Humor

The 2012 “Listen Up!” Awards: The Triumphant Return of the Harleys

Time really flies, doesn’t it? It feels like only yesterday that I was writing my year-end Harley Awards post, when in fact it was around 367 days ago. As I write this we have exactly a month left before the end of the Mayan calendar, which everyone has apparently equated with the end of the world. Why doesn’t the human race ever learn that we are incapable of predicting the apocalypse? Every time people have thought doomsday was upon us, absolutely nothing happened and we all carried on with business as usual. So you might not want to quit your job and spend all the money in your savings account on a bomb shelter under the assumption that your life is about to become a Roland Emmerich movie.

Anyway, as 2012 is approaching its conclusion, it’s time once again for me to celebrate achievements in totally arbitrary categories that I made up myself. In other words, it’s just another typical awards show. It’s time to bring on the 2012 Harleys!

As always, the fun begins after the jump.

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The 2011 “Listen Up!” Awards: Handing Out The Harleys

So here we are, entering the home stretch of the year 2011. And if you actually believe that whole stupid Mayan apocalypse theory, we’re entering the home stretch of the human race. On that happy note, we’re going to be seeing some year-end lists popping up some time in the next couple of weeks. I figure I might as well submit my own, but just as I did last time I’ll be looking at unconventional categories (read: totally arbitrary distinctions that I made up myself). It’s time for the 2011 Harleys!

Who's a good little award statuette? YOU ARE! Come here and let me scratch you!

The fun begins, as always, after the jump. Bring on the first award!

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The Search for the Song of the Summer

Every summer is often defined by that one massive pop hit, that one song that so thoroughly dominates the airwaves that it will lurk in your memories of that summer for years to come whether you like it or not. And as much as I would love for the Radioheads and My Morning Jackets and Minus The Bears of the world to dominate the summer with a monster hit, I’ve accepted that it’ll probably never happen. Not unless I one day gain the power to reshape mainstream culture to fit my own taste. There’s probably an X-Men character who can do that.

Last year the title was pretty much handed to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” the instant it was released. This left me to wonder if I was the only person on Earth who realized that “California Gurls” was a blatant rewrite of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” a song that already irritated the crap out of me the first time around. Hell, I still have memories of being the only kid alive in 1996 who didn’t want to learn the stupid Macarena. And if I ever hear “Livin’ La Vida Loca” or “All Star” again, it will be too soon. I guess the lesson is that no matter what the song of the summer ends up being, by the end of that summer simply hearing the first new notes of that damn song will be enough to drive you utterly mad.

So with the summer of 2011 officially underway, let’s take a look at some randomly chosen contenders from this week’s Hot 100. The fun begins after the jump!

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When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands #5

The Beach Boys are one of those rare musical acts where they’ve been around long enough, prolific enough, and most importantly good enough to say that everyone probably likes something they’ve done. Even if you’re not a diehard fan, you have to at least tip your cap to the sheer songwriting genius of Brian Wilson. His intricate song structures, diverse instrumentation, and carefully arranged vocal harmonies were so far ahead of their time that people are still having trouble keeping up with him – and Pet Sounds came out 45 years ago. If any pop or rock musician had earned the right to call his music “teenage symphonies to God,” Brian Wilson was that man.

But we’re not here to talk about Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys. That band was one of the greatest of all time. No, we’re here to talk about what that band eventually became after Brian’s drug problems and mental illness sadly phased him out of the picture. By the late 1980s and early ‘90s they’d completely abandoned nearly all traces of their classic sound, creating some depressingly lousy music in the process.

Seriously, I was shocked to discover just how far this band had fallen. But I guess that’s what happens sometimes… When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST #2: Be Here Now

I probably own the wrong Oasis album.

As far as I can tell the general consensus surrounding the Gallagher brothers and company is that they peaked early in their career. Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? are remembered as classics of the mid-‘90s Britpop explosion. Many of the band’s most memorable songs – “Live Forever,” “Supersonic,” “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and so on – can be found on those two albums. And while Oasis had to deal with the “Beatles rip-offs” criticism for much of their career, those two albums made them international superstars.

I have neither of those albums.

No, I have the album whose name has since become synonymous with artistic excess. I have the album that is now a case study in a band expanding their sound too far. I have the album where Oasis basically took everything they could get their hands on – including the kitchen sink – and squeezed all of it onto a single disc without anyone saying, “You know, maybe we should cut some of this stuff out.” I have the album that, despite selling eight million copies worldwide and being the fastest-selling album in U.K. history at the time and all the praise it garnered upon release, is now often remembered as the point where Oasis more or less jumped the shark. I have a copy of Be Here Now.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST #1: Silver Side Up

Yeah, that’s right. I own a Nickelback album.

