A site where I get to complain about music I don't like.
Oh Robin Thicke, what have you done this time? These past two years have not been good for the middle-aged R ‘n’ B singer, even with his first massive hit in “Blurred Lines.” With that song being heavily criticized for its sleazy undertones, with quite a few people going as far as to call it “a rape anthem,” which I won’t get into, it started a bad trend for the C-list son of the dad from Growing Pains. “Blurred Lines” was complained about for far longer than it really deserved to be, his VMA performance with Miley was a disaster, and now, he and his wife have separated, and Robin has made a brand new album to try and get her back.
This album was doomed to be hated right from the get-go. Many people online still think of Robin Thicke as a symbol of all that’s wrong with culture today, with sleazy pop songs that get described as “rape anthems.” Making songs and videos with really awkward unintentional implications continued with the first single off Paula, “Get Her Back,” which was immediately criticized for his declarations of love coming off more stalkerish than he expected, coupled with drowning and threatening texts. The album has already bombed, up to only selling 530 copies in the UK its first week, and 54 copies in Australia.
Before I get into this album properly, I want to make one thing clear. This is not a review of Robin Thicke. This is a review on the album itself, as free as I can from bias. While that lack of bias when an album is as personal as this is harder to do, I will do my best to review this album based on the music and lyrics as they are. But additionally, the fact is that Robin Thicke is nowhere near the villain that we like to portray him as. Plenty of musicians have sung with similar things, and way too many have actually done the stuff that Robin is accused of promoting.
Really, the biggest crime that Robin Thicke has committed (outside of the adultery that was said to have destroyed her marriage) is a lack of charisma. The reason Robin Thicke is lambasted on social media, but artists like R. Kelly and Chris Brown still get defended by fans until the ends of time, is because they have that natural sense of charm and charisma. Robin Thicke doesn’t have that charm. Really, that’s the reason if’s been chosen as the whipping boy here. But I digress. All I’m saying is don’t hate it because Robin Thicke has a bad public image. Hate it because it’s incredibly lame.
The simple fact about the album is that Robin Thicke thinks that his lyrics can overcome repetitive, generic music, and it simply can’t. The album goes back to his Soul and R ‘n’ B roots after the more club-oriented sound of Blurred Lines, with nary a synthesizer in sight. The album wouldn’t be out of place in a 70s record shop, down to the retro cover, but it has no singular identity to hang on to. Thicke goes through every variation on 70s Soul, from Piano ballads to acoustic love making music, to the heavier funk side of Soul. There’s nothing to hang on to, giving you an album where you’re bound to enjoy at least one song on a musical level, but no others to hook on to. I’m not saying an album needs all of its songs to sound the exact same, but they do at least need a consistent mold to follow.
But this is an album that’s not about the music, this is about the lyrics, the lyrics bemoaning the absence of the titular Paula, Thicke’s ex-wife. This album is meant to be Thicke’s Here My Dear, a devastating examination in why a marriage falls apart. The problem here is that Robin Thicke is no Marvin Gaye. Every song on the album is awkwardly confessional, yet somehow also generic to the point where they could’ve been recorded by anyone. If Coldplay was like watching a rich man cry in the subway, this album is the guy making an apology to his wife over the phone during a pool game. He’s gonna include some details about you to make you think he really still cares, but he’s more focused on winning something that, in the end, doesn’t even matter.
Paula is not as terrible as it could’ve been. There are a few songs on here that are enjoyable to listen to, like “Lock the Door” and “Love can Grow Back” with their retro soul charms. But in the end, this is a boring album that tries to be more important than it actually is. It’s dull, it’s forgettable, and it doesn’t deserve any of the attention it gets.
