Okay, it’s time to show that my blogging skills haven’t gone dull, and what better way to do that than with a pale imitation of someone else?

Les is a music man first and foremost, but while I have been known to dabble in music criticism from time to time, that really would be a pale imitation. So here’s a project that centers around music, let’s me do what I do best, and incorperates a little of everything Les likes to write about: The top 12 clashes between songs that are each other’s complete antithesis. Some of these have been woven into larger stories, and some of them are meant to be a statement on their own, but they all send a message, and they don’t all agree. So if you like rhetorical debating, a good battle of the bands, or that scene common to several movies where the boyfriend has to win back the girl with a happy song to answer the sad one from act 2, you just might like this. (And if not… well, just imagine me shouting “April Fools!” after you don’t.)
Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler)

And

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq4aOaDXIfY

First up, Bonnie Tyler’s well-known hit from Footloose, and Tina Turner lesser known song from, after all, the less-viewed Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. The titles pretty much say it all. One is an action fantasy about being rescued that moves at a breakneck pace, sort of campy and effective at the same time. The other is a more reflective number about overcoming the apocalypse without relying on some hero to make you lose sight of what really needs to be done.

Which one wins?

Tyler’s number comes out of the gate strong and gets your attention right away. But while her song revels in the fantasy, Turner’s, with its rhymes of being last generation’s children, left behind, emerging from the ruins determined avoid the same mistakes, manages to sow the seeds of doubt. And though Tyler never lets up with more of the same, Turner continues to build, until finally, she gets to that belting chorus and brushes Bonnie aside. We don’t need another heeeerooo! We don’t need to know that waaaaay hoooome! All we want is life beyooooooooooooond the thunderdome…

 

Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Green Day)

And

The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)

Here, we have a song about being tormented, lonely, and miserable from Green Day, and a song about staying confident, self-accepting, and hopeful from Jimmy Eat World. It’s a classic face/heel match.

Which one wins?

Admittedly, it might depend on the mood you’re in, and if that happens to be a bad mood, Boulevard of Broken Dreams could provide some nice catharsis. But it’s rare to find a song with an encouraging message that feels real, like something you really can get behind in your darkest hour, and The Middle is one of those songs. It’s encouraging, earnest, and after saying a lot in few words about the effects of peer rejection, it promptly convinces you to shoo them away, that any power they hold over you really is all in your head and nothing you’re not above. It’s enough to make you want to turn to Billie Joe Armstrong, in the middle of his catchy emo song about how his shadow is the only one who walks beside him, pat him on the shoulder and say: “Come on. Get over it.”

 

You’re Beautiful (James Blunt)

And

All About You (Hilary Duff)

And now, the love songs. (Or the first of them, anyway. I think sometimes I forget just how common a subject it is in music.) In one corner, we have another emo song, James Blunt singing the ultimate melancholy tune about never getting to be with the one he loves. In the other corner, we have Hilary Duff telling a very different story, in which the pining guy doesn’t need to keep worrying like so, because he has the wrong idea. It turns out she’s into him every bit as much.

“Wait, did you say Hilary Duff?” you ask? Yeah, did I forget to mention that she’s looking for a return to the spotlight? And it gets, uh, “better”: She hired Ed Sheeran and some “acclaimed” songwriter I’ve never heard of to help her work on a new album, resulting in the song in question getting a heavy dose of acclaim. Critics seem to think it has its own unique flavor and that Duff successfully manages to be much more mature and passionate than you’d expect, both in the song and in the “lyric video.” Something about this just feels wrong… wait, she opted to make a bland song about “chasing the sun” the lead single for her new album instead of this one, and then followed up her lyric video to All About You with a music video reimagining it as another story of a girl pining over some guy and doing some “sexy” square-dancing with her girlfriends? Yep, that’s more like it.

Which one wins?

Let’s see, the best song ever made by the perky harbinger of my least favorite trend in all of pop culture or one of the best songs (if one that gets old) from an emo guy who seems moderately talented, even though I never paid him much attention? Both singers go full force, completely untempered, and which one does a better job might take a better music critic than me to say. But as far as delivering a message goes, even I have to admit, All About You is the perfect answer to You’re Beautiful. It plays like a twist happy ending to the conflict Blunt’s song sets up. After the countless songs we’ve had about pining over how to win the “unattainable” girl, a song in which said girl says “Forget it. I’m already on board” is honestly refreshing. (Although, I don’t know if I recommend listening to them one after the other, in either order, unless you legitimately want to undo the effect of the first one. Even the tones are polar opposites.)

