Comeback Artist of the Year Enya Brings Back the Calm

We live in a pop culture of weird, and for whatever reason the only thing that is talked about is shock value.  Lady Gaga’s videos were the new Madonna’s–but oh wait, Madonna is still trying to be relevant and be risqué.

When it comes to music video culture, weird rules out.  And when the weird piques our curiosity, sales go up simply because the American public cannot resist looking.  As proof, look no further than Lady Gaga’s latest involvement, American Horror Story: Hotel.  The show’s negative reviews after the first episode appeared to prove that story and substance still play an important role in the consumption of art, but nonetheless the second episode earned the second best rating ever for a telecast on the Fx network.

Meanwhile, Madonna is trying too hard to remain relevant with the same weird formula that she has relied on in the past, and, alas, it is working.  Her new video has close to 134 million views.  What really is depressing about her new effort is the desperation.  The fact that she felt the need to include dozens of celebrities lip singing “bitch I’m Madonna” is just a really sad effort to create popularity.  Enya, on the other hand, has not released an album in seven years and has the same number of albums sold as Beyoncé.

Granted, Enya has been around for much longer than Queen B, but in today’s day and age of trying to get rich as quickly as possible, her music feels like a cleanse, a baptism for all our sins.

“How long your love had sheltered me,” she sings, perhaps thinking upon how her loyal fans had given her enough wealth to lay low awhile.  This might be reading too much into the lyric, but Enya has never been one to forget her fans.  “Let me give this dream to you, each night and evermore,” she continues.

While Madonna and Beyoncé are praised for their studio productions and collaborations, Enya’s recording process takes an average of three years.  This separates her from all of her peers.  Taylor Swift is on her 1989 tour and is writing all of her new material while tired and on the road.  She’ll release her next album as quickly as possible, as she has for all of her works.  If other prominent pop artists took as much time as Enya to write, produce, and refine their music, the radio would be filled with lasting, meaningful songs instead of fads.

Enya has only released two songs from her forthcoming album, but it already feels like she is making a point: music is not meant to be fast food.  The last time I consumed her music so readily was during a particularly stressful finals period in college.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 3.09.50 AMAnd it is no accident that the last time I heard Enya’s soothing voice was during a family Settlers of Catan game.  This is why she is the comeback artist of the year in November.  We are going to stress out over the holidays and over life in general, but we should all take a moment and relax.  Everything will work itself out and it will be fine.

The Difficult Truths and the Almost Forgivable Lies of Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A. first popped up on my radar in the seventh grade.  I was in my woodworking class sitting next to a Black kid who with the exception of rhythmic mutterings under his breath was silent.  I do not remember his name and we hardly spoke.  I think we both took comfort in the soothing sounds of a dozen sanders, the smooth feeling of finished wood under our fingertips, the absence of a teachers’ droning.  In the socially exhausting routine of middle school, woodworking was our sanctuary.

I do not recall what our exact assignment was, but the boy next to me was carving something into his project.  I was curious, but was afraid to ask.  At any rate, I would see what the writing was eventually.  Unfortunately, the teacher dropped by and asked him point blank what word he was etching in the wood.  The boy seemed at first to cringe, but then he sat up in his chair and said with sass, “N.W.A.”

He got in trouble and was forced to replace the piece.

I was thoroughly perplexed.  At the time I did not question the teacher’s authority to do such a thing but I wanted very badly to know what the three letters meant.  I spent the rest of the workshop summoning up the courage to talk to him, and when the bell rang and we were in the hallway a safe distance from the class, I asked him what N.W.A. meant.

He looked at me, flashed a smile, and gave their full name.  After thanking him for enlightening me I walked to my locker and thought to myself, “well, no wonder he got in trouble.”


The seventh grade was when people started to call me “Dan Dan the Music Man” because I spent a lot of my time singing.  My musical taste was rudimentary–I listened to what my dad did, sought out musicals, and had yet to choose the 2000s over anything else.  But when the cute girl asked me what my favorite genre of music was I would lie straight-faced and say rap.  For someone who had 3 years to go before he even came close to puberty, I did anything to feel cool.