Best Song: Love Can Grow Back
Worst Song: Tippy Toes
Coldplay is a lot like U2 in a couple ways. There’s the trajectory comparison of how they started out as a small-time alternative band that was playing stadiums not even 10 years later, and there’s the opinion that despite their reputation as the biggest band on Earth, most people wouldn’t dare admit to liking them for fear of immediately being ostracized and sent to a cave in Newark. But now, even their album history looks to fall into the same line. After very serious music that got them praise/ridicule (The Joshua Tree, Viva La Vida), they went into a more fun, bouncy, veering on irony style with Acthung Baby and Mylo Xyloto. And now, Coldplay has made what’s likely their most melancholy and emotional album ever. Effectively, Coldplay has made a whole album of “One.” And no, it’s not as good as that sounds.
If you’re the kind of person who pays attention to Chris Martin’s personal life, then you have likely heard about the separation between Martin and his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow. They’re apart, Chris Martin is sad, he made an album about how sad he is so that everyone can share with him the eternal sadness that he has. This is the story of Chris Marin, who cried a river and drowned the whole world. And this is obvious just from the cover, where the 80s dystopia theme of Mylo is replaced with a late-night aesthetic that looks like it’s sketched in a teenage girl’s school planner. It’s all very serious and heartfelt and all that, but the music doesn’t reflect it as well as it could.
I will be the first person to admit that I do enjoy Coldplay from time to time. Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head are great, and so is Viva La Vida to a lesser extent. Mylo was a little too silly, and X & Y is just plain mediocre, but they aren’t a bad band. And this continues here, with Ghost Stories being one of their weaker albums, but still not bad. Coldplay might get boring sometimes, but they do have heavy quality control on all their releases, which is why you never hear about a Coldplay album being a massive failure. They’ll never release of failure on the level of Battle Born by the Killers.
Still, compared to previous releases, a lot of problems that creeped in with X & Y are repeated here, but in the opposite way. While X & Y suffered from general emotion being replaced with Coldplay needing to show they could repeat success again, Ghost Stories is overburdened by its emotion. It’s like watching a man cry in the fetal position while you’re waiting for the subway. You want to help him somehow, but he’s making a scene and you don’t want to get involved. But it’s still Coldplay, so it’s polished and waxed until that man is crying in the subway in a tuxedo with a bottle of champagne, so now it’s harder to take that outburst seriously when he’s crying right into his money.
Sad albums are just harder to take seriously when they are so polished. The emotion is wronged out by studio techniques and perfected takes. There’s also the electronic influence that pervades the album, even when the songs would have worked better with an acoustic setup. This is most notable in the Avicii-produced single “A Sky Full of Stars,” where any emotion in the lyrics is replaced with “Levels.” It’s not explicitly bad, but the perfection is diminishing the results of what could have been a whole album of “The Scientist.”
Coldplay is not a bad band. They just have a problem of their popularity getting in the way of what would be best in terms of songwriting. This album could have been an emotional punch to the gut, but it ends up just looking like a teenage poet’s idea of what unbearable sadness feels like. If you’re a Coldplay fan, you’ll enjoy it, but besides that, there’s no need to rush out.
Best Song: Magic
Worst Song: A Sky Full of Stars
It’s always fun to see what genres come back into popularity after a decade or so. Pop culture consistently works in a cyclical fashion, going all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman statues moving between Classical and Hellenistic regularly, continuing into today’s art. Similarly, pop music will often look back 25 years, find something it likes, and yank it into the modern landscape with a few touchups. You could see this back in the last few years of 2009 where 80s throwbacks like “Edge of Glory” were becoming popular, and now, the most popular genre of the 90s is back: New Jack Swing.
See, popular music has been rewritten by “rockiest,” or people who think that rock music is the only important genre ever created. As such, musical retrospectives will often primarily focus on rock acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, when what was actually popular was very different. While these bands were still famous, similar to the Black Keys, most people were busy listening to bands like TLC and Mary J Blige, playing New Jack Swing. So, similar to how Disco came back in artists like Daft Punk, New Jack Swing has come back with Jazz themed songs by two B-list pop stars, Jason Derulo and Ariana Grande, with their songs “Talk Dirty” and “Problem.”
