Friday, February 22, 2013

Ke$ha and the Duty of Pop Music

Look, I know what you’re thinking: “Ke$ha? That trashy slut?”  I am here to tell you that you’re wrong, and that the new Ke$ha album Warrior is Important. This is what the kids are listening to, and the kids can’t be ignored.

The album’s first song, and title track, starts with the revving of an engine, before Ke$ha’s voice kicks in: “We were born to break the door down/fight until the end.” She repeats the word “warrior” a few times, stretching it out to absurd lengths, before the beat kicks in. The song is meant to be uplifting, and a call to arms. It’s about not being a victim, and empowering yourself. The song has fantastic hooks, but an odd structure. This is pure pop to be sure, but the song’s glitchy breakdown keeps things interesting.

The next song, “Die Young” was one of the best mainstream tracks of 2012. It’s a nihilist pop anthem, a shout out to living in the moment. It’s also protest music, the sort of thing people should be paying attention to.

In many ways, it could be seen a response to to the stuff Dylan was doing in the ‘60’s. Consider “Bob Dylan’s Dream”:  “with hungry hearts through the heat and cold/we never much thought we could get very old./We thought we could sit forever in fun/and our chances really was a million to one.” Dylan was aware of his eventual demise, and he sang as if he was resigned to it. Ke$ha, on the other hand, doesn’t care. She’s going to party and fuck shit up. She’s going to make sure each moment counts.

This must somehow be evident of the mindset of America’s youth today. Kids today are more culturally aware than at any moment in history. They’ve gradually grown disillusioned. What Ke$ha does is represent this mindset.

In one of the album’s best tracks, "All That Matters (Beautiful Life)" Ke$ha mutters “fuck it I don’t care” before declaring that all she wants to do is get high. The song has a pulsing disco beat and a huge chorus: “baby, all that matters/is the beautiful life.” Obviously, this song is built for arenas. That sentiment is expressed during the song’s bridge when Ke$ha sings “put your motherfucking phones up” and it brings forth the image of thousands of kids waving their smartphones in the air.  Ke$ha’s music exists in the here and now, these songs couldn’t exist in any other decade.

If we really want to examine where our culture is heading we should look towards pop music. Yes, it’s a cliché to say that children are the future, but the distinction is obvious. Good pop stars can channel the energy of their audiences, and Ke$ha, with her army of so-called Animals, does exactly that. Even if she doesn’t consciously know what she’s doing, she’s bringing kids together with positive messages of hope and love, and living life to the fullest. Sure, some of the things she sings about may be considered reprehensible, but that’s only there to get the kids hooked. Pop music uses the rush to entice people, like any good drug. Warrior and the message it contains, is vital. Pay attention. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Anticipating the Supernatural: Windmill – Gallery Masterpiece, and more

Windmill is a project that’s difficult to get a grip on. Composer Matthew Thomas Dillon has released two albums of stark, sad recordings under the name since 2006. These are songs designed to crawl under your skin and stay there. They demand careful attention, but if you let them in you’ll wake up in the middle of the night with lyrics like “there’s less adventure in my blood then you thought there was” swimming through head. This is a good thing. Windmill songs force you to look inward and examine your place in the universe.
The lyric mentioned above is from a song called “Gallery Masterpiece”. It originally appeared on Youtube paired with footage from the video game Uncharted 2. Separately, the song is an awe inducing thing. It’s just the right amount of somber with a hook that comes off like a mantra. With the video game footage it’s something else entirely. It’s impossible to describe the emotions it brings, but it’s a life affirming piece of art.

Gallery Masterpiece was also available in a collection of new demos Dillon posted on his Soundcloud page. I didn't have a chance to fully investigate these songs, but they’re as good as everything that came before. Occasionally startling and exciting, but also harrowing and debilitating. These songs run the gamut of human emotion and experience. They come from an exciting voice that demands to be heard.  
These songs are labeled winter songs, but some of them are downright sunny. One or two of them even contain a horn section.  Dillon has since removed the songs, but has replaced them with the announcement of a new digital album due out in March. You can, and should, preorder the album at Windmill’s bandcamp page. The preorder will net you a few new songs. These songs are a tantilyziing teaser.  Above Duffel Farm is already a contender for my year end list, even with me only having having heard a few of the songs. I'll have a review of it at some point in March, probably for