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2012 Top 100 Pop Songs: A Quick Review – #75-51

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment

This is Part 2 of my quick reviews of Billboard’s Top 100 Pop songs of 2012. If you want to see what I thought of the first quarter of the hits, then click the link below and check it out. Now for the rest…

Part 1 of 2012 reviews 

#75: Pound the Alarm by Nicki Minaj – The chorus has a nice hook. But I’m not a fan of what’s going on in the rest of the song. Borderline Rihanna knock-off track.

#74: Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love) by Ne-Yo – I know this song is really popular right now (or at least was), but I don’t see the appeal. It’s kind of boring and doesn’t really offer anything.

#73: Work Hard, Play Hard by Wiz Khalifa – Not as bad as other Wiz Khalifa songs I’ve heard, but it doesn’t do much for me. Also, the chorus chant is kind of silly.

#72: Climax by Usher – Another track that doesn’t immediately grab me. However, Usher’s singing here is top notch and definitely worth a mention.

#71: Rolling in the Deep by Adele – It was good last year, still good, especially with the luxury of not being overplayed.

#70: Blown Away by Carrie Underwood – I like what Carrie Underwood does with her music, though, while I don’t think this song is great, it has features of it that make it stand out.

#69: Paradise by Coldplay – I have the feeling this song will play quietly in some random dentist’s office in a few years. It’s that kind of song.

#68: Ho Hey by The Lumineers – I like this song, but only complaint is the ho’s and heys that are prolific.

#67: Pontoon by Little Big Town – Nothing too exciting here.

#66: Good Girl by Carrie Underwood – I did enjoy this one.

#65: Let’s Go by Calvin Harris ft. Ne-Yo – The flow of this good. It starts off nicely, but by the end is a tad repetitive.

#64: Rumor Has It by Adele – I didn’t know the Eurythmics were making a comeback…Wait…Seriously, the song is good, though I prefer the verses to the chorus.

#63: Work Out by J. Cole – Good flow in the chorus, but the verses just lose me.

#62: Back in Time by Pitbull – I hate the lyrics, or rather find them hilarious. I do like the sample and feel it could’ve been more effective elsewhere.

#61: Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine – This song is bland.

#60: Not Over You by Gavin DeGraw – Somewhere in-between boring and decent.

#59: Brokenhearted by Karmin – A mixture of the blandest elements of Ke$ha and Katy Perry.

#58: Springsteen by Eric Church – As a Springsteen fan, I found this song to be very…bland. Big surprise, huh?

#57: Dance (A$$) by Big Sean ft. Nicki Minaj – How did this even chart this high? This must be a joke.

#56: Don’t Wake Me Up by Chris Brown – Alright. If you say so, Chris.

#55: Want U Back by Cher Lloyd – Annoying. Definitely not my thing.

#54: No Lie by 2 Chainz ft. Drake – Bleh.

#53: Drunk on You by Luke Bryan – It doesn’t do it for me. More mediocre country music.

#52: Wanted by Hunter Hayes – More mediocrity.

#51: Ass Back Home by Gym Class Heroes ft. Neon Hitch – Even more mediocrity.

The official Billboard list for this section

 

Well, that was Part 2 of my look at Billboard’s Top 100 pop hits from 2012. Check back soon for Part 3!

Categories: pop music, review Tags: , , ,

2012 Top 100 Pop Songs: A Quick Review – Intro and #100-76

December 23, 2012 10 comments

Once again, I take a look at the Top 100 year-end pop songs from Billboard magazine. This is my third year-in-a-row of doing this. I started doing this as a way of rethinking my relationship with music that is popular and personally digesting what’s changing or out there in a space I don’t normally inhabit. So, again, here is my take on this year’s Top 100. I focus on the songs themselves versus their music videos or other connections they’ve established. Each song gets a short blurb on my opinion. And, that’s about it. Here it goes:

#100: Burn it Down by Linkin Park – I really don’t understand the appeal of Linkin Park today. I feel like I’ve heard this song several times before. Admittedly, it’s not awful, just not original or all that good.

#99: Even if it Breaks Your Heart by Eli Young Band – I’m not too big on popular country music, however, this one is tolerable. Just not special.

#98: Fly Over States by Jason Aldean – And this is the type of country music that I gloss over. It’s really forgettable.

#97: Adorn by Miguel – Not awful. Just boring.

