‘LM5’: the return of the queens

Pop Odyssey features Jackie Goff’s thoughts, reviews and analysis of popular music.

By Jackie Goff

“LM5” is the best Little Mix album since their 2013 album “Salute” (their best in my opinion) and the two share theme that has only been magnified over time: women.

The songs on “LM5” are more about empowering women and supporting women than it is about sex, love or men that have done them wrong (though there is a bit of all of those from time to time). All in all, this is the kind of pop record we need in 2018 and it’s beautiful.

Here are a few of the record’s standout singles:

“Woman Like Me (feat. Nicki Minaj)”: The debut single from the new record featuring Nicki Minaj, which addresses the things we all deal with but shouldn’t hold us back, such as insecurity or regret for past mistakes. These flaws don’t make you make you any less desirable or worthy of love. In fact, they are trials that make you stronger, more powerful and deserving of someone who can take the good right along with the bad.

“Strip”: Whisper-singing has a way of driving me bat-shit crazy until it eventually grows on me until the song is an earworm that I can’t get out of my head. It was true for Selena Gomez’s “Hands To My Self,” and the same goes for “Strip”. My first couple of listens I wasn’t overly into it melodically, but the underlying message of self-acceptance and confidence meant that eventually, I was all for it. “Strip! / Take off all my make-up ’cause I love what’s under it / Rub off all your words, don’t give a uh, I’m over it / Strip! / Jiggle all this weight, yeah, you know I love all of this / Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident.”

“Told You So”: “The only thing I love more than an empowering Little Mix jam is an acoustic guitar-based song that showcases these women’s insane voices. This song is about the importance of girlfriends who are around to love and support each other in moments of despair and heartbreak. Picking up the damage without dealing out handfuls of shame, even if they saw it coming because, well, he never did treat her right. The whole record is more heavy-handed about supporting your fellow woman than the men who have done wrong, this song is more tender than the rest of the record and supportive about the fact that sometimes your friend gets their heart broken, and your job isn’t to say “I told you so,” but be there with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on.

Honorable mention: “Woman’s World”: A beautiful tribute to the trails and tribulations of what it’s like to be a woman in this world hoping for a day where women are heard, recognized and respected not for their body, but their brains.

Jackie Goff can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com or @jackiemaemusic on Twitter.

Pop Genealogy: Harry Styles

The date was August 23, 2015. It was a day in which the collective blood ran cold in millions of fans of the British-Irish boyband One Direction. However, while there was despair abound, there was also hope. Fans were left to anticipate what the members’ solo music would yield. I personally had my bets on one horse in particular: Harry Styles. Styles had always been a stand out voice and personality in the group. For years there have been rumblings from fans that Styles was destined to be the Justin Timberlake of One Direction. Jill O’Rouke from Alloy was writing about it in 2014 saying, “I think Harry’s solo career will look different from Justin’s from a musical standpoint since he seems to have a different style. But he’s still got the pipes and the charisma.” To a degree, she was pretty accurate. With Styles’ newfound creative control, he leaned more onto sounds of 1970s rock than on the more traditional, radio-friendly released of his One Direction counterparts.

Pink Floyd

From the very first track on the record, we have glaring similarities between “Meet Me In The Hallway” and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.” The chords are similar, and the songs both share the same rich bass tone, and vocal reverbs. “Breathe” has much more going on, with dramatic ambiance and slide guitars, but while “Meet Me In The Hallway” is a much more stripped back tune, the same feeling of ambiance still hangs in the space between its components.

Elton John

Harry Styles’ song “Woman” isn’t a far cry from Elton John’s classic “Bennie and the Jets” from the initial piano/guitar stabs that kick off both songs. Additionally, both songs employ repetitive consonant hooks between “Buh-Buh-Buh-Bennie and the Jets” and Styles’ “Wuh-Women.”

The Rolling Stones

When “Only Angel” starts, its ambient organ, operatic vocal swells and delicate piano lead you to think you’re in for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In reality, at the 53-second mark, we’re into a Rolling Stones strut more akin to “Bitch”. The lyrics illustrate similar sexually fueled relationships. Where The Stones sing: “When you call my name / I salivate like a Pavlov Dog,” Styles’ illustrates similar as he  “Broke a finger knocking on your bedroom door / I got splinters in my knuckles crawling cross the floor.”

 

Works Cited for this post can be found here.

Mainstream Monday: John Mayer’s “A Search For Everything: Wave One”

I am a long-time fan of John Mayer, so when he announced his return to pop music last year, I was pumped to see what he would bring forward after 2 albums that were very different from the sound that had made him famous.

Just after the new year, John Mayer announced that he would be breaking the mold for his upcoming release. He would be releasing the album four songs at a time every month and with that, Wave One hit streaming sites on January 20.

I’ll admit, it took me a while to get around to listening to Wave One. Something about the incomplete release seemed to suspend my enthusiasm as if the limited release made it illegitimate and so I simply kept forgetting that there even WAS new John Mayer music to listen to. However, once I remembered and took a listen, I was very pleased and reinvigorated for more.

Moving On and Getting Over

Moving On and Getting Over reminds me of a more subtle and subdued version of one of my favorite John Mayer songs to date, “Perfectly Lonely” from his 2009 release “Battle Studies”. I think this might be my favorite track from the four released in Wave One. The chattering guitar reminds me of why I’ve loved him as a guitarist for so long.

 

Changing

This song about embracing the fact that we are ever-changing and growing as people calls back to more recent releases such as “I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea)” from “Paradise Valley”. A release that took on a more folk timber, this tracks influence speak to the fact that John Mayer’s music truly is always changing.

Love On The Weekend

My impression of this record so far is an amalgamation of new JM and old, this one reminding me very much of a much older record. This reverb-infused tune takes me back to the warm and fuzzy vibes from “Heavier Things”, especially the song “Clarity” and it’s sparse, but impactful piano lead.

You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me

This Paul Newman influenced track is a soulful piano ballad accompanied by subtle, swelling strings below a flowing melody and poetic lyrics.

I am a fan.

I think one of lives greatest struggles is really learning about yourself. It seems inconsequential at any given moment as we forge our way through our day to day, that is until we’re suddenly told to “tell me about yourself,” in that dream job interview or writing up that online dating profile. Suddenly we have to find a way to define our little intricacies into one concise snapshot.

There is really only one thing I can say without any sort of hesitance.

I am a fan.

I lose my composure completely when one of my favorite artists comes on unexpectantly in public. I’ve traveled arguably insane distances for concerts. Imported CDs and singles from overseas just to have something tangible to hold and I believe my favorite feeling in the world is getting to tune in the radio and listen to the world debut of a new song from one of my favorite artists.

This blog highlights that feeling, while also expanding into new frontiers.

I hope these things will resonate with readers of this blog.

I hope to share and celebrate our favorites while being open to discovering something new.

Are you a mega-fan of any particular bands or artists? What makes your favorite so special to you?

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