I gave a Golden Teddy Award to Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” because it was a gleeful,, snappy, crazily catchy old school — as in 60s old school — pop song. But then everyone else agreed. But the ridiculousness of the FCC prevents the word “fuck” from airing on the radio, and Cee Lo saw $$$!, so he re-recorded the song as “Forget You.” The song lost all of its bite and became ubiquitous. I found it so annoying that I began to loathe even the original version. I’ll turn off whatever sound blasting device if I hear the opening notes.
Here are the videos for the two versions.Read More
Here’s the second of my five Golden Teddy posts. I’ve done my Most Excellence in Music post, and to come are Most Excellence in Stuff, Most Excellence in Writing, and Most Excellence in Film. The second will probably come in late January, because most of the good movies from 2010 haven’t played here yet. I’ll do Stuff and Writing today or tomorrow. (I changed Most Excellence in Books to Most Excellence in Writing, because I haven’t read that many books this year, and I seem to have short-shrifted stories, articles, and poems in the past.)
Anyway, here’s the TV!
And please note: I watch a lot of TV, but I don’t watch a lot of what’s on. So, I don’t have an opinion about a lot of things — like The Real Housewives of [Insert City Here], The A List, CSI: [Insert City Here], or anything animated, because while I almost always like The Simpsons, I almost never like Family Guy or Southpark – and thus, they won’t win any awards.
Most Excellence in Being Exactly What You Are and Nothing Else
Smallville. I’ve watched almost every episode of Smallville, and I’ve been watching since its premiere ten years ago. I stopped for a bit somewhere in the middle, when it got really silly and strangely focused on Lana Lang’s occult powers, but I returned three years ago when other DC ‘verse folk showed up. It got geekier, more myth-y, campier, and simply more fun. Now, in its last year, Smallville is all about Clark and Lois and their destiny. It’s all going somewhere, and it’s doing it as if the show were a filmed comic book. It’s one of the shows that I’m most excited to see on the list of stuff the TiVo has recorded. I love this fan-made promo video for the final season.
True Blood. The first season was awesome in its shocking blood, sex, and astronomical production values, and the second season was pulpy but unsatisfying and sorta, well, bad. But this past season, the third, True Blood went back to being great at being what it is: blood, sex, astronomical production values, and a coherent, engrossing through-line that made you want to keep watching. And there are two reasons: Joe Manganiello, who was so hot that it was hard to sit still watching him on screen, and Denis O’Hare, whose uber-baddy was camptastically evil.
Most Excellence in Filthy, Gorgeous Camp … and Sadness
Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I have no problem admitting that I started watching Spartacus because I’d heard there were lots of naked gladiators in it. And there are. But it was also insanely entertaining, in 300 meets Rome kind of way: So much blood, so much sex, so many shots of Lucy Lawless’s breasts, so many discussions about honor, so very little subtlety. And Andy Whitfield, who played the titular character, is such an amazingly hot and fierce (in the gay and traditional definitions) action hero. It is deeply awful that promptly after becoming world famous for this role he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and blarg, the role has been recast with some guy who will never be as awesome.
Most Excellence in Scaring the Living Poo Out of Me
The Walking Dead. Like vampires, zombies have gone high-brow in the last decade. Danny Boyle started it with 28 Days Later, and now we have a high-art cable show on the same network as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The pilot of The Walking Dead is easily one of the scariest and creepiest 90 minutes of televisual entertainment I’ve ever encountered. I’ve heard complaints that after the first couple episodes, the show got boring. As far as I can tell, “boring” means that the show didn’t focus solely on blowing the heads off of zombies but rather on the human emotional upheaval of the apocalypse, which The Walking Dead does much better than Battlestar Galatica ever could. The acting and writing are as good as anything else on the air right now, and the action — of which there is a lot — is intense and often brilliantly directed. As you can see from the clip here.
Most Excellence in Wrongness (Comedy)
Raising Hope. I liked My Name Is Earl, but there was something a bit mean-spirited about it; the characters, despite Earl’s desire to do the right thing, were deep-down not very good people. Raising Hope, which has the same creator and which is set in the same town, uses white trash humor a bit more humanely and lovingly. At the heart of the show is family, love, and responsibility. And it’s crazy, crazy funny.
