Written by Greg Kennelty
Welcome to the second edition of Satan Loves a Hook!
We almost called this article “Under a Freezing Swoon,” but none of you are kvlt enough to get the reference.
I bet you don’t even burn churches.
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?
“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit
I remember reading an interview with legendary guitarist Les Paul at some point in my high school career. One thing that always stuck with me from that interview is when Paul is asked how he knows if he’s on to a good song idea and he responds with something along the lines of “if you’re not jumping out of your chair saying ‘Jesus that’s good,’ then it isn’t worth it.” So with the current equation being quality equals distance of ass from chair, Clean Bandit had to have called a roofer after they wrote out the melodies in this song.
Right from the first treble-absent strokes of a keyboard down to every strike of the bow, notes seem intentionally placed in “Rather Be.” There’s no trying to get from A to B by way of some aimless run. There are only hooks. So many hooks, in fact, that this song and I are going fishing this weekend. We will catch all the fish and then vocalist Jess Glynne will cook them because she obviously knows how. Why would someone lie in a music video?
“Don’t” by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran has some seriously smooth flow to his music and never sounds awkward in his delivery. When I first hit play on the track and the beat kicked in, I wasn’t sure where it was going. It felt kind of weak and empty at first, like there wasn’t any backbone to the music. Then Sheeran struck up his debonair lyrical flow and it made sense- he is the backbone of the music. You’re not grooving along to this tune until he opens his mouth and if that’s not a testament to an artist’s confidence in their music, then I’m not entirely sure what it.
Of course in the choruses there’s all the bells and whistles, because why not? Sheeran’s already throwing punches so he might as well go for a few solid kicks to the teeth.
All that being said, I got bored with this one. It’s too long and by the time I got a little over the halfway mark I was already itching to start up the next jam. If Sheeran threw in some other dimensions to the writing, then I’d be all about this… but almost five minutes of copy-and-pasted sections and I’m out.
“Literally I Can’t” by Play-N-Skillz ft. Redfoo, Lil Jon & Enertia McFly
If this song was just Lil Jon yelling “Oh my God. Shut the fuck up” over and over again without any kind of backing, it would be the greatest song of all time. The conviction he has behind the words kills me every single time. Like, someone in the studio kept pissing him off while he was in the vocal booth and finally he had enough of it. It’s also worth nothing that is a terrible line to have stuck in your head when you head to the office in the morning. Most people will not take kindly to you muttering it under your breath, as they cannot hear the track playing in your head.
Realistically, what else is there to say about this song? It’s a parody without any of the funny parts of being a parody. It’s “Tumblr: The Song” with a whole lot of alcohol and partying (as opposed to Doctor Who and porn). It’s the further bastardization of the word “literally” that’s self-aware that it’s the bastardization of the word… which I guess makes it this weird kind of parody of an unintentional parody.
I’ll stop before I start getting philosophical about a video of dudes yelling at women to make out.
“I” by Kendrick Lamar
This is a weird thing to really like about a song, but Kendrick Lamar’s pronunciation of words and flow from syllable to syllable is fantastic. It’s one thing to be able to talk or rap fast, but it’s another to do it clearly and with a sense of sharpness. Really pay attention to how he’s saying his words. They’re sharp when they need to be and smooth like a legato horn run when it works for him. I’m really impressed.
“I” is cool because it’s not just a rap song. The focus here isn’t just the vocals, as big a deal as I made out of them. Lamar is obviously a songwriter who knows how to keep the listener interested on all fronts. Dude is so good at what he does on “I” that this song would probably still sell well as an instrumental. It comes off as simple with the repetitions and everything, but the more you pay attention there more dimensions there really are.
My only complaints is there needed to be a ripping guitar solo. Where you at, Nile Rodgers?
“Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” by Cole Swindell
Is country music sponsored by whiskey? Is there some kind of unspoken deal between country artists and whiskey where the more they mention it, the bigger their paycheck is? Whiskey or just alcohol in general. I mean listen, I like a good beer or whatever just as much as the next guy, but I’m not basing a whole career around it. I also feel like telling someone they’re not worth drinking over is a pretty inoffensive way to let them know you’re over them. Get vicious, country music!