#96: Somethin’ ’bout A Truck by Kip Moore – More boring country music. This time around the lyrics of the song are somewhat hilarious. There are so many stereotypes about country music in this song.

#95: Hard to Love by Lee Brice – This year’s country music is bland. Another boring song.

#94: Diamonds by Rihanna – I have mixed feelings about this song. For every good part of this song, there’s mediocre things. As such, I’ll say it’s alright. Probably the best of the songs so far.

#93: I Don’t Want this Night to End by Luke Bryan – This seems like a variation of Fly Over States. Just as mediocre and boring.

#92: Cashin’ Out by Ca$h Out – Clever. This song is two letters from being just your name. This song is outdated and pretty bad. #91: It’s Time by Imagine Dragons –The lyrics are kind of dull, but there’s something appealing to this song. The chorus has a nice hook.

#90: We Run the Night by Havana Brown ft. Pitbull – This song proves repetition and echo is the key to success. Instead of bland country music there is bland club music.

#89: You Da One by Rihanna – There is little personality to this song and loses any of the impact that made Diamonds have any sort of appeal.

#88: Take A Little Ride by Jason Aldean – Another bland country song. This guy is sure good at them.

#87: A Thousand Years by Christina Perri – Dear God, this song is sappy. This is the music of Twilight generation.

#86: 5 O’Clock by T-Pain ft. Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen – I can appreciate the camp of T-Pain and I genuinely like T-Pain, but this song does not work. It has bad pacing and takes itself too serious. The Wiz Khalifa verse doesn’t work either.

#85: Die Young by Ke$ha – I’m no fan of Ke$ha, but I must admit this isn’t her worst. In fact, I’d say it’s a decent club song. There are few lines that reek of standard Ke$ha, but the rest is different for her. Not special, but certainly not horrible.

#84: Turn Up the Music by Chris Brown – This song sounds like a mess. Whatever happened in production went horribly wrong.

#83: Love You Like a Love Song by Selena Gomez and The Scene – Not awful. Just forgettable.

#82: Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith – This country song actually sounds different. However, it feels more like a novelty song than an actual pop song.

#81: 50 Ways to Say Goodbye by Train – Train is another one of those artists I don’t get. The verses all sound like they borrowed a medley from The Phantom of the Opera. As for the chorus, it sounds like a rehash of their earlier single Drive By. Bleh.

#80: So Good by B.o.B – Not my favorite B.o.B track. The verses are fun, but the chorus is just alright. It’s a decent track altogether though.

#79: Birthday Cake by Rihanna ft. Chris Brown – This song is awful. Not only for the match-up of artists, but musically and lyrically horrid.

#78: Drank in My Cup by Kirko Bangz – Not horrid, but definitely not good. The lyrics are pretty awful. A Drake imitator of mediocre quality.

#77: Heart Attack by Trey Songz – Meh. Not as bad as Drank in My Cup. It’s just boring.

#76: Come Over by Kenny Chesney – Not a horrible mellow-ish country song. Just doesn’t do it for me.

 

And that’s the first part of my look at this year’s Top 100 pop songs. The next one will be up here soon.

If you want to check out my previous year-end Top 100 reviews you can find them below:

2011 Top 100 Reviews

2010 Top 100 Reviews

And the official Billboard Top 100 List

‘The Last Musketeer’: a comic review

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I was at a point where I was trying to find new things to read that were interesting in comics. I looked specifically by publisher and stumbled upon Jason (the link has nothing to do with the creator and is only meant for fun). Jason’s The Last Musketeer stood out quickly with its quirky cover. It details said musketeer’s journey into space as he encounters robots and aliens.

As you can probably tell just by that short description, The Last Musketeer is full of weird things. It’s less about the meaning and depth of the adventure, but about how exciting and fun that adventure is. And Jason certainly captures that feeling. This book is just fun to read.

Jason’s art is definitely the big draw for the work (this seems to be a trend I have in what I read). The figures and backgrounds are simplistic. Everything is given a nice sense of lightness to it that helps create the fun read. The addition of colors by Hubert is excellent. They’re vibrant and really add to that feeling of lightness and fun.

If I had to find one fault with the work it’d be its length. One could finish this book in about one bus commute. I do recommend this though if you’re into quirky adventure comics that are just about being fun. The art is really fun to look at too. Because of its length I suggest checking it out from your local library, especially since it runs over $10. Regardless of how you read it, it’s a fun story with fun art to match.

The Last Musketeer is owned by Jason, who serves as writer and artist. Hubert is the colorist. It’s published by Fantagraphics.

