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The Music of 2017: Quarter 1

I was feeling kinda blah about music this year, until I finally decided I was ready to take a spin on Spotify's Discover Weekly ride again. I always hate doing this, it's like breaking in a new pair of jeans or shoes...but if I just wince, prepare for an onslaught of Stupid and wade in, targeting only female artists on the list of offerings and giving them exactly 20 seconds to bend my ear or get fired forever, I am surprisingly efficient in amassing a manageable number for further study to eventually in love with.

And now, between that and the radio -- which has been kind of incredible lately about putting heavier focus on solo artists with real names and regular bands, like the good old days of the early aughts -- I have a crop of 30 or so new musical prizes I love like new kittens and can't get enough of.


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Sort-of-CD-Rec: Taylor Swift -- 1989: I'm definitely not saying you should stream it through legal channels or buy it new in any way because I do not wish to support the image change that went along with her genre change. But if you were to check it out of the library, or find it secondhand, I would support getting swept up in its poppy joy / the pleasure of a new album that is nearly as good as all her other albums. Just skip that hideous track 6 whose name should not be mentioned. Shake it right off. If you want more detailed thoughts, here is a post I made about it. I'm just going to hit the new-to-me highlights below.

CD Rec: Lucy Hale -- Road Between: Despite having fallen for "Lie a Little Better" last year, it still somehow surprised me to recognize the Spotify thumbnail staring back at me from the country section at the library. I really assumed she'd make her mark in pop music. However, since I tend to feel favorable toward young female country artists with tendencies toward pop crossover, I gave it a whirl, and it is a delight! Not a bad one in the bunch, though only the remaining top half is going to bookend this entry.
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1. Welcome to New York
When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors
Took our broken hearts and put them in a drawer
Everybody here was someone else before


I said it before and I will say it again: GLEE SEASON FOUR THEME SONG.

2. Blank Space
Darling, I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Cool music + all kinds of awesome commentary going on in the lyrics = the self aware meta song of our daydreams.

3. All You Had To Do Was Stay
People like me are gone forever when you say goodbye

I recognize that Logan/Rory of Gilmore Girls is probably not not the ideal fandom dynamic for this song despite my initial mental connection, but it is perfect for someone, and when I find it I will rejoice. Also, the title here is basically my life's motto re: relationships, so.

4. This Love
Been losing grip on sinking ships
You showed up just in time


Speaking of songs that I love at least 50% for their potential fandom applications...this has "swift"-ly grown on me over time, with its echoing waves of vocals.

5. I Know Places
They got the cages, they got the boxes -- and guns
They are the hunters, we are the foxes -- and we run


So has this one. I have grown quite fond of its sleek, slinky feel.

6. Clean
Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you're clean don't mean you don't miss it


Love-sober, that is. This lyric is particularly enchanting to me, but the whole thing is just so beautifully elegant and delicate -- her album closers are always the best.

7. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast (ft. Rachel Bloom/Donna Lynne Champlin) - You Go First
This is almost entirely all my fault
But you have to admit, it's just a tiny bit your fault too


What a good good Heart knockoff. (also, this is where I fell off the show's bandwagon. I haven't heard anything since, in case you were wondering)

8. Wrabel – 11 Blocks
11 blocks from my door to your doorstep
Three years later and it feels too close


We're going to ignore the poor significant other he's emotionally cheating on with the memory of his ex, because taken at face value, this is a really great Song of Lonesome Pining. There's just something really arresting about the music + lyrics combo of this one that grabbed my ear and made me take notice the very first time I heard it on the radio, which is so rare for a dude to accomplish. Maybe it's the numbers, or maybe it's that there aren't many songs that address what it feels like to break up but still be in fairly close proximity, geographically speaking.

