Seems like this week is always rather retrospective. Years in review, all that. Lots of sites running “Top Stories of 2010″ posts, as though what wouldn’t have been news again last week suddenly is solely by virtue of when it was news. It’s like the East Coast blizzard froze the whole world, which is stuck hoping for thaw to begin tomorrow.
I thought about doing some best-of posts. The decade-best lists are some of the most popular posts on this site. Yesterday, however, I glanced through a list of movies that came out in 2011 and found precisely two I thought were remarkable: How to Train Your Dragon and The Social Network. The former was a surprise; it had a lot of heart and was a lot of fun, and it managed that rare thing of being a movie aimed at a younger audience that appealed across a wider age range without using irreverent humor and other such innuendo-based means. With Shrek, one of the things that increased its appeal was jokes that kids wouldn’t have gotten; it worked on multiple levels; Dragon, on the other hand, stuck mainly consistent in just trying to tell its story, and I think it was a better movie for it.
The Social Network demonstrates that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Panic Room were flukes from a guy who’s been getting better since the beginning, by which I mean that David Fincher had shown signs of improvement over his career and development as a director in years previous by making movies that were consistently better than the ones before. Se7en was fantastic after Alien3. The Game is underrated, and then there’s Fight Club, and then, just when you think that he’s got a style, signature shots, all that, Zodiac, which was the first time he just turned the camera on and followed the story (which isn’t to say his obvious style didn’t serve his other movies). And now The Social Network the rise and continued rise of Zuckerberg and Facebook, which was, on all levels, fantastic.
I read other movies people were raving about, but didn’t much like them when I sat down to check them out. Inception, in particular . . . just didn’t do it for me. Funny: I remember when The Matrix came out, and all the people who claimed not to “get it,” that it just never made sense to them, all that, and then watching Inception . . . my initial thought was “So it’s The Matrix but with dreams and less action?”
That thought never went away. It eventually became more negative, in fact, but one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive. Exciting is not about negativity, after all.
What a difficult list to compile. Especially since, glancing down at my iTunes running, there are 33,773 songs in my library. According to iTunes, it will take me more than 100 days of continuous listening (with no sleep, now I realize) to listen to them all. It’s rather extensive, and it’s the sort of collection that makes my taste in music suspect at best, beginning as it does with A-Ha (because any collection without “Take On Me” is incomplete) and ending (before it reaches songs without proper ID3 tags and lumps them all) with “Skin Up Pin Up” by 808 State/Mansun from Spawn: The Album (iTunes is the first organization system I’ve seen that puts numbers after letters, rather than before; if it did, the first songs would be by 1 Giant Leap or 12 Rounds). In between those few, there’s everything from Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, and Bon Jovi to all of Clapton, the Beatles, and Sinatra.
So it’s pretty expansive.
But expansive as it is, I tend to stick to some favorites. Lately it’s been a lot of Wolfmother (and Jet; what is it about Australia that inspires such great rock music from its bands?), Vanessa Mae, and, as always, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Also, Adam Lambert and Matt Wertz.
So there’s a lot. But I winnowed. I winnowed after I kept reading other lists that fawned over, like, Radiohead and such. I mean, has Radiohead ever managed to be as good as Pablo, Honey? They’re like Pearl Jam and Matchbox Twenty, with fantastic debut CDs but output that has gotten subsequently less terrific with each title. For me, anyway. Your listening may vary. Also, dear Rolling Stone: The Strokes and Wilco in number 2 and number 3 spots, respectively. No offense, but seriously? No wonder people debate the continued relevance of the magazine. I mean, how safe.
Why not stretch a bit? Why not reach for some choices few people would expect? Then again, this from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy any of those three bands. I know lots of reviewers fell over themselves to heap a lot of praise on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but there wasn’t a single song on it that made me want to listen to the CD again. I get the impression it’s all just, like, hey, everyone else likes it, so we should, too, but to cite one of the artists who earned a spot on my list by way of a great CD, “You don’t know what love is, you just do as you’re told.”
