Stressed Out (Twenty-One Pilots): iconic anthem of the Millennials.

twenty-one-pilots-feature

Rock and pop music in recent decades (since the 1960s) have always had iconic songs and music styles that define the angst and existential concerns of generations that were coming of age when those songs and music styles were popular.   For the Boomers, it was  The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, or The Who’s “My Generation” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For “Generation Jones” (my own age group) — those straddling the Boom and Gen-X (who were born approximately 1956-1966) — their iconic music was punk rock and the new wave of the early 1980s.   For Gen-X, it was Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box.”  For Gen-Y (those straddling Gen-X and Millennials), Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or Blink 182’s music might be good examples.

What about Millennials? Since 2009 or so, rock music as we knew it seems to have died as a genre, at least on mainstream radio. It’s been usurped by EDM, hip hop influenced R&B, and pure pop.   But there are still a few mainstream bands that retain rock sensibilities (even if they’re not exactly rock) and produce music expressing this generation’s own unique sort of angst.    Twenty-One Pilots — a newish band that mixes elements of hip hop, rock, pop, and EDM — seems to get them best, and of course it doesn’t hurt the bandmembers are themselves Millennials.

I really enjoy the music of 21 Pilots, even though I’m way past Millennial age — in fact I have adult Millennial children.  Their 2015 rap-rocker, “Stressed Out,” I think captures Millennial angst best:  the feelings of pressure to succeed in a society that has made their entry into the adult world so incredibly difficult, coupled with a nostalgic longing to return to the childhood world of fantasy, when adults promised them they could be and do anything they wanted.   The bleak economic reality that faces them as they enter the adult years has proven everything they were promised they could achieve as children was a lie.    “Stressed Out” is an anthem that describes that frustrating experience that– to a lesser degree or another — affects my own kids and all of their friends.   It’s also just a great song, well-crafted, with extremely catchy hooks and very listenable.

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Weekend Melody: First (Cold War Kids)

I know it’s only Sunday, but this song was on my mind and I didn’t want to forget, so I’m posting this early.  I thought I’d forget about it by Monday, so I had to call this a “weekend melody” instead.

“First” by Cold War Kids is one of the rare newer songs that will ever appear in this series.  Unlike most of the more recent dance and pop music that has dominated the airwaves since 2009 – 2011 or so, “First” both rocks and also has emotional depth.   I do like much of the newer EDM and pop, but as a teenager of the ’70s and a twentysomething of the ’80s,  my heart will always remain that of a rock fan, and the vast majority of post-2010 music doesn’t, well, rock.  This one does — and at the same time seems current and relevant.

Not only is this an outstanding song, the video for it is phenomenal.   I love the non-linear structure of the story.   It seems to be about someone with a drinking or drug problem that gets in the way of his relationships, but without the video, I think it the song could also be describing a relationship with someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, with or without the chemical substances.

This is terrifyingly (and hilariously) accurate!

Following is a mindblowing video showing how six recent bro-country hits ALL SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME.

In addition, the lyrics almost always involve a scantily dressed country girl (always named “Girl” and always dressed in cutoff jeans, daisy dukes, or tight ripped jeans), beer, a river or body of water, moonlight, a pickup truck with the tailgate down, more beer, said girl dancing on the tailgate, a horny guy, and enough beer to refill the aforementioned body of water should it dry up. It’s always summer and the radio is always on.

There’s some variety though: in a few bro country songs lots of mud is involved. Or even homemade wine standing in for the beer. A few have a slight hip hop influence. But the musical formula never changes. Ever.

For the best experience, maximize your screen to watch the video. Watch the black bar moving to the right across the screen through segments showing the exact locations of the intros, verses, transitions, guitar solos, 1st and 2nd chorus, bridges/breakdowns (I call this the “quiet before the storm”), drum explosions in the final chorus outre, the final woah woahs, etc. There’s barely any variation in their placement! This is as fascinating to watch as to listen to. It’s awesome. I could watch this 100 times. I kid you not. *

The formula is so generic and sounds so similar to most commercial pop rock of about 5 and more years ago (Nickelback, The Fray, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, and many others) that I bet a mashup could be done mixing some of those older pop-rock songs with today’s bro-country you’d see no difference in the timed graphs in the video!


Credit: created by Gregory Todd aka Sir Mashalot, and for updates on his next video and mp3 of this song, he can be found at https://www.facebook.com/sirmashalot.gregorytodd

These songs are all ridiculously catchy even if you hate this genre. Bro country is barely country at all–it’s formulaic pop-rock with a banjo and a twang.

For more about the phenomenon (or scourge) of bro-country, read this article.

* My guilty little secret is I like bro country I like Lady Gaga.

“Also a Fox” reviews the 12 Best Songs of 2014 on Radio Recall

On December 30, I posted my son’s review of the 12 Worst Songs of 2014 on his channel, Radio Recall. Those songs were truly awful.
Here are his 12 Best Songs of 2014. Enjoy!

How is this band still unsigned?

