13 September 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Conclusion! The End of All Things

 We've done it, people! It's been a long, long, very long, horrible summer but we got some pretty kickass fresh summer jams to jam out our freshness to! Yipayy! As September rears its head, the leaves fall, pumpkins bloom, and the coronavirus ravages schools and colleges across the country it's time to tally up the hot jams of the season!

Let us begin by recounting past Summer Royalty. We've been at this for a while, but here is the indelible list of past winners:

2007: "Umbrella" by Rihanna
2008: "Bleeding in Love" by Leona Lewis
2009: "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas
2010: "California Gurls" by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
2011: "Park Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
2013: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell
2014: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charle XCX
2015: "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon
2016: "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake
2017: "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi ft. Justin Bieber
2018: "Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello
2019: "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

This is such a weird list. "Blurred Lines" is a rough stain that we'll have forever. "Shut Up and Dance" and "Can't Stop the Feeling" are notorious week entries, as is "Never Be the Same." This is all based on my own math. Maybe I should rethink my system of assigning arbitrary points to whatever random assortment of songs I heard each week. Eight points for #1, one point for #8.


Before we dive into our official Top Eight for the Summer, let's check out the runners up. We tracked 56 total songs this season, one less than last year. The following songs all either appeared for three weeks on the list or were ranked high enough to do some damage:

"F2020" by Avenue Beat
"The Box" by Roddy Ricch
"Roses" by Saint JHN
"RITMO" by Black Eyed Peas
"Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa
"Intentions" by Bieber ft. Quavo
"Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyonce
"Rain on Me" by GaGa ft. Ariana
"Supalonely" by BENEE ft. Gus Dapperton
"death bed" by Powfu

Are you READY?! Let's start with number eight:

#8: "Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

Weeks on List: 4 (6/9 - 6/23, 7/21)
Peak Position: #1 on 6/16
Average Points Per Week: 6.25

This is a track that looking back I really thought had appeared more but only cracked our Top Eight four times. Mid-to-late June was a big time for this track, getting all the way up to #1 before falling off completely only to briefly re-surface in late July. It was a song always on the periphery, though and became the anthem for a great breakout summer for Dua Lipa. "Don't Start Now" may be her bigger track, and it tracked earlier this summer, but ultimately the timing just didn't work out. Dua dropped a few other songs but they all tended to cannibalize each other instead of pouring all Summer Jam effort into "Break My Heart." Still, I love this song, it has such a good rhythm and flow and I can listen to it over and over again. I feel like it should be higher, but it never did quite catch on much beyond radio play.

#7: "Toosie Slide" by Drake

Weeks on List: 5 (5/12-5/19, 6/23, 7/21, 9/8)
Peak Position: #1 on 6/23 and 7/21
Average Points Per Week: 5.40

Here is a track the opposite of "Break My Heart" - I thought this would not be as ubiquitous as it ended up being. It was one of only two songs that appeared on both the first and last countdown of the Season (the other one won Summer), and found a way to worm itself into four out of the five months of Summer. It flirted with the list quite a bit and gets this spot largely due to securing the number one spot both in June and July, although it was largely absent outside of those moments. Still, it's easy listening and always seemed to be knocking on the Summer Jam door. As far as Drake songs go, it's fine. He always seems to have a Summer Presence, but not that high. It earns its marks on longevity for sure.

#6: "WAP" by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion

Weeks on List: 5 (8/11 - 9/8)
Peak Position: #1 on 8/18, 9/1 - 9/8
Average Points Per Week: 6.40

Ohhh...."WAP." It doesn't quite feel like a Song of Summer since it dropped so late, but it earns a spot through its potency and if we had a few more weeks it may have made a legit run at the whole enterprise. It debuted as the Hot Jam of the Week on 8/11 and was number one a week later. It collected the #1 spot for three of the last four weeks of the season. Its 6.40 points per week average is the highest of any track we cataloged and most of that is low due to its Hot Jam status during its first week. There were only three songs that debuted as Hot Jams that tracked later and the next highest any of those got was "Roses" at #3. It's also a fantastic, life-affirming, zeitgeist defining tune that's also completely inappropriate and bonkers. In short, a perfect Cardi B song that's able to push standards and expectations of female sexuality in all the ways that 2020 needs right now. I obviously love this and the remixes have been amazing, which you've seen us post all summer here. #6 seems too low, but again, this track just ran out of time. It's also a victory lap for Megan Thee Stallion, who completely legitimized herself during a breakout summer.

#5: "Say So" by Doja Cat

Weeks on List: 7 (5/12 - 5/19, 6/9 - 6/16, 7/14 - 7/21, 8/11)
Peak Position: #1 on 5/21
Average Points Per Week: 5.14

"Say So" made its buck by a strong debut, taking the number one spot during our very first week, and then fading, but never really into total irrelevancy. At 5.14 it has the lowest point per week average of any song in the Top Eight, but survived through an improbable seven weeks, including two-week appearances in every summer month besides August, where it only appeared once, and September. We've loved Doja Cat for a while and this was also a great breakout summer for her. There's beginning to be a trend - this year, despite the chaos, was full of great breakouts for many artists. It helps that "Say So" had perfect timing, unlike a "WAP" and was able to ride that May success. It's such a funky track, with a perfect throwback loop and a showcase for the wide range of singing and rapping talents possessed by Doja Cat. I dig it, I can still listen to it, and it's a worthy entry here.

#4: "cardigan" by Taylor Swift

Weeks on List: 7 (7/28 - 9/8)
Peak Position: #1 on 8/11 and 8/25
Average Points Per Week: 5.57

I was really surprised "cardigan" rose this high, but like "WAP" it dropped at a time where we didn't really have a clear favourite and was able to dominate, remaining a constant presence for the final seven weeks of summer, including four at either the #1 or #2 spot. Its duel with "WAP" reminded me of Summer 2011 watching Adele and LMFAO go at it. I've been at this too long. Ultimately its two week head start gave it the edge, although it doesn't quite feel like a summer song in the same way that we didn't get it in the heart of summer. We have had late-breaking tracks before - "I Gotta Feeling" is the most classic example. Taylor Swift came in and dropped this as such a surprise and the whole album is spectacular despite being a significant departure from the direction she had been heading in. There always seems to be Tay Sway drama, but I think she's crazily underrated as a pure artist.

#3: "Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Weeks on List: 10 (5/26 - 6/2, 6/16, 6/30 - 7/14, 7/28 - 8/4, 8/18-8/25)
Peak Position: #1 on 7/14 and 8/4
Average Points Per Week: 6.20

So here we have a song that finally benefits by good timing. The Top Three this year were all ridiculously close, with five total points separating them. It's pandemonium! "Watermelon Sugar" feels like a throwback male pop song, too and I was continuously surprised that it found a place in a season where there was no other real song like it making waves. It's the only song here that is obliquely summer, though, and we've craved an Ode to Watermelon for a long time. It managed to track in all of the core summer months, from Late May with regularly consistent appearances through late August. It was only absent four times in the 14 weeks from its debut to last appearance, with no consecutive weeks absent. Its #1 spots were in the heart of summer, and seven out of its ten appearances were in the Top Three, never falling lower than fourth. It's a surprisingly strong case for Harry Styles, who really doesn't otherwise seem like an artist of the moment. Yes, that is because he's the only white male in the Top 8 and one of four total we're mentioning in this article.

#2: "Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch

Weeks on List: 12 (6/2 - 8/11, 9/8)
Peak Position: #1 on 6/30
Average Points Per Week: 5.50

Listen, I can't BELIEVE that "Rockstar" didn't win this summer. It ended up in second place by a single point, in what will surely go down as one of the closest finishes in Summer Jam History. This is such a song of our times, though, and we ought to remember it as the song that most fits Summer 2020. It wasn't until very late in the season, though, did I realize that "Rockstar" was a continual presence this summer, but hardly had any marks in the #1 position. It remained on the List for 11 consecutive weeks in the pure heart of summer, which is where it tallied most of its points. Eight of those eleven appearances were in the Top Three, and it really felt like it was a shoe-in after a while. Its had three other entries in the Bottom Three, though. Just one more and it would have been champion. We shouldn't feel bad, but I did really want it to win. It had more weeks on the list than any other song we tracked. It's also a really fantastic song with furious vocals and such a soft mandolin that just feels so 2020. I'll miss it. Add DaBaby to the list of artists with incredible breakout summers.

#1: "Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

Weeks on List: 11 (5/12, 5/26 - 6/9, 6/23 - 7/7, 7/21, 8/4, 8/25, 9/8)
Peak Position: #1 (5/26 - 6/9)
Average Points Per Week: 6.09

Here we are, folks. Your Summer King - The Weeknd! I can't believe this dude pulled it off. He crafted a song that sounds like all his other songs but also incredibly unique. An 80s synth throwback that is also very modern. I know we were cheering for "Rockstar" and "WAP" but to get real, this had the appeal to be more of an ubiquitous song that everyone could love and it just dominated. This was especially true early in the summer when there was really no obvious choice and "Blinding Lights" pounced on the Number One spot for three consecutive weeks, more than any other jam besides "WAP" (which didn't do it consecutively).

