Why It Sucks #5

As if in response, our music industry hero Justin Beiber releases a song that seems to be the counter to Miley’s Wrecking Ball. What I mean is the lyrics and theme of the song is exactly the same. Thank you Justin, for proving the ingenuity of the songs meaning as well as your own ingenuity. I had a few angry Miley fans who read my post and felt that I, not her, was full of crap. One said “the reason she shows her bare skin in the video is because she is truly baring herself to the world with the song and the video.” I guess Justin Beiber better show some skin when he releases the video for this song, so that he can really demonstrate to the world that this song is the embodiment of his persona.

No. They are both full of crap. These artists have nothing to be sad about and no justification for receiving sympathy from anyone.

I won’t go into detail the similarities this song has with Gone, by the one true boy band Nsync, because you listen to them in sequence you can hear that these two songs entire concept and style is exactly the same.

So big deal, everything’s been done before, but this song sucks on another level. Beibs has decided he wants his music to be more mature sounding, and so now favors a minimal Hip Hop back track like Usher and JT in their earlier albums. JT and Usher had excellent early albums though, because they have got some serious pipes.

Justin Beiber is a good singer. There I said it. Even when he was young his vocal range was absurd (due to his not quite matured body), and now he has grown into himself and his voice has that soft boyish tint that makes the girls go wild. Nothing I can say will take that away from him.

This song has no layers. This song is 2-3 drum tracks, electric guitar softly on the upbeats, and Justin Beiber. He uses some of his own voice as fills and harmonies sometimes, but it’s so sparse and the vocals aren’t interesting enough to draw attention away from the boring backtrack.

Nothing happens in this song. Take out the words, not the vocal melody just the words, and the song would be a flat line. There is no tension and release, the song doesn’t ever add or subtract layers at any point except a single hi-hat track on the up-beats in the chorus. What aggravates me the most is there are very few good cadences. His phrases don’t resolve, the last note in his phrases don’t make sense to me, and he does it almost every time, as if purposely avoiding correct music theory. When he does correctly put the root at the end of a phrase, it’s a short and un-emphasized note; you know, only the most important note in every phrase…

And that is why Heartbreaker by Justin Beiber SUCKS

Metal Monday #14

It’s almost frustrating to me, when groups demonstrate that they are capable of writing good music, but only seem to fully apply themselves on a small number of tracks. Reflections is an example of talented performers without the spark of creativity, but can use what they have heard before to put together pretty good songs.

This song starts off with lots of dissonant off-beat chords and double bass drum, then at 2:07 the guitars both turn off most of their filters and it becomes a calm acoustic feel. Especially when listening to this whole album, this relief comes well received because aside from this song it is pounding off-beat djent almost exclusively. The song would have been ok if after this section the song ended, it’s even what I was expecting to happen. At 4 the sound from before comes back in unison on the same progression, followed by an actual guitar solo. Then the song builds until the very end, reaching a point equally as heavy as the beginning was. Its essentially a big V shape in terms of the excitement level of the track over time. It has good horizontal movement as the song develops, and a definitive beginning middle and end. You would think this is common, but verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus doesn’t lend itself to have much shape. Looking back all the way to my song structure post, Mozart invented sonata form because it was an effective method of writing music that would almost always have a shape and forward movement. You start off with the exciting melody or theme you have come up with (exposition), then most of the song is the development, building back to the ending which is the recapitulation, playing the theme from the beginning again. It catches their attention, then builds their anticipation to a climax right as the song is about to end. That is essentially what this song does effectively and why I think it is a good song, despite the rest of the album. No, it’s not that it’s bad, but when you have heard as much music similar to this as I have, it doesn’t stand out from the rest of it. On the subject of Mozart, it is time for…

BREAKDOWN BEATDOWN

Some moments on that Reflections album (‘Ex(i)st’)could be considered for this section as well, but Acacia Strain has spoken.
At about 2:15 it becomes apparent to me that there going to be some sort of breakdown in the near future.

It’s at 2:38, if you weren’t sure. Points were deducted for having the hit on the word ‘clouds,’ which is not a br00tl word related to violence at all. Clouds are not br00tl, but that one note sure seems to be.

Why It Sucks #4 (featuring Pitbull featuring Ke$ha)


I’m not sure how my two favorite artists could collaborate together and make a song that is such a surprising disappointment. Pitbull makes every song better! Hes what Lil’ Jon was five years ago, an artist who seems to only be able to feature on other tracks as a gimmick who never and is not known for his own music.