I did not fake it hard at all though.  I did not go home and look up songs by N.W.A.  I wish I had that day though, because it would have given me an introduction to the pioneer of a crucial and relevant musical genre in American history.  At twelve years old I certainly would not have understood the socio-economic and racial importance of the hip-hop group N.W.A., but it would have helped me talk to that kid in woodworking and perhaps we would have become friends.  Perhaps he could have introduced me into the harsh realities of their music and our world.


The highly successful N.W.A. biopic opened in theaters two weeks ago and the music lover and critic in me was absolutely salivating at the opportunity to see it.  The empath in me also became very aware of the intense feelings the movie would provoke.  Last week I went to see the film with my little seventeen year old brother–who is a more savvy rap fan than myself–and it was quite an experience.

From the opening sequence, the entire film shows the artistic motivations of N.W.A.  It is terrifying and infuriating to be Black in an inherently racist system, where the most viable ways to earn a living are illegal, and that no matter how successful they are, the struggle never stops.  Juxtaposed over various racially motivated acts of violence and other illicit activities, N.W.A.’s story is at times difficult to swallow.  But the film itself is so captivating that looking away would itself be a crime.  For someone who is so deeply affected by music, to see so many people brought together with gangsta rap was magical.

On the other hand, this is a biopic about a group that raps lyrics such as “So what about the bitch who got shot? Fuck her! /
You think I give a damn about a bitch? I ain’t a sucker!” and, “So we started lookin for the bitches with the big butts / Like her, but she keep cryin’, “I got a boyfriend,” Bitch stop lyin’ / Dumb-ass hooker ain’t nuttin but a dyke.”  Rap has a notorious history with misogyny, and that was on full display in Straight Outta Compton.  Women are reduced to nothing but objects to be used and then discarded.  The crucial detail left out of the story, however, is producer Dr. Dre’s assault of journalist Dee Barnes.  The film’s portrayal of women is accurate, but to leave out Dre’s history of abuse left her “like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A.: a casualty of [the film’s] revisionist history.”  The brilliance of the film comes from its moments of authenticity, and F. Gary Gray decided to tarnish his movie by treating an important case of violence against women like a footnote.

You can make five different N.W.A movies.  We made the one we wanted to make.

–F. Gary Gray

Furthermore, Dr. Dre should not have been allowed to executively produce the movie along with Ice Cube.  That is gross conflict of interest.  I highly encourage everyone to read Dee Barnes’ personal essay on this issue here.

Despite the glaring omissions, I paid to go see this movie because it was made by Black people for a Black audience and was not stereotypically offensive.  In Hollywood, the number of movies with the majority of the cast people of color is horrifically and inexcusably low.  So low in fact, that when a Black biopic largely set in Los Angeles is released, the police beef up security at the theaters.  This precise kind of ingrained, institutional racism is what makes Straight Outta Compton so relevant and so powerfully good.  To this day the police are intimidated by mainstream art made by and for audiences of color, which is so rare that it’s treated like a terrorist plot.  In 2015, the LAPD have shot 25 people and killed 13, but there have been no acts of gun violence by Black theater audience members in Los Angeles in the same year.  So as N.W.A. would say, fuck the police and go see the year’s best movie.


I’ve thought a lot about that day in woodworking in the recent weeks.  My pretentious response to a boy etching in an acronym for a empowering rap group name was an ignorant one.  The real reason he got in trouble was because the white teacher’s socially and racially motived power dynamic was in jeopardy.  In an inherently racist system the Black boy was not allowed to express his interests in art that upset the status quo.  He was also afraid of something that exposed his privilege and of music that did not represent himself.  Straight Outta Compton is a magnificent portrayal of a crucial chapter in American musical history that is sure to make people uncomfortable. As a result it is poignant and provocative and invites engaging in debates about several important issues relevant to life in the United States.