Simply put, I do enjoy both these songs a lot, way more than I have any right to be. I may dislike every other song by Derulo, and I thought “The Way” featuring Mac Miller was really mediocre, but both of these songs are heavily enjoyable. But more importantly, I reviewed these together because these are the exact same song. Not even exaggerating, these songs have no difference in structure, genre, and barely even the main riff. Both have a very brash verse, followed by a building bridge, then the chorus cuts out everything but one repeating line and the sax hook. They even have similar rap verses, both with very brash rappers that are pretty big right now, with 2 Chainz on “Talk Dirty” and Iggy Azalea on “Problem.” What interests me more, however, is how these songs represent how male and female pop singers seemingly aren’t allowed to sing about topics like love and such in the same way. Similar to how males usually sing songs about women as a whole, while females usually sing about a specific man in songs, which is why songs like “It’s Raining Men” become gay anthems, both of these show the variation on that theme. While “Talk Dirty” shows the male side, where the man goes around and attempts to have sex with as many women as possible, “Problem is a break-up song, since break-up songs are common among female pop stars.
Personally, I think none of this matters. I think anyone should be able to sing about whatever they want to, and that in the end, what pop songs are about doesn’t really matter, as long as the music is good. And luckily, both of these are better than most of the pop songs around right now. Good for them. I’m done.
Tomorrow: Ghost Stories: an Album Review
Is it time again? I think it’s time again. Let’s see how the Pop charts are looking at this moment, in this very confusing moment in its life.
The Billboard Top 10: June 14, 2014
10. Wiggle-Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg
Is this a real song? Or am I caught in the middle of a fever dream, and this is the only song that echoes in my head during my true descent into madness? Will I be stuck in a swirling void, with only Jason Derulo asking how I fit my butt in my jeans to keep me company until the skin on my hands turns into the sands of a forgotten city, lost to time and space? Anyway, yeah this song sucks, almost to an interesting degree, but not quite to a degree where it becomes enjoyable. The beat sucks, Snoop Dogg is forgettable, and it’s just kind of a lame piece of nothing that leaves no impact, but is still noticeably terrible, like when you walk down the street and you can slightly smell some shit in the air. At least “Talk Dirty” had a fun beat.
9. Summer-Calvin Harris
Nice to see that Calvin Harris hasn’t changed at all since the last time we heard him. Calvin Harris is still the reigning king of EDM-Pop, with his formula of repeating verse->instrumental unhinged since he first had a hit with Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” “Summer” probably isn’t technically a bad song, but it’s incredibly bland and easily forgettable, not to mention that Harris just isn’t a very good singer. It’s no “Summertime.”
I gotta say, never having heard this song before, I was not expecting a Reggae song in the top 10. When was the last time you heard anything Reggae related recently, unless you’re in college and you bunk next to the guy who brought a copy of Legend and nothing else. Anyway, I’m not a fan of Reggae, but it is nice to get a slight change of pace from all the club songs and ballads. Also, these guys are from Canada, and I didn’t know Reggae ever found its way up there. You learn something new every day.
7. Dark Horse-Katy Perry ft. Juicy J
Wasn’t this one of the first no. 1 hits of the year? Yeah, the aspect that’s been noticeable about this last half-year of music is how much it refuses to change. There was a 9 week period where the top 10 was not changing, with the same songs constantly occupying those spaces. Anyway, “Dark Horse” sucks, but I shouldn’t even have to tell you that. It’s Katy Perry trying on dirty trap beats as a new hat, the melody is unenjoyable, and Juicy J is phoning it in more than H. R. on “Sacred Love” by Bad Brains. Someday I’ll explain that joke.
6. Am I Wrong-Nico & Vinz
Another song I had never actually heard before, this, like “Rude,” was something I was not expecting when I started this. The song is a pretty earnest example of how to write a joyous pop song instead of something that is overly middling or sad, and it’s just a happy song to listen to. It finds a healthy balance between club songs and more natural elements, and it’s just a very happy song to listen to. Speaking of which….
