41. “Roar”- Katy Perry

I went to an all-boys high school where the student body was pretty hot for Katy Perry, and I was all like, um, no, BEYONCE…but that’s not the point. The point is that there’s nothing special about Katy Perry, aesthetically or sonically, yet she still continues to release chart toppers amongst the strongest group of female solo pop stars, um, ever. A few years ago, I would have pleaded to the music gods during one of the millions of times “Firework” was played on the radio and asked “WHY IS THIS POPULAR??”, but now I just tune out and let Miss Perry do her thing. I’ll still say she’s a pop starter kit for those who find Lady GaGa too weird for their tastes (boo those people), but I’ll also say that she surrounds herself with good songwriters, and that her voice, when layered almost indistinguishably on top of itself so many times like a vanilla wedding cake, actually sounds kinda good kinda.

40. “Wake Me Up!”- Avicii and Aloe Blacc

2013 was chock full of strange EDM crossovers, as if studio execs threw up their arms and decided that every musical styling needed some synthetic dancing and dramatic laser shows. Not nearly the strangest, but certainly the most visible, Swedish DJ king Avicii’s hit “Wake Me Up!” successfully blends Aloe Blacc’s Appalachian folk vocals, Incubus’s Mike Eizenger’s acoustic strumming, and Avicii living comfortably inside of his “Levels” reign (you love that song). On paper, European house and Appalachian folk don’t seem to mix, but…aw heck…the truth is a lot the strange crossovers that I loved so much to put on this list don’t make a lot of sense, and that it’s a bit obvious to point that out. I’ll instead say that while Avicii isn’t nearly the best nor the most original of the contemporary popular DJs, he comes the closest to making “pop” music, and the closest to making EDM a legitimate force on worldwide top-40 charts. Just don’t expect folk-EDM to become a thing.

39. “Ain’t That The Way”- Divine Fits

And now, we’re going to take you back to 2007, when a little band out of Austin called “Spoon” became the coolest kids on the chart…their album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga would hit the Billboard top 10 thanks to a string of singles that would rip through college radio, making lead singer Britt Daniel a leading tastemaker and producer inside and outside his home state of Texas…and now, Daniel returns into the fray with a new lineup, the so called Divine Fits, a supergroup following in the footsteps of Cream, The Travelling Wilburys, and Bad Company, with a slew of tracks that bring meat and potatoes rock ‘n roll to the indie kids…and now, for your divine pleasure, off their debut album, the Divine Fits, with “Ain’t That The Way…”  That was my Casey Kasem impression, if you couldn’t tell.

38. “Tom Ford”- Jay Z

Jay Z ran out of things to rap about five years ago, and that usually signals the end of a rap career. His main talent now is his deep pocketbook, and if the beats on his most recent LP Magna Carta Holy Grail sound like the best ones money can buy, it’s because they are. “Tom Ford,” the best of the bunch, sounds like an 8-bit trap trailblazer, and far from trying to reclaim any of the lyrical glory he once had, Jigga instead focuses on his pecuniary assets. It may be true that no one outside of the coverboys on Forbes can relate to anything Jay Z raps about anymore, but he delivers it with such style that it convinces the listener that one rapper finally attained the Great American Dream. Hov’s job as a musician is to transport the listener into an entirely different world, and he remarkably succeeds, because he was once a really good musician, remember?

37. “Touch”- Daft Punk

Daft Punk’s modus operandi, besides bringing house music to the rock kids (thank you James Murphy), has been to toe the delicate balance between man and machine and foment the futuristic argument as to what constitutes “life.” These are the guys, after all, that wear robot helmets everywhere and refer to themselves as androids, and with “Touch,” they finally break through with a convincing statement of human-android relations. Paul Williams’s performance is either cheesebomb-fantastic or simply cheesebomb depending on your taste for showtunes, but unlike the impersonal vocoders used on “Digital Love” or “Robot Rock,” Williams’s organic voice gives a human perspective to the band’s subject matter. Supporting Williams are three glorious and singular movements, a la “Paranoid Android,” the most exemplary human-robot manifesto ever composed, and an angelic choir that drops out before the anticipated joyful explosion. Williams’s lonely voice then emerges from the silence: “Touch/sweet touch/you’ve almost convinced me I’m real,” he croons with enough gravitas to merit thrown roses.


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