Saturday, January 2, 2010

Confessions of a pop music junkie

Here's a list of my 2009 Top 10 pop songs - they’re club-ready and remix-friendly and just generally fantastic. Except for #6, this list of songs is comprised exclusively of female vocalists proving that the ladies sang some great tunes in 2009. Away we go:

10. Already Gone – Kelly Clarkson
STANDOUT LYRIC: “You can’t make it feel right when you know that it’s wrong”

Finally, a Kelly song I love again. This one brings me back to the good ol’ days (ie: 2004/2005) when singles from “Breakaway” were EVERYWHERE and for good reason… they were amazing. This single has allowed me to re-fall in love with Ms. Clarkson.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – Zero
STANDOUT LYRIC: “Try and hit the spot, get to know it in the dark”

If Chrissie Hynde and Tori Amos had a love child, she would be Karen O, the singer in Yeah Yeah Yeah’s who kicks a helluva lot of ass. The first time I heard this song I was driving and turned up the radio nearly as loud as it would go.

8. Metric – Help I’m Alive
STANDOUT LYRIC: If you're still alive My regrets are few If my life is mine What shouldn't I do?

Hands down (mine) this is the best single by a Canadian act to make an impact in 2009. I realize it was released in the last week of December of 2008, but its impression was made through 2009 and that’s also when I heard it.
Something about this tune (if not the entire band) reminds me so much of Curve, a band I loved dearly back in the day (early 90’s).
Help I’m Alive contains moments of pop perfection and has balls the same size as any other rock song you put next to it.

7. Halo – Beyonce
STANDOUT LYRIC: Remember those walls I built / Well baby they’re tumbling down / And they didn’t even put up a fight / They didn’t even make a sound

In keeping with how much I was into remixes this year, I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it… which was one of the zillions of club remixes of it. Of course, I’ve also heard the regular album version and love it as well.
Halo is one of those songs that works very well with a beat or without because ultimately it’s all about the song itself and this song has goodness in spades – strong vocal arrangements, solid writing, perfect pop production, so much passion is embedded in every element of the song. To me it sounds like everyone who worked on it was equally in love with it.

6. I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
STANDOUT LYRIC: Jump off that sofa let’s get get UP

Now here’s a pop song that just couldn’t be any more ripe for a remix. But for me, none of the remixes I heard measured up to the album cut – that’s the best version of the song in my book.

This song is about nothing other than going out and having a great time, and sometimes we just need to sing along and dance our asses off to a catchy tune and forget the rest.

SIDEBAR: I also really got my groove on with BEP’s previous single, ‘Boom Boom Pow’ (which was made all the more enjoyable when you realize how huge that song was when POO-rez ST-ilton got his face boom-boom-pow'd by BEP’s manager… ah, good times).

Back to ‘I Gotta Feeling’, it was #1 for 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 – that’s amazing! That’s the 2nd longest period of time that a single has been #1 on the Hot 100. To be clear, there are other songs that have also been #1 for 14 weeks.

Incidentally, the first longest window of time for a song to be #1 on the Hot 100 is 16 weeks and that record is held by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men for ‘One Sweet Day’ (which I still, to this day, cannot believe was such a gigantic hit).

And believe it or not, ‘I Gotta Feeling’ is *still* hanging around on the Canadian Hot 100 pop music chart. It’s number 9 and if you tend to disbelieve that, as I do, the proof is right here

What say we relive that crazy but fun Oprah flashmob episode featuring BEP doing I Gotta Feeling:

5. Therapy – India.Arie
STANDOUT LYRIC: He puts his hand on my lower back / his face in my neck and says something to make me laugh / Makes me forget I was mad

While ‘Therapy’ as a song title pales next to India.Arie’s BEST song title EVER, “I Am Not My Hair”, ‘Therapy’ is a truly fabulous song and I believe this song is what sunshine sounds like. It’s a beautiful gem that deserves to get passed along for generations to come. 'Therapy' comes with a wonderful video:

4. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
STANDOUT LYRIC: I want your love

No doubt, 2009 was the year of the Gaga. I do dig the Gaga quite a lot. But I have to get something off my implants: the truth is, I loathe this artist’s stage name. I just think it’s utterly and absolutely ridiculous. BUT… and that’s a big ‘but’, I’m very willing to overlook the name because her music, persona and politics are all damn hot.

And (most of) Gaga’s performances are smokin’ hot, too. While there’s been a couple of televised live performances which have left me wondering “wtf?” - such as the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards - there are a couple of others that have been fantastic like her performance of ‘Poker Face’ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and her live appearance on the MuchMusic Video Awards.

