Hot 100 Review: Positions by Ariana Grande

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Arianna Grande is not for me. Her voice is too airy, like if her singing voice was a cloud it would be one of those dumb whispy boys and not a thick cumulonimbus. There just feels like there is nothing to it. Her beats often do not help. They are set to match her voice, so they’re just as weak and nebulous. Yet she’s found her fans to be sure, and it is no surprise that when she has a song come out that it tops the charts.

positions (in all lower case just to annoy me) starts really strong. By starts I mean how the first few bars of Latin guitar and strings gives it throwback vibe it quickly tosses for more of her usual production work. From there it feels and sounds like so much of her normal work.

In positions (okay, so maybe all lower case isn’t so bad) though it is about how meeting somone new made her switch how she usually acts. This person is just so great that she wants to be different. Lines like, “Switching the positions for you… Know my love infinite nothing I wouldn’t do/That I won’t do, switching for you,” followed by, “[Eff] it, now I’m running with you (with you),” and, “This some shit that I/Usually don’t do (Yeah)/But for you I kinda/Kinda want to/‘Cause you’re down for me,” all convey that. The in between lyrics being more specific on how she feels.

Now the song is simple. I understand that, but if you don’t know where I am going to go with this then you’re new (hi, great to have you here. Try the cheese plate it’s dairy free). The issue being how there is no setup to what she usually does and what makes this person different. The line in the intro, “Heaven sent you to me/I’m just hoping I don’t repeat history,” tries to do both. Someone sent this person to her and she doesn’t want to mess up, but more setup wouldn’t go unwanted.

The song is short both in time and in lyrics. It’s under 3 minutes and has two brief verses. The quote above is all of verse one, for contrast, with a repeated pre-chorus and chorus. There is space to use. Make the verses longer or cut the pre-chorus. I would like to know what is different about this person that it makes her want to not mess up, and what are her usual mistakes. If answers are in the album of the same name that is great, but doesn’t make the single any more fleshed out (there is also a whole read about the dangers of being so devoted to a person – I don’t want to assume man because the gender isn’t expressed, but it works regardless of gender. It’s fine to want to do things for the person you love, but it can also be read as forcing it. She is, “… in the Olympics way I’m jumping through hoops,” which seems like it could be codependent since so little information is provided. Unfortunately or fortunately for this song it’s sparse nature saves it from this criticism because there isn’t enough there to make an argument work).

The video seems to be more of a general female empowerment anthem with Grande working as the president and switching to other professions like terrible chef (I mean did you see how she just ruined that pizza toss?). It makes the song turn instead from a love song to one of self improvement. No romantic interest shows up. It’s either her by herself or with her White House staff. The ones of her alone where a man should be gives it that feel that she is switching positions to make herself better. She’s changing for herself. The person heaven sent to her was herself (or her happiness) and she wants to make that better by changing. That almost works, but too many of the lyrics, “Boy I’m tryna meet your mama
On a Sunday/Then make a lotta love/On a Monday,” show that can’t be it. But it is still an interesting interpretation of the song, and supporting USPS staff is greatly appreciated in this time.

I am self aware enough to realize I often heavily over analyze the songs I cover. This one being a great example. It’s just supposed to be a nice song about how loving the right person makes you want to be better. That’s all there is to it, but that same problem of being sparse and airy holds it back. For, why can’t it be about that and provide context for either how her behavior is different, or why this person is different? Ariana doesn’t want it to be. That’s fine. Her stans like it well enough, but it feels like they are settling when the song could be so much better.

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Hot 100 Review: Lemonade by Internet Money (feat. Don Toliver, Gunna, & Nav)

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One of the few bonuses this ever changing chart has brought in our new world is the constant influx of new and varied artists. This whole series, really, but the artists most of all have helped expand my tastes some. That does come without it’s own caveats of course. The worst of these come out in this of all songs, they can be so repetitive and unoriginal.

Lemonade is not a bad song. It plays real hard on those last days of summer vibe (just ignore the fact it’s almost November. Yeah Global Warming totally isn’t a thing…) which makes it easy listening music. The lyrics are often so simple that they can get stuck in your head, but not in a malicious ear wormy way some do. Instead as just a song you kind of remember. It’s fine. The issue is that it doesn’t have all that much to say and it doesn’t wholly work in that way.

