Friday, 8 April 2016

Top 20 Todd's Pop Song Reviews

In the interest of full disclosure, the reason why my other Top Lists for this month so far have started the way they have is one of proper honesty. It’s a chance for me to air out whatever legitimate grievances I may have with a creator before setting them aside to highlight their strengths, in honour of my own views concerning the separation of issues with creator and issues with creation. This… is an exception to that rule. Call it petty, and in a way it is, but there’s a very prominent bruise on my grey matter thanks to a certain conversation I had on Twitter with Todd. Something about not only being attacked by someone whose work you regularly watch to get away from these very situations, but to have his fans join in and support him while doing so, will probably never sit right with me any time soon. It was an issue tangentially connected to GamerGate, further proving that the whole debate just seems to bring the ugliness out of everyone, and I won’t go into it any further here. Just know that, as I get into today’s list, I am still somewhat irrationally holding something against the guy personally. I set out to highlight a wide(ish) spectrum of reviewers with Meta Month, and what better way to illustrate that than with a guy who, despite me finding him extremely funny and insightful in places, has shown himself to be a bit of a dick IRL. Anyway, discarding that for now, here’s my Top 20 list of the best Todd’s Pop Song Reviews.

Special Mention: Top 10 Groin Shots In Movies

This isn’t an official review, so it doesn’t get a place on the list proper. That said… who the hell else makes a list like this? From A History Of Violence to Jackass, he pays tribute to one of the most juvenile and yet most emotionally satisfying forms of violence out there.

#20: Jealous

Starting out on a notion that the idea of squeaky-clean teen puppets turning all bad-ass R&B isn’t anything new, Todd actually takes time to highlight how Nick Jonas is at least somewhat believable in his new pop persona. Then we get into the actual content of the song, and… yeah, it doesn’t check out. I especially like when he goes through a whole list of lyrics that would’ve worked better than the one Nick actually went with.

#19: Holy Grail

Unpopular opinion incoming, but I have never been able to really get into Jay-Z. From his more classic work to now, the man has never struck me as someone worth listening to any length of time solely for his lyrical ability. In this review, Todd starts to shift towards that idea as he looks at Jay-Z’s supposed worries about his own fame, and rightfully shuts them down as pretentious twaddle.

#18: OMG

A rather disheartening turn from one of the most influential names in modern R&B, Todd takes time out to show how much this collab between Usher and pop-culture skid mark just doesn’t work. From the legitimately good sonic aspects that are drowned out by the less-appreciated ones, to the severe step-down in terms of lyrical maturity, to a particularly funny moment involving vuvuzelas, this is one of the better picks out of the earlier history of the show. It’s also the first iteration of one of Todd’s longest running gags, that being his unrequited love for Obscurus Lupa which would yield some major laughs further on down the track.

#17: Drive By

While not being the first time that he would show just how wrong-headed Train and in particular Pat Monahan are when it comes to writing songs, he definitely makes a good case for just how deranged their more recent output has gotten. The bad lyrics that went into this thing, complete with constant reiterations of the use of a Hefty bag, are almost legendary in their lack of forethought and Todd brings it to task for the Vogon poetry-level oddity that it is.

#16: Titanium

Oh, Sia Furler; you went from pop champion of the indie scene to one of the biggest songwriters of today. What holds this review together so well is the back-and-forth between Todd and fellow musically-inclined reviewer Paw, which essentially plays out like the classic “They’re popular now, ergo they suck” hipster argument. This ends up leading up to a weird inversion of those same values by Todd, showing why the sheer nonsense that fuels a lot of similar lines of reasoning really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

#15: S&M

While his musings about the possible implications behind Rihanna making a song like this, coupled with a surreal moment where he is actively told that maybe he isn’t the right person to be making such observations, are all well and good, this review makes the list because of another interesting sentiment on Todd’s part. His begrudged liking of the song in question when all is said and done is conveyed through the feeling of going through pain… that, for one reason or another, the person likes going through. If only this song, and subsequent review, came out a few years later because it would’ve been awesome for that proximity to highlight how this 15 minute video did a better job with its core theme than a two-hour long film.

