Hot 100 Review: Blinding Light by The Weeknd

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Heartless by The Weeknd was my first ever Hot 100 Review. At the time Blinding Lights just released and wasn’t on the chart, but listened and liked it vastly more. I still do.

Blinding Lights has an amazing synth-wave sound. It really does feel like what driving down Las Vegas feels like. The keyboard and after effects really transport you immediately into the narrators mindset of being somewhere else. It is also very throwback to the 80s. I feel some real “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls vibes in the beat. Maybe content and theme. In the meantime it is time to see why The Weeknd is getting blinding lights.

The song begins with the narrator saying how he has been trying to call someone he loves because he’s been alone for so long and hoping they could how him love. The narrator also mentions going through a love withdrawal so the other person doesn’t have to do much. This first verse really puts us in the narrator’s head. It makes him sound very pitiful, but also why he might not be a great person.

In the pre-chorus he mentions how he is in Sin City and that even though no one can judge him it is still cold and empty because he cannot see clearly when they are gone. This sets up how he cannot see because he is blinded by the lights of Sin City, and cannot sleep until he feels safe with them. He is drowning in the night and can only trust them.

Being blinded by the Vegas lights is a neat idea. All the glitz, glamor, and partying clouds his judgment. I do not think “falling in the night,” works as well. It is too generic. Maybe if he went further with the light idea. Like he is being taken over or enveloped by them might help sell the song even better. It’s fine as is, but could be better.

In the second, shorter verse, the narrator says that he is running out of time because the sun is coming up so he has to book it to them. He specifically means hitting overdrive. I only specify because Genius says it is a reference to him breaking the speed limit a lot. Sure.

From there he goes back to the pre-chorus and chorus to set up the bridge. In the bridge he says he is calling to say he doesn’t have the words to talk over the phone, but that he will not let the other person go. The song then goes the chorus and outro where he repeats that he is blinded by the lights and how he cannot sleep until he is with her.

I think the composition, beat, and The Weeknd’s voice really helps sell the song. I say this because as a narrative it is weaker than Heartless. It is a story of how The Weeknd is overwhelmed by the party and life of stardom and how he needs to go back to the person he loves because he needs help, and wants to be better. There is a moment of realization in the bridge, but not a whole lot of build up anywhere else. Just two verses. One of which is only a three quick lines. It is not something easily noticeable on initial listens, but going through line by line makes it apparent.

The video is trying to recapture the vibe of Heartless. It does not work as well. It opens with The Weeknd bloodied and one Twitter troll comment away from turning into the Joker. It jumps back to him getting in a car and speeding around Las Vegas (I guess that Genius fact was important after all). It then intercuts with him dancing on empty roads, bridges, and tunnels, and entering a club. In the club he meets a singer. She force pulls him to her. Throughout this the car engine has even adding additional energy and grit to the production. I don’t love it, but can see what it is going for. They then literally do the frog scene again only sans frog. He just hits a speed high and the song goes all wonky for a second. Back with the singer, guys come and beat The Weeknd up. He goes on the run to all the places we saw him dancing. The song ends and it leaves him mentally broken on an overpass.

I will be upfront and say I have zero clue what is being done thematically with all that. Blinding Light is about realizing the star lifestyle is overwhelming, he messed up and wants help because he loves this other person. Driving around Las Vegas makes sense because that is a setting detail in the song. But the proto-Joker dancing along with the narrative with the singer is strange. It might be saying that she can help, but the city (here represented by the goons who beat him up) is too harsh, it will constantly chase him, and drive him mad. That can all work, but does not really go with what the song’s ending.

The song is still incredibly enjoyable. That beat alone makes the song. The lyrics and imagery of being blinded by the lights works to get us in the narrator’s mindset. It could just use some more lyrical meat to carry it through to the end.

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Hot 100 Review: Stupid Love by Lady Gaga

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It’s a a real throwback to see Lady Gaga back on the chart in so long. Sure, she made it in for her song in A Star is Born, but having her come back with a big pop number makes me feel like I’m in high school all over again. It’s weird. I always found her songs catchy but didn’t love them. Stupid Love is similar in that way.

Stupid Love, though, is a song a type of song I’ve been dreading to cover. That song is the song I think is just fine. It’s fine. I think it is overall a passable song I have no strong feelings about. I have no real insight into what it’s saying, and isn’t complex enough for a deep dive.

With all of that said I’ll do my best anyway.

The song’s beat and production feels like a 90s pastiche. I think it comes from the vocal reverberations in the mix. It gives me a Finally by Cece Peniston vibe. That combined with Gaga’s strong voice really sells this more 90s era pop/disco song. The underlying beat is fine though. It’s pretty standard and just repeats through the whole song.

The lyrics all center around wanting and validating her need to have this “stupid love” with someone. There is some detail, but not a lot. Just that this person is the one she’s been looking for, and the only way she can get better is to open up. Then the love takes her higher, breaks her free, protects her, and that she doesn’t need a reason for her stupid love (cool, I love it when I’m told there is no reason for things).