It also has the distinction alongside "Toosie Slide" of appearing in both the first and last weeks of Summer, as well as every month this summer, which is a distinction shared by no one. It was definitely front-loaded unlike "Rockstar" and "Watermelon Sugar" which were spread out perfectly, but it made enough waves to keep coming back again and again to earn spots in August, and finally again over Labour Day Weekend, which clinched it.

Its only entry outside the Top Four for a week was on 7/21, which is actually a very special week. It featured the most Top 8 Jams of any week this summer - "Say So," "Blinding Lights," "Rockstar," "Break My Heart," and "Toosie Slide," thus making it the most Summer Jam-y week of all the Summer Jams.

Next year...

It's always a weird feeling when Summer Jams end. We have a seven-month break from paying attention to popular music. I have long debated whether or not to continue this tradition. It's nice to have a regular column here and probably the only regular column we have left. After "Old Town Road" what's the point anymore though?

This year marked the 10th Anniversary of us doing this each and every week, each and every summer. And that was actually just based on math, this is technically number 11. Last year we said we'd retire after year 10. I don't know at this point. We'll see if I get the itch again. Like obsessively keeping track of all movies and TV watched, it's tough to put down once I've started. Come back to me in late April. Goodnight, folks!

Congrats to The Weeknd - Uncut Gems (2019) was just the beginning!

08 September 2020

Summer Jam 2020 THAT'S IT!

This is it, people. Going into this summer we knew there'd be delays and this last week is no different! Yay! Here we have the final candidates of this, our LAST SUMMER JAM of all-time. This was a pretty classic weekend of the hit parade and we're excited to close out a fantastic summer. Sure.

Hot Jam of the Week: "PAC-MAN" by Gorillaz ft. Schoolboy Q

We have been underrating the Gorillaz' output this summer, dropping a new song off their forthcoming album each week. Some were better than others - this is surely on the okay side (nothing beats "Desole") but in acknowledgment of this subtle background output for Summer 2020 - the 
Gorillaz takes us home!

Back from the dead! I listened to this a little bit this and got nostalgic for this middling summer hit. It has a stealth beat and is kind of fun. It's still not doing any crazy damage though, especially this late in the season. But showing up on Labour Day is always the sign of some legit hits. This did okay this week, we'll take it.

"Rockstar" had a hell of a summer, and isn't quite as shining the way it was, but I heard it this week and got excited, and that was enough. We're really not out of the BLM movement yet (by far) and this is as sure as a song of a the times as anything. It's reached sing-a-long status, and as we all join hands in merriment we can remember the hell of a summer we had.

Definitely still a player but not as dominant this week, "cardigan" remains a fantastic late summer hit. It is a little less prominent but at this point should have still made a significant dent amidst all the songs clambouring for a spot in the coveted Top 8 of Summer. We're excited to see where she lands when the chaos clears.

This track has eternally been on and off, falling back only to strike again, and while I still honestly don't like it all that much, it felt like a bigger track this week. It's such a Summer 2020 song but also not all that memorable or distinctive. Perfect pop, really. One more week, one more attempt at staking a legit claim.

With a late appearance that may very well push it over the edge into Summer Jam Stardom, "Blinding Lights" comes around for one more go and has officially reached "Moms know what it is" status. A powerful, powerful marker of success. This will do very well when all shakes out and its consistency is critical.

We really haven't gotten sick of this one yet. It's the opposite of "Intentions" - incredibly distinctive and a persistent earworm. It's a little sweet, a little sour, and makes me think of bringing coffee to a loved one in bed. She knows who she is. It's lovely. By this point it's racked up some points, so we'll see where it lands.

Megan was very close to getting double billing with "Savage" as well this week, which is a tremendous achievement. "WAP" has no rivals this week, it's so far ahead of anything else. Timing precludes it from really making a great claim for Summer Jam, but it could do great if we had an Autumn Jam. Nah, we would never do such a thing....

We are not. But this track is killer right now.

Next week...

We're done! Go home! Get into Autumn Jams and Fallgaritas, folks. We'll be busy the next few days having our Jam Accountants tally all the numbers and get back to you ... with .... the... SUMMER THRONE CLAIMED!!! Stay tuned!!

31 August 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 17: ThE eNd! jk

 This is a bizarre feeling. We generally count Summer Jams in 17-week intervals. It's a nice, round number and it's the way this has always been done! For ten stupid years! But Summer 2020 is a different beast all together. Labour Day is late and we have 18 glorious weeks. What could this mean? Will one of these late breaking jams have the chance to usurp the presumptive favourites?! Stay tuned, loyal believers!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Out of Sight" by Run the Jewels ft. 2 Chainz

This vid had a lot of hype this week and it's a pretty solid track. I dig IV quite a bit, similar to II when I didn't think III was as great. Anyway, it's hard to tell if this was a COVID video. El-P and Killer Mike don't appear in person (sort of), but there's certainly people here. We are in a weird age. I dig this, though. I don't expect it to break into total mainstream, as no RTJ has really done that besides "Legend Has It" (RIP Chadwick).

"Smile" by Katy Perry

This song is neither good nor popular, but I feel like I heard it a lot this week, so here we are. I have enjoyed Katy Perry less over time. Like each song seems thirstier than the last. She crossed the stream into irrelevance so slowly it was surprising the day we all woke up and no longer cared about her. I dunno, this is sort of catchy. I literally also heard "California Gurls" on the radio today and thought of ghosts of Summer Jams past. Very different times!

"Midnight Sky" by Miley Cyrus

We're having a bit of a diva week this week. This was another track that I just heard a lot this week, and our stated goal is capturing the zeitgeist week to week. It feels pretty fresh and certainly very Week 17 of Summer 2020. It's not all that memorable or significant and far from her best efforts (this is all a familiar refrain) but again, it's not totally offensive to the ears. This and more ringing endorsements to come.

"F2020" by Avenue Beat

Are they a band? I dunno. I still dig this and it is assuredly the most 2020 song ever. An ode to holy crap this year sucks so much. Seriously, we have another black man shot in Kenosha, Black Panther is dead, we have no hope for anything. I do need to stop listening to this. It makes me hella more depressed.

"Rain on Me" by GaGa and Ariana

You know, "Rain on Me" keeps sneaking up this summer. I always feel like it's something that's on the fringe, but then I cave and throw it in the mix. It's outpaced songs like "Toosie Slide" and "Intentions" at this point, which I think of as being here each and every week. When all is said and done this may very well make an impact. I still don't think it's particularly good. Summer Jams always elude GaGa. Is it "I'd rather be drunk but at least I'm alive"? That is pretty 2020.

"Mood" by 24kGoldn ft. Iann Dior

I dig this track the more I listen to it. It's maybe not that big of a deal or anything but again, it's very much a Week 17 song. Shut up, I know "Rockstar" is still popular. This is fun, though, even if the beat doesn't quite match the lyrics. I can get behind it. We don't all need to be depressed all the time. I'm looking at you, "Wishing Well"!

"cardigan" by Taylor Swift

Fart Again! At this point Taylor and WAP are so far ahead of everyone else. This is the kind of classic summer battle we should have gotten weeks ago! They're so polar opposite, too. I'm very excited to see a run like this at the crown, their weeks aren't that significant but damn the potency. Honestly, this summer was really craving that singular dominant song and we finally got it spilling into Autumn. It'll be a Washington Football Team Summer for sure.

"WAP" by Megan and Cardi

Okay, I don't know which remix to put here! We did Dire Dire Docks right? This Nickelback is so clunky, it's kind of awesome. I clearly love it. "WAP" is everywhere, it's the kind of bonkers song, video, concept, and stars that elevate it beyond anything else in the zeitgeist. This is a good run at things and we'll see where it is at the end of the Summer and if it did enough to surge to the top. Do kids listen to this? Is it allowed on the radio? What do people do?

Next week...

Oh, who knows. It'll be a showdown - "Blinding Lights", "Watermelon Sugar", or "Rockstar" could all win it, while "cardigan" and "WAP" will make some significant dents if they continue their dominance. If any track gets in it'll make significant waves. I just need to be completely unbiased. Totally. We'll see if any other wacky songs show up to ruin everyone's day.

24 August 2020

Summer Jam Week 16: Almost There

 We are heading towards an uncertain Autumn. As we weight the fate of our nation, the Post Office, and College Football, let's take a moment to reflect on the Summer of 2020. We are almost there - but the one great thing about Summer 2020 is that we have an unprecedented 18 weeks instead of the usual 17. It's truly freaking me out. So instead of the penultimate week, we're dragging this bastard out. Here we go!