The song is less nonsense than, say, the Travis Scott song from a couple weeks ago. That felt far more like incidental music to be played in a movie. This feels like a normal gangster rap song with a twist (of lemon-lime). It hits all the usual cliches of those kinds of songs but with the change that it doesn’t seem as explicitly about being good musicians. I mean it is implied, but much more of the song is about selling and taking prescription drugs as uppers and downers than doing their raps good (think people can tell that’s a joking way to say that?). It does standout in that way. When talking about the rockstar life they focus more on the money and fame than actual accomplishments that stem from music. Maybe more songs are like that than I think, but it stands out.

In fact, lots of the drug references stand out because the song, though not incredibly tightly written, does feel like it’s about the effects of taking drugs. Not in the lyrics but in the delivery. They mention Xanax and Percocet often, and at the start of verses, the subsequent verses then sound like they were recorded while on those drugs or to mimick the effects of said drugs. Heck, apparently Lemonade, the title of the song and, you know, famous summer beverage can also be a perscription filled beverage (I guess Lean is out).

The video supports the idea the song was either made on or supposed to represent drugs, Lemonade (I can’t- I mean I can, but I can’t believe that’s a form of alcohol or way to get messed up) specifically, by having the trio of rappers doing the song in a fish bowl full of lemonade. Outside of that and the scariest girl in the whole world, it’s a pretty generic video. Just driving and fronting for the camera.

Though I have never taken any of the prescriptions drugs mentioned in the song I have been intoxicated before. In that state everything is fun at the time. Unfortunately after you go to bed so much of that had become a blur and just unmemorable. That’s this song. Fun but unmemorable. Considering something like The Box, which is just as generic, can hit so differently, I almost want to assume the drug focus was on purpose so that me saying it’s unmemorable is the point. Unfortunately, even if that is the case, being unmemorable on purpose still makes you unmemorable.

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Hot 100 Review: I Hope by Gabby Barret (Feat. Charlie Puth)

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The ubiquity of the phrase “I like all kinds of music… except country,” feels like it has been both growing and shrinking in popularity. Well, classic country. The real reason I think this phrase has so much power isn’t because country is a bad genre of music. All genres have good and bad song, but instead that country is chronically behind the times. You can’t tell me it’s not a coincidence that it took almost 30 years for the first country rap song to take off. Similarly Parmalee’s Carolina is clearly just a early 2000s rock song in sheep’s clothing. This isn’t a negative, just a descriptor. Country music has other strengths, I mean King of Tears is one of the best Revisionist History episodes for a reason. They can also do women scorned songs better than any other genre imaginable, and tie that do a song that sounds like it was recorded by Katy Perry in her good years, well…

I Hope, though defiantly a woman scorned song, is not the best. That’s not to say it is bad. It’s actually quite refreshing to have a fairly conventional song to listen to once in a while. It’s just not as detailed or vicious as the classics. No keying an ex’s car or puncturing their tires on this go around.

Some of this more restrained feeling goes back to the beat. It has undertones of classic country guitar and instrumentals mixed with the production of early 2010s pop music to create a nice enough sounding song that is carried on Gabby Barret’s fantastic voice. Charlie Puth’s higher octaves also for compelling backing tracks and a strong contrast to mix up the song.

But for a women scorned song it certinally has a very interesting title. The lyrics definitely help build the case. The first, and arguably best, verse does the most work. It sets up an interesting bait to switch. The “I Hope,” in this case being positives. Almost like she is wishing the new relationship wells lines like “I, I hope she makes you smile/The way you made me smile on the other end of a phone/In the middle of a highway driving alone,” are incredibly visceral and give a good scene that is flipped when we get to the chorus.

The chorus makes up the switch of the bait and switch when it’s revealed what she really hopes is, “I hope she’s wilder than your wildest dreams/She’s everything you’re ever gonna need/And then I hope she cheats.” Which is an incredibly interesting wish. One I have never really heard before from a breakup. It’s given more context however when she follows it up with, “Like you did on me.” Which does hit really hard.

That suggestion of being passive. Sitting in your own hatred and brooding for the bad to happen is defiantly unique. It’s not as exhilarating as smashing up someone’s car, but is just as destructive if it comes to fruition.

