Thursday, March 22, 2018

New music ~ Miranda Lambert & Panic!

I was gonna discuss Keith Urban's horrifying new Frankensong more, but meh. It's bad. Don't listen to it. The end. If you want a new take on "Mama Tried," listen to Angaleena Presley's kickass "Mama I Tried."

DO listen to Miranda Lambert's "Keeper of the Flame," which is not a new song but her latest single, and one of my favourites from Weight of These Wings. Not only is it good, it sounds like it could genuinely be a hit. (That is, if radio actually plays it.) It's catchy, anthemic, and the theme fits the Stapleton-led direction I think country is trying to go right now. While the song itself sounds much more modern than traditional, the sentiment comes across in the tasteful instrumentation and Miranda's always-impassioned vocals. It's a good look for 2018, and I hope it sticks around. (I should probably relisten to Weight of These Wings, but damn it's so long...)

Soooo I can't lie, I kinda like Panic! At the Disco, random punctuation and all. I know, I know. Their last album Death of a Bachelor was kind of a guilty pleasure for me, not because I think it's bad - in fact, Brendan Urie is an amazing vocalist - but because this band is kinda for teenagers, right? I feel a little silly listening to them, it would be like listening to my old Smurfs albums and wait I would totally do that, never mind.

Anyway, they released two songs from their upcoming album and I gotta say, they're energetic and infectious AF. Not the kind of thing I usually listen to, but that's the beauty of it. It's not organic, like at all, but it does interesting, creative things with the production and Brendan Urie is as dynamic as always. I guess I'd call it dance rock, if something so synth-y could be called rock at all. It just goes a little harder than anything I'd call "pop." I think this might be what Fall Out Boy was trying to do, once again proving that Panic is better. And now that I'm done rambling like a 13 year old on livejournal, I'll just say this music probably isn't for most people who'd be reading a country and rock blog, and that's okay. If I dig it, I'm gonna talk about it. I'm actually looking forward to this album, with the most intriguing title of Pray for the Wicked.

2018 has been a decent year for music so far, and it's primed to get even better. Don't let me down.

tbt ~ 2000s country (Warning: unintended rant)

I've been having serious 2000s music nostalgia lately. It started with indie stuff like The Shins, New Pornographers, of Montreal, etc., and eventually drifted into country. I still listen to a lot of these songs, but there were also some half-forgotten gems. Lady Antebellum's early stuff sounds so pure and good. Catchy, well-produced pop country at its best. Randy Houser used to have grit and swagger to complement his vocal chops. And, because I'm the queen of bad timing, I was all set to praise Keith Urban's old stuff for actually being a cool mix of pop sensibilities and country instrumentation. Then he released something that can only be described as an atrocity, a desecration of the sacred "Mama Tried." With the "Issues" chick, of all people! Not just a pop singer, a TERRIBLE one! Don't go looking for it, I beg you. It's unholy. It will haunt you forever. But hey, that early stuff's still pretty decent.

A link, since the mythical "embed playlist" option has never shown up for me.

A few notes on the playlist. It's mostly in order by year, with a few exceptions of songs I forgot. Why you can't reorder songs is beyond me. We sent people into space 50 years ago but I can't have the technology to move a Chris Young song up a playlist. Okay, sure.

...I think that Keith Urban song made me a little salty. Can you blame me?

The list is not necessarily "the BEST country hits of the 2000s!" but the ones I know and remember most fondly. Nostalgia plays a part in some cases, but they're all songs I like. Mostly just the hits, though I did include a few album cuts from certain artists.

Notable exclusions:

As I've stated many times, I left country music almost completely behind in the early 2000s, due to the post-9/11 divisiveness. I started to come around in the mid-2000s but didn't fully come back until I heard Miranda Lambert the first time. So NO songs that remind me of the awful "stick a boot in yer ass" era of country were included. Not even Alan Jackson's comforting, apolitical "Where Were You," the only one of those songs I like. Nor the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," which I also like but reminds me of bad vibes I don't need in my life. I'm a forgiving soul so I did include Toby Keith's "Beer for My Horses," an actual good song. (The same cannot be said for "She's a Hottie," which should by all decency be Toby Keith's worst song, but isn't.)

This last one hurts. One of the first songs that drew me back into country was Buddy Jewell's "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," a beautiful, simple song based around a child's questions about death, the afterlife, and God. This could be overly sentimental if done wrong, but it was done just right, with a beautiful melody and instrumentation to go along with it. The kind of song you come to country music for.

Cue a few years ago when I heard the song and was like, "HMM, I WONDER WHAT BUDDY JEWELL IS UP TO, HE WAS PRETTY GOOD," and BIG MISTAKE, guys. Maybe don't look up people from the past unless you wanna be disappointed, cause... look. I'm not gonna shun an artist for having different beliefs than me. I hate politics, and when you let it get in the way of music, politics wins, not you.

