has always been about bringing art to electronic music and this album was very much about exploring their roots in several ways. Some of it was disco like ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and ‘Get Lucky.’ Some of it was more experimental. A lot of it really, but it works because there really isn’t anyone out there that gets it like Daft Punk. Just because I can get down to ‘Get Lucky’ doesn’t mean I can’t chill to ‘Touch’ or appreciate/rock out to the reverse engineering of ‘Giorgio by Moroder.’ It isn’t Discovery, but we need to stop expecting Daft Punk to make that album again.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Touch,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ ‘Doin’ It Right’

4.) ARTPOP by Lady Gaga

I was worried about this album, but it ended up pleasantly surprising me in the end. It’s not flaw free, but ARTPOP is definitely one of the best albums Gaga has released. It was an honest and beautiful look at the life of an artist trying to balance her life and art. With some catchy dance numbers and lots of modern art, of course.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ ‘Do What U Want,’ ‘Artpop’

3.) Rated Heart by Professor Shyguy

I'll attack you once, you attack me back!

I’ll attack you once, you attack me back!

Meanwhile, I ended up liking this album more. Maybe I’m a little biased towards my friends, but Professor Shyguy can write a damn good chiptune pop song. Even if I don’t always get what he’s singing about, I can get down without hesitation. I feel like I should have a deeper reason of liking this record so much, but I don’t. It’s geeky, catchy, and fun, which is all I need sometimes. As I said before, “the Poor Nerd’s Justin Timberlake” mixes geekdom and pop music with ease.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Keywords and Dubstep,’ ‘Weak,’ ‘Destroy Metroid’

2.) Trouble by Natalia Kills

I must confess, when one of my online friends asked me if I had heard the new Natalia Kills record, I had no earthly idea who the hell she was talking about. The album took forever to get on Spotify, but I ended up blasting ‘Problem’ for weeks until it did. Where I started to scream “I PUT MY HIGH HEELS ON SO I’M CLOSER TO GOD” at random points up until I finally bought the album and long since after. Much like ‘Problem,’ Trouble is an album about girls with their middle fingers in the air as they party, but it also shows the motivation and sadness that fuels it. Trouble isn’t just a party record, but a record about broken people putting on their best faces.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Problem,’ ‘Stop Me,’ ‘Devils Don’t Fly’

1.) TIE: Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy and The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

I don't know where you're going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I don’t know where you’re going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I debated this for WEEKS. I’ve talked at length about these two albums online and in person to anyone who will listen. I’ve listened to them over and over again that I sing along with instrumentals. I’ve cried and rocked out to both of these artists live. And in the end, I could not decide which album I really wanted to put as my #1 of the year: Janelle Monae’s genre bending entry of love, heartache, and standing up for what you believe in her Metropolis epic or Fall Out Boy rediscovering themselves and setting out to make a record to inspire the next generation of garage bands. Both records meant a lot me last year while being simultaneously fantastic. What else can be said?

Must Hear Tracks:

Save Rock and Roll: ‘The Phoenix,’ ‘Rat a Tat,’ ‘Save Rock and Roll’

The Electric Lady: ‘Q.U.E.E.N,’ ‘Givin Em What They Love,’ ‘Victorious’

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Well, that finishes up my favorites of last year. What were your favorites of last year? What did you disagree with me on? And don’t worry, we’ll stop dwelling on last year soon enough. My review of Transgender Dysphoria Blues is next.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Music

 

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This ARTPOP Could Be Anything

I swear, I didn’t mean to neglect the Diary. Between writing for Nerdophiles and my

Album cover by Jeff Koons.

Album cover by Jeff Koons.

personal life, I’ve just been at a loss for what to write here. More personal stuff? Things I don’t get to write about for Nerdophiles? Perhaps more of the latter, which brings us back to Lady Gaga.

I had some fears for ARTPOP as an album when ‘Applause’ came out and was refusing to stick in my head. If this was the lead single, what would that mean for the rest of the album? Was this the end of Lady Gaga?

