The Friday Blog
Summer Music Roundup 2013

Every music publication and website is putting out their list of summer hits, so I just couldn’t resist. Mine, however is based more on my personal taste…and distaste.

First, the songs that got me all excited every time they came on the radio:

Icona Pop - I Love It

Although this EDM millennial generation theme song was released in November, it seemed to really hit the states hard in the summer. Plus, it just sounds like summer! It makes ya wanna jump in a pool or drive a convertible with the top down- and crash it into a bridge.

Anna Kendrick - Cups

Sometimes it’s nice to hear a simple, pretty song. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s sung by the lovely Anna Kendrick. Many of us saw Kendrick sing this song with just her voice and some cup persussion in the movie Pitch Perfect, but this one has some added instrumentation (not too much, though).

Bruno Mars - Treasure

We all know that things come in cycles- music is no different. Treasure is reminiscent of the disco/funk of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s (think Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover”). Even the video is retro! This song is catchy, makes me want to dance, and (in my opinion) narrowly avoids being too cheesy.

Lorde - Royals

My friend pointed out that I initially neglected to include one of the summer’s best songs. Although Royals didn’t get as much airplay as the above mentioned, it certainly was a breath of fresh air. The production and vocals are clean and crisp- and there are some tight harmonies, too.


And now the part where I get to complain about things that bug me- I could do without hearing these songs for the next few summers:

Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

First off, I actually like this song. I love the powerful vocals, elements of Dubstep, and minor tonality. The problem is that it’s been overplayed. I do a lot of driving for work and I listen to the radio when I drive. It wasn’t uncommon to hear this song 2-3 times an hour (granted, that’s spread over multiple stations). There are very few songs that I can stand to hear more than once day after day.

Maroon 5 - Payphone

Guys, it’s 2013- wtf is a payphone? I mean, everybody probably knows what you’re talking about, but the concept of a payphone is mostly obsolete. That pretty much covers the lyrics, now the music: it’s boring. Payphone sounds like something we’ve heard before and I don’t think it was that exciting to begin with. This song came on the radio all the time and after I heard it the first few times, I didn’t need to hear it again so I changed the station almost instantly.

Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines (ft. Pharrell & T.I.)

You didn’t seriously think I could do a summer music roundup and not mention Blurred Lines, did you?! It’s been a while since a pop song has stirred up so much controversy, most of which is from the video (the link above is for the ‘clean’ version, but there is an unrated version with nudity). It should also be noted that, although I don’t need to hear this song for a while, I really do like it. As with Radioactive, Blurred Lines is way overplayed- but that’s how hits work- I get it.

Now, while overplaying is part of the reason I am over it, the video and lyrics are just as much a part of it. Here we go:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may hear that many people think that this music video condones rape culture. Whether it does or not, it’s not the first video to portray and objectify women in this way and it certainly won’t be the last. I actually had less of a problem with the video, and more of a problem with the use of the word “bitch” in the song. I didn’t even know it was there until I watched the video. Of course, they edit it out in the radio version. I really didn’t think it needed to be there and that, for me, is what gives the song ‘rape culture’ vibes- but that has nothing to do with the video, just the lyrics.

The other thing, that people don’t seem to be talking about, is the weird racist vibes the video gives off. Maybe I’m tripping, but why is Pharrell wearing a straw hat, chewing hay, and standing next to a model holding a goat? That whole shot just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

If you would like a song like Blurred Lines, but without the rapey and racist vibes, you can listen to the original: Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up.

Okay, now back to good things:

Deep Cut of the Summer: J. Cole - Trouble

Sometimes our favorite songs aren’t singles and aren’t on the radio. That’s why I still buy CD’s.

J. Cole released his sophomore studio album, Born Sinner, this summer and it’s dope. My favorite song off the album is this dark track with backing from a chorus. Cole’s lyrics are his usual relationship subjects, but he does it in a very good way. it’s easy to relate to, but doesn’t come off like he’s whining about his feelings.

Thanks for reading and tell me what your favorite summer song was below!

Last winter, my friend asked me if I would DJ for our friend’s surprise birthday party (and by DJ, she meant, plug my iPod into some speakers and put it on shuffle).  I’m a good friend and I love playing music, so I accepted.  There was just one issue- my iPod needed some refreshment.  I listen to a lot of older music and it takes me quite some time to integrate new (especially new pop) music into my library.
The remedy?  I basically decided to download the Billboard top 40.  This party, of course, was a college party (her 21st birthday, to be exact), so I knew people would want to hear upbeat, catchy, and popular songs to dance to.
Now, I knew that there was a certain amount of standardization in popular music these days.  I listen to the radio and I go to the dance clubs, I know what’s up.
I was still shocked at what I heard when I listened through the 30-or-so songs, most of which I was familiar with already.  I found myself not being able to decipher which song was which.  Humans can normally identify a song after hearing less than a second of it and here I was listening to song after song without being able to identify them until many measures after their start. 
A handful of songs by artist like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Mike Posner, Rihanna, and Nikki Minaj (many of whom had multiple songs on the charts) sounded so similar to one another that one could likely argue plagiarism.  Even different songs by the same artist sound the same.  It’s as if Katy Perry recorded “Firework” and then said, “Hey, let’s make another song that sounds exactly like that, but in a different key and with different words.”  Then Ke$ha said the same thing, as well as Mike Posner.
It’s one thing to recognize how similar all these songs sound on the radio, but if you are listening to them in succession, it’s just straight confusing.
If there is one thing that the modern music industry does well, it is sticking to a format, even if it is not always a good format.  The record labels want the same thing over and over again because they know it works.  As a result, creativity suffers.  The same chord structures, the same AutoTune, the same synthesizer sounds, and the same choruses are used, and every other song tells me to put my hands in the air.
The party was a great succsess and the kids were able to shake their rumps and whatnot because a lot of these songs are really good for party music.  Even still, I have always found that the most successful and loved songs are those that maintain a certain level of uniqueness, while many others are popular, they just get forgotten about in the haze.  There may be elements that are used in hundreds of songs, but what makes a song great (and artists, as well) is that it has something that sets it apart.  Sometimes it’s easy to identify: a catchy riff, a dynamic vocalist, creative lyrics.  Often, though, it can only be identified as The X-Factor - you don’t know what it is but you know that you like it when you hear it.
Nowadays, instead of attempting to find a new version of The X-Factor, labels just make the same exact thing over and over again because they know that it won’t fail.  It’s bad business and bad artistry.  If you flood the market (i.e. increasing supply), demand will go down and that is a big part of why the music industry is failing.

