Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pop Music Wars

I'm a fan of The Critical Condition, which has insightful and often very funny pop culture commentary.  And I'm a fan of pop music.  So, imagine my delight when those two things merged together in what I say, without hesitation, is THE GREATEST MUSICAL CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME!

I mean, really.  How can you not love this:
You will decide the winner in an epic match-up among the 64 best pop songs released since 1981.
I've very much enjoyed the first round of voting, although some of the choices have been tougher than I anticipated.  So, go and vote, and then come back and I'll tell you who I voted for and why.

Seriously, go and vote.

Right.  So, the first votes have been in the Joy Bomb category.  And the choices have been excellent.  Almost every song has made me want to get up and dance.

Game 1: Madonna's Like A Prayer vs Steve Winwood's Higher Love

Now, I won't lie to you.  Higher Love is a very good song.  It's happy.  It's very very catchy.  But, come on.  Like A Prayer is one of my all time favourite songs, ever.  And, I would say, one of the best pop songs ever.  It's also a great karaoke song.  This one was a total no brainer.  Like A Prayer all the way.

Game 2: Chumbawumba's Tubthumping vs Human League's Don't You Want Me

This is the first round in which a pattern started to emerge with my voting.  (I'll let you see if you can figure it out.) I like Don't You Want Me a lot.  I love story songs, especially duets.  I love 80s music, especially at its most synthesiser-tastic.  But there's just something about Tubthumping that makes me want to jump up out of my chair, start dancing and shouting along with the chorus.  I have such specific memories attached to this song, and it makes me smile every time I hear it.  Plus, both the band and the song are silly words, which is always pleasing.  Tubthumping for the win.

Game 3: Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) vs George Michael's Freedom 90

This one actually surprised me.  I'd have thought for sure it would be the Eurythmics all the way.  That song is a classic!  But then I listened to them both, and remembered just how much I like Freedom 90.  It's so catchy!  And that video!  (Which, I am aware, shouldn't factor into the decision, but it's iconic!)  And, comparing them back to back, I realised that, of the two songs, I think I prefer Freedom.  And so it won. (And so the pattern continues.)

Game 4:  The Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way vs Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Okay, this is where it gets a bit embarrassing. I may as well just come right out and admit it.  I love boy bands. I do, I can't help it.  The harmonies, the ballads, the dramatic key changes.  It all just hits me right in the cheesy music enjoyment target zone.  And I Want It That Way does all of those things so well!  It's like they took a "perfect boy band ballad" template and crafted this song.  And so, while I do like Belinda C, there was just no way that I could let her win.  Sorry Belinda.  Backstreet Boys it is.  (And, again with the pattern.)

Game 5:  Lady Gaga's Bad Romance vs Dolly Parton's 9 to 5

Well, this one wasn't even a contest.  I have no real strong feelings one way or the other for Lady Gaga, but I fucking love Dolly Parton. Love. Her. To. Bits.  Even though she would probably be mad at me right now for cursing.  Remember how I said I love story songs? 9 to 5 is the story song of every single person in the world who has ever had a job. The lyrics are amazing, the music is amazing, it all just works.  I love love love it.  Not even a question.  Dolly all the way. (This one is pattern free, for the record.)

Game 6:  Irene Cara's Flashdance (What A Feeling) vs Deee-Lite's Groove Is In The Heart

I think this was my toughest call.  I instinctively was thinking Flashdance.  I love that song.  It's on my iPod, and I smile every time it comes on.  But then I listened to Groove Is In The Heart again.  And, as a pop song?  It's amazing.  And ridiculous!  Which makes it even more amazing, because it shouldn't work.  It uses a slide whistle!  That is not an instrument that you generally find in your average pop song.  Yes, Flashdance is ridiculous in its own way, what with it's silly, silly lyrics.  But Groove Is In The Heart is just so fucking catchy.  Playing them back to back, I still had Deee-Lite in my head hours later.  And if that's not the sign of a great pop song, I don't know what is.  Deee-Lite it is. (And there's that pattern again!)

Game 7: Culture Club's Karma Chameleon vs Paula Abdul's Straight Up

Okay, I lied.  This was my toughest call.  Because I love both these songs.  Karma Chameleon is such a perfect encapsulation of its time and place.  It's just a wonderful song.  So catchy, and memorable.  But Straight Up?  Holy crap, 12 year old me loved that song so much that even considering voting against it is like a slap in the face to my early teen years.  I actually thought this song came out later than it did (1988, in case you were wondering, although it was on the Billboard charts in early 1989).  I associate it much more with the 90s than the 80s, for some reason.  Maybe because it feels more like the cheesy pop I was listening to in the early 90s?  I'm not sure.  But anyway, I love it, so it had to be Paula.

(Bonus Abdul fun: listen to Opposites Attract again sometime.  The lyrics are so delightfully dated!  Plus: animated cat duet!)

Game 8: Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone vs Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It

This was was the only match-up where I liked, but did not love, both of the songs.  I went with Tina Turner, because you know, she's Tina Turner.  She's a classic.  But I like these songs pretty equally, so it was a bit of a coin toss.

What I realised in my voting is that, although I love 80s music, it's not the music I listened to when I started listening to music.  It's the music I listened to ironically (but really did love) in the late 90s when I was at university.  But the music that I first listened to? I'm the oldest in my family, so I didn't grow up with an older sibling's music in the background.  The music I first listened to on my own was the music of the early 90s.  And a pattern definitely started to emerge as I pretty much picked 90s songs over 80s songs every time.

And, I have to say, that surprised me a little.

Next: the Deep Feelings division.  I can't talk about that just yet.  Time After Time against Total Eclipse of the Heart?  I think that Sophie's Choice was actually about this decision.  So difficult!

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