Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

It’s pretty certain most us would like to put 2017 behind us, and move forward to the (hopefully) better and brighter 2018. Musically speaking, 2017 was a decent year, so let’s celebrate all it had to offer (Note: once again, these are solely my opinions, and as usual I didn’t listen to every single record that was released this year.)

Best Rap Album: DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

I’ll be honest: I didn’t fully get the “hype” behind Lamar until this album came out. It wins because Lamar’s lyrics are smart, honest, and he’s actually saying something. Plus, the album as a whole is a solid mix of rhymes, dope beats, and a whole lotta love.

Guiltiest Pleasure: “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes

He’s so plain and vanilla; boring and unoriginal. Yet this songs makes me dance, and I just can’t help it.

Worst Collaboration: “Something Just Like This” Coldplay + The Chainsmokers

Coldplay has been dead to me for some time now. The minute they shed everything that made them them, I cut the cord. The Chainsmokers were never on my good list, because there’s nothing good about them. This is a musical abomination on so many levels.

Best Collaboration – “I Know You” by Craig David feat. Bastille

David’s smooth vocals against Bastille’s rock operatic ones; David’s R&B sound, with Bastille’s rock-electronic vibe. Mash it all together and what you get is beautiful music. Not to mention: Craig David is back!

Best Latin Collaboration: “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, Willy William feat. Beyoncé

The original of this infectious track has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube alone. Add Queen Bey into the mix and it’s completely unstoppable.

Most Surprising Track: “Rockstar” Post Malone feat. 21 Savage

At first glance, Post Malone leaves nothing to be desired. That should teach me to judge a book by its cover. Although he screams drug addict trailer trash, with nasty grills and hair that hasn’t been washed in months, his music is actually pretty good (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Most Disappointing Track: “Walk on Water” by Eminem feat. Beyoncé

This wins this category because in spite of its huge potential, it falls flat. The content of Em’s flow is pretty good, but his delivery is lazy, slurry and sounds a little too much like Macklemore (sorry Em!) Bey’s chorus makes the track listenable, but otherwise, it’s a bit of a snoozefest (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Best Indie Track: “Nobody Else Will be There” by The National

It’s moody, dark, and puts your stomach in knots. Everything a National song is supposed to be.

Worst Indie Track: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

It’s so catchy that it very quickly becomes too catchy, which automatically makes it intolerable. It’s just trying too hard.

Best Club Track: “Unforgettable” by French Montana feat. Swae Lee

I dare you not to bust a move right now.

Best R&B Track: “Skywalker” by Miguel feat. Travis Scott

One of the best tracks off Miguel’s release War & Leisure, it shows off his velvety vocals, a sick beat, and also appeared on HBO’s smash hit Insecure.

Best New Artist: Amy Shark

Delicate vocals full of vulnerability and soul, Australia’s Shark is a singer-songwriter who has managed to dominate radio waves, in spite of the fact she’s only ever released a 6-track EP. Look out for her in 2018.

Worst New Artist: Cardi B

There are just so many things about Cardi B that, despite my best efforts, I just can’t.

Best Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

This track wins mostly because the sound is just more to my liking. A little more rock ‘n roll, a little edgier. Niall’s offering was too cheesy boy band pop; Zayn’s was too over the top and all over the place.

Worst Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Strip That Down” by Liam Payne feat. Quavo 

Payne just isn’t vocally strong enough to be a solo act. Everything about this screams someone who’s a little too keen on changing his image. Newsflash, Liam: it’s not working.

Best TV Soundtrack: Big Little Lies

It has everything from Leon Bridges, to Alabama Shakes, to Martha Wainwright. Oh, and this killer theme song.

Best Movie Soundtrack: Atomic Blonde

Question: what’s better than watching a stiletto-wearing Charlize Theron kick ass to the sound of new wave/rock/pop/punk 80s music? Answer: nothing.

Best Canadian Album: Everything Now by Arcade Fire

I will agree that Arcade Fire is definitely an acquired taste. But once you get into them, there’s something unique about the way they make music and put it all together, that sets them apart. This wasn’t their best album, but a solid one nonetheless.

Best Comeback: N.E.R.D.

It’s been 7 years since N.E.R.D. released an album, and 16 years (!) since their anthem “Rock Star” was released. This year’s No One Ever Really Dies is such a force, both musically and lyrically; there’s nothing out there that sounds anything like it. Bravo.

Worst Comeback: Theory of  a Deadman

Technically ToaD put out an album in 2014, but let’s be honest – it’s been at least 12 years since they released anything anyone heard, and, frankly, it should’ve stayed that way. They are, and have always been a poor man’s Nickelback.

