The Monthly Music Mix: July
By Drew Renner
Welcome to the July edition of the Monthly Music Mix. Over the last month, two things were on everybody’s mind. The first was that it is really freakin hot. We had a heat wave stretch across the country and there was a lot of sweat. The second was aliens, both the illegal and interstellar kind. A Facebook prank page went viral and captured the attention of the world. While it is doubtful that one million people will storm the top-secret government facility at Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico, at the very least there should be a party that makes the Air Force a little bit nervous. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of all parties? President Trump also made some fireworks with incendiary twitter comments suggesting that a few (Hispanic and African) members of the House “go back to where they came from.” This prompted a national debate of what was racist, what was not and whether making comments on the internet is the same as real life. The answers: Yes it was racist, No it was not not racist and Yes they matter if you are famous or plan on becoming famous one day. Or if you’re a cop suggesting that a member of Congress be shot – considering that you could, you know, actually do it and probably get away with it. No new music has resulted from these big time headliners yet, but I suspect we shall get a bunch of songs about aliens and presidents soon enough. Katy Perry and YG should team up to do a crossover sequel for their songs ET and FDT.
It was the week of March 9th, 1996 and One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey and Boyz 2 Men had broken the record for most consecutive weeks at #1 of all-time on billboard, ousting I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (kind of a big deal) and Boyz 2 Men’s own I’ll Make Love To You (they dominated the charts in the early/mid 90s.) It would add one more week at #1 before being defeated by Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me. It was an incredible achievement at the time, and even more so now that we know the record lasted for almost 24 years (the gap between One Sweet Day and I Will Always Love You was only about 3 years!) Debbie Boone’s Light Up My Life had held the record for about the same amount of time (from 1977 to 1992, beaten of course by Boyz 2 Men and their song The End of the Road) but that was a different era. Her 10 weeks at #1 may have lasted ages then, today we get one of those every year.
Billie Eilish would have been heading for a 10-weeker herself if not for the existence of Old Town Road. She has been stopped in her tracks at #2 a whopping seven times! There’s a list for that too actually, with the record being a tie at 10 weeks for Work It”by Missy Elliot (was never able to get past Eminem’s Lose Yourself, a 12-weeker) and Waiting For A Girl Like You by Foreigner (held off by a platoon of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical and Hall & Oates’ Private Eyes). So we might be looking at another record pretty soon, though I do think Bad Guy will eventually hit #1 and avoid becoming the Inside Out of the music industry.
Let’s take a look at all the songs that would have been #1 if not for Old Town Road.
Bad Guy by Billie Eilish 7 times
Senorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
You Need To Calm Down by Taylor Swift
I Don’t Care by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber 2 times
If I Can’t Have You by Shawn Mendes
ME! By Taylor Swift and Panic at the Disco
Wow by Post Malone 2 times
Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee 2 times
It’s not like Old Town Road was just bumping off a bunch of also-rans. That’s some serious A-list talent right there, both from veteran pop-stars and relative newcomers. The Taylor Swift ones especially stand out as she has had a #1 debut on her last three albums. We’ve all tried to explain why this is happening, how an internet meme became the biggest pop song of all time, but for now let’s just enjoy the show. There are new sheriffs in town, and they’re gonna ride #1 till they can’t no more.
On the album side … well there weren’t any twenty four year old records being broken. Ed Sheeran’s album No. 6 Collaborations Project did well, but its opening “album equivalent units sold” was only half of what Divide opened to. It had a huge hit attached to it, so people must not have been taking it seriously as his official fourth album. Chris Brown and J.Cole added another #1 to their collection with Indigo and Revenge of the Dreamers III. But, the most surprising result of the month and maybe even year, is that Jack White’s Raconteurs were able to debut higher than Lil Nas X’s own EP 7. You figure the streams from Old Town Road would be enough to get #1 by itself but I suppose not. Grats to Raconteurs on the #1 though, we know how difficult it is for rock artists to ascend the charts these days.
Song of the month:
Daphne Blue by The Band CAMINO
This three-piece outfit from Memphis turn up the amps to create a new-wavey pop-punk anthem for the ages. “You got me off track, got me thinking abstract” gets sung in a booming voice alongside the more mellow verses. The Band CAMINO said they had been wanting to write a punch-you-in-the-face guitar track for a while and once they came up with the opening riff to this song everything else fell into place. I didn’t know this before hand, but Daphne Blue is actually a color used for guitars, it is slightly darker than Sonic Blue. I love that there is this whole semi-secret subsection of colors used for just rock music. Daphne Blue is an amazing song on its own, but coming with an art and history lesson just makes it all the better.
