Bullz-Eye’s Best of 2010: Staff Writer Scott Malchus’ picks

Each year, when I sort through my favorite songs, I have trouble ranking them because each one has a different meaning to me. I always wind up creating a mixtape (or a playlist, for you younger readers) of those songs and arrange them so that the music flows like a great album or concert set. Without further ado, here’s my mix of the twenty songs I returned to for repeated listens throughout 2010.

“Fade Like a Shadow,” KT Tunstall
Tunstall continues to produce pop gems that are spirited, bright and full of life. This single from her latest, Tiger Suit, has everything you want in a single: a passionate delivery, a great melodic hook, and a unique rhythm that helps it stand out from other songs. A great way to kick off a mix tape.

“I Should Have Known It,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The lead single from Mojo has that vintage Petty snarl and bite. The rest of the album may be a mixed bag, but this great rocker builds to kick-ass guitar jam and stands up with some of their best.


Read the rest after the jump...

Rihanna: Loud


RIYL: Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera

Like any pop princess, Rihanna is only as good as the songs she’s given – which inevitably becomes a problem once sales drop and the label stops paying for top-shelf stuff (just ask Brandy, Monica, etc.) But on the occasion of her fifth album, Loud, she’s shining as brightly as any star in the music business, and the result is a singles-stuffed collection that, while certainly uneven, reestablishes Rihanna as a capable, charismatic vocalist.

As the title indicates, this isn’t exactly an introspective disc; even by the rather limited standards of modern R&B, the lyrics are a noticeable weak point. Fortunately, it usually doesn’t matter; for instance, although it’s redeemed by its earworm chorus and a goofy Drake cameo, “What’s My Name” is about as annoyingly basic as it sounds, while “Cheers (Drink to That)” is an average club anthem enlivened by strong production (including a nifty, unexpected a cappella interlude) and “Only Girl (In the World)” is a stone dumb club banger that perseveres by sheer virtue of insistence. Meanwhile, “S&M” and “Skin” are your average boudoir tracks, set apart only because Rihanna’s one of the better singers working in the genre.

Production and vocal power can’t save everything – power ballad “California King Bed” is a lumpy disaster that sounds like something Diane Warren found stuck to her shoe (“In this California king bed / We’re 10,000 miles apart”), and “Complicated” is the kind of love-to-hate-you number that Rihanna’s done better before (like on, say, “Hate That I Love You”). On the whole, though, the wheat-to-chaff ratio is admirably high; in such a singles-driven genre, it’s rare that you hear an album this light on filler, and given Rihanna’s hectic recording schedule, it’s easy to imagine a radio-worthy track missing single release. The gently stuttering “Fading” is the best kiss-off ballad she’s ever done, while the aggressive, reggae-tinged “Man Down” and the stomping “Man Down” (featuring Nicki Minaj, as required by law) find Rihanna dabbling, ever so slightly, in new directions. None of it feels as heavy as last year’s Rated R, but that’s obviously the point – this is the sound of a talented young singer getting dumb, and doing it in style. (Def Jam 2010)

Rihanna MySpace page

  

21st Century Breakdown: David Medsker’s Songs of the 2000s

I used to have a thing about my musical tastes. I so desperately wanted them to be cool, or at the very least be something that only a handful of people were privy to. (I was tempted to say ‘hip’ instead of ‘privy,’ but you can’t spell ‘hipster’ without ‘hip,’ and God knows I’m not hip enough to be a hipster.) My friend Kathi, she has obscenely cool taste in music. I’m surprised she’s friends with me, since I surely bring her cool factor down by a good 20 points.

Then a couple of years ago, I realized – who the hell cares? A great song is a great song, and it doesn’t really matter how popular – or unpopular – it is. I can’t tell you how freeing that was, and I have a very well-known blogger to thank for it. When she admitted to me in private how much she enjoyed a band at Lollapalooza, only to dismiss them a few days later in her column, I realized that it was completely pointless to pander to hipster elitism. You’re being dishonest with yourself, and the hipsters are only going to turn on you in the end, anyway.