5. Happy- Pharrell Williams
Do I even need to discuss this song? This song is fairly ingrained into our public consciousness, and it’s the biggest hit of the year so far, running at no. 1 for 9 consecutive weeks. Which is funny, because it’s not a strong to have strong opinions about. “Happy” is fun, sure, and it’s definitely happy, but it’s not a complex song. It’s a song designed to be fun and uplifting, and it was written with a kid’s movie in mind. It’s inoffensive, and it does get a little tedious, but it’s not terrible.
4. Turn Down for What-DJ Snake & Lil Jon
I’ve done a review of this song a few days ago, so here’s a link to go read that.
3. All of Me-John Legend
"All of Me" is a lot like a prettier version of "Happy," in that both are heavily based on classic soul. But while Pharrell takes his cue from 60s Motown and lighter Funk, John Legend is based on classic Soul of the 50s, veering on Adult Contemporary on occasion. "All of Me" is decent to the very core. It’s all very sweet and calming, but it’s music you’d expect to hear in a fancy restaurant played by John Legend himself, who will make kind comments to your girlfriend about the dress she’s wearing. It’s meh.
2. Problem-Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea
Yeah, just wait a bit on that.
1. Fancy- Iggy Azalea
Yeah, I hate this song. I just don’t find it interesting at all, it’s obnoxious, and it’s so repetitive. It consists of 5 notes repeated over and over again. It never changes. Charlie XCX over sings. Iggy is not very interesting, even if her being a white Australian rapper should put at least a small spin on it. I just don’t like this song. I didn’t like the rest of her album. Better female rappers, please. I know they’re out there.
Later Today: Talk Dirty vs. Problem
Andrew Jackson Jihad have done a good job digging themselves a niche in the Indie Folk circuit. With their sound of acoustic guitars and punk drums, they managed to fit pretty well in the scene, but still needed to make sure they had something to stick them out from all the other awkward, nasal singers in Indie Folk. And it’s the lyrics that really got Andrew Jackson Jihad famous, with bitter, sardonic, and even offensive lyrics, from songs like “American Tune” discussing how easy it is to be a straight, white male, to about a dozen songs talking about how love sucks in every way. Cheery stuff. And now, two years after the slightly bloated Knife Man, they have released their 4th major album Christmas Island, which sadly, is also easily their worst.
Now, there are still easily some great songs on here. “Temple Grandin” is a great punky opener, “Getting Naked, Playing With Guns” is an interesting, folksyish tale about suburb life, “Linda Ronstadt” is one of their best songs of depression breakdowns, and “Angel of Death” is the second best song ever under that title. The problems come with the polished sound. In some ways, this comes across as Andrew Jackson Jihad’s most polished and poppiest album yet, with most of the louder guitars and faster beats replaced with piano and all-together more country-ish sounds to it.
However, this is a detriment. Without the faster pace and louder guitars, the lyrics don’t hit as hard, which goes against the primary idea of AJJ. The lyrics are supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and offended, and without that rawer sound, it just doesn’t have the same kind of punch. This isn’t helped by the distinctly weaker songwriting, where there”s less sardonic wit, and more melancholy in general. It makes for a weaker listen, and one that doesn’t drag you in at all.
I was looking forward to this album a lot. On the whole, however, it’s mostly mediocre for the large part. The songs themselves are fairly strong, and it’s not terrible, but for the most part, this is an album only for big fans. If you’re new, stick to the previous albums.
Best Song: Angel of Death
Worst Song: Coffin Dance
Tomorrow: Billboard Top 10 Review
I don’t think it’s any kind of secret that Rap is one of the most inclusive popular forms of music. To this day, even in a time where social progress is leaps and bounds where it was even a decade ago, Rap is a genre that people only associate with young, straight, black men. And while two of those have at least been opened up somewhat, the other two still have a long way to go.