So, suspect taste noted, shall we? My top ten albums of the last ten years, in order:
The day: Southern California just south of Santa Monica, warm and oppressive as Los Angeles so often is. I’m in my old beater of a Mazda (which has served me oh-so-well through the years) playing the rock station I think Butch Walker introduced me to, if I’m not mistaken, when I hear a song by Katy Perry. It’s obviously pretty purely pop confection, with the kind of heavy, thuddy beat that masks the fact that there’s really nothing going on and then kind of vocal enhancement that tries to conceal that the vocalist can’t actually sing.
But don’t take my word for it:
My first thought on hearing it was: “Jill Sobule called. She wants her song back.”
Which is, I think, actually charitable. Because really, it doesn’t really rip Sobule off so much as insult homosexuality and the GLBT community in general.
Here’s Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl”:
You know what I love about Jill Sobule? She looks so happy and joyful. She’s having so much fun playing her guitar she nearly falls backward in her bed, and there’s her feet not reaching the floor. I love her facial expressions, and the way she sings, like kissing a girl was, for her, a revelation. An epiphany.
“They can have their diamonds while we have our pearls.”
It’s a rather defiant statement but one without anger or resentment behind it. It’s like she gets the fact that the most powerful and influential revolutionary, and the one who will most change the world, is the one who’s smiling.
And then there’s Katy Perry.
So the video opens with her on the bed, stroking her pussy (cat). Already, it goes, arguably, a little more toward crude and tasteless than Sobule’s. And okay, I get that we can’t really exactly compare the two videos, because videos are less about the artist and the song than they are about the record companies and the marketing.
So fair play. How about that song?
The first time I heard it was driving down that sunny California street (I was actually on Romaine, a block south of Santa Monica). Quiet residential streets flooded with hard sunshine. Which I tell you because I had no visual to go with it. All I had was the song and the lyrics. Which start off mostly okay; I didn’t take issue with her lack of planning or intentions. So it was sorta spontaneous. Took her by surprise. All right. It’s not what she’s used to, she just wants to “try you on.”
Not quite the best metaphor, I don’t think. Doesn’t “try you on” objectify the recipient? You don’t “try” a person “on”; people are not blouses that are not going to fit correctly and which you have to bring to your tailor to take in the sides. People are not high heels that look great but are totally uncomfortable.
Peoples, as I learned from The Muppets Take Manhattan, is peoples.
“I kissed a girl and I liked it/the taste of cherry chapstick.” And hey, sure, I identify with that. I’ve kissed girls and it’s generally something I like, as well. Some have tasted of cherry chapstick. Or vanilla. I like kisses sans flavor, personally, but that’s a personal proclivity we’ll not discuss farther because it has little to do with the topic at hand.
“I kissed a girl just to try it.” I’ve kissed a couple girls “just to try it.” I prefer to be romantically interested in the girl, because I kinda think just kissing someone you’re not actually interested in dating is leading them on, but then again I’ve gone on first dates I wasn’t entirely certain were going to lead to second dates but still ended with a kiss. Only a couple, mind, but still.
“I hope my boyfriend don’t [sic] mind it.”
Oh, now hold the phone. You’re romantically involved with someone enough to call him your boyfriend but still kissed someone else? Infidelity much? Sorry, here’s where I take real issues. Not saying, of course, that one can’t be in a romantic relationship and kiss someone else; lots of people have open relationships, but the “rules,” so to speak, of such relationships are generally clearly delineated ahead of time, no? I mean, it’s not something that you just go to a bar and start making out with random people, unless you’ve clearly established that’s okay beforehand. Otherwise, it’s really kinda cheating, ain’t it? And sure, I know lots of guys wouldn’t mind it if their girlfriends started making out with other girls, but the reason there, of course, is the visions of threesomes dancing like sugarplums in their heads.
Well, mostly, anyway. Probably. My point is, she kissed a girl without first discussing it with her boyfriend.
And then the next stanza:
“No I don’t even know your name
It doesn’t matter
You’re my experimental game
Just human nature.”
So on one hand: I agree about homosexuality. I don’t believe it’s a lifestyle choice, and I think anyone who does is bisexual (it seems to me that anyone who thinks gay people made a choice about which gender to be attracted to probably, at some point, made that choice themselves. Stands to reason, I think), which means that yes, I agree it’s human nature.