I am a lyrics guy. That is how I connect with song the most. Hence why I usually spend a bulk of my reviews analyzing them. It is also the biggest deficit when trying to review songs like this. For this pop-dance number it is fine. She uses the word higher a lot to show how the love lifts her up. It remind me of Frequent Flyer by Chromeo in that way. She also uses freak out and get down to try and communicate her inner turmoil of trying to pursue her love. It’s fine. Not a lot, but is fine.

The lyrics do leave me with a lot of questions though (here are literally my inner thoughts every time I hear the song). Why is the love stupid? Is she calling herself stupid, or is the other person stupid? What about this person makes her stupid, or them stupid? Is it really the best idea to go up to your crush and say I like you and want your stupid love? Is this song actually just about equality and openness of relationships? Like, is it saying all love should be stupid and valid? If that’s the case why isn’t it more focused on that? Did I miss lyrics, she says the same three words a lot in a row (you are now exiting my head. I hope you think about all of these questions next time you listen to the song in order to see why I think the song is just fine)?

The video for this song was shot on an iPhone 11 (thanks for that ad Apple). The video is set in She-Ra’s post apocalypse where color coordinated tribes dance off for dominance. Lady Gaga and her tribe comes and helps reunite them through dance. She also uses the force once. It feels like there might be more actual story and world building in the video with all the different costumes Gaga wears like she’s part of different groups, but it’s hard to tell. I have no idea what this has to do with love. In fact it makes me want to add questions to my pedantic list above. I get that love is supposed to unite the tribes, but why do you have to call it stupid? Wouldn’t that make you not want it (I’d say I digress but it’s too late for that)? As a video it is fine. You can watch it and get the song as intended. I am not sure what it has to do with stupid love .

The song is fine. Lady Gaga has a great voice and the song itself is easy to listen to. It’s not a chore by any means. I just have no strong feelings about it. I am not overly annoyed that the lyrics are shallow (though I should be), and the beat is fun, if repetitive.

It’s fine.

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Zoey’s Extraordinary Hype Episode 5 (a Review)

Does two episodes make a pattern? I ask mostly because the further the season goes it will be harder and harder to judge how good the season is overall. The only new insights I have going in is that I saw Zoey’s dad in New Girl and I want more of him like that.

In the episode proper Zoey’s brother and sister in law are having marital problems. Meanwhile Zoey’s has stopped texting her work crush, Zoey and her boss give their team peer feedback, Max and his girlfriend are having problems. Finally, the work crush (Simon) has deceased’s dads birthday he must deal with.

This is a downer episode that leaves plot threads hanging. It in fact ends on a cliffhanger. The whole episode centers around failure. Zoey fails for help her brother, and an employee hurt by the anonymous surveys. Zoey’s brother is failing to be the man he wants to be to his soon to arrive son, and Simon feels like he missed chances to help his father. It’s a good idea and has the right message of using failure to grow, but also wants to tell a compelling narrative. That may work in the long run, but presently it is hard because it feels like the story just kind of ends instead of arrives at that conclusion naturally.

It’s hard to say if this was a good episode overall. I think depending on where the plot goes it could be good, or falter. It’s a bridge episode.

What it does do well is give Zoey some fun things to do during the musical numbers. Usually she just watches and follows the person as they sing their feelings. That still happens. But this time she gets to do “Its your Thing” with her father. She really brightens up. Smiling, dancing, really being a vibrant person with some real personality. Similarly in the ending song with Simon she gets very giddy and makes the move of closing the door to end out the episode. She feels alive and active in a way she usually doesn’t. It also help show off the camera work. This mixing up of choreography forces the camera to change it up and we get some impressive shots for TV.

The songs this episode are good. There is a good variety. We start with the shows first duet “Isn’t it Enough” which is as depressing as the original. We get a character singing “Everybody Hurts” multiple times. I’m not sure if it’s comedic or not, but find that interesting. We get a rocking number, and the final two songs as mentioned above are really great. That is “It’s your Thing” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” respectfully.

We are in the middle of the season. I assume this is on a short, 12 or 14 episode order. I cannot imagine a full 24 episode season of the show. Even so that means most episodes will be like this. I try not to spoil because you should watch it. I like the show. It still is not great or what I hoped it to be, but it can be on its way.

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Hot 100 Review: Roxanne by Arizona Zervas (and On by BTS…)

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It is incredibly ballsy to make a song called “Roxanne.” It’s one of those song names that have been thoroughly ruined by the fact there is one big song that uses it and is such lightning in a bottle that trying to copy any part of that shows a certain amount of ambition at least. That person with ambition is Arizona Zervas. He is an American rapper from Rhode Island. He has been working in music for a long time, but this is his big hit that has come mainly from streaming and TikTok use of all things over normal radio play.

The hit itself is certainly strange and feels like it is pulling some from the original song by the Police in ways that I see as an update of that for modern times. Its beat is not. The song has a very simple beat that is spiced up with sound effects. Not like in the Quavo style, but instead with regular sound effects. It’s serviceable and sounds like it’s trying to be Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee (that might be why Swae Lee is on the remix).