The second verse, done by Puth, positions him as a man who was cheated on and has his own anger. His opening lines, “Yeah, babe, I hope she shows up in a 2 AM pic from her friend/Hanging on to a guy and you just ain’t him/I hope you stay up all night all alone, waitin’ by the phone,” are not as immediate, but does reveal a jealousy not nearly as present in the first verse. The use of waiting by the phone is an interesting phrase that’s still around considering all of us are on our phones all the time. Its not like we are pinning by a landline and telling our sibling to get off the internet so you could get a call (totally not a real example).

The second verse is more vicious however, not in any explicit terms. But in the same creeping way. The final lines that lead into the chorus, “And take her on a first date again/And when you lean in for a kiss,” though don’t sound bad, do feel like the twist in Frozen. You’re about to be happy only for the other person to reveal they’re cheating or don’t have feelings in that way.

The best example of this song’s energy is the bridge, “I hope what goes comes all the way around/I hope she makes you feel the same way about her/That I feel about you right now.” It gets to the heart of what it feels like when an ex moves on before they should. It’s short but hits that same feeling. A feeling that hits harder if you were cheated on.

The video, which is of the songs original release and not this remixes duet with Charlie Puth has Gabby reflecting on a past relationship while clips of said relationship are played back. It, like the songs structure, is fairly conventional. The one change is that Gabby sings the second verse and chorus and it feels disconnected from the nighttime drive setup of the first verse. Not bad, but works better with that second person to act as the shift in setting.

When it comes to songs like these is it selfish to want more details. Like many songs on the hot 100, it is incredibly surface level lyrically speaking. Sometimes that works okay. Savage Love, for its couple lyrical issues is great and is shallow, but a breakup/woman scorned song should have more. The chorus works well enough, but it seems like we should know more about the relationship. It’s almost like she’s using cheating as a crutch to disregard the rest of the relationship. Not to victim blame, but there must be more of a story and that is something older country songs definitely would have provided.

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Hot 100 Review: Savage Love (Laxed-Siren Beat) by Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685

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Jason Derulo is a really interesting artist. He’s been around quite a while for someone whose songs are usually maligned. I always found him fun, but misusing his powers of a great voice to make really dumb songs. Not all bad. Wiggle is one of my favorite songs for its utter stupidly and silliness (kind of like WAP in that regard).

Savage Love, this remix with Jawsh 685, might be the best single he’s ever had. Part of that comes from the new, Laxed-Siren beat. It gives it just enough life to feel emotionally impactful without being too bare like the original or animated like the remix with BTS of all people. It pairs well with his voice, Derulo’s secret weapon. Together they give an enjoyable mix that’s easy to get lost in.

Lost would be the operative word for the lyrics. Theyre not incoherent or seeming nonsequiters like FRANCHISE. They all make sense and pair well together. But the problem is the use of the titular words “savage love.”

The context around the title line all works. Narrator finds himself in a relationship he didn’t expect to fall hard for only to find out the person got with him to spite an ex. Unfortunately more feeling develope into the savage love.

From the lines in the song it should be straightforward. “Savage love/Did somebody, did somebody/Break your heart?,” “But your savage love/When you kiss me/ I know you don’t give two fucks,” and “You could use me
‘Cause I still want that (Your savage),” all feel like they explicitly say she is a tough heartbreaker who can hold her own but will drop a guy in a second. Only the framing is confusing. The narrator plays that as a good thing since he’s fallen for her, hence the upbeat music. The seems discordant to what the intentions of the song should be. Savage love doesn’t sound like love but lust. That’s fine too, but doesn’t make sense. In fact, the original, more low key, version of the song would work better in that regard because as the song is now it feels more like Jason is hooking up with someone who just got out of a long term relationship and sees them as his end goal. All of that being done under the influence of party supplies. That’s not bad, but seems misguided.

The video is of Jason recording the song, drinking and brooding with his dog. It’s a simple video that supports the more inebriated nature I mentioned above, and brings a far more conflicted nature up to the surface. The song alone feels celebratory while the video makes it seem like he’s so unsure of if he should be with the woman. She is using him but that is also what makes him like her… I think? It’s a very simple but effective video. I am also a sucker for high contrast neon along dark rooms (Hence why I contributed to half the view count on Starboy by The Weeknd).

For all the talk of confusion over the title and it’s meaning I find that to be so little of the song. That’s the downfall of writing as I think. I spend so much time of stuff that doesn’t matter because it’s more interesting. I find the song a lot of fun. It’s not as grating, dude-bro, and faux-player as his previous hits. His voice work is amazing even if he uses voice manipulation too much for effect, and love the beat. The opening bars are seared into my brain. It’s a really fun song that has a word combination that confuses me.