4.5/5

In Colour: Perfectly Walking the Trapeze Between Subtle Beauty and Infectious Dance

Club music should not be in your face all the time.   As I age, I am realizing how much the rave and EDM scene is targeted at the roaring youth, tripping and rolling into mad light shows and highlighter paint mobs.  I like raves as much as the next bro, but in order to truly appreciate dance music one must understand that dubstep is as much the product of Donna Summer as Taylor Swift is the product of Arlo Guthrie.  All music draws from tradition and history in some way, and The xx band member Jamie XX is set out to prove just that in his debut solo release, In Colour.

If you have been craving a sound and have not been able to find it since Daft Punk’s magnum opus Random Access Memories, look no further than In Colour.  As far as paying homage to the origins of modern dance music goes, Europeans just get it.  Yes, French house music is heavily influenced by Chicago’s dance movement, but many argue that the principle pioneer of American disco and dance is the famous Italian musician, Giorgio Moroder.  Of this I agree, but regardless of what nationality you are loyal to, music is a universal language, something that affects everyone equally.

Which is one of the album’s bright focal points.  Jamie XX’s British roots are the highlight, but two of the songs are dedicated to the Caribbean and its flourishing aura of positivity.  “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times” features Jamaican artist Popcaan and “Obvs” showcases the power of steel drums, which is a Trinidad & Tobago instrument.  Jamie XX does not suffer from regional nearsightedness.

Comfort zones are still hard to escape, however, and there are two songs that feature The xx singer Romy.  That’s not to say that it was a disappointment to hear her on this album, but the other songs prove how much potential Jamie XX has as a solo artist.  “Loud Places” ends with Romy singing the lyrics “you’re in ecstasy without me / When you come down / I won’t be around,” and is a letdown given the album’s overall theme of triumph.  It would have better suited the cohesiveness of the release if it did not feel obligated to include an excuse why The xx might break up after In Colour is released to critical acclaim.

Ultimately that is the album’s only weak point, and it is not a damning one.  To blame someone for cautionary change would be a contradictory exercise and would rob Jamie XX of his humanity.  In Colour is an appropriate debut, one that does not take too much risk but packs enough in to declare an ambitious future.  A future that hopefully pushes dance music towards more advanced fare, one with piano arpeggios and beats established without the use of bass.  Opener “Gosh” is the perfect example of this because it is infectious, has an immaculate trajectory, and has the magical gift to initiate body movement–all without the overuse of bass.

It is impossible to decide whether to blast that on full volume or to listen to it with eyes closed at a moderate volume.   That exact beauteous balance on the trapeze high wire of dance music is not something easily achieved, and all 43 minutes of In Colour manages to instill that enlightened sense of a calm adrenaline rush.

Multifaceted acknowledgement of musical and cultural origins is one of the reasons why genres are able to sustain similarities while simultaneously achieving a state of fluid progressiveness.  This is not dance music moving backwards, but rather its ascent towards greater heights.  Jamie XX subtly yet exultantly proves that clubbing should gravitate towards finesse and move away from the abrasive migraine-inducing thumping that has become the norm.

The Not at All Definitive Top 50 Songs of the Decade So Far

I won’t waste your time introducing this list.  Except for some disclaimers.  So I guess I will waste a little of your time.  I honestly believe that no list of this magnitude is complete without covering all the bases.  It would be be dishonest and pretentious to completely disregard country or “stoner music” simply because, so I tried my best to make this list as diverse as possible while simultaneously retaining 50 of my favorite songs of the decade.  I also am 100 percent serious when I tell people I listen to everything.  Will I gravitate towards certain styles and artists?  Of course.  But from Ke$ha to the London Symphony Orchestra, from Skrillex to Shadia Mansour, all the music I was exposed to was taken into consideration.


