Andrew Debates… Episode I

In which I read your opinions, questions, and hot takes, and respond to them.

Today, I’m going to be doing something a little different. I’ve attempted to cultivate some audience interaction, and today I’m going to be addressing any hot takes, opinions, or questions that you sent me over Twitter. I hope to do this segment on a bi-monthly basis. If you’re interested in submitting an opinion, follow my page on Twitter @andrews_reviews, and when I next post a request for hot takes and question, that will be your opportunity to do so. With that said, let’s get right into it!

@Jackamacka1 writes: “Kiss>Emotion”

No.

Or, if I want to actually be constructive, the reason why I don’t think that Kiss is better than E•MO•TION is primarily due to the production. Tonight I’m Getting Over You, for example, isn’t a bad song, but it would’ve been so much stronger were it clearly not attempting to capitalize on the dubstep trend of 2012. E•MO•TION, three years down the road, feels far more timeless and generally accessible, whereas Kiss feels very much like a product of its time. It’s also, for the most part, weaker lyrically. Though not without its merits, such as Your Heart Is A Muscle, the rather immature tone of songs such as Guitar String / Wedding Ring or This Kiss can’t be discounted, and E•MO•TION was very much an improvement in that area as well.

@9fish_ writes: “Heartless is top 2 Kanye”

Yes.

@lilyisbestgirl writes: “Jess Glynne really is not that good. She isn’t a bad artist or anything, just rather generic and uninteresting.”

While she’s far from being my favourite pop artist, I did like I Cry When I Laugh a fair bit. I think she’s got a lot of potential – it just remains to be seen how she decides to utilize her gifts moving forward.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself was pop perfection, though.

@boardwalk99: “Pop music is mostly shit outside of nostalgia blindness.”

This submission was later clarified with additional context – referring to the Billboard Year End Hot 100 charts, and not the entire genre as a whole, so I will be addressing that argument based on that context.

I don’t really feel that the same arguments that one can make about actual artists can be applied to the charts, because the charts aren’t albums, they’re merely a look into what the American public happened to be listening to a lot of at that point in time. When you have opinions coming in from such a diverse range of sources, obviously you’re going to get a very mixed bag in terms of quality, and so I don’t really feel comfortable making this kind of judgement, anymore than I would about the top films or top books of a given time. It should be more about the quality of the actual work, rather than whatever arbitrary category it happens to fall into. After all, if Swang and Black Beatles and Look At Me! And Tunnel Vision and every other horrific trap rap song of the last while failed to get any traction, that wouldn’t make them less terrible, would it?

@popmusiconions writes: “Jack Antonoff is like George Lucas (in the Mr. Plinkett view), great with collaborators, but bad when he’s left to his own devices.”

My opinion is the mirror opposite. I absolutely love Bleachers – both Strange Desire and Gone Now are among the finest pop albums out there – but Antonoff’s work with other artists has been hit or miss at best. Melodrama was entirely fine, but I really wasn’t in love with what was happening on a lot of Reputation, even as compared with his previous work on 1989. That album worked because synthpop is very much a genre that Antonoff excels in. Downbeat depression trap pop? Not so much. I don’t think it’s appropriate to entirely blame him for that result, mind you, as he did mention in an interview that he writes with artists, not for artists, and that at the end of the day it is their vision that is being executed. I just wish Taylor Swift’s vision wasn’t the sonic equivalent of an apocalyptic wasteland.

Carly Rae Jepsen has apparently done some writing with him on her new album, so I do hope that that collaboration ends up seeing the light of day – they’re both geniuses, and they could do something really magnificent together. For the most part, though, Bleachers is by far the best thing that Antonoff can bring to the table.

Mind you, I’d take him over Max Martin or Pharrell any day.

Let the cheesy synths roll!

