Playlist: I Will Survive

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2017 was a tough year for a lot of people and it seemed like the negativity and bad news was never going to end, but we made through to another year. We survived and that’s something to celebrate. During tough times it’s too easy to focus on everything that’s going wrong in your life. We often forget that the bad times aren’t going to last forever. And when we make it through those hard times, we’ve survived and are hopefully stronger for it. So this month’s playlist is all about survival. Hopefully, it’ll give you some solace if you’re going through something difficult.

“The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World

We’re all filled with some sort of self-doubt. Whether you messed up at work, a video idea isn’t coming together, or are stuck on a writing assignment it’s easy to write yourself off. You start to wonder if you’re even good enough at your job. During these moments, we need to take a cue from Jim Adkins and remember “Everything will be alright.” What is arguably Jimmy Eat World’s biggest hit reminds us that as long as we’re trying our best, we’re doing just fine. It’s one of those songs that reminds me whatever you’re going through isn’t going to last forever. It’s best to ride it out and try to keep your head up. And it doesn’t hurt that song is so irresistibly catch, it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re singing along.

“Fighter” – Christina Aguilera

This is an anthem for anyone who’s had their heartbroken, been lied to, been cheated on, the list goes on. Aguilera uses her personal experiences from the start of her career and channels her anger into a message that says “I survived.” She proclaims she can’t be stopped and instead of letting her regrets and her past mistakes haunt her, she uses them to make her stronger and make her a fighter. We’ve all had those moments where it seems like nothing is going to get better. But once the storm passes and we make it out, we’re stronger and we learn from our experience ready for any future battles that may come our way.

“I’m Still Standing” – Elton John

Not only does this Elton John hit make you feel good, it’s a testament to one’s strength and will after a bad experience, in this case, a bad breakup. Life may get you down at times and you may even face great challenges you’re not sure how to overcome, but in the end, you’ll make it. You’ll still be standing and you’ll be stronger for it. This is another anthem for the heartbroken, the cheated, and the deceived reminding you to pick up the pieces and don’t let life get you down. Fun fact: Bruno Tonioli from Dancing With the Stars is the scantily clad man in the black speedo. Scandalous!

“Happy” – Pharrell

Okay, so this song was pretty annoying after it dropped in 2014 and became the anthem for any and every get-together. But you can’t deny it’s the ultimate feel-good anthem. Pharrell reminds us to keep smiling and be happy even when people are trying to bring on bad news. And it’s hard to focus on the negative with this infectious song. It’s hard to be grumpy with the uplifting hook and the upbeat hand claps. If you need a song to unwind and shake off the bad with some dancing, then this song is the one to play.

“The Fight Song” – Marilyn Manson

2017 tried the patience of people all over. A lot of them decided to stand up and fight rather than do nothing. Sometimes you need a song to pump you up and prepare you for battle. This Marilyn Manson song will do just that. A song criticizing American violence, the energy, the hard-hitting music, and Manson repeating “Fight! Fight!” gets your heart racing. It’s a mean, raging track that gets you in the fighting mood, no matter what you’re fighting for.

“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

This is the ultimate breakup anthem. Gaynor admits to crying after her lover leaves, but it doesn’t last long. She picks herself up, finds a new love, and tells her ex to hit the road when they come crawling back. Not only is it a timeless dance song, it’s a song about empowerment. Whether you’ve been through a nasty breakup or are just experiencing a low point in your life, the song pushes you to be strong, get better, and move on. It’s easy to curl up and be defeated when life gets you down. During times like this, we have to remember what Gaynor preaches: “I will survive.”

“Float On” – Modest Mouse

Not only does this song have an iconic guitar riff, it also has a great positive message. In the song, Isaac Brock lists off a series of bad incidents you’d normally sweat over, but everything works out in the end. This is a song about letting mistakes, bad news, and accidents wash off of you. No matter how tough things get, it’ll be better. Brock says even though things look bleak now, they won’t always be, which is hard to remember when you’re going through hard times. Life’s not always a shitshow and sometimes you have to let things go instead of worrying about them. As he says “sometimes life’s okay.”

“Still Breathing” – Green Day

The song that inspired this playlist, this is one of Green Day’s finest. Similar to other songs on the playlist, it’s a reminder to not let past dark times get you down. Rather than focusing on the bad, it’s a celebration of making it through the storm. You may have gone through dark times, but you made it in the end. So, let’s celebrate the fact you’re still here and hopefully, you’re better for it. The song itself is emotional and one of Billie Joe Armstrong’s most personal with references to his childhood and past addictions. But it’s also a song that many people can relate to, which is why it’s such a highlight at Green Day concerts.

