Have a listen to “You Get What You Give” by The New Radicals here.
“You Get What You Give” is one of the best one hit wonders of all time, to such an extent that it might be one of the best songs of all time. It’s a wonderful blend of nonsense and contradictions. It’s a perfect pop song pretending to be a commentary of culture and society. The New Radicals are only known for this song, but the writing team of Gregg Alexander (the band’s lead singer/ frontman/ only real member) and Rick Nowels, have written loads of massive pop songs for people like Santana and Lana Del Rey
As with lots of songs on my list, I like that “You Get What You Give” is a traditional band setup style pop song. I like the pop soul piano sound. I like the one note guitar solo. Gregg Alexander has a great voice, he manages to hit some good high bits but also has a bit of gravel to him. I like that the lyrics are at times so anti corporate America, but in the most gimmicky way possible in an aggressively catchy pop tune. There’s the intentionally controversial digs at big artists of the time straight after some political criticism. All to prove that the media is focused on the superficial stuff. At the same time this is a song featuring Paul McCartney’s guitar player, cowritten by a guy who was also writing for Madonna. It’s the most music business song of all time. It’s hard to know if it’s cynical or oblivious, but I enjoy that ridiculousness.
But when the night is falling You cannot find the light (Light) You feel your dreams are dying, hold tight
You’ve got the music in you Don’t let go, you’ve got the music in you One dance left, this world is gonna pull through
I love that pre chorus and then the chorus. That pre chorus is so hopeful and then the chorus is just nonsense.
This week I watched Total Recall (2012) and Total Recall (1990). I had spotted the newer one on Netflix and it was stuck in my head for a few days so I gave it a go. It’s not good. Afterwards, I had to go back and rewatch the original to see what had made them think it was a good idea. I can definitely see the appeal of the old one but they didn’t seem to capture any of that in the remake.
Total Recall (1990) is mad goofy. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a maniac and a terrible actor. His screams in this film are a work of art. That’s kinda the charm of the film though. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s got a hectic energy. I think everybody in it is good at what they’re doing. Arnie has some top notch nonsense one liners. Michael Ironside is great as Richter. I saw Arnie talking about how good Sharon Stone was and I think she does a solid job of facilitating Arnie as a phenomenon. Also, I liked the world creation on Mars. The planet is cartoonish. There always seems to be drilling machinery appearing out of nowhere. The mutants remind me of the sewer people in Futurama.
I’m not sure how a person could have watched the first version and then wanted to make the 2012 remake. The whole thing is confused. The Wikipedia entry for the film makes the production look like a mess. Apparently, Jessica Biel told people it wasn’t a remake of the film but an adaptation of the short story by Philip K. Dick that Total Recall (1990) was based on. That doesn’t really make sense though because her character doesn’t exist in the short story. I’m also not that sure why they would keep the name Total Recall if it’s not supposed to be a remake.
The fun goofiness is gone. It’s all very serious. Colin Farrell is phoning it in. His accent’s all over the place. He seems to have moved away from doing this type of thing. He doesn’t seem to want to be a leading man in big blockbusters. He seems like a likeable guy but he has a lot of shitty films under his belt. Jessica Biel is pretty forgettable. Pretty much the only person who comes out of this looking ok is John Cho as the Rekall rep. The dialogue is pretty weak and clunky. For a film that’s supposed to be all action, it’s pretty boring. I started to fall asleep so I had to watch it over 2 nights. In his review of the remake for Time, Richard Corliss wrote about the idea of subtraction. It only varies from the original by taking away from it. The charm is gone, the fun is gone, Mars is gone, the mad drilling is gone. The only addition is a stupid tunnel through the centre of the earth.
I feel like remaking a film should be an ambitious undertaking. You should be looking at an existing film and hoping to improve, modernise or translate it in a new time or setting. The minimum requirement needs to be to be at least as good a film as the original, because you’ve already lost any hint of originality. Total Recall (1990) was silly and entertaining. Total Recall (2012) seemed to have no ambition to do anything interesting and, ultimately, it’s zero craic.
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac is a controversial choice to wrap up my week of Vine songs. Firstly, it’s more than 40 years old and was a massive hit before anyone was dreaming of memes. Secondly, it’s not associated with Vine. “Dreams” is one of the most bizarre viral trends that have cropped up on Tik Tok. I like the idea that my final song choice in this series would be from Tik Tok because Tik Tok viral songs are a whole new world that grew from viral songs on Vine. There’s a wonderful randomness to meme virality and a Tik Tok of a man on a skateboard singing along to this song while drinking cranberry juice is a great example of that.