 

Tomorrow (Charles Strouse, written for Annie)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_dBep_55mI

And

Today (Randy Sparks, written for Advance to the Rear)

Most of you probably know the iconic song in which the iconic orphan Annie sings about hanging on for the hope that things will get better tomorrow. Fewer of you might be familiar with the equally sweet song that has long since eclipsed its movie, about how today is always your moment, for whatever simple joys it holds, without lingering on the past or the future. This might be a little too much sugar in one sitting for me…

Which one wins?

In theory, it’s not hard to guess which message I like better. Yes, live in the present. That’s a much more realistic and practical way to happiness. But when sweet little orphan Annie, on her last legs, opens up the hopeful tune of Tomorrow in refusal to succumb to sadness, I can’t deny there’s something to it. She’s found something worth hoping for even at her lowest point, and it’s hard to think anything could replace that. Today always struck me as a great counterpoint on paper, but I’ve never heard any version quite live up to that. None of them avoid making it just a little too mushy, too syrupy. Sorry Today, you’re just not what little orphan Annie needs. Bring on Tomorrow!

 

Thrift Shop (Macklemore)

And

Fancy (Iggy Azalea)

The biggest song around right now about being posh and breezing through high expenses, and the song about rejecting exactly that, about how remixing second hand outfits to create your own look is, in Macklemore’s words “****ing awesome.” Need I say more?

Which one wins?

This match was over before it started. Thrift Shop was rejecting messages like Fancy before Fancy even came out, and people embraced it as much as they did because it resonates so much. Macklemore knows how to get more for less without even trying. Iggy Azalea just sounds like she has more money than she can actually figure out a use for. Want me to start listing rich people who actually do have something to sing about? I could.

 

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (Prince)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR2D7YJrNsk

And

If You Wanna Be Happy (Jimmy Soul)

First, Prince’s song (which he refuses to upload to YouTube, hence why I have to go with a performance from a guy I don’t recognize), about how his love is the definition of the perfect girl, because she’s the most beautiful. Or I suppose it could also be that she’s so beautiful to him because he loves her so much, but that’s not really what he says. It’s a bit like every song about pining over a woman boiled down to its essence.

Jimmy Soul, on the other hand, has a humorous twist on the story, with a song (also referred to as Get an Ugly Girl to Marry You) about how the perfect girl for him and everyone else who’s ahead of the curve is the ugly type. For in his infinite wisdom, he knows that such a girl will have learned how to make up for it in more essential ways. How much can I really add to that?

Which one wins?

You could argue that If You Wanna Be Happy isn’t very fair to women and sends a shallow message, but then again, you could argue the same about Most Beautiful Girl in the World. In the end, If You Wanna Be Happy is just easier for me to enjoy. I can appreciate Most Beautiful Girl in the World in the right context, but listening to it on its own gets old. If You Wanna Be Happy is so darn catchy and fun, and despite my misgivings, it plays like another refreshing backhand to the same old pining spiel we’ve heard dozens of times. If someone somewhere played it to cut off a boy band song about a “beautiful” girl, I would cheer.

 

Smile (My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic)

And

Queen of Mean (A Troll in Central Park)

Yeah, I would have to take advantage of knowing all about one of Les’s favorite shows at least once. So here is Pinkie Pie singing about how much she enjoys bringing smiles. Opposing her is Gnorga, the queen of the Trolls singing about how much she enjoys taking them away and truly being the queen of mean. It may seem a bit sad to some people that A Troll in Central Park of all movies probably has one of the best animated villain songs not to come from Disney, but c’est la vie.

Which one wins?

Honestly, it’s easier for me to get in the mood for Queen of Mean. It’s faster, snappier, and frankly, catchier. But in the end, Pinkie Pie’s sincerity wins out. By the time Gnorga’s spent enough time reveling in it to get the point across, Pinkie Pie is still building, and it’s all so sweet on her part that (sigh) it actually does make me want to smile. There, I said it.

So yes, Pinkie Pie manages to conquer mean with nice. Just don’t watch the rest of the episode, in which she then conquers nice with obnoxious.

 

Someday (Nickelback)

And

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift)

Chad Kroeger of Nickelback singing about how someday, somehow, he will reunite with his girlfriend, because it was meant to be (if not in life, then in the afterlife, in fact, as the music video implies), and Taylor Swift singing about how her boyfriend has already kidded himself and her enough with failed make-up attempts, so no, no they won’t. These two were made for each other.

Which one wins?

There’s a good chance you don’t like either of these songs, but I’ve heard worse both ways. That said (and it’s not saying much, I admit), the image of someone sitting through the melodramatics of Someday as an attempt to woo them back before promptly kicking off a musical reminder of the last three times they broke up and answering “someday” with “never ever ever” is kind of hilarious to me. So yeah, give it to the message about when to stop wasting each other’s time and move on. I can get behind that after a certain point.