50 

Main Attrakionz “Perfect Skies”

In the film Zombieland, the main character Columbus adds the rule “enjoy the little things” to his list of survival guidelines.  Not only does this help him relieve stress in a post-apocalyptic world, but it also keeps him appreciative of living life.  “Perfect Skies” begins with the line “I just want to kick my feet up / stack some cheese and light my weed up with my niggas.”  While some people might view marijuana and money as sinful “little things” to enjoy, putting your legs up and reclining in a comfy chair in the company of friends is definitely universal.  Squadda B and Mondre Man–the duo that make up Main Attrakionz–work really hard and will continue to strive towards a higher goal by doing something that they love.  And on the way there, they’ll enjoy the little things:

“My heart’ll feel lucky, still striving with a blessing

But I’ll always want more, so I’ll never meet perfection

Collected all my colors, the canvas is white

Rep that shit in here, a Perfect Sky”


49 

Bombadil “A Question”

This technically isn’t a meet cute since it appears the two people involved know each other, but I challenge you to find a declaration of attraction in song form that is both more adorable and amusing than “A Question.”  Spoiler alert: you will not.


Super Bass (Official Single Cover)

48

Nicki Minaj “Super Bass”

Nicki Minaj’s claim to fame was to occupy a space that badly needs filling.  Other then Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and Missy Elliot’s “Work It,” Nicki Minaj is the only female rapper to reach Billboard’s podium.  That said, Nicki Minaj is not afraid to flaunt the Pop Diva within her, and “Super Bass” is the perfect blend of both genres.


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47

Metric “Black Sheep”

Sometime during the first of a dozen viewings of the film Scott Pilgrim Vs The World I had one obsessive recurring thought: “They’ve hyped up this mysterious band that is fronted by our protagonist’s ex girlfriend SO MUCH that the song they play better not be a let down.”  When the time finally came to hear it, I was not disappointed.  Actress Brie Larson brings Metric’s song to life so well that it ends up fitting the plot and scene flawlessly.  “Now that the truth is just a rule that you can bend / You crack the whip, shape shift and trick the past again,” are two lines that hold true to every you-said-this-at-one-point relationship spat and are so relevant to the film’s central themes that it’s hard not to place this song above the other two movie songs on this list.


46

Danish String Quartet Sønderho Bridal Trilogy, Pt. II

Normally these guys play Beethoven, but when they decided to play some traditional music from the place they call home, their true beauty was brought to light.


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45

Skrillex “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites”

In a Pitchfork interview Skrillex explained that DJ’ing was the least egotistical thing to do because when done right and to perfection you played what the audience wanted to hear.  He’s not choosing what to play, the crowd is.  It was this sort of attitude I tried my best to emulate when I worked Fourth Meal at Oberlin.  In the student manager position I could DJ and play music while people ate their food and socialized.  There is no better feeling in the world than when you string together a bunch of songs that ease the pressure of school and make people laugh and dance.  So when Sonny Moore’s project Skrillex took off, he didn’t feel too comfortable.  Dubstep has become such a phenomenon that artists like Taylor Swift have incorporated it into their songs.  Hits like “I Knew You Were Trouble” would not exist without “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites.”  To this day Sonny Moore does not feel entirely at home being the center of the EDM landscape, but he takes comfort in knowing that he brings his fans joy.

I remember seeing the full Daft Punk pyramid show in 2007. I went alone, drove up in my Honda Fit, bought a ticket off a scalper for $150, got on the floor, and had the best time of my life. I didn’t have a drink, no drugs. But I was high out of my mind. It changed my life. This is gonna sound really lame, but try to take it the right way: There have been a couple times where I’ve been so proud of what I’ve done live, like I feel like I’ve given someone the same kind of feeling I got at that Daft Punk show. And that feels so good.


44

Sufjan Stevens “Christmas Unicorn”

I’m just going to say it: this is the greatest non-classic Christmas song ever.  Sufjan Stevens sings about his complicated relationship with the holiday with such wit and gusto that not one second of this twelve minute exploration of bastardized tradition overstays its welcome.  It’s weird, because I just had a conversation about Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day and how they have been used to promote binge drinking and jewelry.  There’s something that can’t really be put into words, some sort of inkling or urge to experience holidays even when we are guilty or complicit in anxiously promoting grotesque consumerism.  Sufjan attempts to answer the question in one of the essays that accompany his Christmas set of EP’s:

In spite of my best judgment, in spite of public opinion, in spite of common decency, in spite of seasonal affective disorder, mental disease and Christmas fatigue, I’ve continued the musical tradition (ever onward forever amen), in pursuing all the inexplicable songs of the holidays, season after season (without rhyme or reason), relentlessly humming, strumming, finger-picking, ivory-tickling, finger-licking, soul-searching, fact-finding, corporate ladder-climbing, magic hatter rabbit hiding, rapping, slapping, super-sizing, miming, grinding, flexing, perplexing, plucking and strumming all the celestial strings of merriment with utmost Napoleonic fever. This tradition will not die.

