Playlist Review: Xbox Music Billboard Music Awards 2014 Finalists

I seriously have to stop reviewing these playlists. They’re so much more miss than hit. No idea how Christian music gets its own category, now how in the hell it accounts for like 17% of the songs on this playlist. And what does it mean to be an awards “finalist”? Is that the same thing as being nominated? Or is there like a play-in round?

Another query. Is there an industry that reviews Christian rock (there must be), and, if so, does it ever give anybody a negative review? Or is it just like, “yay, more propaganda”?

Quite a few of these songs I’ve covered in the past, either in the Choice Cuts February 2014 playlist review or the Best of 2013 playlist review.

Biggest surprise: Two of my faves here are Justin Bieber and TobyMac, who’s a Christian artist. I may have gone easy on the full/open ratings on many of the other songs.

  1. Drunk In Love – Beyoncé – [from choice cuts feb] What is the all the hype for re: this song? It’s pretty stupid. It’s got some good features…the way the song builds in the beginning is growing on me and it’s quite an energetic vocal workout and is impressively all over the place. But the “how the hell did this shit happen” and “beautiful bodies” lines are pandering and anything with Jay-Z on it is awful. Also [loudness wars]. Like the surfboard line. Hate the sampled laugh. Not sure how but I’m giving it open.
  2. Hold On, We’re Going Home – Drake – [from best of 2013] Maybe my favorite song on this mix. But still too fucking hot.
  3. Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams – [from Choice Cuts Feb] surprised I like this, but it’s kinda ok. Not loudness wars, which is so nice, so now I have a positive image of Pharrell Williams beyond just being a hanger-on in that Robin Thicke video.
  4. Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus – holy ass this sucks. Generic slow song, very 70’s bloated crap. Boring. Lyrics don’t make any sense: is she the wrecker or the wreckee?
  5. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – [from Choice Cuts Feb] [loudness wars]. Okay, the music industry has successfully made the shitty sound of overdriven digital clipping the sound of new and fresh and oh my god you can’t even fight it anymore because a whole generation understands this sound as the sound of what they like. I am old. Fuck me.
  6. Royals – Lorde – swear I reviewed this elsewhere but can’t find it. whatever, fits with all the other lorde crap.
  7. Roar – Katy Perry – even worse than “Wrecking Ball”. This is the third song on this playlist I hadn’t reviewed before, and it’s the third that has a significant portion of its lyrics being some kind of stuttery “oh oh oh”. I guess that’s the hot shit now. I can’t believe how bad this is. She’s a tiger. Also she’s the eye of the tiger. And she’s louder than a lion. And when she roars she goes “oh oh oh oh oh-oh-oh”. Most of the Christian songs are better than this. What the hell, how many filters does a song have to get passed to be a Katy Perry single? How is this possible? How many people must have thought, “yeah, this is a good one”?
  8. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke – [from best of 2013] The only thing I can think of when this song is Robin Thicke -> Alan Thicke -> Kirk Cameron -> Bananas are proof of God. Douchetastic. [Now] Glad to see the song/Robin getting maje criticism for such rapiness.
  9. Counting Stars – One Republic – what kind of an awful band name is that? This sucks but for some reason is the only song ever on the radio now.
  10. The Monster – Eminem – [from best of 2013] Very good but has that problem with hip-hop where the chorus is just repeated too often. And it’s one of those choruses that is like the same melodic line four times in a row. Ugh. Also big surprise is that this song is about him.
  11. Diamonds – Rihanna – This isn’t great, and is a bit too repetitive, but it’s solid and sometimes that’s all you can ask from Top 40. Not crazy about the affectation on “shine bright like a diamond,” but this four on the floor beat is getting me. Bennie of the doubt and call it full.
  12. Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars – think i like this quite a bit. stupid lyrics. Reminds me of Men At Work, maybe a little bit like The Police. Was not impressed with the Super Bowl halftime show, where he played this, but this is freakin’ awesome.
  13. Pompeii – Bastille – pretty good. Got an 80’s vibe and an All Songs Considered vibe, but it’s tight and bold, not snivelly. More of that “eh eh eh oh oh oh” lyrics at the beginning, which, by itself, removes it from mix consideration.
  14. The Way – Ariana Grande – I like this. I liked this a lot more when it was Mariah Carey’s first few albums.
  15. Wake Me Up (Radio Edit) – Avicii – [from best of 2013] Well hasn’t this been done a hundred times already? So I guess this guy is a DJ and the singer is another person (Aloe Blacc, who I swear I’ve heard elsewhere.) Anyway, the DJ stuff seems a-ite, but the vox and guitar really bug me.
  16. Mirrors – Justin Timberlake – Where does he get off making an eight-minute track? I mean, he’s a pop star, why is he not writing three-minute pop songs? Seriously, though, this is evidence of a new paradigm: our biggest stars aren’t writing for radio, they’re writing for the club, expecting their stuff to be chopped up and remixed by DJs. This is good and could be great at five minutes or so, but there’s an extended breakdown section that has no business being in there for any other reason than a live DJ remix. I know nobody’s making music for the way I consume it anymore, but I wish JT would have made an album full of radio edits. As it is, this album is a bit too much to swallow. The rhythm track is awesome. Full might be generous, but hell, it’s pretty good.
