19 September 2013

The Long Halloween Vol. IV: Simpsons Edition - Talk Like a Pirate Day

We're at the end of a very long rope. For the past four years for some reason, Norwegian Morning Wood has paired the greatest Holidays of each month with the most appropriate food, movies, and TV specials to watch and enjoy. When we (quickly) ran out of mainstream holidays, we opted for super-obscure moments like Hermit Day and Puzzle Day. After that, we just ran through The Simpsons. Starring with Halloween, we've explored the following episodes:

October - Hurricane Sandy: "Hurricane Neddy" (S8;E8)
October - Halloween: Treehouse of Horror Ranking
November - Thanksgiving: "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" (S2;E7)
December - Christmas: "Marge Be Not Proud" (S7;E11)
January - New Year's Day: "Itchy & Scratchy Land" (S6;E4), "Trouble with Trillions" (S9;E20), "Treehouse of Horror X" (S11;E4)
February - Valentine's Day: "I Love Lisa" (S4;E15)
March - St. Patty's Day: "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" (S8;E18)
April - April Fool's Day: "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" (S4;E18)
April - Spring Break: "Bart on the Road" (S7;E20)
May -  Whacking Day: "Whacking Day" (S4;E20)
June - Flag Day: "Much Apu About Nothing" (S7;E23)"
July - Independence Day: "Summer of 4 ft 2" (S7;E25)
August - Roman Holiday: "Stark Raving Dad" (S3;E1), "Grade School Confidential" (S8;E19), "Rosebud" (S5;E44)
September - Talk Like a Pirate Day: "The Mansion Family" (S11;E12)

So yes, on two months we covered multiple Holidays / Episodes, including a Hurricane. Despite this, we ignored "Mother Simpson" (S7;E8) for Mother's Day. Or "Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" (S6;E10) for Father's Day. There were also a few months where multiple episodes fit the theme and others where we really just ran with the first thought that came into our heads. The whole list is admittedly wacky. And we certainly didn't set out to bring in half the episodes from either Seasons 4 or 7.
Oh yeah, and Britney Spears
is in this episode for no reason

So today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. For that reason we're highlighting a small part of the Season 11 episode, "The Mansion Family," where Homer, Bart, and a gaggle of male Springfield partiers are captured by Chinese Pirates on the High Seas. "The Mansion Family" is very much one of those episodes that showed up more in Seasons 11 and 12 that signaled a transition in the humour style of The Simpsons. The jokes come fast and super-nutty, often without much context or ramification. It's the Family Guy-ification of the show. There are still some high spots, though.

In general, the high spots come from this rapid-fire plot progression. Instead of a convoluted path to inheriting Burns' mansion, Burns handpicks Homer as that "bumbling idiot that screws everything up all the time" because Burns figures he's due to succeed. There's also a monkey knife fight ("Oh ho! He ain't pretty no more!" "Furious George!"), Tyson v. Secretariat ("Slaughter in the Water"), and Homer riding around drunk on a lawnmower though the halls of Burns' mansion.

A lot of the goofiness comes from the family adapting to Burns' Manor ("I believe you use that fork to scratch your arse."). From the mysterious guy in the safe that Bart Cracks to the innocuous Triceratops Head on the wall, the house is full of craziness that flies by rapidly. Looking back, it's still pretty funny, but it's certainly a shift away from the high concept years of Seasons 6 - 8 and the heavily character and family based years of 1 - 5.

On the other side we see Burns getting checked out at the Mayo Clinic and just how sick he is. My personal favourite moment comes real fast as he's going up and down this little escalator ("I'm a big boy.") There's just this overall level of weirdness everywhere, including some painful Smithers moments ("Do you know how many eggs it laid in your brain?" "This monkey is going to need most of your skin."). These quotes don't really seem Simpson-esque at first; although they contain the wit of earlier episodes in some cases they're also heavy non sequitors.
Lenny's a heavy favourite.

Oh yeah, the pirates. Homer takes the party out to International Waters so Moe can sell them beer earlier on a Sunday. Naturally, the gang is attacked by Pirates, who are Chinese but sort of dressed like Johnny Depp. This was a bit before Somalian Pirates became all the rage, and it has no real comment on modern piracy other than the perils of being on the bottom of half a big net of people dropped into the ocean.