Most Underrated Artist: Billie Eilish

Ms. Eilish released her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me, this summer. At only 15 years old (!), she blew me away.

Most Overrated Artist: Ed Sheeran

Look, I know it’s easy to come down hard on Sheeran, but it’s just as hard not to. His music is formulaic, his vocals aren’t anything special, and he’s a ginger. Somehow, he’s heralded as the best of the best, and his smugness exacerbates with each accolade. I will never understand his appeal.

Best Cover Song: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by London Grammar 

The key to a good cover song is to maintain the integrity of the song, while putting your own spin on it. London Grammar has done exactly this with The Verve’s 1997 classic. Grammar stripped it down, and made it more haunting. As far as covers go, it’s perfection. Not to mention, lead singer Hannah Reid kills it on vocals.

Worst Cover Song: “You Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to cover a song, make sure it’s a song that’s worth covering. The New Radicals’ original from 1998, wasn’t a good song. It was mediocre at best. Then completely changing the sound from pop/rock to techno is an even worse decision.

Best Live Show: The xx 

I’ve been to my fair share of concerts, and I can say without a doubt, The xx came out on top this year. Their music builds up so subtly, until it takes over and pulls at every emotion inside your body. The only option you have left is to dance off the emotional wreck you have become – it’s the best way to heal.

Worst Album: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Swift needs to take a chill pill. Her attempt at shedding her “good girl” image is so predictable, and so not working. No one believes her to be this villainous vixen (except maybe her millions of fans.) She tried to throw shade at the Kardashian-Wests, her music gets worse and worse with every album, and she needs to stop with the red lipstick.

Album of the Year: I See You by The xx

This album has the ability to make you feel things you never thought you could feel; it’ll make you hear things in ways you never thought possible; it’ll break your heart, sweep you off your feet; it’ll understand you like your best friend, and hurt you like your past love. All while making it impossible to resist dancing like no one’s watching.

Worst Song: “Take a Knee…My Ass” by Neal McCoy

This requires zero explanation.

Song of the Year: “Performance” by The xx

The first time I heard this song, it permeated through my skin, invaded my soul and sunk my heart; time actually stopped. The story it tells is one that resonates with us all, and its honesty is so real, it hurts. In a good way.

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My definition of pop music will always bring me to the 90s/early 2000s. The era of boy bands and girls bands, the rise of Britney and Xtina, ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys. As a teenager, as much as you fought it, it became impossible to ignore pop music. That’s because although it was contrived, overproduced, and purposely presented with a pretty face; it was also catchy, dancy and fun. Here are some Canadian artists that shone during this global pop movement.

Sugar Jones

Points to whoever remembers this all-girl pop group, because I really had to wrack my brain. They were formed as part of a reality music show – Popstars – back in 2001. We’re talking pre-American Idol, pre-X-Factor, pre-The Voice. It’s pretty certain they were the only and most diverse all-girl Canadian pop group ever, who likely came to be because of the hype surrounding girl bands at the time. Regardless of how they were created, this single hit #1 on the Canadian charts, and their self-titled debut/only album went as far as #2 (I have no idea how.)

Prozzäk

Oh, Prozzäk. Where do I even begin? This Toronto-based duo first graced us wither their animated presence in 1998, with their triple (!) platinum album Hot Show. All their videos feature appearances by cartoon characters Simon and Milo, who take us along on their adventures. Their sound is part Eiffel 65, part Right Said Fred, with a dash of Aqua. Hot Show featured hits such as “Omobolasire,” “Sucks to be You” and this gem right here (why do I know all the lyrics?!)

The Moffatts

One of Canada’s more successful boy bands brought us their first album, platinum-selling Chapter 1: A New Beginning, in 1998, when they were merely 14/15 years old. 4 brothers (including triplets) from B.C. banded together to essentially become the Canadian equivalent of Hanson. They were squeaky clean, with their frosted tips and long hair, while they sang tracks like “Girls of my Dreams” and “Miss You Like Crazy.” In 2000, they released their also-platinum album, Submodalities, along with a new image. They grew stubble, spiked up their hair, and were full of attitude, hoping they’d prove to everyone they weren’t kids anymore. Except, they were.