  17. Get Lucky – Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams) – ]from best of 2013] When this song was blowing up this summer, one of my friends noted, “This song is so simple and straightforward. Can’t you imagine just anybody doing it? The only reason it’s huge is because Daft Punk did it.” I totally agree. But I also still really like it. Cognitive Dissonance. But there’s a craft here that extends beyond the simple song. The sounds are really well crafted and the way they weave in and out is expertly done. The rhythm is simple and repetitive, but I feel like there was a ton of love put into programming it perfectly right down to the microsecond so that certain parts of the track hit just a titch earlier than others…just perfectly to cause your body to move. It’s those kinds of details that cause this to be elevated above the pre-programmed track on your Casio keyboard.
  18. Clarity – Zedd – a different zedd was in Choice Cuts Feb playlist. That’s two strikes for Zedd.
  19. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore – [from best of 2013] I can’t stand Macklemore, but I do like this song. But even then, I just like the singing, so I guess that means I just like Ray Dalton. Also my UW alumni magazine says Ryan Lewis is a pop music icon, but I don’t think they know what “icon” means.
  20. Harlem Shake – Baauer – was this song a hit? thought it was just the video. And even that was just like “next Gangman Style!” and even then it was more just “meme!” I can listen to this as background without getting pissed so open heart I guess, even though there is nothing special at all about it.
  21. Gangnam Style – Psy – So I never realized how crappy this song is without the video. I have such wonderful memories of this based on my then-two-year-old dancing along to the video anytime it showed up, but I don’t have any patience for the audio only.
  22. I Need Your Love – Calvin Harris – Recognize that female vocal. It’s Ellie Goulding. Who I don’t think I’ve heard much from, so maybe not. All female vox sound the same now. Pretty meh, but cool keys riff so I guess I’ll give it open.
  23. Do What U Want – Lady Gaga – [from best of 2013] Not her best stuff. The “do what we want” is kind of a theme, huh? “Follow Your Arrow,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Do What U Want.” “No invitations, it’s a private party.” If it’s a private party then you do need invitations. still squeaks into full heart territory. I feel like it’s Drake helping out. It’s R. Kelly.
  24. Cookie – R. Kelly – What do you think he’s trying to say here? This guy’s a parody of himself, you don’t even have to make fun of him. I guess he used to be a good singer? But this is just auto-tune and talking about aggressive oral sex over and over and over. “Mmm-mmm, ,like an Oreo/I want to lick the middle like an Oreo/Oreo, Oreo, like an Oreo/I want to bite it and get inside it ’till I get you gone.”
  25. Born To Die – Lana Del Rey – I just find her so boring. After the initial indie Internet scene hatred, I was ready to give her a chance. I don’t judge somebody’s music based on how they got into the biz, but the music is bad enough that, yeah, I’m ready to just write this off to connections and plastic surgery and the whole thing being a product machine that she positioned herself perfect for. Kudos for her getting Dan Auerbach to work with her. He’s super douchey about criticizing everybody else for being fake, not sure how he chose to work with this epitome of fake.
  26. Power Trip – J. Cole – jesus balls? another kris kross reference? Why are they all of a sudden getting name-checked repeatedly? Heavy bass beat, contentless lyrics in chorus. Fine in the background.
  27. Holy Grail – Jay-Z – [from best of 2013] Sophomoric. You can’t pull this off, Jay-Z. First of all, too much with the chorus…too many times. Second, you can’t pull of these lyrics: “I just can’t crack your code/One day your screaming you love me loud/The next day you’re so cold.” No, no, no. You are not getting the runaround from ladies the way a high school boy does, and even if one were to try that you wouldn’t have time for it. Finally, you can’t pull off the lyrics about how you can’t take your daughter for a walk because paparazzi, even if you do brush the lyrics aside immediately afterwards. You hardly have to parent. You probably have at least two live-in nannies. Nobody is feeling sorry for you because you can’t take your daughter for a walk. If you wanted, you could buy a private island and walk your daughter all around that island with nobody to bother you.
  28. Timber – Pitbull – Kinda gets an Avicii vibe going on with that … is it a harmonica? And the female vox with hand claps are a little too bright/in your face. Then there are the lyrics about Miley Cyrus twerking with no bra…timeless, amirite? But hell I could dance to this. Open.
  29. Crash My Party – Luke Bryan – Tripe lyrically (“Ain’t a spot downtown that’s rockin’ the way that you rock me”) and musically. Apparently this was a number one single, along with three other songs from this album. So Jesus Christ.
  30. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line – Holy shit, how in the hell do people listen this shit? “Baby you a song/Make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” “And this brand new Chevy with a lift kick/Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it.”
  31. Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker – A nice respite from the previous two tracks. Not great, but decent enough. I want to give it an open heart just because it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the crap in this genre, even though it’s pretty standard country rock. Hell, standard is good given the rest of it.
  32. Boys ‘Round Here (feat. Pistol Annie & Friends) – Blake Shelton – fuck, it’s always about beer and trucks. It’s all fucking tribalism with these guys. Chants of “redneck” and proudly stating what they don’t know. And glorification of chewing tobacco: do country stars ever take shit for this, or is it just rap and rock that does? You can listen to this, think of yourself as a boy around “here”, and hate boys round “there,” whether that’s the next town, the next state, or the big city. Lyrically it’s two songs in one where guys will here about beer and trucks (seriously) and fucking girls and the girls will hear about whooping and hollering and laughing and cuddling and kissing under the stars.