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Hot 100 Review: FRANCHISE by Travis Scott (Feat. Young Thug and MIA)

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Travis Scott is partnering with McDonalds on a sandwich and to flex his brand. I don’t know what more information I could give on that other than it is strange and I read that on one of the worst New York Times articles ever written. It would make sense for him to release a song about franchises considering he’s teaming up with one of the biggest. Even if that is the case it was executed terribly.

FRANCHISE might be the hardest song for me to talk about by far. It is not all that complicated, but it also makes no sense. To quote one of the few lines I could coherently understand, “got’em bamboozled like I’m Spike Lee.” A line never so true was ever uttered in a rap song.

Some of this might be on purpose since the beat and production seem to be the focus on the song. It’s all a mood piece. An oppressive beat, warning signals and other sound effects create a very chaotic and violent soundscape. I think that’s that point. To be a soundscape.

Sure, the song has lyrics. The problem is that none of them feel like they really connect or make sense as anything other than give a sense of flow. There is some rhymes and schemes going on, but it overall feels like an addition to the beat. They all feel incredibly meaningless by themselves or put together. Instead they feel like words your only supposed to register in the fact they exist while the true work the song’s doing is being used as an incidental track during a robbery scene in a movie or in a trailer for a movie.

That might be a bold statement. This song being created to only play during films and film trailers, but that’s the whole feeling the song gives off. Big starts that drown out the lyrics. Lyrics that are present enough to exist and register that they’re talking about thug stuff to give context to a scene, and then promptly disregarded. The literal only line I can pick out is MIA’s “Make’em get me Chippi Chippi (yeah).” Genius tells me this is a shout out to another rapper, and fair enough. But when you start yelling for chips like your five I’m going to laugh.

The video delivers on that moody, visuals over storytelling quality i assumed. Like each clip is less a connected story but instead a collage of short visuals that convey a meaning. Most of Travis Scott’s and Young Thug’s moments are far darker and classically gangster with MIA having a completely divergent location and color pallet. All of which comes together to have that mood piece but not really convey an idea.

I think…

I think there is no coherent idea being expressed. It could be how no matter how much stuff you have you aren’t happy. Hence why MIA’s parts are lighter. She’s out in a prairie with sheep living her best life while the two guys are stuck in a mansion with hot girls and cars and feeling sad. It almost works. It is just honestly hard to make heads of tails of the song. Partly because I think there is an idea.

The song, and lots of rap songs, constantly name drop brands. Rappers only feel accomplished with paired with brands. The brands give them meaning while being embewed with meaning by the people who get meaning from them. It’s an oroboros actually of culture. Think back to the McDonald’s example above. We all have our associations with the chain. Those associations are passed to the company which in turn tries to change or maintain said associations. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to “woke” and “cool” brands. That would mean a rap song skewering their obsession with brands and franchises would be amazing. Calling out how lambos and Rolex’s only mean anything because we give them said meaning. It’s a great idea that, due to the songs chaotic nature is lost in the swirling muck.

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Hot 100 Review: Holy by Justin Bieber feat. Chance the Rapper

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I don’t hate Justin Bieber despite how I have dunked on all the songs he’s had this year. Even good artists make bad musical choices and songs from time to time. I also like Chance the Rapper. It’s strange paring them up on a track, but it’s also far stranger to have that track be a wedding ballad.

It’s easy to make fun of wedding ballads and songs made to be played at weddings, whether for slow dances or party tracks. They are often the most commercial, least thought about, and total ear worm of songs. A nice tasteless wafer everyone likes and can dance to, but no one cares about. There is a place for them to exist. They act less as a song and more a placeholder for an experience. Holy, this new song by J-Biebes is that to a T.

Holy is not a bad song. I would even argue it is pretty good. Not great. Not his best song. It is a wedding song after all. A very simple melody and tune driven by heartfelt lyrics to have a slow dance to.

In this song, holy feelings refers to Justin’s connection with his now-wife. The chorus and verses all center around how people tell him to take it slow, but the holy connection told him that he needed to rush to the alter. He needed to get married. It makes one of the few wedding songs to actually be about a wedding.

