Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Songs & Albums of 2012 - My Choices


Cutie Rae Jepsen: 1-Hit-Wonder?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->01. CALL ME MAYBE – Carly Rae Jepsen / This song is just pure pop perfection.  Will Jepsen be a super star? No.  As witnessed by her TV performances, there is no stage presence, no charisma, no “it” factor, hence, no solid fan base (beyond Beiber followers), and sadly, no future.  Her follow-up, the cute “This Kiss,” tanked.  But trust me, when we look back on the decade of 2010-2020, this tune will be in the top 10 of the best pop records of it’s time.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->02. WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER – Taylor Swift / She flipped the script, shocking most, but not many.  Those keen to the fact that all this time Swift was essentially a Pop act, weren’t surprised to hear her go full tilt poppy on this perfectly crafted tune. 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->03. DON’T RUSH – Kelly Clarkson (f/Vince Gill) – Tipping her toe into the Nashville waters, as she’s done over the last two years, it comes as no surprise Kelly tackled this pop-country ditty for her Greatest Hits album.  If you loved Country-Pop of the 80’s, this song is for you.  I am still obsessed with it.  I think it should have been huge for her on Country radio.  (More on her miss-guided releases later when I get to the Albums of the Year.)  While some will connect the tune to Islands In The Stream, it’s also very similar to the recent 2008 Billy Currington hit, “Don’t.” 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->04. SOME NIGHTS – fun. / This one took a while to build on the charts.  It’s as if radio wanted to lump the very talented group into One Hit Wonderville with Gotye.  But the label worked to push it through and didn’t give up. It’s different enough to be original, familiar enough to be compared to Queen, and catchy enough to keep you up at night!
<!--[if !supportLists]-->05. EVERYBODY TALKS – Neon Trees / This is very non-Jerry, but I thought this was perfectly produced and rode the line of harder rock and pop rock – much like the Killers used to do.  The verses are very 80’s.  The choruses make this a powerful fist pumping, driving anthem.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->06. MOVE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION – Gossip / This one just didn’t stick – at all!  I’ve never been into Beth Ditto & Co., but I stumbled onto this after reading a review.  If there was one tune to break this band here, this would have been it.  Sadly, it was a non-starter.  But trust me, it’s a damn good single.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->07. GIVE YOUR HEART A BREAK – Demi Lovato / It seemed inescapable, but oddly, this tune only reached #16 on Billboard Hot 100.  I immediately though this would have been the comeback tune for JoJo.  And, bless my “golden ears,” the tune was written by the guys who did her “Too Little Too Late.”  One of the writers, Billy Steinberg, gave us some of the best pop moments ever: Like A Virgin, So Emotional, Eternal Flame, True Colors and Heart’s Alone. 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->08. <!--[endif]-->BROKENHEARTED – Karmin / Hyped as the latest, greatest internet-find, this cute duo couldn’t get past this first single.  Stalling at #16, the lyric of “Finish what you started – Don’t you leave me brokenhearted tonight,” was simple but infectious.  
<!--[if !supportLists]-->09. TITANIUM – David Guetta with Sia / Clearly Rihanna-inspired, this dance ditty rose above the tiresome EDM of late to be a damn good, feel good pop tune.  Featured in “Pitch Perfect,” it was apparently offered to Katy Perry first, then Mary J recorded a demo of it until Sia, the song’s co-writter, ultimate took the lead.  Sia, a 37 year old, white Australian woman, also sang and co-wrote FloRida’s “Wild One.”  Looking older than her 37 years, interestingly (or not) Sia’s never seen in those music videos. 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->10. COUNTRY SINGLES – Yes, I’m clumping these together because I listen to a lot of country and didn’t want to make a separate list.  So here goes: ALONE WITH YOU/Jake Owen (my favorite country single of the year); OVER YOU/Miranda Lambert; CHRIS YOUNG/You; KEEP ME IN MIND/Zac Brown Band; PONTOON/Little Big Town; DRUNK ON YOU/Luke Bryan; WANTED/Hunter Hayes; POSTCARD FROM PARIS/The Band Perry (Their 5th single from their 2010 debut album, hit #6 Country earlier in 2012.  THAT’S how you work an album!)