  33. My Songs Know What You Did In The Night (Light Em Up) – Fall Out Boy – This is straight out of hair metal, spesh the “I’m on fire!” line. They’re clearly just writing from the template now. The angst is gone and so is the passion.
  34. Safe And Sound – Capital Cities – cheesy 80’s shit passing as alterna rock. we already rejected this shit.
  35. Let Her Go – Passenger – that cheesy shit that All Songs Considers always plays, and all that shit is exactly the same.
  36. Story Of My Life – One Direction – boring. Lyrics are also somewhat cryptic…is he bemoaning the fact that he’s kind of a dick to her? At least that’s somewhat novel.
  37. Try – P!nk – Did we need another Cyndi Lauper? I mean, I like Cyndi Lauper, but what does P!nk do that Lauper didn’t do better?
  38. As Long As You Love Me – Justin Bieber – this is actually an awesome song. lyrics are stupid. Hard to believe this choad would be fine with just her love, even if they were starving. I mean, hunger, for crying out loud. “I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold.” Then there are the lyrics in the rap “‘Us,’ ‘trust’, two things I can’t spell without ‘U’.”
  39. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift – The lyrics are juvenile, which of course is intentional, but they still grate. Except for that line about the indie record, that’s kinda funny. The song’s also sophomoric, but it’s not bad for its genre. And I think most of Swift’s are awful.
  40. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons – Can’t decide if I love or hate Mumford & Sons. They’re kind of enjoyable, but also pretty superficial. I think here it’s safe enough to split the difference and leave it as an open heart until I figure it out.
  41. High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen – Hearing new Bruce Springsteen songs is like seeing your fat ex-girlfriend at the high school reunion. (NB: My high school girlfiend is not fat, it’s more of a general thing I’m mentioning.) Somewhere Clarence Clemons is rolling over in his grave: these are the worst kind of cheesy horns ever. Springsteen’s got high hopes, which he tells you over and over and fucking over. This sucks. Oh, he’s singing about a woman with a crying baby needing help and strength. He’s a cliche of himself now. And this just isn’t sincere coming from a jillionaire. It hasn’t been since Born In The U.S.A., but at least back then the music was awesome. His songs of social justice are still powerful, but not economic justice. Stupid two-note heavily synthed up guitar “solo.” God this is bad.
  42. Because We Can – Bon Jovi – God, even worse than Springsteen and has been miserably awful for longer.
  43. Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony – Start of eight Latin songs in a row. I’m out of my element here. This is nice, like a really good blending of a few different Latin styles. Full heart is generous, but I tend to give the benefit of the doubt in playlists like this for artists I’m not really familiar with.
  44. Limbo – Daddy Yankee – Upbeat and modern-dancey. Fairly standard for the genre, seems kinda derivative, but has enough cool parts I will make it full.
  45. Loco – Enrique Iglesias – The worst no matter what language he’s singing in.
  46. Darte Un Beso – Prince Royce – Boring, sappy with that whispery high singing thing that’s supposed to be a stand in for breathless infatuation. Not as awful as Iglesias, but I am sure not into it.
  47. Propuesta Indecente – Romeo Santos – Half awful and overdone with rapey lyrics, and then half has some redeeming interesting parts.
  48. Mujer de Piedra – Gerardo Ortiz – Got a southwestern/mariachi feel to it. Like Los Lobos kind of veers into this territory from time to time.
  49. Ya Lo Sé – Jenni Rivera – Again with the southwestern/Los Lobos feel. This actually feels like a standard, though what the hell do I know?
  50. Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti – Alejandro Fernández – Sounds like a Disney movie. Like Julio Iglesias type stuff. Which I guess I’ll take over Enrique Iglesias. But still.
  51. We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429 – oh shit is this a Christian section? Why do they get their own fucking categories? And nine fucking tracks? This is boring. And singing a song about trusting in a fairy tale. It’s like singing a song about “I will not think critically about any evidence.” Terrible and boring.
  52. Overcomer – Mandisa – oh fucking god it is a Christian section. Decent enough song but the lyrics are, natch, infantile. References TobyMac in the lyrics.
  53. Help Me Find It – Sidewalk Prophets – And back to the standard Christian rock soft rock WLTE Lite FM crap. How many songs can we write about how we have problems but if we just turn ourselves over to God it’ll be cool? It must be infinite.
  54. Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies) – Chris Tomlin – Not only ridiculously awful Christian rock that turns goes after the jingoistic nature of religion, but makes use of “whom.”
  55. Hello, My Name Is – Matthew West – And now we’re back to that “whoa oh oh oh oh oh” stuff we were getting so much of up at the top of this playlist. I like the Rick Springfield-esque guitar, so if I can ignore the lyrics I can keep it as open.
  56. Sick Of It – Skillet – Did metal get put after Christian? Oy. No, they’re Christian, too. Just sound different than the rest of the genre, which, well, at least there’s that. But this is just silly.
  57. Me Without You – TobyMac – also Christian so. But this is a sweet fucking song. It’d be mix if it weren’t Christian, and it’s not even explicitly Christian…the “you” could be a girl/guy. Most overt it gets is “you had me at belief.”
  58. I Need A Miracle – Third Day – “Didn’t know what he was looking for/Or even what he’d find” – well no duh. The name makes you think of shit like Three Doors Down and Third Eye Blind and that’s what you get. Excellent production, which is natch for this genre. That’s what they’ve got is super slick packaging.
  59. Amazing Grace – Alan Jackson – it’s hard to fuck up “Amazing Grace” and Alan Jackson doesn’t, though it doesn’t need to be this twangy.