What is it about Christmas music that continues to agitate my aging heartstrings? Is it the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen? Or the boundless Potential Energy inherent in this bastard holiday so fitfully exploited, subverted, confounded, expounded, adopted and adapted with no regard for decency. Christ­mas is what you make of it, and its songs reflect mystery and magic as expertly as they clatter and clang with the most audacious and rambunctious intonations of irrever­ence. And all its silly-putty, slippery-slope, slap-dash menagerie of subject matter (be it Baby Jesus or Babes in Toyland) readily yields itself to the impudent whims of its contemporary benefactors, myself included.


43

The Range “Jamie”

When I was in Champaign, Illinois for the Pygmalion Festival last year, I recognized James Hinton sipping on a beer across the street.  I was eating dinner with my friend and we were all relaxing before the exciting night of music began.  I nervously went over to tell him how much I loved his music.  He was flattered and taken off guard, but it was awesome because we ended up talking about gang violence in Chicago and about a few specific songs.

I wouldn’t say that he was upset, but he was a little unsettled by the fact that I recognized him.  His project The Range isn’t at all enormous, and I left his company thinking about the rap sample in this song.  “The more people surround me the more lonely I feel,” the rapper laments.  One of the biggest challenges for artists is dealing with that potential fame.  Some friends turn to enemies and they become surrounded by a lot of superficial people who fluff and bluff to grab a piece of stardom.  Because the pool of candidates grows, however, the opportunity to develop deep and lasting friendships increases.  That’s why halfway through “Jamie” the key changes and we hear some optimistic notes of piano rise to the surface.  The transformation is powerful, the kind that sticks with you long after listening.


42

Eric Church “Springsteen”

Eric Church sings the name Springsteen almost as an afterthought at the end of the chorus, but to see it that way would be a grave mistake.  By uttering the name of The Boss, Church purposely triggers all associations with his music, and as a result makes us think of any memories and moments we have that involve “Born in the USA” and “I’m on Fire.”  The music we listen to shape and mold our experiences and in turn our character and persona.  Eric Church realizes this, and even though it’s a little bit of a cop-out to provoke our feelings about another musicians rather than his own, it is still genuine and from the heart.   We associate the music we listen to with memories, and whether you hate this genre of music or not, you can appreciate the sentiment that comes packaged with this song about nostalgic auditory triggers.


41

Soulja Boy & Ester Dean “Grammy”

DeAndre “Soulja Boy Tell’Em” Way is one of those people of whom I am always thinking, “wow, we’re the same age.”  At 24, Soulja Boy is somehow old enough to have lived an entire career arc.  He made millions on the songs he recorded in his room and practically personifies that cursed “live fast die young” internet celebrity status which he still stubbornly struggles to regain.  “I deserve a Grammy” is not a statement of arrogance but rather the defeated plea of someone who painfully acknowledges his wealth and best music is behind him.  I can’t help but think to myself how many countless others were robbed of rightful accolades based on race and class.


Do Not Risk a Myopic Opinion of Kanye’s Character for the Sake of Etiquette

“People talk about the number of viewers the Brits get, or the number of viewers the Grammys get. They need to do award shows for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I guess that doesn’t sell as many MasterCard commercials.”   — Kanye West

I tried to avoid the Grammys, because I’ve grown to hate them and I really did not want to try to rationalize the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences decisions when most of them are bollocks to begin with.  When Beyoncé did not win, my opinion solidified.  I became slightly intrigued when I heard Kanye West stood up during Beck’s acceptance speech and then sat back down without saying anything.  Still, I was not too concerned with it and did not think too much about it.  But I’ve heard some things and held conversations that have made me upset and I would like to address them.