First, there are the stereotypes that have at least been broken somewhat. To be fair, rapping evolving past being a young man’s game was inevitable. The old guard of rap were either going to grow up or tragically die, and most would end up in the former. Chuck D and D.M.C. are both in their 50s, and even Jay-Z and Ice Cube are in their mid 40s. Rap has changed to the model of other music genres, where if you still have what it takes, you get to keep making music (time will tell who will be rap’s first Mick Jagger.)
Secondly, Rap changed from being a very monoracial genre very early in its life span. While it may have started from African roots with stories being told rhythmically over a drum, and evolved further with early blues artists that used a style similar to rap and spoken word artists, the first no. 1 hit with rapping was by a white woman. Blondie’s “Rapture” may have been the first rap no. 1 due to racists being convinced that it wasn’t as scary when a white person did it, but it did blaze a trail, and soon enough rap had a steady footing. Now, while white rappers may get the odd look or two, they are more commonplace now, from the Beastie Boys up until Macklemore.
But even with those two stereotypes broken, those were the easy ones. Age was eventually going to have to be broken, and white people aren’t exactly an oppressed group. On the other hand, however, gay rappers and female rappers are still rarities, the former far more than the latter. Female rappers are almost always a one-at-a-time deal, with their time in the limelight never overlapping with another. You have Lil Kim, followed by Nicki Minaj, and now you have Iggy Azalea, the biggest female rapper around right now, and the main inspiration of the article.
On the other hand, you have gay rappers, where only one artist associated with Rap has managed to get any mainstream success, and Frank Ocean isn’t even a rapper. Gay rappers are still nonexistent in the eyes of the mainstream, even more than in other genres. And it’s simple to see why both of these are major problems that still pervade the rap community.
Ever since its inception, rap music has had a history of misogyny and homophobia that is still a pervasive problem. People claim that “Blurred Lines” was the zenith of all that is rapey and wrong with music, but compared to songs like “Love Me” by Lil Wayne, where he talks about how women shouldn’t talk until he reaches sexual climax, it’s downright charming. Then you have have the homophobia that’s a rampant problem, with how many times “faggot” is used as an insult in the songs, with words like “homo” showing up almost as often. If you were a woman or gay in a genre where stuff like this happens, you’d want to keep it on the down-low.
Listen, it’s no secret that misogyny and homophobia are still all too prevalent in our society. But remember, you can always support people who are part of these groups. While Nicki and Izzy are already popular, you can turn your attention to Azealia Banks, who’s relatively new and completely awesome, plus female AND bisexual! And in terms of openly gay rappers, Fly Young Red began making news recently, due to having an internet success with “Throw that Boy Pussy,” a typical rap song that switches the gender around. It’s a typical rap song, and not a big favorite of mine, but it does do a good job of showing that there is a gay population in rap music.
And there are so many others beyond those two examples. So if you find a rapper that fits under one of these qualities, make sure that you do your best to spread them to everyone you know, because word of month is important in today’s music scene, and these future stars need your help out there. So make sure that these people get the attention they deserve, and who knows? Maybe someday we’ll have a successful transgender rapper.
Tomorrow: Christmas Island-Andrew Jackson Jihad review
U2 is the biggest band in the world that you aren’t allowed to like in public space. People feel like there’s something wrong with enjoying one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the world, because they’re seen as pretentious and above-it-all, because Bono’s a pretentious ass and The Edge looks like a dad who just bought a motorcycle. Well I’m here to say that I love U2. For the most part. The Joshua Tree and Actung Baby are two of the best albums of the 80s and 90s, Boy and War are the great prologue before their breakthrough, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind and No Line on the Horizon are the great epilogues to their takeover of music.
