Sunday, October 07, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Other pop songs

When I share songs in a Weekend Diversion post, they’re usually by the same artist, or linked in some other way. This week’s songs are in that latter category: I heard all of them first on TV, mostly on our free-to-air music video channel. There’s something else they all have in common: While I like them well enough for whatever reason, I wouldn’t buy any of them. There are reasons for that.

The song up top is one that’s still played on the music video channel a lot (in fact, it was broadcast this evening). The song is called “Rise” and is by English DJ, record producer, songwriter and remixer, Jonas Blue. The song features the vocals of American pop duo Jack & Jack.

The song hit Number 13 in New Zealand (Gold), 7 in Australia (Platinum), 39 in Canada, and Number 3 in the UK (Gold). It didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, but did hit 9 on the “Bubbling under the Hot 100” chart, for whatever that’s worth.

It’s fair to say I’d probably never have heard the song if I hadn’t seen the video. I liked the sound of the song—it’s pretty bouncy, and has a sort of island vibe in parts. I liked the repeated parts of the lyrics and the pre-chorus is catchy:
They think we're just drop-outs
Living at our mom's house
Parents must be so proud
They know it all
No, they don't speak our language
They say we're too savage, yeah
No, no we don't give a... anymore
And that same section has what really annoys me about the video version: The song is about teen/young adult rebelliousness and defiance, but the last line is clearly censored which, to my mind, takes the power out of the defiance and kind of infantilises it. I really hate lyrical dishonesty, almost enough to make me want to buy the song to find out if the recorded version is censored—that is, if I cared, and I don’t (I listened to samples on iTunes, and they were all missing the word). It annoys me and, I think, sullies an otherwise catchy song..

Next up, pure pop summeriness:

The song is “Somebody to You” by UK pop rock band The Vamps. The song was released in the UK in May 2014, and is another I’d never have known about without the music video channel. This is sometimes played frequently, but they can go weeks without playing it, too.

At any rate, the song hit Number 17 in New Zealand (Gold), 14 in Australia (Platinum), 68 in Canada (Gold), 4 in the UK (Silver), and, like the previous song, in the USA it was only on Billboard’s “Bubbling Under the Hot 100” list, at Number 10 (and it went Gold).

What I liked about the song was actually something I learned later, namely, that the band is real: They formed on their own and they play their own instruments. I’d assumed, like other people, apparently, that they were a boy band. When I found out that wasn’t the case, I admit I paid a little more attention (even though I often like boy bands, too). The lads are all now 22-24, which means that at the time the video was recorded they were 18-20.

What I liked about the song is its most obvious thing: The spoken/chanted/shouted “Yeah… YOU!” at the beginning and repeated later. The song has a catchy hook, and pleasant enough summery sound, and, well, it is what it is. Demi Lovato provides the guest vocals in the song.

Next up a song that is the newest of the lot:

The song, released in May of this year, is “Jackie Chan” by Dutch DJ Tiësto with Canadian DJ Dzeko and featuring vocals by Preme and rapper Post Malone. The video is based on Minecraft.

As near as I can tell, the song is meaningless, but it was nevertheless popular for its summery sound. It hit Number 7 in New Zealand (Platinum), 13 in Australia (Gold), 7 in Canada, 52 on the USA’s Billboard Hot 100, and Number 5 in the UK (Gold).

The video was posted in July, so I may have first seen it then, and I’ll admit that my first reaction when I saw is was “WTF?!”. But the repetition is catchy, even if against one’s will. And, anyway, it’s not really intended as the sort of song that someone sits and listens to or sings along to, it’s a song for the clubs, for beach parties or, in a pinch, a Saturday night at home with friends. It’s more the sort of song we experience in a place and with the people we want to hang out with than it’s a song we sit and listen to. And that’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t buy this song; though I’ve frequently bought dance-oriented music, this isn’t quite that, and it kinda is, and it’s kinda annoying, AND kinda catchy. And it’s still in reasonably heavy rotation on the music video channel, so I can’t really escape it.

Finally, a song I sought out:

The song, from October of last year, is “Leave a Light On” by Scottish-born UK singer/songwriter Tom Walker. I heard this song because it was used in TV commercials for a TV, especially the powerful chorus, “I will leave the light on”. That started me on a journey.

I Googled the chorus and found the song pretty quickly. It was co-written by Steve Mac, who also co-wrote previous Weekend Diversion song, “Symphony” by Clean Bandit. The video was shot in Croatia.

The song reached Number 40 in New Zealand, 24 in Australia (Gold), 20 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40, and Number 7 in the UK (Platinum). It didn’t chart in Canada.

I really like this song. The chorus is what caught my attention and led me to find out more about the song and artist. The song is about addiction and helping a friend find their way out. The lyrics make this clear:
Tell me what's been happenin', what's been on your mind
Lately, you've been searchin' for a darker place
To hide, that's alright
But if you carry on abusing, you'll be robbed from us
I refuse to lose another friend to drugs
Just come home, don't let go
The video perfectly illustrates the meaning of the song without being overly obvious: A young man is adrift alone in the ocean, hopeless and feeling like he is about to lose it all. Finally, he sees that Tom has a left a light on for him. My favourite videos are those that reinforce a song in a fresh way appropriate for the medium of music video, and this video does that very well, I think.

Interestingly, I’d just finished finding out about the song and found the video on YouTube and then I saw it on the music video channel for the first time. That was a little spooky.

And that’s a good place to end this weekend’s Diversion, a bunch of songs that are connected only because I saw them on TV, one way or another. As I said, while I like them all well enough, for whatever reason I wouldn’t buy any of them, except, maybe, I might buy “Leave a Light On”.

There are always random songs that are new to me that I end up liking, but maybe not well enough to buy them. That’s okay, I can just share them here instead.

And I will, of course.

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