Remember when hip-hop was fun? My adolescence was filled with the entertaining, harmless anthems of MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, and Tone Loc. “Hip Hop Hooray,” “Jump Around,” and the “Humpty Dance” were the soundtrack to my middle school dances. Kids wore their overalls backwards to emulate Kriss Kross and oversized Starter jackets like ABC (Another Bad Creation, yo!). Queen Latifah reigned supreme, Run DMC were the “Kings of Rock,” and Will Smith was The Prince of Bel Air. Sure, acts like NWA and Public Enemy were anything but fun, but at that time, their hard-cutting verbal assaults were the minority to the more common, party approach to rap music.
Things changed with the dawning of gangsta rap. I’m not suggesting that Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg didn’t know how to have a good time, smoking their indo while sippin’ on gin and juice, but their songs took the genre into more violent, brooding territory. No longer was it cool to rap about how you can “Bust a Move” or how you wish you were a little bit taller, wish you were a baller, wish you had a girl, if you did, you would call her. Many artists tried to toughen up their image (gangsta MC Hammer was my favorite), but their efforts were transparent to fans that wanted stories of the streets from those who lived it.
Since that mid-90s mood shift, hip-hop has remained grounded in the more menacing approach, rappers boasting their worth in diamonds, clothes, and cars, MCs regaling their days as drug dealers and gang members. That’s what makes Action Bronson’s major label debut Mr. Wonderful so refreshing – it’s a throwback to the days when rappers were more interested in promoting a good time than themselves.
A few weeks ago the MTV Video Music Awards took place, and to be honest, I didn’t watch. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I viewed the yearly event (probably in a dorm room over a decade ago). I hate to play the “back in my day” card, but I do feel that there was a time when the VMAs were legitimately about rewarding great music videos and not just a popularity contest. Big winners in 2014 include former child stars like Miley Cyrus and Drake, and Lorde was awarded the “Best Rock Video” of the year for her song “Royals.” You know, THIS SONG that doesn’t feature any guitars and is built around a looping hip-hop beat? Can we all just agree that rock (at least the popular variety) is dead?
On social media I’ve seen some bemoan the age-old complaint that MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore, but I think it’s time to get over the fact they haven’t been a music channel for over a decade. Some have suggested that music videos don’t matter anymore. However, I think they are more important than they have been since their explosion in the 80s. Young people have turned to YouTube as a major source of music listening, often playing the same video multiple times just to re-hear their favorite OneDirection song. The highest rated videos on YouTube aren’t of people on fire, or people getting hit in the nuts, but music videos of teeny-bop stars (hence why YouTube has now started its own music awards).
I am still old-fashioned in my listening habits, predominantly purchasing LPs and CDs with the occasional MP3 when I can’t wait until my next record store visit. Despite my out-of-touch approach to music, I do still check out new music videos on occasion. I’m not spending hours online watching videos, but I do have some new videos that I’ve watched several times. Here are some of my favorite videos as of late.
This list was once a big deal around here at BDWPS. Back in 2010, it was comprised of a top 100 list with an audio clip for each. Not only was this a lot of work, it also never got nearly the attention that our Top Albums list always receives. I’ve also found that since starting the BDWPS Podcast that majority of the songs listed have been played and discussed at some point during the year. By the time this list arrives, my discussion of the track seems a bit stale. Below you’ll find 20 of my favorite songs of 2013. Although it’s not much in comparison to what it once was, it’s still a solid playlist of memorable hooks that may have went under radar this past year.
On this “on-the-road” edition of BDWPS you’ll hear new tracks from Surfer Blood, Majical Clouds, The National, and Action Bronson. Also, songs by Two Gallants, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Bob Dylan are discussed.
Surfer Blood “Demon Dance”
Majical Cloudz “Silver Rings”
The National “Fireproof”
Eleanor Friedberger “Stare At the Sun”
Two Gallants “Seems Like Home To Me”
Action Bronson “No Time”
Sunny Day Real Estate “8”
Jeff Tweedy “Simple Twist of Fate”
Check it out below (or subscribe at iTunes, keyword- BDWPS):
In this episode I take a look back at some of the highlights and low-lights from the South By Southwest Music Festival, 2013. You’ll hear new tracks from artists like Marnie Stern, Foxygen, Flaming Lips, TV Ghost, and Pissed Jeans as well as some classics from Afghan Whigs and Songs: Ohia.
Marnie Stern “Year of the Glad”
TV Ghost “Phantasm”
Foxygen “No Destruction”
Flaming Lips “Sun Blows Up Today”
Action Bronson “Gateway to Wizardry”
Pissed Jeans “Teenage Adult”
Afghan Whigs “Going to Town”
Songs: Ohia “Just Be Simple”
Check it out here or subscribe on iTunes (keyword “BDWPS”)
Just moments before sitting down to write about the best and worst of the South By Southwest music festival of last week, I found out about the death of Jason Molina, the troubled genius behind folk-blues outfits like Songs/Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. This news would have been unsettling and heartbreaking regardless of what I was about to embark on, but sitting here trying to write about my 10th year at the music festival, I can’t help but think back to my first year in attendance and how I got to see Magnolia Electric Company perform at The Parish.
A lot has changed since that night a decade ago when Molina first enchanted me with his fragile, somber voice. Over the years I’ve seen SXSW grow along with my understanding of the festival and all its nuances. I think back to those performances from the first few years and wonder where the festival’s one time luster has gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a great week, seeing dozens of bands each day, but along with the growth of social media, SXSW has become more about the hype and less about discovering unpolished gems like my friends and I did 10 years ago with Jason Molina and his band. Yes, Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, and John Fogerty played a surprise set together, as well as Prince and Green Day (badge only shows), but due to the influx of speculation and misinformation within the Twitter world, I was unable to see several shows I would have in years past due to the miles of sheep lined up in hopes of seeing MTV TRL darlings like of Usher and Justin Timberlake.
Yet as much as these moments of frustration tainted my week, I still relished my chance to see up-and-coming artists pour their hearts out on the stage. Within the past ten years I’ve seen unknown artists perform at SXSW that went on to big time success (Bon Iver, The Fleet Foxes, and TV On the Radio), and I expect that many of the artists seen this week will go on to do just the same. Who knows? Maybe in ten years folks will be lining up for miles to see some of my favorites from this past week while I roam 6th street, 10 years older and wiser, in search of that next great unearthed treasure.
In memory of Jason Molina, I present to you my list of the best and worst of SXSW 2013.