Most Excellence in Wrongness (Drama)
Breaking Bad. Since the premise of show is watching when, how, and why people “break bad” — become criminals, do terrible things, compromise their ethics and morals — I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of times I screech “Oh, no!” when I’m watching Breaking Bad. The one here is the most epic. Lawd. It’s really hard to watch. I’m not even sure if it’s entertaining. But it’s damn good drama. That said, I’m probably only watching it because my dissertation is about meth, and so is this show.
Most Excellent Endings
Lost. While no series finale can touch the last episode of Six Feet Under — which I think should be used as the definition of “sublime” — the finale of Lost is one of the few that actually both ends a story and does it in a satisfying, emotionally rewarding way. It took me a while to comprehend it fully how it worked, but the ingenious duel storylines of the last season, one of which only in hindsight took place in a sort of Purgatory, allowed a mysterious build-up of catharsis that I had only experienced while reading great novels. I wept in the same way I did after reading the last page of Atonement.
Most Excellently Awful, Sharp-Jumping, Are-You-Fucking-Kidding-Me?! Ending
Project Runway. After three months of watching Mondo make exquisite, artful, original and deeply personal women’s clothes and also watching Gretchen making dreadful clothes inspired by Joni Mitchell album covers from the late 70s, it was, to say the least, appalling to watch Gretchen win Project Runway. It was one of the best seasons in a while: drama, drama, drama, and some cool clothes, too. But in Mondo being robbed, it was the first time that someone truly, truly undeserving won.
Most Excellence in Being Dreadfully Awful
Fox News. What’s that sound? It’s all 73 of my readers saying “duh.” All you need to know about how evil of this station is in the survey that showed that its viewers are the most misinformed compared to viewers of MSNBC and CNN. And how did Fox’s spokesperson respond? By attacking the authors of the study because they’re researchers at the University of Maryland. Cuz it’s a party school! As if that has anything to do with whether the methods of the researchers are valid. If the researchers were from Harvard? Liberal! If they were from Oxford? European! If they were from Bob Jones University? Silence. Based on the amount of partisanship, cynicism, anger, and discursive evil it has wrought, Fox News is the single worst thing to happen to the American polity since Watergate.
Most Excellence in Pointing Out How Dreadfully Awful Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC Are
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And I don’t even watch their shows; I just watch the clips when they’re posted on Facebook. Sadly, as good as Stewart and Colbert are at shredding into tiny, tiny, tiny pieces the falsities and cynicism of Fox News, nothing changes. Everyone with a clue knows that Fox News is not news, but rather hateful, dishonest propaganda. And everyone who wants to hear only what makes uneducated white Christians feel good about themselves will happily watch Fox and believe whatever they’re told.
Most Excellent Topic of Argument for Pop Culture-Minded Grad Students (that isn’t Black Swan)
Glee. Some people love it, some people hate it, a lot of people thought this season isn’t as good or consistent as last season (as if it was ever consistent), and I love how it makes people fight about art, drama, and the representation of gays and lesbians on TV. Queeny and manipulative and damaged and funny, Kurt is all sorts of problematic, and so are his storylines, and I love when people get all indignant about Kurt, pro or con. Also: It’s fun to watch people trash Glee in total and thoughtlessly expose their either external or internal homophobia. And by “fun,” I mean “depressing and useful.” Also: This clip shows the cutest, gayest, and most subversive thing I’ve seen on network TV in a long time.
Most Excellence in Continued Excellence (Drama)
Mad Men. I don’t think there’s any debate about this being the best season since the first. I can quibble about some odd dramatic transitions, or lack thereof, particularly in the moment when Don decided to stop, or curtail, his drinking, for that scene was never shown. And I found his journaling a tad weird. But “The Suitcase” was the best episode of the entire series, and the drama of Anna’s death, Don’s quick and weird engagement with his toothy secretary, Roger’s disastrous lies, and Peggy being Peggy created an emotional roller coaster for both Don and the audience. You get why he drinks.