So that's it. That's The Long Halloween. Forever. We may be highlighting some future great moments, but we'll throw any kind of structure to the wind. From here on out, anything goes. You cared.

04 September 2013

First Impressions: The World's End

At the end of Summer we were treated to a film chronicling the End of the World - well, another one, anyway. Do not fret, though, because Edgar Wrights's The Worlds's End (2013) is an animal wholly distinct from It's a Disaster (2012), Rapture-Palooza (2013) or This is The End (2013). I swear. It's really a tale of weary middle-aged friendships, drinking night adventures, and yes, World Domination by Robots. SPOILERS from here on out, folks, so turn back now.

There are many contexts with which to read this film because it straddles so many genres and has a handful of close contemporaries. It's still one of the more original films this summer and one of the best comedies of the year (I might give the cake to its apocalyptic rival, This is The End, though). Let's take that lens, first:

Who Knew the End of the World Could be so Funny?
"You got blue on you."

Perhaps it's all 2012 Conspiracy Leftovers, but there has been a glut of End of Days comedy films as of late. The highest profile of these was this Summer's This is The End, which we reviewed over here. After the title and basic global-destroying premise, though, the films are very different. Both, however, use that premise as a tool to explore some other theme involving friendship and disillusionment. This is The End primarily explored a pair of friends, one of whom had "sold out" to Hollywood while skewering and riffing on the public personae of just about every young comedian working in the movies today. The World's End also focuses on a pair of friends who have grown apart, one of which seems trapped in nostalgia for yesteryear, while the other has tried to move on with his life. It's also about the inherent weirdness that comes with heading back to one's hometown after years away. Some things are the same, some things are different, but Wright quite literally transposes that unsettling feeling into a town taken over by Robots, or "Blanks" as the film calls them.

Despite these similarities, the styles of each film vary so wildly that they aren't really comparable. This is The End is steeped in jizz and rape jokes (typically demonic) all driven by intense meta-humour. It's also a very isolated film that takes place almost solely in James Franco's house, and serves as a tribute and a reunion of modern Apatovian growing cult hits like Superbad (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008). While The World's End pays tribute in expected ways to fellow Cornetto Trilogy insallments Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), it's driven by Wright's trademark wit, symbolism, foreshadowing, and fast-paced crazy action.

I'll Take a Mint Cornetto

For those who somehow don't know, the Cornetto Trilogy refers to a slew of similar films all directed by Edgar Wright and featuring actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, among many more (Such as Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy who keep showing up). Each film really serves as both parody and homage to a given genre. Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant horror film that also parodies horror films. Hot Fuzz does the same with action flicks. The World's End sets its sights on sci-fi and again knocks it out of the park.

Every bit of The World's End fires strong. It's impressive that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost nearly switch personalities from Shaun of the Dead, which featured Pegg as the slacker trying to right his life and Frost as the oafish and slovenly buddy going no where. In The World's End Pegg is allowed to chew scenery like a madman as Gary King, and his devotion to insanity makes him one of the better characters in recent cinematic memory. Frost this time plays an uptight best friend who does eventually cut loose, but still harbours a bit of resentment towards the King. Rounding out the friends on their epic quest to conquer the Golden Mile through Newton Haven are Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan.

One of the more notable features of the Cornetto Trilogy is the subtle yet steamingly accurate foreshadowing of the entire plot. This was used to great effect in Shaun of the Dead, and to some extent in Hot Fuzz. The World's End, however, goes completely bonkers with this. Not only does the pack's Night Out directly mirror Gary King's initial telling of their fateful evening in 1990, but the whole trip is foreshadowed through the names of each Pub. Now, after scouring the Internet for possible meanings, here's what I've come up with:

Naturally, this is merely the first stop of the night and not much goes on here. There is much to be gleamed from the sign, however. As Jessica Johnston cleverly noticed over here (in the comments section), there is a Red Mailbox with a Letter A on it set apart. It's almost assuredly meant to stand for "Andy," the one character who drinks only a water at the Pub while the rest drink beers. The rest of the friends, therefore, are the Post (Gary, holding everyone together) and its three arrows, which represent the different paths that everyone else will journey down (like becoming robots).