Others: 50 WAYS TO SAY GOODBYE/Train; I WON’T GIVE UP/Jason Mraz; NOT OVER YOU/Gavin DeGraw; LOVE YOU LIKE A LOVE SONG/Selena Gomez; WIDE AWAKE/Katy Perry; CANDY/Robbie Williams and of course, singles from P!nk, Kelly, Maroon 5, and Carrie – but more of that in my Albums of the Year. 


Maroon's "Voice" Adam Levine
<!--[if !supportLists]-->01. <!--[endif]-->MAROON 5/Overexposed – They’re 3 singles deep (Payphone, One More Night and now the brilliant Daylight) – and I think they can go for two more.  I’m hoping “The Man Who Never Lied” follows.  “Love Somebody” and “Doin Dirt” are highlights as well.  They have just crafted perfect pop – structured, simple, fun, structured songs with production sprinkled with disco, club-thumping and 80’s. 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->02. TAYLOR SWIFT/Red – Technically, not released in time for Grammy consideration, so it shouldn’t be on my 2012 list, but I’m so obsessed with it, I had to include it.  With “We Are Never” and now, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Taylor has told pop queens Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson to make some room.  Yet her country leaning “Begin Again,” keep her Nashville fan base in tact.  Yes, the juvenile simplicity of “Stay” and “22,” show her age, but others like “State of Grace,” the gorgeous “I Almost Do,” and the title track, show her growth and potential.  And that will keep her around for a long time, if not forever. 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->03. CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Blown Away – Unstoppable is how I’d describe Carrie.  She knows what her fans want and she has yet to deliver a bad album, in my opinion.  And while this one is a bit ballad-heavy for my liking – and those ballads aren’t the “I Know You Won’t,” Celine-like power vehicles of previous efforts, this album has the strongest and best storytelling (with melodies) that she’s given.  The title track (and it’s amazing video), “Two Black Cadillacs” (now just taking off as the new single),  the Coldplay’esque “See You Again,” and “Cupid’s Got A Shotgun” are standouts.  I really felt the Blown Away track should have crossed her over again, like Before He Cheats did, but the label didn’t even push it to pop.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->04. P!NK/The Truth About Love – The no-brainer “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” kicked off what could be her best effort yet.  Often wrongly under rated or forgotten when rambling off today’s lady hitmakers (Gaga, Katy, Rihanna, Beyonce), but there’s no denying the hitfactory that is P!nk.  “Try” should be (and hopefully will be) bigger than it currently is.  And I assume that “True Love,” and God-willing “Just Give Me A Reason” with fun. lead singer, Nate Ruess, will follow.  That duet will be a missed opportunity if RCA skips out on issuing it to radio. (And I worry about RCA, as you’ll see below.)
<!--[if !supportLists]-->05. ADAM LAMBERT/Trespassing – It sold a strong-enough 78k albums in it’s first (weak) week to enter at #1.  But singles like “Better Than I Know Myself” a copy of his “What Do You Want From Me?,” and “Never Close Our Eyes,” a copy of his “If I Had You,” failed to gain any radio interest.  While I certainly don’t know for sure, but I think RCA thought with “Better,” they’d have the same success as the huge “What Do Want.”  However,  I wish they took a shot at presenting AL as what he is: a dance-pop performer.  On stage he is a showman – much like the oft compared legendary rock-man, Freddie Mercury.  And with the song “Trespassing,” being released first (not third), they could have hit a homerun.  On that track, Adam did “cheerleader-pop” as well as Gwen’s Hollaback Girl and better than Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”  It’s just a damn good, high energy album to kick start your night – or gym-going.  “Cuckoo,” “Shady,” and “Kickin’ It” are standouts.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->06. KELLY CLARKSON/Stronger – One hot hit, “Mr. Know It All,” followed by one monster-smash, “Stronger,” the album oddly stalled after what was one of the biggest singles of the year.  Why?  Well, clearly, 3rd single, “Dark Side” was the wrong choice.  Lyrically, everyone might have a dark side, but at the time this song was being pushed to radio, the dark side was a shooting at the theatre showing Dark Knight Rises.  Sometimes a tune can rub you the wrong way.  And perhaps the unfortunate timing of this one turned off radio programmers and listeners.  But to abandon the album entirely?  Yes, that’s just what RCA did.  Regardless that “You Love Me” and “I Forgive You,” were worthy to be hit-bound, the label packaged-up a Greatest Hits CD celebrating her decade long career.  Now, I’m sure they thought they’d strike it rich as they did with P!nk’s collection, but P!nk’s was released when her Funhouse album was done.  And somehow, someone over there has decided to give Kelly NO MONEY for any video efforts.  P!nk and Adam (both on RCA as well), have issued wonderful, polished, high-quality videos but poor Kelly…?  Have you seen “Catch My Breath?”  I feel as if they don’t know what to do with her visual image (cute but plain, girl-next-door, with some ups-and-downs on the weight-scale).  But there is no better voice.  Vocally she can sing a song like no one.  Performance-wise, her vocals are outstanding and her pipes are right up there with Celine.  She will go down in history as one of the best pop vocalists ever.  I truly feel that.  And while she may not be a dancer, she also isn’t much of a live performer.  Singing high-energy songs like Stronger, Since U Been Gone and My Life Would Suck while just standing there – or perhaps simply strutting the stage a bit – isn’t going to fly today. Closing your eyes while singing, conveying no message and not connecting to your fans at home through the TV or in concert, doesn't help either.  She sang “Catch My Breath” on the recent VH1 Divas, which was billed as a salute to dance acts.  So she performs, looking beautiful in a full-length Oscar-worthy gown, not moving from behind a mic stand.  Can you explain that choice?  Is the material not fitting the person?  And as for the Stronger album, Kelly deserves better ballads – and she certainly deserves better service from her label.  Perhaps it's her?  Maybe she's surrounded by yes-men or people who know no better.  (But I don't believe that angle.)