The Good Wife. There are two shows that when I see them in my TiVo list, I get excited: Smallville and The Good Wife. Clearly, I like a lot of TV, but when it comes to pure entertainment, The Good Wife does it without being shocking, depressing, or challenging. These are all qualities that I like in a show, but sometimes you just want a procedural/soap opera that is well-acted, well-written, and not insulting to your intelligence (unlike every other legal procedural on network television.)
Fringe. While there’s not too much competition right now, even if there were some competition, it’s still the best sci-fi on TV. And it got so much better this year for three reasons: 1) Taking the drama to the parallel universe, which is so Crisis on Infinite Earths; 2) Giving us Walternate and Fauxlivia, roles that give two of our heroes the opportunity to play slightly different versions of one character, which leads to some superheroic acting; 2) Joshua Jackson being all Joshua Jacksony — Yum.
Most Excellence in Continued Excellence (Comedy)
30 Rock. It’s beginning to have that not-so-fresh feeling, but the satire is still genius. Explaining comedy is hard. Here’s a clip.
Modern Family. For the same reason as last year: incredibly funny and not mean. 1/2 Arrested Development, 1/4 All in the Family, and 1/4 Leave it to Beaver. And we have a clip to prove it.
Parks & Recreation. It’s almost as good as The Office was when that show was at its best. I’m worried about the new presence of Rob Lowe, who I’ve always found to be incredibly unctuous, but Parks & Rec wonderfully uncynical, openhearted, and silly. Clip!
Wow. I really do watch too much TV.Read More
It’s that time of year again!
You like the new logo? I do. It’s based on the Lumibär bear lamp, which you can buy for me here.
I’m a radio listener and an EW reader and have rather poppy tastes, so my list is pretty obscurity-free. If you want to go well beyond the beaten path, here are Altered Zones’s list and Pitchfork.com’s Top 200 Tracks and Top 50 Albums of 2010, which mixes some stuff you’ve heard of with a whole lot of stuff you haven’t. And watch for the Village Voice’s music blog, which polls the critics.
Most Excellence in Wrongness
“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Tegan and Sara. I heard this on NPR last week in a review of the Christmas song collection Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In. I think the songwas meant to be twee, but Tegan and Sara’s somewhat flat delivery makes it just creepy. Granted, it’s not as creepy or wrong as the entire oeuvre of the Chipmunks.
Most Excellence in Creepy Topical-But-True-ness
“Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna. The 2010 “My Name Is Luka,” “Love the Way You Lie” became the Official Serious Song of the Year by being, yes, insanely catchy and well-made and about domestic violence, but also by having the current most famous victim of domestic violence sing the hook. Rihanna, who thankfully has emerged by her poisonous relationship with Chris Brown as an even bigger and better star, sings that searing, haunting chorus with way too much wink and wisdom. Watching her do it in the extraordinary and oddly hot (heh) video makes it clear she knows exactly what she’s doing and what it all means. Also, Eminem’s rapping on this song is fucking awesome.
Most Excellent Use of the Words “Ohio” and “Bees” in a Lyric
“Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National. “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees” is simply one of the great lyrics ever. I have no idea what this song is about, and the video is just as opaque. Two of the comments on YouTube discuss possibilities: “The director’s instructions appear to have been ‘act like you’re 70 and maybe a little bit drunk.’” And: “Private eye Matt sets out to solve the murder of a wealthy heiress but gets distracted by a lovely park, some booze and a neat song. Finally he’s fired from the case and does a little dance.” “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is my favorite song on The National’s “High Violet,” which came out this year and didn’t do what “Boxer” had a few years ago. It underwhelmed, mostly because, I think, it didn’t take the band anywhere new. It’s good, but it’s not a revelation.