So I turned a blind eye to what was a pop song versus what was a “pop” song, as it were, and realizing that there was no distinction between the two made everything soooooo much easier. So here we are in 2009, and as part of our recap of the best music the decade had to offer, I have to try to apply this whole revisionist history viewpoint to the entire decade, which is no mean feat, to say the least. It therefore makes sense that assembling one big-ass list of songs will look like the work of someone with multiple personalities, so instead they are cut up into bite-sized lists for easier consumption, with YouTube links for the uninitiated.

Top 10 Modern Rock Songs of the 2000s
10. “Do You Want To,” Franz Ferdinand
“Take Me Out” was the bigger hit, but this song swings like Austin Powers in the jungle. Nice riff on “My Sharona” in the break, too.

9. “Galvanize,” Chemical Brothers
Push the button; shake that booty.

8. “The Bleeding Heart Show,” The New Pornographers
What the world needs now, is more hey la, hey la’s.

New_Pornographers_015

7. “Sometime Around Midnight,” Airborne Toxic Event
Suck it, Pitchfork. These guys are good. You’re just too far up your own asses to admit it.

6. “American Idiot,” Green Day
The only sad thing about this song is that Joey Ramone didn’t live long enough to hear it.

5. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” Arctic Monkeys
I love the way these guys riff on Duran Duran lyrics, and then act as if they made it all up themselves. As the old adage says, talent borrows, but genius steals. And for the record, we don’t care for sand, either.

4. “Chelsea Dagger,” The Fratellis
Best drunken barroom chorus since “Tubthumping.”

3. “Laura,” Scissor Sisters
For all the progress that was made this decade in terms of hip hop and black culture becoming more accepted on pop radio, it appears that the gays still have a long road ahead of them. Pity.

2. “Never Miss a Beat,” Kaiser Chiefs
They opened their set at Lollapalooza with this. The only other band to grab me by the throat like that with their opening song is, well, My #1…

Muse_05

1. “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse
September 11, 2006, Columbus, Ohio. Muse opens their set with this song, blows the roof off the place.

Top 10 Pop Songs of the 2000s
10. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
Proof that even the most alt of alt rockers love Kylie: The Flaming Lips covered this song.

9. “Drops of Jupiter,” Train
They did a great job recreating the Elton John sound. Too bad they didn’t have Bernie Taupin write the lyrics. Fried chicken? Ugh.

8. “Music,” Madonna
I watched this song take one of those sports bars that has basketball courts and bowling alleys, and turn every one of its patrons into dancing fools.

7. “Is It Any Wonder?,” Keane
Dogged by some for its similarity to U2, but when was the last time U2 wrote something this bouncy?

6. “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings
I’ll shut up, Katie, but there’s no way I’m letting you go.

5. “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
It took two Grammy wins for this song to finally crack the Top 40. (*shakes head in disbelief*)

4. “Hey Ya,” Outkast
Andre 3000 finally picks up a guitar to write a song, and this, THIS, is the first thing that comes out. Mother, fucker.

3. “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
When my mom comes home from a trip to see my brother on the east coast and tells me about a song she heard by a band whose name is similar to some celebrity or other, I know that said celebrity knockoff band has struck a chord.

2. “99 Problems,” Jay-Z
“You crazy for this one, Rick!” Actually, Jay-Z, you have it the other way around. You crazy if you make this song with anyone other than Rick Rubin.

1. “Umbrella,” Rihanna
It was at least a year before I made the effort to find out what the hubub was about this damn “Umbrella” song. And then I heard it. Holy shit, this song pisses genius.

Big in the UK
7. “LDN,” Lily Allen
No guy wants to hear his ex tell the world what a lousy lover he is, but is there a man alive that doesn’t want a shot at Lily Allen?

6. “Nearer Than Heaven,” Delays
My favorite new musical expression of the decade: skyscraper, used to describe a song with soaring melodies. And this puppy’s the Empire State Building.

5. “Boyfriend,” Alphabeat
That this album didn’t even see the light of day in the States shows just how myopic our views of pop music have become.