Now on the other hand, you have the albums that don’t quite reach that level. Rattle and Hum is a messy live album that shows the ego going to Bono’s head, Zooropa and Pop are U2 trying to recapture the glory of Baby without the freshness (and I say this as a big supporter of Zooropa), and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is a boring attempt at Arena Rock. However, the most forgotten album of all comes in the form of October, their sophomore album that remains a blip in the public memory. And so, in the first edition of Follow-Up Failure in about a year, I will be discussing whether October succeeds or fails.
Boy is one of the best debut albums of the 80s. Reminiscent of a poppier Joy Division, they showed themselves as one of the best of the Post-Punk bunch, up there with Echo & the Bunnymen and Gang of Four, with the echo guitars and consistent drumming that would become part of their classic sound. It’s a fantastic debut, and while not their complete masterpiece like the header above implies, it’s easily good enough for the next album’s failure to be remarked on.
Often times, these follow-up albums have a reputation to them, usually by them being defined by “the x album.” Like how Self Portrait is “the intentionally bad album,” and how Encore is “the sophomoric album,” you’ll often see October described as “the Christian album.” And it’s true; October is by far their most Christian focused album, instead of the politics of Boy, War, and The Unforgettable Fire, and the emotional simplicity of The Joshua Tree onward. But to be honest, I’ve never cared much what the religious beliefs are to an artist, as long as you can enjoy the music regardless. So how’s the music itself?
The major problem is that, for the most part, it never comes across as urgent and lively like Boy did. In a way, it almost comes across as slightly unfinished. Sure, some of the songs here are great, like “Gloria” and “I Fall Down,” but after that, the album comes across as very repetitive and half-baked. Outside of the piano piece “October,” every song sounds the same, which is not helped by the production.
The story goes that, only two weeks before recording was about to start, Bono lost all the lyrics he had, forcing the band to start from scratch. Along with that, recording was rushed, since the band was steadfast on releasing the album in October 1981, only a year after their first release. This helps explain not only the the repetitive writing, but also the production, where the songs sound muddy, which works for the atmospheric bits, but not so much the actual song parts.
October is not a terrible album by any stretch. It is, however, a disappointing album. It lacks the urgency and crispness of its predecessor, not helped by sloppy writing. Is it worth listening to? Definitely, it’s still a good album. However, in the case of this still being about how an album is following another, I’ll have to deem this:
Tomorrow: Why are there so few female rappers?
You know what I love more than anything else in music criticism? Older critics and “le wrong generation” kids who constantly talk about “the downfall of popular music.” They talk about how popular music has gotten so much worse in recent years than it ever was before, with all your Katy Perrys and Lady Gagas and Kanye Wests. And now, they believe that they have more fuel to their fire than ever before, with what they believe is the death of music with wit or intelligence or any thought at all, with the rise in EDM.
Since at least the 70s, electronic dance music has been popular in clubs and french discotheques, evolving from disco into various forms as it evolved with progression in music, with genres such as Jungle, Trance, and Drum ‘n’ Bass all having their time to shine in clubs and raves. But for the first time, two of these previously niche genres have found their way into Popular music, slowly but surely taking a slice of pop music success. And while the Billboard Hot 100 is still primarily dominated by rappers and “R ‘n’ B singers, producers are definitely marking their own hits, even going back a few years with artists like David Guetta, going to now with artists like Avicii.
Right now, EDM is divided is divided into two sub genres that get the most pop attention, ever since Dubstep fell by the wayside near the end of 2012. On the popper side, you have the boringlly-named genre of EDM, which is the stuff like Avicii and Calvin Harris, which is usually based on a simple verse that usually consists of repeating lines, followed by a chorus of electronic euthanasia, with blaring notes that signal when everyone starts dancing by jumping and thrusting their fists into the air.
The 2nd, and the one that I find more interesting, is Trap music. Trap music is to EDM what Crunk was to “thugs need love 2” ballads back in 2004. While EDM is based on using synths as a way to reach an emotional breakthrough, Trap is music designed for when everyone in the club starts humping everything in sight, signified by high-pitched synths, rapid hi-hat drum machine beats, and barely any lyrics at all. Just think “Harlem Shake,” and you got it. And now, Trap music has had its biggest hit separate from “Harlem Shake,” which only got popular due to internet fame, with “Turn Down For What,” the greatest song ever written.