February
9. Beastly Beauty from a show or a...something...called “hitRECord on TV”??
The Beast loved a Beauty, this pretty little thing
She was the fairest of them all, and she could dance and sing
But unlike the beast whose love shined the best
She loved herself, never cared for the rest


I have no idea whatsoever about its origins, but Spotify recommended it for me and HOLY COW what a pretty, Disney-intro-esque, partially French song with a twist on the beast/beauty roles.

10. If I Were A Boy by everyone and no one

BACKSTORY: I rejected this without hearing it because Beyonce. I rejected it again when Glee thought it was being very clever to give it to Unique. I rejected it on Smash due to precedent. In all cases, I frankly assumed it was going to be either some crass song about sex, or about how the singer wants to ask a straight girl out. But then I accidentally ran across the clip of it being performed on Smash, and I loved it. Krysta Rodriguez sounded AMAZING...but unfortunately, even the studio version was less than 2 minutes. So I tried both Glee and Beyonce versions, but there was just something missing. Beyonce's is better, if still lacking something of Krysta's edge, and I was about to settle for it when Spotify offered me a cover by Keiko, and that is closest to the Krysta Rodriguez ideal so that's what I've been listening to, mostly.

SONG REVIEW: I don't necessarily agree with the song 100%, but I can see where one would, and it's very poignant. I am pretty surprised by the softness/slower pace and amount of prominent guitar for a Beyonce song. Also, the Beyonce video? A+ amazing. Policewoman Beyonce is the first Beyonce I've seen in about a decade who doesn't come across as either a sex worker or a self-appointed goddess deigning to look upon her worshipers. (The real issue is that there are worshipers.)

11. Chord Overstreet – Hold On
I'd be so lost if you left me alone

Listen, I can't objectively tell you if this is a good song or not because after five seconds I fell to the floor sobbing with happiness to hear his voice singing again. Knowing it's his own music and less AutoTuned than Glee Studio Magic is just frosting. I will say, though, the lyrical content is nawt exactly a deterrent. [edit: why must this be tainted by Vampire Diaries usage. What vampire has ever been rushed to a hospital. When has country music ever mixed with the CW. Uncouth.]

12. Megan & Liz - Thank God For December
Running down the stairs in the morning to see what Santa brought in
Feeling like a kid when I'm 23 on Christmas Eve


Listen, you show me two young women as a country duo and I'm already 80% on board, but this song delivered. I like its whole message, but the bits of Christmas carols woven in really sold me.

13. Nikita Carmen - Out of the Park
I could write a book on bad dates I've had
Praying it ain’t as good as it gets


Super cute, upbeat country song about finally dating a good one.

14. Lia Marie Johnson - DNA
Hate to see you like a monster so I run and hide

Now for the complete opposite: this is a really pretty and hauntingly melodious song that reminds me of Jasmine Thompson, except I'm pretty sure Jasmine's repertoire doesn't include songs about a violent/alcoholic father.

15. Jakle & Hide: Drive (Oh Wonder cover)
I can’t help but drive away from all the mess you made
You sent this hurricane, now it won’t go away


I didn't even realize this duo included Brittany Snow until I thought I recognized her voice. So great! Slinky electronica.

16. The Accidentals - Parking Lot
Nineteen, so mean, lips that sting like Queen Frostine
She's got an icy disposition
She looked back, and told me, that she was smoking carbon black
I said, “I'll see you in the green room.”


This starts out so slow and spare I'm always like, “what basic a capella did I sign up for?” but then the full band kicks in and I realize, yes. This is catchy and fun. Vaguely reminds me of Courtney Barnett, if she had a song about struggling to make it in the business.

March
17. Clean Bandit ft. Sean Paul/Anne Marie - Rockabye
Now she got a six year old
Trying to keep him warm, trying to keep out the cold


My initial impression was “oh goodness, this is definitely a new and unusual take on the Song For Your Kid / Ode to the Single Mom” genre. The music video has, uh, a lot more scantily clad stripper pole work than I expected, but it's kind of hypnotizing, and I've started to think it is a very thoughtfully done and poignant video. But even if it weren't, the music is pop crossed with calypso reggae and it is straight up amazing. You got a Jamaican accent, you can sing and/or rap at me all day long with very little lyrical scrutiny. (p.s. The actual Clean Bandit members look like cold Norwegian androids. It's great.)