4. “Digital Love,” Daft Punk
Keytar!

3. “Plug It In,” Basement Jaxx featuring J.C. Chasez
Come on, bang that head in the chorus. You know you want to.

2. “Never Be Lonely,” The Feeling
B-b-b-baby, this song is c-c-c-crazy catchy.

1. “Kids,” Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue
Another song I thought had a shot at cracking the US charts. Funky verses, slammin’ choruses, what’s not to love? Robbie Williams, apparently. He never gained the traction here that other UK singers did. Strange.

Best Pop Songs You Never Heard
Of course, you probably have heard most of these songs, but I didn’t have another category to place them in, so they’re going here instead.

“Nice,” Duran Duran
Easily the band’s best song since “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” Anyone who likes Rio but has since given up on the band, go listen to this at once.

“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion
Los Angeles’ resident mad genius of pop finally gets his 1997 album Meaningless released in early 2001. Power pop fans proceed to lose their minds. And can you blame them? Listen to that drum track. It’s like the piano solo to “In My Life,” gone drum ‘n bass.

“Mine and Yours,” David Mead
If the video I linked to is any indicator, this was a big hit with the Japanese karaoke crowd. Go figure.

“She’s Got My Number,” Semisonic
Where an otherwise straightforward pop band goes off the deep end into delicious, melancholy strangeness. One of my bigger interview thrills was getting to tell Dan Wilson how much I loved this song.

“My Name Is Love,” Rob Dickinson
Catherine Wheel singer turns down the distortion, ramps up the harmonies. Again, the word ‘skyscraper’ comes to mind.

“Can We Still Be Friends?,” Mandy Moore
Dan Wilson reference #2: he sings backing vocals on this shockingly good Todd Rundgren cover. People have scoffed at the notion of Ryan Adams marrying someone like Mandy. Not me.

“io (This Time Around),” Helen Stellar
Let it not be said that nothing good came from “Elizabethtown,” as it introduced me to this beautifully spacey song.

“Buildings and Mountains,” Republic Tigers
Truly a band out of time, which is exactly why I love them. I wonder if the reason A-ha is breaking up is because they heard this song and thought, “Damn, they do us better than we do.”

“The End of the World,” Gin Blossoms
Most bands that take 11 years between albums come back as a pale imitation of their former selves, but the Gin Blossoms’ 2006 album Major Lodge Victory was a damn fine little record. This one appeals to my not-so-inner Beatlemaniac.

“Fragile,” Kerli
This Estonian princess is an odd little bird, but that’s what I like about her. This ballad closes her debut album with quite the quiet storm.

“Road to Recovery,” Midnight Juggernauts
Another band whose lack of success has me scratching my head. It’s the best dance album Peter Murphy never made, or the best rock album Daft Punk never made, one of the two. Or both.

My sincere apologies to the following bands, who also deserve mention:
Divine Comedy, Noisettes, Pet Shop Boys, Doves, Rialto, Beck, White Stripes, Rufus Wainwright, Kenna, Mylo, Pete Yorn, Apples in Stereo, Hard-Fi, The Thorns, Rock Kills Kid, The Hours, Derek Webb, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Kirsty MacColl, Gorillaz, Air, Charlotte Sometimes, Mika, Def Leppard, Coldplay, Chicane, Elastica, XTC, and about 50 others.

  

Rihanna: Rated R


RIYL: Keri Hilson, Amerie, Jordin Sparks

Lest you think Rihanna meant to make some kind of cute alliterative play by naming her fourth album Rated R, she quickly disabuses any such notions by getting down to business with a collection every bit as inappropriate for young ears as its title would suggest. “I’m such a fuckin’ lady,” she purrs in the second track, “Wait Your Turn,” and from there it’s off to war. When last we heard from Rihanna, she was urging us to stand under her umbrella; this time out, she’s more focused on letting us know how hard she is, bragging about licking her gun because “revenge is sweet,” and barking “Get it up … is you big enough?” The music reflects this lyrical left turn; the arrangements are braced with metallic, tricked-out beats, cold, buzzing synths, and stacks of raw electric guitars (that’s Slash you hear on the ridiculous “Rockstar 101,” which finds her boasting, “Rocking this club / Got my middle finger up / I don’t give a fuck”).

