Written by Greg Kennelty
I tried to pull a Kim Kardashian this week and get naked for the header photo, but in a seductive “let’s sacrifice a goat” kind of way. It wasn’t even that the rest of the staff wasn’t on board- the concern was us drawing too much traffic and crashing for extended periods.
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?
“Wicked Games” by Parra for Cuva ft. Anna Naklab
Was this a spoken word track that someone tried to remix? I feel like it is. Since I’m great at retitling things to be more honest, we’ll call this song “Bass Drum: A Brooklyn Club Song.”
I’ve been to maybe two or three clubs in my entire life, and all two or three of those times I’ve been greeted by pounding bass the second the door swings open to inevitably take me into the abyss. This song is like a toned down version of that. This is like you’re going to a club, but instead of popped collars and ecstasy it’s red beanies and mustaches. The people at this club aren’t looking to party. The people at this club are looking to moodily lean against the wall and pretend to read Ernest Hemingway as they wait for their coffee from the coffee bar (there’s no alcohol here, by the way. Sorry). These people are trying to tell you about their lo-fi acoustic album that only uses 1980’s Casio keyboards for drums and the great trumpet solo on the fourth track.
These people and this song need to close the door on their club, attach some rockets to the foundation and make a trip directly toward the sun.
“Yellow Flicker Beat” by Lorde
I listened to the real Lorde and then I listened to the South park version of Lorde and I’ve decided that I like the latter better. At least the South Park version of Lorde doesn’t sound like she’s texting her friends while she’s in the vocal booth about how bored she is with this song and if they’re doing anything for dinner later.
The first part of “Yellow Flicker Beat” I was down with because it’s this moody vocal-heavy piece that seems like it’s going to just explode… and then it just sort of goes from overcast to overcast with a drizzle. Instead of the rainstorm I was expecting, I got an earful of drizzle and a half-assed thunderclap. All the backing instrumental stuff just sounds like it was lifted from pretty much any given pop song out there right now too. “Ah great, there’s that almost ‘boom-boom-clap’ rhythm in the chorus. What song is this again?”
Maybe Lorde is so moody because she’s bored with the sound of her own voice. Her and Drake should get together for a track called “Holy Shit I Am So Bored.”
“Kansas City” by The New Basement Tapes ft. Marcus Mumford
So is the title of this video just not going to mention that Johnny Depp is in there jamming like he’s not Johnny Depp? The description of this video talks about all these musicians and conveniently leaves out the fact that Depp is in there. Let’s stop talking about that before I dwell on it for this whole description.
“Kansas City” has a pretty basic structure to it in terms of chordal changes and vocal melodies, but what makes it cool is the sheer size of how it sounds. There are a lot of instruments going on there and they all seem to fit comfortably inside the mix. It’s almost like they comprise this big Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster of a folk sounding orchestra, if that makes any sense. As in everything blended together almost sounds like it’s just one giant instrument… and that’s pretty cool. The broken-sounding guitar solo adds a really nice, warm color to the composition too. Who needs normalcy?
Feel free to be impressed with my correctly worded allusion to Dr. Frankenstein as well.
“Cool Kids” by Echosmith
Before we get started, can we recognize that Echosmith singer Sydney Sierota looks exactly what the offspring of Anna Kendrick and Ellen Page would look like? Seriously, look at her!
“Cool Kids” is what I imagine would have happened if Ian Curtis were born in the 1990’s and wasn’t depressed. I haven’t listened to the rest of whatever else Echosmith has put out between 2009 and now, but it reminds me of that Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen kind of sound. Between the twangy guitar sounds and whatever keyboard-meets-xylophone patch they’ve got going playing octaves upon itself, this could have been on the soundtrack to Donnie Darko.
It’s a simple, catchy song that knows when to lay back into the hooks and when to rely on something basic to let the vocals take charge. Unlike other songs I’ve criticized for being entirely too simplistic, “Cool Kids” knows just how to shape a minimal approach into something worth repeating.
“Chandelier” by Sia
If you put this song and told me it was Rihanna or pretty much anyone else that’s aping Rihanna’s sound by now, which is an innumerable amount of artists, I’d probably have accepted that and then forgotten about it anyway.
I know, I’ve made that accusation a lot, but let’s take a step back here and realize that not every single artist being recognized on a wider scale means they’re legitimately putting out amazing music. People like a hook (so THAT’S why you named this column that!), but it doesn’t mean the song itself is any good. I’ve made this exact accusation before and I’ll make it again with Sia as the target- the song is a vehicle for a catchy chorus. I can sing you the chorus of ‘Chandelier” without any problem. I can tell you there’s a part where she’s counting something. Outside those two things, I remember there being some mundane drumbeat and some sort of vocal melodies between the hooks, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell they were no matter how hard I try.
Can’t win ‘em all. Satan continues his search for hooks with substance.
