Avi, Ike, and Joel on what was hot in October 2013.
Happy Halloween! Welcome back to This Month in Spotify’s Top 20, where we comment on (and mostly trash) the songs America’s been listening to for the past four weeks. If you missed last month’s edition, you can find it here. America must be paying some attention to SlackPost because we’ve got more than three new songs to cover this time around. (New songs are marked below with asterisks.) That said, we will still be replacing some of the returning entries with our picks for songs that WE THINK should be in the Top 20. In Avinash’s case, he may be suggesting entire albums as replacements, because he hates how music is consumed by the single rather than the album. Typical.
1. Lorde – Royals [Replaced!]
Ike: OK, so we get that it’s a little harsh and even potentially traumatic to be doing this to a 16-year-old, but Lorde’s signature song is overplayed and needs to be replaced. We’re taking it back to real pop music. It’s Halloween, guys. MICHAEL JACKSON. “THRILLER.” The whole world ought to be listening to “Thriller,” all the time. In celebration of America’s sluttiest holiday, do yourself a favor and watch the entire “Thriller” video. It’s something you should do at least once a year anyway.
2. Drake featuring Majid Jordan – Hold On, We’re Going Home [Replaced!]
Avinash: This needs to go away. We’ll instead go with Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name, one of the hardest hip-hop albums in years. It’s no Hell Hath No Fury (although some of the beats do try to recapture that sparse Neptunes instrumentation), but Pusha T is slinging furious coke rap with multilayered punchlines out the ass. Although the album’s full of guest appearances, “Numbers on the Board” shows that Pusha doesn’t need them. After all, he can sound just like Ma$e if he wants to.
3. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball [Replaced!]
Joel: This music video causes me physical and emotional discomfort.
Avinash: Can we replace this one with “Monster Mash”?
Ike: Yes. Anything.
Avinash: “Monster Mash”!
4. Katy Perry – Roar
Joel: I’m sure there’s someone who feels empowered every time they hear this song. Someone.
Ike: I’ve railed on this song in the last two installments of this series, so I’m leaning toward opening this piece with four straight replacements…
Avinash: NO. For its absurd music video alone, we must leave it untouched. It, in the words of our good buddy Ryan Wilson, has “post-plane crash selfies, the most talented lightning bugs of all time, one lucky elephant, hallucinogenic cave paintings, and a double-surprise ending.” And as I write this, someone is blasting “Roar” outside my window…
5. Avicii – Wake Me Up [Replaced!]
Joel: I know Ike digs this, but to me all I hear is a record exec saying, “Hey, EDM is huge, Mumford and ‘Ho Hey’ are huge, let’s give the people what they want.” That such genre-blending seems totally inevitable and obvious at this point is why some people call ours a “mash-up culture.” Music mash-ups started twenty years ago and are pretty much undeniably cool (see Ike’s favorites here). But like anything fun, I feel like we started doing it to death after The Grey Album, and now the concept of mash-ups has spread to art, food, movies, books, everything. It’s 2013 in America, and when you want to target the biggest audiences, you take two disparate, individually good things with minimally-overlapping fanbases and find a way to force-fuck them into the kind of unholy combination that incites both awe and terror. Can’t decide between pancakes or an egg sandwich? McGriddles. Oh, Abraham Lincoln is inexplicably making a comeback, and vampires are all the rage? Boom. Wish you could read Star Wars in Elizabethan English and iambic pentameter? Get some. Of course, for every “No Country for Scooby-Doo,” there’s a thousand-calorie bacon-flavored milkshake. And for me, this song is just not a life-changing Korean barbecue burrito. It’s a Doritos Locos Tacos cash grab.
Ike: You’re on point in your assessment of today’s “mash-up” culture. As for “Wake Me Up” itself, I’m cool with it but not enough to defend it. Because you’re right; it’s absolutely overplayed and, yes, generic. That said, as I hinted at a couple months ago, I actually think this is just Avicii being influenced by Tiesto and trying to be “experimental” and to go in a different direction. Obviously, to a certain extent, that’s just a euphemism for mashing up genres randomly as you described, but I don’t think this was an exec-led formulaic concoction. Even so, the song’s gotten old and has got to go.
Avinash: Let’s go with RJD2 featuring STS & Khari Mateen, on “See You Leave.” The infectious guitar on this new track from the Columbus, Ohio hip-hop producer is really all you need to hear. But if you must know, Sugar Tongue Slim kicks some dope rhymes, and this Khari Mateen guy has some soulful pipes. Apologies for the Snooki & JWoww promo that may assault you on Mateen’s website.
6. Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail [Replaced!]