The song starts with an intro where he says to do it for the gram and that ladies (I’m being nice here) love the gram in wordplay of how you do something for Instagram and also a gram of cocaine. At least I assume it’s cocaine based on lyrics later in the song. This intro does not feel like it’s setting up what the song is about, but more tone setting I guess. It gives us the beat and some sound effects we’ll get later.

Unlike most songs where I go verse-by-verse this one is different. The main thrust of the song is describing this girl Roxanne. We get an interesting but kind of shallow portrait of this woman. The biggest traits are her love of partying, only liking guys with money, spends her dad’s money, doesn’t like to wait in lines, and only likes guys who drive foreign cars. I mean I assume that’s what the line “If you ain’t got a foreign she gonna laugh at you means.” Which gets me laughing because with it being so open as a foreign car then I fit that mold by driving a Toyota.

That seems like a lot of details, and gives us a great sense that she is a partier, but it is held back by the narrator describing how he’s viewed as a jerk (my word not his. Again I try to keep this as family friendly as possible). It does give some good setup and pay off where the narrator says she only likes rich guys that drop money on her and drive foreign cars, so he does that and eventually does get the girl. I think that is interesting and is satisfying that even after it that Roxanne still doesn’t like the narrator, but it takes away from more descriptive details (Ie what kind of foreign cars).

There is one line that I think perfectly encapsulates what this song could have been. It is “Shorty only like cocaine and Whole Foods.” There is so much character in that single line. Roxanne loves partying so much she does cocaine, but is also classy and basic so she only shops at the the equivalent to a Walmart Farmer’s Market. Like I can just imagine the kind of girl she would look like, and feel like I’ve met before. Especially with in the preppy college town I live in. It’s great.

This song will always be compared to Roxanne by The Police. I did so a couple paragraphs ago. The difference is that the Police’s song is closer to Pretty Woman than this. No, the song this reminds me of more is Girl All the Bad Guys Want by Bowling for Soup. That seems to be a strange comparison on the surface, yet they are increasingly similar. They are both about painting a picture of this girl the narrator wants. The woman is very performative about their personality, and that the narrators are not like the guys that girl likes. They diverge by having the narrator of Roxanne eventually succeeded in some regard. I still get the feeling this woman has as much disdain the narrator as Nona does from the narrator of Girl all the Bad Guys Want.

However, in comparing those two songs I feel Girl all the Bad Guys Want succeeds more than Roxanne. It gives us more details about the girl that are not as shallow as only takes pics with her butt hanging out. However there is no line as great as “Shorty only like cocaine and Whole Foods.” That single line sells the rest of the song for me because it is such a great descriptive detail I feel like I know so much about this woman.

The video for this song is that episode of Supernatural where Dean keeps dying in comedic ways in season 4. The difference is that this time the reset is set around a short haired girl who is supposed to look like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, they even have a scene where two people storm a diner and try to rob them. The story though centers on the Roxanne getting attached to Arizona eventually kill him and confronts him the very morning it’s supposed to start only for Arizona to sink into his bed grave I guess. It’s not clear. What I think is interesting is how this song interprets the idea of Roxanne of being a bad girl that corrupts and makes your life Hell over being a party girl that’s hot so you want to get with. I think having more images that match with what is being said would help, but sells the song well and plays with time loops in fun ways.

So, really I cheated by doing ROXANNE since that was not the newest song. ON by BTS entered the Hot 100 at number 4 this week. The problem is that I am nervous tackling a foreign language phenomenon like this K-Pop supergroup has become. I mean since I spend so much of my listens and articles dissecting lyrics that is hard to do with a language I cannot speak. I can see what they mean in that language, but it won’t resonate the same. Also from what I understand their fans are rabid and want to give as succinct an option as possible.

With all that said ON is an epic in song form. I don’t just mean the video, which is insane fantasy journey to an epic land that happens to have a random giraffe and they restore Pride Rock like it’s lion king. Instead I mean that the song is big and tries so many different beats, chord progressions, and instrumental combinations it’s impressive. I watched the video with the song a couple times. I can’t really tell what it’s about other than general perseverance.

It’s pretty tightly constructed overall as well, which, for a long song like this is impressive. That is except for the dance sequence interlude that could be cut. I don’t know if I really like it or love it. I get the appeal though. I don’t want to assume the audience for this song, but I loved a lot of J-Pop and anime OPs of this type (mainly all the Yu-Gi-Oh GX! Japanese OPs. They’re all really fun) when I was a teenager so I get why this connects with so many (the subtext here is that if it were all in better, more consistent English I might actually like the song).

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Zoey’s Extraordinary Hype Episode 4 (a Review)

The previous episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist showed off the series potential and clarified that Mo, Zoey’s neighbor, uses he/his pronouns, or is gender fluid to be specific. I didn’t mention that in the review proper because I couldn’t find space, but it’s cool all the same (and actually relevant to the episode). Now we are passing the 3 Episode Test line. Everything starting now will be harder to judge without giving away spoilers and making guesses at future events (something I don’t really enjoy doing). Either way it will be an interesting time.

