This is a little gem of a song that unexpectedly makes me cry, or at least tear up. On the surface that’s an unexpected response; after all, this song is basically a “We Didn’t Start the Fire”-style recitation of a bunch of ’80s bands (The Cars, Joan Jett, Bryan Adams, etc.). For the singers that don’t get name dropped, and there are over 80 of them, the lyrics contain winking references to other hits: “Who doesn’t want to rule the world?”
And yet there’s a heart to this song that gets me: it’s the story of a teenage boy living on the “mean streets [of] Westport, Connecticut” and all the New Wave that he loves. He runs through New York City and dreams of making it big someday. Dreams are what “Young & Free” is all about: the soundtrack to a decade that was big and experimental and would influence generations of artists to come. And indeed, in the description of the song, singer Jack O’Neill says that he was raised on the New Wave radio station WLIR and the brand-new channel MTV.
It’s clever, too, because the beat of the song is a tight drum machine mixed with electronic sound effects. How much more ’80s can you get?
There’s much to be made of the ’80s resurgence in the music world: funky beats and electronic bombast have definitely ruled the day and the airwaves recently. But trends are cyclical and we’re nostalgic by nature. In times like these where most of us might not have the energy to come up with something new or groundbreaking, it’s no wonder that we’re looking back only, say, 15 years for musical inspiration rather than 40.
This is particularly prevalent in the song I’m reviewing today, “Maybe It’s Time” by Sixx:A.M. Sixx:A.M. gets its name from Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, who started the spinoff project in 2007.
“Maybe It’s Time” has that hard-driving guitar and guttural growl that instantly brings to mind “Lips of an Angel”, Nickleback, or “Light On” by American Idol contestant David Cook. What was it about the aughts that made male singers so…raspy? Sixx:A.M. also shares lyrical themes with its congested brethren, such as an odd kind of self-awareness and a desire for a better life (maybe even a better relationship). After all, maybe it’s time to take another look at your life.
It’s almost the grownup version of hair metal: you’ve still got the big guitar lines but they’ve hardened, focused into something new. That’s what happens with trend nostalgia. The essence remains while the outside evolves.
It’s been pretty stressful around here so I’ve found myself revisiting a song that always makes me feel better: “Boys” by Charli XCX. The music video in particular is just such comfort food. It’s washed in tones of bubblegum pink and features many of your favorite male musicians being wholesome. Plus Joe Jonas erotically eating a stack of pancakes, which must be seen to be believed…and enjoyed. 😉
I’m also thinking about the difference, if there even is one, between “guilty pleasure” and “comfort food” music. Perhaps the former is just a shade of the latter, just with overtones of shame layered over it. I’ve written about guilty pleasures before and am firmly of the mind that if you like something, just go ahead and like it
Besides, “Boys” is all about a woman enjoying herself. She’s thinking about all the boys she wants and has taken more than a few of them. That’s part of what makes the song just so much fun, in addition to the light puff-pastry quality of the beat underneath it.
Have a listen. Hopefully it has the same stress-reducing properties for you as it does for me.
I feel like I do a fairly good job of describing music, but I think there’s a quote somewhere along the lines of “practice makes perfect.” What better way to learn more about talking about music than to hear it from the artists themselves? This video, where Matty Healy of The 1975 breaks down their different releases, is an excellent start. He describes his artistic goals and how they evolved in a very accessible, casual, but incredibly articulate way. It’s a long video but definitely worth a watch:
I know that people review albums or EPs, but what about songs? ’90s slouchy icons Weezer released a new single called “Hero” and I’ve been wanting to dissect it. I feel like the setup had a lot of potential but the execution fell flat.
There’s an epic buildup, to be sure, what with the slightly screechy guitar reminiscent of early ’00s rock or Weezer’s other releases. I love the lyrics, too: “When I was a kid, I thought I’d save the world/Running ’round and chasing all the criminals/Swinging on a web, flying in the sky/Shooting lasers from my eyes.” The guitar punches through each line for full emo effect.
Then the chorus kicks in and that’s where, to me, the song falls apart. The guitar slows down and starts chugging into a minor chord. It’s not pulling any punches anymore. You have the vigor of the narrator reminiscing about his childhood and then he just retreats.
I like the second verse because it gives you examples of other superhero-esque concepts: becoming invisible (perfect for angsty listeners) or hammering down hard like you’re Iron Fist. Here the guitar is an ideal match since it’s going full throttle again.
The end of the song is the chorus again. It becomes repetitive and even echoing before it finally slows to a limp fade.