McMaster & James

This dreamy Winnipeg duo of Luke McMaster and Rob James, made every teenage girl weak in the knees. There’s nothing more swoon-worthy than a couple of good looking dudes expressing their feelings about love. In an time where music videos were actually key to a band’s success, these guys knew how to seduce the camera with their bedroom eyes, leaving viewers no choice but to fall for them. After releasing their self-titled debut in 2000, they sort of disappeared musically, but not without leaving this treasure. So, thank you.

soulDecision

Vancouver-based boy group soulDecision (yup, one word) came into our lives with platinum-selling 2000’s, No One Does it Better. Apparently, there were 3 guys in the band: lead singer and total babe Trevor Guthrie; the other less attractive singer David Bowman, and the creepy sunglass-wearing keyboard player, Ken Lewko. As a boy band, they easily did well, but unlike other boy bands, they actually wrote their own songs and played their own instruments (hence, keyboard guy.) Trevor now sports a ponytail and is all about EDM, (see “This is What it Feels Like” and  “Soundwave”), however it’s unclear what happened to the other 2. Here they all are – plus Canadian rap superstar Thrust – in all their glory.

Fefe Dobson

Fefe Dobson had to be added to this list, because this Toronto-based singer is one of the few female solo pop artists during this time. Her impact on the Canadian pop scene is that much more important, even though she was more rock rebel-chic than pop princess, as evidenced on “Bye, Bye Boyfriend.” Her 2003 self-titled debut album went platinum, and she has continued to make killer track after killer track ever since – as most underrated artists do. Her most recent album, 2010’s Joy, showed a more mature, confident, and versatile performer. See below.

Wave

It pains me a little to have this Niagara Falls duo on this list, because it forces me to admit that I was obsessed with them. It also means I have to confess that a friend and I re-enacted one of their music videos as an audition tape to become MuchMusic VJs – a fact that still makes me cringe to this day. Dave Thomson and Paul Gigliotti somehow managed to steal my heart back in 2001, with their debut Nothing as it Seems. I have no explanation as to my affinity for their music, so judge all you want. But watch this too.

Sky

Sky, oh Sky. Yet another male duo, this time hailing from Montreal. My version of Sky features James Renald (the blonde guy) and Antoine Sicotte (the bald guy.) Their first album, 1999’s platinum-selling Piece of Paradise was a regular on my boombox: it was a fun, pop album, not too different from everything else happening in the pop music scene, but for some reason, it stood out. Maybe it’s because Renald looks exactly like the character “Spike” from SMG’s TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or maybe it was the video for “Some Kinda Wonderful” ; or how high pitched Renald’s voice got on “All I Want.” Or maybe, just maybe, it was this track, which hit #1 and remains such a monumental part of my high school days.

 

 

It goes without saying, there’s an art to covering another musician’s work. The key is to make it your own, change as you see fit, whilst maintaining the essence of the original. The following artists missed the memo on all that.

“Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

Why on Earth did Cartal decide to cover such an underwhelming track? 90s one-hit wonder band The New Radicals birthed this back in 1998, had their 15 minutes, then quit the industry. I tried to find a way to defend his choice – he is, after all, a fellow Canadian. But in no universe, did this make any sense. It wasn’t a good song to begin with, and Cartal just made it worse.


“Faith” by Limp Bizkit

What would possess wannabe punk rockers to make a “loud” version of George Michael’s (RIP) 80s classic? Lead singer Fred Durst along with his whiny voice, roam the streets in oversized board shorts, baseball hats, and a pathetic excuse for a goatee. It’s incomprehensible to me why someone of Durst’s lack of abilities felt he was capable of paying homage to peak George Michael. Brace your ears, this is quite the abomination.

“Fast Car” by Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

This track isn’t like the rest, because technically, it’s a remix, and not a cover. But still; even that was a poor choice by this Jonas Blue character. Tracy Chapman’s original was drowning in emotion. It hung on to that bit of hope, that bit of freedom of not having your past drag you down, and it made you feel everything. This version makes you feel nothing.  Shame on you, Jonas Blue (and Dakota.)

“Under the Bridge” by All Saints

Let me get this straight: female pop group All Saints had the audacity not only to try and cover this epic Red Hot Chili Peppers’ track, but to also do it so so poorly. The DJ-scratch over the guitar intro is offensive. They try to make a song about loneliness and getting high, into something seductive and sultry and mysterious, which for some reason requires the bearing of midriffs. They completely fly over the heart of this song, and ignore its soul. How dare you, All Saints. How dare you.

“Light My Fire” by Train

Train: you are a mediocre pop/rock group (at best) that hit the top of your game in the early 2000s, with a couple of hit singles.  The Doors:  released this song in 1967, and are one the most influential bands of all time. They helped define rock ‘n roll, and this was one of the songs that paved the way. This cover is insulting, forgettable, and keeps none of the spirit of the original. So Train, I have to ask: who do you think you are?

 

(Note: all covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and anything by The Beatles or Michael Jackson were omitted – there are just too many horrible ones.)