I’m not really sure who is supposed to be the artist in charge in this song (according to the listings, its Pitbull), but this song is an example of what is wrong with featuring artists. Collaborations are supposed to bring together the style of all the artists involved, or in some way add something to the song that it wouldn’t have without the other artists. This collaboration serves only one purpose.

The purpose of this collaboration is money.

The purpose of this song is money.

As I have said before, the purpose of mainstream music is exactly to make money, and as a society we as listeners need to evolve beyond simple to understand music if we want the overall quality of our content to increase.  Since I cannot argue with society because it is an entity and not a tangible thing, let me just tell you why this sucks.

The song starts off with the chorus. This is the current meta of pop-party music because it immediately teaches the listener the tune so they can sing along. This is taking advantage of you for being musically-retarded (I’m not making any accusations; it’s not your fault). As a musically retarded society, we get musical satisfaction out of recognizing songs, knowing the words, singing along, because as musically retarded people the only thing we actually understand about what we are hearing is the words. So the lyrics have to be easy to understand, repeated often, and there can’t be too many of them. To prove that this is true, listen to the song one time then tell me what did Pitbull say? I don’t know man, he was like rapping fast and saying so many things, it’s hard. The point is it doesn’t matter one bit what Pitbull actually says during the verses, because nobody will remember it. So the song starts off with the chorus, then Pitbull raps for a bit, which is non-consequential to us because we don’t know or care what he is saying, as long as he says it the way Pitbull would say it. Putting the chorus first removes the impact that it might have had if it was put in the correct place, after the first verse. Why have Pitbull rap at all if the chorus is the content and Pitbull is just filler in-between? He always plays this roll in songs he is featured on, and although he is just as terrible as everyone else who write music about partying only, his lyrics are pretty clever and funny at times. His style is more aggressive than most other rappers and if he expressed his feelings, or anything, in his music it could potentially be very interesting because of how laid-back rap and hip-hop typically are. Example: Eminem.

Pitbull, you poor, misunderstood bastard.

We have a typical 4 chord progression throughout, easy to understand and dance to, but where does this song think it is going (besides to the top of the charts)? Let’s take a look at the very first phrase, “its goin down.” This phrase is the only PAC (perfect authentic cadence) to be found, and it is in exactly the wrong place. PAC’s, for those who have not read my cadences post, are supposed to go at the end of a phrase, to bring resolution. It makes the phrase sound like it is over, it is the most basic music theory in practice. THE MOST BASIC MUSIC THEORY. This is music theory 101 if you are at a college, this is the first thing they teach you after scales and meter. This isn’t a matter of opinion, using PAC at the end of phrases makes music sound good.. This is completely disregarded. Of course as musically retarded people we don’t care or ever even notice.

The sampling in this song is also rather poor in this song in my opinion. The execution is ok, they sound good in the mix (they better, that producer gets paid to make this crap), but the choice of sounds takes away from the song. This song is about drinking, partying, having a good time, why is there a harmonica and an acoustic guitar in the back-track? It’s a gimmick, and it contrasts with the image they are aiming for in this song. The harmonica back track especially makes me thing of old western movies or the splash mountain ride in Disney world. The harmonica is playing in american-folk style while Ke$ha is singing about debauchery and blacking out, do you see what I mean?

And that is why, Timber, by Pitbull feat. Ke$ha, SUCKS.

Metal Monday #13

It is weird when a bands self-titled album isn’t its first, usually a band does it when they have yet to release a self-titled and they are attempting to take a new direction.

This band has a very well defined cadence structure that to me, makes it sound more approachable to the un-trained ear. It does leave something to be desired with the overall song structure. At the bridge (3:08), the song has a really contrasting section to the rest of it, but it sort of cuts the momentum the song had going without rhythmically building it back up.

What stands out about this to me is the melodic fast moving guitar riffs. It’s not the fastest, or the most technical, but it is well defined and has forward movement with the rising and falling scales. They are the best melodic metalcore band I have heard this year.