Hot Jam of the Week: "The Plan (From the Motion Picture TENET)" by Travis Scott

To be clear, this isn't very good at all, and also has an awkward title. Oh, I'm quite sure we're not supposed to include "From the Motion Picture TENET" but that's totally how it's listed on YouTube and Spotify. You did this, Christopher Nolan. Maybe this would have been cool if the movie had actually come out this week. Is it still coming out? Sort of? Kind of? We have got to do better than Bad Boys For Life (2020) being the high mark of the year. I can totally get behind the irony of marketing roll-outs that have been completely upended due to COVID-19. Let's get some TENET!

"Mood" by 24kGoldn ft. Iann Dorr

I listened to this the other week and it's an okay song. It's kind of fun. Mildly popular. We've had so many spur of the moment surges of songs this week. I think we're so decentralized that we get these flare-ups from time to time of popular tracks that can't really catch on nationwide all at the same time. Folks are just listening to their own thing. It's a fantastic time to cater to everyone's tastes. A little tougher for shared zeitgeist. I like this one.

"death bed (coffee for your head)" by Powfu

This song is still a thing and while it's not quite as impactful or interesting at this point, it's still a charming track when it comes on Spotify. I never get modern radio here. It's probably still a big song. It feels very unique and calming during a summer where everything is hellish chaos all the time. I can dig it for a while to come.

"Laugh Now Cry Later" by Drake

I mean, whatever. Drake is always known for being cool, but I think this is the first time where the seams are really showing where he's trying to be cool instead of just being cool. And there's nothing less cool than trying to be cool. It's rough waters, especially because we should know that playing the cripple kid on Degrassi does make you cool. This song is popular. It's fine. It's background. It doesn't arrest my heart!

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

I mean...this song is long lover, but I still heard it, it's still charting well, and I still like it. So here it is! A late gain is crucial for The Weeknd's first serious foray into Summer Jam Kingliness. He's got a decent shot because of longevity here. And it's a genuine bop, more so than a lot of other jams this summer.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Somehow we can't keep Harry Styles down. I never think this song is coming back, and then it does! I may be overjudging it - that is, it's sincerely possible that this song seems like it's omnipresent more than it actually has been this summer when you look at the whole list at the end of all things. But isn't that in itself the sign of a great jam? Does anyone read this? These are the questions that keep me up at night during thunderstorms and Double Hurricanes.

"WAP" by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion

This is still a big, notable song that has taken the country by storm. It's bizarre and kitschy and has a level of cheap 2020 CGI that I can't tell if it's an attractive stylistic choice or just cheap. It's aggressive and sexy, though, and truly the song we need right now. We'll see if this streak catapults it to the top, it's got two weeks left and the summer's been pretty starved of hits. Maybe they were timing it with College kids back in the fall, but we deserved this in mid-July!

"cardigan" by Taylor Swift

I love that these songs are dueling now. It's just spectacular. Again, this is the kind of classic summer match-up we've been waiting sixteen weeks to see! This earns the top spot this week, but that could flip a little bit before we're through. I just want all the sad right now. Like "WAP" this could do some damage late in the game in the absence of a clear summer favourite. We'll probably regret whoever we end up crowning this year.

Next week...

Katy Perry seems to keep trying to do something. None of it is very good. Dua Lipa also seems to be trying to capitalize on having a pretty good summer by dropping a lot of new music constantly. At this point no new song is really going to contend for a title, but we're always curious about late-breaking tunes. We're almost out of this, folks!

17 August 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 15: We're Still Doing This!

 This summer just won't end. Usually that's a good, amazing, wonderful thing! This is hell. Hell, baby! We've got some hellishly smokin' red hot jams for your earholes today you fat fucks! It's time to kick things up a notch. We're real fresh this week. Hot salmon in the sun. Fresh and pink. We are...we are, we are really something here. Okay. Here we go:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Laugh Now Cry Later"

This is such...not that great of a song. Also just a straight up Nike commercial? Drake looks like he's gained some weight. He's starting to get DJ Khaled vibes. Maybe it's muscle. He certainly seems like he wants to be an athlete. This article summed up a lot of feelings better than I can. He's just making memes now. Corporate, safe memes. And coasting off being the top rapper for the last decade. This could be a big song. It's so mellow, though and just not really seizing a moment. Whatever, that's Drake.

"F2020" by Avenue Beat

Okay, I still like this a lot and we shared it this week, but it's definitely not a notable track at all. I really dig it and it's so of our zeitgeist it's sickening. I could listen to it forever, it's such a peak of anger, sadness, melancholy, and rage. Also all true. This year is awful. Has anyone noticed that every year is awful? We're just living in pretty awful times, people. Everything sucks. At least we have hot jams.

"Malibu" by Kim Petras

This was a close hot jam of the week. She appeared on Kimmel, not hosted by Kimmel this week, but she's a rising star this summer. This is totally innocuous forgettable pop, but I'm sure that's what some people need right now. I feel like everyone sings about Malibu. We just had that line in "Roxanne" from Arizona Zervas. I guess it can be in more than one song. Also, screw singing about a place known for beautiful elitism right now. I'm all sour. I hope Petras has a great career.

"Who's Laughing Now" by Ava Max

Listen, I know I'm an unashamed and disporportionate Ava Max fan, but she's having a good breakout summer and I dig this track. Totally undeserving of so high a position but this week is also turning into a girl power pop week so let's go with it. I am so on board with this. She's clearly splitting the summer, though, which will only hurt her songs in the long run. That's okay, she wasn't quite going to win the crown...YET!

"Wishing Well" by Juice WRLD

This track has a lost a bit of its first bite but still hits pretty hard. As we have young people unexpectedly going back to classes this week, mostly as everything falls apart and everything sucks and everyone is diseased, let's get some mental health aid! It's really quite powerful. Yeah, it's not really the pulpy bop some of the other jams are this week. It's still a good track.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Sure. Break up the girl party, Harry. This was somehow the #1 song on Billboard this week and did well on Spotify. Alright. I didn't really hear it but I also live in the middle of no where. He's had a good summer and could do well on longevity at this point. It is a good song as well. HIGH.

"cardigan" by Taylor Swift

This song is great. It's really wormed its way into my life at this point. It's not quite the giant it was last week, but still very much a presence. I had the thought this week that it's also unfortunately a huge missed opportunity that not once in this whole track did Tay Sway rhyme "cardigan" with "fart again" which is incredibly disappointing. We need a "fart again" parody. I will make that. These beans made me fart again. This stuff writes itself, it's all gold, Jerry. Gold.

"WAP" by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion

Obvi #1 this week. Like, no contest. This is a huge track and could surge for the last few weeks of summer. I think these women heard "cardigan" and then tried to make the exact opposite song. What does it say about me then that I love both these tracks? This should have dropped mid-July. Summer was up for grabs! It's nice to see that Cardi had more than Summer 2018 in her. Oh, and I just put it together this week that the title stands for "Wet Ass Pussy." Hell yeah.

Next week...

There were quite a few high profile awful songs this week. Kesha, Omarion, Billie Eilish, and Dua Lipa (ft. Missy Elliott and Madonna?!) all dropped new jams this week. Lupe Fiasco is also doing something. Cool, none of it is that great and nothing really caught my ear or our culture in a significant way. Having said that, they could all be here next week as summer descends into chaos.

10 August 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 14: A Good Week

 This week's title, by the way, refers completely and utterly to the quality of music this week. We're definitely not having a good week. Or Month or Year or pretty much lifetime at this point. But there were a slew of good, refreshing jams that hit our ears this week that we'd like to take a moment to share with you. It's a wonderful time to have ears.

Hot Jam of the Week: "WAP" by Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion

There were some contenders this week but when a track and a video like "WAP" comes along it clearly dominates everything. I used to listen to "There's some ho's in this house" in college - ha! Of course I did. This is an ass-filled video for sure. I don't understand some of the cameos - the beat completely drops when Kylie Jenner shows up but she doesn't really do anything. Everyone else seems to get a lot of long luxurious camera gazes, but I didn't recognize anyone except maybe Normani? That's more my problem. See, I'm an old man now. I am really curious if this is a Corona-era video. A lot of it looks clearly green-screened, but Cardi and Megan seem to be together. It wears its sexiness on one sleeve and a high degree of doofiness on the other, and makes for an altogether fun video. We'll see if it gets any radio play...

"WHATS POPPIN" by Jack Harlow ft. DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne

This song isn't really great and sounds like a lot of contemporary rap that all sounds the same but is somehow incredibly popular. Perhaps that's why - we have more imitators than innovators. Or I'm just old and my ears can no longer distinguish new music. Anyway, this is popular, I saw it in quite a few places but haven't really heard it much. So here it is.

"F2020" by Avenue Beat

Finally, finally we have the perfect Summer 2020 song. Fuck this year. This is brilliant in every way and I love it. It sums up so many feelings. I've been searching for a song that really captures our current zeitgeist because it's been so stressful and horrible and we haven't quite had enough time for art to react yet. This is perfect, though. I did hear it on the radio, which is great and we'll see if this just becomes the anthem for the entire year. It's a song everyone can agree with when it drops.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

"Say So" was on my mind again this week. I heard it a few times and it's still a good song. It's perhaps out of its limelight at this point but this was at least a great summer for the rest of the world to learn who Doja Cat is. She may not have been able to enjoy it too much. This isn't really on the hot list anymore, but it snuck up on me again. I dig it.