In some ways, it was a perfect combination and the guy deserves props for a good song choice for a moment. “Dreams” is a real cruising song. The drum track drives it along. The bass grooves away. There’s a great combination of voices. The guitars have a real dreamy effect (excuse the pun). I think the mix of the driving drumming and the dreamy guitars creates a feeling of peaceful forward momentum that really suits the vibe of skating to work and drinking cranberry juice. And I think that’s pretty fucking cool.
Continuing with the theme of my favourite songs that are also iconic Vine songs, today’s song of the day is Usher’s “I Don’t Mind” featuring Juicy J. You can listen to it here and listen to the playlist of all the songs of the day here.
I love “I Don’t Mind” because it’s a demented song. I love that Juicy J missed the memo about this being a song about respecting strippers. I love that Usher seems confused in his wokeness. He calls this woman his bitch and assures her that being a stripper doesn’t make her a ho. The whole thing sounds like Usher is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t mind.
Usher is a bit of a wizard. He’s got a great voice for these slow jams. The song is super simple for the most part, it’s just some chords on top of beats that get more intense for the chorus. And then there’s some great nonsense ad libs from Juicy J.
And Kermit’s version is quite possibly the greatest Vines of all.
Carly Rae Jepsen is a legend. “Emotion” is an incredible album. “Run Away with Me” is an incredible opening track to that album and the soundtrack to two of my favourite Vines.
“Run Away with Me” is just a belter and I think it’s very underrated. The saxophone intro is iconic. The drums in the chorus are massive. If I was a teenager this would be my YA fiction romantic montage song but since I’m a grown man it’s the montage in my dreams for when I win the lottery and quit my job without working my notice.
Listen to “Run Away with Me” here. Also, a reminder that you can listen to all the songs of the day together in one playlist here.
You can listen to “Cake By The Ocean” by DNCE here.
I once had a conversation with my brother about a college course he was doing on the history of sport. He told me about the reasons for success and popularity of certain sports and games. I guess strict rules require particular skills and creative solutions.
The idea of strict rules or constraints is something that always appeals to me in challenges. In my days of FIFA manager career modes, I liked to have self imposed constraints to make things more realistic, a French football team would be more likely to buy French speaking players, English players don’t often move abroad, etc. These little constraints are challenges to make things more realistic and more interesting.
That idea has lead me to a fascination with pop bands. I can, and always will, appreciate any good song made by a person on a computer, but the constraints of using the standard pop bands instruments of the last 70 or so years make things more interesting to me. “Cake By The Ocean” is very close to achieving that. It’s got a great funky bass line leading the whole song. There’s handclaps and a drum kit involved. There’s vocals. There’s a guitar and some backing vocals. Then there’s some extra sounds that are added on top that throw things off, but it’s very close to following the rules.
Aside from my nerdy musical snobbery, I also appreciate the lyric, “I’ll be Diddy, you be Naomi. I thoroughly enjoy that somebody felt it was necessary to write that the song is about sexual intercourse on the wikipedia entry for the song. And of course, I like that the title is based on confusing the phrases “cake by the ocean” and “sex on the beach”
You can listen to “Genghis Khan” by Miike Snow here.
I went to see Flight Facilities in 2014 and at the very end of the set they played “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. Not a cover or a remix, just the standard original version. I remember talking to someone else afterwards and I remarked that it was a bit weird. They said that they loved it because it was a massive song for their friend group, like it was the equivalent of an inside joke that I just didn’t get. It was as if they didn’t realise that “Hey Ya!” is one of the biggest songs of all time and probably a massive song for lots of friend groups. I was thinking about the idea of what songs you can claim like that. “Genghis Khan” by Miike Snow is probably a song I feel that way about for my own friends. It’s been a regular feature at any occasion where there is a chance for anyone to suggest songs since we first heard it in 2015.
I think part of the appeal is the video, which is magical. It’s goofy but brilliant. There’s a story to it, which is always one of my favourite kind of videos. There’s fantastic dancing by people who don’t immediately look like dancers. A good video is a great first impression for a song. The song also ticks a lot of my usual boxes. It’s catchy. There’s lots of falsetto and sing along bits. I like the melodrama of the phrase “I get a little bit Genghis Khan”. Musically, it’s all about the piano which is punchy and abrupt throughout the song before pushing to the front towards the end of the song.
