We’ve entered the current decade.
I had to double-check whether that was right but apparently it’s November now and there’s less than two months left of 2018. Thanksgiving is soon and everything. We have experts researching how that happened, but the leading theory that “time flies when you’re having fun” is nonsense, and the saying should be “time flies when the world is a nightmare garbage fire” or something like that. It needs some work. Needs to be catchier.
Where was I? Oh, right. Music.
I went… outside the box with this one. Out both sides of the box. You’ll see what I mean.
Kesha — “TiK ToK”
See what I mean?
Regular readers of this column, as well as people who follow me on Twitter and anyone who’s been within earshot of me for more than four minutes, are aware that I’m not a fan of modern manufactured pop music. It’s just not very good. But Kesha… well, it’s not terrible. I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s bad with intent, and she’s actually a talented songwriter despite the lyrics of this song.
The reason it made the list, though, is that it’s just so catchy. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, it’s incredibly vapid, and I bob my head to it every time I hear it despite myself. And that’s admirable.
Carolina Chocolate Drops — “Hit ‘Em Up Style”
I try to stay away from covers, but this is just too good to pass up.
With all due respect to Blu Cantrell, this song was always supposed to be sung by Rhiannon Giddens and accompanied by a banjo and fiddle. The album this was on, Genuine Negro Jig, won the last Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album before it got merged with Contemporary Folk.
Speaking of the Grammy for Best Folk Album, it’s been awarded seven times, and Giddens has been nominated twice as a soloist and once as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She also got a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2017 and, most impressively, won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Yes, that Steve Martin, the funny one from the movies. Anything Steve Martin likes is OK by me.
Katy Perry — “Teenage Dream”
I know, I know. Two pop songs in one list. But say what you will about the musical value (and I do, frequently and loudly and often unprovoked), but Perry is a good performer, and this song is surprisingly good if you stop to listen to it.
Granted, it probably wouldn’t even make the Honorable Mentions in the ’70s or ’90s, but we’re into the ’10s, so we take what we get. I can’t just put Janelle Monae on the list every week, so it was this or DJ Khaled.
Cee Lo Green — “Fuck You”
I’ve got my issues with Cee Lo Green, as I’ve gone into in the past. He’s a creepy little man with weird stubby arms and accusations of sexual battery. I don’t like him personally, and I’m pretty glad his popularity has cratered.
This song, though? This is a great song. Like, a great song. It’s absolutely genius, musically and lyrically and tonally and all around. It’s catchy, but not simple. If it’s not genuine, it certainly strikes a chord with those of us who’ve been in that situation, and all these years later it’s yet to get old.
It takes a lot for me to overlook someone like Green, but this and “Crazy” clear the bar. Now let’s never speak of him again.
Girl Talk — “All Day”
This is probably the farthest outside the box yet. Not just this week, but overall in this column.
Yes, that YouTube link is a playlist. “All Day” is actually All Day, a mashup album intended to be listened to as a whole, with no pauses or breaks between songs. It’s 71 straight minutes of absolute genius, and I’ve listened to it beginning-to-end dozens of times since my friend and then-coworker George Kelly burned a CD of it for me because the download site had crashed upon its free release. It’s a masterpiece of the genre.
There’s a lot of dispute, and rightfully so, about whether DJ’ing or making mashups is musicianship or just pushing play on someone else’s music. I argue that it depends. There are bad DJs, and there are good ones, and the good ones elevate it into an artform unto itself. All Day is the latter. Gregg Gillis plays other people’s songs like a musical instrument, and he’s a virtuoso, combining songs to be more than their component parts, even when those parts are some of my favorite music.
I know it’s asking a lot, but really, listen to the whole thing. It’s over an hour but you’ll lose yourself in it, and you’ll thank me, I promise.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.