And aside from all of those, I did see Gaga live in concert in December 2009 and was stunned by how good she is and how fun she is to watch in concert – her live singing voice is strong and never falters, her costumes are epic and her obvious affection for her fans is plainly evident in her desire to talk to the audience at length during the show.

For me, any artist’s willingness to chat with the crowd goes a long way toward me loving the live concert experience. It’s precisely that reason which made me not have as much fun as I’d hoped at Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour because while she was slick, she performed like a well-programmed robot without much regard for the 60,000 actual people who paid handsomely to see her first ever show in Vancouver.

Back to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, this song just rules. It’s great pop material, it’s ridiculously danceable and sing-along-to'able, and I love the octave in which she sings the verses.

Not only that, but the Bad Romance video will surely go down as one of the most innovative of the 00’s:

3. Battlefield – Jordin Sparks
STANDOUT LYRIC: Better go and get your armour

One of the main reasons I love this song is perfectly stated by Jordin Sparks herself in an interview: "What grabbed me at first actually was the fact it was so big. The melody starts off very soft but then it gets massive and kinda angsty.” You can read the rest of that particular interview here:

The other reason I love this song is pretty much the same reason I’ve loved other Jordin Sparks singles. It’s her voice. Plain and simple. When Jordin belts it out, I’ve no doubt the Richter scale registers a result. Oh and btw, the Bimbo Jones remix of ‘Battlefield’ is ridiculously excellent and puts exactly the appropriate energy behind Sparks’s vocal. Voila la vid:

2. Bulletproof – La Roux
STANDOUT LYRIC: Tick tick tick tick on the watch and life's too short for me to stop, oh baby, your time is running out.

Anyone who knows me knows that sometimes it seems like I think we're all still living the 80s. And songs like this are the reason why. ‘Bulletproof’ pays an authentic kind of genre homage that you don’t hear very often – it’s true, accurate and just so fun. If you’ve ever liked the sound of Yaz, early Depeche Mode, or Erasure, then you’ll love La Roux.

Bulletproof debuted at #1 in the UK singles chart and, imho, is the best song on their debut album. Can’t figure out why it didn’t climb higher than 45 on the Canadian Hot 100, though. If you’re looking for the right remix of ‘Bulletproof’, without question it is the Tiborg Club Remix
Lastly, I love Eleanor Jackson’s androgyny which is on fine display in the ‘Bulletproof’ video:

1. When Love Takes Over – David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland
STANDOUT LYRIC: Cause I can feel it coming over me, I wouldn’t stop it if I could

The first time I heard this song was late one night in the Spring of 2009... I was laying in bed, trying to get to sleep. I fell fast in love with it. It gave me butterflies in my stomach!

Kelly Rowland’s vocal performance surely must be the very best of the year from any pop artist and she and David Guetta deserve a Grammy award for this amazing single.

Who knew how amazing Rowland’s voice all those years ago in Destiny’s Child or even in her previous solo work? Her ability to transform the words “Yeah”, “I’ll” and “Tonight” is just astonishing to me. She absolutely has the voice of an angel.

Me and my peeps pronounced When Love Takes Over as "The Song of the Summer"... and because I cannot *ever* seem get enough of it, it is also the song of the year for me.

The opening piano melody sounds A LOT like Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’, but it ain’t actually taken from that song.

As for remixes, when you consider it comes from David Guetta who is one of the top DJ’s working right now, I’m truly stunned that there isn’t a knock-‘em-dead remix of this song. It is a CLUB. EFFING. ANTHEM. Weird, eh? It’s also too bad the video isn’t as stellar as the recording itself, but it’ll have to do:

P.S. WhenTF did Kelly Rowland start looking like a young Donna Summer?

Of all these 10 artists, I got to see two of them live in 2009. Namely, Metric and Lady Gaga. I do wish I’d seen Beyonce and La Roux when they came to Vancouver, but La Roux was sold right the fuck out by the time I heard about it and I couldn’t get tickets no matter how hard I tried. As for Beyonce, I just totally missed the boat on that one.

2009 FAVE LONG-LOST REDISCOVERY: Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Afro Acid Remix)

2009 Special Mentions:
Kurd Maverick & Sam Obernik – Love Emergency
Jason DeRulo – Whatcha Say
Glee - for making me love two songs I previously disliked:
My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Alicia Keys
Imogen Heap
And lastly, the music of MJ – I re-loved all his music this year.

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