Well, I’ve had a few months to sit on it and I did end up warming up some to ‘Applause.’ Plus, the iTunes Festival performance she did alleviated some of my fears, but I was still curious as to what the album as a whole would be like. Yeah, I ended up liking Born This Way as a whole, but I rarely ever listen to it all the way through.

Lucky for me, ARTPOP is probably one of the best albums Lady Gaga has released.

I think one of the problems with Born This Way was that it was continuing from the dark lyrical and musical themes from The Fame Monster, but not in the same tight way that existed on the The Fame Monster. There are some amazing songs on the album that I consider some of Lady Gaga’s best songs, such as ‘The Edge of Glory,’ ‘Yoü and I,’ and ‘Marry The Night,’ but the album didn’t feel consistent. Cohesive, yes, but not consistent. ARTPOP manages to be both to the point I constantly find myself accidentally listening to the album when I only mean to listen to a song or two. It doesn’t hit as hard as The Fame Monster, but there’s a similar vibe and strength in ARTPOP. In fact, the only song I really don’t like is ‘Jewels n’ Drugs,’ but mostly because it feels out of place and doesn’t really have a whole lot of Gaga.

Despite listening to this album for a week, I haven’t really settled on a favorite song yet. ‘MANiCURE’ gets a lot of repeats, I have kept up three song loops of ‘Venus,’ ‘G.U.Y,’ and ‘Sexxx Dreams’ for an hour at one point, and I have really warmed up to ‘Do What U Want’ after seeing her performance of it on The X Factor UK. The one line in the whole album that stands out to me though has to be from the title track ‘ARTPOP,’ a song mixing meanings about love and art and how similar they can be. In the pre-chorus, Lady Gaga declares that her “Artpop could mean anything.” Which really is what drives the point of the album being a mix of pop music, art, and real life. We choose to express ourselves through creative means, but what we mean can be interpreted differently to those who listen/watch/read what we create.

Gaga performing 'ARTPOP' at the iTunes Festival.

Gaga performing ‘ARTPOP’ at the iTunes Festival.

So while the album could be about art and the relationship between Gaga and her fans, I think I purposefully read it as an album about love, sex and wanting to be desired.

I kind of got that feeling from ‘Applause’ after listening to Gaga explain it when she said it was less about living for the attention and more about living to make others happy, but it was really driven home at the iTunes Festival with ‘ARTPOP,’ ‘MANiCURE’ and ‘I Wanna Be With You’ (which later became ‘Dope,’ which I will talk about in a bit). However, I kept going back to ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ which I think really drives home the aspect of wanting to be desired from this album. It’s a great pop song on its own and a sexy one to boot. Like… “I probably need a cold shower after this” sexy. However, on a more personal level, I could relate to having a person populate your thoughts (especially when you’re trying to sleep) and wanting to know if they think about you the same way. ‘G.U.Y,’ ‘Venus’ and ‘Do What U Want’ drive this point home even harder. ‘Venus’ and ‘G.U.Y’ especially for invoking the gods and bringing it back to a long time artistic theme.

On the flip side, ‘MANiCURE’ becomes a song about needing to make yourself look good when needing that love drives you to a point of insanity. ‘Mary Jane Holland,’ ‘Fashion!’ and ‘Donatella’ have similar themes.

I think it’s fair to say this album makes me extremely sexually frustrated, but in the best way possible. Maybe that was Gaga’s intention. Maybe it is a metaphor for her relationship with her fans. Maybe it’s a retelling of some mythos I don’t even know about that. That’s the magic of ARTPOP. It could mean anything.

lady-gaga-nude-art-pop-coverThe most straightforward song on this album though is ‘Dope.’ Initially a song titled ‘I Wanna Be With You’ that could have easily been about her fans or a guy, it was rewritten and became a song about Gaga’s struggles with alcohol and drugs. It’s essentially a step nine, with Gaga asking for forgiveness and trying to make amends. From her lover. From her family. From her Monsters. From God. It was jarring at first to hear the song like this, but it’s probably her most personal and emotional song since ‘Speechless’ from The Fame Monster.