Ike: In the first edition of this series, I referred to this song as “B.o.B featuring OneRepublic.” I still feel that way. I hear this song every day and each time I can’t shake that sentiment. This song is not good. I, and probably a lot of people, would much rather listen to Jay rap by himself over a stripped down, early-90s drum beat. There is no need for a garbage JT appearance that basically turns the song into the 2013 equivalent of Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me,” a song that is actually composed of two totally distinct, alternating songs that do not go together. Oh wait, I just described all of dubstep.
Avinash: Probably an oversimplified attack on dubstep, but screw it. Dubstep sucks. Can we talk about how Justin Timberlake is biting Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” halfway through? Why?! No. Artistic. Value. Whatsoever. Can Courtney Love sue or something? Anyway, let’s replace this with some nu-folk with the rhythmic sensibility of 80s pop: Haim’s “The Wire.” New music that sounds like Fleetwood Mac — what’s not to like? This isn’t actually a song about the best TV show ever. It’s a strangely upbeat song about a girl breaking up with a guy for no reason. Cruel (but also classic). Unless… “fumbled it when it came down to the wire”? Ah, so she’s dumping him because he dropped and broke her Blu-ray box set of The Wire? Perfectly reasonable.
Ike: Real quick: I want to show love to my personal favorite Haim song, the excellent “Honey & I,” which boasts a wonderful guitar riff and what Grantland’s Steven Hyden described as a mix of Tom Petty and Beyoncé. Good things.
7. Imagine Dragons – Radioactive [Replaced!]
Avinash: This song moved up the list? Come on! Seriously, how is that possible? Be gone! Let’s go with Morcheeba’s Head Up High. Three years ago, Blood Like Lemonade returned lead singer Skye Edwards to Morcheeba and Morcheeba to the trip-hop sounds of 1998’s The Big Calm. This fall’s Head Up High, on the other hand, reflects the eclectic pop the band churned out between 1998 and 2010. But that’s not a bad thing. On Head Up High, tracks like “Finally Found You” and “Gimme Your Love” feature the strong guitar work and heavy-hitting R&B rhythms that have kept Morcheeba’s poppier music from disappointing fans of their early material. Moreover, “Under the Ice” carries the darker trip-hop edge that creeps throughout their greatest work. Make sure to check out this live performance for Virgin Radio.
8. Drake, 2 Chainz & Big Sean – All Me**
Ike: Following a boring top seven with a whopping six SlackPost replacements, we’ve finally reached our first new song on this month’s list!
Avinash: “All Me,” huh? Drake, I think your Degrassi co-stars would be hurt. For real though, can you sing/rap about something other than how great it is to be Drake? And while you’re at it, could you explain to 2 Chainz how a metal detector works? “My dick so hard it make the metal detector go off.” No.
9. Lorde – Tennis Court**
Ike: So we got rid of “Royals” both because MJ HAD to be in the top spot, and because we knew Lorde had another song in the top 10. To be honest, I’m not crazy high on Lorde, but I like some of her songs — particularly “The Love Club” and FFFRRANNNO’s remix of “Bravado,” neither of which appear on her debut album. But I appreciate how her stuff isn’t cookie-cutter generic 2013 pop. I also just like her. She’s a Kiwi. And even though she’s SIXTEEN, she comes off as alarmingly mature in her interviews. Seems cool. Great hair too. Go her.
Avinash: Why is being a Kiwi a redeemable quality? Well, Neil Finn of Crowded House is from New Zealand. So if that’s what you mean, then of course I understand. Anyway, the lyrics in “Tennis Court” are pretty dumb… kind of like they were written by a sixteen-year-old.
10. OneRepublic – Counting Stars**
Avinash: Three straight new songs! So this is what OneRepublic sounds like when they’re not riding successful hip-hop names like Timbaland or B.o.B to the top of the charts. I have to say I don’t hate it.
Ike: Fine, I’ll begrudgingly accept your semi-approval of a freaking OneRepublic song. However, since you brought it up, I have to make fun of the whole Timbaland thing (aka “Apologize”), because he did literally nothing to their original except for adding that “Ey!” sound in the background and probably the first drum sample he found on GarageBand.
11. Lady Gaga – Applause
Avinash: For some reason I really feel like buying a Kia Soul…
Ike: Her new single features R. Kelly. Awesome?
Avinash: “Do What U Want” is uncomfortably, well, R. Kelly. Lady Gaga must be terribly underinformed if she’s telling R. Kelly to do what he wants with her body (or she’s down with getting peed on). On second thought, she’s probably a bit old for him. R. Kelly’s lawyer should’ve told him to stay away from anything with questionable lyrics about consent. But I guess R. Kelly does what he wants.
12. Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
Avinash: This L.A.-based indie pop duo sounds like Empire of the Sun, only without the glam rock swagger.
13. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop [Replaced!]
Avinash: Is this a song about America’s bipolar affair with all things Miley?
Ike: Whatever. No comment.
Avinash: Well I’m subbing it out. A month ago, the hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030 returned with a sequel to their 2000 self-titled debut, and no one seems to have noticed. Deltron 3030 is a must-have for hip-hop heads! As far as concept albums go, it’s an absolute classic. So the lack of fanfare surrounding their return is shameful. Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala’s Event II tells its sci-fi dystopian tale with the help of actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Cross, as well as the Momofuku guy. Musically, the album is scattered across genres, with Del’s signature laid-back flow bringing it all together. Deltron 3030 dabble in futuristic Rage Against the Machine rap-rock with none other than Zack de la Rocha on “Melding of the Minds.” They imagine “old-school” rap in the year 3040 with The Lonely Island on the hilarious “Back in the Day.” Del even spits over backup vocals by John McClane’s daughter on a couple tracks. Then there’s “The Return,” a forceful solo rap showcasing Del’s immense storytelling skill, and “What Is This Loneliness,” a Gorillaz-type cut courtesy of Dan the Automator’s Spaghetti Western-flavored production and a melancholy Damon Albarn hook.
14. Passenger – Let Her Go**
Ike: I know it isn’t his fault, but the singer’s voice makes me dislike him.
Avinash: This is mildly pleasant folk rock, but yeah, the dude’s voice upsets the ears. It sounds like Passenger stole one of the angsty poems I wrote in high school listing simple dichotomies I thought sounded profound. If only I’d learned three chords on acoustic guitar during my English class’s poetry unit…
15. Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix)
Avinash: This “Halloween Sadness” spoof seems apposite. Look who just used one of his GRE vocab words correctly! If staying in this whole week to study doesn’t pay off, at least I’ll have this moment.
16. Imagine Dragons – Demons**
Avinash: Nothing involving dragons and demons should be this boring.
17. Robin Thicke, T.I. & Pharrell – Blurred Lines
Avinash: I was OK with this song a couple months ago, but now I cringe every time it comes on at a party and people get all giddy and start going, “hey hey hey!”
Ike: Yeah but we’re leaving this alone for another month, just to celebrate Emily Ratajkowski’s recent victory in the Esquire Woman of the Year competition.
Avinash: Isn’t she going to be in a movie with Batman Affleck? We’ll probably hate her after that.
Ike: Shut up. We’ll cross that bridge when we have to.
18. AWOLNATION – Sail [Replaced!]
Avinash: I don’t understand this song. It sounds like lazy, stoned dubstep. Like AWOLNATION sang a few lines, played some electronic noises, and banged some drums. Then someone made a dubstep remix, and that dubstep remix sat on the couch and smoked a lot of marijuana, and no amount of Mountain Dew could make the dubstep remix go outside and skateboard with its friends.
Ike: Lazystep. So hot right now.
Joel: The life cycle of pop music is bizarre. Just remember: “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” was clinging onto the iTunes most downloaded list almost five years after its release. We could have two more years of this song.
Ike: Well, not on this list. This needs to go immediately. In its place, I nominate… anything. Wait, how could we forget “Ghostbusters”?
19. Bastille – Pompeii
Joel: Second week on the list. In case you thought this was another “guy with a laptop” act, it could have been, but then the guy with the laptop decided to ask/hire some other dudes to play his songs and call themselves a band. Turns out they are talented. Everyone should be listening to this, because everyone loves British singers, everyone loves synth pop, and everyone loves background chanting that is reminiscent of The Lion King.
20. Ylvis – The Fox
Ike: This was one of our replacements last month, so we’re pumped that it’s actually in the Top 20 this month. Mad props to Ylvis, because this climb up the charts confirms the brilliance of their satire. At first, you only listened to “The Fox” without its video ironically, but now you’re happy to listen solely because it provides everything you want and expect from a popular hit in 2013. Also, check out the Norwegian duo’s other songs and videos; they’re great and they cover a ton of important issues beyond what foxes sound like when they scat. For real: who the fuck builds a Stonehenge?
Avinash: One of the Ylvis guys looks like a third Hemsworth brother, who wasn’t ripped enough to be Thor or the dude in Hunger Games so he decided to become part of the Norwegian Lonely Island. Correction: there actually IS a third Hemsworth brother who wasn’t ripped enough to be Thor or the dude in Hunger Games but didn’t become part of the Norwegian Lonely Island.
Ike: Damn. Tough life.