Single Review: ‘Counting Stars’ by OneRepublic

Part of a new series of posts that aim to review whatever is top of the charts in the UK at the time of writing to do one of two things: justify the rage of hipsters at the terrible music on the radio nowadays, or go against the grain and say otherwise. Obviously I’m going to be biased, but that’s part of the fun, and I will try to remain as open-minded as possible. Fair warning though, these posts will actually be quite irregular so, y’know, check often!

The most popular song in the UK at the moment is this:

On balance, this is a good start for me: OneRepublic is an alternative rock band from Colorado in the US, and has a good 10 years of experience. This is a genre of music that I feel confident in commenting upon, and I wasn’t expecting it to be topping the charts if I’m honest. But anyway, the song.

Not bad, not bad at all. One of my main criticisms of modern pop music is that it’s vacuous in its lyrical content and samey and boring in its musical arrangements, but these are not really valid concerns here in my opinion. The vocal line is well sung, with any autotune present kept at fairly low levels or reserved for places in which it actually works as an effect, while being fairly distinct. The arrangement is pretty standard for alternative rock bands, but the fairly consistent use of an acoustic guitar in a song that isn’t a heartfelt singer-songwriter ballad is a nice difference to the modern norm, and the use of instruments is varied and fairly tasteful. Texture is varied, which makes it more interesting, and the song has nice enough harmonies accompanying a fairly memorable melody. It’s not a bad song.

I have, however, criticisms. My least pressing criticism is probably the lyrics, which are OK in that they are neither boring and radio-friendly with a samey structure (think ‘Wrecking Ball’) while at the same time not being narcissistic and misogynistic (do I really need to provide examples?). However, the lyrics also lack a distinct and interesting subject and lack any kind of wit. While pop songs can function perfectly fine without this, I like to hear lyrics beyond the chorus that I’ll remember and a general intelligence and thought and feeling. Still, not really a problem. The problem I really have with this song is that it’s just not satisfying. The arrangement and the melody and the rhythm and the harmony is all…fine. The same goes for the structure, or any other musical feature. But this is not a song that I would download and listen to a lot. It tries to have a sense of energy (the dancing people in the video show this intention) but at no point does this song make me want to dance. The chorus isn’t uplifting enough, the song isn’t energetic enough, it lacks a sense of passion in every element. I can see how some people could listen to this song and feel like dancing and feel excited, but I don’t get that personally. This problem is made worse by the fact that, while it is a pleasant song to listen to, ultimately there is little here that is particularly different or new or interesting. It’s distinctive enough, yes, but this distinctiveness isn’t great and it is only produced through slightly different configurations of ideas and elements that have been used in countless pop songs for years and years now. As such, the song as a whole probably won’t stick in my memory for more than this week.

To conclude: ‘Counting Stars’ by OneRepublic is a perfectly nice song that is distinct from its competition on the charts and shows a sense of musicality that I often fear is lacking in modern chart-topping songs. But if you’re looking for the cream of the crop, the exciting music that tries different things in imaginative ways, this probably isn’t the song for you.

Logical Conclusions

Earlier on I demonstrated how, to the religious right, the logical conclusion of humanism is another Nazi regime. This is, I believe, inaccurate. So I’d thought I’d demonstrate what an accurate logical conclusion might be.

It makes a great deal of sense: wingnuts object to abortions because it is denying a child from being born. Not having sex also prevents a child from being born. Therefore, wingnuts must object to not having sex! Simple!

 

 

Robertson: ‘Orgy’ Of French Revolution (And Nazis) Caused By Humanism

Yesterday I talked about rape culture, and the day before I talked about Miley Cyrus. Overall, my big blog restart has been a bit…bleak. Not that I’m equating talking about Miley Cyrus with talking about rape culture or anything, but neither topic really makes your day, right? So, in an effort to bring some levity to this blog, here’s Pat Robertson being an idiot!

You know the liberals, the so called socialists, the progressives, they’ve moved away from God and when you move away from God then you say, ‘we’re humanists.’ Then as a result of humanity and rejecting God, you have the orgy of the French Revolution, you have the guillotine cutting off the heads of thousands of people, you have the same thing going on now in Europe, you had it under the Nazis. Why can’t we come back to the fact that God loves people?

Yep, in the mind of Pat Robertson and his credulous supporters the Nazis came about…as a result of a liberal, humanist attitude. Which could be true, I suppose: the growth of liberalism in Germany in the 1920s angered those on the right wing, and could be said to be a contributor to the extremism of the Nazi party as a reaction to this culture. But isn’t reacting to the growth of liberalism what Pat Robertson is doing? Ha! Irony! You get a lot of that with wingnuts; it’s almost as if they’re not very self-aware.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, this rant was a reaction to Belgium’s proposal to extend its euthanasia laws to include children and those with Alzheimer’s or other brain disorders. Personally, I do not see how this can be equated with chopping the heads off members of the aristocracy and systematically murdering millions of Jews, but what do I know, right?

Yes, Rape Culture is a Thing

When I say that I’m a feminist, I mean it in a fairly simple way: I believe that women should have the same rights as men, and should be treated as such. That’s it. And personally I don’t see how anybody can see a problem with that statement, except somehow a lot of people do. They rubbish the claims that there is a ‘rape culture’. They deny that there is a glass ceiling. In other words, these ‘men’s rights activists’ ignore reality. This makes me angry at the best of times.

The claim that there is no rape culture problem really gets me, though, because it’s so freaking obvious and so bloody dangerous to deny that I don’t understand how anyone can possibly miss it. Here is, for example, a man called Paul Elam on the topic of rape.