Now you may wonder why I just went 4 paragraphs without discussing this song. And that’s because there’s not much to say about this song. And that’s because there’s nothing to really say about it. It’s a barrage of high-pitched synths, heavy bass, and Lil Jon screaming one line over and over again until it’s embedded in your mind.And really, that’s all you need for this. You really don’t need much for a song like this, a song designed to be played when everyone is drunk past the point of comprehension, and it’s time for the messiest party you’ve ever hosted. Lil Jon is perfect on this song, screaming at the top of his lungs about how fucked up everyone at this party is going to get, and DJ Snake creates the perfect beat for a song like this.
Every decade has their perfect dance song, a song designed not for thought, but to get the people up and ready to party. The 50s had “The Twist”, the 60s had “Tighten Up”, the 70s had the entire disco movement, the 80s had “Safety Dance”, the 90s had “Groove is in the Heart”, the 00s had “Crank Dat”, and now, we have “Turn Down for What,” a song so stupid, you have to enjoy it. And if this is the downfall of popular music, I don’t mind one bit.
Tomorrow: Follow-Up Failure: U2’s October
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, for this Month, I’ll be trying my best to write an article every day, to make up for the last few months, where I posted, at most, two articles a month. So, here are 30 new articles, and hopefully you’ll enjoy them. Next up…
Weezer is one of the most controversial bands I’ve ever seen, which is ironic since they don’t really do anything to be controversial, and that’s exactly what they’re controversial for. After releasing two of my favorite albums ever, The Blue Album and Pinkerton, Weezer changed. After the hostile reception Pinkerton got from fans and critics alike, they released The Green Album, an album that tried to get back to the charm of the first album, but without the wit that came before. After a mediocre reception, they followed that with the underrated Maladroit and the bloated Make Believe, neither of which got them back the love they had before.
After those two releases, Weezer finally released the album that doomed them to the reputation of being guys who wrote samey songs with corny lyrics that have no place being written by a 40 year old man. that was The Red Album, a collection of 10 songs that would likely be their most hated release if it hadn’t been followed by Raditude, which was an absolute piece of shit. But I’m here today to stand by its side. The Red Album doesn’t deserve the hate that it gets.
Before you ask, no, I’m not saying The Red Album is amazing, or even great. It’s not even in the top tier of good. It’s somewhere around the 5th best Weezer album, after Hurley but before The Green Album. But as a sign of Weezer falling into a pit they can’t come back to, It’s not. At the very least, it deserves to be respected as a moment where Weezer was willing to take risks, even if not all of them work out. Look at “Everybody Get Dangerous”, for instance. Is it a good song? Hell no, it’s one of the worst songs Weezer has ever done. But it’s a bizarre kind of terrible, one that makes you fascinated in the product, which is better than the awful shown on Make Believe like with “We Are All On Drugs.” And I can respect product that takes chances and doesn’t work more than product that barely tries and barely succeeds.
If there’s a succeeding aspect to this album, it’s the fact that it feels like an album written in 20 minutes. Usually, that’s an insult, but here, it makes the album more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Instead of feeling like the band was doing their best to write an album that could be considered smart and thought-provoking, Rivers Cuomo wrote a whole album about how he’s dumb and awesome, and sometimes, that emotion makes its way to you, and you just got to sing along.
I still think it’s funny how Weezer is criticized for trying way too hard to get back to their old sound by writing the same song over and over again, when this album shows the biggest hit to that concept. “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” is an awesome song, showing Rivers’ clear love for music, and his natural talent for composing. It’s a fantastic 2nd track, one that brings the whole album up. Even with the songs that are typical Weezer, it’s not like they’re bad takes on that. “Pork and Beans” is a really great song that would make perfect sense on The Green Album, “Troublemaker” is so stupid you can’t help but enjoy it in a way, and “Heart Songs” and “Dreamin” are really sweet in a naive way. Even “Thought I Knew”, sung by Brian Bell, is fun and poppy, and Patrick Wilson’s “Automatic” is nice middle-road Radio rock.
