I have to level with you guys here. I am not a big fan of Christmas music. This is probably an side effect of working retail for the past three years, but somehow holiday music does not get me in the appropriate festive spirit. Unfortunately, as the 25th edges closer and closer, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid listening to it altogether. So for those of you who like me do not enjoy this particular subsection of music, I hereby present Laura Hillsman’s Christmas playlist for people who don’t like Christmas music.
The Billboard Hot 100 is a weekly chart that draws from a variety of factors to evaluate the most popular songs in America. Obviously for many listeners this kind of evaluation for the quality of a song is wholly unreliable because what usually makes a song accessible to millions of listeners also makes it highly derivative, uninteresting, etc. However, we should be careful not to discredit a song simply because it is accessible and achieved mainstream success, and in honor of that I have compiled a list of 10 songs released in 2014 that have all appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 that stood out amongst their peers on the lists (in no order).
Before the out-of-nowhere snowstorm that caused Interpol to be stranded for 50 hours, I had the pleasure of seeing Interpol at Marathon Music Works on the unusually chilly night of November 11. I went over to the venue and was immediately greeted by a large, excited crowd. What came after definitely did not disappoint and made my Tuesday night go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Gracing his wrist, “The River Is Everywhere,” a quote from the piece “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse rests on Andrew McMahon’s lower arm as a reminder that wherever you go there is always going to be a piece of you. Since the release of his latest venture as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, this daily reminder could not be any more relevant. The long awaited debut of a solo album came under the moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness following a short solo EP, The Pop Underground, in 2013, nearly 8 years with Jack’s Mannequin and 3 full length albums recorded with high school band, Something Corporate.
It may be surprising to see a retrospective of a nine-year-old nu metal album on this blog, particularly from a writer who has vented at length about the overall lack of quality of mid-2000s popular music. Then again, everything about System of a Down’s music, from the band’s ability to mash together disparate and seemingly irreconcilable influences to their shocking success on the mainstream airwaves, is a bit surprising. System’s landmark 2005 album Mezmerize happened to be on my mind as I put together a discussion for my psychology class, and revisiting it as I worked resulted in three dominant trains of thought, none of which dealt with my homework: 1) nostalgia for the days when my biggest concern was whose backyard trampoline the neighborhood kids would be hitting up after school, 2) amazement at how irresistibly fun the eleven songs are, and 3) wonder at System’s ability to somehow maintain this fun amidst livid, highly caustic lyrics and guitar riffs. In conjunction, these concurrent streams of consciousness brought me to the crucial question: how the hell did a band like System of a Down hijack the popular music consciousness?
I think the answer boils down to two factors: perfect timing and the group’s ability to infuse its thrashing songs with elements that made them palatable to mainstream listeners.
When talking about weird, avant-garde musicians, Frank Zappa’s name is usually thrown around. I say “thrown around” because I feel like not many people who know his name really known much about his music. Too many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “Oh, Zappa? Yeah, his music is kind of weird, I’m not really a fan.” There’s some truth to this statement; his music is, generally speaking, weird, but I feel as though many people don’t understand the spread of genres that Zappa incorporated into his own music. Truthfully, I think that there’s at least one Zappa album for almost everyone.
2014 saw all kinds of hip hop floating around, from new stars and old. Countless tracks have already been forgotten, but this article is about the ones that really stuck. This is just one writer’s opinion, but here it is: the ten best hip hop tracks of the year.
10. Clipping – “Work Work”
While clppng is one of 2014’s more uneven releases in any genre, “Work Work” channels the group’s brand of bizarre industrial-hop into something almost party-appropriate. The sneering delivery of lyrics about pimps, gang signs, and dead homies comes caked in irony, but “Work Work” is charming and catchy enough to let us in on the joke.
9. Jeremih – “Don’t Tell Em”
DJ Mustard gets much of the credit for gracefully reconciling modern popular hip-hop with increasingly EDM-soaked pop charts, after previous attempts ranged from limp to mashup-tier. You can criticize Mustard for being formulaic, but when songs you didn’t even produce start following the formula you can’t deny its effectiveness. On representative track “Don’t Tell Em”, Mustard streamlines the hazy, stylish, “All the Time” Jeremih for mass consumption.
Before you crank up “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and start decking the halls with boughs of holly, take few minutes to heave up some enthusiasm for the holiday that cuts between “The Monster Mash” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” While largely ignored by convenience stores, TV specials, front yard decor, and the radio waves, Thanksgiving has just as much of a right to be celebrated as the other holidays do!