While ‘Applause’ is a good album closer, it feels more like an epilogue. ‘Gypsy’ gives me much more closure on the album. In an album that opens with the question ‘Do you wanna see the girl behind the aura,’ ‘Gypsy’ feels like a satisfying ending for this part of the story where Gaga finds someone who accepts that in her. Again, friend, lover, fellow artist, or fan, but it gives a feeling of love. It’s no ‘The Edge of Glory,’ but it gives that sort of feeling to close out ARTPOP. Grand and full of love. Plus, I love the callback to ‘Schieße’ from Born This Way.

The most constant thing I’ve seen in reviews of this album is that this album is uniquely Lady Gaga, and that is so very true. Other pop stars will try their best impression of this album for the next two years, but it can’t be duplicated. Love her, hate her, or mostly indifferent, you can’t deny Lady Gaga is definitely the most unique pop star out there in the current mainstream. She gives herself 1,000% to her art and it shows on ARTPOP. It’s catchy, unique, and crafted around the past while sure to shape the near future. I just wish the app had a bit more to give right now, but there seems to be future plans for that and I look forward to seeing them.

Petga from the ARTPOP app creating the user aura.

Petga from the ARTPOP app creating the user aura.

Is it about love and sex? Is it just about art and being an artist? Whether yes or no, that’s the beauty of this album. ARTPOP could be anything, and Gaga leaves it in our hands to interpret it as such.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Music

 

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A couple of announcements and some ‘Applause’

Hello readers! Long time, no see.

Well, I guess I should be honest outright about why I haven’t been writing here lately. Recently, I was picked up as a writer at the collaborative blog Nerdophiles. I’ve written three pieces for them so far, including a Dragon Con Survival Guide that has gotten a lot of traction since it went up yesterday. The experience of writing there has been delightful so far and I can’t wait to progress into the future with them!

Speaking of Dragon Con, I will be there! I’m not attending as press or as a performer, but I’ll be hanging around for sure. It’s likely that you’ll see me at the Pacific Rim fan meetup on Saturday and the Airship Races representing Steampunk Chronicle. Probably the Comic Book Pageant as well, knowing my dearest Lady Swales. At least I’m prepared!

Okay, onto the review.

Last week, Lady Gaga released her newest single ‘Applause’ into the world a week early to combat hackers who leaked the track. She followed this quickly with the official lyric video (which reminded me of how long its been since I’ve been to a drag show) and the gorgeously shot, but very bizarre official video.

Now, I was a little worried about sharing my thoughts on the song after Gaga posted this:

Ruh Roh...It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence about writing in your blog about your thoughts on the song when you opinion is regarded as not relevant.

Then I remembered a very stupid detail: I’m a blogger, but I’m also a fan. Sure, I haven’t been able to see her live, but since the days of ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face,’ I’ve considered Lady Gaga one of my favorite pop stars. I was deliriously excited when the ‘Telephone’ video came out. I still cry about her ‘Speechless’ performance at the AMAs. I wrote a whole blog about how Born This Way grew on me as an album. I’ve cosplayed her. TWICE. I even bought and regularly wear her perfume.

It smells like fame, poisoning your boyfriend, and a little like apricots.

So, I think I can say the following with confidence:

‘Applause’ is one of the most boring pop songs I’ve heard in the past year. It seriously sounds like an unmemorable song from a 90s Europop band.

And I hate saying that! I’ve tried to like the song, but it’s like The Silence. As soon as it’s off, I forget I’ve heard it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I can remember the chorus pretty well, but the song doesn’t make me want to go and listen to it on repeat. It doesn’t make me want actively avoid it the way I avoid ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke either. It just… exists.

The thing for me though is that Lady Gaga isn’t suppose to just exist. She’s loud and memorable. Even if you don’t understand her, she’s making you talk about her. She’s digging your way into your head, even if it’s a song that offends multiple ethnic groups at once. I shouldn’t have to say I remember and like a Katy Perry song full of Dr. Luke’s lazy songwriting better than a Lady Gaga song, but that’s what’s been happening.