#14: Little Things

This entire blog started out on a note of pointing out how much of a manipulative force One Direction is, along with boy bands as a whole, and I’ll admit that a decent chunk of that opinion grew out of watching Todd espouse about just how teeth-grinding their music is. He’s rather fascinating in how he highlights how the “this song is totally about you” trope in these types of songs, once you begin to process it, says some pretty unsettling things about not only the people singing but the people that they are supposedly singing to as well.

#13: Thrift Shop Vs. Suit & Tie

Todd’s Vs. comparison reviews are always really well put-together, in that he manages to find a good amount of common ground between the two songs in question. However, even with how he managed to tie Drake and Adele together in a later review into this weird ARG of a narrative, I’d still rank this as his best effort amongst the Vs. videos. Why? Because, through looking at two different songs that represent opposite ends in terms of fashion aesthetic, he comes a realization that not nearly enough music critics seem able to reach. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a moment that well and truly proves that Todd has the level head needed to talk about music in the air that he does.

#12: Sexy Bitch/Chick

This is a song that Todd would continually bring back up as easily one of the worst he’s ever reviewed, and you most assuredly get that impression with how Todd manages to burn through everything that makes this song so wretched. He explains his grievances with both David Guetta and Akon and how this kind of throwback Eurotrash EDM isn’t something that we needed any more of.

#11: Eenie Meenie

As can be expected for a critic who specializes in Top 40 radio, Justin Bieber became something of a nemesis of the show for a long time and in no other video is that better shown than here. There’s something downright cathartic about just how much rage Todd lets out thanks to how atrocious the lyrics are. “You idiots! Listen to what you are saying!”

#10: Blank Space

Going back to the idea of the separation of art and artist, Todd’s reasoning for enjoying this song as something that it was never intended to be is hardly anything new but it’s still interesting in how he presents it. Go look up the interpretations made of Fahrenheit 411 against the author’s actual intentions, and you’ll get a good idea at how this mindset is a lot more prevalent than you may think. Hell, the mere notion of finding entertainment in something that you have in some way misinterpreted should be relatable to anyone who has been listening to pop music for any length of time.

#9: Top Ten Songs About Mediocre Romance
Yet another iteration of “lists that you probably won’t find anywhere else”, Todd goes through ten love songs that, when you really look at them, aren’t about much more than utter complacency. From the better-known artists like Billy Joel and Pearl Jam to the lesser-known like Deep Blue Something and Flight Of The Conchords, he cuts a fairly thick swathe through the pop music landscape and even points some songs that aren’t nearly as romantic as the majority opinion has set them up to be. Combine this with some neat conversing between Todd and the Nostalgia Chick, and you have a solid list that I can only hope of doing justice one of these days. Hmm… maybe something about the Top ? Sexy Songs (That Are About Not Having Sex). I don’t know, I’ll have to work on that later.

#8: Carry Out

There’s really only one way to look at a song that weirdly sexualizes fast food, and that’s by matching in terms of “Yeah, Rule 34 or no Rule 34, this still ain’t right”. Todd once said on the Transmission Awesome podcast that what he does in this video is one of the leading reasons why he decided not to show his face, and I can kind of understand that: Making out with a cheeseburger is hardly the thing that dignity is made of.

#7: Sexy And I Know It

While I would normally discard this video from the list entirely solely because watching it also involves watching bits of the enragingly insipid music video attached to this already stupid and annoying song, it’s Todd’s approach to it that garners it favour in spite of that. His gimmick of doing “Deep Lyrical Analysis” of certain songs has yielded laughs before, but this might be the only time that said analysis has rung true. Rather than just going with the numbingly obvious opinion of “it sucks”, he compares it to previous body-centric male pop artists to highlight why the joke at the core of the song really doesn’t work. And that it sucks.

