Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Top 100 Songs of the Year (80-71)

Within Me
Lacuna Coil

Lacuna Coil may not be known for their ballads, but each of their albums up this point have contain have contained at least one exceptional ballad. In a Reverie and Unleashed Memories had the truly fantastic “Falling Again” and “Cold Heritage,” respectively, and Comalies had the beautiful and mostly Italian title track. “Within Me” is the only ballad from Lacuna Coil’s fourth album, Karmacode, and while it isn’t anywhere near as good as the band’s past ballads, it’s still an exceptional song. The song doesn’t have one major flaw in particular, but many of its aspects are relatively generic. That being said, Cristina Scabbia’s vocal performance is top notch, and the lyrics are some of Lacuna Coil’s best and most beautiful. Even male vocalist Andera Ferro delivers a passionate performance, and the story behind the lyrics is certainly meaningful. There’s little doubt that “Within Me” is a formulaic song, but strong lyrical content and passionate vocals more than make up for its flaws.

The People
Finding Forever

The editors of Blender Magazine should ashamed of themselves for naming Common one of the worst lyricists in music. No, he may use the most clever metaphors or unpredictable rhymes, but Common is one of the most real rappers out there. I may not be an expert in rap music, but it’s hard not to appreciate a well known modern day rapper that refrains from glorifying drugs, sex, violence, and other common themes of modern mainstream rap. More than anything, however, Common is pleasant. Obviously, Common is not the only quality rapper left in the genre, but no one else in modern rap has as much of a positive presence as Common. Even rap artists like Immortal Technique and Jedi Mind Tricks focus on the negative, and Lupe Fiasco took listeners to a dark world with The Cool. Common, on the other hand is pleasant and likable for the simple fact that his music is down to earth and real. “The People” is a song that could almost be called a “slice of life.” It starts out with an almost uplifting intro and then continues into a very down to earth story about the people of Chicago and the power of music. It isn’t complicated by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s real and sincerely pleasant, and that’s exactly what rap needs more of right now.

Atomic Firelight
Pagan’s Mind
God’s Equation

“Atomic Firelight” isn’t the most original power metal song out there, but it’s one of the strongest examples of why the formula for progressive power metal is a strong one. For what’s it’s worth, “Atomic Firelight” isn’t generic, and it does make subtle changes to a formula that Pagan's Mind plays as well as anyone. It just doesn’t stray from the formula as much as one would want a band as talented as Pagan’s Mind to. Talent is something that the members of Pagan’s Mind have quite a bit of, and formulaic or not, it’s hard to criticize a song with such powerful vocals and riffs. Nils Rue’s high vocals are gripping during the song’s chorus, while the instrumentals range from complicated and heavy to simply soothing. Considering Symphony X nearly revolutionized progressive power metal with Paradise Lost earlier in 2007, it’s difficult to praise “Atomic Firelight” for being anything other than a display of talent. That being said, Pagan’s Mind shows off an enormous amount of talent in this song, and it’s one of the most instrumentally complex singles of the year.

The Profit of Doom
Type O Negative
Dead Again

The single version of “The Profit Doom” may be less than half the length of the album version, but both versions of the song are examples of gothic metal at its finest. Many of the progressive undertones of the 10 minute version are lost in the shortened version, but the unique chord progression, varied vocals, and meaningful lyrics that have made Type O Negative a great band can be found in the single as well. Gothic metal is a genre can’t be played using a specific formula. Type O Negative understands that, and they are never reluctant to evolve their sound with each new album. “The Profit of Doom” is a song that shows the band’s willingness to try new sounds, as it combines the slower gothic guitar work and deep vocals with progressive experimentation and various doom metal influences. Not everything they try works, but the song’s dark tone gives off an overall haunting sound that goes a long way towards making the song a truly distinct entry into the long list of Type O Negative greats. By combining talent with consistent creativity, Type O Negative continues to set the standard for gothic metal. “The Profit of Doom” doesn’t necessarily set the bar any higher, but it mostly succeeds at evolving the sound of one of the best gothic metal bands in the genre’s history.

Capital G

Nine Inch Nails
Year Zero

Trent Reznor may claim that the “G” in “Capital G” stands for greed, but it’s hard to imagine anyone believing this song isn’t related to George W. Bush in some way, shape, or form. Lyrics like "I pushed the button and elected him to office / He pushed the button and dropped the bomb" and Ain't gonna worry about no future generations and uh / I'm sure somebody gonna figure it out” are “oddly” reflective of our current administration. Granted, most of the song’s lyrics do fit with Reznor’s claim that the song is about greed, but it can’t be denied that there is a much more specific theme here. Considering, Reznor’s political views are well known, it’s odd that he would attempt to hide the song’s political nature. The truth is that this is one of the most intelligent and well-written anti-Bush songs to come along in some time, and Reznor deserves an enormous amount of credit for that. Reznor understands politics, and his lyrics prove that he is passionate about his opinion. Despite what Trent may say, “Capital G” is political, and it serves as an excellent example of how to write an effective and intelligent political song.


