Music 2010: The best and the very worst

I'll start off on a positive note because it all gets pretty fucking depressing very quickly on this one, I'm afraid, everyone. Best Music, 2010

1. Foals - Total Life Forever 2. National - High Violet 3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs 4. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record 5. Black Keys - Brothers 6. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms 7. Jonsi - Go 8. Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz 9. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening 10. Beach House - Teen Dream

Honourable mentions: Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights (Live) Girl Talk - All Day

Song you haven’t heard, but should: “Horses” - Yes Nice, Blindfolded

Shit Sandwich Award 2010 (for the Genuine Disappointment of the year): Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown (Seriously, what in the fuck hell was that?)

After the jump, the Suck.

Worst Music, 2010

There was obviously a lot of shit out there this year, but here are a few of the worst.

Ke$ha.

In about five years, saying you once thought Ke$ha was interesting or worth listening to will be like telling someone now that you thought TaTu’s album was cool. In other words, don’t waste your fucking time. Don’t waste anyone’s time, frankly.

Ke$ha ought to make us all sick, just by the mere fact that she’s such an accurate mirror to our own horrific, generalized, fantasies - male and female.

For the guys, not only is she a thrusting, gyrating mess of glitter and runny mascara, but a drunk one at that. Ke$ha casually assumes a subservient position, ready for whatever fuck fantasy into which a mostly male-dominated culture industry cares to place her. I mean, for God’s sake, she even sampled the schoolyard rhyme “There’s a place in France/ Where the naked women dance/ There’s a hole in the wall/ Where the men can see it all” in her song "Take It Off". A schoolboy voyeur dream remixed into the latest radio hit. Y'know, just in case we didn't fucking get it yet. Sex object, yeah yeah, OK. Enough.

And for the girls, Ke$ha's totally shit for all the same reasons, and also because she makes the whole schtick seem so fun. Except what she’s really telling everyone is that it’s easy.

Oh, and did I mention all of her music is crap? Obviously.

Fuck’s sake, people.

Glee.

Some people like to think that what matters with Glee is the music. It’s not.

What actually matters is the act of reselling a bunch of tired, overplayed hits in a shiny new package for all of us dazzled idiots clamoring for more of the same as what we just had: another healthy dose of cultural soma in order to put us back into the dreamy haze of unchallenged comfort like the docile, marshmallow-brained sponges that the culture industry knows we all are.

It’s basically one long, loud exercise in keeping our brains in a perpetually immature, uncritical state.

And when we stand around asking ourselves existential questions about our culture (How did it get to this point? Who is to blame? Why is everything so fucked?) only rarely do we get past the massive collective shrug that implies that it’s all out of our hands, before we return to face the very culturally vapid tripe that is the source of the problem in the first place: shit like this. Brainless garbage that gradually trains us to be unquestioning automatons, beholden to the shifting winds of some fucking advertising executive.

Glee is exactly this kind of cultural regression. It’s an insultingly boring, simplified, cold, mechanical corporate musical hand job. It is a creative wasteland. The reformed hits serve not to tell us anything new about the world, but only to push us into a self-referential cycle of uncreative hell.

There is no lasting power to Glee. It’s the kind of immediately stagnant cultural backwash that will be forgotten just as soon as there is a new shiny object for the chattering masses to fawn over.

It was never designed to be anything but the very thing that you’ll forget instantly. Because, after all, someone needs to sell it to you again in three months.

Fuck that, everyone. Put this shit to bed forever.

Lady Gaga.

With Ke$ha, even though everyone spends their days thinking about either being or doing her, everybody pretty much knows deep down that she’s a total joke. (That doesn’t make it much better, mind. In fact, it sort of makes it a lot worse.)

But with Gaga it’s different; everyone takes her seriously - very, very seriously - basically because instead of being clearly the product of someone else’s marketing wet dream, she’s the subject of her own. I can’t really put it any better than my fellow Canuckophile-ist, Doug Haddow, did in the Guardian earlier this year when he discussed Gaga’s "Monster" video:

Gaga's formula is rather simple: she curates a landfill of visual rubbish for the meaning-starved masses and trend-desperate journalists to pick through like malnourished children. To achieve the right consistency for Telephone's derivative layer cake, she and her team have inserted enough pop-culture references to attract all possible demographics, so that members of said demographics will find something they can identify with and will talk about Telephone on their blogs, Facebooks and newspaper columns. [...]

This pastiche is infused with enough sex and violence to captivate the wanker market, enrage the prudes, and spark debate amongst post-feminists. The icing on the cake – or, more accurately, the Miracle Whip on the Wonder Bread – is the countless brands that are blatantly peppered throughout. Put that all together and what you end up with is 20 million YouTube views in under a week. But, more importantly, it got 20 million people thinking about Miracle Whip and, even more important than that, it got millions of young people associating sex and rebellion with a boring old mayonnaise alternative. [...]

For better or worse, this is the future of media. Just like Miracle Whip, content, celebrity and advertising will all be poured into a giant machine, sweetened, watered down and emulsified into a mysterious goo.

Yep. That about covers it. Welcome to the future, everyone: cotton candy narcissism wrapped in pleather that costs you $170 to see in person.

There should be something interesting, or at least halfway energizing, about being part of a dying cultural organism that shells out money we barely have to watch Gaga, a circus version of ourselves, take us all straight down the escapist pseudo-pop-cum-advertising valium k-hole in a flash of dance music and bizarro moon fashion and straight on into oblivion. But instead it's really just very boring, because in the end, we know somewhere in the depths of our star-blazed brains, that it's crap. We just don't know how to stop it. So we just sit back and enjoy the shit bath of audio diarrhoea until we all stink of the same poor taste and it finally feels normal and good and Worth It.

Bring on 2011.

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