I’ve been at this for quite a while and there’s a decent bank of songs built up. I’d be interested to see the stats for the songs I’ve posted about to see what kind of time periods they’re from. I’d imagine the bulk of songs are from 2012-2015, while I was in college and spent a lot of time on buses.
“No Words” is from towards the end of that period. I remember being in college and realising that I had been mishearing the lyrics for months. I thought Erik Hassle was confessing to not being a wordsmith when he sang “I’m out of words, babe”. I liked the wordsmith lyric better. The dude has written loads of songs for himself and for people like Shakira and Rihanna so obviously he can put words together. It was like he was so disorientated by the person he’s singing to that he’s become shit at his job. And that’s what happens when you spend too much time on your own listening to the same songs. Stuff like that makes sense.
Erik Hassle is somebody I thought would be a superstar by now. He’s probably got a perfect level of success for a person, his songs have millions of plays and he’s got big writing credits, but he’s not massive. For me, he’s an incredible pop artist. His songs always have a sad disco vibe. His voice sounds like he grew up singing Prince songs. “No Words” is my favourite of his songs. There’s a great funky guitar lick throughout the song with a lot of the body of the song built up with the strings. In the verses the bass is really ominous and then when the chorus kicks in it switches up to something busier. I’ve heard him speak about the song and it was written at a time when a relationship was finished but the rest of his life was going well and he was otherwise happy. I think you really get that, because it’s a song that you can dance to, but the lyrics are obviously coming from a place of heartbreak.
You can listen to “Reborn” by Kids See Ghosts here.
I was late to the party with Kid Cudi and I’ve never been a committed Kanye West fan. With Kanye, I think he has some incredible songs and then I just can’t go any deeper. With Kid Cudi, it’s borderline embarrassing because I heard rappers doing the Kid Cudi humming around 2016 and I didn’t get that it was a Kid Cudi thing for a long time. He’s a big deal in terms of his own work and songs he’s written for other artists, but also for the generation of artists that he inspired. One thing I like about all of his own songs is that he’s very up front. I’m sure there are lots of people who had never heard an artist talk about their mental health, particularly in a hip hop context. I think there’s a lot of value in people hearing about these things from someone they look up to or can relate to.
Lyrically, I like “Reborn” a lot. It’s real hopeful vibe after coming from some dark places. I’ve always thought Kanye had interesting lyrics, I think “Y’all done “specially invited guest”‘d me out” is a great phrase. Kanye’s verse is kinda confrontational and in the context of what he’s saying it seems fair. He was having a hard time and people took the piss out of him. On the other hand, Kid Cudi’s verse is more philosophical and focused on the negative past versus the positive present and future. I like that there’s a real message but it’s also cleverly written by both of them.
“Reborn” is a nice song. It feels very gentle. The piano is nice and soft and Kid Cudi’s backing vocals add a depth. The track has a slightly hypnotic vibe. Musically, it’s quite lullaby-esque and then the chorus is like a repeated mantra. It’s like some positive mentality brainwashing and I think that’s something we always need more of.
One thing I like about the Spotify recommendation playlist style of music consumption is the anonymity of an artist. If I’m listening to a playlist of recommendations, I’m very unlikely to follow through to see what an artist or band looks like. If I like a song I’ll have a look at their name and song title. It takes a little bit of time and regular listening for me to follow up and check their Wikipedia or their social media.
As a result of these playlists, I hear songs like “A Kiss” by The Driver Era and give it a chance. The band’s singer, Ross Lynch, is a Disney Channel kid and played Harvey in Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. I’m not that bothered by the Disney connection, but that Sabrina show was tough going. If I’d seen Harvey’s dazed dopey head bopping around to “A Kiss” I would have turned it off pretty quick.
It’s a cool song though and I’m glad I gave it a go. Lynch’s voice doesn’t sound like it should come out of him and it’s highlighted by the fact that he talks in the background of the song and it sounds like a completely different person. I’m not sure if it’s a voice that’s put on but it works in this song. The bass drives the song along and it’s mostly backed by keys. There’s a lot to the production, extra keyboards and I think there’s multiple drum tracks in there. Sometimes, it’s interesting to hear alternative versions of a song to understand what you like about it. Having listened to an acoustic version, it’s easier to place what’s so good in the standard version. There’s a fullness to the sound and the bass complements Lynch’s voice. There’s a pace and groove to it that puts it into a category of alternative rock songs that you could dance to, which is important to me. And of course, I always love a classic sing along “na na na na na”.