Of course, this isn’t me pitting one artist against another. It just makes me a bit concerned about ARTPOP if I’m not gelling to the first single. Then again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘Born This Way’ and I ended up enjoying the album for the most part. Plus, it seems like Gaga is going a similar route that Bjork did with Biophilia and is including an app that goes along with the album. I’d like to see if it takes off and popularizes that approach.

Still, I’m not feeling the ‘Applause’. I know Gaga can do better and I hope she will do better with ARTPOP. Since I won’t know until November, I think I’ll just put The Fame Monster and ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ by Janelle Monae on repeat in the meantime.

lady-gaga-applause-cover

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Music

 

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Happy (late) Fourth! My Six Favorite Songs About America

I meant to toss this list up yesterday, but I was slightly drunk and very tired after returning from the barbeque I spent my Independence Day at. I also have a post about Brave in my queue that meant to go up on Monday that I will be finishing up later today. But first…

America has a tendency to inspire musicians. Sometimes out of pride, sometimes out of protest, and sometimes just pure sarcasm that has a tendency to be taken seriously. Here are my favorite songs about the United States, for better or worse. Also, this list is in no particular order. Just sort of what came to mind first.

1.) ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ by Matt Stone and Trey Parker – Anyone who’s seen Team America: World Police knows that the film is a very obvious parody of every Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer film to ever come out. The music was no exception, with songs that had such lyrics as “Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you” and “freedom cost a buck o’five.” Still, there’s no song from that movie that inspires so much ironic national pride as much as ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ does. Which might have been the point. Either way, I blast this every Fourth of July, every time the US wins a gold medal at the Olympics, and whenever I watch the sequence from Captain America: The First Avenger where he takes out Hydra across Europe.

2.) ‘The Star-Spangled Man’ from Captain America: The First Avenger – This is pretty much my entire justification for the Disney/Marvel merger. Co-written by Alan Menken, this catchy jingoistic jingle is reminiscent of 1940s WWII propaganda and fitting for the original image Americans had of Captain Steve Rogers.

3.) ‘American Idiot’ by Green Day – As I mentioned before, some of my favorite songs about America were written out of protest. The first time it clicked with me that this was even possible was when Green Day released their 2004 masterpiece American Idiot. The album was a gorgeous piece of protest about the first years of the 21st century. The band would try to repeat it again for the recession in 21st Century Breakdown, but no song off of that album could come close to the furious call to arms that was the titular single of that 2004 album.

4.) ‘America’ by Prince and the Revolution – From the criminally underrated Around The World In A Day, this song about the later years of the cold war is both funky and relevant as ever. Prince has always had a bit of protest in his music and this is one of the bigger examples of it.

5.) ‘Americano’ by Lady GaGa – Maybe I should have named this list My Six Favorite American Protest songs. Still, beneath this catchy dance beat lies Lady GaGa’s protest against Proposition 8 and the anti-LGBT fundamentalists in the USA.

6.) ‘Made In America’ by Jay-Z and Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – I never thought I would use the word “sweet” to describe a song from Watch The Throne when I first listened to the album, but ‘Made In America’ is it. For Jay and Kanye, the American dream exists, but not without the people who got them there in the first place.

That’s it for this list. I’ll be back in a few hours with my post about the six most ridiculous things I’ve heard about Brave.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Music

 

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Liesel’s Yearly Favorites: Favorite Videos of 2011

Originally, this post was going to just be music videos, but then I started thinking of my favorite reviews and viral videos of the past year. So, why not review them all? This post will be split into three categories: Music, YouTube, and Reviews. Perhaps you’ve seen some of these, but hey… maybe not.

Six Favorite Music Videos

Honorable Mention: ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Dark Carnivale’ by Frenchy and the Punk

Have to give my friends Scott and Samantha credit. They know how to make fun videos that fit their sound and image perfectly. Steampunk mixed with a little dark fantasy, cabaret, and fairy dust. Both songs come from Happy Madness and are even more of a joy live.

