07 September 2015

Summer Jam Week 18: End the Summer Downtown

It's been a long road, folks - longer than any other Summer in the History of Summers. Or at least in the time that we've been tracking Summer Jams, which is like six years. Six Long Years. The Entire History of Summers. But in an unprecedented Week 18 we have more a preview of the Best of Fall Crop than an exclamation point to the Classic Summer Jams we spent the last 18 weeks rocking out to. Summer is over, people. It's Labour Day - a simultaneous Day of Tears for children and Summer Jam Lovers across the country, and a day of joyous lazy celebration for day labourers and telethon enthusiasts. Let's dive into the Last of All Lists:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Dooo It!" by Miley Cyrus

To the ends of earth I'll defend Bangerz as one of the best Modern Pop Albums we've had in the past decade, and also Miley's freewheeling scandalous ways, because I just don't really care. She's an American, she can do whatever she wants. That being said, her attention-grabbing personality seems to be especially ramped up lately, and it's tough to listen to either this song or watch this video and not feel like it's more about putting eyes on her and jaws dropped than fulfilling any kind of musical artistry. Her stint hosting the VMAs was very similar. That's all fine, but it works better the way she worked in a few years back when she had the musical credentials to back up her ego-tripping nonsense.

Hudson Valley: "Renegades" by X Ambassadors

Stepping in the opposite direction of Miley is the X Ambassadors, which I can only assume is some kind of International X-Men Team designed to maintain peace with Genosha or Latveria or something. This song's understated Jamness rips it up for one final week, in part due to Jeep Renegade commercials and my attendance at Hudson Valley minor league baseball games.

R&B Jam of the Week: "Bet" by Tinashe

I won't even talk about the title's similarities to Ciara's "I Bet" or the simple fact that it feels totally like a Ciara video, but I wanted to throw in one last R&B Jam like I did in the beginning of Summer before I forgot about it and stopped caring. Tinashe is one of the best B-level female R&B artists out there today, and even if this song is pretty bad and unpopular, I know one thing's for sure - you just read a paragraph about it thinking you'd learn something substantial.

Hotel Mansylvania: "I'm In Love With a Monster" by Fifth Harmony

There's not really a more pathetic video out there today. Am I the only one who actually feels a solid amount of sympathy for these young women watching this thing? It's got to be the greatest paycheck video of all time. Why is Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) deserving of a hot Autumn Jam? Can you imagine any self-regarding artist writing and passionately performing a marketing tie-in to a desperate animated sequel to a truly terrible, flashy, tepid film like Hotel Transylvania (2012)? Fifth Harmony scored big with "Worth It" this Summer, definitely bigger than I'd ever think possible, and this jam has that same sort of earworm feel, but it's also so weirdly designed to sell sex to children that I'm beginning to have issues with it on moral grounds in addition to the general terribleness of the composition and purely commercial motivation. Catchy tho.

Get Into My Car: "Wildest Dreams" by Tay Sway

Is it possible that this is the song that proves Taylor Swift to be mortal? It's the first single off 1989 that I haven't loved immediately, and now that that's my Tay Sway standard, I'm ready to completely write it off. It doesn't feel as fresh or hip as "Blank Space" or "Bad Blood" did when it first hit my earballs, even if the "Bad Blood" music video probably clouded all of my critical judgment of its audial qualities. This is a forgettable track, though and my life can move on without listening to this a thousand more times, which is new for Pop Star Taylor. That being said, it's hard to believe this doesn't kick ass, even if already it does seem like it doesn't have the sheer cultural force of her other 1989 Jams.

Eyes at Attention: "Watch Me" by Silentó

At this point, "YA'LL ALREADY KNOW WHO IT IS!!!!!" ought to be all I have to say. Silentó keeps it real down to the very end after all, in part due to the sheer cultural ubiquity and saturation he achieved during this past month. "Watch Me" will be played at every College and High School Homecoming Dance this year, even as the young people are TOTALLY OVER IT come October. It's all good, brother. We'll get our bops and duffs on in Silentó's honour long after he's a total has been. Next week, that is.

Numb Butts: "Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd

Now is truly The Weeknd's time to shine. He's become notable enough that people actually care about his backstory. He was totally a Toronto High School Dropout Hobo at one point, which is awesome. He's had a phenomenal year, and "Can't Feel My Face" is a legitimate smash.

Sunny Spokane: "Downtown" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, and Eric Nally

This is generally unprecedented, but after all, this is an auspicious week. Debuting in the #1 Spot is "Downtown," and while there may have been bigger jams this week, I listened to none on repeat like this. It's almost surprising to remember that Macklemore spent 2014 with no new songs, after The Heist was pretty much used up, as great as that first crop of singles were. "Downtown" is a tremendous return - equal parts old school hip-hop, funk fusion, and huge arena rock. It's a breathtaking mixture of parts that have no business working together. And since this is the last week I have to talk about this Jam, I want to talk about it. A lot. Deal with it.

Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, and Melle Mel are bizarre additions to the song, if only because it seems like a fairly transparent attempt to place Macklemore in league with these great forefathers of Hip-Hop, even if their names are honestly relatively unknown to casual Rap lovers today. And Melle Mel is huge! What's up with that?!

The "Safety Dance" rip-off is also supremely evident, and there's nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that Macklemore insists it's not a sample. Seriously, that's straight up Vanilla Ice logic, bro. There is an odd thematic gap here when Macklemore pays homage to the Grandfathers of Rap while merely caping disparate styles. Eric Nally, who somehow never sounded this good in Foxy Shazam, is so clearly channeling Freddie Mercury here, that it also seems built more upon the greatness of previous icons rather than providing anything original. The dissonance here is then of course the fact that you literally can't get more original than Kool Moe Dee and company - they invented a genre of music for goodness sake!

"Downtown" is forgiven though, by just how well it mixes these copied elements. The song's first half is dramatically different than its conclusion, which is an awe-inspiring assault on the ears, and the video itself reflects the song's contents tremendously. I've got to give director Ryan Lewis some serious credit for framing his shots fantastically well. I'd legitimately get behind him taking over a feature, even if the official credits name Jason Koenig and Ben Haggerty as contributors. Maybe Ryan Lewis sucks. The direction reminds me a lot of "White Walls" which also just mashed up a ton of different elements seamlessly with iconic reverence that didn't look like it was trying at all.

It's also shot in Spokane, which is apparently Ryan Lewis' hometown, even though it's so clearly meant to be Seattle - with Ken Griffey Jr being the most obvious connection. Has anyone unlocked the mystery of the young scared afro dude on the fire escape Lewis zooms in on three times?

Well, that's it. It's been fun, folks. Make sure to check back tomorrow for when we crown the champion!!

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