Things that didn’t happen in music this year: comebacks from Brandy, No Doubt, Christina Aguilera, Matchbox Twenty, Nelly Furtado, Mariah (and her not-so “Triumphant,” single which thankfully halted an album release). On the fence: Alicia Keys.  The single “Girl On Fire,” might have caught some iTunes sales due to a TV commercial tie in, but I just don’t know what to do with this amazingly talented woman.  Is she trying to be too-cool for the room, and yet, she really isn’t, so it’s inauthentic?  Is she trying to prove to us that she can really, really sing? (And while, yes, her vocals have improved since her debut, I don’t need her shouting at me and singing in what seems to be a step or two too high for her.)  Let Christina do the over-singing and shouting.  There’s only room for one lady to bury her career every time she opens her mouth.  Also on the fence (at least when it comes to new music): Madonna.  The biggest money making tour of the year, but perhaps the biggest let down of an album.  With all of the hype including the Super Bowl, the album has, in it’s 9 months of release, sold just over 500,000 copies.  When millions upon millions see you sing at the Super Bowl, and then buy tickets to your concert, but you only sell 500k copies, something isn’t adding up.  It could be her attitude (hydrangeas and Gaga-bashing) or over all out-of-touch’ness with what audiences want from her, but the Madonna I knew and loved started trends not followed them.  She brought William Orbit into the pop world (Ray of Light). Now, she teams with a one-hit-wonder (LMFAO) in a sign of desperation just to try to show she’s relevant...?

I'm sure there are some I'm missed.  I'm sure some will make most irate.  But these are my personal opinions.  And I listen to pop (and country), so you won't find Jack White or Springsteen here.  Just not not my thing.  So, I hope you'll sample some of these, make 2013 amazing and be Just Like Jerry!

1 comment:

  1. Carly Rae was doing just fine in her homeland before Justin "stepped in" as the tune was produced by a young man who knows how to get songs on the radio. So don't know if that turn in her career was a blessing or a curse - and the problem with Demi Lovato's song was despite the heartfelt lyrics, the arrangement drove her to perform them without much depth.