@lunatic_josh writes: “asking experimental music to be good is missing the point. basically the idea behind experimental music is it’s trying something new and challenging what you know about music. it can be good or bad, it’s a flip of a coin, but even bad experimental music is valuable because it’s a failed experiment. asking all experimental music to be good is treating it like all other music rather than an experiment. If it’s good that’s even better, but…”

Before I address this opinion itself, I feel like it would be a good idea to establish what exactly “experimental” music is. I feel like, in a lot of online discussions, the word has become synonymous with Death Grips’ flavour of experimental, and, in your author’s view, unlistenable hip hop – and I do admit that I myself have contributed to this way of thinking in days past. Truthfully, though, any time an artist tries something new or out of their comfort zone, it’s an “experiment”, and as such I have no problems with that idea inherently, regardless of the quality of the end product. Lights’ attempt to write a dynamic pop song structured around a single chord with Portal was very successful, whereas Paramore’s attempt at fusing their brand of synthpop with spoken word bits on No Friend was considerably less so.

When it comes to your take specifically, however, I feel like the argument becomes less about whether experimental music is valuable because it’s an experiment, and more so about the opinions that its proponents, and detractors, hold. You are correct, and that’s why I haven’t been too harsh on No Friend, or any other attempts from my favourite acts to try something new. I don’t always like the way it turned out, but I do respect their ambition, and the fact that they were trying something new.

Similarly, I myself can’t stand Death Grips, but I’m not trying to detract from their innovation – I am content with them existing in the music sphere because there is clearly an audience for their work, cutting edge or not, I just don’t happen to be in it. But what one must realize is that not everyone’s perception of music is the same. Some people don’t value cutting edge hip hop, noise music, or any other generally inaccessible sounds. Some people don’t value pop music that follows a tried and true musical structure. Neither of these opinions are wrong, but when you start attacking people for holding those opinions, that’s when the discussion falls apart. Me disliking harsh, acidic sounding music has nothing to do with me missing the point of the experimentation, it’s just not a sound that I enjoy in any way, and I express those opinions accordingly.

@TweetManBrandon writes: “Pop-punk, trap, and indie rock (the 3 most controversial genres today) all have a tendency toward being decent to good, with some bad albums and 2 or 3 greats ones. Most of the decent to good ones are super generic”

I don’t really think I’m the right person to address this, because of these three genres, the only one that I have a similar opinion on as you is pop punk. I can’t stand trap or indie rock, but I have found your evaluation to be true of pop punk. Decent to good is how I would describe most of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance’s career, the bad projects would be those coming from bands like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte, and the great albums would be Paramore’s Riot! and Brand New Eyes. Paramore are basically half the reason I’d feel compelled to defend the genre in any way at all.

@SteelTrooper123 writes: “Where do you think Paramore will take their sound next (for future albums)? Will they continue the ’80s/new wave sound from After Laughter or will they go back to their roots?”

Honestly? I think at this point it’s far too early to tell. With bands like Fall Out Boy, it is somewhat easier to predict the direction their career will head in as both of their previous albums felt, in retrospect, like they were building up to the disastrous sonic landscape of Mania – and that’s why I wasn’t excited for that album in the slightest, because it only seemed logical that they would go in the direction that they did.

What makes Paramore different is that a lot of the musical directions they go in appear to be influenced by external events that happen to the band. The follow-up to brand new eyes would’ve likely been more of the same, but between 2009 and 2013, Josh Farro, the band’s primary songwriter left, and took his style with him. As a result, the remaining band members had to step up to the plate. Taylor York had previously spoken of his affinity for new wave bands, so the self-titled record, and After Laughter, channeled a lot of that type of sound. Ultimately I think it depends on the personnel that will remain with the band going forward – if Taylor York were to leave, I think we’d see another sonic shake-up, but without that catalyst I think Paramore have found their comfortable niche in new wave.

@spaceagemixtape writes: “Some people aren’t that passionate about music – they just want to have fun and dance to what’s on the radio, and we shouldn’t judge them for that. If a song/artist is popular, there’s obviously a reason for it, and it’s lazy and immature to say that reason is “people are stupid.”

Elitism and gatekeeping are two of the worst things you could possibly do as a fan of a certain medium, be it movies, music, TV or whatever. As much as I am passionate about music, and I do hold my music to a certain standard, I absolutely agree that those standards are not, and should not, be applicable across the board – as I’ve discussed before, different people have different values, and expecting them to conform to your belief system is wrong. You have nothing to gain from policing how people choose to consume the music in their life.

@AlabaqQ writes: “Do you think PC music is the future of pop music?”