I have noticed a trend happening I my recent metal Monday posts, being that they have focused on breakdowns, a lot, which is a polarizing characteristic when it comes to appeal. Some metalheads are pro-breakdown, some are very anti-breakdown. I understand both sides, breakdowns are often formulaic and uninspired, but they are so fun to mosh to at live shows and when done well are really exciting. Regardless of your opinions, I am pro-breakdown and so I am reserving a permanent spot on Metal Monday for – Breakdown Beatdown (see, its alliteration, just like the title.)

So, it’s time for this weeks’ BREAKDOWN BEATDOWN

1:58 for buildup

Why It Sucks #3

The appeal of dubstep is the same appeal as deathcore – the drops. How can you deny the power of the mighty bass drop as you flail your body helplessly in the crowd?

There is more to life than bass drops and breakdowns. I remember when dubstep broke out in the US in 2010-2011, everyone thought it was the new music Cocain and that they could start making dubstep in their dorm room and get famous (guilty).  What I, and a lot of others, did not understand at the time was that music needs to be more than one dimensional to have lasting appeal.

I have talked about The Browning before, I have actually seen them live at Indianapolis Metalfest where they were the second biggest band on the bill. I want you to understand that I don’t dislike their music, but I am not one to deny that they suck. A lot. It’s like enjoying a salad, but only if you put a lot of dressing on it, because it is bland and leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterwards.

Electro-deathcore, whatever you want to call this, has the same problem as dubstep, it is one dimensional. What I mean by one dimensional is that it only moves forward, in one direction, it is a straight line with no bumps in it. Even literally, if you imagine the music notes on the staff (or the tracks in the digital audio workstation) they won’t go up and down very much, but the notes and rhythms get more intense and close together as you approach the drop, then the rhythm is more open with emphasis on the downbeats. A one dimensional drop will only get you this far.

In EDM, sometimes you will hear a white noise backtrack get slowly raised in pitch until right before the drop to increase the tension to the listener even more than the quickening rhythm does. This would be two dimensional, as the buildup moves forward, but also up. The drop is then not only rhythmic, but also harmonic. When the drop returns to the root note after all that pitch bend it feels good, it adds to the effect. The Browning doesn’t even do that. This band completely and entirely relies on their buildup-breakdown formula and they have not even gone beyond the first dimension. Sometimes they don’t even build up at all, it just cuts off for a second and the vocalist screams something that is about 4 syllables, then breakdown again. And again. God this album was exhausting to listen to, always hoping for something different to happen only to lead into another one note break down. Once you listen to one song the album is essentially over. Slaves is probably the strongest song on the album, maybe that they have ever written, and only because of the use of exoticism with the cheesy Lydian modal chords that are often found in middle-eastern music.

There are two good things about this band, the quantity of songs, and BPS. The Browning has a relatively high amount of songs on their full lengths, even though it is just one song 13 times.  Their BPS (breakdowns per song) is almost exactly 3, which makes for a lot of mosh pits at live shows. If the only factor you look for in music is quantity of breakdowns, look no further than The Brownings’ Hypernova, but that is why that one song (all of them) by The Browning SUCKS.

Metal Monday #12

Not what you were expecting.

From the very first note, this album draws you in. The minimalist piano + voice combo can be considered cliché, but the progression of the chords makes it sound magical. The very first two notes are a V I resolution, a perfect authentic cadence. PAC’s are usually at the end of songs, but using it right at the start makes you want more.

Haken has taken a turn in their direction. Their first album was pretty bland progressive metal, sweeps in the Phrygia mode odd time signatures blah blah, but here they take what they know and do it well. The melodies on the album are so strong that they can be sung along to, the instrumentals are often so minimalist that you notice even the smallest subtleties. Usually I like chaotic and fast, but this album is so simple, and its message is simple (hint:album art), I think anyone can enjoy it.

This is another band that really changed their creative direction on this album. This, this is djent, 100% djent,which isn’t that big of a jump from melodic metalcore, but a turn that wasn’t evident in their old work to me. You may remember from a different post my feelings on djent, and the word djent, but this is what I think djent actually is, not what people have begun to believe it is. I can’t get over that they now sound almost exactly like this band:

but in a more infantile state. I think my decision is I like both, but Humanities Last Breathe needs to continue to improve on this new sound and – like I always say – give it character.