At a glance The Old Familiar is obvious - it's identical to The First Post, quite familiar indeed. It's also the site where the gang first meets up with Sam (Rosamund Pike), the sister of Oliver (Martin Freeman), who both Gary and Steven (Paddy Considine) are interested in. In 1990 it's where Gary got "familiar" with her, which he's recollecting and attempting to emulate here, but to no avail. The sign is two beers close to each other, which represents not only the similarity to the first pub, a natural doubling effect, but also the desire of many of the characters here to get close to someone else.

The Famous Cock is of course Gary, who was thrown out of this place in 1990 and remains barred from entry. This is the first time Gary and company are recognized and their fame from their earlier crawl is acknowledged. Gary tends to be a real cock here, strutting around and sneaking drinks while no one is looking. The sign may not seem like much but when have you ever seen a rooster where boots like that? It's Gary. This poster also suggests that Gary's previous rendezvous with Sam implies that he literally has a "famous cock." Clever, but Sam isn't at this bar.

The Cross Hands is an important one. It's both where a lot of secrets and dark pasts are revealed, from the fact that Gary's mother is still alive, Peter (Eddie Marsan) is approached innocuously by the man who used to beat him up, and most threatening of all, the revelation that Evil Robots walk among us. Some out there suggest that this is called the Cross Hands because it's where the first fight takes place and where all the friends work together, as well as describing the grabbing method of attack preferred by the Blanks. I imagine, though, that this is more where the friends are upset with each other (cross), and the grip is not that of a friendly handshake but as an irritated by necessarily partnership. Also looking at the sign, it's smeared with Blue for the first time, indicating a Blank Fight. The blue covers two of the five hands, foreshadowing that two of the group will eventually be replaced. The clearly visible wedding ring, though, ought to be long to Peter, who should be one of the Blue Hands. Any theories on this one would be welcome.

In order to keep up appearances, the five friends trot merrily through the streets. The sign is one smiling face and four frowning faces, which is perhaps the clearest summation of this whole film and particularly this moment, where Gary up front and center is the only one enjoying himself while the others "mask" their terror. Ho Ho.

Here's another one with a few meanings. The Servant in question could mean Reverand Green, Gary's old drug dealer who is now forced into collusion with the Blanks. It could also refer to Oliver, who is abducted at this time (mirroring how far he got in 1990) and becomes in essence a double agent for the Blanks. It's notable that in the sign there are only four beers visible, signifying that one friend was lost. Or considering how much talk goes on here of how the word "robot" originally meant slave, perhaps it's referring to the fact that the desire of the robot conquerors isn't malevolent, but rather to help humanity. OR it could be ironic, considering that the humans must serve the robot slaves rather than the other way around. There's lots to go on here. Definitive theories in the comments are welcome.

I probably shouldn't spend too much time dwelling on the fact that in proper grammar it should be The Two-Headed Dog. It's likely a reference to the Twins, who appear here with Sam. They're both virtually two heads of the same person, having identical personalities and voices, as well as duplicitous characters, secretly Blanks. This same logic can apply to Oliver, who know being a Blank himself, is also a "Two Headed Dog." The sign is again smeared blue, indicating another scrap with the Blanks.

Here Mermaids are used like they were used in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and probably folklore, as Sirens that lure men to their doom. The Pub is really a dance hall and the boys are tempted by the Marmalade Sandwich (a redhead and two blondes from 1990 who haven't really aged) except for Steven, who saves them in Odyssean Glory. The sign perfectly captures the aforementioned Marmalade Sandwich.

Note that the sign indicates that this is The Beehive Free House, which is either ironic, considering the Blanks' plan to assimilate the Gang, or refers to the fact that the pub is free place for the Blanks themselves to gather. It's definitely a place of swarming and stinging, where Pierce Brosnan really plays the Queen, leading all the other Blanks in thoughtful discussion, then a brawl with the Humans. The Blanks show off their Hive Mind, and Pierce talks about the great things they're building together. Like a Hive. Get it? Blue on the sign means there's plenty of spilled ink.

The bloke on the sign really looks exactly like Simon Pegg, and it's another clear reference to Gary King. It could be taken as a chance to get inside Gary's head and motivations, which he resists, or a very direct reference to how Gary repeatedly pounds his head on a beam in the derelict pub to prove he's hardier than a Blank. Its horrible state could also be a reflection of Gary - a great, bumping place in the 90s is now abandoned, falling part, and forgotten. There are also a bit of flames here, perhaps meaning that the Blanks are closing in.