This song, released by the brother-sister duo Galt Aureus on their album “Citadels” (2009) is hauntingly beautiful. I can’t believe they’re still unsigned by any label.

Enjoy!

Our Own Versailles Lyrics
If floods will come all our lives,
just climb the stairs, let the water rise,
we’ll build ourselves up to a towering height.

From the hollow of our hands,
all we’ve never had:

bright lights,
in our own Versailles,
everything becomes alive:
our own chateau tonight.

No starless nights for you and me,
we’ve always seen and dreamed then built what could be,

from the hollow of our hands,
fashion all we’ve never had.

bright lights,
in our own Versailles,
everything becomes alive:
our own chateau

bright lights,
in our own Versailles,
everything becomes alive:
our own chateau tonight.

Tonight- the stars, you and I will shine.

Lyrics found here

12 more songs about narcissism

Narcissism is a hot topic, and popular music is no exception, especially since so many songs are about relationships gone bad and breakups with narcissistic lovers. Whenever possible, I tried to include lyric videos.

1. Christina Aguilera: Vanity

Speaks for itself.

2. Sara Bareilles: King of Anything

Fairly recent, nice indie pop song about a not so nice malignant narcissist.

3. Queen: I Want it All

I couldn’t find a lyric video, but here’s the lyrics:

Adventure seeker on an empty street,
Just an alley creeper, light on his feet
A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt
With the pain and anger can’t see a way out,
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say,
Gotta find me a future move out of my way,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,

Listen all you people, come gather round
I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground
Just give me what I know is mine,
People do you hear me, just give me the sign,
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,

I’m a man with a one track mind,
So much to do in one life time (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and where’s and why’s and living lies
So I’m living it all, yes I’m living it all,
And I’m giving it all, and I’m giving it all,
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth,
Here’s to the future, hear the cry of youth,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now…

4. Madonna: Material Girl

Madonna purportedly suffers from NPD herself. I don’t doubt it. Still a great 1980s classic though.

5. Rush: Malignant Narcissism (instrumental)

No words, but the title says it all so it belongs here anyway. Good hard rock jam.

6. The Police: Every Breath You Take

The dude in this 1986 megahit definitely seems psychopathic to me.

7. Michelle Branch: Are You Happy Now

Angry pop rock from 2003 about a girl left by her narcissisict lover.

8. Three Days Grace: Just Like You

Don’t want to get infected by her evil!

9. Shawn Colvin: Get Out of this House

The lyrics are oblique and this song may not be about a narcissistic relationship, it could be just a bad breakup but it’s still a great song so I’m posting it anyway. I could not find a lyric video for this.

10. Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive

I have looked, but there seem to be very, very few songs about narcissism prior to the 1980s (isn’t that an interesting statement about how our society has changed?), but here’s a disco song with a victorious message about escaping from what appears to have been an abusive relationship with a narcissist. This has become a sort of female empowerment anthem but I don’t see why it couldn’t apply to guys escaping from narcissistic women too.

11. Imagine Dragons: Demons

Sounds like an insightful malignant narcissist to me, warning his prey! Sam, did you actually write this?

12. Carrie Underwood: Cowboy Casanova

Catchy country-pop take on a narcissistic relationship.

See also these two posts for even more songs about narcissism!
1. 20 songs about narcissists #1-10
2. 20 songs about narcissists #11-20

The song that helped me cope after going No Contact

Something about this hit song from 2013 and early 2014 just makes me feel so good. It give off a lot of positive energy for me.

Right after I went No Contact with my MN ex in February, my son ranked this #1 for the year 2013 on his Youtube radio show, Radio Recall. I could see why he liked it so much. It quickly became one of my favorites too and from February through the time I began this blog in September, it actually helped me feel…well, safe and sound.

I know this song has been criticized for sounding like a commercial jingle (and I don’t like too much current pop), but I don’t care if it’s “bad” music and for this I make an exception. I also love the history of dance sequence shown in the video.

I’m not sure–maybe it’s the almost subliminal “hold your ground” in the backup chorus that made me feel so strong and courageous whenever I’d hear this.

“Ten Feet Tall”

I’m not too huge a fan of most current pop music and EDM, but occasionally I hear a song I really like. Having kids in their early 20s does keep me up on current music. I really liked what I heard of the first song used in my son’s dance comp entry, and found out it’s this song called “Ten Feet Tall” by Afrojack and Wrabel. There’s nothing all that unique about the song, but I think it’s very soulful and he has an incredible voice.

Bro-country is where pop-rock went.

tailgate

Something strange happened to music at the dawn of the second decade of this century. The sort of pop-rock “alternative” music that had been wildly popular on Top 40 radio since the late 1990s suddenly disappeared from the airwaves, to be replaced primarily with electronic dance music (EDM), r&b crooners like Bruno Mars, and pop divas like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga. This change happened so fast I can pinpoint the year and month it happened: January of 2010. “Halfway Gone” by the band Lifehouse is the very last generic alt-pop-rock song I remember getting any airplay. There may have been others later, but evidently they never caught on and quickly disappeared. We went from zero to sixty, or should we say Green Day to Gotye in just one year.