"Intentions" by Bieber ft. Quavo

We've underrated Bieber at this point. I mean, as a widely popular artist that churns out consistent summer jams year after year. I think we still don't really like his twerpy kid-ness or his general douchery. This song is still pretty clever and it popped up again in my life this week. I heard it all the time. It's...fine. I'm not that huge of a fan and it's exceedingly safe, but whatever. It exists and at this point is as much of a contender as anyone.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This song somehow is still churning it out but may be cresting its popularity. Oh, who knows, I said that last week. I can still get behind it, especially with insanely tight remixes like the one linked above. I really hope someone out there is desperately searching for this song and has to use the above link. Why would you go to Norwegian Morning Wood ahead of YouTube? Well, dear reader, you tell me! You're here! Haha!

"death bed (coffee for your head)" by Powfu

This is the biggest earworm of the year. It just nestles in your head and never lets go. I always think of it when I bring my fiance some coffee in her bed for her head. It's cute and sweet and a little sad and very 2020. It's an elusive search! We like it. It's a song whose beat actually fits its low energy white boy half-rapping. It's very fulfilling.

"Cardigan" by Taylor Swift

That's right! We did it! Combination of freshness, sadness, rising popularity, artistic clout. It's number one, baby! I don't think this will lead us out of summer or anything, but it ought to clear a good path these last few weeks. These are the last weeks of our lives, people. I even heard "Betty" on a country station. Somehow I think Taylor is back in a big way. Good for her!

Next week...

I dug a few more new songs - Lupe Fiasco's "SHOES" although it has too much talking breaks. "Smile" by Juice WRLD did well streaming, and "Wishing Well" is still a thing. That and Dua Lipa / Weeknd, all proper 2020 artists. We're getting into the last few weeks now, folks. There are only four more weeks left. Wait...18 weeks?! Summer is supposed to be 17 weeks! Thanks to a Super Late Labour Day we get an extra week this year?! I am just learning about this. It's anybody's game now, boi!!

05 August 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 13: Return to the Prairie

When this summer first started I don't think I got a post off until Tuesday and subsequently remarked that there would likely be all sorts of delays as we moved forward. I've largely avoided that! Until this week. Sorry. Here's your super-special Wednesday Edition of the Last Summer of Our Lives:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Who's Laughing Now" by Ava Max

Alright, I actually love Ava Max. This isn't quite "Sweet but Pyscho" or "Kings and Queens" or even "So Am I" but it's still a pretty fun track. She dropped her somehow debut album this past week and deserves a highlight. I'd like to see her keep on rising although I constantly feel like I'm the only fan. That's fine. Her time will come. Remember 2018 Lizzo?

This song has flirted with the list this whole summer and although I'm generally not a huge fan, it has gotten familiar enough that when I heard it again this week I wanted to give it a highlight. I just feel like they couldn't have seen this summer coming and this someone comes off as so not of our times. Maybe that's good for the long run. I think more that this will be forgotten forever. Maybe it earned a few weeks but certainly not the points it'll need to contend.

This hasn't quite taken off yet, but it's truly a fantastic song the more I hear it and I think it deserves its moment. It's very un-Taylor, or at least what she has been recently, but that works in her favor. We'll keep an eye on this because I think it's primed wonderfully for a late season surge, but it hasn't quite caught yet. Keep working, Taylor!

This track drops a bit from last week, but is still a thing in my life and I reflect on the lyrics more and more each time I hear it. My soul just craves traumatic bummer songs in Summer 2020 and this does a great job of it. I just picked up the "Killing me softly; Lauryn Hill" line. It's solid. It's not quite making a race to the top at this point as we move into the endgame, but it's still solid.

The Weeknd has come up with plenty of follow-ups since this track, but it remains the OG. It's been on and off a little bit this summer, but earns a pretty strong position this week from making it to the point of its lifetime where everyone can sing along to it and get excited when it comes on. You know...at all those parties this summer.

This is perhaps the most underrated song of the summer, but it's also generally everywhere and everyone knows it. So let it happen! So depressing yet so uplifting at the same time. I am well past my hesitancy from early on in the season. It may not be crowned Queen, but has presented a solid case for itself at this point.

The Summer King apparent, this song has gotten more radio play and it's sincerely grown on me by this point. It's so contemplative and intriguing and enveloping, it pushes its genre to a new art form. Maybe that's hyperbole, but I like it. I found myself singing it quite a bit this week and at this point it doesn't show much sign of slowing, especially because it seems like radio has finally caught up with streaming.

At this point should we be talking about "Watermelon Sugar" as a legit contender? It's got a few winning weekends under its belt at this point. It's possible, as competition is still wide open at this point. It's also blatantly summery. It's not quite 2020 summery, but it ought to earn some serious consideration right now.

Next week...

At this point this crop of songs are pretty finalized. Katy Perry had some new tracks, but they're all garbage. I was thinking about Drake, who really seems to have faded down the stretch. There is always "The Woo" or more Ava or Taylor or Dua waiting in the wings. All have some potential. We're into August now, people - these months are CRITICAL! WHO WILL BE CROWNED FINAL JAM ROYALTY!

27 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 12: A Cool Week in the Mountains

I can feel Summer winding down already. Winter is coming, people. And guaranteed, we will go from 90 degree days straight to negative twenty. It's the way of the horrible world now. But we still have some sizzling hot jams to get through! We have a few hot new ones this week along with some old favourites. Let's get to it!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Snowchild" by The Weeknd

All these Weeknd songs seem to be following some coherent storyline, or at least have him dressed the same. I haven't really watched them. This is a lot chiller than his earlier bops this summer, and like the next hot jam this week, doesn't seem like much of a summer track. It's also another one of the growing list of 2020 animated music videos - it's nice to see folks innovating during the age of Corona. I like it, it's not quite "Blinding Lights" but it's fine.

Second Hot Jam of the Week: "cardigan" by Taylor Swift

We were all set with The Weeknd, then Tay Sway decided to drop a surprise album. It's okay. This song is more her longfull ballad style, which she's maybe weaker at than her effervescent witty pop artistry. In terms of upbeat summer jams this is lacking, but its mournful tone perhaps suits 2020 better than bippier tracks. There is a lot coming out of this album, and we'll see if she has any late surge or domination. She's capable.

The lyrics to this jam really hit me this week. It's an incredibly dark and depressing song. But it's such a bop! I enjoyed jamming out to it this week but damn, it's such a monument to relationship despair and self-assessment. It's a marvel, and truly a completely 2020 song. It's doing okay chart-wise and I'm far from sick of it so far.

Speaking of longevity - it has been a very long time since we had a week without "Rockstar." Consistency in Summer 2020 is exceedingly rare. I'd be surprised if this manages to have a successful August - there is getting to be quite a bit of competition. I almost left it off this week, but it came on some Google playlists of mine, and I reflected how it was the #1 song in the country for so long, without real widespread recognition. It'll keep trucking.

This is another song that has been on and off, and I'm maybe giving it a lot of late credit. Megan Thee Stallion was also shot at this week, which is crazy. It's more of a Summer 2020 soundtrack jam than I've given it credit for and Beyonce certainly elevates any song she's attached to. I like the flow here more than the beat. It's probably a little out of style at this point, but we'll see if it hangs on any more.

What do we do with "Watermelon Sugar" at this point? It's maybe making a good case for itself, and doesn't really show any sign of going away, despite me predicting that a few weeks ago. It's really one of the only explicitly summer songs we've had this year, even if Summer 2020 has produced a handful of specific Summer 2020 songs. We'll see how everything eventually shakes out.

"death bed (coffee for your head)" by Powfu

I feel like I've known this song for years. This entered my purview a few weeks ago and it didn't even strike me as a new song. It's an awfully cute song with some Kanye-style vocals-as-beats. But it's so darn sweet. I think it's popular. Anyway, despite it sounding old, it's certainly fresh this week and I'd like to see it surge for a while.

"Wishing Well" by Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD has had a lot of charting songs this summer, particularly with a surging album over the last few weeks. The echoes of addiciton, depression, and refrain of "I can't breathe" resound in 2020. It doesn't even seem to explicitly be in reaction to George Floyd, but that's an inexporable link at this point. The track's been around for a time, but this week I realized that I had both listened to this a ton so far this summer and it's also hella relevant. This is a depressing week.

Next week...

I almost threw Dua Lipa on this again, but she just missed the cut. I'm curious if Taylor hangs on, although no track off folklore is traditional pop. Surely her getting back to some folk roots can be a good thing. And "exile" is tight as hell. There's a path there, but we'll see if Summer 2020 wants stripped down Taylor Swift music. Also her F-bomb on "betty." Yes, I listened to this whole album. Stay tuned, folks!