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Comparing apples with oranges makes a lot of sense, so we may as well do it with music too!!!!!!  Let’s talk about how a Pop Diva’s VIDEO ALBUM is more or less artistic than a SINGER-SONGWRITER’S.  There are more people on Queen Bey’s album simply because it is much more complex than Beck’s.  If anything, the extent of the collaboration is monumental given the fact that her album was surprise released and NEVER LEAKED.  Beyoncé also wrote, produced and arranged all fourteen of the songs on her album.  There were a total of ten producers on Morning Phase and every single one won a Grammy for Best Album.  If Beyoncé had won the Grammy for her Self-Titled Masterpiece, then every single producer would have won a Grammy.  Therefore the point about Beck’s production is irrelevant.

I am going to keep going on this rant, because this is important to me.  To say that Beyoncé is only a performer and not an artist is filth.  Art is a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities, usually involving imaginative, creative or technical skill.  Beyoncé and Beck are both artists.  The number of instruments that either one plays might make them more or less proficient, but not more artistic.  That’s right, I minced words and am now done addressing this vaguely sexist photo.

One more thing.   A lot of the internet (youth) have responded to Beck’s win with “Who is Beck,” and I have never heard of Beck.  He has written twelve studio albums (four of which have gone platinum) and is responsible for one of the biggest singles of the 90’s, “Loser.”

I would argue that he has deserved a Grammy since Beyoncé was 15 years old, but that does not mean he had the best album of 2014.  Beck even said later that Beyoncé should have won because her album is simply better.  For me, both albums are superb, but if the Grammys were truly a fair process, Beyoncé would and should have won.  I won’t crunch the numbers or talk about sales, but I think the biggest reason she lost was because her supporters split their votes with other nominees.  Furthermore, the bigger Grammys are completely and utterly ridiculous.  “Best New Artist” is usually given to someone who has been around for years and a white dude almost always wins in the Rap category.  Rarely do the artists who deserve it win.

Kanye West knows that, so he walked on stage as if to say it, but then left.  The most common response to this most recent interruption (or lack thereof) is one of anger and resentment.  On the surface, this is a good thing because it means that most people are aware of proper etiquette.  However, I believe that there is much more to be discerned from this event.

taylor-swift-vma-2009-kanye-west

“The worst thing to call somebody is ‘crazy.’ It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.’ That’s bullshit.” –Dave Chappelle

He has since apologized, but Kanye’s history of making his opinion known at awards shows is notorious.  The most infamous occurrence was at the 2009 Video Music Awards when Taylor Swift won Best Female Music Video for “You Belong With Me” over Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).”  Placed in this context, Kanye is almost making fun of himself by walking on stage in silence and changing his mind.

Make no mistake, I believe that Kanye is egotistical and rude.  But I recognize that in doing so without looking further I risk having a myopic view of his character.  Exploring the methods behind his calculated intrusions helps understand his persona and this essay does a wonderful job in delving into the themes that Kanye’s serial interruptions signify.  If you had to name one person who was the face of African American music today, who would it be?  Most people I’ve asked respond with Kanye West or Beyonce, therefore, should it not be their obligation to create spaces for the marginalized groups they represent and identify with?  Criticize me all you want for “making a non-race issue a racial one,” but it is no accident that all of the discussions I have had about this usually ended up in white men telling me Kanye should kill himself and Jay-Z and Beyoncé need to respect real art.  If I manage to get a last point in, my response is this:

Mr. West uses a lot of samples in his songs (as is prevalent in his genre), and this involves paying the artist who’s music he’s using.  Depending on how much of the song he samples and depending on the loaning musician’s permission, Kanye will give that person(s) co-writer credit.  That’s not only art, but also generosity and synergy.

“My goal, if I was going to do art, fine art, would have been to become Picasso or greater.  That always sounds so funny to people, comparing yourself to someone in the past that has done so much, and in your life you’re not even allowed to think that you can do as much. That’s a mentality that suppresses humanity.

