Building reputations, breaking bridges, and taking names: new and exciting things are happening in music! As Taylor Swift serenades us with the troubles and woes of making friends and foes as a twenty-something in 2017, artists old and new have been sneaking in masterpieces of their own.
Irish band U2 released their fourteenth album, “Songs of Experience.” A use of the titles of William Blake’s famous works, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” shows that the band was, like Blake, focused on a new time of renewal this past holiday season. It’s fitting that this was released around the holidays because of this theme! The album opens with a prayer-like anthem preaching the values of kindness and love in the world today. “Love Is All We Have Left,” is an ode to 2017, it seems; last year was quite the roller-coaster of good and bad for humanity. Many things made this last year memorable, whether they were positive or negative. So, the song asks us, what do we have to gain by spreading anything but love and positivity? Take the song as a challenge to replace any and all previously held negativity with its brighter opponent.
Another song from the album, “Get Out Of Your Own Way,” keeps up the positive tone. Students today can find something to relate to in this song — life is hard, but the only thing preventing you from accomplishing anything, whether that be a final exam, or just getting out of bed in the morning, is you. Bad things happen, and life goes on because “nothing’s stopping you, except what’s inside.” So take the song’s advice: be strong! The album, however, isn’t all seriousness and hidden meanings. “The Showman” offers a change of pace and a playful beat to go along with its sarcastic tone and lyrics. A true mood-lightener, a song like this one is needed on such a heavy album. It’s safe to say that U2 can be forgiven for downloading an entire album to our phones without asking in 2014!
On November 3, Sam Smith released his sophomore album, “The Thrill Of It All.” Heartbreaking and honest, Smith never fails to draw tears from his audience. The lyrics are relatable to many, and the lovely vocals and instrumental parts cover for the sadness. The music is calming for studying and background music, and perfect for a rainy day, but it’s not all tears and storm clouds; “Scars” turns out to send a message of positivity. The simple song explains that clear skies are a result of the love and support of family. After some tough times, love from others can “clear up [your] scars.” There is light at the end of the album, after all.
The theme of the charts seems to be collaborations! With three of the top four pop songs being so, a listen to each gives evidence as to why they’re so highly rated. Number one is “Perfect Duet” with Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé. Listeners know this song will not disappoint before they even listen with names like those. Second is “Him & I” by G-Eazy and Halsey. This pop-rap duet speaks the values of loyalty and strength in a relationship. Ed Sheeran appears again with a rap feature in number three, “End Game” by Taylor Swift, along with Future. The intense beats and flowing rhymes, the song earned its rightful place on the charts. The fourth song is sung by One Direction member Louis Tomlinson: “Miss You.” The song’s nostalgic vibes and soaring vocals explain what it’s like to miss someone in such hectic times. November and December had a lot in store in the music field, but the start of the new year brought some surprises and refreshing comebacks from old favorites as well as some notable nominations.
2017 gave us, if nothing else, some very good movies and music. Two movies in particular, one being the much-anticipated “Star Wars” movie: “The Last Jedi,” and the other being the intense and gripping “Dunkirk,” had soundtracks that were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score at this year’s Oscar’s.
No matter how old, the “Star Wars” movies will always be among the favorites of the masses. And with a good story, good music is expected. Emotionally stirring and nostalgic themes will bring the story to life for old and new fans alike. An interesting aspect of the films is that each of the main characters has a “theme” song that describes them in one way or another. The seemingly conflicted and angsty antagonist Kylo Ren mirrors his theme with a similar darkness and heaviness, but also with small flecks of light in places. The low brass and heavy percussive sounds display the level of seriousness and power that the character possesses. The heroic protagonist, Rey, also has a song just for her. Light and soaring, it represents the adventurous and brave nature of the character with a mixture of sensitive strings and moving brass. If these movies were to be viewed without the soundtrack alongside the story, the messages would be less clear and impactful.
A movie with very limited dialogue may be assumed to consequently be muddy in its communication to the audience. Music steps in in “Dunkirk” to take spoken words’ place. Very expressive and meticulous, the soundtrack communicates to the viewers the raw and real emotions of each soldier at war. It is brave, vulnerable, and real all at once. There is a saying that goes, “When words fail, music speaks.” In this film, the music does all the talking and in some ways, communicates the narrative even better than words could have.
Fall Out Boy comes back into the new music world as if they had never left- and they really haven’t. The band has stuck around as a popular one for over fifteen years. The band’s last album proved to be a tough act to follow with hits like “Uma Thurman” and “Centuries.” The new album, “M A N I A” holds its own against the past success. The opening track of the new album, “Young and Menace” lives up to its album’s name. It is daring and unpredictable. It strays from the band’s original rock sound and comes off as a bit angry, but like everything, change is needed in order to grow and become better. Every band needs to experiment, and Fall Out Boy has done a good job of maintaining a balance of old and new sounds. The track, “Church,” may be a bit more familiar sounding. It expresses that, in a world that hits back, the subject, “you” of the song is a sanctuary; one true thing. “The Last of the Real Ones,” has a similar message, but delivers it with a mixture of old and new noises for a happy medium. It explains with a metaphor to space and a catchy beat that “real” people are few and far between in today’s world. People who are true and people who are the opposite seem to be a recurring theme in “M A N I A,” and it is proof that negatively affective people in life can produce a positive outcome — or at least a few good songs. Overall, the album is a pleasing mixture for all listeners with a message to keep the good in life around, because it is a special thing to have found some.
The year of 2017 gave us lots of great music to head into the new year with. 2018 has already brought some things with it such as new albums and well-deserved nominations. Hopefully, the good-music trend keeps up in this new year, bringing with it all of its perks and rewards.