I have ideas about women who spend evenings in bars hustling men for drinks, playing on their sexual desires … And the women who drink and make out, doing everything short of sex with men all evening, and then go to his apartment at 2:00 a.m.. Sometimes both of these women end up being the “victims” of rape.

But are these women asking to get raped?

In the most severe and emphatic terms possible the answer is NO, THEY ARE NOT ASKING TO GET RAPED.

They are freaking begging for it.

If Paul Elam was  just some raving lunatic on the fringes then I would let it go, but he is in fact possibly the most influential member of the Men’s Rights Movement. He speaks for a surprisingly large number of people, and in my experience he is not that extreme among his peers.

But wait, as much as Paul Elam is a nutjob who blames rape victims, this doesn’t mean that we have a rape culture, right? Well, no, but there are much bigger examples. Take Tequila UK. This is an extract from an advert for it:

Presenter: “How are you going to violate a fresher tonight?”

Student: “I’ve got one here with me who’s just disappeared.. There she is.”

Presenter: “And what are you going to do to her tonight?”

Student: “Well she’s paying for the cab, she’s paying for the drinks.”

Presenter: “Strong.”

Student: “She’s going to get raped.”

As you might expect, a public outcry followed (a rape culture problem doesn’t mean that everyone just accepts this stuff), and the manager of the club hosting the effect had to respond.

Tequila UK’s club night, “Freshers Violation”, is currently held at Mezz Club, and the venue has come under extreme pressure to stop hosting the event.

The manager of Mezz club told HuffPost UK: “We do not deal with promotions. The video was made by an external promotion company.”

When asked if they would be continuing to host Tequila UK’s nights he replied: “No comment.”

This would have been a great time to condemn the advertising company, to cancel the event, to create some good publicity for your club. But no! Your external promotion company runs a series of misogynistic adverts that have made your business look incredibly bad, and all you’re going to say is that it wasn’t done by you? Great. That will make this whole thing just go away, definitely. If people don’t call out misogynists on their crap, particularly when the misogyny is blatant and is actually affecting you, then they will simply continue until they drown us in it. Even allowing this stuff to go on in the first place is a sign of rape culture problem: that promotional company would have had a sizeable number of people working on this advert, and somehow they all came to the conclusion that this was OK. No! This is not OK! And the fact that this attitude can develop in our society is not OK either!

Look, I’ve provided two examples here in thousands that in this country (and many, many others) there are many people with twisted attitudes to rape, and these people have scary amounts of influence. So don’t claim that rape culture doesn’t exist.

Because that’s just fucking stupid.

What’s My Opinion on Miley Cyrus?

Her music is about as distinct, imaginative and interesting as any of her cohorts in the world of pop, and as such I really don’t care for it. Oh, you meant on her choice of clothing, videos and general publicity? Well, why should I have an opinion?

That last question is a good one, and it’s one that many of us should ask ourselves more often. The whole Miley Cyrus debate and accompanying drama is only one instance in many in which everyone- everyone- has an opinion. It doesn’t matter how ill-informed the opinion, or how irrelevant or redundant that opinion might be, everybody not only has one but has to have one. When asked about it (and, when an issue is controversial, you will always be asked about it or have to bring it up) it is not enough to just say that you don’t care. People expect you to come down on one side of the argument, all the time! It’s crazy and unrealistic, and we should try to cut it out.

With this annoying human trait covered, I can examine the specific reasons why nobody should care about anything to do with Miley Cyrus. First, the people who have a problem with her video for the single ‘Wrecking Ball’ have an argument that can be effectively summed up in a single line:

 

The CHILDREN! Oh won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

That is not a rational basis upon which to construct an opinion or argument! Sure, protecting the innocence of young children is fine and dandy and I’m not objecting to that, but it’s not as if Miley Cyrus deliberately made that video to corrupt minors. There was no malicious intent, and impressionable children who find and watch this video got there by their own choices and the choices of their parents. If, parents in the audience, you don’t want your child exposed to something, then it’s up to YOU to make sure that happens, not the person producing the material. Once that separation (if you want it) between children and the ‘offensive’ material has been made, and it can be made easily, why should you care what Miley Cyrus does?

Second, objections seem to include some reference to the way she dresses (or, in some cases, doesn’t) and her general attitude. It could indeed be construed that Miley Cyrus using her body as part of a promotional campaign with the aim of making money is degrading to women, and as such we should care and object to Miley Cyrus doing this. Yep. Fine. Very feminist. Except, of course, that it isn’t: it could also be construed that going on at a woman to dress in certain ways and generally pander to cultural norms as opposed to doing what she has chosen to do is actually very un-feminist, and actually undermines a key concept of women’s rights. We should not, as a rule, care about how a woman dresses or acts unless those acts actively harm anybody else. Does Miley Cyrus twerking hurt anyone else? No. Is it her freedom to do so? Yes. So why should you care? If that’s what she wants to do, leave her alone to do it. She’s not forcing you to watch.

Finally, there is the simple fact that every post with ‘Miley Cyrus’ in the tags, every angry click on her videos to post a righteously angry comment, every mention of the subject to your friends is doing exactly what she wants you to do: give her free publicity. For all that I defend her right to make her own choices, you cannot deny that Miley Cyrus has made these choices to create this hurricane of indignation. And why not? It’s free publicity! If, like me, you dislike the music of Miley Cyrus and have no desire to help further her career in any way, then you will simply stop caring and move on. In the end, it’s none of your business what she does.

That, then, is the summary of my argument. Stops caring about what Miley Cyrus does, because it’s Miley Cyrus. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.