Sunday, 29 December 2013

The TMT Awards 2013: Category 1 - Music

Hi all,
It's almost the end of the year and I've been incredibly lazy with this blog. My last post was at the end of October and that's just slack! Especially since so much has happened. I finished my novel, there was Christmas and I finished my novel. So, over the next four days (to make up for my laziness), I present to you the TMT Awards! TMT, by the way, comes from the name of the fanzine I created called Theta Morbius Times. It's stuck with me, so most of the things I do are linked to that in some way. Anyway, these awards will be split into four categories; music, books, television and film. In these, I'll basically just state what I liked during the year and what I'll remember from 2013. So, today, I present to you the first category; music.

Is it just me or were there some really good songs this year? Many of my favourite artists (Alexander Rybak, Eric Saade, Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, OneRepublic, One Direction, Maria Mena, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Jessie J and Lilly Allen) released new albums and songs in these 12 months, which has made for a really great soundtrack to my year. This year also saw me discover some new favourites which make me desperate for their new albums. Fall Out Boy, Kodaline, Bastille and Father Tiger have all entered into the canon of singers that I just adore. However, the biggest discovery for me this year was Avicii. I’d only held ‘Levels’ before, but this year saw the DJ release a fantastic new album, on which I’ve been obsessed with many of the songs. It’s just makes me want to dance and sing along and I really love it.
   I’ve noticed a bit of trend this year in terms of song themes. Many of them are about hope and happiness, which makes for a big change. Usually, the biggest hits are about break-ups and sadness (that’s not to say there hasn’t been some of that. ‘Wrecking Ball’ was one of my favourite songs from the year), so it was really exciting to see some great new songs which actually make you feel better. Even Lorde’s ‘Royals’ can be seen to fit into the category of hopeful songs, looking past the darkness to see the light.
   However, not all of this year’s songs have been awesome. The worst song of the year was Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ which is just disgusting and horrible (in terms of composition and lyrical content) and I hate it. It was number one for weeks which just makes me even more sickened. It just seems like a giant leap backwards and I get so angry just thinking about it, so I’m going to stop.
   There was also a few changes in identity and music for some key artists. Agnetha Faltskog (of ABBA) struck out on her own and has released a really awesome album about love, but from a distance which just adds so much to it. Both Eric Saade and Katy Perry changed from a pop flavour to a slower and Lorde-esque type of tune. This has resulted in big hits like ‘Dark Horse’ and I’ve really welcomed this change. In contrast, Miley Cyrus’ attempts to shake off her young Disney girl image by creating the ‘We Can’t Stop’ video resulted in one of the most unpleasant experiences of the year. Opinions have been divided about her, but I think we can all agree that seeing her twerk against Robin Thicke was needlessly disturbing. She almost reformed herself in my mind when I heard ‘Wrecking Ball’ but then I saw it’s video. What are you doing, Miley? Really? ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a great song, almost ruined by a needlessly provocative music video. Just pointless.
   Overall, I found that this was a really good year for music and one that I would never have seen coming. I was thinking on this as I was trying to compile my list of 60 favourite songs, wondering what next year’s 60 will hold. But who would’ve thought that a song about a fox would become a huge viral hit because of it’s silly video and catchy lyrics? Who would’ve guessed that Katy Perry and Sara Bareilles would release almost the same song in the same year (‘Roar’ is nowhere near as good as ‘Brave’, by the way)? And I would never, ever have guessed that Eminem would release a song that I actually like. What does the next year hold in terms of music? I don’t even want to guess.

The Sexy 60
So what are my favourite songs of the year? Well, I tried to do a list of top 5 or most played, but I just kept ending up with too many. Too much great music. So, I decided that I would do the Sexy 60. It’s a bit like the Hot 100, except there’s only 60 and I pick weirder and more obscure songs. And that doesn’t mean that these are the sexiest songs of 2013, because they’re not (Lady Gaga’s ‘G.U.Y.’ wins that award. I feel so dirty listening to it). These are just the songs I most loved. A lot of work and suffering went into this list. I had to work it down from 97. Deleting some songs was like I was confining them to obscurity forever. Yeah, I take these things too seriously. They’re not in any particular order, just the songs in alphabetical order shuffled 5 times. But this is the list I will look back on in five years. And reflect on how bad my music taste was.