Despite being called Holy, Justin’s verses don’t make it all that religious. It uses the trappings of religious music but is very secular. Chance’s very 2010s feature makes it religious. Many allusions to a father in both a literal a sense, and spiritual one. Lots of going to the water imagery, and late 90s early 2000s rhymes. It feel charming in a way. Though he is talking about religion it doesn’t feel like I’m being prostalatized too. It’s used as a fact. It reminds me of those sweet wedding photos of a husband and wife praying before they get married behind a door. That is something strong with them as a family unit and that’s okay (outside of that context, and institutionally is where I find issues with religion and Christianity in particular).

The video has Justin and his girlfriend or love interest working blue collar jobs. Justin is an oil worker and love interest in an old person’s old home. The first half of the video shows them just working and being cute. That changes when they lose their jobs due to the “current economic political climate,” and become homeless. They get picked up by a random veteran driving by and get to stay with his family. A very strange choice for a video all things considered. Especially because Chance’s feature just has him rapping to the camera in a greenhouse.

The song is clearly playing on strong blue collar, pro-America, and classical country iconography (aside from the love interest being black). Part of that makes sense with the more religious approach, but since the most religious part of the song is a feature by another artist and is shot in a greenhouse, I would have to push back on that. It feels like a hot button take to get the video played over a vision to relate with the song. There is no marriage or allusion to marriage in the song. I do appreciate that Justin’s couple on screen don’t fight and argue, and that they don’t find a place to live right away at the end of the video. Both feel like easy tropes a song like this could have gotten away with. Not the take I would have done with this material. Feels shallow but looks really pretty.

This song isn’t easy to write about because it was simple and straightforward. There is not very much reading or dissection I can do. It’s blatantly obvious what the song is, and that means you either like that style or don’t. It’s better than I expected. Fine, Chance makes it pretty good, and that’s that.

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Hot 100 Review: Before you Go by Lewis Capaldi

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You will not meet a bigger proponent for the return of normal instruments and song structure back into popular music. Not to say music that breaks from it is bad, but it often would have been better served if it were. That means people like Peter Capaldi should be Godsends. Finally, a return to normal structure. Unfortunately, a good structure doesn’t a good song make. Structure is but a framework. It’s the components that make something great. And the components for Before You Go are overall lacking.

When adhering to a well-worn structure there normally two paths to take when completing it. One is to have a musically simple song that is built on strong and clever lyrics. The other is a complex melody, chords, and arrangement that is grounded by straightforward lyrics. Not every good song falls into these categories, but as a framework it is solid. Before You Go is both musically and lyrically simple. Very straightforward guitar and piano arrangements. The lyrics, too, are simple, but also sort of interesting.

Before you Go is a consument breakup song. It is about not seeing the forest for the trees. Ignoring or overlooking the little signs, and paying the price for them by asking them something before they go. It can be a powerfully strong and sad concept when hit the right way. This song does not hit the right way.

Of the many reasons for it, is how seemingly clueless the narrator is. Cluelessness as a trait isn’t wrong on its own, but Peter the writer doesn’t seem to realize that the cluelessness is the reason for the breakup. Or, more specifically, the reason he has to ask, “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make your heart beat better?,” and “So, before you go/Was there something I could’ve said to make it all stop hurting?” is because he was unable to realize the problems with his love interest or refused to see the problems. That might be fine if that was reflected, but Peter seems to disagree as his thoughtlessness and cluelessness is blantantly overlooked.

This is best shown from, “When you hurt under the surface/Like troubled water running cold,” “Was never the right time, whenever you called/Went little by little by little until there was nothing at all,” and the bridge, “Would we be better off by now/If I’d have let my walls come down?/Maybe, I guess we’ll never know/You know, you know…”

These lines by themselves don’t sound too bad. But together they compound, along with Capaldi’s incredibly whiny voice, to be unbearable. It sounds like he is trying to come off strong and sincere, but instead every time he talks about the relationship it sounds like a dog begging for food. That makes all the talk seem disingenuous. He might be hurt and sad but he’s not honestly reflecting, just moaning.

A line that people might call foul on with this reading is in the first verse when the narrator says, “Our every moment, I start to replace/Cause now that they’re gone, all I hear are the words that I needed to say.” That sounds like the person realized what the did wrong all along, and even as it does say that, it’s not accurate since that’s in the first verse and the rest of the song doesn’t support him. It sounds, again with the singing, like him whining and saying anything to get the other person to believe him.

