Written by Greg Kennelty
Welcome to the first-ever installment of Satan Loves a Hook!
If you’re feeling a little bit lighter after reading that sentence, it’s because you’ve automatically forfeited your soul to us.
Things could be worse.
I’m Greg Kennelty, senior news writer for MetalInjection.net. I pitched the idea to Pop Break about having a lifelong metal fan such as myself review popular songs outside the realm of “that damn devil music” every week. Obviously it went over well and here we are! The stipulation is while I get to choose the ten songs I review, all my choices must come from a pool of tunes chosen by the Pop Break staff.
The goal of the article is for me to voice my honest opinion on the chosen songs every week from the perspective of a metal head that isn’t really familiar with these artists and their work. Ready?
“Edge of a Revolution” by Nickelback
Let me point something out before I get even get started on this one. Either you or someone you know probably claims to “hate Nickelback,” or at least subscribes to the widespread dislike of the band. Now if I just post the song title “How You Remind Me,” I guarantee you that you’re singing a very good portion of the song in your head… and that song came out 13 years ago. How’s that for staying power? Let’s all admit the band has written disgustingly catchy tunes that aren’t so much earworms as they are ear colonizers and move on, okay?
“Edge of a Revolution” has that mid-nineties Metallica groove ala Load or Reload, where it’s radio rock with some serious girth to it. Overall, the music here in terms of riffs and tone is pretty good! I also have to hand it to frontman Chad Kroeger for crafting an excellent vocal line and lyrics about things other than partying and getting laid. Sure, he gets a little heavy handed at times and the rhyming scheme errs on the side of Kid Rock here and there, but I can honestly say I’m hitting repeat on a Nickelback song.
“Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
Hypothetically, you’re at a new amusement park in your area and you’re all about that thrill ride life. So you seek out an enclosed rollercoaster, you wait in line and you finally board the car with at least somewhat of a positive expectation. The cart slowly climbs the hill and after all that buildup you’re at the exit of the ride. That is exactly how I felt about “Bang Bang.”
Jessie J and Ariana Grande are excellent vocalists and admittedly I’ve always thought Nicki Minaj deserved the attention as an artist. Unfortunately three positives come out to a negative here. “Bang Bang” seems like it was written because someone came up with a catchy chorus but nobody could figure out how to logically reach it in the context of songwriting. There’s no build-up, there’s no tension and there’s no diversity in the song. It just feels like the verses meander aimlessly and then “Oh, right! Chorus time! #GETSTOKED.” Minaj’s contribution helps, but even that feels out of place. What should have been a decent collaboration turned into a hodgepodge mashup of misfit components that essentially leave the listener unfulfilled.
“Kinda Dig The Feeling” by The Railers
When I was told The Railers is a country group, I wasn’t sure if I was getting myself into legitimate country music or the dime-a-dozen dreck that litters the radio. There’s only so many times I can hear about some guy’s pickup truck on the way to a party to dance with some girl and have some beers before I wish my head was under the wheel of the singer’s Ford F150, you know?
The Railers seems to do country without beating you over the head with the notion that it’s country. “Kinda Dig The Feeling” is this upbeat ditty that encompasses the usual ensemble of bluegrass instrumentation and flows really well from section to section. The thing about the instrumentation I love is that there doesn’t seem to be a specific focus on any instrument. Listen to guys like Keith Urban and Pickup Truck McBeerparty and it seems like the guitar is so far up front that it hardly matters what’s going on otherwise. Not The Railers– apparently they’ve got the concept of spreading the love around down pat.
Lump all that in with the contrasting group-vocals-to-single-vocalist and proper use of the speedy “boom chuck” rhythm, and “Kinda Dig The Feeling” comes out on top.
“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor
My problem with this song is the lyrics never really make it clear exactly what Meghan Trainor is about. I’m guessing it’s probably the mid-frequency range or neon colors, but that’s pure conjecture.
Seriously, Trainor does good work with lyrics. I like that she makes this connection between not being “one of them skinny bitches” and the proverbial thickness of the bass frequency. I probably sound like a 40-year old English teacher explaining that to his 12th grade class in an attempt to sound hip, but I think it’s really clever the way she found a way to make that message work. The music reminds me of Best Coast’s sunny 2013 release Fade Away done a little slower like it’s Bill Haley and the Comets at 1950’s sock hop, rounded out with the upright bass from Fear Factory’s “Edgecrusher” behind it.
Go find me an English teach that can make those references.
“Lifestyle” by Rich Gang ft. Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan
As a man who has voluntarily listened to bands named Cephalotripsy and Cerebral Incubation, I have no idea what 90-percent of the lyrics I just heard were. I was going to try to differentiate the voices here so I could explain them each separately, but I ended up labeling all three of them “that annoying high-voice guy.” One of them has the distinction of being “that annoying high-voice guy with the vocoder,” but whatever.