20 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 11: Vacation from Crap

We are barreling through the chaos now. I don't even know where to begin anymore. Everything is pretty bad all the time. I guess we can just listen to some hot summer jams to get funky fresh but what's the point? What's the point of any of this! Cataloging the Summer 2020 Summer Jam List has unearthed heady bits of existential drama over here. Let's dive in!

Hot Jam of the Week: "For the Night" by Pop Smoke ft. Lil Baby, DaBaby

Pop Smoke dropped an album and got like six songs in the Billboard Hot 100 this week. None are particularly good, maybe "The Woo." Juice WRLD is lighting up Spotify, but they aren't all that great, either. So, I'm sure I'll eat my words when these become big bangers, but I'm also struck by the fact that we're so decentralized that entire albums get charted because people are just streaming and listening to whatever they feel like listening to. It's amazing and democratizing and fantastic. Hell for distilling into a weekly list, but great for pop culture consumption.

"The Bigger Picture" by Lil Baby

This song found its way on a playlist of mine this week and although it's not really charting, streaming, or getting radio play, it also feels very much like a song of our time and I enjoy it quite a bit. It's a good jam, too. We're at such a point where we don't know how to react anymore and the art that emerges from quarantine and racial struggle ought to get some more recognition. The way Lil Baby says "We've had a hell of a year" sums it up. We certainly have.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

We're doing a hardcore "Remember the Summer" edition this week, not in small part because we seemed to hear a little bit of everything over the last few days. In the life of a pop song I think we're beyond the initial freshness, beyond the initial staleness, and then into the "Oh yeah, this jam is a jam" part of jam life. "Say So" is all in that. It's still a very funky song that we enjoy.

"Blinding Lights"by The Weeknd

Surely we are forming some kind of Summer 2020 with some of the jams this week. I still don't really believe Summer 2020 will be known for its music, but these are all emblematic of the Soundtrack to Living in Our Homes. I also generally like all these songs. With a gap of anything really ubiquitous, this is the default. Funky 80s style with some fresh rivets.

"Rain on Me" by Lady GaGa ft. Ariana Grande

I heard this this week and kind of didn't hate it, even longed for it a little bit. It still seems like an underperformance considering the talent invovled but it's maybe not totally terrible. I don't know where Lady GaGa finds herself. I am an obvi stan but she seems inexorably tied to her early 2009 pop success and daring fashion statements rather than the lasting diva she should be. Maybe I'm way off base, especially for a fan. I'm saying I wanted this song to be better rather than a clubthumper that could have been done by any starlet out there.

"ROCKSTAR" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is maybe pretty much over, but it still earns a place here. I'm not tooootally sick of it, just getting there. It's still doing well chart-wise and at this point, has done well to cement itself as a strong contender. At least at this point I don't feel like any other song really sums up 2020. At the same time, it feels so small, right? No one is singing "Rockstar" in the streets. We'll see how we keep progressing.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

After a few weeks off, Dua Lipa is back with a song we heard a ton a while ago but not much since. I dig this track a lot, it might be my favorite Dua Lipa to be honest. She has splintered her jams this summer, though, and I worry that she won't contend for the crown since no one song has been dominant. This apparently still has some life in it, though. Could be something.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

Drake is just the default of like, the decade. I don't think he's especially great - he's definitely good, but should he dominate the way he does? Not really. Like Dua Lipa, after a few weeks in the shadows, this track came back in a big way this week, and I found myself humming it quite a bit. It's fine. It's a fine song.

Next week...

I'm not sure "Toosie Slide" should be #1. But this is where we're at. I'm curious about the track Kanye dropped as he dropped out of the Presidential race. Perhaps he realized it's actually a hard job that requires geopolitical knowledge? Or not, who cares. Any of those Juice WRLD or Pop Smoke tracks might catch on. But the same as Dua Lipa's multiple hits, when you have five or six contenders, it's hard for any one song to stand out and become THE notable song. Keep truckin!

13 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 10: Mid-July Blues

We are in the thick of it now, folks. It's the true heart of summer. All the May and June getting reacquainted with the sun nonsense is behind us and we're finally past the all the major High Holidays of Cinco de Mayo, the End of School, and the Fourth of Julio. Now it's just pure summer. Beaches and waterparks ahoy! Well, let's pretend a magnificent disease is not currently ravaging the planet.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Hallucinate" by Dua Lipa

We have two hot jams this week. Who cares, it's summer, it's hot out. Also this first one isn't very good. I struggle with Dua Lipa. Sometimes her tracks are straight bangers, others like this just sound very forgettable and replaceable. I do love this big wave of animated music videos folks are having to do in quarantine. Or maybe this was a real artistic choice. It's not totally compelling.

"The Adventures of Moon Man and Slim Shady" by Kid Cudi and Eminem

Our second hotness - I dig the title and that's maybe about it. The track takes too long to drop which turns me off instantly. The beat also just feels all over the place. So is Eminem lately, who after so much great output exploring him finding his identity, seems to be struggling with the kind of rapper he wants to be right now. Cudi is reliably solid, though. I got into it by the middle of his verse. In terms of jam-ness, this is probably not too big of a dent.

"Mamacita" by the Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna, J. Real Soul

This is kind of a cool song but damn I've never wanted to punch a series of artists in the face like watching this video. Are they cool? They're not cool, right? Everyone is just trying so hard. I always thought of The Black Eyed Peas as reigning pop royalty just because their 2005-2010 was so solid and ubiquitous, but I suppose that is getting to be like ten years ago. Maybe they suck and everyone hates them? Have folks largely forgotten their jams? I don't know, but I kind of like their cross genre 2020 work that has a different flavor.

"Say So" by Doja Cat

This track crept is way back into my ears this week and I suppose it had never really fallen too far off this list. Doja Cat is certainly having a hell of a summer, even if her latest track isn't that great. This song really found a way to emphasize everything she does well in the best way, though. It's the kind of name-making track that could last a while.

"The Box" by Roddy Rich

I was actually trying to think of "Rockstar" and I came up with this one. Whenever a song enters long-term brain function I'm like, "Okay, this can get that TOP status." "The Box" got there this week. It's still a factor on the charts and whatnot, but we've definitely left in the dust for a while now. It's still an earworm. Dig it.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is still a presence although it may be cresting for my own ears. It's still very good and that little mandolin complements the heavy bass pretty well. It's fun and a song of our time unlike any other major song that's penetrated the charts much so far this summer. At this point the race is still wide open, enough that a late-breaking July or August track could even come in and do its thing. In all reality, Summer 2020 is not going to be remembered for its music, it'll be remembered for everything else going on.

"Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion

I'm not a huuuuge fan of this track, but I heard it a ton this week and it's never really plummeted off the charts, so, good enough. I like the thick ferocity Megan brings to the rap table but I need a more engaging beat or a better use of her talents for her to crossover like Doja Cat to me (see everything said above). This is okay, I guess.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

Yep, all the way to #1! What a bizarre series of events. I compiled all the contenders this week and thought, yeah, I actually both heard and talked about "Watermelon Sugar" the most. It is truly bizarre - we are in a thorough age of hip-hop so deep that it's genuinely weird for a British White Boy Crooner to gain the top spot right now. It's just so unlike any other song on this list. Summer 2020 has a weird playlist. But I like this.

Next week...

There are a lot of contenders out there. We ignored The Weeknd, but he's not quite done yet. I also personally listed to so much Ava Max, but I don't think that brief spat of Quarantine Songs are really much of a thing anymore. Stay tuned, you really never know this summer. And GaGa / Ari! I think there's something there still. Stay healthy, loyal readers!

07 July 2020

Because I Streamed It: Josie and the Pussycats!

That's right. I want to take a minute on your Independence Day Weekend to talk about one of the greatest films of all time. This is visionary directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's Josie and the Pussycats (2001). This has been burning a hole in my brain for some time now. Are you ready for critical mega-reevaluation? It's time.

And not one hairball!

There are a few films that never quite reach cult status despite me personally loving them to death. My many attempts at propping up The Lone Ranger (2013) come to mind. Or the glory that is A Very Brady Sequel (1996), which I believe completely uncoincidentally also came from the minds of Kaplan and Elfont. Some movies people just seem to form an opinion on and hate from the get go. I try pretty hard at avoiding that. It of course doesn't always hold true and there are surely plenty of great films out there that I never gave a second chance. But, dear readers, I beg all of you, if you haven't already, give Josie and the Pussycats a chance. It will blow your mind.

So, what's the deal, here? Isn't this a random, one-off teen bopper, flash-in-the-plan, trend-chasing dated thoughtless kids' movie? It is absolutely all of those things, but it's also a canny biting critique of consumerism, teen exploitation, and the music industry.

If you're a little behind, let's catch you up on the origins. The 90s for some reason were full of these updated classics, including cartoons. I dug into this a little bit during that A Very Brady Sequel article, and you should check that out for a huge list I compiled. I feel like all of these were popular during their time. Maybe it's just that I was a kid in the 90s and it was all advertised to me. I think when you get a flurry of ads on Nickelodeon in 1995 you think the films are a little bigger than they were.