It’s really quite amazing how far Chimaira has come since their nu-metal beginnings. What once was an up-and-coming band searching for mainstream acceptance in a genre that lacked aggression and fine musicianship is now an impressive groove metal band with one of the most aggressive sounds in modern music. “Resurrection” is a song that lacks the fine-tuned vocals and significant lyrics of many of the other metal songs on this list, but there were few songs of any genre in 2007 that came close to matching the aggression and intensity that fuels “Resurrection.” From start to finish, the sheer adrenaline of the song is staggering, and the musicianship is of surprisingly high quality. Chimaira has been struggling to find their sound for some time now, but the intensity of songs like “Resurrection” are forcing their sound to become progressively heavier and more distinct. Couple that with the continuing evolution of the band’s musicianship, and this very well may be the first Chimaira song to fit all of their pieces together. “Resurrection” is not only one of the year’s angriest, most aggressive, and most intense metal songs, but it also represents one of the most surprisingly breakthroughs of 2007.

O Katrina!
Black Lips
Good Bad Not Evil

Like most Black Lips songs, “O Katrina!” is energized, catchy, simplistic, meaningful, unique, and deceptive. What appears like a simple and fun indie rock song from sound alone is actually a lyrically concise commentary on both Hurricane Katrina and the way it was portrayed in the media. Through only 5 lines of actual lyrics, “O Katrina!” makes a point that can be taken in a way that is somewhat controversial, and is told in an oddly light hearted manner. In a way, the lyrics are deceptive of not only the fun nature that the song is performed in, but also the literal meaning of the lyrics themselves. The Black Lips are clearly critical of the portrayal of the hurricane in American media, but it’s only clear because of the almost sarcastic delivery of the lyrics and the overly simplistic word choice. However, Black Lips make their point by presenting the lyrics in such a simple but unorthodox way that it makes the listener think about not only the lyrics and song as whole, but also the media portrayal of the disaster in general. “O Katrina!” is the type of song that can be more appreciated than liked, although the simple catchy melody makes it easier to do the latter as well.

What Have You Done
Within Temptation
The Heart of Everything

“What Have You Done” is one of many songs at this point in the list that suffers from originality. However, like most of the others on this countdown with the same flaw, it makes up for it by doing a few things exceptionally well. In the case of “What Have You Done,” it’s the vocal duet between Sharon den Adel and Life of Agony vocalist Keith Caputo. It has a striking similarity to duet between Amy Lee and Paul McCoy in Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life,” but “What Have You Done” far exceeds that song in nearly every way. Sharon den Adel is a fantastic vocalist who sings with passion, and Keith Caputo is solid in his range as well. On top of that, the instrumentals are heavier and full of more emotional than what is typically found in hard rock duets. An orchestra part also adds a touch of emotion to the song, and the lyrics are well written are simple but still well written overall. “What Have You Done” doesn’t break new ground, and it’s not an example of Within Temptation at their best, but this is easily one of the best hard rock duets of the last few years.

Energize Me
After Forever
After Forever

After Forever hasn’t been the same since guitarist Mark Jansen left to help create Epica, but “Energize Me” is one of the best songs the band has recorded in some time. It’s not exactly the most unique symphonic metal song out there, but Floor Jansen gives one of her best vocal performances yet. What “Energize Me” lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with the pure energy of Floor’s voice. It’s the power of Floor’s vocals that propels “Energize Me” into territory that After Forever has had trouble reaching on their last few albums. The biggest difference between After Forever’s other recent work and this particular song is that the vocals are far cleaner. Despite her phenomenal range, Jansen has had trouble controlling her voice at times. The often random shifts to operatic vocals have plagued them in the past, but the band thankfully avoids it on “Energize Me.” The result is an almost beautiful pop-metal song that contains some of the best and most energized vocals of not only the year, but also of recent After Forever songs as well.

I Walk Alone
Tarja Turunen
My Winter Storm

Former Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen delivers one of the best vocal performances of the year on “I Walk Alone.” Just hearing Tarja’s voice again, particularly in a symphonic metal song, is enough for the song to reach greatness as a whole. However, it’s hard to not to compare “I Walk Alone” to her work with Nightwish, and the song disappoints from that respect. The lyrics are nothing more than average, the instrumentals lack creativity, and the structure of the song itself is rather generic. The vocals are the most important aspect though, and as previously stated, Tarja does an excellent job from that perspective. Unlike many other opera metal vocalists, Tarja doesn’t show off her operatic range at seemingly random times. Her vocal progression fits in perfectly with the rest of the song, and her voice simply sounds great in all areas of her vocal range. There isn’t a whole lot to “I Walk Alone,” but what’s there works well. It’s hard to imagine anyone being excited to hear Tarja Turunen's solo debut for any other reason than her vocals. In that regard, this is one of the best songs of the year.

Due to a busy weekend and a ton of homework the last few nights, this entry took longer than expected. I'm hoping I'll be able to catch up on the list during Mid-Winter Break, which is next week for me. If everything goes as planned, I will have reviews of the new Ayreon and Avantasia albums up by the end of the week. As always, thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

I personally didn't like Lacuna Coil's new album.


Anonymous said...

Another great list. Within me is a really good song. I also loved their Dpeche Mode cover....