6.) ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ – Patrick Stump

It’s sort of sad that this came out the same day as the ‘Born This Way’ video. While both songs carry the message of being yourself, Patrick’s comes across as a bit more genuine and uplifting. The video for the song enforces this, with real people (and one three legged dog) showing off their unique talents.

5.) ‘Summer of ’89’ – Butch Walker and the Black Widows

Butch Walker continues his 2011 theme of Nostalgia in this Shane Valdes directed video. While not as over the top as some of Valdes’ other videos, the video deliciously skewers tropes from the 80s hair metal that Walker grew up on. What really makes this video is a cameo from veteran actor Seymour Cassel as the very insistent video director. Valdes also directed a very post apocalyptic trailer for The Spade around the same time.

4.) ‘Otis’ – Jay-Z and Kanye West

As of writing this blog, I haven’t had a chance to listen to many tracks from the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch The Throne. However, I LOVE the video for ‘Otis’, the joyride of a track that samples ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding. The video, which features the coolest (and most dangerous looking) ride and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Aziz Ansari, fits the track perfectly and makes it hard to frown after watching it.

3.) ‘Last Friday Night (TGIF)’ – Katy Perry

I didn’t want to like this video because… well… Katy Perry. I was pleasantly surprised though when the funny and dayglo video brought together icons of three generations to tell the story of a wild Friday night. Go Uncle Kenny!

2.) ‘You And I’ – Lady GaGa

There seemed to be some debate over whether this video was Steampunk or not. While it was some sort of Retrofuture, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this video was a Burton-esque insight on loving others and loving yourself. Though, I think that’s what it’s about. I was rather distracted by GaGa’s alter ego of Jo Calderone. Ooo la la, sir…

1.) ‘Ready To Go (Get Me Out of Mind)’ – Panic! at the Disco

I’m sure some people thought I would bring up that very Steampunk video of Panic!’s on this list. While I do still enjoy that video, it did not bring as much joy as this beautifully done, musical inspired video for Panic!’s follow up single. Along with bringing way less drama, it’s just extremely happy and makes me want to go dancing out in the street with my umbrella.

Six Favorite YouTube Videos

6.) ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ by Tim Minchin

A song written by Minchin just in time for the holiday season, it was sadly cut from The Jonathan Ross Show due to fear of people taking offense to the sacrilege. Lucky for us, the internet exists for this such a thing.

5.) ‘Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)’

I tend to try and stay out of the debate of what constitutes Steampunk, but I have to give Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esq. some credit for creating a wonderful chap hop song for all of us who have ever searched ‘Steampunk’ on Etsy and facepalmed.

4.) 500 Miles of Doctor Who

Created for David Tennant and Russell T. Davies’ last Doctor Who cast party, this video surfaced on the internet earlier this year. Along with The Ballad of Russell and Julie, this video reminds us all of how awesome the Davies years could be. Unlike The Ballad of Russell and Julie, it does it in three and a half Proclaimers filled minutes.

3.) Kermit sings ‘Life’s A Happy Song’ with Bret McKenzie

I’ve expressed my love for The Muppets several times on this blog already, but only because it was so wonderful and sincere. Of course, in true Muppet fashion, Kermit took a few moments to sing with the songwriter. Like Paul Williams before him, Bret McKenzie was joined on the piano by everyone’s favorite frog to sing a happy song.

2.) Like PB’s Status!

Gotta give Yamino credit for this one. She managed to create one hilarious Adventure Time themed thank you video for AskSugarlessGum and taking audio from Miles Jai’s Like My Status rant video. I don’t know how many times I watched this video and laughed my ass off. About the time it gets to Weeabo Bubblegum, I lose it every time and it just continues until the very end with autotuned LSP.

1.) Multiculturalism Go Wrong

I don’t know what to say about this video besides this is what happens when you let Steampunks rewrite certain scenes from Kevin Smith movies. In particular, the first scene with Hooper X in Chasing Amy. You’ve been warned.

Six Favorite Reviews

6.) Music Movies – Phantom of the Paradise

While nothing major happens in this joint review between Paw and Elisa from the Nostalgia Chick’s crew, it shines a favorable spotlight on one of my favorite cult movies. Not to mention some light on a few of Brian DePalma’s influences.