The video throws whatever the song was supposed to mean out the window, into traffic, then get run over by said traffic, and then rained on for good measure. The lyrics and framing without the song all feel to be built around a terrible breakup. It seems incredibly obvious. The video, though, decides to make the song about losing a loved one, but in the shedding their mortal coil way, not breaking up way.

To support this point, the video starts by focusing on the romantic relationship between a guy and a girl. Throughout the video it goes to the girl with other people doing things like skating, playing on the beach, visiting family in the hospital. Normal, good person stuff. Then it takes a turn when the video is suddenly at a funeral for her and there are flashbacks of her. It then ends with her voicemail playing. All of this clearly states that she died quickly and tragically. Most likely by accident. I assume accident because the other would be…

It’s not hard, if you read the video as part of Capaldi’s intent to center around suicide. The not saying or calling are now even worse than a breakup but signs someone needed help but were ignored. That is far more tragic. That turns the “Before you go,” into a wish being able to help but can’t. Unfortunately the video doesn’t have any contacts to the Suicide prevention hotline, or anything like that. It just means the girl died and it’s sad. Unrequited words and feelings for a person is strong, but the song by itself isn’t about that. Or it would have made that the focus instead of adding it with the video.

So, I heard this song before. I reviewed Peter Capaldi’s last song and watched this video closer to when it came out… months ago. This song making it onto the top 10 shows just how strenuous the charts and all entertainment media is with the virus. No songs have come around to shake it up. They are stuck playing songs from the BC era. Some of them, like Circles or Blinding Light are good and deserve the more praise they get. Some, like this, less so. A bland song trying to punch above its weight with a video it can hardly support lyrically.

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Hot 100 Review: Mood by 24kGolden (feat. Iann Dior)

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Something that often drives me when writing is not only trying to figure out my opinions on a song, but to try and understand why a song is popular in the first place. But moreso than that, it is an exercise in getting into other people’s heads. Mood is a fascinating example of that.

Coming in at barely under two minutes and thirty seconds, it is a concise song that packs two verses and a chorus repeated three times all in the search of what feels like an internal monologue of a fight someone would never actually say… except for in this song. It’s got a really solid guitar riff and vibe that pulses throughout the song. The music pairs well with the vocals. 24kGoldn and Iann Dior have voices that feel very classicly alternative-punk while being understated. Like it’s a song made to sing or mumble along to.

The line about how this feels like an argument or retort in someone’s head to an argument, but would never actually say is built off the chorus. A blatant call out of tone policing in the first line, “Why you always in a mood? Fuckin ’round, actin’ brand new,” is a line visceral enough to get across the point but feels just generic enough to fit any situation. Like a more forceful “You’ve changed,” or something. And, even though it’s kind of a joke that he’s calling the person out, and is tone policing feels the need to clarify and correct in the next line, and ends with almost a dismissal of classic fights by saying, “Baby, I ain’t playing by your rules/Everything look better with a view,” as a way to say that he knows how this argument is supposed to play out but knows how to mix it up. It’s a subversion.

The first verse and pre-chorus by Iann Dior stays on that idea of suberverting an argument or trying to not have one but has a lot of disjointed lines that make it feel off. The real standout lines being, “Baby, I am not your dad, it’s not all you want from me/ I just want your company,” is used to direct how the argument is not really at him but at someone else. To put a point on it he says the best line in the song, “Girl, it’s obvious, elephant in the room.” The problem is so big it’s an elephant she’s ignoring and that she started in, causing the argument. That being supported in the following lines.

The biggest weakness the song has is the pre-chorus for it leaning too hard in the open-ended direction. The two lines, “We play games of love to avoid the depression/We been here before and I won’t be your victim,” should work and be self-explanatory, but feel off. The first line doesn’t specify what he means by games of love. I would imagine it’s a type of addiction to romance, but the need to fight and start arguments might be a form of self-harm. A wanting to feel bad because feeling bad feels good (try to diagram that sentence ELA teachers). These questions infect the second, more on brand line, about trying to flip the script. Unfortunately it’s not direct enough about what that means. How the person will not be a victim anymore. The chorus that follows feels like it’s trying to answer that. The calling the person out for “actin’ brand new,” and the changing up the location, but the rest is up to imagination.