Oh right. There was a song that went along with this.
It’s country music. I’m not one of those people to make sweeping statements about an entire genre because I genuinely believe there’s something good to be found no matter what the style is. That being said, this is just another popular country song. Blatantly corrected vocals, sinewy guitars, ambient slides and a country twang so up front I can practically see the barns and Christmas lights now.
“Freestyle” by Lady Antebellum
Remember what I was saying about Cole Swindell? Same thing. I tried to like this one too but it’s just so damn similar to everything else. I know because my family is a bunch of huge country fans and that’s all that plays whenever I’m around. I’d say I could sing you every song that’s on the radio as far as country goes right now but I can’t differentiate between most of them.
I can sing you the stupid jingle for Nash FM 94.7 though, and that’s what really matters.
What redeems this song is the music video. I got so involved with how amazing this music video is the first time I watched it that I actually forgot to listen to the song. I’ve asked several friends if they’ve “been to nature” this week. None of them got the joke. The dude in question is like a nerdy Ben Folds decided he could totally get funky fresh with these jams and just swan dove into a big pool of lamesauce… and it is so amazing.
“Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias ft. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno & Gente De Zonaaq
I tried so hard to have an opinion on this song but ultimately there’s really nothing I have to say. This is like walking into Carvel and getting a vanilla shake that you’re not thrilled with- it happens, it’s over and you’re probably going to forget the whole thing ever happened within the next twenty minutes or so. I do give credit to whoever does the little “bailando, etc.” bridge though. There are some pretty cool harmonies in there and considering the chord progression the melody is really solid. So I guess that’s the chocolate chip in my otherwise vanilla experience.
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier
Hozier knows how to make minimalism work really well, which isn’t an easy task. Think about bands like Cream– you’ve got three different elements to work with and that’s it. You have to find a way to reach the sonic textures you want with those elements or else you’re not going anywhere. Obviously Hozier and Cream are two entirely different beasts, but the basic concept of working with a little to make a lot is the same.
“Take Me to Church” is more meant to be felt than grooved along to. The lyrics are what get me though. Hozier has a soulful, hurt voice that brings lyrics about loving someone to a whole new level. You can just hear the pain and oncoming silence in his voice. It’s a really strange trait to describe, but there’s some kind of foreboding amber darkness to it.
How there isn’t a doom metal cover of this song perplexes me. Type O Negative would’ve crushed this jam.
“The News Your From Your Bed” by Bishop Allen
I think I would have really enjoyed this in high school when I was really into Dog Problems by The Format. When I hear Bishop Allen, I just think of a bunch of dudes in bowties and suspenders crowded around a retro tape recorder sitting on an old wooden table in a house in the suburbs snapping their fingers and watching each other sing through big, thick glasses.
Remember the kids in high school that tried really hard to be nerdy… and then went to college in 2008 and that sort of carried over because that hipster chic thing was around then? Them. Those kids. This is a song written by those kids for those kids. I guess I should go to a diner alone with my Walkman now and order pancakes and coffee at 2 a.m. and then write a song about it, right?
Wait… that sounds awesome. If you’re reading and you want to do that, let’s do that.
“Habits (Stay High)” by Tove Lo
Some really needs to hit up Tove Lo and let her know that there are other ways to forget people outside getting super fucked up all the time. Maybe she ought to call whoever hurt her this bad and pull a Cole Swindell, you know?
Tove Lo does an excellent job giving this song a really drunken feel though. There’s something about her voice and the warm distortion its covered in here that vibes this really high feeling. Obviously the lyrics help too, and thankfully they’re a little less Emmure beat-you-over-the-head-with-bad-symbolism and a little more Kalnoky from Streetlight Manifesto poetic. There’s a story here that’s being followed and it makes sense. It’s not just “AH I AM ALONE SO I SHOULD BE DRUNK #YOLOSWAG #YOUNGFOREVER.” They get trashy, they get uncomfortably weird and I dig it.
It’s that and the fact that everything surrounding her voice is muted and subdued.