“This humanity that I talk about, this civilization that I talk about…it can only happen through collaboration.”

Kanye West, Oxford Lecture, March 2, 2015

kanye smiling

2014’s Best Music Videos

Be honest.  When you are alone and wasting time on the internet, do you watch music videos?  I’m going to go ahead and assume the answer is rarely, because the web has become a cesspool of short attention spanned GIF-starved people like me and you.  It is quite hard to shoot a video that both grabs our attention and is compelling from start to finish, all in the confines of a predetermined amount of time.  But when done right, a good music video becomes the nostalgic mental picture companion to our favorite songs and artists.  The emotional impact that this association can cause is at times perfect, and for me, these were the seven most memorable music videos of 2014.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – “Simple and Sure”

Speaking of GIF-starved people, what better way to hook you for three-and-a-half minutes than with a video entirely made of GIF’s?  Not kidding, it’s actually all GIF’s, and it’s mega fun.  It’s a hilarious window into the minutia of a fancy dinner party, and is in an essence a wonderful tribute to the classic film, The Exterminating Angel.  What really makes this MV awesome to me is that it is a subtle commentary on the way we experience information on the internet.  We’re addicted to the simplicity of Buzzfeed and Reddit, but in the end we are trapped by our own illusion of connectivity.

Sia – “Chandelier”

Is there an end of year list like this one without this video?  It’s mesmerizing, and the dance speaks for itself.  It reminds me a lot of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” MV, but there are two huge differences that make “Chandelier” monumental.  Instead of a warehouse and one large open space, Maddie Ziegler dances within the cramped confines of an apartment.  And oh yeah, she’s 11.

Vic Mensa – “Down on My Luck”

Representation of women aside, no MV in 2014 kept me glued to my seat more than “Down on My Luck.” Learning from our mistakes as quickly as Vic Mensa in his night out or William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow would be pretty sweet.

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

When I first saw this video, I scoffed and dismissed it as generic and boring.  But then I checked myself and I watched it a few more times, realizing how absolutely brilliant it was with each viewing.  Full Disclosure: the following thoughts are largely my sisters and I am paraphrasing her: Taylor Swift cannot be photographed or seen with anyone who identifies as the opposite gender without being scrutinized and she is consistently criticized to be boy crazy and a serial monogamist.  Like all women in the music industry, singing about her emotions is considered stupid, while male artists like Ed Shereen or Drake are seen as sensitive and mature.  Taylor Swift takes her boy-obsessive image by the horns and basically takes a huge dump on the media by using it to her full advantage (it’s the second single off her wildly popular album 1989, and the video recently surpassed 300 million views on YouTube).  She’s a nightmare dressed as a daydream, folks, and if you dare make fun of her, she doesn’t give a shit.  Taylor Swift does what she wants and, whether you like it or not, you’re just along for the ride.

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider”

“DON”T LET ME DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Action Bronson yells while firing an M4 into the sky.  He’s not going to die without his guitar, Gorrammit, and the adventure he has is the type of experience a soldier suffering from PTSD might have.  Cathartic on the one hand, self-destructive on the other, highly personal and rife with emotion in both.  However you choose to interpret it, his story ends bathed in the notes of his Les Paul and riding a Harley into the sunset.  Truly sublime.

Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”

This video has the highest probability of boring you out of all 7 on this list, but it’s on here because it is pure, incandescent nostalgia.  Nailing everything from the atmosphere to the demographic, this video reminds me more than anything I’ve seen since graduating in May 2013 of Oberlin.  It is basically an Oberlin Party.  All the memories and associations that come with that I now feel in a torrid avalanche whenever I hear this song.

Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)

Death is universal, but it is experienced differently.  How can a community suffocating from systemic oppression and violence handle it?  When death should be decades down the road, how can they deal with it constantly breathing down their neck?  When all the seemingly futile attempts to achieve change go nowhere and just end in more shattered lives, what is the appropriate response?  I can only guess, but the tragic beauty of dancing towards the inevitable is nothing less than the year’s most poignant music video.