You can listen to the whole list here on the YouTube playlist: listen here
1.       Bonfire Heart (James Blunt)
2.       The Fox (What Does The Fox Say) (Ylvis)
3.       Over The Love (Florence + The Machine)
4.       My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Fall Out Boy)
5.       5 To 7 Years (Alexander Rybak)
6.       My Boyfriend Is Gay (Hailey Rowe)
7.       Crimson Warrior (Attack On Titan theme)
8.       You (Robin Stjernberg. Sweden’s 2013 Eurovision entry)
9.       Burn (Ellie Goulding)
10.    Young And Beautiful (DH Orchestral Version) (Lana Del Rey)
11.    Still Into You (Paramore)
12.    Wake Me Up (Avicii)
13.    Clarity (Zedd, Foxes)
14.    This Is Gospel (Panic! At The Disco)
15.    My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me (Little Green Cars)
16.    Only Teardrops (Emmelie De Forest. Denmark’s Winning 2013 Eurovision entry)
17.    Dark Horse (Katy Perry)
18.    Counting Stars (OneRepublic)
19.    How Come You Don’t Want Me (Tegan & Sara)
20.    Timber (Pitbull & Ke$ha)
21.    Carry You (Union J)
22.    The Monster (Eminem, Rihanna)
23.    Marching (In The Name Of Love) (Eric Saade)
24.    Something I Need (OneRepublic)
25.    All Comes Down (Kodaline)
26.    Complicated (Kento)
27.    Compromising Me (William Beckett)
28.    Best Song Ever (One Direction)
29.    Fuck You (Maria Mena)
30.    Another Love (Tom Odell)
31.    If I Lose Myself (OneRepublic)
32.    Heart Attack (Demi Lovato)
33.    I Could Be The One (Avicii Vs. Nicky Romero)
34.    High Hopes (Kodaline)
35.    Song For Fifty (Murray Gold at the Doctor Who prom)
36.    Story Of My Life (One Direction)
37.    Applause (Lady Gaga)
38.    Lanterns (Birds Of Tokyo)
39.    Summertime Sadness Remix (Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais)
40.    The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy)
41.    Winning Ground (Eric Saade)
42.    Tennis Court (Lorde)
43.    Run Away (Evermore)
44.    Loved Me Back To Life (Celine Dion)
45.    People Like Us (Kelly Clarkson)
46.    First Love (Father Tiger)
47.    Pompeii (Bastille)
48.    Unconditionally (Katy Perry)
49.    Close Your Eyes (Michael Buble)
50.    Closer (Tegan & Sara)
51.    Brave (Sara Bareilles)
52.    Should’ve Gone To Bed (Plain White T’s)
53.    Here’s To Never Growing Up (Avril Lavigne)
54.    I Always Liked That (Maria Mena)
55.    Hey Brother (Avicii)
56.    Clair De Lune (Flight Facilities, Christine Hoberg)
57.    King And Lionheart (Of Monsters And Men)
58.    Hard Out Here (Lily Allen)
59.    Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)
60.    Stay (Rihanna, Mikky Ekko)

Best Album
Pure Heroine (Lorde)

 Despite only one of her songs making the Sexy 60, Lorde’s album Pure Heroine was the best of the year. Putting into words what it really feels like to be part of this generation (more so than Miley’s album, which I’ve heard described as defining a generation) and sung with her gorgeous vocals, this is just brilliant. From the opening line of its first track, ‘Tennis Court’,  ‘Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk’ to the number one hit ‘Royals’, it just gives you a different feeling than any other album this year, possibly ever. Oddly enough, I don’t like ‘Royals’ as much as several of the other tracks. But even now as I listen to it, it’s growing on me considerably. The reason for this may be that there are so many other awesome songs on the album. ‘Tennis Court’ has a great beat and evocative lyrics, ‘Ribs’ is a showcase for Lorde’s incredible voice, ‘Buzzcut Season’ is like an anecdote of teen awkwardness but filled with both regret and celebration (it would almost work as a graduation song because it induces the same sort of feeling; looking back on how you used to try and fit in with the popular kids and thinking how much of an idiot you were), ‘Team’ is the happiest song of the album, about giving a two-fingered salute to authority but my favourite track off the album is ‘Glory And Gore’. Thematically, it’s incredibly deep, summed up perfectly by the main line ‘glory and gore go hand in hand’. It’s almost a mediation on how when we fight for what we believe in, we almost end up losing ourselves and doing terrible things and that this might not be such a bad thing. But that’s what I love about this album. If you just want a great beat and a great voice, you can easily sit back and relax or dance to it. But if you pay some attention to the lyrics, you’re supposed by just how deep and relevant they are. It’s a stunning experience and my pick for the best album of the year.
Just Missing Out: True by Avicii (Best track: ‘Heart Upon My Sleeve’), Demi by Demi Lovato (Best track: ‘Nightingale’), In A Perfect World by Kodaline (Best track: ‘All I Want’), Heartthrob by Tegan & Sara (Best track: ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’)