 

Let it Go (Idina Menzel, Frozen)

And

Son of Man (Phil Collins, Tarzan)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGKj_yB5_PI

Now, a look at Disney contradicting themselves, which is probably going to keep happening as the times change. (If you think about, the entire movie of Tarzan is the complete reverse of The Jungle Book before it.) In this case, we have a song about turning away from those who can’t accept you as you are and a song about growing and changing until you fit right in.

Which one wins?

Oh, I wonder…

If these were the complete soundtracks of both movies, it would be a different story, as even Let it Go can’t entirely make up for Fixer Upper. But yeah, the Oscar winning power ballad from Frozen, still finishing its run as the next When You Wish Upon a Star, Circle of Life, etc. wouldn’t have much trouble with most of the Disney songs, and though Son of Man is up there, it’s not quite even Tarzan’s best. There’s a time and a place for both messages, but when the time came for Let it Go, it’s all anyone was thinking about for a long, long time.

 

Right Now (Van Halen)

And

The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars)

Over here, we see that Bruno Mars doesn’t care. He’s not doing anything today, and you’re not gonna tell him otherwise. Try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you look to your left, you’ll see that Van Halen does care. A lot. And they have more than a few good reasons you should get to work and start making progress right now.

If the concept by itself doesn’t make you biased towards The Lazy Song, please let me know, so I can brag that Martha Stewart reads my blog. That said, Van Halen doesn’t ask lightly for you to heed the call. Utilizing the best qualities of then-lead singer Sammy Hagar, they summon every bit of passion required for you to get moving on whatever’s in front of you, combined with lyrics and a music video that go beyond “want” and make you feel the need to.

Which one wins?
Riiight now, hey! It’s your tomorrow. Riiight now, come on! It’s eeeeeeeeeverything! Riiight now, catch a maaagic moment, do it RIGHT here and now… I’m sorry, you had question?

 

Come to My Window (Melissa Etheridge)

And

Tattoo (Jordin Sparks)

Here, we have another song about overcoming the odds and staying together, in which the singer says “I need you in my blood, I am forsaking all the rest, just to reach you” and another song about cutting losses and moving on, with such lines as “keep my hand in the fire, sooner or later, I get what I’m asking for.” However, in their own ways, neither one is quite about the types of relationships you’d expect at first, hence why they were chosen for each other, though I’ll leave you to look up the full subtext on your own.

In the meantime, let’s focus on the point at hand. Why would the winner here be any different than in the last such match? Well, for one, neither sounds like they’re actually singing about a relationship that’s reached its endpoint. They sound like they’re about tough times in a relationship, not caused by the partners in question per se. Tatoo describes someone who has simply decided it’s easier to “move on and leave you behind,” content to know “you’re on my heart just like a tattoo,” while Come to My Window says to hell with that noise and belts out “I don’t care what they think! And I don’t care what they say! What do they know about this love, anyway?” It’s about a relationship in which something on the outside is interfering, and who wants to give into that? I guess what I’m saying is…

Which one wins?

Yes, I’m siding with the “stay together” song this time, as many cynicism points as it might cost me. Nothing against Jordin Sparks, but between her powerhouse vocals and that music bridge that she describes as her best in any song, Etheridge has me right from the start. Everybody! I would dial the numbers just to listen to your breath. And I would stand inside my hell and hold the hand of death…

 

Old Time Rock and Roll (Bob Segar)

And

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (Billy Joel)

If you look past the titles, these songs actually aren’t so different. But then, if you look a little closer still, they kind of are. Both songs are from the point of view of their singers, both living legends, who at the time, had to face that the times were changing and so was music. Neither was exactly happy with how they were starting to be seen as outdated. But where Bob Segar defiantly chanted “today’s music ain’t got the same soul! I like that old time rock and roll!” Billy Joel simply looked at both sides, brushed his shoulder and said “next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways, it’s still rock and roll to me,” mixing in a new wave sound, no less. Ironically, they both ended up as big hits. This is definitely one that Les would be interested in.

Which one wins?

I’ve said more than once that Billy Joel is one of my favorites, but he definitely has his work cut out for him here, and among the greatest songs of his career, he didn’t quite bring the best of the best. So let’s see, red hot Bob Segar or cool blue Billy Joel? The take-no-prisoners song about standing up for the oldies, or the one scoffing at the idea that there needs to be a problem here? Truth be told, Segar’s is the one with a stronger presence and the one people will probably remember better. But as far as the messages go, Joel’s is the one we should probably embrace in the end. As opposed to ignoring different eras of music and what we learned from them (as many of today’s songs playing constantly seem to have done), it’s important to remember that each one led to the next and what we can draw from all of them. But on the other hand, it’s nice to have a song demonstrating that the oldies can stick it back to what’s “in style” every bit as much, a nice little reminder that nobody’s afraid to fire back. Can I just call it a tie and go home?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.