RIFF REWIND 2013: Ghost, Janelle Monáe and Daft Punk

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Daft Punk, Get Lucky

Who knew that France would make such talented robots? Daft Punk did.

I couldn’t quite justify putting it in the top five, but I want to give a shoutout to honorable mention “Let Legend Mark Me as the King” by Christopher Lee.

Yes, that Sir Christopher Lee. He was Saruman, he was Francisco Scaramonga, he was the quintessential Dracula, and he released an album in 2013 at 91 years old. And, if that hasn’t confused you enough, it’s a death metal album.

Between the ages of 87 and 92 Lee released four symphonic death metal concept albums themed around the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, three heavy metal Christmas albums, and an EP of metal covers including “My Way.” And they’re all fantastic. He won awards for them! The man could really do it all.

All that said, as individual songs, these five are better.

Ghost — “Year Zero”

I love Ghost. They’re easily my favorite band of the 21st century so far. Not only is the music great but the story and the theatrics are brilliant. And, as you’d know if you read my review of their recent San Jose show, they’re absolutely amazing live. Or maybe not; I may have spent too much time explaining what exactly Ghost is. I still don’t know what I think about that review.

Don’t be surprised if Ghost appears at least once more in the next few weeks, because my favorite song of its is yet to come and its latest album is pretty good as well.

Daft Punk — “Get Lucky”

If you don’t like “Get Lucky” you might not be human.

Daft Punk has always been great but they really stepped it up to another level with Random Access Memories. “Get Lucky,” especially, is almost aggressively fun. It forces you to enjoy it against your will. No matter how bad a mood you’re in, no matter how much you try to force yourself not to be taken in, that catchy chorus just won’t let you.

In 2018 there are a lot of reasons to need a cheering-up.

Janelle Monáe — “Electric Lady”

Janelle Monáe should be more famous. That she had two acts after her at Outside Lands rather than opening for Janet Jackson or headlining her own night was an absolute travesty, and the fact that Coldplay and Justin Timberlake played the Super Bowl halftime show while Monáe is right there is crazy.

She does wear vagina-shaped pants during her show, so that might explain the Super Bowl thing, now that I think about it.

Anyway, back to Janelle Monáe not being famous enough: If you’re cool you should listen to her music in public and periodically mention—casually of course—who you’re listening to. If you’re not cool, you should pretend you don’t know who she is so you don’t ruin it.

Lorde — “Royals”

Way back when there were standards, these were songs that were good but structurally simple, which just about any musician could put their spin on and perform. By the ’60s or so, with The Beatles changing everything, standards had more or less fallen out of favor.

Now, with the rise of YouTube, standards are coming back and “Royals” is one of the first. It’s a great song, but it’s simple enough that it can be personalized and performed by anyone from an a capella group to a seven foot tall sad clown. Click on that sad clown one, trust me.

None of those would exist without the original, though, so Lorde gets the spot on the list. Sorry, Puddles.

Miley Cyrus — “Wrecking Ball”

I know, pop week was last week.

Miley Cyrus gets a bad rap, by which I mean everyone expected her to be a good-girl pop idol. And, logically, she should have been, because she got her start on a Disney Channel show and her father is famous for possibly the worst hit song of all time. Both of those are usually a recipe for another boring, manufactured tween starlet.

Her personality, though, does not match that. She revels in rebellion, and not in a manufactured shake-the-good-girl-image sort of way. She spends most of that video naked, for example. If she had a clean slate and this was the ’90s, she’d be more L7 than Britney Spears. If it was the ’80s, she’d be more The Runaways than Debbie Gibson.

That’s not to say I’m a huge fan of all her music, mind you. Her Disney Channel roots do guide where her label directs her. But she doesn’t deserve the scorn she gets from hipsters and the like, and given the chance to break out of that genre’s box I think she could be very good.

Honorable Mentions

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine — “Shock-U-Py!”
Volbeat — “Lola Montez”
Christopher Lee — “Let Legend Mark Me as the King”
Robin Thicke — “Blurred Lines”
Hieroglyphics — “Gun Fever”
Avicii — “Wake Me Up”
Drake — “Started from the Bottom”
Haim — “The Wire”
Katy Perry — “Roar”
Arcade Fire — “Reflektor”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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