That said, I can't stress enough that bigotry is not a belief or political stance. White supremacy is a mental illness, as far as I'm concerned. So if you must, google Buddy Jewell "This Ain't Mexico," but I recommend you don't. I'm careful to not throw the word "racist" around like a football, but if this song is any indication, the man is an honest-to-God racist. I can maybe forgive "stick a boot in yer ass," but I can't forgive outright racism. Dude actually talks about loving fajitas and margaritas but DON'T SET FOOT OVER THE BORDER, AMIGO. So... how are they supposed to deliver the food you wanna shove in your taco hole without actually being there, genius? Chuck it over the border and hope someone in Texas catches it? "We like your food, but we don't want you here." FUCK. YOU. IN. YOUR. TACO. HOLE. So yeah, that's why a song I like isn't on my playlist. I can't even listen to it without thinking that the little girl must be white or he wouldn't be singing about her, and all the sentiment goes out the window along with your margarita puke, you fat redneck fuck.

Okay. That felt kinda good. I'm done now. :)

You know, I considered skipping the early years of the decade and starting in like, '04 to avoid all these ugly feelings coming back. But there were just too many good songs to leave out, so I'm gonna end on that positive note instead. I'd say overall it was a pretty good decade for country music, especially the mid-to-late part. Definitely worth revisiting.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two more new country singles

By two more dudes, obviously.

Here we have Jake 'n Blake, which I'm sure makes delicious fried chicken (and I helped!), but how is it musically?

Well, ever since his promising start back in the day, Blake Shelton has gotten both worse and more famous. Maybe someday I'll understand why that's a thing. (See also: Luke Bryan.) From egregious bro-pandering like "Boys Round Here" to all the forgettable mid tempo AC sludge that I've, well, forgotten, Blake is someone I've long stopped caring about. His new song is called "I Lived It," and while it may be just more forgettable AC sludge to some, this one actually kinda speaks to me.

It gives me a 90s feel, not because it necessarily sounds like a 90s song, but it takes me back to those days when I loved country music. Which is maybe the point, considering it's about nostalgia and growing up in a bygone era. I mean #relatable, amirite?? But it's nothing that hasn't been done before, from Bucky Covington's "A Different World" to ironically, Miranda's "Automatic." And nostalgia is a tricky subject for me. If you hit my sweet spot you got me, but if it strikes me as "80s/90s kid pandering," it really pisses me off. I don't like some cynical asshole trying to cash in on my nostalgia. And some people may see this song as just that, but to me it feels real. Real enough. It's not as good as "Automatic," or something like Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This," but I enjoy listening to it. It gives me a good feeling. And Blake has always had a good voice that's been sadly wasted. Please, keep giving these songs to him and not no-talent personality voids like Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett.

I'd like to say I like Jake Owen's new song, but... hooooo boy. Why are we still trying to make "American Kids" in 2018? I liked that song more than most, but it wasn't THAT great. This is another nostalgia song, and this time it hits all the wrong notes. It wasn't enough we had to endure Keith Urban's assault on John Cougar, now Jake here is taking a crack at him. What has he ever done to you guys?? Can these kind of songs just die already? At least Blake is talking about a unique experience and not piggybacking off an 80s song. (I know Blake didn't write "I Lived it," but he sings it like he did, which I guess counts for something.) Jake can do so much better than this, so why doesn't he?

I guess the bright side is, at least they're giving me stuff to talk about. I don't remember a single hit "country" song last year outside of the highest highs ("Tin Man" and Stapleton) and the lowest low ("Body Like a Pothole"). Everything else was so boringly in the middle.

I also want to make one more point about this whole Bebe Rexha/FGL debacle before hopefully retiring the subject forever. While I think country radio should be for country and country-adjacent music (no, Chris Stapleton isn't purely "country," but he fits), I don't mind artists going outside their genres at all. If pop and country people wanna work together, why the hell not?

The problem is, more often than not this has the opposite result of what you might think. Expanding beyond genre should push down walls and open up creativity, right? But that's not what's happening. Instead we're getting the most flavourless, middle of the road songs imaginable, from "Meant to Be" to Maren Morris' almost tragically aptly-named "The Middle." Since it's clearly not about exploring creative options, the only logical conclusion is it's about making a buck. So I don't wanna hear any sanctimonious crap about "pushing boundaries" from people like Bebe Rexha. BULL. SHIT. That's one of the least "boundary pushing" songs I've ever heard. You wanna genre-hop, do it, but MAKE GOOD MUSIC. This lazy monogenre crap is killing creativity rather than igniting it.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Friday Random Silliness

When you're a kid, sometimes the first place you hear a classic song is in a commercial. So now, no matter how many years go by or how many times I hear the song, the words to Love Me Tender will always be "love me tender, love me true, feed me something new." Curse you, dog food industry!