A single pint in the sign with plenty of blue smudges - you ought to be figuring this out yourself now! Gary scrapes together his point after regaining consciousness while his mates fend off Blanks. This part of the crawl ends with Steven literally ramming his car into the side of the building, creating a huge hole in the wall.

This is it. It's called The World's End because the world literally ends here. Caput. The sign is really engulfed in fire and the word is burning, seemingly stemming from Europe - if only the sign maker had made it any other continent we may have been spared...

Have a Drink on Me!

Lastly, I wanted to address this film's context among other drinking films. There seems to be a lot of these running around lately, starting with Beerfest (2006) and working towards two great and one horrendous Hangover movie. While Beerfest delights itself in showcasing drinking games and team friendship bonding in juvenile yet hilarious terms, The World's End places the friendship and characters front in center and sidelines the booziness, despite it being a critical plot point. The Hangover (2009) forever serves as an immortal drinking comedy mostly because it dealt with the extreme aftereffects of an extreme party rather than the party itself. It's still about a bunch of blokes out on the town, though.

The World's End differs though, because none of the characters are originally that despicable (besides Gary). Gary isn't quite the overt man-child that Zach Galifianakis' Alan Garner is, he's just tragically stuck trying to relive a night that never quite happened. He can't get over the loss of his friends moving on or realize any kind of potential because he's continually trapped in what he perceives as the greatest time of his life. Without any discernible skill besides chaos, he's actually more at home riding out the Apocalypse with Blank Versions of his Best Mates than doing anything else with his life.

While we have our party drinking movies and our hangover movies, The World's End is very specifically a pub crawl movie, which is kind of rare. It's about actually going to bars, which is somehow a little bit more mature than playing beer pong or stealing tigers. Listen, the bar is admittedly pretty low here. It ends up being a pretty distinct entry into the End of the World Comedy genre, the Drinking Movie Genre, and even the Cornetto Trilogy genre. There isn't a better way to end the summer, or our lives.

03 September 2013

Summer Jam 2013: THE ANNUNCIATION!

Summer has finally come to a close. With that, it's time to recount the biggest musical hits of the season, which we cataloged every week in our Summer Jam Winner's List. I'm not sure why I'm so obsessed with Summer Jams. To some extent it's just about finding that perfect encapsulation of a zeitgeist - a time capsule with which to look back and say "Yeah, that was my soundtrack while this was going on in my life." I've only seriously kept track of the past seven Summer Jams (jeez, really?), so let's first remember those Chamipions.

2007: "Umberellaella" by Rihanna
2008: "Keep Bleeding in Love" by Leona Lewis
2009: "I Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas
2010: "California Gurls" by Katy Perry
2011: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO
2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

One track from 2013 will join the ranks of all these immortal songs. Actually none of them are really immortal (when's the last time you even heard "Party Rock Anthem"?). Logging Summer Jams is about purposely creating a process to facilitate nostalgia. After I tracked a tremendous amount of Jams all Summer long I logged them all in a spreadsheet and awarded points for different placements. Let's first go over some Bonus Winners - Jams that were pretty significant, but couldn't quite break away this Summer. Included are the dates the song was feature on our list:

"Cups" by Anna Kendrick - 06/03 & 07/15
"Crazy Kids" by Ke$ha ft. will.i.am - 06/10 & 07/01
"Applause" by Lady GaGa - 08/19 - 09/02
"Holy Grail" by Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake - 08/05 & 08/26
"The Way" by Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller - 05/26, 07/08-07/15
"I Don't Care" by Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX - 05/13, 06/10 - 06/24
"Clarity" by Zedd ft. Foxes - 08/05 - 08/19
"Stay" by Rihanna - 05/13 - 05/20, 06/03
"Just Give Me a Reason" by P!nk ft. Nate Ruess - 05/13 - 05/20, 06/03 - 06/10

Okay - enough fartin' around - here are the heavy hitters who kept us jammin' all summer long:

Coronary Issues: "Heart Attack" by Demi Lovato
Weeks on the List: 4 (05/27 - 06/17)
Peak: #1 on 06/03

Don't fret - this jam is just as earsplitting as ever. It still boggles my mind that Demi is a judge of other young people's vocal talents on The X Factor while she demonstrates here her clear lack of talent. That's not to say she hasn't had fine songs in the past, but she butchered this one. "Heart Attack" flashed really big around the month of June, but then fizzled out for the rest of Summer. I do still dig the way she delivers that basketball line, though, and I get sort of enraptured in the really weird ink-based video that makes no sense at all. In regards to ink-based videos this summer, Maroon 5's "Love Somebody" was a bit more creative.