What I don’t agree with is “experimental.” I think there’s a Bill Maher or Chris Rock joke that goes something along the lines of “experiment my ass. Unless you’re wearing a lab coat and goggles, it’s not an experiment. An experiment? Really? So what was your hypothesis, Heisenberg?” To me, again, it goes back to objectification and just trying a person on.
I mean, again, it doesn’t have to be so, but only with the consent of both parties. And given that Katy Perry doesn’t even know the name of the girl she kissed, how can she know she has her consent to do so? The song states there’s alcohol involved; what if this poor girl Katy Perry kissed and whose name she never knew starts to struggle with depression and anxiety due to the questions about her sexuality kissing Perry raises?
“It’s not what good girls do
Not how they should behave.”
Oh, really? Kissing other girls is not what “good girls” do? So all lesbians are, by opposition, bad girls? Good girls shouldn’t be lesbians?
Which, in addition, led me to her other music video for “Ur so Gay”:
1) she’s not talking about gay; she’s talking about emo.
2) she opens by wishing someone would accidentally kill themselves by suffocating on their H&M scarf while masturbating (to Mozart? zuh?).
3) Zooey Deschanel called. She wants her look back, because, like with Jill Sobule, you stole it and don’t even do it right.
4) It sounds like she’s just bitter because emo dude with whom she fell in love and who later dumped her is prettier than she is, thinner than she is, wears make-up better than she does, and dresses better than she does.
And the only reason I link to that video is so you know I’m not making any of that up.
(well. Except for the prettier thing and all that, because obviously it’s just dolls in the video, so I’m just assuming that based on her looks/style)
And look, the funny thing is that I must confess I’m kinda completely a dude when it comes to lesbians (ZOMGLEZBIENSWOOTFTWBBQ!!!!111!). Like Charlie Sheen in Being John Malkovich: “Hot lesbian witches? That’s fucking genius!” And even though Perry never actually kisses a girl in her video, there’s a sequence where lingerie models have a pillowfight, and we all know what happens when lingerie models pillowfight.
What, no? But I thought—
Man, next thing you’re going to tell me is there’s no Easter bunny!
No, but in all seriousness, one of the major objections raised to Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy was that it implied that all lesbians really needed was a good, hard dickin’ to “cure them of their ways,” so to speak, and I think Perry perpetuates this somehow. Because the way I read the song, she’s doing it for attention and basically because she’s bored, as an experiment. And (and I can’t stress this enough) she already has a boyfriend.
So really, homosexuality is just confusion and experimentation and boredom, because it’s not what good people do, not the way good people behave. (/sarcasm)
I mean, can you imagine if a guy sang a song like this? Can you imagine if Justin Timberlake came out with a song called “Tickle Kiss” about making out with a guy who hadn’t shaved for a week? Nevermind that it’s all the news channels would talk about for a month while whatever evangelical preacher who cared lamented that it was a sign of the moral degradation of society and a signal that the end is NIGH!
But is it okay because it’s a chic–I’m sorry–girl? Am I making too much of girls making out, or do you take some umbrage, too? Why is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander?
It’s not really that eclectic a list, but, then, Paste focuses mainly on independent “artists.” Even though most of the musicians they cover have major label record deals (I am, in fact, not entirely sure any of the songwriters they mention are truly independent). But that’s a side-issue.
Here’s their top ten:
9. Joni Mitchell
8. Elvis Costello
7. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
6. Leonard Cohen
5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
4. Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan
3. Bruce Springsteen
2. Neil Young (Buffalo Sprinfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
1. Bob Dylan
Not really all that inspiring, you ask me. Seems a bit safe, to me. Nobody on there who really makes you say, “really?”
But still I think they’re ignoring a lot of great artists on the list as a whole. For example, I think my personal top ten greatest living songwriters would be:
1. Roger Clyne
3. Paul McCartney
4. Axl Rose
5. Leonard Cohen
6. Tori Amos
7. Bon Jovi
8. Billy Joel
9. Tom Petty
10. Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra)
Also on my list would be Dave Matthews, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), Ben Lee, Jack White, Dr. Dre, Joni Mitchell, and Lili Haydn.
I mean, don’t get me wrong; I get most of Paste‘s choices. But Bob Dylan as number one? Really?
That’s a big “meh.”
But as always, I’m looking for recommendations, so who would your choices be?