Live-action cartoons have been a staple for decades at this point, but the 90s mined Hanna-Barbera hard. Looking back, this is clearly the product of older studio executives both interested in the nostalgia from their own youth as well as an ability to appeal to consumers who were now of the age to have children, thus begetting a win-win. They'd pull in dollars from the adults while indoctrinating their small children into the iconography of the by-gone era. If this all seems cynical, that's because it's also exactly what Josie and the Pussycats is all about.

I never read the Archie comics that featured the eponymous band, nor do I really know anything about them. In fact, when the film descends to Riverdale, my first thought was that it was ironic they used the name from Archie. No, that's just the actual town name, man. On the surface this is all the movie is - a shallow cash grab nostalgia trip for baby boomers under a veneer appealing to millennials. But it's so much more!

First, Josie is exceedingly meta in an age well before reflecting on tropes was popular. It all comments on the pointlessness of decisions behind these kinds of movies. At one point one character asks another, "Why are you here?" and she responds, "Because I was in the comic book." She literally doesn't have a function in this movie but is just there hanging around as explicit fan service.

This film is also known for its product placement. It's insanely excessive, the point of distraction. Looking at it with fresh eyes, it's clear that the McDonald's shower curtains, Ray-Ban windshields, and characters lovingly petting the Target dog is satirical commentary on the ubiquity of advertisements in our daily lives, and film promotion in general. They actually say this explicitly in the film as an auxiliary revenue source but it's also known that the filmmakers didn't actually seek permission or get paid for any of the product placement. This is in sharp contrast to a Transformers movie that feels similar but contains none of the self-awareness.

This ties into the main thesis of the film, which centers on a nefarious music record producer infusing subliminal messages into pop albums to decide trends and encourage teenagers to buy things. It ends up being a pithy commentary on the never-ending cycle of capitalism. Characters judge their worth through materials, trends, popularity, and fandom, not any articulate measure of self-worth. This is ultimately unwrought by the film's end, at least for the main characters, although they remain naive towards the shady government agency funding all this mind control.

While it remains an extremely underrated satire, it is also a perfect capsule of 2001 pop culture. We didn't really realize it at the moment, but there was this sincere feeling of pre-9/11 excess and invulnerability. This oral history sums it up well. We were well past grunge and the capitalism of the decade led the music of late 90s / early 2000s to commoditize that punk feeling. Instead of crafting art from authentic pain that spawned dangerous acts like NWA and Nirvana in the early part of the decade, companies cranked out manufactured acts and corporate songs. There was such a fearlessness to all this - people felt very comfortable consuming and pretending to rebel rather than actually articulate a struggle.

Josie expertly demonstrates this industry attempt to wrangle and corporatize popular trends, which also sums up a lot of why 2000s music was terrible. As the oral history notes, this is one reason why current rock and pop artists all feel the same and if their music is good, it's also very non-threatening. Hip-hop is where punk lives in modern times and where the artists are still genuinely fighting authority

Now, this is a side observation, but I have been on a small streak of watching music biopics, which this actually is, even though it's completely fictional. I made the mistake (maybe?) of watching Rocketman (2019) and Walk Hard (2007) back to back. It's just amazing the number of tropes Walk Hard nailed and become very hard to avoid in just about every musical ever. Rocketman wasn't as egregious as Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), but Josie nailed the parody before there was even a glut of biopics to parody.

It brushes by every biopic beat as tropish to the point of admitting the nefarious mind-controlling company manufactured Behind the Music shows to further corporate agendas. It hits the beats but admits artists live a life guided by managers (again...mind-control) in pursuit of the highest popular dollar. None of the biopic melodrama really sticks - sure the group breaks up, but that's because Josie is listening to subliminal messages telling her to go along with what happens to every rock group. The conflict isn't lasting. The film knows it can mine real drama and stakes from the characters and their central conflict with...well, contemporary pop culture I suppose. There is a meta nature here that is so far ahead of anything else that was happening at the time.

This is probably a good reason why the film was so overlooked. Its shiny product placement veneer turned off serious movie-goers, and its basic conceit that all modern pop culture is manufactured mind control turned off its primary demographic. It could quite pull off making fun of the very people who were watching the movie, but looking back now it's easy to laugh at the chaos. It's still earned its cult status, though, and there are true fans like me out there. Probably.

So what do you think? Have I convinced you to give this film another look? It certainly deserves one. It's both indelibly of its time and so far beyond it. I could watch this every day. In addition to all of the above it's consistently funny, has an undercurrent girl power message, and contains some genuine bops. You're in quarantine, just go watch it!

06 July 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 9: NATION GO BOOM!

What a Fourth of July weekend! Over eighty years ago our founding fathers brought forth this nation devised from the concept that liberty should be extended to all land-owning white males, and boy do we show it today. This is an instrumental part of the Road to Becoming a Summer Jam Champion. No song has ever won without carrying this weekend. That's not actually true at all, but now that we're hyped, let's dive in:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Wash Us In the Blood" by Kanye West ft. Travis Scott

Hahahaha, alright. We had to honor President Kanye this week. I mean, Kanye is fine, I really don't get up in his mental health issues, which he can usually be pretty coherent about through his music. He's also clearly a music and lyrical genius, even if his greatest flaw is probably that he knows it. This song isn't very good, but I like that it's more Yeezus than Ye. He's always just been a fearless contrarian who takes really radical positions all the time. Folks tend to forget that his entire first album's thesis was how great it was to drop out of college and how all degrees are useless. He's really not all that different in 2020. Anyway, I could talk about this forever - I think his Presidential Campaign is a publicity stunt, since he's not actually registered anywhere, or maybe he just sort of thinks he can do it? It just makes me think of declaring bankruptcy. Like, no, there are a few other steps in there.

Pop Smoke had a big album this week with Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon and most of the songs aren't that good, including this one, but when 50 comes on maaaan I went back to like 2004. He's got some bars left in him yet. It also got a music video and I dunno, probably should have been our hot jam. What?! Kanye beats out 50?! What is this, 2007?

This is not a huge song right now but has definitely found its way into a lot of ears this summer. On and off this list for sure and I actually dig the wordplay quite a bit here. It's not totally contemporary Bieber beat-wise, which probably makes it a bit more palatable. It's kind of a fun sleak sexy track that I admit I enjoy more than it deserves. It could be gone next week or hang around. That kind of summer song. We've seen our share by this point!

This track has been on the periphery for some time now, kind of always just on the outside looking in. I don't think it's really a top tier track, but it had some pretty strong performances this week by every metric we look at. It just really doesn't feel like the #2 song in the country, right? It's very stripped down and Megan is fierce af while Beyonce's vocal gymnastics are typically out of this world. I suppose it's all in service to itself, which makes good art, but it hasn't quite hooked my brain this summer.

I was kind of done with this to be honest, but it's had a strong presence on radio, Billboard, and Spotify. Yeah, that's pretty much everything. The Weeknd had a good early lead but I'm not sure this track IS Summer 2020. That's also because Summer 2020 is generally devoid of any fun or good news at all. It's weird. Can we all admit this a funked summer? The song is still good.

This song is still crushing everything, but we knocked it back down to earth a bit this week. I still thin the remix is a little stronger than the original and captures so much current anger. I'm realizing more and more how good this song actually is. I'm not sure it will find its way on wedding playlists, but it's fun.

Yeah, this was up there this week. I don't think it's actually all that popular, but it's so summery. I also ate a pretty strong quantity of watermelon this week and kept thinking about this track. This track keeps coming back this summer and maybe it's not as done as I think it is. It's actually starting to crush spotify. That's all good, it definitely grows on me.

Yeah, this track actually stuck out the most to me this week. It's kind of a weird pick but I feel like it was in the car every time I hopped in it and it just earwormed its way into my brain all week. The whole point of this list is truly capturing a week by week zeitgeist of pop music, and this was "Supalonely"'s week for sure. Wasn't even close. There you go! America! It's also a hella bop.

Next week...

We had some weird picks this week along with what has become some of our staples. We left out Doja Cat and Dua Lipa, who might still make a comeback. We'll see. Summer is going by very fast. On one hand I can't wait to get out of this terrible summer, but also...it's SUMMER! We love this season! It's just too hot. Damn hot. Damn this hot! Come back next week!

01 July 2020

Sweet Crap, It's Only Halfway

We're at the moment, folks. Day 183. The half-way point of the year. How is 2020 halfway over? It feels like we've lived a thousand lifetimes. One weird and inconvenient thing we do around here is keep track of each and every movie we watch. That's right. We have pushed this pretty far over the last few years. Now is the time to examine where we are at the halfway mark, talk about the best and worst that we've seen and dive into some superlatives. Let's get to it!