Overall, I do enjoy The Red Album. I don’t seek it out, but sometimes, you just need some non-serious music in a very serious music scene. It’s a dumb album, and that’s exactly what it went for.
Tomorrow: Turn Down for What Song Review
Right now, The Black Keys are likely the biggest rock band in the world. With the White Stripes dissolved, Interpol and the Strokes disappearing up their own asses, and Radiohead drifting further and further from major attention, however, there isn’t much competition for them in today’s landscape. What other “traditional” rock bands are there right now? There’s Queens of the Stone Age and the Arctic Monkeys, but QotSA haven’t been able to reach the success of “No One Knows” since then, and Arctic Monkeys are pretty safe staying in the boundaries of the UK and teenage girls drooling over Alex Turner on their Tumblrs.
The Black Keys, meanwhile, have gotten bigger than ever in the last four years, with two classic albums, Brothers and El Camino, under their belt for the 2010s, and massive singles like “Tighten Up” and “Gold on the Ceiling” staying in the minds of the public. Now, with their brand new release Turn Blue, they attempt to continue their success of old fashioned Garage Blues along with a few ned concepts added to their sound. How does it hold up to their previous releases? Well, it doesn’t.
Across their previous releases before 2010, the Black Keys kept a general theme of “less is more”, similar to their counterparts the White Stripes. The sound was nothing but guitar, drums, and vocals, with little to no overdubs. Over time, however, a slow buildup in sound appeared, starting with Bass in Attack and Release, to keyboards throughout El Camino. Here, they merge the swampy rock of Brothers with the straight-ahead rock of Camino, creating an album reminiscent of late 60s Psychedelic records. The problem, however, comes in a simple form: the Black Keys aren’t good at doing 60s psychedelia, which usually wasn’t very good to begin with.
I’m not talking about the softer Psychedelic stuff, of course: Forever Changes and Sgt Pepper are untouchable. I’m talking about your Psychedelic hard rock, where otherwise decent rock bands were buried under mountains of sound effects and manipulation. And unfortunately, that’s the major problem throughout all of this album. There are a lot of decent ideas and songs throughout, but because of producer Danger Mouse, every song is weakened by overdubbed keys and vocal tracks, taking away the grit that was the Black Keys’ major charm for their earlier stuff, while slowing down the songs that take from Camino that gave that album its sense of fun.
The album also has a major problem with monotony. Outside of the opener and closer, the album sounds the same throughout, never changing from its Psychedelic haze of guitars and keyboards. There are a few songs with more of an acoustic sound, but even those are drowned out by effects. It doesn’t even have the advantage of the shortness of the albums it’s taken off of, with its 45 minute length not being an insanely long length, but certainly long enough to drag. It’s just kind of a boring album, once you realize that even the better songs sound similar.
If there’s one saving grace to this album, however, it is the opening track. “Weight of Love” is a monster, lasting 7 minutes and acting like an intro to the best 60s movie you’ve never seen. Using the added bass lines to its advantage, and using the effects to create a spacey atmosphere instead of as a mere attempt to fill space, it’s what the album should have been like, with a climactic solo showing that there still is genius in these guys. The closing track “Gotta Get Away” is also a highlight, reminiscent of CCR, which has never been a bad thing.
Turn Blue isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely not as good as to be expected. With a few glimpses of strong songwriting buried under effects and a monotonous soundscape, it’s a dull album that’s not worth much attention.At least it’s better than most albums it ripped off.
Best Song: Weight of Love
Worst Song: Turn Blue
Tomorrow: I defend Weezer’s The Red Album