“I Choose to Live” – Creeper

This beautiful, Queen-esque song is a counterpart to Creeper’s “Misery.” With the tagline “misery never goes out of style” the song addresses feelings of depression and giving up hope. “I Choose to Live” is a message to fight against those feelings. Don’t give up hope and know life isn’t always bleak. Frontman Will Gould stated he wrote the song as a message to the fans. Instead of ending their album, Eternity in Your Arms, with a message of hopelessness, they wanted to close on a positive note. It’s a message to keep fighting and try not to let your demons get the best of you.

“The Show Must Go On” – Queen

Life’s too short to focus on the negative. That’s essentially what this song is about. Though the track has an uplifting message of making the most out of life and continuing in the face of adversary, it has a sad backstory. The song was written while Freddie Mercury was struggling with AIDS. When it was time to record the song, Brian May didn’t think Mercury was strong enough to perform. Mercury proved him wrong and delivered a top notch, powerful performance; the kind we’re used to. Listening to the song, you can’t even tell Mercury was near the end of his life. It goes to show you need to make the most out of life even if things aren’t looking good.

“Survivor” – Destiny Child

This is like “I Will Survive” for the next generation. The girls of Destiny’s Child have no problem moving on after a bad breakup and similar to so many other songs on this list, the experience has made them stronger. They even take the high road saying they won’t resort to talking trash about their ex, even if it would feel good at the time. It’s another song about overcoming hard times and pushing away negativity from your life. It’s an empowering anthem for anyone.

Which song gets you through tough times? Let me know in the comments!

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Revival – Eminem

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Release Year: 2017

Rating: 6/10

2017 was a crazy year for several different reasons. Everyone from celebrities to your neighbor commented on the tense political landscape. But I most wanted to hear from Eminem, a person who wouldn’t sugarcoat his feelings. Revival finally released and….sigh. I really wanted to like this album, especially since his freestyle “The Storm” was so tight and powerful. But this is just a mess. I was flat out confused when I first listened to it. I didn’t know how to feel, but at this point, I can say I just don’t like it.

This album has so much potential, but when you’re listening to it you can’t help but think “why did he do that?” So many of the songs start off strong or have a great verse, but veer off in strange directions. We first heard this on the misguided “Untouchable.” His lyrics about racism in America is honest and he’s saying things we all need to hear. But you can’t take it seriously with the weird hook of “White boy, white boy/You’re a Rockstar/my momma talkin’ to me/tryna tell me how to live” that that sounds like he’s mocking Fred Durst.

“Framed” has a similar problem. The hard-hitting music and features Em spitting fire gets you amped up for something awesome. Then the goofy ass hook comes on featuring Eminem repeating the title in a stupid voice.“Believe” isn’t a bad track and has some strong moments, but it’s hard to get over the generic music and his weird flow. It sounds like every other rap song on the radio right now. Seeing as he’s often considered an innovator of rap it’s unlike him to turn to what’s trending to try and make a hit. The whole thing catches you off guard making you think you’re listening to someone else entirely. It’s not a terrible song, but it’s a bit unexpected for the rapper.

The biggest problem with the album is how forgettable the songs are. It’s hard to remember most of the songs once it’s over. They’re not as hard-hitting, fun, or interesting as his part material. “Walk On Water” is boring, while songs like “Heat” and “Nowhere Fast” barely even register. Not to mention the much talked about collaborators don’t really add anything. Pink takes over most of “Need Me” making it more of her song. “River” featuring Ed Sheeran is okay at best and “Tragic Endings” with Skylar Grey sounds too similar to their previous collaborations. And how many more songs do we need with Grey? It makes you wish Eminem would stop rehashing the formula of teaming up with a female pop singer. It’s not interesting anymore.

And then there’s the awful samples. On past albums, Em has used tracks like “Crazy On You” and “Time of the Season” with surprising success. He tries to sample classic rock songs again here and it’s a mess. What the hell is even going on with “Remind Me?” He butchers “I Love Rock N Roll” and turns it into some Frankenstein hook for a weak ass song about women. Things don’t get any better with “In Your Head” which samples “Zombie” by The Cranberries. The way the iconic hook is stuffed into the song makes it unbearable. It’s just not a good fit at all. The sample of “The Rose” in “Arose” is lazy and corny. These samples don’t add anything to the songs and make your roll your eyes with how they’re misused.