Speaking of time (in no way that relates to this episode when I write it), this time Zoey gets a heart song from her neighbor, Mo, about being a pretender. This causes Zoey to dig deeper into his life and find out he dresses as male at church. Meanwhile the previous episodes pay off as Zoey’s brother puts on a Gender Reveal party for their dad, Max, Skylar Astin, and his date are progressing to weekend trips, Zoey’s mom gets out of the house and works for Zoey’s work crush who is engaged, and finally Zoey’s boss is torn up about her separation from her husband in the previous episode.

This episode has a lot going on, like some of the previous ones, but still manages to keep it all together better than the first or second one did. That comes down to Mo’s arc being ground. Predictable as heck, but grounded and coming from a real emotional place. It might be obvious, but the performance really drives home how he feels and what he’s going through. The second is Zoey’s arc. She has felt like she hasn’t helped since all her interventions seem to cause problems over helping, but comes around when talking to Mo’s pastor, Steve, sees what she can do to help. It also is good that it ends lots of plot lines as it picks up and carries on new ones. Each one feels more purposeful because they are driving to a goal even if they haven’t all reached it yet.

The songs this time are sparse. Mo sings “Great Pretender.” I assume that it is not the one from the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Pyramid of Light soundtrack (which, quick digression, still really holds up if you like that cheesy, obvious kind of upbeat music). It is on the nose, but that’s the point of the heart songs. Zoey’s other neighbor wants to go to the Bahamas and is singing lots of beach songs. Max has an opera ballad for comedy. The most surprising revelation is that Zoey’s boss actually has a musical preference. The previous episode used Roar by Katy Perry; this time they give her Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. It’s interesting how they landed on late 2000s/early 2010s music for her.

Again, it’s hard to say a whole lot now. I think it worked overall. The conversations about religion are very interesting and seem to come from a meaningful place. They play on Zoey’s dad’s illness for good emotional pulls, and we get more of Zoey’s brother and sister-in law. If you’re still watching it is good, but i don’t know if it will sell you on the show. That doesn’t mean an episode won’t, but this one is more of the same from the previous episode.

Hot 100: Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa

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It’s a risk to take a week off from looking at the Billboard list to do a special release. Sometimes, like with Circles, you miss a great song and have to wait longer to hear it because more stuff keeps coming out. Other times, though, you get lucky and the song you’re covering jumps even higher and in fact did not miss your chance to look at it.

I got that second chance this week by getting the pleasure to listen to Don’t Start Now for more of a purpose than its a song I like. In fact I like Dua Lipa a lot. IDGAF was a solid pop hit. It showed she had potential to bring a new light and energy to the scene. New Rules redefined current pop music for me. It was really well written, had killer vocals, and a really good composition. She also did One Kiss with Calvin Harris which is fine but not her fault. Anyway here we are now with her next big hit.

Don’t Start Now comes out the headphones swinging as one of the funkiest jams this side of pop. The whole beat has a lot of complexity. From the drops to the pitch and beat changes, and the accented tri-tap of a bell or something it is all just totally solid. The big turn that sold me on the song from the first listen was the drop into the funkiest bass riff on the line “Don’t show up, don’t come out.” It works in a lot of ways, but to get into it means getting into the lyrics and themes of the song. 

On the surface this seems like a simple song. It is simple, but like New Rules and IDGAF Dua Lipa is able to put this special spin on the project to add a new dimension to what should be just a regular break up/I’m done/over you song. Which, quick digression, if you have to make a song saying you are over someone then you clearly are not. This song manages to avoid that from line one. 

The introduction is short but gets to the point, “If you don’t wanna see me” Is a statement, but instead of saying that she is just over him and is better she is putting that onus onto the other half of the relationship. The intro also sets the tone only to subvert it and go into chorus one where she says how she feels different because of the relationship, but she managed to move on even though it is scary. Its expressed well in the vocals and through the visuals of doing a full 180 on her whole personality, and shows some actual self reflection like in the aforementioned line, “DId the heartbreak change me? Maybe.” This all sets up her current state of going out to prove how strong she is and in a different place she is emotionally. 

This then transitions to what I would say is more of a bridge that reinforces the onus of holding the other half of the ex-relationship accountable by saying, “If you don’t wanna see me dancing with somebody, if you wanna believe that anything could stop me…” These are the start of statements that are answered by the chorus.

The chorus is the best part of the song by far. It is set up strong lyrically as stated before, but also in the beat. The beat builds and builds only to drop and transition in the funk bass guitar riff. All of that throws you for a loop, just like where Dua Lipa takes the song. Instead of answering in a generic empowerment anthem she says, “Don’t show up, don’t come out.” This is immediately a turn into the unexpected. This unexpect bite continues for the rest of the chorus where she says, “Walk away, you know how. Don’t start caring about me now.” That is such a good twist on the usual idea of breakups and getting over the person. It calls the other person out on their behavior, and reinforces that she is independent by saying not to try now. It would have been so easy to say because she is better now, or stronger. Instead just that turn to don’t start now makes her feel strong, and calls that she has learned and won’t go back. 

