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2013 Year in WTF Music Review

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One of my favorite times of the year is December. Some might think that’s because of Christmas… but nay, my favorite holiday is my birthday because we all have some degree of narcissism. Some might think that’s because of the snow… but no, you try walking up UW-Madison’s Bascom Hill in over a foot of snow. Some even might think that it’s because of the holiday season in general… but no, I live in Chicago, IL and I hate tourists so add that with Michigan Avenue and you’ll find I pretty much stay in my house during the holiday season. The reason December is one of my favorite times of the year is because of all the “2013 Year in Review” posts that come out. Whenever I read one of these posts, my thoughts are either 1) “oh right that happened, I tried to forget,” 2) “No way! That totally happened in 1999, not 2013,” or 3) “LOL I should have read the news more often, when did this happen.”

Obviously, this is a music review website, so I should probably focus on 2013 Year in Review: Music, but I really do urge you to take a look at the more general news story versions of 2013 Year in Review posts because I guarantee you missed the dumbest things that happened this year. Here’s my review of 2013 Music though… enjoy…

1. Big artists released new albums.

Katy Perry’s Prism (October 22): First time to my site? I’m obsessed with Katy Perry. Although not the best album of the year (we’ll get to my opinions on the best later), it is hands down an awesome album. Prism doesn’t stray too far from the sounds of Teenage Dream, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for someone like Katy Perry. With hits like “Roar,” “Walking on Air,” “Dark Horse,” and “Unconditionally” already being constantly replayed on the radio after just one month, Katy Perry clearly doesn’t need to change her sound. Plus, she’s Katy Perry – just try not to love her.

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (March 19): JT came back. Technically, JT came back twice since The 20/20 Experience was released in two parts. The first part debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 968,000 copies in its first week. People were excited for JT to say the least.

Kanye West’s Yeezus (June 18): Guess what? I’ve never listened to this album. But hey, it came out and it was huge. I haven’t really given Kanye West the time of day since he named his child Blue Ivy. The album deserves some recognition though because Yeezus debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 327,000 copies in its first week. Plus, we’ve all seen that music video for “Bound 2” right?

OneRepublic’s Native (March 26): This album was actually meant for 2012 (circa August 27th, 2012 with “Feel Again”), but wasn’t ready in time, and was thus released in 2013. I have no problem with an artist publically announcing that their album is not ready in time – beautiful things take time, right? And oh my god, Native is beautiful. Native peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, but a solid number one in my heart (still not the best album in my mind, have patience).

Honorable mentions: 1) Beyonce, 4 (March 29); 2) Drake, Nothing Was the Same (September 24); 3) Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail (July 9).

2. There were a lot of really, really bad reunions.

This year was like the reunion of the 90s. First there was Destiny’s Child at the 2013 SuperBowl Half-Time Show. It literally lasted like 20 seconds and I’m pretty sure they didn’t even turn on Kelly or Michelle’s microphones. Great attempt #1 though, Music Industry. The second reunion was NSYNC at the 2013 VMAs. It lasted a little longer, and at one point Justin Timberlake was actually in the background. In addition, the whole time, you’re like “oh their microphones aren’t on either” and then all of the sudden, JC decides to sing the most unnecessary “baby, baby, baby” just to prove he thinks he’s still memorable. The final reunion of 2013 was TLC at the American Music Awards. They sang “Waterfalls.” Like no, “Scrubs” or go home.

3. EDM made some great moves.

Daft Punk. Random Access Memories had to have been one of the most anticipated albums of 2013, or maybe I was just so anxious for it that I felt the rest of the world was too. We hadn’t heard new Daft Punk since Human After All dropped in 2005, so Random Access Memories was eight years overdue. The album is the duo’s most successful album overall, as it debuted at number one in over 20 countries worldwide and eventually reached number one on 23 different charts.

Avicii. True was Avicii’s debut studio album and it is amazing. The album first came to listeners’ ears in April 2013 when Avicii released a 60-minute mix on SoundCloud, and then it continued to reach ears when Avicii played over 40 total minutes of the album at Ultra Music Festival in his set. The three singles released from the album – “Wake Me Up,” “You Make Me,” and “Hey Brother” – have been quite successful, too. Although the album only peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, it’s no doubt that this was an exciting year for Avicii.

EDC. Electronic Daisy Carnival made a lot of moves this year. I don’t think we need to discuss that it happened, that it increased in size, that it spread to new locations, or that it was probably amazing (I obviously didn’t make it this year… or any year so far, but it is on my bucket list). What EDC really taught us this year was the true positive economic impact that festivals have despite what non-festival goers think and protest. If you still don’t believe that festivals are GREAT and POSITIVE, check out Insomniac Event’s Economic Analysis of EDC Chicago 2013.