Listening With Our Eyes (the importance of image in the music industry)

Capitalism, the economic system our country attempts to use, is based on competition. In theory, each consumer makes decisions based on what is the best value for them, so only the best value products succeed and therefore the companies who make them. This isn’t really what happens anymore, now people want things because of marketing. Take the example of Apple products; many people dislike this company because of their incredible ability to market their products, while not keeping up with current competing technologies. In theory, a person would go to the cell phones shop, determine which phone for a certain price point has the most features and most advanced hardware. What happens is a person sees an ad for an iPhone on TV, sees their friends with iPhones, and then wants an iPhone regardless of the quality of the competitors’ products. Marketing has the power to make people want things without them actually understanding what they are buying, because in ads they look cool. Both Samsung and Apple are responsible for this, but the point is people want things because of how they look. This causes capitalism to not be about making the best product, but instead to make the best looking product and then to market it more effectively than the competition.

But music is not something you can see, how do you effectively market music in a global market?

Just like the iPhone, you have got to have a killer image.

Katy Perry is a staple example of a girl who got eaten by the pop music industry. An example of a product that was good, but not marketed correctly.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katy_Hudson_%28album%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_of_the_Boys_%28Katy_Perry_album%29

She goes from Christian rock to “I Kissed A Girl,” which the according to the bible would be punishable by an eternity in hell. I’m not going to make this a religious argument, but Katy Hudson was willing to give up her Christianity themed music to sing about partying and being a sexy young white girl in America. Her music isn’t anywhere near the raunchiest in the pop industry, I think she has made it one of her points to stay relatively clean due to her faith, but it is a guise. It’s a costume. Katy Perry wanted to be successful her whole life she just didn’t know how until she met the right people. She was always talented, but she wasn’t famous until she was marketed in a sexual, fun-girl archetype.

It’s about the image. People don’t buy the iPhone because of the processing power or the customizability; they buy it because of the sleek design and easy to use interface. People don’t buy music because it has good use of cadences or the key changes and time signatures, they buy music because of the image of the artist on the front of it. Every adolescent girl wants to be a sexy empowered girl who just likes to have fun, and remember who it is that buys this music…

Unfortunately, many metal artists also front an image to sell their records. It isn’t exclusive to pop music, it’s just not as obvious elsewhere.

In my post titled ‘Putting It Djently’ I talked about bands trying to play in a certain style without actually liking it or being good at it. This builds on their image. Many aspiring fans look for bands similar to X, if they ever look at all. To get a record deal, you have got to have the image they want.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Siberian_Metal_Band_WELICORUSS.jpg

http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/143/0/c/so___many____metal_band_logos__by_zippmotionless-d50wfy4.jpg

http://fontanadaily.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/lag_childreno_300rgb.jpg

http://img.unab.us/2011/11/Amon-Amarth.jpg

http://www.muzu.tv/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/dream_theater.jpg

Maybe it is obvious now.
The more tattoos and peircings helps your case a lot, also having hair at least passed your shoulders and wearing only black shirts with other metal bands on them. Never smile either. Some of these bands make great music, but for a metal head to take them seriously they have to look like this, otherwise they are frauds and will never find a place in the music library.

I’m not making any accusations, I’m not saying artists only portray themselves a certain way to obtain money(ok some do), but this goes on in every genre. Indie artists have some weird haircut or style, EDM artists dress ordinary yet classy, rap artists dress in a way that totally enforces racial stereotypes, it’s almost as if these artists all have the exact same persona as every other artist they share a genre/label with. That’s the image they want. Artists, along with record labels, want to portray themselves the way they want their music to be heard. They are targeting a specific type of audience.

Can we stop please?

The technology available to us today allows mass distribution of media, and unfortunately as humans we are visual people.  It will always be easier to get someone’s attention with what they see. To get them to actually listen to something they have to click the play button, but why click play when before the thought to click on something ever enters your mind your eyes are flooded with images of artists. It takes milliseconds for our brain to interpret an image, but to get the idea of a song we would have to listen for at least a few seconds, probably longer. The music industry is capitalizing on the ease of getting content to someone’s brain with images, not with the actual music.

Can’t it be about the music again?

I get it, its capitalism. The best marketed product wins, and our eyes are the easiest entrance to our head. In theory, the most talented, creative, inspired, whatever artist should sell the most records. There’s too much music out there for us to ever know if what we are listening to is in fact the best thing for us, so capitalism will never truly work the way it is supposed to. The only thing we can do is try to listen to as much as possible before deciding what our music tastes truly are.

As they say, looks can be deceiving.

http://www.peta2.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/dillinger_ad_72.jpg