This pivot continues in the second verse where she says, “Aren’t you the guy who tried to hurt me with the word ‘goodbye’?” Which, that just cuts to the heart doesn’t it? Especially as someone who lives in the south. That sneering, trying to be polite but really being rude way of talking is just all too real. She continues on by saying how it took time to get better but made it out on the other side. There is this weird vocal thing she does where… okay I need to back up. I say the other half of the relationship because she doesn’t give the person a gender and I don’t want to assume. My bias makes me assume it’s a guy, but her line “got better on the side” makes it sound like she’s saying “I got her on the other side.” I think it might be intentional. That’s not to say lesbian anthems aren’t big money. Katy Perry built her career out of “I Kissed a Girl” after all. Instead I think it’s subtle to call out either gender and relationship type you can have for being bad. It’s really subtle but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After this however the song does weaken due to it just repeating the chorus and bridge, and focusing more on the beat. The beat is good but I do not have any more to say on it from that point other than how it ends well on a high note. That’s not entirely true I guess. In the second drop and chorus they add in indistinct party cheers and talking. It adds a good atmosphere by really envisioning that she is at a party, but that is really it. It’s still the same solid chorus so it all works, and adds a nice flair.

The music video works well to help build what the song is about. It begins with a flash forward where Dua Lipa drags us out of a club and throw us onto the curb. The video jumps back from that intro to show Dua Lipa singing and partying at different clubs in what looks like the most over-complicated top of all time. During it she looks at the camera, but because we know the flash forward it feels directed at us, the other half of the relationship. It all really works to build both the theme and party feel the song has.

I am a guy, so lots of girls clothes are complicated. But how does this thing go on? Is it a top or just an elevated bra? How do you take it off. I feel so lucky that she gets a whole wardrobe team to help because I get lost in all those straps.

I really like this song, but it has the same problem The Weeknd song did. I like the one I got, but I know that there is one that hasn’t charted as high (that might be changing as Blinding Light is rising in the chart). Her second song, Physical, is even better and bodes well for her upcoming album. Listen to this song. It’s great.

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Hot 100 Special: No Time to Die by Billie Eilish

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I’ve never been much of a James Bond fan, but I have been a fan of the gimmick that every film has its own theme song. With classics like Man with the Golden Gun and View to a Kill they have made some really solid music (just ignore the Brosnan trash years. Hey, at least they made songs fo reflect how bad those movies are… I assume, I haven’t seen any of them). The Craig era of films have on the whole been pretty solid, and got good talent. Chris Cornell, Alicia Key and Jack White, Adele, those are some major names and they turned out solid songs. Moving to a big up and comer like Billie Eilish was an interesting choice.

I’ve only every listened to Billie Eilish’s big hit Bad Guy. I thought it was solid and well constructed until it’s mess of an outro. She would not have been the first person I’d have gone to, and it kind of shows.

It shows because the song isn’t great. It’s not terrible by any means. I mean Diamonds are Forever sounds like diamond are being shoved into your ears. It feels weak, limp, and trying to be Sky Fall by Adele and failing hard in that department.

It does not give a good first impression. It’s haunting piano is too subdued that even with headphones I had to check to make sure the sound was playing, then Billie comes in and sings near incoherently for the first half of the first verse. Listening to the song with the lyrics I could hear them, but she is too subdued to really bring across what she needs to. I would say she was restrained in Bad Guy, but the rest of the production on that song reinforced her detached persona. This song grows. It starts with that haunted piano, but slowly adds in the rest of the orchestra with strings, brass, and percussion sections to give it heft and weight, but Billie doesn’t go with it. It makes her seem above it. It kind of matches the theme, but feels more like an act over how she genuinely feels. Something I’d absolutely not say about Bad Guy.

The lyrics do not help her. Thematically it is all about being duped into loving someone, and them revealing their true colors to break your heart. Something that perfectly fits the theme of the Craig films, and probably the film this is part of, it’s just written like a song I’d write if I was given the same material. I mean to say that I may have lots of opinions of music (obviously), but I don’t know how to craft clever lyrics, just call them when I see them, and these lyrics are the equivalent of a 2×4 against the face. It’s obvious and blunt.

The first verse is kind of perfect. Not because it’s well written, but instead because it’s emblematic of the rest of the song. It’s on theme, vague, and lame. It begins by saying how the narrator (I usually assume it’s the singer, but could also assume it’s James Bond himself. Hard to say really) saying how they feel tricked but how it should have been obvious, how they thought they were a pair, but they cheated them. They then sulk about how hard their life is (something very accurate for Jimmy the Bondman). The narrator ends by asking some honestly good questions like were they stupid, reckless, or was it obvious to everyone else. To make it worse that is basically a verbatim summary of the verse. They’re that simple.