The second verse is a final closure on what the song is about even as it still has a chorus and pre-chorus left. It’s a direct call to how even as he might be in love he doesn’t want to constantly argue, or being messed with. He knows she can love him but wants to get past everything else.

The video is incredibly straightforward. It cuts between the two artists rapping for the camera surrounded by women with classically scary additions like horns or snakes. One of 24kGoldn in a backdrop of sunflowers, one of Iann Dior in a loft bedroom arguing with a woman, the ant shot of looking up at the duo during a thunderstorm, and then 24kGoldn with a girl and getting into an argument while at a parking destination. All the symbolism is really obvious. What feels less obvious is how whiny the song sounds when facial expressions are added. Like the lyrics in a vaccum feels progressive, but added with the vocals and images comes off far whiner and like they’re ducking an argument over trying not to have one. Like it pushes the dismissiveness of their tone far harder with the context than when just listening to it by itself.

Even with the new whiny and dismissive tone it’s still enjoyable. The lyrics are not deep enough and with a song this short it wouldn’t be hard to beef it up, but I can also see (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) a lot of “good” TikTok joke videos using key lines from the song. Not to say I want that, but this song just puts those in my mind. You could say it puts me… in a mood!

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Hot 100 Review: Dynamite by BTS

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BTS’s continual existence as a popular band both confounds and impresses me. They are a fully international sensation despite most of their songs being in native Korean and using only American flavor words. Despite that they deliver on some of the popiest of pop songs with a group of leads that people somehow can read personality into. Almost makes sense that teens love them considering boy bands are always popular and right now the English charts don’t have anyone as technicolor or energetic to match. To think that the days of One Direction and The Wanted would be missed and longed for again, so people turn to other nations. Very cool.

The last time I covered BTS I said that I’d probably like them more if they had a song in English (how American), but I engage with songs through lyrics and how those lyrics inform the rest of the piece. Seems BTS made good by releasing Dynamite… the most 2010s song in every way.

Calling it the most 2010s song isn’t meant to be derogatory of it’s nature. It is an honest descriptor of its inherent qualities as a piece. To give a sonic picture it is a highlight reel of early Katy Perry mixed with the pomp and circumstances of Bruno Mars and Cake by the Ocean. All of that means I should honestly love it, unfortunately last week I said it was fine and I stand by that, but I also think it’s achievement shouldn’t be understated.

As a perfect combination between BTS’s usual flare, Bruno Mars’s Uptown Funk and 24k, along with some Cake by the Ocean it is utterly successful. It feels truly like a summer song even as summer is closing. Heck the focus on brightening up nighttime is a prime example of that tone. It’s all about having a good time and that’s easy to jam too. It succeeds, but comes at a cost. The biggest of which is just how bland the imagery and ideas are. Take, for example, Fireworks by Katy Perry since that’s clearly an influence. It is one of her weaker songs of the era (until Roar came out and totally dunked her forever) because of how bland the point is. Fireworks as a metaphor for individuality is strange but kinda obvious. Same with dynamite as an object. It’s too cliché. Hence why Cake by the Ocean works. That’s such a strange image and metaphor that, even as obvious as the point is, the mangled conflagration to reach it makes it so fascinating. Dynamite the song doesn’t have that.

I’m sure a major part of that comes from how this is BTS’s first ever fully English song (as far as I know). It’s playing to simple words and phrases, some of which get mumbled due to English not being their first language. It makes what are supposed to be strong lines harder to process and clarify. That’s not to say making it as a mostly Korean language song would make it better, but it might have had a better impact (except when it comes to success. Clearly it being in English helped it stay number one for so long).

I doubt changing the lyrics would have made it a better song because my issues don’t come from them. Sure, I connect more with them, but it’s the beat and music that lose me. But lose me in the way an ocean can lose you. It sounds all the same and goes on forever that it’s hard to gauge how long the song is and get boring quickly. It’s only three minutes but doesn’t have enough musical or lyrical ideas to make it to the finish line while it shoots all its confetti dynamite everywhere in celebration.

The video is a fairly standard lip-sync and dance to the song in fun locations that has enough color and energy to sell the upbeat tone the song had. It’s workman but effective. The main standout is the pastel color pallet often associated with BTS. The pinks and blues are bright but muted in interesting ways. It is not like the 2010s music videos the above songs often accompanied because it’s sole focus is the band instead of the singer and a large group, but it all works to sell the fun. Not great, but enjoyable, just like the song.