Unless a PC Music song manages to break into the mainstream, I highly doubt it. That might be a sound that is pursued more aggressively in the future in the underground, but as far as mainstream pop goes, I really don’t think it’s at that point yet – if it ever will be. I could see a more accessible song like Danny L. Harle’s Supernatural having a niche appeal in the mainstream, but Charli XCX’s I Got It would be a hard sell to radio listeners.

@iconic_critic writes: “Radiohead makes sadder music than Sufjan Stevens.”

Radiohead’s poor quality music, and their near-universal critical acclaim, does make me far sadder than anything Sufjan Stevens has ever done or anything that has ever been said about him, so technically you’re right.

@TheWalrusCaesar writes: “I don’t agree with the notion that you can’t get angry at a particular song or album. I completely agree that it’s ridiculous to get personally angry at the artist or trash those who like it, but otherwise it works well to portray comedy and or hatred for that thing. There’s definitely a way to overdue it but sometimes anger, as long as it’s shown that it’s not seriously affecting you, can be warranted.”

I absolutely agree. If the anger is genuine, and you’re actually losing control of yourself, it’s more horrifying than anything, but if it’s being done for comedic purposes, it’s a non-issue.

@IrratixMusic writes: “I think many people underappreciate the importance of well-produced drums in music nowadays. Especially in 2017 I felt like almost no pop musician was paying attention to percussion.”

Absolutely agreed. This was actually one of the few areas where I was a bit disappointed by Paramore’s After Laughter, because I absolutely loved the drum percussion on Riot! I didn’t realize it initially, but I was similarly taken by how crisp the drums sounded on Paramore, but because that was a sub-conscious feeling, I ascribed that crispness to Zac Farro’s work, and when it was announced that he would be drumming on After Laughter, I was looking forward to a return of that type of sound.

That unfortunately didn’t happen – while he is skilled at drumming, make no mistake, ultimately I felt that the drum production was far too mellow, and didn’t really allow the percussion on very many of the songs to breathe freely. I definitely notice that this seems to have been a trend as of late, so I hope in 2018 we’ll move away from that.

@HectorG_M5 writes: “Cardi B is massively overrated.”

I’m still not entirely sure what she offers that Nicki Minaj doesn’t.

@spaceagemixtape writes: “Empowerment songs get way too much hate, more than they deserve. Some of those can really help people and boost their self-confidence. Granted, they don’t work for everyone, but are we really faulting an artist for having good intentions? And people who feel empowered through it?”

If people can find the value in an empowerment song, all the power to them, I’m not trying to take that away from them. Similarly, if an artist has good intentions, and isn’t creating the song to cash in on a boom, that’s notable as well. However, I really wish that anyone trying their hand at the genre would try to put a bit more detail and thought into the lyrics. It’s why tracks like Eminem’s Lose Yourself work as well as they do – because they add detail about the writer’s life, and aren’t just a collection of empty, meaningless cliches.

@esso_on_twit writes:

“Question: What are some genres you think will get more popular in the near future?

Opinion: Melodrama is one of the best pop albums of the decade.

Hot Take: FOB have always been grossly overrated and have never made a consistently good or even decent album.”

Question: I think that we’re at a weird crossroads in the mainstream right now, so predicting music trends is going to be difficult. For my part, the lesser amount of conventional pop songs that got big last year, and the rise of trap rap, leads me to suspect we are going to see a wider selection of hip hop get big in the coming years, and less standard pop songs, but that’s about as much as I feel comfortable predicting.

Opinion: It’s entirely fine, but one of the best? Nah. It wasn’t even the best project that Jack Antonoff was involved on in 2017.

Hot Take: If you were talking in the 2010s, I’d agree, but 2000s Fall Out Boy were pretty good. Not great, mind you, but they were a consistently solid band pre-hiatus.

That’s all the points I’m addressing today. Be sure to stay tuned to my Twitter feed for the next time I canvass for opinions!

One thought on “Andrew Debates… Episode I

  1. Great post!!! I can’t wait to see what this series will entail. I agree with lunatic_josh to an extent, I can’t fully hate (or even just hate) anything I find “experimental.” It’s why I still recommend Björk even I like none of her songs. Can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

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