#6: Deuces

Along with Justin Bieber, Chris Brown would prove to be the other major punching bag of the show and, with this review, he well and truly shows why Chris deserves such scorn by showing how, given the song’s proximity to the infamous Rihanna incident, it paints Chris out to be an unfathomably vile person. He gives some credence to the notion of bad people being able to make good material, and is even open to the idea of letting Chris have his stardom again, something that ends with a hilariously intense bout of roaring from Todd’s part.

#5: Hey Soul Sister

While I maintain that Drive By would prove that Train would only get worse after this, Todd’s breakdown of how both over and under-thought-out the lyrics here are. The whole video, more so than the rest of Todd’s videography, plays out like a live Genius annotation session, sided with a look at the correlation between the adult contemporary charts and the Top 100, and Todd’s reactions to some of these lyrics are among some of his most visceral. And then there’s the apparent intent of the song, which gives Todd some of his best material to date.

#4: Todd And Rap Critic Talk About Accidental Racist

Back when this little bit of musical naiveté came out, people were chomping at the bit to give their two cents on how just plain wrong the intent of the song was. Among that mass of commenters was Todd and fellow music reviewer Rap Critic, whom had collaborated a few times before but this might be some of their best collective work. In 12 minutes, they not only individually highlight how the lyrics of both Brad Paisley and LL Cool J fail as well as showing what the intended effects behind their words would've been, they also end up showing a lot of the bubbling racism inherent in the discussion itself. I mentioned before how GamerGate only served to bring out the worst in people, and while the fallout of Accidental Racist isn’t nearly at that level, it did seem to do much the same thing.

#3: Fifteen

This may sound like a bit of a back-handed statement given the feelings I’ve already expressed concerning Todd outside of his videos, but the man is a far better actor than I think even he realizes. In no other work of his is that better exemplified than here where… oh, I don’t even want to spoil it, but let’s just say that he manages to bring the big issues with how distant the song in question is written through a moment that, even after so long and having seen this video more than enough times, still kind of gets to me whenever I see it. It’s rare that that kind of emotional reaction is repeatable for someone like me, so I hope you can see why I rate this review in particular so highly.

#2: Top Ten Best Hit Songs Of 2010

It may seem like a bit of a disservice that I’ve only included one of the myriad of year-end countdowns Todd has done on this list, but I do have reason for it besides general want for variety to be shown here. This is where, without a shadow of a doubt, you can see that Todd not only has a real love for pop music but for music in general. Probably the crowning moment in that regard is his rationalizing for his #2 pick, where he submits to how while his tastes definitely aren’t what you’d expect, or even want in certain cases, they are still his and he really shouldn’t have shame for them.

#1: Turn Up The Music

Yep, we’re closing out this list as it technically began with probably the least musical of Todd’s Pop Song Reviews. We’re also bookending this list with a look at someone who well and truly needs his balls crushed into dust. As a bait-and-switch, he abandons the notion of reviewing the song in question in favour of looking at the Chris Brown phenomenon, both on the part of Chris himself and that of his fans. Todd, much as I have throughout this entire list, returns to the idea of separating one’s actions from one’s art and how, we as a whole, could very much do so and have done so in the past. He then proceeds to convey how, in spite of such a favourable path, Chris Brown’s actions and the acceptability of his fan concerning said actions make it impossibly difficult to do so. This shows that, despite his own misgivings about his contextual boundaries back in S&M, Todd is more than capable of talking about fairly weighty topics with definitely some form of venom-spewing but also with a reasonable amount of intelligence and self-awareness. Yes, I may still feel somewhat hurt at that conversation all that time ago, but that isn’t quite enough to make me discredit the guy’s abilities.

Well, since getting into music isn’t something normally done around these parts (or, at least, to such a length), I want to keep going down this path as we look at another music reviewer that I have far less conflicted feelings on.

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