18. Kat Dahlia - Mirror
Well, I don't know the price of your roof
But the first of the month we all pay our dues


This name sounds familiar and this music sounds familiar, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why, except that maybe this some reminds me of someone in my early 00s singer/songwriter stock. I LOVE the lyrics in this, and the grungy grind to her voice.

19. Colbie Caillat - Gypsy Heart (from The Malibu Sessions)
I can't wait to get back out on the road
Counting every mile 'til I get where I'm going


Listen, if you have “gypsy” in your song title, odds are pretty good it is going to somehow appeal to me. And this has a really nice casual, acoustic summer sound to it, so paired with lyrics about driving long distances, then like...sold.

20. Allesia Cara - Seventeen
I was too young to understand what it means
I couldn't wait 'til I could be 17
I thought she lied when she said take my time to breathe


As a teenager who wanted to return to being 11 from age 12 until at least 20, it is inherently my nature to be annoyed at teenage children who want to grow up*, but somehow this one made an enjoyably peppy song out of it. Musically it reminds me of "Scars to Your Beautiful**," but without the teeth-grinding grammar fail that ruined that one for me.
(*then again, maybe this song is still applicable to people like me. There are things to appreciate about being in high school, too, instead of wishing for the impossible.)
(**EDIT: HAHA SAME ARTIST. I thought her name sounded familiar, but I figured she was part of the Madilyn Bailey crew)

21. Bridgit Mendler – 5:15
And at 5:16 if you're not with me
You can catch me in the next city


Now this is the kind of sass I like. Great music, too.

22. Bridgit Mendler – Forgot to Laugh
If you drive away
Hope you get a flat tire, get stranded


Sass x2. This took a bit to grow on me, but soon I found the chorus wonderfully stuck in my head.

23. Colbie Caillat - Blaze
If we're gonna go down in flames, let's go out in blaze

Spotify seems really convinced that I love Colbie Caillat, and I am STILL insisting “no, she boring, do not let her in,” but then she keeps sneaking in anyway and I keep finding these songs that are relatively pleasing to my ears. This one is so ear-pleasing it's convinced me to overlook the fact that the lyrical content is entirely about drunk young idiots on whom the police have been called. Sorcery??

24. Lydia Laird - Hide and Seek
We've been playing hide and seek
I can't find you, won't you find me?
Hurry, count your 1, 2, 3's
I'll wait for you, wait patiently


First of all, look at that gorgeous thumbnail. Second of all, this is such a beautiful ballad apologizing for breaking someone's heart. Third, if you take out the verses, it sounds very much like it could be a Christian song. A good one, I mean. They have those. You've seen me bring them to you. Fourth, also if you ignore the verses, this sounds like it could be a song about me and how I view all of my friendships ever. (And I'm sorry I ran away before...)

25. Sarah McLachlan – Forgiveness
You ask for forgiveness, you're asking too much
I have sheltered my heart in a place you can't touch


Another new Sarah McLachlan album, another round of disappointment too strong to give it a second go-around. This ballad was the only one that jumped out at me and sounded like Classic Sarah. I keep picture a woodsy cabin setting in the chill of late fall.

26. Marian Hill -- Down (this is my fave video version I'm linking to here)
Started as a quiet Friday night
I don't really think that we should fight this
What if we don't stop until it's light?


I am going to freely admit to my bias in that I heard all the synthesizer beats and accents going on here combined with minimal lyrical content, and I went, "Vanity piece for one of the chicks who usually support rap artists? Probably claims the song actually belongs to some useless producer guy instead of the actual female vocalist? Pass." But it got stuck in my head, so I looked it up to play it once, and -- LOOK AT YOU BEING CLASSY AND BEAUTIFUL?? Using the synthesizer for fun instead of to pump up a mediocre voice? OK. I dig it.