If you can make it past the confusing lyrics, awful music, and filler tracks there are some decent songs buried under all the trash. Closing tracks “Castle” and “Arose” finds the rapper reflecting back on his height of fame and his eventual relapse. He speaks from his deathbed and even goes as far as say goodbye to his family before being saved at the hospital. It’s actually a harrowing and disturbing experience to hear him speak as if he’s already dead. Another thoughtful track is “Bad Husband” where he apologizes to ex-wife Kim. Considering he’s murdered her (twice) in song, this was a long time coming and shows he’s matured and mellowed out over the years. Though the hook of “great dad/bad husband” is pretty cringy. Maybe he’s patting himself on the back a bit too much there.

Another strong track is “Offended.” It’s classic Eminem, slashing through his haters and laying down some impressive flow. The thing that kills this song is the tonal shift during the hook where it sounds like a grade school taunt. “Chloraseptic” is another stand out track. Eminem’s flow and rhythm is on point and the intense music gets lodged in your head. The lyrics are pretty weak and at times ridiculous (“’Cause I conned her into/Rippin’ the condom in two/Dick is a bargainin’ tool/Now I’m gettin’ blew like Klonopins, Rude Jude”). While it’s not his best song or even his best rap, it manages to be one of the few memorable tracks from the album. And the recent remix featuring 2 Chainz is even better. The way he channels his anger to spitfire and his haters makes it better than most of the material on the LP.

Sadly, Revival is a huge disappointment that had so much potential. So many of the songs have the right sentiment or the right idea, but at some point, it falls apart. I get Eminem wanted to try something new. It just sucks that most of it doesn’t work. A lot of the lyrics aren’t as clever or hard-hitting as we expect from him, a lot of the samples are misused, and the music comes off as generic. Rather than using the events of 2017 as fuel for some great commentary, he revisits well-worn territory and it’s boring. Not everything on the album is terrible, but there’s not enough memorable material to make you want to listen to it again. Hopefully, this is just a misstep and Em will be delivering fiery, exciting songs on his next release.

 

Best Album of 2017

Eternity In Your Arms – Creeper

There was only one album this year that I couldn’t stop listening to or gushing about; Creeper’s Eternity In Your Arms. I played this record the entire year. I never got tired of it. It’s a fun, wild, and dramatic romp through the world of Creeper. Full of songs that get your adrenaline running, the album is nothing but a good time. It’s not just loud, brash guitars and screaming gang vocals. With this album, Creeper creates an entire world that listeners are invited to discover. We hear about the mystery of James Scythe and the stranger. And while the band gives us plenty of clues, they ask us to put the rest together ourselves.

Part of what makes the album so much fun is how grandiose it is. Everything about Creeper feels larger than life and melodramatic. The way the music swells, Will Gould’s Meatloaf-esque vocals, and the macabre stories held in each song makes it feel like you’re witnessing a play unravel before you. They excel at bringing camp and punk together for an unforgettable experience.

Songs like “Black Rain,” “Poison Pens,” and “Room 309” scratches that itch for in your face, unapologetic punk rock. But the songs that really impressed me were tracks like “Misery” and “Crickets.” Just when you think you have the band figured out, they throw you for a loop with these ballads. The former is heartbreaking, yet there’s something beautiful about it. The latter trails dangerously close to country, but they make it work. It shows they don’t only know how to make loud songs. They can work with other genres comfortably and it helps them stand out. Elsewhere, the band mixes punk with elements of gothic, emo, glam, and pop that keeps the album fresh and exciting.

Creeper managed to make a punk rock album that’s engaging, fun, fresh, and memorable. No matter how many times you listen to it, you want more. And I can’t wait to hear what Creeper does next.

 

Worst Album of 2017

Beautiful Trauma – Pink

As an avid Pink fan, this choice kind of hurts. When she announced her return to music, I was so excited. I’ve always loved Pink for her aggressive, I don’t give a shit attitude and empowering songs. I looked forward to an album full of upbeat, fun songs mixed with a few ballads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that with Beautiful Trauma.

This album bored me. So many of the songs are slow. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of ballads, but I don’t hate them. Slow songs give listeners a break from the fast numbers. Pink’s ballads are normally beautiful, sometimes even haunting. Tracks like “Try” and “Glitter in the Air” still give me chills, but when there’s a solid block of them I find myself getting bored. I need the fast songs to pick me back up. This is the big problem with this album. There were way too many slow songs and very few of them are notable. They just sound like any generic pop song currently on the radio.

While listening I kept waiting for the energetic, fun tunes to kick in. The closest I got was the title track. Not even the song with Eminem could save it. And that was a big disappointment. I love “Here Comes the Weekend,” but “Revenge” is just okay. Eminem’s verse isn’t even one of his best; it’s lazy and lame. The only thing I liked about the record was Pink’s voice. We get to hear how much her vocals have improved over the years and she sounds gorgeous. But there isn’t much beyond that.