Here’s my problem with this song- I’ve heard it before over the years. I’ve driven to and from college with my brother plenty of times and have helped him get car parts around my county. He’s big into rap and plays it a decent amount while he’s driving. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from those drives, it’s that music like this falls into two very distinct categories. One category is music that I’ll actually remember and catch myself singing along to at some point or another because it’s original. The other category is “Dude(s) rap over extremely tired beat with the same placement of bass hits and on-beat claps with some random keyboard.” I’ll let you take a whack at where this falls.
Seriously, throw me something like Jedi Mind Tricks or Just Plain Ant and I’ll jam. This though… phew. The only thing I’ve got stuck in my head now is “Liiiife-styyyle” because it’s the only thing I caught during the track.
“Steal My Girl” by One Direction
The background keyboard layers of this song sound like 1980’s “Hungry Heart” Bruce Springsteen got together with M83 and that actively throws me for a loop no matter how many times I listen go this song.
“Steal My Girl” isn’t breaking any new ground, but One Direction doesn’t seem like the kind of band that’s out to revolutionize the genre either. I actually got up mid-way through writing this review to grab something in the kitchen and without even realizing I was doing it, I ended up humming the keyboard lines and the chorus. As someone who’s going to be a quarter-century old next year, I felt a little weird singing One Direction in my kitchen at midnight… but here I am.
The bottom line is whether you want to or not, you’re going to at least mildly enjoy “Steal My Girl.” It’s the standard ABABCB-structured pop song that employs the usual bag of tricks pop songs do, but where it succeeds is in the fact that anywhere there can be something memorable jammed into the writing, there is.
“Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
The first time I heard “Welcome to New York” I wasn’t really thrilled with it, because that’s what the world needs- another song about New York or California at this point. I wrote it off and pretty much forgot about it.
Fast forward to yours truly driving to work around 9 a.m. on the morning of October 27. There’s a Target on the way there and I knew Swift was dropping 1989 that day. I also knew Target was going to have a deluxe version of the record, and being the music nut I am I had already planned on buying it. Upon hitting play, I was greeted with my least favorite single of the record. This time I managed to pay a little closer attention to the lyrics and “got it,” I guess in a way.
“Welcome to New York” is a solid jam. The chorus showcases a lot of high-register vocal lines, falsetto and chest voice, that add a cool texture to what’s going on and the harmonies tossed about in the composition give the listener that little extra something to latch on to. The thing that makes this song go from “not bad” to “oh wait, don’t go to the next track” for me are the melodies going on behind the vocals. I love the cheesy keyboard-sample drums and pokey synth lines going on.
Success lies in the simplicity of “Welcome to New York.”
“Tuesday” by I Love Makkonen
Can someone throw me some decent rap or hip-hop next time? Or at least artists who sound genuinely interested in what they’re doing? “Tuesday” sounds like I Love Makkonen and Drake are having a contest to see who can sound the least interested in their music and both refuse to let up. These guys should hit up Ambien and see if they need a new song for a commercial.
It would be this couple laying in bed and they can’t sleep, right? They’ve seriously tried everything at this point and they’re right at the end of sanity. So the guy’s like “I guess we could try these sleeping pills that I had in the medicine cabinet. Did you know (insert commercial lingo here)?” Obviously they didn’t think of that initially, it’s a commercial! Logic goes right out the window! Right as they get in bed, the camera zooms in on their slowly-closing eyes and “Tuesday” fades in nice and soft in the background.
Also, I don’t make commercials for a living. This song just makes me want to take a nap.
“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj
At some point in the recent past, a songwriter was tasked to sit down and come up with five minutes worth of music, lyrics and samples that talked only about big butts and dudes who only want them and nothing else. Unfortunately for that songwriter, Sir Mix-A-Lot already perfected that song with “Baby Got Back” in 1992 and everything he or she was about to attempt was automatically in vein.
I feel the same toward “Anaconda” that I felt toward “Bang Bang,” minus the catchy chorus. Can we even call what this song has a chorus? It’s just some dude saying his dick doesn’t want anything other than a big butt. Then there’s some samples referencing said butts, what sounds to me like an 8-bit djent riff gone bad and Minaj talking about dudes.
Let’s be real here for a minute- this song was made so asses could be shaken on a music video.
“Dangerous” by David Guetta
I’m a sucker for songs that have that modern disco, Daft–Punk-and-Mystery–Skulls
flair to them, but I always thought David Guetta was a little more Skrillex and a little less Overwerk. I thought wrong.
The best part about “Dangerous” is the damn near perfect chorus. There’s that nasally, plucked bass line below a Nile Rodgers-esque funky guitar line and a vocal line moving counterpoint to its instrumental companions. Then as the final nail in discoball funk coffin here are the slow-moving, time-keeping, head-bobbing drums that make Guetta’s groove undeniable. I dare you to flip “Dangerous” on and try to keep yourself still. The thing that makes this song for me that is everything is mostly-on beat, but the notes leading up to the beat have this shuffled feel to them that slide right into the next beat and add a really gnarly dimension to the track.
All this track needs now is George Clinton and a spaceship full of eternal dance.