Most Excellence in Autotune for Good
“Umbrella/Singin’ In the Rain” by the Cast of Glee, but mostly Gwyneth Paltrow and Matthew Morrison. Aside from being inconsistent in its quality, and inconsistent in its characterizations, perhaps the biggest complaint about Glee is the extraordinary overuse of autotune to correct the pitch of the majority of the singers and their singing. I assume that this is done mostly because there simply isn’t enough rehearsal time to get these songs right; they’re making a 40-minute musical in 10 days, and that’s hard work. Of course, the seasoned Broadway pros like Lea Michelle, Matthew Morrison, and guest stars like Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel don’t sound like they’ve been altered. They can sing on pitch at will. But not so much Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, and guest stars like Gwyneth Paltrow. Some people loathed Gwyneth’s episode, but I’m with the many who loved it. And I loved what they did with this number. It’s ingenious, even if it is mostly an engineering marvel.
Most Excellence in Using Autotune for Evil
Taylor Swift. All you need to know about how much of Taylor Swift’s actual voice appears on her recordings can be found in this terrifying live performance, a duet with a clearly astonished Stevie Nicks. I won’t embed an actual Taylor Swift song, because they make my head hurt.
Most Excellence in Not Being But Sounding A Lot Like the Strokes
“Animal” by Neon Trees. When I first heard this song, I thought that the Strokes had gotten back together and started working with Dr. Luke or something. It’s super poppy but the lead singer sounds like Julian Casablancas and the guitars are soooo New York in 2001. Rockin’.
Most Excellence in Gummy Bears, Whipped Cream, and Snoop Dogg
“California Gurls” by Katy Perry. I loathed Katy Perry, and then this song warmed my heart. Even though it’s pretty clear that the real California is not much of a dream anymore, this insanely joyful, giddy, ridiculous song just makes me happy. And there’s the video. WTF. Dancing gummy bears, whipped cream cone bras, and a pimped out Snoop Dogg make it one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what the Candyland stuff has to do with California, but whatevs.
Most Excellence in Channeling James Brown
“Tightrope” by Janelle Monae. This is the best dance video in, like, forever. Well, okay, since “Single Ladies,” which really isn’t that long ago. But this is a much more populist video; it’s about dancing for your life and your sanity, while “Single Ladies” is about Beyonce and her backup dancers being amazing. I mean: Dude. Look at them go. You just gotta love Miss Monae. Her album is a schizophrenic wonder-wheel, and this is the best tune by far. What a freaky genius.
Most Excellence in Being a Most Excellent Album
My top five:
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: Original Cast Recording by Michael Friedman. Okay, yeah, Michael is one of my best friends, but I’m not one to promote my friends’ work unless it’s damn good. This is rock musical at its best: The show is the most subversive and relevant piece of theater I’ve seen in God-knows-how-long, and Michael’s music and lyrics are hilarious, brainy, catchy, profound, and often much more moving than you could possibly imagine a post-modern comedy about Andrew Jackson could be.
Gorilla Manor by Local Natives. Exquisite harmonies, melodies, and guitar work. It’s sorta perfect. I heard that our local show, which I missed because it sold out while I was waiting for someone to decided whether to go with me, took a turn for the douche, but I’m not one to refuse love for a band because of its fans.
The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green. Pop/soul deliciousness.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. The lyrics are Allen Ginsburg meets Richard Pryor, and the music is perhaps the apex of post-modern musical pastiche, and the whole thing is some sort of insane, ego-fighting-the-id masterpiece. Also, it’s a party album. Team Kanye.
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I don’t think The Suburbs is better than Arcade Fire’s previous albums Funeral and Neon Bible, but it’s still one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, easily. I don’t think any other band is making big, important, dense, and political albums like Arcade Fire, which is simply the best rock act making records right now. Like Neon Bible, The Suburbs isn’t really fun; it can be a tad depressing, since the subjects of the songs are things like sprawl and ennui. But in its darkness, it’s engrossing and populist and beautiful and mostly superbly crafted, like a Scorsese movie.
Five Most Excellent Honorably Mentioned Albums
Contra by Vampire Weekend. More of the same — as in awesome, smart, African-beated rock and roll — from my favorite nerds.
Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You. by Lightspeed Champion. I think I’m the only person I know who knows who this guy is. Well, me and my brother, who gave me the album. Brit pop-rock (and he’s American!), FTW.
Night Work by Scissor Sisters. Disco! Disco! Disco!