Chernobyl Diaries: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
Weeks on the List: 6 (05/13, 06/24, 07/15 - 07/29, 08/26)
Peak: #3 on 05/13, 06/24, and 07/29

Apparently the key to a Monster Summer Jam is a good pair of eyes, a crazy booming drum, and a completely crazy music video featuring underground Muppet fighting. While that vid's tone continually shifts between wacky and serious, it was really unique and genuinely interesting to sit through. That's a huge component to successful videos in a sea of the same crap. As for the song itslef, "Radioactive" was the journeyman this summer, one of only two songs on the list to appear at least once every month except for September, as well as nearly earning the distinction of appearing in the first and final week (it will have to settle for Week 1 and Week 16). It traded its consistency for never really igniting during a week, and for that reason its peak was only ever at #3 (which it did a month apart, each time). Therefore while it was never an especially hot track, it was always somewhere in the conversation.

Nugget of Yesteryear: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars
Weeks on the List: 6 (07/08 - 07/22, 08/05, 08/26 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 07/22

I once had high hopes for "Treasure" becoming the Summer Jam, but it will have to settle for its position here. It really flashed hot in July in the heart of Summer, but then petered out a bit in August. Just at the end of the Season though, it seemed to flash again, but to no avail. The Season was over, and so were Bruno's chances of being the King of Summer. The video is super-nostalgic though, if not a bit derivative of the gimmick used in Snoop Dogg's "Sexual Eruption" a few years back. Still, Bruno's Jam is way funky, and will remain a treasure for years to come. Wha-hey.

Gay Anthem of Summer: "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert
Weeks on the List: 6 (06/10, 06/24, 07/08 - 07/15, 07/29, 08/19)
Peak: #1 on 07/08

This is probably the most important song of the summer, and a credit to Macklemore for putting his faith behind a Jam that could be heavily criticized in the Rap Community. He even addresses that kind of homophobic culture in his native genre in the second verse. While the track's subject matter is significant and an important step forward to widespread acceptance of differing sexual orientations, the song itself really isn't that great. Mary Lambert tends to kill it on the chorus, but Mack has been much tighter in his other monster smashes this year. While this song came in and out of the countdown a great deal, it never quite pushed over the edge because it's more of a contemplative story song than a thumping jam song. That's really a better way to get its message across anyway, though. It is also notable that I picked this as the Hot Jam of the Week for Week 5.

Douche Anthem of Summer: "Cruise (REMIX)" by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly
Weeks on the List: 7 (5/27, 6/10 - 07/01, 07/22 - 07/29)
Peak: #3 on 06/10

The fact that "Cruise" even exists still kind of boggles my mind. I'm somewhat surprised that the eloquent Country / Hip-Hop Crossover wasn't a huge hit, which tends to happen more and more with Country Acts that break into mainstream pop. While there were contingents of both Rap and Country fans who dug this, the gap just couldn't be bridged. It was strange each week as this fought with the thoughtful, contemplative "Same Love," and more and more, "Cruise" just felt out of place. It's almost a bygone song where you could stuff a lot of beautiful babes in your video and get away with a lot of male gaze. There is however, of course, one song on this list that would completely contradict the notion that this kind of misogyny is outdated. As a proud member of the Rap-loving side of that gap, though, I did dig this song (I added it to my list of country songs I can stomach, where it joined only "Low Places"). And who doesn't want to cruise around with their windows down all summer?

Make Me Smiley: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus
Weeks on the List: 8 (6/17, 07/08, 07/22 - 08/12, 08/26 - 09/02)
Peak: #2 on 07/22 - 08/05, 08/26

