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Archive for September, 2009

10 Years, 100 Songs: #33. “Watch Out, We Run New York…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 30, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

With the possible exception of his wife, no one had a wire-to-wire lock on the 00s quite like Sean Carter. His omnipresence during the Naughty Oughties was as such that even during his supposed “retirement” years, Jigga’s imprint could still be felt throughout pop music, on his guest verses, hit singles by his proteges, or just hit singles by outsiders that sampled his voice (T.I.’s “Bring ‘Em Out” and Cassidy’s “I’m a Hustla” basically keeping Jay in the top 40 for another six months without him even having to lift a finger). The list of songs he could’ve had on this list is staggering–“Big Pimpin’,” “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” “Izzo (H.O.V.A),” “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “99 Problems,” even up to recent singles like “Roc Boys (…And the Winner Is)” and “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”–there’d be decent arguments for all of them being the Jay-Z song on this list. It didn’t hit home just how many songs this guy had that had become inextricable parts of the last decade and a half of American music until I saw him this year at the All Points West festival, and towards he started plowing through his hits for just one verse before moving on to get as many of them in as possible–and still left a couple big ones out.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #34. “The Two Sides of My Brain Need to Have a Meeting…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 27, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

Looking back on the breakthrough of the run the White Stripes had this decade, I think the most interesting thing about them is how for a band that seemed so concerned with bringing old-school authenticity back to rock–going so far as to intentionally exclude instruments from the last 40 years on one of their albums–they really relied very heavily on cheap pop gimmickry. They dressed in color-coded outfits, they lied to the public about their personal relationship to create mystery, and they released eye-popping music videos–none of which you could really see band idols like Robert Johnson or the MC5 necessarily approving of. Not that I’m calling them out for it–it was all that stuff that made The White Stripes interesting to an audience with relatively few blues or garage-rock-revivalist artists in their music collections, which allowed them to become such an integral part of Naughty Oughties pop cutlure. But it’s still interesting to look back on all their PR dalliances, especially when the song that broke them with the general public was as raw, kinetic and frilless as “Fell in Love With a Girl.” Read the rest of this entry »

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #35. “He Says All the Right Things, At Exactly the Right Time…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 25, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I wrote a sizeable entry on this one a while back in my abortive “100 Years, 100 Songs” project–just too many years, you know–and I thought it was pretty good and at the very least pretty thorough, so I’m just going to copy and paste it here after the jump. One note, though–you might recall in my discussion of Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” (which I mention in my Vertical Horizon article, as I always associated the two songs together) that I discussed my (admittedly none-too-original) opinion of the song actually being more about religious awakening than romantic love. Well, I was talking with my friends about that revelation a while ago when one of them brought up the possibility that this song was also about similar themes–that the “everything you want” was really spiritual yearning, not sexual frustration.

Unlike with “Hanging By a Moment,” where I quickly came to appreciate the song as being richer for this alternate meaning, my visceral reaction to hearing this suggested about “Everything You Want” was one of disbelief and near-betrayal. It just felt like such a personal subject matter, one so easily relatable for anyone who’s ever experienced even the slightest bit of romantic angst. It was definitely a song of weighty personal meaning to me when I was younger. But, sure enough, I started thinking about it, and the lyrics started to seem less about a guy wondering why a girl can’t see why he’s the man for her, and more about a religious figure wondering why so many people worshiped false prophets instead of him. A couple lines in the chorus–“He is everything inside of you that you wish you could be / He says all the right things at exactly the right time”–especially started to stick out. Lead singer Matt Scannell denies this, luckily–he says it’s actually about a girl he loved who was kind of fucked up and definitely not interested–but it’s a feeling from the song that I can’t really shake now. Judge for yourself, I suppose.

Maybe read the thing I wrote a couple years ago, though. One reader said about it something to the effect of “No offense, but that article is really, really funny if you read it as straight satire.” I took it as a compliment.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #36. “Don’t Leave Me Locked in Your Heart…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 23, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

You don’t see career arcs like Kylie Minogue’s anymore. I don’t even know if you ever did, really, but you certainly don’t these days. Australian one-hit wonder (two to be generous) from the late 80s disappears from American soil for a decade and a half, and then comes back to be more popular than ever? Think of it this way–how many people do you think are holding out for comebacks from Natalie Imbruglia or Merril Bainbridge come next decade? OK, that might be slightly unfair, since Kylie at least maintained her popularity and relevancy the whole time overseas, but for those stateside who knew her just from her cover of “The Loco-Motion” in 1988, her re-emergence must’ve been about as shocking as it would have been if Charles in Charge was brought back for a comeback season. Then again, after hearing the song that re-catapulted Kylie to the national spotlight, I imagine most of those people just shrugged and said “all right, fair enough.”