“Jealous” by Nick Jonas
“Hey, is this Radio Song, Inc.? Oh good. Yeah I got the number from a buddy who has ordered from here before. No, it… yeah, it doesn’t matter who they are, does it? Anyway, I need a song that’ll be played on the radio and paid attention to. Dude I didn’t say it had to be amazing or anything like that. I just said it had to be a song. You’ve got lyrics and music laying around from other radio hits lying around, right? Take those and just past them together. It doesn’t have to be creative, it just has to be a song. I’m Nick Jonas. They’ll play my song if it sounds like Sunn O))) played acoustic guitars while a deaf Roger Waters sang about his breakfast overtop.”
That is how I imagine this song was written. I’m also not saying Nick Jonas knows who the hell Sunn O))) is.
“Text Me Merry Christmas” by Straight No Chaser ft. Kristen Bell
This is probably one of the best Christmas songs to come out in the past few years and I’m not just saying that because I’m a big Kristen Bell fan, though I’m torn between feeling two entirely different ways about this one.
Part of thinks this song is satirical and nothing else. It’s so easy to poke fun at the technological aspect of our society and the reliance on communications outside seeing someone. For some reason, I imagine two people living pretty close to each other in a relationship that refuse to leave either one of their families to see the other on Christmas. So instead of driving the few miles, they’re just texting. Their relationship is obviously strained because blatantly neither one gives a damn and the vocals are just so damn cheery because… that’s the joke. Get it? Great.
The other part of me thinks this song is about two people that are in a long-distance relationship and they really do miss each other. The song is so cheery because it’s indicative of them putting on a smile for everyone else around them when really they’re kind of miserable on the inside. Communicating with someone you actually love from a long ways away on a holiday where you can’t be together sucks hard and the conversation is terse because spilling emotions through a text just isn’t the same.
This has been another episode of Dr. Phil. Thanks for watching.
“Animals” by Maroon 5
I almost feel stupid saying this is a Maroon 5 song considering the last album that Maroon 5 put out that actually sounds like it’s an entire band playing was 2010’s Hands All Over. I remember one summer when I was home from college (so between 2008 and 2012 sometime), my buddy and I were driving around listening to Songs About Jane and talking about how it had this cool jazz rock kind of thing going on. I’m not one of those stubborn, crusty bastards that gets mad when a band changes sound, but Maroon 5 has just turned into The Adam Levine Machine.
“Animals” is every other song Maroon 5 has put out on their last two albums. I get that Levine is obviously the face of the band and he’s the one that’s going to ultimately pay their salaries, but come on. The dudes in the band can play and the world definitely has enough electronica to fill several landfills. Let’s at least try to get back to some decent jams?
Side note- start an Austrian Death Machine-style band called The Adam Levine Machine. Do not call ex-As I Lay Dying/Austrian Death Machine frontman Tim Lambesis to be on it. He will try to kill you.
“Love Me Harder” by Ariana Grande ft. The Weekend
It’s not like I have a vendetta against Ariana Grande, I’ve just always found her music incredibly annoying. So it’s weird that after about 45 seconds of listening to “Love Me Harder” I found myself really enjoying it. Stranger things have happened.
“Love Me Harder” is just a solid song that seems to be written really well and oddly enough, strays away from Grande’s usually annoying crooned vocals. She actually steps up on “Love Me Harder” and really lets the listener know that she’s in charge of this track and you’re listening to her damn music, bitch! Whoever the vocalist is from The Weekend needs to exit this track immediately though. If I wanted to hear annoying, high-pitched vocals that seem to be more auto-tune than actual human voice, I’d go turn on Cher. Dude sounds like he’s trying to be modern Adam Levine and we all know damn well how I feel about that.
“China Grove” by The Doobie Brothers ft. Chris Young
Initially I had written this song off my list because it was a cover, but I thought I’d give it a listen anyway. Then, as I’m apt to do with pretty much anything and everything, I formed a strong opinion on it. I swear I’m not this annoying about things in person.
The Doobie Brothers are legends and they’ve written some incredible songs through their career, “China Grove” being one of them. Now with this rendition of the song, you’d expect the band to come out and maybe reinvent the track a little bit to reflect how they’ve changed throughout the years, or even switch things up instrumentally because they’ve put a new face in front of the microphone.
Nope. The Doobie Brothers said “if it ain’t broke,” put Chris Young up to the microphone and played the exact same song they’ve been playing for years. My question is why. Why does this have to exist? This is literally the exact same version I can get on the band’s 1973 album The Captain and Me with a new voice. The cover of the record this rendition of the song is on makes it seem like it’s going to be all countrified and redneck-ish… but nope. “Chine Grove, Pt. 2: Uh… Yeah” comes rolling out of my speakers like there isn’t a damn thing wrong with the fact the band just rehashed it.