I always find myself at a loss for words when trying to describe this beast. "We Can't Stop" would be such a drop in the pond for a Ke$ha or even its original artist, Rihanna. Miley took this chance to completely shred her cutesy little girl image, though, and to desperately prove that she's cool and edgy. She comes off as just that - someone trying far too hard to grow up fast and jump in on the pressures of being a slut in Hollywood. You've got to wonder where her guidance is, because surely Billy Ray isn't doing a thing for his daughter but give her free license to print all the money she wants at any expense of dignity or class. Like I said though, no one would give a shit if it was Ke$ha doing this shit, and in fact Ke$ha did to the "White Girl Emulating Black Culture for Fun" thing with "Crazy Kids." See, they're in the same boat. This video is completely boffo, I'm not sure if there's really any merit to it and if anything it's fairly offensive culturally, but not really sexually. The sexuality of it seems confused, like Miley is basing her sluttiness out of some preconceived expectation rather than something genuinely hers like a GaGa would do. Anyway, whatever her rationale is, it's working - this jam was huge this summer and stands in sharp contrast to Carly Rae Jepsen of yesteryear. It could never quite breach the #1 spot, but it was a solid first mate for most of the heart of summer.

Try to Pin 'Em Down: "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton
Weeks on the List: 7 (05/13 - 06/17, 07/01)
Peak: #1 on 05/20 - 05/27, 06/10, 07/01

Now we're getting into the heavy hitters. "Can't Hold Us" dominated the early months of Summer, and never fell lower than the #2 spot for its entire run. It fell off in July, which hurts its chances to become the True King of Summer, but it still propelled Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to have a year like The Black Eyed Peas had in 2009, Katy Perry had in 2010 or LMFAO had in 2011. This is arguably their best track, too, with Macklemore spitting rapid fire catchy and clever delivery, a solid varying beat by Ryan Lewis and unknown Ray Dalton filling in all the gaps in the chorus. One thing this duo does really well is find voices for the actual singing parts, and it's always refreshing to hear really good rappers pass the mike instead of trying to sing themselves. The vid is also a true epic, with camels, crazy wolf people, and the coolest beach haircut ever. "Can't Hold Us" hit on every note possible, and if it hadn't broken in March it would have dominated the whole Summer. Nothing can stop these guys. Except a slightly bad second album.

Robot Nation: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell
Weeks on the List: 12 (06/03, 06/17 - 07/08, 07/22 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 07/29 - 08/12

Remember all that stuff I said about how great music videos help the life of a song? Toss it out the window. Daft Punk, whether intentionally or not, set out to put out an incredible track and let it speak for itself. This is about the only song of the whole Summer to carry itself by itself, with nothing to go on but an infectious beat, a funkadelic rhythm, and the irresistible coos of Pharrell. Seriously, it's impossible to get sick of this song. You could play it on repeat at any Summer Party imaginable and it'd become a great party. Stephen Colbert knows it. Simon Pegg knows it. "Get Lucky" hit #1 three weeks in a row, the only Jam the whole Summer to do so. It was also the Hot Jam of the Week for Week 4. Unfortunately though, it spent too much time playing Second Banana to this year's winner, and after it looked like it might make a comeback, it fell off track. Thus we move on to our SUMMER KING:

The Throne is Yours: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I.
Weeks on the List: 13 (05/20, 06/17 - 09/02)
Peak: #1 on 06/17 - 06/24, 07/15, 08/26 - 09/02

Did I say Macklemore was having a good year? I'm sorry, I meant known vampire Pharrell. Did I say you needed to throw crazy Muppets in your video to make it popular? I'm sorry, I meant throw in Emily Ratajkowski. Did I say the failure of "Cruise" to become more mainstream was its inherent misogynistic content? Throw that to the wind. Probably the most controversial King of Summer of all time, "Blurred Lines has some crazy good stats on the List. It appeared on the List for 12 straight weeks, which is five longer than any other challenger. It also appeared in every single month of Summer, and hit #1 in every month but May. It also dropped in Week 2, meaning it nearly had a span of the entire Season. This song was everywhere and there's no doubt that it was the biggest track - THE Summer Jam, the song we'll always treat as synonymous with Summer 2013.

Now, there a couple problems with that. Here's a fairly apt parody that captures how douchey, awkward, and rape-y the track really is. Here's another with a good dose of role reversal. Despite anything that Robin Thicke says about how he's married so it's ok (that line of reasoning didn't work for Tiger Woods) or how the song's sexuality empowers women, it's all bullshit. The track's lyrics strongly support a "no means yes" culture of imbalanced sexual context, and the video is so obsessed with its females as sexual objects it literally places them among the background to be gawked at by males and to be played around with like any of the other props. It's a torrid, condescending affair. Blame the engrossing beat, its iconic style, and yes, maybe its irritating misuse of hashtags, though, and you've got the biggest Jam of Summer.