Total Movies Watched: 89
New Movies Watched: 50 (56%)

By Platform:

Streaming Total: 63 (71%)
DVD Total: 21 (24%)
TV Total: 3 (3.3%)
Theater Total: 2 (2.2%)

I have only watched TWO movies in theaters? Well, we are in a global pandemic. What's more depressing is that those two movies were Rise of Skywalker (2019) and a drive-in viewing of Bloodshot (2020).

I'm always eager to breakdown my streamed movies and see how my tastes in services are changing. I caught 22 on Hulu, although half of those come from splurging on the HBO add-on (does that count as HBO Max now? No one seems to know.). 27 are Netflix, so that's still a good lead, especially if I didn't have the HBO supplement. That leaves quite a few left, the biggest chunk of which is eight from Disney+. The rest are digital downloads and random YouTube and Amazon Prime one-offs.

Of the DVDs I of course have the Netflix Mail model, which supplied 15 out of the 21 movies I watched with the good ol' DVD player. That means Netflix, either streaming or DVD accounts for just under half of the flicks I checked out so far, or 47%.

By Year:

I've only seen six films that came out in 2020. Oof, but c'mon, 2020. Let's go by decade:

2020s: 6 (6.7%)
2010s: 49 (55%)
2000s: 16 (18%)
1990s: 11 (12.3%)
1980s: 4 (4.5%)
1970s: 2 (2.2%)
1960s: 1 (1.1%)

So, that's rough, obviously. My old movies have sincerely fallen by the wayside. I usually get one great '30s or '40s film in there. It's good to see the disaster where I'm at and know to buckle down in the second half. The 2010s are dominating more than I thought they might with the biggest single year understandably being 2019 at 21 films. Notable years I'm missing right now are '98, '02, '08, and '13. We're beyond complaining about the 90s at this point.

Prior Years:

I knew this was going to be a down year, but here's where we are when comparing to other midpoints. Note that in 2015 I did not keep track of first-time viewings.

2019: 112 total / 72 new (65%)
2018: 127 total / 83 new (65%)
2017: 112 total / 58 new (52%)
2016: 114 total / 62 new (54%)
2015: 92 total

We are below 2015 levels, which is certainly rough, but this has also admittedly not been a priority this year. We'll see if we can reach that fabled 200 mark, but I may be hesitant to set sights that high at this point. Our percentage of new films seen is also down, although marginally higher than 2017 and 2016.

Best Films Seen So Far:

This includes all first-time viewings, regardless of which year they came out. I actually struggled with this list. I had eight no-brainers and then had to pull to get to ten. It's rough. I've seen...I've seen an inordinate amount of bad movies this year. Anyway,

#1: The Lighthouse (2019)
#2: Da 5 Bloods (2020)
#3: Portait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
#4: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
#5: Mandy (2018)
#6: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
#7: Ford v Ferrari (2019)
#8: The Platform (2020)
#9: The Howling (1981)
#10: The Frighteners (1996)

The Top Seven or so I think will be very strong contenders on our end-of-year list, as I really loved all those movies. We'll see what, if any, 2020 film can come out to challenge, but otherwise Da 5 Bloods is far and away the best film of 2020 so far. Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) coming out hopefully though.

Worst Films Seen So Far

I feel like there's so many. Again, first time viewings:

#5: Frozen II (2019)
#4: Undercover Brother 2 (2019)
#3: Killing Gunther (2017)
#2: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
#1: American Ultra (2015)

I'd love to get into this more. Bottom Three were very hard to pick. Killing Gunther was saved by Schwarzenegger, though. IX is mostly trolling here, but I'm pretty serious about how much of a colossal letdown that was. But really, American Ultra was the most boring movie ever made with no idea what kind of tone it was going for. I couldn't maintain interest at all.

That's the halfway point, people! How many more movies will we get up to! Stay tuned here to keep tracking: http://www.norwegianmorningwood.com/p/movies-and-tv-in-2020.html

29 June 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 8: Is this Really It?!

It's a seminal moment in every summer - the party's are amping up, June is rounding the corner and we're about to dive crotch-first into the Independence Day Week. This is one of the most important moments in our Summer and also our lives. We're about to crest the half-way point of this long, arduous Summer that shows no sign of ending. It's time for another wave of jams, though. Let's dive in!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Soulmate" by Lizzo

There were a lot of new jams this week, but the most notable is probably Lizzo, who teamed up with an animated Queer Eye team for a nice positive self-image video for us this summer. This isn't really that catchy or innovative of a Lizzo track and the Queer Eye inclusion isn't all that strong but it's fun. I don't think this hits the heights of Lizzo Summer 2019 but it could be fun for a bit.

"Roses" by SAINT jhN

This track pops up again, but just barely on our radar. It's still a fun, throbbing track that's actually been hovering quite a bit on the periphery of ubiquity this week. I like it, it's fine and actually still doing well enough to find a spot here. I heard it a bit this week. It's good. I really don't have much else to say at this point. Another first! Oh, Summer 2020.

"Rain on Me" by GaGa and Ariana

After a few weeks off, this blasts back on the Winner's List. Okay, I will admit this is starting to grow on me. The beginning has an "Edge of Glory" feel which is always spectacular and the collabo is tight. I'd like something more than the cookie cutter 80s pop revival beat, but it's fine for now. It's doing okay chart-wise and could actually hang around for a bit.

"Whats Poppin" by Jack Harlow ft. everyone

The beat is a little sparse for me and it seems like a cash grab collabo, but it actually feels very modern to me, which gets it points here. More importantly, it's burning up Spotify and seems to fit a lot of needs, which could mean it gains some traction as a notable summer jam. I could never listen to this again and be pretty happy, but it's always possible it gains speed. It probably will. I've never felt older, which is a good sign.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles

This track has definitely been on and off the charts, and to be honest, it doesn't totally fit he prototype of what's popular right now. It feels way more like a 2013-kind of white boy crossover R&M. Having said all that it's more amazing that it's still doing well. It's a great summer song, after all. I could go for some watermelon.

"Party Girl" by StaySolidRocky

Alright, this track has been here and there for a while now, and I still think it pretty much sucks, but it's been a pretty empty week. We're definitely leaning more streaming than radio this week. It should be no real surprise that these tracks aren't that Top 40 friendly. It's almost as if most of the country is blindingly racist. Weird. Weird thoughts. The flow is a little slow and slurry here for my taste, but it's good enough to acknowledge as a something this summer.

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

I don't even know how this got the #2 position. I was just kind of looking through everything and this feel on my lap. I heard it maybe once, but it's got a good combo of radio, streaming, Billboard, and me liking it right now. It's very solidified right now as an early contender, but still has a half of summer to get through. That hasn't always been kind to these early leaders. We'll see!

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

After a lot of weeks being the presumptive number one in an otherwise vaccuum, "Rockstar" killed it this week. I was tempted to throw the remix down as the Hot Jam and possibly also throw it here as the #1 again. It's not too weird for a track to be on this list twice in one week, right? Dropping a new video this week seals it and it's doing fantastic by all our metrics, including liking it at this point. The BLM remix also feels of the moment in a time where not many other tracks are finding the voice to respond, despite a national community yearning for this kind of thoughtful catharsis.

Next week...

There were a handful of big releases this week that are pretty bad and will probably never see much action this summer. Katy Perry tried her hand at Gay Anthem "Daisies" which is so derivative that at one point "Swish Swish" literally starts playing instead. I just don't think the gay community needs Katy Perry as their spokesperson. Also, this is totally a quarantine video, but not very well done. Doja Cat dropped "Like That" which seems really manufactured and not nearly the earworm of "Say So." Then there's the usual culprits. Also, for some reason, this is the #1 song in the country. It's not very good.

22 June 2020

Summer Jam 2020 Week 7: Third-way There Edition

Well folks we are getting deep into June, it's the 45th Anniversary of JAWS (1975) and the 40th Anniversary of The Blues Brothers (1980). All is right with the world. Things are starting to heat up - even the oceans are boiling! Or just increasing in acidity. We have an array of toasty sultry sexy summer jams for you to sink your earjaws into today!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Afterglow" by Taylor Swift ft. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grade seems to be showing up in a lot of songs that end up being total duds this summer. I think this is in line for more of that, but we'll see what happens. I like it a little better than that GaGa track. I think this summer is going to need something special to elevate above the normal status quo. Can pop catch up to world events in time and truly demonstrate the zeitgeist? We'll see. I do not think this is it.

"Supalonely" by BENEE ft. Gus Dapperton

This has definitely been hanging around for a little bit and we threw it back on this week. It's actually grown on me quite a lot and I dig it. I don't think it's totally getting its teeth into the mainstream jugular quite yet but it still has potential. For now it's a pretty pleasant track that I was happy to re-include this week.

"Kings & Queens" by Ava Max

I actually love this song. It's not really a chart factor but it was totally in my head this week. It's so wonderful and danceable! I love the quarantine spin. It's not really a factor in Summer Jam Coronation but I think it could continue to pop up here and there, especially as I continue to like it. That guitar! Hit that guitar, man!