Runner-up #1 – Burn It Down by Silverstein and Caleb Shomo
I’ve never been a huge fan of Silverstein. They are fine in a mid 2000s emo type of way, Smile In Your Sleep gives a nostalgic kick and they were pretty good when I saw them open for A Day To Remember. Silverstein are apparently huge fans of Beartooth fan though, as not only did they bring Caleb in to do the breakdown, they basically structured the whole song into one of his. Which is for the best, as Beartooth are awesome and unlike many of these types, they can take a song that mixes emo, pop, punk and hardcore and turn it into a hell of a lot of fun. And that’s what Burn It Down is – a fun song, about a breakup, with lyrics that include “I had my fire read by a fortune lit by the dead.”
Leave Me Alone by NF
It’s a white rapper! Not to be assumptive, but the problem with artists like NF is often that they sound like try-hards, fighting for respect in an industry that has room for anyone that doesn’t sound exactly like Eminem. NF is a little different though, sure he sounds like Em, but I think his own internal issues are so intense that he has no time or energy to really give a crap about all the rest. “Hide my plaques inside the closet I can’t explain it, my wife tells me she’s proud and I should hang em, but I leave em on the ground with my self-hatred.” He also has an exchange with Fame, sending It this song in response to the question “are you ready?” Not surprisingly Fame thought this song sucks, It has no business for people outside the spotlight.
Album of the month:
No. 6 Collaborations Project by Ed Sheeran
What once seemed like a throwaway project from Ed, just an excuse to get that Justin Bieber song out there, turned out to be one of his strongest efforts yet. Pretty much every song is solid, even the ones with people I don’t really like on them. And he brings a lot of different types of sounds to go with his huge guest list, with the album-ender Blow somehow ending up on my New Hard Rock Songs (The Riff) playlist. What?? Coming off the absolutely massive Divide, one might think Sheeran would just stick to what’s working but he’s like Nahhhhhhh. Gotta have some respect from that, it’s the type of quality that turns artists from good to great. All this came after Ed’s self-parodying turn in the movie Yesterday too, where he makes the main character change a beloved song’s title to “Hey Dude”. What a dork.
Runner-up #1: Emotional Education by IDER
How best to describe the debut album from this pair of ladies, whom I assume are girlfriends or very friendly cousins judging by the album cover art and lyrical content. The operatic lead single Wu Baby definitely states “I could be your girlfriend” so that’s probably as much of a giveaway as anything. Like with most new artists, it’s difficult to find a full history of these people, but that’s half the fun of discovery. In a few months I’ll find out they aren’t lesbians and feel like an unwoke fool- but the songs will still be terrific. Their music reminds me of Tegan and Sara, before those two saw Drive and went full synth-pop. Maybe that’s just the dual vocals talking though, there’s an R&B influence here that you wouldn’t find while walking with ghosts. Anyways, if you’re short on time, just check out the song Swim. ‘All the love you’ve given it’s not forgotten, and if you think you’re drowning I’ll meet you at the bottom” I’m not sure the song is about picking up your Debbie Downer of a lover, but those lyrics would really work well if it was!
Runner-up #2: The Big Day by Chance The Rapper
dhance almost went full-Kanye, his album did not drop at midnight along with the rest of the industry, leading many to wonder if this record about his wedding would come out at all. Social media had all the runaway bride memes prepped and ready to go. Luckily it did, a few hours later, but since we’re still waiting on Yahndi, there is a lot of cynical thinking in the hip-hop world. And while Chance claims this to be his first album, it’s really his fourth so no excuses! Once it came out people stopped caring and the music itself became the divisive issue. Sure The Big Day is very long, and if you cut the title track and two Nicki songs this might have taken album of the month from the ginger. But there is a ton to like on here. For one, I can’t remember any rapper ever throwing Ben Gibbard on as a feature on a track, a brilliant decision that works out very well since he is an amazing singer. The opener, All Day Long, is a real banger that hooks you in. Sun Come Down, Let’s Go On The Run, Handsome, Big Fish (the second best song with this title), etc. There are a lot of jams on this album. So while many may focus on what Chance didn’t do (a Wyld Stallions type record that will bring peace and change the world forever), I’m gonna sit here and appreciate all the great new songs he has given us.
I have previously mentioned that August is gonna be lit AF. Since then, it’s become even better! Ty Segall added himself on the schedule, his first solo album since Freedom’s Goblin melted our faces last year. Not only that, but in preparation for their highly-anticipated album on August 30th, Tool will release their entire discography digitally for the first time ever. They were the last major hold out! I mean I’ve heard all those albums a dozen times, but never on my Homepod with such convenience! The next week has the return of Slipknot, who haven’t been that Great since their first few albums in the early 2000s. The promotional songs they’ve released, especially All Out Life, have been pretty damn good though and seems to indicate a return to their old sound. Then, on August 23 it is the glamorous return of Taylor Swift going against Sheer Mag, a band that nobody knows but who won my personal Album of the Year award in 2017. Then, yeah, fucking Tool. It’s gonna be awesome.