The chorus is neat because they manage to work the song/movie title in well. I’m getting ahead of myself. The chorus reinforces the theme of betrayal by saying that they’d fallen for a lie and how the person who betrayed them was never on their side. They say fool me once, fool me twice. I guess it’s a good connector to the line “Are you death or paradise?” The best line because it paints the idea of someone giving either total bliss and happiness, or total emptiness and release. They end by saying that they’ll never see them cry because there is no time to die. That line tying into the idea the person who betrayed them being death is clever and works (or could work. I don’t think James Bond would cry. He doesn’t seem like that kind of guy). It does not come together even though the pieces are there is because we don’t get enough of the relationship.

The second verse doesn’t help. For one it is four lines that feel closer to plot points for the film proper. It starts with the worst line, “I let it burn.” That might not sound bad, but the writers clearly never had a teacher ask them to define their pronouns because who is the “it” and is the burning literal or metaphorical. It is too vague to really mean anything. Now, I wouldn’t jump on a single line if the rest of the verse built on it. It doesn’t. The narrator says the person isn’t their concern, faces from their past is coming back, and there is another lesson they won’t learn. So, going back to the first line: is the burning the lack of a lesson they’re getting, the face from their past, or the betrayal. You’d think it should be obvious. It’s not. There are no details to help build this song out.

The rest of the song consists of the chorus again, a refrain where they just say it is no time to die, and end with an outro that repeats the fool me once to there is no time to die lines from the chorus.

For a four minute song there is not a whole lot of meat on its bones lyrically speaking. The instrumental is solid, and though I don’t think Billie’s voice works overall it can deliver pain well.

I compared this song to Skyfall by Adele earlier, and that’s because it feels like it is trying to be classy in the same way that song was. The problem is that Skyfall is a massive song with one of the biggest and classiest sounding voices in the industry. Adele can convey that sense of being in a nice gallery, casino, gala, or event Bond would go to with ease. Billie is a lot of things, but classy would not be my first pick of words (I mean she can’t even dye her hair properly. That was mean. I apologize). She is trying her best, it just doesn’t all get there.

Now, as harsh (and I have been almost too harsh on a song I don’t even care about that much) as I’ve been I have to think back to Writing on the Wall by Sam Smith (the song for Specter or is it Spectre. God I hate the English language). I did not like that song either. I listened to all the Craig era songs in preparation for this review, I still don’t like it. It is too long, plotting, causes me to tune out too often and Sam Smith sounds bad on it. However, when I saw Specter I thought it worked in the context of the film. No Time to Die, the song could do that as well.

Ohh right, video. The video I linked to turned out to be a fan site. It was just Billie singing the song intercut with trailer clips. Doesn’t add anything, and oddly ships James Bond and Rami Malik for some reason. I think it was by accident. Like the line and trailer just cut that way. It’s weird, but skippable.

(Man, I should have done Don’t Start Now. I mean I wish her new song Physical was bigger cause it’s even better, but Dua Lipa continues to be amazing and should be way bigger.)

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Zoey’s Extraordinary Hype Episode 2 is Finally Here (a Review)

I started the previous one of these talking about how network television is behind the times. This show continues to represent that just by the fact it released its pilot episode with lots of hype and excitement only to suddenly vanish as they made the rest of the series it seems. It’s more interesting that previews for the first episode showed events that didn’t occur, meaning that was either cut content or early drafts of episode two. It’s just strange having to wait so long for it, but it’s here.

For a quick recap, Zoey is a coder in San Fransisco who, through magical means gets all of music beamed into her head through an MRI/earthquake mishap. Now she must use those skills to help the people around her and not act weird when her best friend played by Skylar Aston reveals he has feelings for her.

With all that said episode two picks up a week later. Zoey is in charge of developing a scavenger hunt for the beta testers of their product, Max (Skylar Astin) continues to heart sing to Zoey, Zoey’s dad is getting some movement back, and her neighbor is trying to solve her powers.

This is another packed episode where it juggles a lot of plot threads all at once, but manages to keep them in the air even if it stumbles a couple times. Zoey trying to act normal around Max as she has become manager and knows his inner feelings is played well. The interplay between her neighbor, Mo, and herself is good. You can really feel a budding friendship between them even if Mo doesn’t have a lot of depth yet. The drama with her dad is still pretty solid. We get more with her brother, and get into her parents relationship.

The covers continue to be solid. I may not love every song they use, but they all feel well integrated, have good production, and are often shot really well. We also get to see a view of what is going on outside of Zoey’s point of view. I kind of wished they saved that reveal till later, but it works in the scene.

The comedy has picked up. It is still not gag or joke driven like sitcoms are, but does feel natural and come from the characters play off each other naturally. I still want big laughs, but I don’t think this is the show to deliver that.