See you in May...

02 September 2013

Summer Jam Week 17: Adieu

It's been a long, crazy, stupid summer around here folks, but it's finally over. With Labor Day striking and kids trotting off back to school, the joyous raucous of the Months of Sunshine halt as we descend unto Football, Masks, and Turkey. But lest we not forget the hottest jams of the Summer? I think not - for once more into the fray, here are your week's winners:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Control" by Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica

This track has gained some fame for Kendrick's verses where he insults and threatens just about every other rapper out there. It's either a huge sign of his apathy towards mainstream rap beefs or a legitimate "fuck you" to every possible collabo he may find down the line. Either way, I'm inclined to think that Kendrick will be fine - he's got the talent to stay above everyone else, although he doesn't really have the career yet where he can claim to be the greatest ever. Save that for Jay-Z and Kanye.

More Ken: "Street Dreamin'" by Bridget Kelly ft. Kendrick Lamar

Keeping with Kendrick for a second (and we could have certainly included "Give It 2 U" with Robin Thicke), this is a chill little song that made some slight waves this week. Although, is it just me or does Bridget Kelly look like Kimmi the tranny from The Hangover: Part II (2011)? That kind of gives me all kind of weird feelings. Anyway, Kendrick ought to have a nice Labor Day, that is if he's not whacked.

Once More For Luck: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

I may have left this jam off this week if not for the brilliant reading by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost linked above. It's a magnificent interpretation of the Summer Jam, and Pegg seems to be channeling his inner Patrick Stewart to comic effect. If not for this I think despite what appeared to be a nice little run towards the end of Summer, "Get Lucky" will come up just short this week.

Bummer Summer: "Summertime Sadness REMIX" by Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais

This jam deserved more of a chance this summer, even if Lana Del Rey has no interest in being a prototypical pop star, which actually makes her much more interesting to me. Her sheer apathy towards pop stardom is heavily criticized, but that's kind of an insane thing to criticize, right? Why should she care or attempt to make herself presentable or marketable at all? She's fine just crooning out wonky songs like "Video Games" and this, whose techno Gervais beats makes it way more palatable for Top 40 radio. And even if it's a downer, who doesn't get the summertime sadness every once in a while?

Hands Together Now: "Applause" by Lady GaGa

GaGa is storming her way up and I bet "Applause" ends up being a pretty decent hit, even if Katy's "Roar" is currently ranked higher on the Billboard Top 100. "Roar" is instantly forgettable, though, and while GaGa has done better than "Applause," it's still been far too long since the girl has been on the radio. She's knee deep in her self-proclaimed Art/Pop Culture Revolution, and to the extent that mainstream audiences can buy into that wacky schtick will influence how this jam's received. Yeah, Katy goes down way smoother, regardless of the actual merit of the songs. And that meta-edge makes GaGa even more irresistible to pop aficionados like me.

You've Had Enough: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

What more can I say? Miley dominated just about every news outlet this week, for better or worse. More attention is usually good attention, at least if she can come back with something even half-good after this. For now, "We Can't Stop" has a thumping base, a completely boffo video, and legion after legion of very confused fans. It's unclear at this point whether or not Miley is actually going crazy like Amanda Bynes or just faking it like Ke$ha. I'm not quite sure which level of authenticity is better. All Hail Cyrus.

Gold in Dem Hills: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

This jam seemed to get up to be everywhere this week, including a spot at #1 on Vh1's weekly countdown. Anyway, this was still the song that never was this Summer, and despite this good showing this week, it's way too inconsistent to be a serious contender. Still, that Filipino kid lays down some serious funk here, and I can always appreciate the super-throwback video.

And One For the Road: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

This jam seems to have no signs of slowing. It's infectious beat, erotic video, and crazily suggestive lyrics all but guaranteed it to be the gone and away Summer Jam. Misogynistic, pig-headed, contributory to rape culture, whatever you may say, you cannot deny the popularity of this thing - which is a problem unto itself. We'll be talking more at length about this monster during our Summer Throne Annunciation tomorrow.


We lay it all ont he line baby - we'll be recounting the entire Summer and of course announcing the WINNERS of the SUMMER CROWN! Who will forever be remembered along with the immortal likes of LMFAO and Carly Rae Jepsen? This really is a stupid column, isn't it? Stay tuned and happy Labour Day, folks!
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