This linguistic pivot the band has done here could be momentous. BTS is undoubtably popular but was held back from the mainstream English speaker world by that language barrier (some Psy was able to crack just once through sheer perceived weirdness). If that barrier remains broken then they could really expand into a presence I would quantify as Beatles-esqu (my processor autocorrected to sequel and I think that is fascinating too). A boy band from across the world comes to America, takes it by storm, and changes the course of music forever. Sure, this song isn’t much more than a pastiche of formerly popular styles, but so was the Beatles in context, they moved passed that into a new horizon. BTS could do the same.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Not Hot 100: Biting my Tongue by The Veronicas

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I do my best not to take breaks from watching the Hot 100. Despite no one asking me to, I still try to be consistent on watching it and keeping up with music. But something I’ve learned even after only doing this half a year, is that only a few songs stay above the Top 10, and those are the ones I usually have a bunch to say, or have to make jokes just to reach my own arbitrary length. I say all of that to say this: the new BTS song is fine. More of the same as the last song from them I reviewed. Even with that I want to take a break and look a new relatively new single by a band I like, Biting my Tongue by The Veronicas.

The Veronicas, despite only learning about them earlier this year, seem like a strange band (duo technically) to still be around. They made their name with punk-pop hits that are of writing caliber above normal pop, but end up being more weird and kitschy because of it. It all still plays well for clubs, but feels just off enough to raise heads. It might be because their main audience is Australia. They don’t thrive much anywhere else, and seem happy with where their music has gone, but still strange they keep releasing songs. None feel stranger than Biting my Tongue.

Biting my Tongue is only strange in how it feels far closer to a normal Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande song. It sound specifically like both of Gaga’s newest hits. Though, even as it sounds like those songs with lots of standard pop beats with little flare to them, it’s presentation of the theme is different.

A title like Biting my Tongue conjures many possible meanings. This one is of not speaking up because in being complacent the narrator would lose their love interest. It deals with the complex feelings of thinking someone is only a friend until faced with the possibility of never seeing them again, or of how saying your true feelings might endanger a current friendship with them.

The lyrics find a strong way to balance those feelings out through careful, if overused wordplay. The issue with that means they often get lost in the beats and become white noise to the rest of the song. However lines like, “I don’t wanna lose this thing that we got/I’m just telling you how I feel,” paint in very direct colors her feelings, but effectively deliver the message.

More striking lines like, “I can’t get enough of the way that you’re looking at me/With those eyes,” and “Letting you in under my skin/Then I give in like a fool in love,” give off the same feel but with a little more flare. Unfortunately, like most of these songs, we still don’t know what makes this person special. That’s a deliberate choice, but it always makes it harder to latch on when there is so little.

The video feels like part of a larger whole. It feels closer to the Save Rock and Roll video album by Fall Out Boy. To explain, the video is a Romeo and Juliet story of two feuding groups, each with a set of twins, one of each, a guy and girl (despite the fact the thumbnail was two girls that make sense in context but was hoping for LGBT representation for the song) get together but are physically torn apart from their family with someone having been shot by the end of the video, making it a cliffhangers. This makes it kind of feel generic as far as videos go. It makes the “I can’t live without you,” line more explicit by having someone get shot, but I was distracted by a new reading that can’t possibly be the intent.

So often in the star-crossed lovers story, one love interest tries and fails to talk to their parents or doesn’t at all. So, building in the idea of biting my tongue, it seems like it should be that the person has to hide their feelings around one set of loved ones and can only share with the partner. The change/point of the song would then be breaking that to express feelings and get validation from it. Part of that seems like it’s in the video, but too many lines are about romance for that to track. It would be a cool idea at least.

This song is part of the rise in, what the best artist in the game, Dua Lipa, calls “Dark Pop.” I’ll ignore the silly name only because it’s as obviously bad as writing the words: Dark Avatar, and expect us to take that character seriously afterwards. The point of the music is not as silly. It’s to paint the normally torturous emotions in a heaping helping of body glitter, flashing lights, and energy. In that it succeeds even if it does feel weaker and less specific than even their previous single “Ugly,” or some of their early works. In other words a band went from the line “I never looked at you that way/I always thought you were gay,” to “What would I, what would I, what would I do?/ I can’t live without you.” To me it sounds like someone was really biting their tongue there.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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