What happened to Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Matchbox Twenty, Daughtry, Seether, Lifehouse, The Killers (who are actually really good), and all the other generic (but mostly insidiously catchy) pop-rock bands that dominated the airwaves throughout the first decade of the 21st century (particularly from about 2005 – 2009)? Were they abducted by aliens? Did they all suddenly get sucked into a black hole? Did their generic brand of “rock” become illegal?

No, of course not. I imagine they’re counting their millions, but they’re no where to be found on the airwaves anymore. Those guys are older now, probably building ranches in Montana and raising their kids, with the occasional tour thrown in to let their diehard fans know they’re not dead yet.

But as for the music they made, their catchy pop-rock fake-alternative sound hasn’t gone anywhere–it just found a new home. On country radio.

That’s right. Around 2010-11, about the same time “rock” disappeared from Top 40, a new genre of “country” music appeared: Bro-country. Luke Bryan with his radioactive smile leads the pack, and everyone else seems to be trying to sound exactly like him. What is bro-country? Basically, it’s generic pop-rock with a banjo and a twang. The lyrics, unlike true country (but a lot like much generic rock music) is about sex, drugs (weed and coke being replaced with beer) and partying hard. If you listen to a few bro-country songs, you’ll notice they describe the exact same scene: a hot girl (always referred to as “Girl”–she never has a name) wearing short shorts (Daisy Dukes) or tight cutoff jeans and a bikini top, dancing on the tailgate of a pickup truck, and it’s always summer, always at night, always under the moonlight, and the party’s always taking place by a river or other body of water. Oh, and there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. An entire ocean of beer.

brocountry

Now, on to the sound. A few are made by legitimate country stars, who have jumped on the bro-country bandwagon, but most are by newcomers to country–guys who were more likely listening to Green Day back in 2005 than Tim McGraw. And, as in the rock music of the recent past, women are largely not welcome. It’s definitely a boy’s club. But women can and do listen to the music.

Some bro-country songs do lean more on the country side of the fence, but the vast majority of bro-country songs can be more accurately described as pop-rock. Take away the token banjo and the twang (which may or may not be genuine), and what you have is a driving pop rock beat, heavy production, electric bass and guitars, a melodic chorus, and rock-star-like posturing. There’s often a rap bridge too, as there is in Cruise by Florida-Georgia Line featuring rap artist Nelly.

Listen to this other enormously popular song by the same band (without Nelly this time) and tell me which mid-2000s pop-rock band it sounds like.
If you said 3 Doors Down, you’d be right on the money.

Here’s another song from earlier this year by a Luke Bryan ripoff band Parmalee. While I can’t identify which Top 40 pop-rock band they sound like (probably because they all sound the same), it definitely doesn’t sound country to me.
It also sounds almost identical to this song by Blake Shelton and this song by Luke Bryan, who’s become the template for this hopefully short lived genre. It’s kinda spooky–all three of those songs (and countless others) have the exact same melody, the exact same guitar riff, and are about the same thing. I suppose record labels can save money by recycling the same song to different artists, with minimal changes and pass it off as a new song.

Country music concerts (well, bro country concerts anyway) have also been getting wilder–a lot more like rock concerts, complete with screaming young girls, arrests, open-air sex (probably on the tailgate of a pickup), drunken tailgate parties after and during the shows, and even people making the “devil horns” hand gesture usually associated with rock music. I recently attended a bro country concert (my daughter is a huge Luke Bryan fan and I went with her because my guilty little secret is that I think he’s hotter than Miami in August and his songs are catchy) and was shocked how much it reminded me of the rock concerts I used to attend–most of those attending were under 25, and everyone was shitfaced. And in keeping with the theme, most of the women were wearing daisy dukes or cutoff jeans with skimpy tank tops, sometimes a plaid unbuttoned man’s shirt hanging over the whole shebang or tied at the navel.

I read the other day that bro-country is wearing its welcome, and there’s been a demand by pure country fans for more authentic country music without all the pop/rock influences, and with more meaningful lyrics (I guess it’s more authentic to cry in your whiskey because your cheatin’ woman is doing you wrong than it is to have a beer party on the tailgate of a Chevy truck in the moonlight). There’s also a lot of country fans complaining that except for the Big Three female country singers (Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift, who ain’t even country anymore), no female artists get airplay on country radio anymore. I believe it. And I don’t blame them for being mad. It’s time for country divas with something to say to burn down the boys’ clubhouse. I remember not too long ago, women used to have this same problem in the rock music industry.

I’ve read somewhere recently that a lot of rockers who were evicted from the airwaves a few years ago have moved to Nashville. So maybe the guys from Nickelback, Staind, and 3 Doors Down are now penning songs for Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch.

Hopefully all those drunken tailgate parties taking place down by the river have a designated driver.