Under Construction: Best-Of List

The posts here have been thin lately because I’m trying to clear my gargantuan backlog of albums I put off listening to but should probably check out before the end of the year. However, now that I’ve been checking them out, I’ve discovered that most of them are fucking godawful.

So, when the music biz gives you lemons, you whine and complain about what the fuck are you going to do with these goddamn lemons. (And if that’s not your bag, go listen to my latest mixes you bunch of ingrates.) To wit: my take on albums that didn’t make the cut…

Britney Spears
Britney Jean

Is it weird that most of these songs sound like they could be about Jesus? The winner in that category has to be “Now That I Found You,” otherwise known as Brit Brit’s answer to “Cotton Eyed Joe” (“I can live my life / I believe in faith / I have found myself / I have lost the hate”). I wish I were kidding.

Neko Case
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

This is not a bad album, and this is not a worst-of list. Even if it’s not fully my thing, I can admit that there’s plenty to like here, from the way the music often pushes what you expect from the country/folk production into a wholly different emotional place. “Man” is brilliantly pointed, “I’m From Nowhere” meanders in an endearing way, etc. But there’s just nothing that can make up for something as melodramatic as “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” at least in my books. It was based on a true story. Oh, well alright then.

Eminem
The Marshall Mathers LP2

Eminem can still technically rap. That doesn’t mean he can drop even one half-decent single anymore. Stop doing everything in a minor key! Stop trying to do concept songs! Stop ruining classic rock songs like Time of the Season! Stop making nu-metal songs like Survival Of The Fittest! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP

Goodie Mob
Age Against The Machine

You are probably a bad person if you don’t think “Nexperience” is a song that Cee-Lo should have the opportunity to sing on the season finale of next year’s The Voice so that all of America has to pay attention (“I broke the rules with a pair of dancing shoes, committed blasphemy, even let you laugh at me… After all I’ve done, I’m still a niggerrrrrrrrrrr!!”). On the other hand, Cee-Lo’s deadly-sincere bubblegum ode to “my very first white girl” is the kind of awfulness I had previously only assumed could come from will.i.am.

Recondite
Hinterland

Who says minimal techno is boring? Certainly not the producer behind Ghostly’s latest full-length. Repetitive? Sure. Dry? Assuredly. Somnolent? Why if the rest of the tracks are like the first one, I think I could listen to this sort of thing for hours upon hou-ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Miley Cyrus
Bangerz

I was ready to give this a legit shot after “We Can’t Stop” started growing on me. Then I hit “4×4,” Miley’s stab at making a Florida Georgia Line “Cruise”-style country-rap hit, complete with Nelly cameo. “Drivin so fast, bout to piss on myself.” Screw the VMAs, this is precisely where Miley went off the rails. Honorable mention goes to the line: “I ain’t popped no molly, but you still got me sweatin’.” And incidentally, I’m glad that America’s youth are so comfortable with racial issues that an ex-child TV star slipping in and out of appallingly-unconvincing ebonics ranks some eight bazillion slots lower on the offensiveness-ranking-ladder than acting like a slut on television. U.S.A.!

Shooting Guns
The Brotherhood of the Ram

Who says stoner rock is boring? Certainly no-ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Top 5 Faux-EDM Pop Songs That Won’t Drive You To Kitchen Tool-Related Violence

 

5. Pitbull f Ne Yo – Give Me Everything

Wait didn’t I say in that other EDM post that Pitbull was like the saddest excuse for a “musician” since they made John Travolta sing in Grease? Well, kind of. And I would be fairly happy to have him scrubbed from my memory Total Recall-style, or just via a mild head injury. But many great 90s Euro cheese singles had useless eaters “rapping” on their tracks, and sometimes they moved the cut forward. They just didn’t get top billing over Ne-Yo, who carries an excruciatingly catchy melody through a series of chord changes and production fillips from Dutch producer Afrojack so that every 16 bars feels like a different song. Every time I think “this hook is going to get really annoying,” they switch it up and do something else. When the song ends, you’re like, “that’s it?”