Rihanna_06

It’s a curious blend, really, because as aggressive as Rated R wants to be – and often is, craptastic ballads like “Stupid in Love” and “Te Amo” notwithstanding – Rihanna can never get past her steel-plated drone of a voice long enough to really make it work. More than anything, she just sounds bored, whether she’s declaring herself a “gangsta 4 life” or strolling her way through a duet with will.i.am. This doesn’t blunt the impact of Rated R’s best moments, like the thudding “Hard” and softcore porn of “Rude Boy”; taken in total, it can even function as a sort of meta statement on the emotional disconnect between mainstream culture and its young consumers. In a pop climate where lack of emotion is the norm, Rihanna’s bloodless art makes perfect sense. Still, after a while, it’s impossible not to wish for some good old-fashioned passion. Remember when R&B had soul? (Def Jam 2009)

Rihanna MySpace page

  

AskMen readers rank 99 Most Desirable Women, inadvertently create world’s worst playlist

Our friends at AskMen.com have unveiled their annual list of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women, as voted by their readers (who cast a staggering 10 million votes), and it is every bit the cornucopia of babeness that you’d expect it to be. We obviously can’t tell you who’s at the top of the list, but on a personal note, I was thrilled to see that my girl Anne Hathaway went Top Ten, even beating out smoking hot Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio to boot. Kristen Bell and Megan Fox made the top ten as well, and given the performance by the former in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Heroes,” and the performance by the latter’s stomach in “Transformers,” this should surprise no one.

Rihanna However, after a quick glance of the list, I realized something: for as oversexed as everything has gotten these days, rock babes are in disturbingly low supply. Only one singer made the top ten – yes, Scarlett Johannson made an album, but she doesn’t count – and it should surprise no one that it’s the girl that doesn’t go anywhere without her umbrella, ella, ella. From there, though, the pickings are slim. Christina Aguilera is at #35, and Miss Sasha Fierce (Beyoncé) is at #50. Really, #50? That’s the best she could do?

Being the site’s head music geek, I looked at the list of rock babes – and we admit that we use the word ‘rock’ loosely, as these women are all pop stars – and imagined someone assembling a mix of their music and only their music. Along with Rihanna, Beyoncé and Xtina, you can add Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (#65), Jessica Simpson (#70), and, gulp, Britney Spears (#90). Aiiiiieeeeeeeee! That’s the iPod from hell, right there, though I do think “Umbrella” is a monster jam. Still, imagine going to a party, and all they played were the above artists. Admit it: you’d leave the party. However, if those women were all present at the party, you’d stay, which means that while the voters were asked to look beyond sex appeal and rank the women that have the qualities they would most like in a companion (intelligence, humor, character and ambition), it’s clear that when it comes to music, sex appeal is still driving the car, intelligence is in the back seat, and character is tied up in the trunk.

Katy Perry Ambition, however, is riding shotgun, which brings us to the singer at #32. Katy Perry. Now, if we’re just looking at photographs, I can see why guys would dig Katy Perry. She looks like the slutty third Deschanel sister, and talks about kissing girls, which is catnip to horny guys. There is just one small problem with her: she’s the phoniest phony in all of Phonyland, and a sorry excuse for a pop star. Add her to the party playlist and the people present at the party, and I’m leaving. Give me Kylie Minogue (just missed the cut, we’re told) over Perry any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Please, please give me Kylie Minogue.

The sad, unspoken part of all this is that the performance of women rockers on this list is certainly a ripple effect of how much we devalue music these days. Ten years ago, this list would be crawling with singers. Twenty years ago, there would have been more singers than actresses. Today, we get Katy Perry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine list of women overall – hard to argue with Keeley Hazell, after all – but the music fan in me feels like this list serves as a stinging indictment of how completely screwed up the music business is these days. Sigh.

To view AskMen’s list of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women, click here.

  

Related Posts