Swedish House Mafia. Although the soundtrack for the One Last Tour came out in 2012, the tour started and ended in 2013. I had tickets, but school comes first (my mother told me that… trust me, I would have been there) so I didn’t make it. Over 1 million fans saw the end of the Swedish House Mafia era on their last tour – that doesn’t include the people, like myself, who tuned in to see their final performance together at Ultra Music Festival.  “We came, we raved, and we fucking love you.”

4. Miley Cyrus made her mark. It happened, it was necessary to include it in the review, but we don’t need to speak about it more.

5. Nielsen/Billboard released the mid-year Music Industry Report. The trends: vinyl sales up, streams up, digital track sales down. So what we really see here is an increase in hipsters listening to vinyls (just kidding, I have my own collection that I love), a lot of people listening to music on Spotify, and a lot less people purchasing music with a lot more people illegally downloading music. But really, the report is really interesting and I’m very interested to see the end-of-year report, too.

6. A lot of really great albums came out from new artists.

CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe (September 24). While CHVRCHES didn’t first come to the scene in 2013, they’re pretty new and The Bones of What You Believe was their first studio album that dropped this year. The album got some great recognition too: it was number 32 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013 and received a score of 81/100 on Metacritic, indicating “universal acclaim.” In addition, it reached number one on the US Independent Albums chart.

Lorde, Pure Heroine (September 27). Lorde has to be one of the biggest new names in 2013. …Like “Royals” – I’ve heard that song every day for the past six months at least. She even just had her cover of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” included on the Catching Fire soundtrack. Her album, Pure Heroine, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. Lorde is seriously talented and her voice is seriously unique. The girl is 16 – ponder that for a bit.

HAIM, Days Are Gone (September 30). HAIM (anyone Jewish, please help) has actually been around for a while, but their first album, Days Are Gone, was just released in 2013, a few months ago. The album has some great new sounds (similar to Fleetwood Mac, I hear), but my favorite is definitely “Send Me Down.”

7. My personal opinion… The Number 1 Album of 2013: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack.

Do soundtracks count as albums when it comes to figuring out the best one of the year? They do in my mind. The Gatsby soundtrack was huge. If you didn’t like the Gatsby soundtrack, it’s safe to say you actually do not have a soul. Regardless of your feelings toward the movie (if you didn’t like it, you didn’t read the book, plain and simple), you have to love the soundtrack. There were huge names associated with this album: Jay Z, Beyoncé, Will.I.Am, Fergie, and Florence + the Machine. There were new artists on this album: Lana Del Rey, The xx, Gotye, Nero, and Sia (ok those aren’t new, but less known at the time). When the track list and first trailer for the movie including some of the songs came out, the album started becoming highly anticipated. The album blew away predicted sales and chart performance. Within its first week of release, it had sold over 137,000 copies and was at number two on the Billboard 200. The Gatsby soundtrack deserved all the recognition it got and more – my Twitter feed and my Facebook news feed were filled with Gatsby Soundtrack links for weeks after the release – it was everywhere and it deserved to be. Sure, it didn’t strike a number one, but sometimes we need to look at the content of the album rather than the sales and chart positions of the album.

8. Finally, the end of year mashups that were released YESTERDAY:

Songs I Never Want to Hear Again in 2013

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The popular music of today is absolutely terrible and while I do listen to it, I would also not miss most of it if was never played again. Also as a disclaimer, I fully admit to listening to all of these songs multiple times, alone and at the numerous college pregames, which without drunken college students, I’m pretty sure none of these songs would ever even make it to the public.

1. Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup”

This song is literally about a red solo cup… a red plastic cup… Nothing else. No deeper meaning. No metaphor. Just a cup.

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2. Psy – “Gangnam Style”

This song is actually worse than Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” It’s not even in English, yet it’s also not even all in the same language; at least commit to one consistent language. Have you ever actually looked at the translation of the lyrics? No, probably not because that would take actual effort. The lyrics are literally, “A classy girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee.” That is almost worse than Justin Bieber telling every teenage girl that they would survive starvation as long as they love him.

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3. Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

No one was ever trying to get back together with you, Tay, I promise. And no one likes it when you stop the general flow of the song to talk in the middle in an annoyed voice.

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4. Madonna ft Nicki Minaj – “Give Me All Your Luvin”

This was just another pathetic comeback for Madonna. It’s almost worse that Madonna was good music when music was still good. She was the queen of pop and then she comes back in 2012 with a song that only illustrates her inability to correctly spell the word love. Honestly, she paired with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. while chanting “L.U.V. Madonna” and thought it would be a good song? Never play it again.