4. Icona Pop ft Charli XCX – I Love It

I might be fairly accused of not giving the (usually female) front-people credit for the songs that work, and privileging the work of the (usually male) producer. Which is a fair cop, although I think we could rectify this by allowing me to have sex with whoever I want, in which case I would be much more agreeable in general. At any rate, producer Patrik Berger might have done a bunch of other great tunes including Robyn’s Dancing On My Own, but he’s not what makes this track work. It’s all in the chant by the Icona Pop ladies. This is the best song to yell along with since Ben Folds Five’s Song For The Dumped, or possibly Toni Basil’s Hey Mickey, and has probably already caused/inspired more vehicular accidents than Thelma and Louise. Tell me this song wouldn’t be the perfect soundtrack for bumper cars.

3. Britney Spears – I Wanna Go

Nothing can keep Brit Brit down, even if she is a shell of her former batshit crazy self. Every album produces number one hits, and whatever her failings as a celebrity burnout (as in, she’s a much less entertaining walking clusterfuck than she used to be), she knows how to pick collaborators. The unfuckwithable Max Martin and his current producer du jour, Shellback, have the wisdom to make Britney the star of the track while still layering in all kinds of production tricks like those delightful stuttered vocals on the chorus. Also: whistling. Why don’t more pop songs have whistling? And what ever happened to baseball cards that came with gum? PS I am old.

2. LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem

It actually physically pains me to praise anything LMFAO do, except for that one fight with Mitt Romney on an airplane which was probably the best act of civil disobedience a celebrity has ever been involved with. But praise them we must, along with man-behind-the-curtain GoonRock, because despite being more brain-dead than a zombie Kelly Osbourne, LMFAO have somehow made one of the decade’s great floor-fillers. And you can’t just credit the production, even if that octave-jumping synth has launched a thousand songs I would rather punch myself in the nuts than ever hear again — it’s as much the little lyrical throws away like numb-nuts #1’s “every day I’m shufflin” or numb-nuts #2’s “alright stop… hatin is bad” that make the tune. OK so they made a good one. Now let us never speak of LMFAO again. Please.

1. Rihanna – Where Have You Been

Whenever I am in the position of defending pop music’s inherent value to the great unwashed (rock fans and/or old people), I often think of bringing up this song, but don’t. For one thing, mentioning Rihanna and her air-horn of a voice to pop skeptics is like waving a bag of Cheetos in front of a stoner – it confuses them and makes them lunge at you, then forget what they were doing and sit down awkwardly. I digress. But more pertinently, Where Have You Been is the song to play for pop haters who like dance music, because aside from having an excellent vocal from Ri Ri, such as it is (she has a style, it’s instantly recognizable, and she uses her full vocal range here for once), this is an absolutely impeccable dance music production. The build-up through the first minute and a half is as epic as anything those mayonnaise-on-fries-eating tools from Rotterdam have ever come up with, from the gradual un-filtering of the kick to the stadium-sized synth stabs and finally the pure acieeed 303 squelch that eventually takes over the track and leads you into the next verse without making you realize the chorus is over until it’s long gone.

Seriously, this cut has everything, it’s a smorgasbord of rhythmic layering that just keeps relentlessly pushing upwards toward an orgasmic conclusion that’s always just around the next breakdown. AND they never get cringe-inducingly corny with it, which is more than you can say for pretty much every track with this much build that has ever been made. It’s hard to know from the laundry list of producers who did what, but Dr Luke and Cirkut (a Canadian, funnily enough, ex of mildly interesting former Last Gang signing Let’s Go To War), Calvin Harris and Ester Dean — all of them in possession of resumes that’d make a label exec hyperventilate — truly outdo themselves. Somewhere in pop music heaven this song is on constant repeat, probably on somebody’s fucking bullshit tinny-ass mobile phone speakers, but whatever. Fuck it, we’re done here.