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #37. “Lucky, Lucky, You’re So Lucky…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 22, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

American pop in the Naughty Oughties was not terribly kind to our friends across the pond. Sure, we let a couple harmless piano-players past the velvet rope, and Estelle and Lady Sovereign got through for a minute with endorsements from Kanye and Jay-Z, but generally speaking, the biggest cultural UK phenoms of the decade–bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, rappers like Dizzee Rascal and The Streets–were kept rather firmly at bay, not even allowed Oasis-in-’96 levels of exposure. Doing their damnedest to keep the Euro torch alive stateside, however, were dashing Scots Franz Ferdinand, who in everything from their dress (sleek and stylish) to their sense of rhythm (they had one) to their name (inspired by the Austrian prime minister whose assassination largely set off WWI), absolutely screamed “Y’all ain’t from around here.” They weren’t particularly innovative, but they certainly sounded like nothing else on the radio, and the fact that they were allowed modern rock airplay in between Velvet Revolver and Breaking Benjamin jams seemed damn near revolutionary.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #38. “If That Ain’t Love, Then I Don’t Know What Love Is…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 20, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I don’t know why or how it is exactly that I ended up giving such a sappy, heartfelt and generally critically-reviled stretch around this corner of the list–dutiful readers will no doubt recall the placement of Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” and Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah” in rather recent entries–but I do apologize. Know that I don’t necessarily enjoy writing these in such rapid succession any more than you do reading them (but what can I say? I’m a slave to objectivity). With that in mind, and also considering that I’ve already written something about it on IITS (though upon further review, not really one of my finer efforts), I’m going to keep this entry limited to just a few key points. I trust there will be no objections, as I think I’ve only ever met one other person that could even stand this song, let alone go to bat for it on this level.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #39. “Pick the Insects Off of Plants, No Time to Think of Consequence…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 17, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

First things first here: While it is “Kids” that I decided to write about it for this article, there are two other MGMT songs that could have just as easily slotted into this place on our list. In fact, not since Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair–where I would have trouble choosing between “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout” and “Head Over Heels,” even in an all-time list–can I remember one album producing three songs of such stunning (and more important, equally stunning) quality as MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular did last year. “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” and “Kids” are all such sonically wonderous, viscerally exciting songs, that any one of them could’ve served as a career-making, era-marking single all by their lonesome. That MGMT were able to squeeze three songs of that quality on one album–a debut album, no less–surely ranks as one of the greatest musical achievements of the Naughty Oughties.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #40. “Oh, It’s What You Do To Me…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

It seems that me that when you get a really good song which, for whatever reason, doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio, it tends to either not make it at all as a hit, or become monstrously successful. If a song is too good (or just too notable) for the public to ignore it, all it needs is that little commercial push for it to completely take off in flight. This is how songs like Kid Cudi’s “Day n Nite” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” become top five hits–all the powers that be (radio, MTV, music supervisors on medical dramas) need to do is to let people know that this weird-sounding song is worth consideration in the sphere of popular music, and the song does the rest of the work from there. That’s how I see it, anyway. And that’s why after I listened to Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah” for the first time after it snuck into the top half of the charts, I basically had no doubt that it was going to be enormous.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #41. “Desperate for Changing, Starving for Truth…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

The reasons why most people reflexively dismiss Christian rock songs are obvious. Rock is primarily a secular enterprise–music is close enough to a religion in its own right that it feels almost overbearing to bring traditional faith and worship into the mix as well. What’s more, the majority of the genre tends to be kind of preachy, and for those of us who do not share the beliefs of these musicians or simply do not feel the need to express them so fervently, it can be fairly alienating to listen to. Put simply, no one wants to worry about going to hell while air-guitaring. Still, there are (or at least can be) general concepts and emotions at the core of religion-based rock–love, fear, hope, wonderment–that make them just as universal as songs about romance, partying, and cranking that Soulja Boy.

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Eugoogly: Jim Carroll and Patrick Swayze

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 14, 2009

Nothing much to say. Just a couple of essential YouTubes.

R.I.P. Jim Carroll, 1950-2009

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze, 1952-2009

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