This Is Happening! by LCD Soundsystem. No one fuses electronica and rock better than James Murphy, and his lyrics are as funny as they are surprisingly poetic.
Most Excellence in Being a Most Excellent Song
My top five, in alphabetical order:
“Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. It’s hipster folkies embodying Johnny and June Carter Cash. If you don’t love this song, you have no soul.
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons. I like to pretend that this song is about the end of a gay relationship, but it’s probably not. Still, it’s a sing-along, banjo-stomp, folk-rock masterpiece, and it’s made these guys big stars. Yay!
“The Saddest Song” by Ben Walker and the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Even though this is very much a “book” song, it’s searing; if you replaced the historical specifics of the 1830s with some stuff from, say, the last year, the song could be about Obama. And it’s catchy, to say the least. And it has just a dab of Evita-ish rhythms to get at the queen in me.
“Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, as performed by both Perry and Darren Criss on “Glee.” I think this is the best pop song of the year. It’s about joy and nostalgia and love. And sex. And when Darren Criss sang it on Glee — brilliantly, and better than Perry, and with an a capella back-up — it became a teen fantasy for every gay kid who ever struggled, alone and dejected, through high school. If only I’d been serenaded by someone like Criss, or, hell, just someone…
“Whataya Want From Me?” by Adam Lambert. Written by Pink and performed by Lambert like the song is eating his soul, it’s the best track on For Your Entertainment and a damn awesome fighting-with-your-lover song.
Five Most Excellent Honorably Mentioned Singles
“Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem. Hilarious.
“Fuck You” by Cee Lo. Also hilarious. Not hilarious: The wretched “clean” version of the song where “fuck” is replaced with “forget.” Hideous. Fuck the FCC.
“Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Now that’s love.
“POWER” by Kanye West. Gadzooks. Now that’s how to produced a hip-hop song. Insane.
“Schizophrenia” by Jukebox the Ghost. Ben Folds on speed. Fabulous. I wholeheartedly agree with the commenter on YouTube who wrote, “Why doesn’t this have a gajillion views already? It’s better than sex.”
A couple people pointed out some stuff that I should have included. I listened, thought, and agreed.
TWO MORE MOST EXCELLENT ALBUMS
Body Talk by Robyn. Robyn put out three albums this year, Body Talk Part 1, Body Talk Part 2, and Body Talk Part 3, also known simply as Body Talk, and this last one compiles the best stuff from Parts 1 and 2 along with a few new tunes. I was underwhelmed by 1 and 2; there were some great songs, but there was also some filler that bored me. I didn’t know about Part 3 until my friend Allen told me about it after this post went up, and I listened to it yesterday, like, five times, and it doesn’t have problems of 1 and 2. Part 3 is a collection of nearly perfect dance-pop songs. Robyn’s lyrics are veer back and forth from humor to deep pain, and everything is catchier than the flu. “Dancing On My Own,” for example, is already some sort of classic.
Queen of Denmark by John Grant. Well. OMG. A link to this song was left in the Facebook comments about this post, and I was floored. Grant’s voice is utterly haunting, and the songs are in some David Bowie / Elton John / Jens Lekman / Rufus Wainwright land where I want to move and retire. It’s a ridiculously beautiful album.Read More
It’s that time of year again! First up, the Golden Teddy Awards for Most Excellence in Music.
Most Excellence in Wrongness
Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart is both genius and terrifying. One friend said that “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” “is a threat” and another said that “O’ Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis)” “sounds likes a demonic incantation.” The album is the soundtrack for the next train to Wrongville. And yet I’ve found it hypnotic and, um, fun. If you think of Bob doing these songs at a drunken — very, very drunken — Irish bar on Christmas night, it sort of makes sense. Like the Pogues, minus a few gallons of whiskey.
Most Excellence in the Use of the Whole Rest
From 3:47 to 3:54 of MGMT’s brilliant dance jam paen to youth, “Kids,” all we hear are the light tapping of a drum set’s cymbals and the playing of children. And then BOOM, the refrain returns, and you’ll drive off the road if you’re dancing in your car. I’ve almost done that, well, too many times. The song is just amazing, and that moment is thrilling. I know it came out last year, but if the Grammys can nominate MGMT for Best New Artist for 2009, then I can give this song an award in 2009. So there.
