12/23/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Song . . .



I listen to a lot of music (when not listening to podcasts, KMUW, or the people in my life that regale me with stories of their youth and dreams for their tomorrow) and I like to think I listen to a broad, eclectic swath of genres and styles. And yet, at the end of the day, I listen to a lot of stuff that is - at its core - pop music. And I'm okay with that. I think (I go back and forth). I have a theory that there is SO MUCH music "out there" these days that you just cannot wrap your head or hands around it so it becomes a burden and you flee from it and just put on the pop station and feel comfortable.

Comfort be damned. Here, in order, are my ten favorite songs of the year (apologies for not being able to link to "Remedy" by Adele but if you don't own 25 by now . . . Why NOT?).

What delighted you this year? What's in your ears? I want it in mine.

10) "Shine" Leon Bridges
The first time I heard Leon Bridges sing (a year or so ago) I was sure that someone was clowning me with an album from the 60s/70s. His voice, his lyrics, his musical sensibilities are all from an era long, long ago but his music is (I've double checked) new. Soulful, romantic, and beautiful. "Shine" is the wants and desires of a man who is sure he can be more - a man who wants to be more.

9) "Capable of Anything" Ben Folds
I've had a musical boner (yeah, I said it) for Ben Folds since the Five in 1995 (I was a wee late to their party) and I think one of the things I've loved most about him is how he can make broad, meandering music while toting a piano throughout it. I was excited to see the boys get back together a few years ago but this new collaboration (with yMusic) reminds me of Jherek Bischoff's "Composed" in that it is pop music kissing the orchestra and getting a kiss right back. If you've never seen Folds perform with an orchestra (which he does, often) you should. It proves he's capable of, well, anything.

8) "Feeling Good" Ms. Lauryn Hill
Don't, please don't, tease me that Lauryn Hill (now with the Ms. in front - which I would respect and observe if it was "Queen" or "Holy Mother") is finally back (yes, I know she, like Dave Chappelle, never really went away) and ready to delight me again. Alas. She is not. Fully. But a few tracks on the tribute album to the documentary "What Happened, Miss Simone?" is good enough for me. Her cover of the eternal "Feeling Good" is worth every warm, rich, churned note and chord. We're ready when you are, Ms. Hill. Bring it.

7) "Ch-Ching" Chairlift
You know what pop music is best at? Making you feel guilty for feeling so good. And this song (which is an earworm for the ages - be careful as you click) brings me much conflicted pleasure but not enough that I didn't listen to it 1,000 times while running away the 5 AM hour of just about ever day this year. 27-9-9-2-3 (whatever that means) indeed. The song makes me happy and your kids will dig it and that makes it even better.

6) "WTF (Where They From)" Missy Elliott
So a few weeks ago I was driving with my daughter and she was asking for me to play one of about six songs she loves so bad . . . again. And I said "Hey." (I'm going to quote myself here) "How about I play you something you've never heard before but you'll LOVE?" and she said "No. Play the same old f*cking sh*t." (I'm NOT quoting her here) and I hit play on this song anyway. Within fifteen bars she was bopping in the back seat. By the end she had seven songs in her rotation. Then she said "This woman sounds like Nikki Minaj" and I actually LOST my mind and talked icons vs. trends for the next several miles.

5) "The Story of My Life" Piano Guys
I love two women these days and they, for their part, love what they love. One (my daughter) loves One Direction (and is crushed by their decision to take a "break" after losing a member earlier this year) and the other (my betrothed) loves Piano Guys. I know, I know. But the heart wants what the heart wants. This song combines both of their loves in a song that is legitimately catchy and completely void of a single demand for your attention. You'll love it soon enough. Promise.

4) "Remedy" Adele
So there is this woman named Adele and she sings with the sort of force that the moon and its tides might envy. And she does it with relative ease and she is, at 27, the most mature person you'll ever meet (in some ways - interviews and other appearances imply she's equal parts easy and peezy). Her newest album will likely win every award possible in 2017 (curiously it was a little too late for 2016 awards season - something I find curious) but, for me, this song (which I presume is for her child) is everything it might be and more.

3) "Checking For You" R. City
I love rap. Always have, always will. I love rap (and I love hip hop - but there is a huge difference) and I love when rap skews toward hip hop but is also still just catchy pop with ambition. This song which Google just pushed to me based on other songs I like is nearly perfect. I've listened to it 1,000 times and I find myself liking more and more rap (vs. hip hop) because of it. Give it a listen and try not to enjoy it. I'll be here when you're ready to admit defeat.

2) "I Belong To You" Brandi Carlile
Ohhhhh, Brandi Carlile. You're so splendid. Carlile first won my heart in 2007 with "The Story" (which was delightfully stripped down to a true ballad for a wedding I attended in January) and hasn't really stopped since. I enjoy how many songs are about love and the pain and suffering it can cause and how worthy that struggle is. This song, which came out earlier this year, takes the whole thing to another level with the thought that she "belongs" to her lover. Not as property bought or won or claimed but as servant and happy shadow. It could, with another lyricist or voice, come off as creepy but - with Carlile - it makes me want to become a submissive heart. Alas . . . no.

1) "(At Your Best) You Are Love" Frank Ocean 
In 1976 the Isley Brothers made a little jam called "At Your Best" and, nine months later, the world's population was notably larger. More importantly men around the world realized that to "be" love was not easy and was not to be taken for granted. Fast forward 18 years and Aaliyah (who had much promise if not for R. Kelly's uncomfortable (if not illegal) relationship with her and her premature death in a plane crash) made the song over in a way that was modern and yet, as old as the Isley Brothers (and, at her age of 15, older than her). She twisted the notion that a woman wanted her man to be his best/love. Fast forward (again) 21 years and Frank Ocean who, in many ways, is sorta twisting many notions in terms of music and talent and life and perspective released the song on what would have been Aaliyah's 36th birthday and he nailed it. He stripped it down even more and put a little more emotional doubt in it . . . while staying positive that being a positive, motivating force is something we should all aspire to.