Last winter, my friend asked me if I would DJ for our friend’s surprise birthday party (and by DJ, she meant, plug my iPod into some speakers and put it on shuffle).  I’m a good friend and I love playing music, so I accepted.  There was just one issue- my iPod needed some refreshment.  I listen to a lot of older music and it takes me quite some time to integrate new (especially new pop) music into my library.

The remedy?  I basically decided to download the Billboard top 40.  This party, of course, was a college party (her 21st birthday, to be exact), so I knew people would want to hear upbeat, catchy, and popular songs to dance to.

Now, I knew that there was a certain amount of standardization in popular music these days.  I listen to the radio and I go to the dance clubs, I know what’s up.

I was still shocked at what I heard when I listened through the 30-or-so songs, most of which I was familiar with already.  I found myself not being able to decipher which song was which.  Humans can normally identify a song after hearing less than a second of it and here I was listening to song after song without being able to identify them until many measures after their start. 

A handful of songs by artist like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Mike Posner, Rihanna, and Nikki Minaj (many of whom had multiple songs on the charts) sounded so similar to one another that one could likely argue plagiarism.  Even different songs by the same artist sound the same.  It’s as if Katy Perry recorded “Firework” and then said, “Hey, let’s make another song that sounds exactly like that, but in a different key and with different words.”  Then Ke$ha said the same thing, as well as Mike Posner.

It’s one thing to recognize how similar all these songs sound on the radio, but if you are listening to them in succession, it’s just straight confusing.

If there is one thing that the modern music industry does well, it is sticking to a format, even if it is not always a good format.  The record labels want the same thing over and over again because they know it works.  As a result, creativity suffers.  The same chord structures, the same AutoTune, the same synthesizer sounds, and the same choruses are used, and every other song tells me to put my hands in the air.

The party was a great succsess and the kids were able to shake their rumps and whatnot because a lot of these songs are really good for party music.  Even still, I have always found that the most successful and loved songs are those that maintain a certain level of uniqueness, while many others are popular, they just get forgotten about in the haze.  There may be elements that are used in hundreds of songs, but what makes a song great (and artists, as well) is that it has something that sets it apart.  Sometimes it’s easy to identify: a catchy riff, a dynamic vocalist, creative lyrics.  Often, though, it can only be identified as The X-Factor - you don’t know what it is but you know that you like it when you hear it.

Nowadays, instead of attempting to find a new version of The X-Factor, labels just make the same exact thing over and over again because they know that it won’t fail.  It’s bad business and bad artistry.  If you flood the market (i.e. increasing supply), demand will go down and that is a big part of why the music industry is failing.

Welcome to a little thing I like to call, “The Friday Blog: Atrocities in the Music Industry” (long title, I know, but I think it has a ring to it).

First and foremost, I would like to clarify that this blog is not a Rebecca Black fan site, nor is her song “Friday” really the focus of discussion.  It did, however, set me off enough to dive into this. 

So as you can likely tell from the title, the finger shall be pointed in the direction of the music industry.  It’s not a wag of the finger, I’m not its mother, but I am rudely pointing.

You see, two weeks ago, a music video was uploaded to YouTube by a 13 year old girl named Rebecca Black.  The song title: “Friday” (hence the name of the blog). Watch it once and you will quickly realize that it is quite possibly the worst song ever written and the worst music video ever made.  I’m not going to go through the lyrics in full, but a few low points include Rebecca trying to figure out what seat to take when her friends pick her up, an abomination of a rap (even by today’s standards…more on that later),  and learning the days of the week, Sesame Street style. In the last two weeks, the video has had almost 50 million views on YouTube.

The song was released by a company called Ark Music Factory. From what I understand, it’s not what we usually think of as a record label.  Although, unfortunately, it seems that many labels seem to be leaning this way lately.  What happens is you pay X amount of money to the company and in return they write, record, produce, and heavily Auto-Tune a song, make a video and hope it goes viral. I guess they are looking for the female Justin Bieber (more on him later, as well).  There are many songs like “Friday,” from Ark, most all with horrible lyrics and the like.

So why does the worst song ever made get 50 million hits?  I for one hope that it is because it sucks.  I hope that it is because everyone is making fun of it.  If the general public recognizes that it is a horribly written song, then there may be some hope left.

Now, I will be the first to admit, that the song is a little catchy, even if I thought it was literally a joke when I first saw it.  It is catchy, just like every other pop song on top 40 radio. It has basically the same chord structure and many of the same melodic gestures as Justin Bieber’s song “Baby.”  With the exception to some of the absolutely ridiculous lyrics, “Friday” is not much different from other songs on the radio (once again, there will be more on this later).

So, as time goes on, popular music has been homogenized, mechanized, and industrialized.  It plagues me that there is even such a thing as the music “industry.”  That is exactly what it has become, an industry that churns out songs on assembly lines in its [Ark Music] Factories.