Most Excellence in Auto-Tune
Any song that mocks how lame many pop-rap songs are and how badly misused auto-tune can be is a winner in my book. (Yes, I have book. Really.) And the Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat” is quite the winner. Let’s hope it wins the Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. (Argh: Simulacra!) Andy Samberg, you’re my hero. And that’s also because…
Most Excellence in the Use of Color Me Bad’s Goodwill Donation
…he and Justin Timberlake made the best sequel since Empire Strikes Back. “Mother Lover,” the follow-up to the Emmy-winning “Dick in a Box,” has the two douches getting out of prison, realizing that they missed Mother’s Day, and come up with a plan to, yes, fuck each other’s mothers. Oddly, the song is sweet. And it has these lyrics (among others):
AS & JT: ’cause every Mother’s Day needs a Mother’s Night
If doing it is wrong, I don’t wanna be right
I’m callin’ on you ’cause I can’t do it myself
to me you’re like a brother, so be my mother lover
AS: I’m layin’ in the cut waitin’ for your mom
clutchin’ on this lube and roses
JT: I got my digital camera, I’m gonna make your momma do a million poses
AS: They will be so surprised
JT: We are so cool and thoughtful
AS: Can’t wait to pork your mom
JT: I’m gonna be the syrup, she can be my waffle
Most Excellence in Cheesy Pop
Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” has been ubiquitous for the last eight months or so, and rightfully so. This is a perfect pop song, and makes you want to dance, sweatermonkeys, DANCE. But it’s also about how awesome music is and how music and dancing can make you feel at ease in the world, part of something, and just fine:
So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song
And the butterflys fly away
Noddin’ my head like yeah
Moving my hips like yeah
And I got my hands up
They’re playin my song
I know I’m gonna be ok
Yeah, it’s a party in the USA
And I dig this video in all of it’s aesthetic mash-up of the Dirty South and slumming Silverlake. Also, Miley’s grown up and looks hawt. Suck it, haterz.
Most Excellence in Avant Garde (or “Smelly Cheese”) Pop
Usually when pop singers “repackage” their albums, it’s usually with a few not-so-great add-ons and a vague name change (like Rihanna did with Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded or Eminem is doing with Relapse: Refill), all in order to keep said singer on the charts until the next full release comes out. However, the eight new songs on Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster, a repackaged version of The Fame, could have comprised an album — a very weird and totally amazing dance pop record. The song here, “Telephone,” which features Beyonce, has lyrics so strange they could have been written by Miss Fierce in her “Bootylicious” phase. As Perez Hilton said about the track, Gaga took it to the “next NEXT level!!!” Lady Gaga is a pop genius. (Here’s a guy doing an acoustic medley of her hits, in case you’re wondering if its the production or the songwriting that makes her great. It’s the latter.)
Most Excellence in Over-Produced Bombast
Who knew? Jordan Catalano, er, I mean Jared Leto screamed his way through the first two albums he and his brother and their band 30 Seconds to Mars made, and while I occasionally listened to a whole song if I heard it on the radio, I never thought they’d do something Golden Teddy-worthy. (I’m pretty sure having Flood and Steve Lillywhite as producers helped.) But “Kings and Queens” rocks. It’s so over-done, over-the-top, and opaque, and yet, it makes me feel proud and moved and sentimental; shivers go up my spine when I hear it. This video is amazing, despite the loving close-ups of Jordan’s, I mean Jared’s, face. It never crossed my mind that a bunch of freaky-deaky Critical Massers could elucidate and encapsulate this song. But they did. (Note: The rest of the album is not so good.)
Most Excellence in Old Home Week
I haven’t loved a Pearl Jam album in 10 years, but I ♥ Backspacer, in particular this track, “Just Breathe.” Gorgeous.
Whitney Houston’s I Look to You was never going to put Whitney back on top of the charts, but it’s a damn fine album, with some great songs and some great singing. The best song is “Million Dollar Bill,” written by Alicia Keys.
