We’re getting distressingly close to now, which is making it much harder to pick songs.
Time is a fantastic filter. With every year that passes a bunch of mediocre songs are forgotten, so as we get closer to now I’m worried I’m going to pick something that turns out to be embarrassing. The Internet never forgives and it never forgets, so if I run for office someday my opponent may trot out my praise of a song history decided was actually bad and dumb, and there goes my political career.
As a tangent, this also has the side effect of making everyone think music from the past was better because we only remember the good stuff. I’ve gone on at length that music from the ’90s was better than music now, but have you listened to System of a Down’s “Sugar” lately? Good lord. I liked that back in the day. What was wrong with me? But I forgot it existed, so the average quality of music as a whole went up.
Anyway, here’s some songs that hopefully won’t bring shame to my family!
Adele — “Rolling in the Deep”
I’m fairly confident in saying this song won’t look bad in the eyes of history.
There’s a whole genre of music that boils down to “Hey guys, look how good I am at singing!” A bunch of Mariah Carey’s stuff, for example. The non-singles from Christina Aguilera fall into that trap. It’s the vocal version of Dragonforce and mostly serves as auditions on singing competition shows.
Sometimes, though, the singing is just so good it becomes a good song overall. Adele manages to do that at least once every album. Which is my way of saying she’ll be back in a few weeks.
Killer Mike — “Ric Flair”
Like every other white person, I love Run the Jewels. But I also love Killer Mike as a solo artist! Which I think means I’m a hipster white person. Please don’t hold it against me.
He had to get on the list somewhere, so why not pick a song with a chorus that’s just clips of Ric Flair saying how great he is? That Rolex-wearing, diamond-ring-wearing, kiss-stealing (WHOO!), wheelin’-dealin,’ limousine-riding, jet-flying son of a gun makes everything better.
Foster the People — “Pumped Up Kicks”
So, yeah, this is a song from the perspective of a school shooter.
On the one hand this is from a few years before mass shootings were pretty much a weekly thing and school kids regularly put bulletproof inserts in their clear backpacks. It was pre-dystopia, not our current mid-dystopia. So how were they to know how real this would get?
On the other hand, Thurston happened in 1998 and Columbine in 1999; both over a decade before this. So it’s not like it was unheard-of. Red Lake was in 2005, Virginia Tech was 2007. So, yeah, it’s written as an anti-violence song to bring awareness to the problem, and the bassist even has a cousin who’s a Columbine survivor. But it’s also really easy to take it wrong and have the potential to bring back bad memories to—at this point—thousands of people.
What I’m saying is, if you’re gonna critique school shootings, be more overt so potential school shooters don’t identify with it.
LMFAO — “Party Rock Anthem”
Is “Party Rock Anthem” objectively terrible? Yes. Does it make any sense? It does not. Are the members of LMFAO uncle and cousin which makes the whole concept of the band a little uncomfortable? Undeniably.
Still, though. Have you seen 2018? It’s terrible. So it’s nice to watch an inexplicably “28 Days Later” themed video for an aggressively upbeat song that doesn’t take itself even a little bit seriously. Like an oasis in the desert that is the last few years.
That said, Andrew WK would never apologize for party-rocking, even sarcastically. LMFAO could learn a lesson or two from him.[Gokhman note: I just watched this video for the first time. What the hell is happening here?].
Gotye, featuring Kimbra — “Somebody That I Used to Know”
You knew you weren’t making it out of this list without the most inescapable sad naked guy of 2011.
This song was everywhere in 2011. It was popular both as a song and as a meme and it just would not go away. Which isn’t to say it’s not a good song, because it is. I like it, but if I never see Gotye and his unsettlingly huge mouth get body painted ever again I’d be OK. [Gokhman note: This song also marked an official entrance of Kimbra, who is arguably an even bigger talent that has outlast this hit to dig out a successful career of her own].
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.