5.) A Bunch of Reviewers – The Last Airbender

After starting Avatar: The Last Airbender (review coming soon), I can understand all the rage the internet has let loose against M. Night Shyamalan and his adaptation. The funniest, most rage filled one, however, has to be this one with Rollo T, Y Ruler of Time, Todd in the Shadows, JesuOtaku, and tons of cameos. Sure, there’s pain, but there’s also an excellent Aasif Mandvi impersonation from Y.

4.) Nostalgia Chick – TLC and the 90s

Oftentimes, it has been the Nostalgia Chick to remind us that music brings about just as much nostalgia as a TV show or movie. While the review starts off in usual Nostalgia Chick territory with a humorous look back on the career of her favorite childhood group, it ends up with an honest reflection from Lindsay Ellis over the death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes back in 2002.

3.) Todd In The Shadows – ‘Sexy and I Know It’

While Channel Awesome’s most mysterious reviewer can tear apart a pop song with the best of them, it is very rare that he gets into true snob territory. That is, until this review. After giving up on this LMFAO song early, Kyle “Oancitizen” Kallgren convinces Todd to take a deeper look at the song. Quickly, the review turns into the most hilarious, hot aired filled analysis about a song about parading around with your shirt off ever to exist. Probably the only one, but who knows.

2.) Nostalgia Critic – Moulin Rouge!

Doug Walker has been involved in a lot of epic videos. Many of them within this past year. However, he certainly outdid himself in this review of Baz Lurhman’s 2001 movie musical. What easily could have been a scathing solo review becomes a 45 minute musical tribute to guilty pleasures with help from Rouge defenders Nostalgia Chick and brentalfloss.

1.) Brows Held High – The Man Who Fell To Earth

This video didn’t just make me start watching Brows Held High. It made me a fan of Kyle Kallgren for life. Set to the music of David Bowie, Kallgren sings his way through his usual high brow analysis of this 1976 science fiction. Except for some help during a musing set to ‘Dance Magic Dance’, he does this musical review solo, making it even more impressive.

Tomorrow, I will do my last reflection on 2011 by looking at my favorite things discovered this past year. Stay tuned!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Internet, Music, Steampunk

 

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Rediscovering Born This Way

Six or seven months ago, I thought I hated this album.

Well, ‘hate’ is probably a strong word. I liked many of the tracks. Maybe ambivalent is a better word. Great singles, but perhaps dull overall. A disappointment from one of my favorite pop artists.

But since I heard it right before I went on tour with The Contraptions (who, by the way, have a Kickstarter up now), I didn’t have chance to properly think about what I really thought of the album, nor did I have a chance to write my thoughts about it down or to listen to the album deeply more. After that, I just listened to the singles and went on my way.

Until I listened to it again recently on a sleep deprived trip back to Atlanta.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and those out of the bianary… Let’s talk about Born This Way.

The sleep deprived listen came after I decided to listen to newest single ‘Marry The Night’ before skipping around to other songs. But when you’re sleep deprived, skipping around doesn’t sound appealing. So instead of skipping around, I just let the special edition of Born This Way play all the way through. To my surprise, instead of a dull mess of an album with a few standout songs, I actually found a very intricate and complex album that easily fits into the GaGa mythos.

GaGa’s career has been in phases that coordinate with the material of the album she’s releasing. While this isn’t an unusual thing to do, it’s a thing that plays an essential part of GaGa’s ever evolving image. In the days of The Fame, GaGa was the polished pop star chasing after what she thought fame and fortune was. She built her career from what the public perception of pop music is.

Then came The Fame Monster, which is where the title of ‘Little Monster’ started. An eight song EP that was intended to be a re-release of The Fame, it was actually a very intricate reflection of the things GaGa had encountered since achieving the fame she so desperately wanted before. It’s not a “I wanted to be famous, but it sucks, so now I want to be normal” record, but rather the dark side of getting what you wanted. This is reflected in both lyrical tone and the more Gothic and Industrial overtones of some of the songs. The album includes the singles ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Telephone’, but also my favorite piano ballad of hers, a Bowie-esque number called ‘Speechless’ that was written for her father when he was close to giving up on his life. It’s probably one of the most honest songs she’s written and The Fame Monster is probably my favorite GaGa release to date.