Where the episode does falter is in it’s density of plot, and execution of a few threads. With so much going on it is hard to gauge where you are in the episode at any time. The Office also had that, but it worked because that was closer to real life which is not structured. This feels chaotic (I’ll say. It’s not the exact word I want, but it fits). This comes from how many of the revelations and endings feel out of nowhere, and not built up. Zoey struggling to be a good manager is brought up a couple times, and we see her struggle to get the team to work, but they feel token, and end with her succeeding on her own, but looking like a mess. It doesn’t have the impact her failing, or focusing on that as the A plot would have. Instead it has to share space with Zoey setting up their barista on a date with Max and just being generally weird. They do resolve it, but again does not feel built up.

This is a show I do really want to like and think can be great. It has a killer premise, cast, and style to carry it, but it is just falling when it tries to carry every plot line it set up all at once. Maybe when more episodes come this problem will go away, but until then Jane Levy is a national treasure and must be protected.

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Hot 100 Review: Dance Monkey by Tones and I

Watch the video:

I have zero introduction to this one. I have no background with this artist, song, producer, or anything. So let’s jump in, just like the song.

Okay, so what sticks out almost immediately is Tones and I (I’ll will say Tones for ease of writing and conciseness) unique voice. It matches the songs title at least because she sounds what a chimpanzee might sound like if they picked up both singing and the use of the English language in a week. That sounds negative, but really works because it does not feel like her natural singing voice. It is all a auto-tune and after effects. There are some lines and phrases where her voice is so pitched to a howler sing and shows her talent. Those effects are a real gamble, but work to bring out this raw energy and fire by making her sound wild.

Dance Monkey is not a lyrically dense song. There is not enough of a verse, chorus, verse structure to analyze so I’ll cut to it. The main idea comes from the line, “Just like a Monkey I’ve been dancing my whole life.” It’s drawing the allusion to those circus monkeys that dance when people play a tune. This is reiterated throughout the song numerous times. She doesn’t say that line specifically, but says, “Dance for me,” “They say move for me,” and, “… when you’re done I’ll make you do it all again.” It’s very explicit. She is being forced to preform for others, but having it spun as if it’s just a favor. The way she sings it, it feels very slimy and manipulative.

The lyrics might be straightforward about what the song is about, but it is phrased well to make it feel open to be about anything. Saying it like that could make it be read as vague to be lazy, or cliche. It dances (ha pun) that line well. To compare it to Lewis Capaldi’s song last week, his lyrics were cliche and brought nothing new lyrically, thematically, or visually. These lyrics, along with the vocal work paint the visuals of being forced to do something against your will. The obvious connection would be dancing, but it can be anything. As long as someone is acting like you’re doing them a favor by dancing (again it can be any manipulative task. I’ll stick with dancing because that’s the lyric) you are a monkey, a pawn, a lackey to the powerful.

For a lyrically bare song that’s a lot of thematic work going on. That’s because the theme is baked into the production and beat as well. The best description would be restrained. It is a very restrained song. Purposefully so. It’s use of keyboard, drum kit, and hooks give off a tin like atmosphere. An artificial atmosphere, but instead of big base, and heavy drops it’s replaced with pins falling, finger snaps, and light rhythm. It gives the song an air of reluctance to match the lyrical theme. This too is shown as a deliberate choice because it does pick up and get big near the second verse and bridge (closest thing the song has to a bridge). Similarly to Tones voice, it’s all to build this soundscape and theme.

The video has Tones dressed as an old man with a home aid. Two old man friends break him out and he goes driving around, playing around, and playing golf out on the course. It is an interesting framing of the song. This makes the song feel rejuvenating and going back to youth. It makes the song feel brighter. That feeling comes from how bright, sunny, and colorful the video is. A bunch of people in clashing golf wear out on a nice day will do that. It just doesn’t feel like it matches the lyrics of someone asking you to dance for them, and saying that they’ll make you do it again. It’s possible I am overthinking what that means. It could be that dancing like a monkey your whole life is more symbolic of being a goofball, and dancing one more time is being a goofball just like the video shows, but it just feels off.

Watching that video has really just kind of thrown me. I have never felt so confused on what a song is about. Circles at least added a dimension, and was so nonsensical I could ignore it. This feels like I can just ignore the video and say I nailed it, but then I got the vision of the song so wrong. Everything from the lyrics, to vocals, to production felt tailored for an experience the music video just did not deliver. Some of this might come from the alternate art on Spotify where its Tones in a void that has words fading in and out. That is all very tense and moody, totally unlike the video.

Even with my confusion I think the song still works. It’s crafted experience really worked for me even if I have some reading of it that is totally out of left field.

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Did Any Else know Carole & Tuesday was the Next Shinichiro Watanabe Show!?

Shinichiro Watanabe is one of the few anime directors known to the wider world of entry level anime fans. He’s made giant hits like Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, and Samurai Champloo. Those were all big genre bending and redefining action comedy series. However he also made the deeply character driven Kids on the Slope. He is back to do it again with another character driven musical series, Carole and Tuesday. A show that was released to America via Netflix.