"Roses (Imanbek Remix)" by SAINt JHN

As I've said before, I am extremely annoyed at typing out SAINt JHN. That capitalization is all over the place. I am, however, not sick of this track despite its incomprehensible lyrics. That beat is fire and has such an attitude to it. It again isn't tracking or charting well or anything. I suppose I just hate songs that are actually popular. That's always something I've considered secondary to devoting so much time and effort to a weekly Hot Jam Countdown.

"Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd

So, definitely dropped a little, but still hanging out, "Blinding Lights" is still really fun, even if it's time is pretty much over. I think. It's got those fresh but nostalgic synth vibes, bruh. I like it. It sounds like both vintage pop and vintage Weeknd while also new. Having said that, it just doesn't seem to be slaying any charts. I really don't get radio enough to stay up to date with new songs made by artists with numbers in their name.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa

Not quite as strong this week, but still a good contender. I still enjoy this, but it's probably cresting already. For whatever reason Dua Lipa seems to struggle earning that final push to the top of Pop Diva Stardom. I think it's her inscrutably dead eyes and uninteresting beats. But that flow! I love this song. We'll see what happens with her.

"Rockstar" by DaBaby ft. Roddy Rich

This is again here by default - I live in an area that just doesn't play these jams unfortunately, but it's still slaughtering the charts. It's a good track. Is it THE jam of 2020? Maybe. What a weird year we have. DaBaby is a very modern artist and it feels like it's ahead right now. Without any other presumptive contender right now it might be leaning that way. We're a third of the way across this marathon with no real clear ubiquitous song. 2020 is fragmented and scary. This is a good track. You should totally click to listen to this track. Please click.

"Toosie Slide" by Drake

So, out of no where, Drake is back on top. I didn't hear any other song more this week and I was getting behind it, even singing along a bit. Drake broke my walls. Drake broke me. It's...fine. It's a fine song. It's doing okay chart-wise. I wouldn't call it dominating but it's still relevant enough to earn this position. This summer has turned over and over again upside-down so we'll see what happens next week...

Next week...

Oh, who knows. I haven't heard much from Doja Cat, she might be out. I might try a deep dive into the slew of hip hop tracks that are currently dominating pop music. That's very much a streaming-driven algorithm, and one that is a much better pulse of the country. That's unfortunately also one I have less access to on a regular basis. Hrmm - that's maybe the exact disconnect we have with this country's age gap in rewarding any music that's actually popular! Who knows anything anymore! We'll try to expand, because all these jams are stale af. Stay tuned!

18 June 2020

First Impressions: Bloodshot

Hell yeah I saw Bloodshot (2020). In the Age of COVID-19 the Drive-In movie theater is king! I haven't been to a drive-in in nearly 25 years. It's not that great, I sit in my car all the time. But it was fun to mix things up and find a way...to survive.

"Die, Robot Legs!"
 features Vin Diesel playing himself in a clear vanity project that also somehow exists as a strong contender for the perfect Vin Diesel vehicle. If you actually want to watch this thing, I suggest just watching it - the premise is actually pretty clever and the trailer completely gives away every card it has. It was very disappointing. In fact, stop reading this review and watch it, because otherwise it'll be super ruined for you. Or not, whatever, it's not like The Sixth Sense (1999) or something.

The movie opens with Vin Diesel in some anonymous war torn country, who fights his way to the big bad villain, who kills his boo and then Diesel himself. He wakes up as part of some scientific experiment, infused with nano-technology that can heal any wound instantly as well as giving him super strength and complete Internet access! Diesel sneaks out and seeks revenge, an unstoppable killing machine who decimates the villain and secures vengeance.

At this point we're like 40 minutes in, so more shit has to happen, right? Well, as it turns out, Diesel is totally being Memento'd by (ironically) Guy Pierce. Guy Pearce fabricates memories of the killing in Diesel's programmable corpse and then points him in the direction of whoever he wants killed. The movie actually plays with a lot of tropes this way. His girlfriend, at first seeming like an egregious example of a fridge girl is actually completely fine, has moved on, has a new husband and child, and hasn't actually seen Diesel in five years. His disobeying orders and striking out on his own is all a farce designed exactly as Guy Pearce wants it. All his rage and catharsis is artificial bullshit. It's actually kind of amazing.

You wonder if Diesel was aware of any of this. He eventually becomes sort of a side character in his own story. He's clearly a tool for every other character, a bull pointed in whatever direction they want to destroy. He ghosts is knocked out constantly. Is it some commentary on these unstoppable superheroes or action heroes who feel so justified in their righteous revenge? It's all a ploy. I'm not sure if the movie is that smart, because yes, there are quite a few problems with this, perhaps undercut the most because Diesel's performance and dedication to the "Hero's Journey" is incredibly sincere.

You didn't always get that with Diesel. Despite appearing like a mindless violent beefcake, I always liked when he slowed things down like showed how scared he is at the end of xXx (2003) or voicing The Iron Giant (1999). I think he's trying too hard to prove himself these days and trying desperately to show how tough he is after The Rock called him out for being soft. Anyway, even though this was the perfect movie to show some real growth, he bungles it by being the most insane headstrong unstoppable killer ever.

Part of that obviously works in the film's favor. Guy Pearce even comments constantly about how driven Diesel is, and how he just thinks he's in a video game. There is a lot of that. Diesel basically completes mission after mission and works his way up to the final boss. A lot of this is meta, but it is sincere enough to work, at least in some ironic sense. As you can tell, this movie actually really tripped me up. It's not obvious with its meta-commentary like The LEGO Movie (2014) or something, but there's a lot there. For a bit it tries to comment but also eat its own cake, and when it slides too much in that direction, it fails.

Now for all the crap that makes no sense. Upon thinking about the premise at all, why did Guy Pearce have to do any of this? He has the nano-technology to create an unstoppable killing machine. Why does he need to trick Vin Diesel into killing all these people? Why doesn't he just hire someone and then make them to it? This idea is less crazy when you realize that he also has a team of three technologically advanced cyborg killers working for him that actually just do that.

One, in particular, is some guy with robot legs. Robot Legs hates Vin Diesel for absolutely no reason. He absolutely haaaaates Diesel. Who the hell knows why. The best I could guess is that they invest all this energy into making him a super-healing unstoppable killer, when he would probably just do it for free. Maybe it's the fact that one girl got a super breathing apparatus (by the way, I'm convinced this movie doesn't understand how lungs work), and another blind soldier got all these drone cameras to control. Robot Legs just got the ability to parkour. He doesn't actually have a purpose in this film outside of plot, and by that I mean within his own organization.

There's also not really a major world-ending plot or anything. Guy Pearce is just kind of a jerk. Diesel's arc boils down to getting revenge on someone who brainwashed him into thinking he needs to get revenge on that person's enemies. There's nothing actually heroic about anything. That presents another level of meta-irony, which again, Diesel seems to play with sincerity. It works when you're reading the movie as this basic parody of action films, but there really are too many slow motion, music swelling scenes of pure heroism to defend this stance.

So, Diesel is unstoppable, can heal from any injury, and hack into the top government satellites anywhere in the world, but he can overheat or something? It's never quite clear. His chest gets red and eyes get bloodshot (the only way this title makes sense I guess?), which means he's close to danger! But nothing really happens. He overclocks at one point and then just kind of wakes up in the next scene. It's not all that dramatic. Again, is this a commentary on bulletproof, deathproof action heroes? Or just bad writing? I've put way too much thought into Bloodshot over the past few weeks.

On that note, since the ostensible love interest gets all worried when he overclocks, we should talk about the girl in the movie, because it's really weird. Diesel has his wife (or girlfriend?) memories that drive all his revenge, but when that's undercut it seems like he's going to hook up with the Breathing Hole Girl. She has some implant on her chest that lets her breathe in poison gas or underwater. Maybe it's just how she's presented - as a total sex ball honeypot, but it seems like she's going to help Diesel heal from the pain of losing his girlfriend-wife. But that never happens, and they end platonically.

Not to seem like I'm beating a dead Charger, but AGAIN - is this on purpose? Subverting our expectations that the action hero hooks up with the sultry breath hole vixen? I don't know what's going on. It's maybe progressive, she has her own dynamic and agency and is only kidnapped once. It sort of skirts problematic treatment, but the movie seems reluctant that they hook up while presenting them as totally hot for each other.

Lastly we have the black friend, Lamorne Morris who does a pretty good job as the renegade hacker person who reboots the Diesel into serving justice. He inexplicably speaks in a thick English accent, which I could only think of Don Cheadle in Ocean's 11 (2001) as precedent? Like, why is this a thing? I just don't know what's going on this film.

In the end I actually dug Bloodshot a lot. It's certifiably dumb, but a pretty fun time that pokes holes in action tropes, purposeful or not. I think it was on purpose, but it's not witty enough to take advantage of them, and Diesel, to his credit, is so sincere in his performance that it simultaneously enforces and undercuts the core theme. Just watch this movie, it's pretty wild.

lamorne morris accent
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