‘Kingdom Come’: a comic review

September 19, 2012 Leave a comment


Kingdom Come is an anomaly of sorts. It’s the one ‘Elseworlds’ DC title that gains significant attention. Most of this comes from the art from Alex Ross, but also from the writing of Mark Waid, who was at a turning point of sorts in his comic writing career. Kingdom Come essentially tells the story of a brewing superhero war between veteran heroes, such as Superman, and the younger vigilante heroes, and others, like Batman, trying to contain the whole conflict. After several repeated suggestions to read it, I got around to reading it and now (finally) reviewing it.

The writing comes from a collaboration between Waid and Ross. As someone who doesn’t read the titles associated with most of the heroes depicted, I found myself enjoying their stories. Most of this comes from that fact that Kingdom Come is an ‘Elseworlds’ title and doesn’t fit in the main DC canon. While some understanding of the characters is useful, it’s not necessary. It’s easy to jump into for the casual reader. It’s an engrossing story and one of the best of the ‘crossover’ variety. Kingdom Come is one of the best reads I’ve had with a DC book.

The main hook for Kingdom Come is Alex Ross’ painting. Ross uses strong details for all the characters. It definitely gives the feel that Ross is creating a realistic vision of superheroes. I personally can only take so much Ross-painting (as I don’t necessarily pursue ‘realism’ in comics), but it works really well in Kingdom Come. It works better than his earlier artwork in Marvels. Ross’ colors are at their necessary levels throughout the book. Everything is conveyed with a sense of real-ness to it. Ross poured a ton of energy into the book and it really shows.

Kingdom Come is a book I’d recommend to every fan of, or someone interested in, superhero comics (regardless if they’re a DC fan). It’s definitely something that deserves to be to read for the demographic. The narrative is compelling and interesting. The art is strong, with a heavy emphasis on realism. Without a doubt, Kingdom Come is the best of what ‘Elseworlds’ has to offer.

Kingdom Come is owned by DC Comics. Both Mark Waid and Alex Ross contributed to writing, Ross serves as artist.

Emitown Vol. 1: A Review

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Emi Lenox’s Emitown is a hard work to review. Like Natalie Nourigat’s Between Gears, Emitown is a sketch diary. As such it’s difficult to evaluate it as a narrative piece because its focused on ‘real events’ that aren’t necessarily strung together. It’s just life as it is.

On that note, Emitown is a personal work. At times its vague and doesn’t explicitly state what is going on. It’s a measure of privacy deliberately used by the creator. Again, it’s hard to be critical of the narration of Emitown. While there is nothing specific in terms of narration, it is an enjoyable read and interesting to learn about somebody in a new form. Emitown, and other sketch diaries, are some of the most intimate memoirs out there.

The art in Emitown on the other hand is much easier to explain. Figures are varied and detailed to a necessary degree within their specific contexts. Everything is fun to look at. A lot of this comes from the strong ink work throughout the book. Like figure detail, it helps create a tone for the day, or part of the day, that it’s used in. The art is solid throughout.

As stated at the beginning, Emitown is a tough piece to review. The narrative follows the diary format and it is personal, but not explicit, and doesn’t really have an overarching feel beyond day-to-day life. The art is definitely a large appeal to the work. Though this has been a difficult review, I can say I enjoyed reading Emitown and if you like the idea of a sketch diary with good art, then I recommend it for you.

Emitown is drawn and written by Emi Lenox. It’s published by Image Comics.

Categories: comics, review Tags: , , , ,

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths – A Review

September 9, 2012 1 comment

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths holds a unique place in localized manga in North America. Mizuki Shigeru’s semi-autobiography details the settlement of an ill-prepared Japanese camp in World War 2, a suicide charge against U.S. soldiers, and the story of those who didn’t partake in the death charge. It’s a story often excluded from the Japanese narrative seen in localized manga. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is also significant for being a human drama by Mizuki Shigeru, an artist most associated with yokai art.

The narrative of Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths focuses on the experiences of the Japanese company of soldiers. Their challenges as assigned to them by the Japanese military brass, the struggles with the environment, and the general fatality and deprivation of war. Each individual met in the work, which there are many, are all distinct and human in their own way. To its simplest point, it’s about humanity, or lack thereof, during war. Specifically, there is a unique Japanese flavor to this. The death charge is something insane-sounding to an American aesthetic, but incredibly reasonable towards a Japanese wartime aesthetic.