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5. Flo Rida – “I Cry”

If you would like to hear this song, may I suggest listening to the original and better song by Bingo Players. Hint: the title of the song is “Cry” and Flo Rida will never actually give them any credit for it.

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6. Rihanna ft. Chris Brown – “Birthday Cake”

Here’s the first thing that’s wrong with this song: Rihanna featuring Chris Brown. If you really need an explanation on why that’s bothersome, type “Chris Brown beats Rihanna” into Google because that will sum it up in the most vulgar way. Then google “Jenny Johnson and Chris Brown” because that’s the best comedic summary of him as a person. I remember the first time I heard this song and thought about how terrible it was so I tried to look it up by the lyrics, but failed when I realized that the only lyric was “cake.”

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7. Drake – “The Motto”

Because “YOLO” should have never become a thing.

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8. Skylar Grey ft. Emimen – “C’mon Let Me Ride”

I had a lot of hope for Skylar Grey after the P. Diddy single “Coming Home” and her help on “Love the Way You Lie.” Then I heard “Invisible” and I had even more hope for her. The hope even continued growing after hearing the Kaskade remix of “Invsible” and the DJ R3hab remix of “Dance Without You.” And then I heard “C’Mon Let Me Ride” and I no longer have any hopes for her in the music industry. There is no aspect of this song that should ever be considered catchy or good.

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9. Flo Rida – “Whistle”

We just really did not need another song that when translated from radio-appropriate to its real meaning is simply telling every listener how to give proper oral sex. First 50 Cent tainted my 12-year-old mind by telling me that lollipops were simply magic sticks that needed to be sucked, and now today, young minds are tainted with Flo Rida telling them to put their lips around the whistle and start real slow.

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10. Nicki Minaj

There is no one song. Let’s just get rid of Nicki Minaj.

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However, you can play Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” every day.

New Music Tuesday: 8/16/11

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It almost completely passed my mind that today is Tuesday. It’s a rare occasion when I miss New Music Tuesday. Although, let me tell you that today’s new music sucks. WTF?!

1. Lil Wayne – She Will (feat. Drake)

Seriously, the bubble wrap that I’m using to pack my bedroom sounded better than this song. Bad lyrics, bad rhythm, bad background noise… just bad. I am actually genuinely concerned with the absurd amount of people that bought this today on iTunes and caused it to jump to Number 4 on iTunes Top 10. There’s really no meaning behind the lyrics, unless you enjoy hearing really vulgar words and obnoxiously repeated lines: “She won’t, but shit, uh, then again maybe she will.” Clever lyrics.
Score: WTF?! 2/5

2. Lady Antebellum – We Owned the Night

I’m not one for country music, but Lady Antebellum always manages to get me hooked. The vocals from this group are amazing and the lyrics actually have purpose (shocker, I didn’t know artists could manage to make lyrics mean anything anymore). “We Owned the Night” also features some nice guitar chords that will cause you to either relax or maybe bob your head in a few sections. Whether or not you like country music, I urge you to listen to Lady Antebellum because it’s not your typical country sounds.
Score: 4/5

3. Album: Blue October – “Any Man in America”

When I first listened to the free preview on iTunes, I was not feeling this song; however, now I realize how powerful this song is. The vocals aren’t necessarily anything unique, but they’re still great to listen to. Also, the bonus of strong and effective lyrics makes me want to listen even more, for example in the current biggest hit, “The Feel Again (Stay)”: “And while I sit in my four cornered room dividing hearts for a little girl, well I can’t be anything but who I am.” Justin Furstenfeld knows how to sing with emotion – you can actually feel the pain he’s feeling just through his voice.
Score: 3.5/5

4. David Guetta & Afrojack – Lunar

According to my sister, this is “authentic electronic music” which apparently means there can’t be any words.  The beginning is awesome; I wish I knew what kind of instruments they were impersonating because I would try to learn how to play it, but really, it’s just a computer. This song is actually one that makes me appreciate electronic music. It stays pretty calm for the first half, gradually speeding up, until the drop one minute and thirty seconds into the song. I could see me fully enjoying this in a club, but as for in my bedroom, I’m not feeling it.
Score: 2.5/5

5. Allstar Weekend – Blame it on September

I would have really enjoyed the irony of this song being released in September. Allstar Weekend is young so I can’t trash them quite yet. They’re currently on tour with Selena Gomez and doing pretty well for themselves. Their album, All the Way, releases September 27th, and this single shows that the album has potential. There’s a genuine attempt at meaningful lyrics – they’re not extremely deep, but at least they try harder than Lil Wayne – and an addicting hook (despite the fact that it rhymes and that’s a little bothersome).
Score: 3/5

New Music Tuesday 8/9/11

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Last Wednesday, I did “Recent Releases,” but that was all wrong. It’s supposed to be “New Music Tuesday” and it’s my favorite unofficial holiday.