The show proper is set in the future of a colonized Mars. We follows two budding female artist, Tuesday, a rich, politician’s daughter who wanted to follow her own path, and Carole, a refugee from Earth who works a part time job. They have a chance encounter and decide to form a band and make music. They meet other artists, allies, rivals, and managers along the way. Their main adversary being the model turned singer Angela, who uses AI music to craft her songs.

It has a near flawless first half that made me want to put it on my favorites list almost immediately, but falters and stumbles in the second half.

There are reasons for that faltering, which I’ll get to, but this show has so much good that it can’t be overlooked.

The most striking elements that stand out is the great background and character designs. All of the characters have such life and personality in them. Even bit characters we get all feel so fleshed our just by looking at them. The backgrounds similarly convey so, so much, and do lots of legwork to get you invested in this future of humanity. The main location, Alba city feels very lived in, developed, and planned. It helps that we get to travel from the station, down its main drag, see it’s sky scrapers and visit the west side so often that it feels easy to place.

This is a good time to talk about world building. It is a very interesting choice to set a very traditional rags to riches musician story in the far flung future where everyone lives on mars and people are immigrating to it from Earth. That sets up a lot of themes and ideas (all of which cause the problems in the back half, but we’ll get to that), and world. It must make us believe the world they live in is our future, and like it is Mars. It does it. We see Alba city as an oasis in the desert. The technology feels very possible. We see sell driving cars, and luggage. All restaurants make wait-staff second to ordering at a kiosk on the counter. Robots and AI take over different aspects of people’s lives. It is all really fleshed out.

The same fleshing out also goes for the main reason to watch the series, our leads Carole, and Tuesday, but also most of the supporting cast, and even bit characters. They all get something. Carole is rash, hard working, and has an interesting backstory as a refugee from Earth who works dead-end jobs for nothing and plays music for the love of it. She’s a strong contrast to the reserved, strong willed, kind, and fun loving Tuesday.

The two act as foils to help build the other up, but they’re not comedic foils. It’s not as simple as fire and water. They have a bond, a connection that builds from the moment they meet. It makes it incredibly believable that they’re friends and that they can make music together. They feel so well developed as a duo that when they do argue or disagree it doesn’t feel believable because they are too reasonable as a unit (I also don’t want to be THAT guy, but every time a love interest is introduced I don’t think the pair has chemistry and kind of want Tuesday and Carole to get together. Feels too natural).

The show might be called, and focus on Carole and Tuesday, but a music industry story needs people in the industry, and it delivers that. From the duos manager, a former earth rock star, to their rival Angela, a loud mouth DJ Ertegun, and a full American Idol cast, everyone has such life to them. The characters also all act as foils or explorations of ideas. Angela and her story is a mirror to what Carole and Tuesday must go through. It is all really strong, and well constructed.

The music is also killer. The team behind the soundtrack really work hard to give every character their own musical style and lyrical voice. The team literally has to make music that’s supposed to be artificial intelligence copying human written music. The same team also has to make the music we the audience like so we support the duo. It’s a feet this team manages. It does sound dated. Many of the songs sound like songs from the last two years. Synth and EDM heavy, drop based ballads. Carole and Tuesday are the exception to this. They’re songs are more classic pop, and folk-pop (that isn’t really it, but kind of what it sounds like). Either way they all sell the world, and are catchy.

This show has so many positives, why is it not an automatic favorite? The story changes in the second half. To explain, the first half of the show is more episodic. Carole and Tuesday meet and scheme ways to get popular with their rag-tag team. They are grounded (as far as a future where a robot can drink beer and scam people into making movies), intimate, and character driven stories. It picks up with a singing competition arc. It is the best because it gives the audience a clear sense of advancement for the two. Gives us a great introduction to more characters, and is ridiculously funny. The weird musician gags are pushed to the extreme and it’s great. I mean seeing the last living members of ZZ Top still rocking out is great. The arc also gives us a great villain and fleshes out the stakes in very real ways.

The second half of the show pushes the drama and our characters too far too fast. Part of this comes from the setup that these two are going to make Martian history and we have to see that. Therefore the characters have to explode to popularity (technically it’s slow burn, but they go from a singing competition to the Grammy’s very quickly.) The other part is that it gets political. Being political isn’t bad. It tackles refugees and illegal aliens, but none of comes from an interesting place. It is all conspiracy and puzzle boxes where the reveals of who is doing the bad thing is so obvious it hurts. It no longer is the musical friendship cruise the story started as. There are some great episodes in that run, but most are hindered by focusing on what the future president of Mars is up to. It makes sense, but just is not engaging because it’s direction is too obvious, not fleshed out, and not why I started the series.

By the end of the series I found it hard to continue. The series overthought itself and tried too hard to be engaging when it never needed that. It had good characters, music, and comedy. That’s all it needed.

This show feels like it should have been the next Yuri on Ice. They are both high quality, demographic pushing character dramas. The direction and animation is wonderful. The characters have so much life. And the show is really progressive in super casual ways. It just lets characters be who they are. I just wish this show came out a decade ago when American Idol was at its prime. It would have been massive. As is, it is good, but I just haven’t heard any buzz about it.

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