For a Pink album, it’s surprisingly tame. Because of her don’t give a fuck nature, she usually has a good chunk of songs that represent this. Her songs are normally biting and clever with a somewhat cynical sense of humor. This vibe is almost completely missing here. We get a few times in tracks like “Revenge,” but otherwise the songs are pretty generic. While I can admire her showing a different side of herself, it just doesn’t feel like a Pink album to me. The album is forgettable, generic, and isn’t as fun as her past work. While her other albums are empowering, this one is just dull.

Notable Releases of 2017

2017 is almost over and it’s time to look back at the music, both good and bad. Before we get to best and worst, I wanted to look back at some albums that left the biggest impressions on me. This is based on what I sought out and listened to this year, so my list will most likely be different from yours.

Album I Enjoyed Way More Than I Thought I Would:

Dreamcar – Dreamcar

When it was revealed that the members of No Doubt who aren’t Gwen Stefani and Davey Havock were working together I was intrigued and confused. What kind of music would they make together? Turns out 80s new wave. While I wasn’t impressed with the first single, when I listened to Dreamcar it took me by surprise how much fun it was. It’s not a great album and it doesn’t give us anything we haven’t heard before, but some of the songs are irresistible. Tracks like “After I Confessed,” “All the Dead Girls,” and “Do Nothing” are so catchy you can’t help but sing and dance along. The album is a blatant homage to the 80s, but at least the band had fun with it. The energy and spirit are so infectious. It seems like Havok put more effort into recording this LP than he did for AFI. Dreamcar doesn’t do anything new, but it’s great for letting loose and having fun.

Album I Had Low Expectations For But Fucking Loved:

Heaven Upside Down – Marilyn Manson

When Marilyn Manson announced Say10 last year, I was ecstatic. His last two efforts were solid and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had in store for us next. But with a big delay and a lead single that left me unimpressed, my expectations began to shrink. Every time he mentioned how the album goes back to the days of Antichrist Superstar I rolled my eyes. We heard this before with High End of Low and that album is pretty bad. I didn’t think I’d like Heaven Upside Down, but man, I fucking love it.

This is hardcore, aggressive, brutal Manson that scared us back in 1996. The songs are violent and dark in the best ways possible. And for once, he was actually right. The album does have traces of Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, but it never feels like he’s ripping himself off. He just manages to recapture the feeling of those albums.

After hearing the single “We Know Where You Fucking Live” I was worried he was trying too hard to be edgy. Luckily, this isn’t the case (at least not with every song). Instead, he sounds genuine, like he has a fire lit under him once again. This is classic Manson and the music grabs you by the throat waiting to rip out your lungs until it’s over. Heaven Upside Down is a stellar album that reminds me why I became a fan in the first place. This is the finest album Manson’s later career and proves he’s still has a lot to say.

Disappointing Album of 2017:

AFI (The Blood Album) – AFI

AFI was one of the few releases I was pumped for when the year kicked off. Not only did their cryptic teasing get me excited, but I loved what I heard with singles like “White Offerings” and “Snow Cats.” These songs felt like a return to form and I couldn’t wait to hear the new album. But once I finally got my hands on it, it was a letdown. Most of the songs aren’t exciting or memorable. Tracks like “Still a Stranger,” “Hidden Knives,” and “So Beneath You” aren’t awful. But there’s very little about them that grabs you like great AFI songs are supposed to do. Everything I love about AFI, like their charm, melancholy, and their in your face nature are missing from this album. Even almost a year later I struggle to remember these songs aside from the singles.

For me, it has nothing to do with their new, lighter sound. I actually don’t mind it. While I do miss the days of Sing the Sorrow, I like that they constantly evolve and experiment with new sounds. But this album just didn’t do it for me. Rather than being something that sticks with you, it’s a pretty unremarkable experience. These are just decent generic rock songs and we expect better from AFI at this point. Unfortunately, it’s some of their weakest material in years making for an album that’s tolerable, yet kind of dull. While I don’t mind listening to the album, it’s just overwhelmingly okay and since I was so excited to hear what AFI had in store after Burials, it was the album that disappointed me the most this year.

Underrated Release of 2017:

<shutdown.exe> – 3Teeth

This is the result if Ministry and Nine Inch Nails had a baby. 3Teeth take you back to the old days of industrial metal that’s brutal, violent, and just a bit scary. Not for the faint of heart.

If you want to know which album is on my shit list this year, check back later this week when I reveal what my worst album of 2017 is.