Today makes me realize how horrible music has gotten in the last few years. 

Here’s today’s releases:

1. “Headlines” – Drake

  • I don’t really expect much from Drake because his rapping isn’t really that skilled and his voice doesn’t really stand out from the rest. “Headlines” makes me want to gag though. The beat is a little too constant because it never changes throughout the song and the rhyming in every line annoys me. Also, the extremely clever chorus – repeating the words “they know” about fifteen times – is something a toddler could have written. So, really, WTF Drake?!?!
    Score: 1/5

2. “High Tide or Low Tide” – Bob Marley & The Wailers

  • Technically this song was released in 1973, but it was rereleased today to help launch the “I’m Gonna Be Your Friend” campaign to raise money for the children and families starving in Africa. Bob Marley mixed with The Wailers makes a great song, no arguments. A real acoustic guitar and some real drums mixed with soothing voices makes any listener extremely relaxed.
    Score: 4/5

3. “It Girl” – Jason Derulo

  • Immediately, my first thought about this song was how I liked the whistling accompaniment (and also how frustrated I was that I couldn’t whistle along). It may not be my favorite of Derulo’s songs and I may not like the idea of a song being written around the phrase “It Girl,” but it’s still pretty good. Derulo’s voice still manages to mesmerize me and his high notes still make me sigh. Overall, it will never be one of my Top 25 Most Played, but it will definitely get some iPod play time within the next few weeks.
    Score: 3/5

4. “Titanium” – David Guetta feat. Sia

  • David Guetta does an amazing job creating nice rhythms and beats for the background music for this song. Unfortunately, it’s Sia’s voice that makes this song not work. It sounds like a bad auto-tune version of Justin Bieber. I will admit she sounds better on the verses, but when I hear her sing on the chorus, I cringe a little. However, I think I can deal with the vocals and eventually they will grow on me because Guetta did a great job creating a nice dance track.
    Score: 3/5

5. “What You Want” – Evanescence 

  • I usually rely on YouTube to let me listen to a song before I decide whether or not to waste $1.29 on it, but apparently Evanescence did a good job making sure this song didn’t leak before the release date. Evanescence, to me, has one of those addicting voices that you can’t stop listening to. She has a lot of power in her voice and you can hear her confidence shine through. In addition, the background music is strong and the intertwining of the piano adds a realistic and unique touch.
    Score: 5/5

6. Fool Like Me – Cobra Starship feat. Plastiscines

  • Cobra Starship is one of those bands that is allowed to have silly lyrics because that’s what we expect from them. This song is no different: “I never meant to drive your car into that tree, I’m still real sorry about that.” The Plastiscines also do a nice job acting as the friends throughout the song. In addition, Cobra Starship did a nice job staying within their genre of music while still adding a new spin to their track. Keep your eye out for their new album dropping August 30th and my review of it coming next week!
    Score: 4/5

7. Bananaz – Ray J feat. Rick Ross

  • My first complaint with this song is why did Ray J feel it was necessary to spell what should be bananas with a z? Is that considered cool or something because to me it just looks completely idiotic and stupid. Second complaint: the chorus (again the really clever repetition of “The sex is bananaZ”) sounds like it’s being sung by a forty-year-old midget with a speech impediment. Third complaint: the beat was only exhilarating for the first twenty seconds. I didn’t think it was actually possible to give a song 0 out of 5 stars, but their inability to spell bananas knocked it down an extra point. WTF Ray J?!?!
    Score: 0/5

8. We Don’t Get Down Like Y’all – T.I.

  • T.I. sounds exactly like he did on all of his other songs and the beat sounds exactly like a typical T.I. song so I guess if you liked his old stuff, you’ll like the new song. I’ll admit that when the chorus goes and they sing “We don’t get down like y’all,” it sounds cool, but other than that there’s nothing spectacular or surprising about this song.
    Score: 2/5

9. “Glee the 3D Motion Picture Soundtrack” – Glee Cast

  • Only comment: please don’t get me started on Glee. I stopped watching it when they redid Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Oh wait, that was the first episode? Exactly.
    Score: WTF?!?!

10. Invisible – Skylar Grey

  • Saved the best, in my opinion, for last. This song is what I like about music. It’s not completely auto-tuned or made with computers. It has some concepts of real music and Skylar Grey is actually singing. In addition, this song actually offers up lyrics that have real meaning. Take a look at every other song from this week and maybe one other has meaningful lyrics. It’s not often that we get a song that means something. It’s not often that songs with real singing get noticed.
    Score: 5/5