Mix: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake), “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)” (Daft Punk), “Locked Out Of Heaven” (Bruno Mars)
– “Happy (Gru’s Theme From Despicable Me 2)” (Pharrell Williams), “Diamonds” (Rihanna), “Pompeii” (Bastille), “Mirrors” (Justin Timberlake), “Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), “Do What U Want” (Lady Gaga), “As Long As You Love Me” (Justin Bieber), “Vivir Mi Vida” (Marc Anthony), “Limbo” (Daddy Yankee), “Me Without You” (TobyMac)
– “Drunk In Love” (Beyoncé), “The Monster” (Eminem), “The Way” (Ariana Grande), “Harlem Shake” (Baauer), “I Need Your Love” (Calvin Harris), “Power Trip” (J. Cole), “Timber” (Pitbull), “Wagon Wheel” (Darius Rucker), “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” (Fall Out Boy), “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Taylor Swift), “I Will Wait” (Mumford & Sons), “Propuesta Indecente” (Romeo Santos), “Mujer de Piedra” (Gerardo Ortiz), “Ya Lo Sé” (Jenni Rivera), “Hello, My Name Is” (Matthew West), “Amazing Grace” (Alan Jackson)
– “Wrecking Ball” (Miley Cyrus), “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons), “Royals” (Lorde), “Roar” (Katy Perry), “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke), “Counting Stars” (One Republic), “Wake Me Up (Radio Edit)” (Avicii), “Clarity” (Zedd), “Gangnam Style” (Psy), “Cookie” (R. Kelly), “Born To Die” (Lana Del Rey), “Holy Grail” (Jay-Z), “Crash My Party” (Luke Bryan), “Cruise” (Florida Georgia Line), “Boys ‘Round Here (feat. Pistol Annie & Friends)” (Blake Shelton), “Safe And Sound” (Capital Cities), “Let Her Go” (Passenger), “Story Of My Life” (One Direction), “Try” (P!nk), “High Hopes” (Bruce Springsteen), “Because We Can” (Bon Jovi), “Loco” (Enrique Iglesias), “Darte Un Beso” (Prince Royce), “Hoy Tengo Ganas De Ti” (Alejandro Fernández ), “We Won’t Be Shaken” (Building 429), “Overcomer” (Mandisa), “Help Me Find It” (Sidewalk Prophets), “Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies)” (Chris Tomlin), “Sick Of It” (Skillet) “I Need A Miracle” (Third Day)

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