Best Soundtrack Album

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

While I have yet to see the film, the soundtrack for the second Hunger Games was the best of the year (I can’t count the one for Frozen yet because I refuse to listen to it until I’ve seen the film. Despite the fact that everyone is saying ‘Let It Go’ is one of the best songs in any Disney movie ever). The one for the first film was the best of last year with some really exceptional songs such as The Secret Sisters’ ‘Tomorrow Will Be Kinder’ and Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars’ ‘Safe & Sound’ (one of the most played songs in my library) and I was really looking forward to the new one. As news of the artists slowly dripped through, I became even more desperately excited. Coldplay, Of Monsters And Men, Sia, Christina Aguilera, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers and Ellie Goulding all contribute tracks and it’s just an incredible collection of songs. Most of them are incredibly depressing, but that makes perfect sense because Catching Fire is one dark story. There is no bad songs, just songs that aren’t utterly stellar, but that’s probably because I haven’t listened to them enough. If you only listen to a song once, I don’t think you can really judge if it’s any good or not. It requires at least 3, probably 5, before you can really get a grip on a song’s merits (or lack thereof in some cases. Hello, ‘Blurred Lines’). On first listen, I immediatley had some favourites (Of Monsters And Men’s ‘Silhouettes’ and The Lumineer’s ‘Gale Song’ really stood out to me) but listening to those songs again led to the discovery of further awesome songs. Because of ‘Silhouettes’, Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ has become one of those songs I can’t just listen to once (it’s a very energetic song that just makes you feel like you’re preparing for some big battle, that you’re strong against a terrible adversity). The same with Christina Aguilera’s ‘We Remain’ (a hopeful song, rare for this album) and Lorde’s cover of ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ (injected with a healthy dose of super depressing vocals). I just love this soundtrack because it becomes more than just a soundtrack. This is an album, centred around the themes of authority, rebellion and strength. And that gives it an immensely repeatable quality.
Just Missing Out: The Great Gatsby (Best track: ‘No Church In The Wild’ by JAY Z, Kanye West & Frank Ocean)

Best Video

Same Love (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)

No, this song isn’t in the Sexy 60. Unfortunately, it was listed under 2012 (like P!nk’s ‘Just Give Me A Reason’), so it was excluded. As a compromise, it’s my decision for best music video of the year (I downloaded it off Youtube on the 27th of January, so it just works). You can’t imagine how much this song means to me as a gay person. It’s sometimes quite hard to grow up gay. You feel like no-one else ever felt this way, but then you might some people like yourself and you begin to like yourself again. However, there’s still all those other people who don’t get you. There’s the homophobic slurs (I successfully managed to train my brother not to say ‘that’s so gay’. At least, not in my presence) and the political two-fingered salutes (the day I heard that Tony Abbot was elected was one of the worst of the year, because I’m convinced it’s set marriage equality back about three years. This was confirmed when he had all the same-sex marriages in Canberra voided. That was a sad, sad day). It all just leads to the feeling that you’re some sort of oddity that you don’t belong and you never will. This fear still gets me occasionally. But now, I have a way to get out of this sadness. This video and the song. From the perspective of a straight person who decides that enough is enough and that gay people are still people, it seems like the most revolutionary statement in years. What was more amazing was that this song came from the people who brought us ‘Thrift Shop’ which is a great song, but incredibly silly. His next major song was this. Listening to this and watching the clip, it’s like being enveloped in a warm hug of belonging. For once, I feel as though people are noticing this struggle and frustrated at it and working to change it. When I first heard this song, I thought it was mildly offensive. I was younger and stupider. It took me a few listens to realise just how sensitively it was done. If any doubt remained, it was dispelled when I saw the video. I related to it so, so much. The pain of being in a dance alone or raging against your parents because they don’t understand. You think they’ll hate you for this big secret you’re keeping and sometimes they do (like the father in the video) but often they accept you too (like the mum. Seeing her at the wedding made me cry). It’s incredibly powerful and moving and has done so much for my acceptance of the way I am. I attribute this song to me being more open in my University life. Like any good thing, it has changed me, for the better. Last year’s video of the year ‘Laura’ by Bat For Lashes led me to learn and understand more about trans people. It has made me a more accepting person, while ‘Same Love’ has made me feel more accepted. It’s amazing to think that a music video of all things can cause huge change in communities and politics and individuals, but I suppose music and songs are universal. They make us feel something and that’s incredibly impressive. I applaud you Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert. I have so much to thank you for.

So what was your favourite music from this year? Do you agree with some of my choices? Or am I just completely obscure? Probably the latter, haha! Tomorrow, will be books which includes novels and graphic novels so be sure to check back soon!