It’s been resting comfortably in one of my CD towers in my bedroom, mostly untouched, for nearly a decade. I got it when I was 15, right in the thick of my nu-metal/pop-punk/post-grunge phase. In fact, I asked for it for my birthday that year. My birthday is September 27. The year was 2001. Silver Side Up, fresh off the radio success of the band’s breakout single “How You Remind Me,” had just come out a few weeks earlier, on September 11. (I think we all remember what else happened that day.)

You know what else I wanted for that birthday? Come Clean, the first album from Fred Durst protégés Puddle Of Mudd. Ah, to be 15 and so easily charmed by songs called “She Fucking Hates Me.”

Chill out, Lightning. At least YOU didn't get a Nickelback album.

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Oh my God, I’M BACK! (And with a 2011 Grammy preview)

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. In the words of that one guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I’m not dead yet. I feel fine. I think I’ll go for a walk! I feel happy, I feel happy — *gets knocked out with a stick*


So where have I been for, like, all of 2010? Looking for jobs, mostly (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE SOMEBODY HIRE ME, I PROMISE I’LL BE GOOD AND I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER), and also writing and recording my own songs just for fun. I might even share them on the Internet someday after I get over my crippling lack of self-confidence! Hooray for me!

Anyway, the 2011 Grammy nominees were announced recently and this gave me inspiration to make my long-awaited, much-anticipated (by absolutely nobody) return to the blogosphere. Of course, this isn’t a complete Grammy preview — I mean, there are 109 different categories and I’d have to be crazy to cover them all. This isn’t even a complete preview of all the awards people actually care about, just the ones I was able to write about in an entertaining fashion.

The Listen Up! 2011 Grammy Awards That You Care About And That I Was Also Able To Make Jokes About Preview continues after the jump!

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The 2009 “Listen Up!” Awards

Well, with 2009 approaching the ol’ finish line, you’ll start seeing lots of year-end wrap-up lists and things. And since it’s the end of the Double-0 Decade, you’ll be seeing lots of decade recap lists as well. (Some early spoilers: Pitchfork has crowned Radiohead’s Kid A the best album of the Double-0s, while the NME favors Is This It by the Strokes.)

But you won’t find that here, and not now. No, here you will find a year-end recap that dares to be somewhat different. This is the first-ever Listen Up! Year-End Awards ceremony – or you can just name them the Harleys after the adorable little trophy I’m giving out to the winners.

Let's see the Academy beat THIS one.

The fun begins after the jump!

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World Series 2009 Preview!

Hi everybody! Now that the World Series matchup has been set, it’s time for everyone to start making predictions and talking some smack, I figured I would throw my name into the hat. Yes, I know this is supposed to be a music blog. But since it’s my blog, I figured I’d have a little fun with this — especially since the Phillies are back in the Fall Classic.

I guarantee you’re not going to get a more thoughtful and in-depth analysis of this year’s Major League Baseball championship series than you’re going to get right here. The fun begins after the jump…

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When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands #4

I suppose it’s fitting that Pop is the album where U2 embraced irony the most, because it’s perhaps U2’s least popular album ever. I say “perhaps” because at least people might still be able to name a song from it. Quick — name a song from October. Any song from October. You have ten seconds and you’re not allowed to look at iTunes, Wikipedia, Amazon, or any other site that would give you the answers. Oh, and the title track doesn’t count.

Just how un-beloved is Pop? Even U2 themselves have all but abandoned this album. Only five of its 12 songs have been performed live since the PopMart Tour in 1997. They even stopped playing a few songs from Pop during the tour that was meant to promote it! The only Pop song they’ve played live in full since 2001 is “Discotheque.” And before they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind, the “comeback” album that “brought them back to their roots,” they said, “We’re reapplying for the position of best band in the world.” Translation: “Hey guys! Sorry Pop sucked so much! Our bad! Here, look, we’re going to stop all this wacky experimentation now! It’s okay to like us again!” Cue the opening chords of “Beautiful Day.”

Of course, when an experimental album contains the worst song of said band’s career, it’s easier to understand when people condemn them for stepping out of their comfort zone. That’s the kind of thing that happens… When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands.

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