27. Lucy Hale - You Sound Good to Me
Like an old song on the radio
That you grew up to and everybody knows


I mean, how great is that comparison? What a great mental image it conjures up. This is the opening track, and it just continues on its hot streak for at least 5 tracks straight.

28. Lucy Hale - From the Backseat
Even when he stopped to pull over
He never took his hand off of her shoulder


I positively adore this ode to driving, from the kid on a road trip with her stupid in love parents, to that kid's experiences growing up.

Voice: You love it because the car named in the song is a Corolla.
RS: I mean that doesn't make me like it less.

29. Lucy Hale - Nervous Girls
For Heather waiting tables, tryin' to pick up from the past
For Jenny with that diamond ring and a vow that didn't last


This is a song that would be very slow, if it were not for its beautiful lyrics and string of named women with glimpses of sad stories.

30. Lucy Hale ft. Joe Nichols - Red Dress
Baby, it's you I remember when I hear that song
Singing out the chorus till your voice was gone


This is really jarring because the dude sounds old enough to be her dad, and it makes me uncomfortable that they're singing about their past relationship. However, it is incredibly upbeat and catchy, if one of the more Country on the record, and I kind of get a kick out of the fact that her voice almost seems to increase in twang to match his stronger accent.

31. Lucy Hale - Goodbye Gone
I can stay out late if it makes me happy
Flirt with the boy who's looking at me
Whatever it takes to break this heartbreak I've had way too long.


In which lil' Miss Lucy at first sounds like she's getting her best Carrie Underwood revenge voice on, but really she's just aggressively determined to forget this dude. After stealing his car and pawning his ring.
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List Extras:
Sia's "Cheap Thrills"
-- which I was convinced was Rihanna for so long that I still don't really know how handle this perspective shift -- and "The Greatest" (why is it not called "Stamina" though) are both in immensely heavy rotation on the radio right now, and I can't quiiite bring myself to adore them, but I find them catchy enough that they usually eclipse whatever crap is playing on the rest of the stations at any given moment, so I have come to enjoy them when I encounter them. Fun music with surprisingly decent rap guests (Cheap Thrills especially -- I told you, Jamaican accents are always approved OH HEY LOOK AT THAT IT'S MY NEW BUDDY SEAN PAUL AGAIN. Excellent.)

Dishonorable Mention: The Chainsmokers + Halsey -- Closer
Because this has gained WAY too much popularity for a band with a name this stupid and a song about people with shoulder tattoos hooking up. Which is very frustrating, because it is actually super catchy, as well as only overplayed radio song I don't hate, and I have pretty much come to terms with the fact that Halsey cannot resist tainting most of her generally incredible work with a hint of skank. I don't think I can quantify how much I love her voice on I know it breaks your heart / moved to the city in a broke-down car and / Four years, no calls / Now I'm lookin' pretty in a hotel bar, and I wish mightily that the rest of the lyrics matched that standard.
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Random Musical Observation: Speaking of my inability to identify Rihanna, I have spent MONTHS certain that Taylor Swift was the vocalist on Calvin Harris' "This Is What You Came For." It only made sense, right? They were dating, it totally fit Taylor's new pop image...wait, that's Rihanna? I AM AFFRONTED. I had pictures in my head clear as day of Taylor being in a music video, dancing on a nightclub floor to "lightning strikes every time she moves." It's the only thing that perks me up when the radio plays this instead of something I want.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
vegawriters
Mar. 31st, 2017 02:52 pm (UTC)
I can't see Lucy Hale without reading Lzzy Hale and I'm like "when did she start a solo project!!!"

rainbowstevie
Apr. 1st, 2017 06:20 am (UTC)
Hah! Oh, musicians and their confusing twinsies names.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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