My largest issue with Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths has little to do with the concept or the art of the work, but rather the localization given to it. Sound effects are converted from their original katakana (one of the written forms of Japanese, commonly used for onomatopoeia in manga) into English. Obviously, this is made for the simplification of the Western reader, but why change it? Many manga publishers in the West have adapted to maintaining the original language for sound effects and offering a translation section in the back, or use footnotes. In the same regard, many lines of dialogue are changed to be more familiar with a contemporaneous Western reader. While Drawn & Quarterly (who publishes only a select few manga titles) has made a commendable translation, I feel like the work should have retained a greater sense of its original Japanese.

On a stronger note, the art is incredible. Humans are given cartoon-ish features which contrast with a lushly detailed background. It boosts the sense of harshness of place given in the detailed illustrations. The human depictions allow for a more relaxed reading of the drama being told, often ironically contrasting with the trauma of war. The art style doesn’t directly depict the seriousness of the situations of the work, but it’s always there. And hey, Drawn & Quarterly maintained the original right-to-left printing, so kudos there.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is an excellent manga. Both the narrative and art style are unique in the medium. While I have some issues with the cultural conveyance in translation, I’m sure there are many who will never notice it. And at the least this served as an introduction for Western readers of Mizuki Shigeru’s works. It’s something I highly recommend to both manga and comic fans.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is written and drawn by Mizuki Shigeru. It is localized in North America by Drawn & Quarterly.

Safe Area Goražde – a review

August 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Along with Palestine, Safe Area Goražde (pronounced go-raj-DUH) is considered the epitome of Joe Sacco’s comic journalism work. It chronicles Sacco’s time spent in Goražde (in eastern Bosnia) during the Bosnian War. There is a mixture of Sacco’s time there and the stories and experiences of those that Sacco met. Sacco uses Goražde as a case study for the whole Bosnian conflict, with a unique flavor of the region’s inhabitants and society. It’s an ambitious project and is incredibly successful.

I’ll get straight to the point; Safe Area Goražde is an amazing piece of not only graphic and journalistic work, but great-period. It’s a complex collection of narratives that shows the complexity and emotionally heaviness that make up the history and social structure of Bosnia. Sacco guides the reader from the lighter moments of everyday life, the political and military details of the conflict, very personal stories of those living through the war, and the grim specifics on the process of ethnic cleansing. The tone shifts very naturally between its different types of material. I never questioned the order and placement of the segments. The whole piece is incredibly informative and intimate in its emotions. There are moments that are hard to read. I personally almost started crying in the middle of reading this. Saying that Safe Area Goražde is intense would be a understatement.

As a piece of journalism, the piece is more subjective than it is objective. There is a far greater attention to the citizens of Goražde, primarily Bozniaks and Croats, than there is on Serbs. As such, one may be disappointed in that they won’t see a complete dissection of the Bosnian conflict. However, the fact that there is greater attention to a specific group allows Sacco to collect and show a focused collection of stories and experiences. The subjectivity of the piece works for the greater advantage.

Safe Area Goražde‘s art is strong throughout. Landscapes and the city of Goražde are all very detailed. Sacco himself is the only ‘cartoony’ bit of the art. (Sacco said in an interview that this was deliberate and something that carried over from his earlier, ‘more cartoony,’ Palestine.) The art coupled with the emotional stories of those Sacco make for a powerful combination. It is often difficult to work through a particular section of the book due either to graphic content or the strong emotions carried by the narrative (not mutually exclusive). Safe Area Goražde is incredibly successful in the ways it employs its art.

This whole review has essentially been an understatement itself. Safe Area Goražde is easily one of my favorite graphic works, as well as one of my favorite books I own. I found it more powerful than Sacco’s earlier Palestine (though Palestine is also really good). The narrative is intense, informative, and emotional all at once. The art fits the narrative and largely enhances the narrative. I find it impossible not to recommend Safe Area Goražde to anyone interested in what comics can do. Safe Area Goražde is an amazing piece and something I won’t forget.

 

 

Safe Area Goražde is written and drawn by Joe Sacco. It is published by Fantagraphic Books.

Note: Safe Area Goražde has both graphic violence and emotionally intense moments and may not be suitable for younger audiences.

There is also a special edition of Safe Area Goraždethat includes notes, photos, and interviews regarding the production of Safe Area Goražde that offer a lot of insight. I highly recommend shelling a little extra just for this.