Most Excellence in Live Performance
Not only is REM’s Live at the Olympia the best sounding live album I’ve ever heard (thank you, technology!), it’s also an awesome collection of songs and patter. Michael Stipe is in a bizarrely good mood. And they rock on these tunes.
Most Excellent Reason Thank American Idol
I’ve written extensively about Adam Lambert, so I won’t add much here. But I just want to add that his performances on American Idol last season were fucking amazing. Here’s one of my favorites.
Kelly Clarkson put out an another awesome pop album this year — and this one is a helluva lot more cheerful than the previous one, which bombed. The title track “All I Ever Wanted” hasn’t been released as a single yet, but it’s my favorite on the album. Here’s her doing it live on British TV.
Most Excellence in Being Siouxsie and the Banshees, But Not Really
When the Yeah Yeah Yeahs got all dance-y It’s Blitz, Karen O’s inner Siouxsie really came through. She even looks like her. But damn, it’s an awesome album. Try not dancing to it. I dare you.
Most Excellence in Twee
Owl City’s “Fireflies” is both annoying and adorable. I turn it up when it comes on the radio. Who knew that someone could steal Death Cab For Cutie’s sound and make a monstrous Top 40 hit with it?
Five Most Excellent Albums
The Very Best’s Warm Heart of Africa is world music fused with alt rock. Magical and addictive. This is the best album I’ve heard this year.
Morrissey’s Years of Refusal. It almost sounds like a Smith’s record. Great songwriting: simple, catchy, funny.
The Gossip’s Music For Men is simply brilliant dance rock. It’s crazy success in the UK is yet another reason why their music scene is to be envied. US radio refuses to get behind anything remotely gay.
The Soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Well, it’s possible for a craptastic movie to have an AMAZING soundtrack. While the screenwriter and director must abide by the book and it’s wretchedly silly aesthetics, the music supervisor doesn’t. Woohoo! “No Sound But the Wind” by Editors and “The Violet Hour” by Sea Wolf are particularly awesome. This Death Cab For Cutie song here is actually one of the weaker tracks.
The Dead Weather’s Horehound is another Jack Black concept album, and arguably it’s the best non-White Stripes thing he’s done. It’s art rock at its artiest and most rockin’.
Five Most Excellent Singles
There was no better single this year than “1901″ by Phoenix.
I love Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”. Fuck off, indy rock snobs.
The first time I heard Band of Skulls singing “I Know What I Am,” I said, “Oh. My. God. Now that’s a rock and roll song.”
When I hear Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’s “Empire State of Mind,” I want to get up and drive, fly, run, ski, sled, skip, pogo, or walk home to New York.
If Tilda Swinton and Kyle Minogue had a disco-diva love children, s/he would make something like La Roux’s “Bulletproof.”
The winners should all be so very proud.
Most Excellent Reason to Loathe the Grammies.
So, Spin, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly all declared that TV on the Radio’s Dear Science was the best album of 2008, and the band didn’t get a single Grammy nomination. Meanwhile, Kid Rock got a nomination for a song built entirely on a Lynyrd Skynyrd hook. And the Christianist boy bandJonas Brothers, who were spit out by the Random Pop Star GeneratorTM, were short-listed for Best New Artist. I know that the Grammys have been a joke for decades, but still.
Most Excellent Album from Any Source.
TV on the Radio’s Dear Science is the best possible outcome for the freak show love child of David Bowie, Beck, Prince, and the Talking Heads. With distortion. Or something like that. It’s accessible, danceable art rock with slam poetry lyrics.
Most Excellent Album More than 75% Computer Generated.
I just listed to Robyn’s Robyn for the bazillioninth time while making my fabu white and green bean salad, and I still love it, especially this song here on the left. It’s the album that Britney Spears would make if she had talent. And how can you not love someone who describes herself as the “most killingest pop star on the planet. A pint-sized atom bomb dosed to the tits on electric and dispensing wisdom in three-minute modernist pop bulletins on the post-adolescent condition.” They’re not modernist, actually. Even though “postmodernist” wouldn’t be exactly right, it’s the closest word we have.