So where does this leave Born This Way? I know GaGa has claimed that it’s her being reborn, but after a few listens, I feel like this is GaGa looking back on what got her here and her declaration that she’s proud of her roots. This is obvious in songs like ‘Born This Way’ and ‘Hair’. ‘Born This Way’ still has some… awkward… lyrics, but ‘Hair’ feels like the more honest declaration of being yourself. I know that some people (read: Amanda Palmer) have interpreted the song to mean that GaGa is telling you that your hair is your only means of expression, but I feel like that’s wrong. GaGa has said that the song is easily something her 15 year old self could have written after being made fun of at school. For GaGa, it’s a declaration of personal expression. She finds her freedom in changing her hair and she encourages her fans to stick to what makes them unique. I prefer the acoustic piano versions, but after a few relistens, I realize it’s a song I wish I heard when I was 15, though I don’t think I would have listened.

This reflection also comes across in songs like ‘Judas’, ‘You and I’, ‘Bloody Mary’, and ‘Schiesse’. ‘Judas’ and ‘Bloody Mary’ very obviously call back to GaGa’s Catholic upbringing, but also parallel it to being in love with someone who is bad for you. ‘You and I’ as well as ‘The Fashion of His Love’ is about the one person you keep coming back to, even if they are bad for you. And ‘Schiesse’ is about… well… the bullshit women have to go through, especially to make it in music. As for the music, the previously mentioned ‘Marry The Night’ is all about the moment GaGa decided to devote herself completely to her music. While this might not be obvious in the song itself, it certainly is in the video.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that GaGa strays away from getting a little political in her way. ‘Americano’, which is my third favorite song on the album, is her take on Gay Marriage. It might not come across clearly at first, but the story is about GaGa meeting a girl and running off to Mexico to get married because she can’t get married in the US. It’s a catchy song that makes a good point and could easily fit into her ‘Paparazzi’ saga if she ever decided to make a video for it.

As for my two favorite songs, they’re ‘The Edge of Glory’ and ‘You and I’. ‘You and I’ is this grand old school rock number that just stirs up so much nostalgia and memories of love for me. It also shows that sometimes, the best combination in GaGa Land is her and her piano. And ‘The Edge of Glory’, it’s the ultimate song of triumph, but it also a wonderful remembrance of life. GaGa wrote it for her Grandfather to remember his life, and it reminds me of mine, whom I lost earlier this year to Lung Cancer.

The album isn’t just a lyrical reflection, but a musical one as well. Songs like ‘Fashion of His Love’ and ‘Black Jesus – Amen Fashion’ sound like they were plucked from the 90s. Especially ‘Fashion of His Love’. I swear it sounds like the Gloria Estefan songs my father in this dimension enjoys. ‘Hair’ and ‘The Edge of Glory’ feature the classic saxaphone songs of Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band, who passed away shortly after ‘The Edge of Glory’ was released as a single. They bring a certain element of the past to the futuristic sound of those songs, which is appropriate for the material. ‘You and I’ exercises this the most. While most people say that the song is very Shania Twain due to the influence of producer Mutt Lange, I feel like the song has a very Queen like feel to it. And I don’t say that because of Brian May’s excellent guitar work on the song. This sounds like something Freddie could have sung. Man, he would have loved her…

Now, this record isn’t perfect. Some parts of it feel overproduced, and there are some songs I still have a hard time getting into, such as ‘Electric Chapel’. However, it is much better and deeper than I thought it was before. I should know better than to take GaGa at surface level and I’m sorry it took me so long to realize this.

Plus, it has some REALLY good grooves. ‘Government Hooker’ especially. Say what you will about Lady GaGa, the woman can write a damn good dance song.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Music

 

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