Friday, November 29, 2019

Survivor Playlist: Kick Butt Day

It's time to post the results of my last playlist!

My theme was "Kick Butt Songs," in honor of National Kick Butt Day on October 14th. How they interpreted that was up to the submitters.

I got 40 songs. You can find the full playlist here in no particular order, but below are my comments in the order they were kicked off.

40. "Superheroes" by The Script. It's one of the more mellow songs on here, falling into more of a chill inspirational song. It sounds encouraging more than empowering, which turns out to be a significant difference in this playlist. I actually like The Script pretty well, but this one just makes very little mark on me, and this is too much of a punch-you-in-the-face playlist for this one to survive.

39. "Twilight of the Thunder God" by Amon Amarth. Screaming non-melodic metal typically doesn't fare well in these playlists, but the first time around it didn't bug me, so I thought, "Oooh, maybe the tide is turning for me on metal the way it apparently did for classic country last month!" But then this listen happened and, nah, it's not my jam yet. The lyrics *are* pretty kick butt, and the music definitely has a lot of energy to it, but hearing someone scream in my ear for four minutes is not something I'm into yet.

38. "Slowly, Slowly" by Magnapop. After three playlist listens, we start coming to the songs that aren't making much of an impression on me. I've heard this three times now and cannot remember it at all, maybe even while listening to it? This is the kind of stuff that gets tossed into my "I need to be productive" playlists because it won't grab my attention and distract me, but I like these playlists to be a little more compelling for me.

37. "Warrior" by Nina Sublatti. This song is just "okay" for me. I played it to start writing about it and it played through the entire song before I remembered it was playing. It *shouldn't* feel that nondescript to me, it's got this cool booming background instrumentation that should get my attention more than it does. Maybe it's because it feels like a lot of pop songs have adopted this kind of sound in recent years and I'm just tired of it? I don't know. Either way, it doesn't make an impression on me, and we're at the point in the playlist when that gets it kicked off.

36. "Are You Satisfied?" by Marina and the Diamonds. From the opening notes of this song, I was skeptical it would go far. I just have trouble connecting to songs sung by this style of female voice -- there's too much artifice in it to make me feel like there's a true connection between artist and lyrics. And the lyrics here don't really connect with me regardless, so it had an uphill battle anyway. It's not doing much for me at this point in the playlist, so it's time to kick it off.

35. "High Five" by Dragonette. We are somehow almost out of the forgettable ones already, because this is at the top "I like it a lot, I just can't remember it" level. There's no reason this shouldn't work -- I should dig the sort of bubble gum pop vibe of it and the high energy and the optimistic lyrics, but for some reason it doesn't all come together for me and I immediately forget it once it's done. I kind of want to look up the rest of the artist's music though, because if it has a similar feel, maybe one of their other songs will seem infectiously fun to me the way this one probably should.

34. "The Greatest" by Sia and Kendrick Lamar. This is one of those songs that I feel a little guilty for not liking more, because I know it served as an anthem for a lot of people in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting. But the song itself just doesn't do a lot for me. I don't think Sia was meant to write anthems. Her songs are too introspective and vulnerable, and anthems need to be more... impenetrable. Kendrick's bit is cool and builds up some of that needed energy, but he's not in enough of it. Sia is a great songwriter, I just don't fully believe her interpretations of this style of song.

33. "Is She With You? - Wonder Woman Theme" by Hans Zimmer from Batman v Superman. As is the case with a lot of the movie score tunes I get for these playlists, I really enjoy the first minute or two and then wish they ended there. There is *definitely* an element of kick butt to this, and that's great, but as with most instrumental pieces, my interest starts waning about a minute and a half in, and since it's written to be atmospheric rather than draw attention, it doesn't draw mine the rest of that time.

32. "Motivation" by Normani. This song is a nice chill, fun song, but it feels a little out of place on this playlist, which is largely a much more intense energy. Being out of place on the playlist matters less the more I like the song, but I think this has reached the peak of that curve. It's fine, but it's not working as much for me as the rest of the songs.

31. "Come With Me Now" by KONGOS. This is one of the ones I knew somewhat beforehand. When I discovered it previously, I enjoyed it but didn't love it, and that's pretty much where I still stand on it; 10 extra listens hasn't changed it. I do like the sound of it a lot, it's got a sort of large booming feel to it that definitely works well as part of this playlist... I think I'm just missing some really intense powerful lyrics to go with it.

30. "Maniac" by Michael Sembello. This song has such an interesting musical vibe to it. It is fun? It is sad? Is it ominous? Is it sexy? I don't know... Maybe all of the above? I think the reason it's going now is that that vibe stays at the same intensity all the way throughout. I wish it had a stronger... build of some sort, but that background beat is just unrelentingly identical all throughout. Sometimes that's cool, but for me right now, it holds it back a little.

29. "Odd Look (Remix)" by Kavinsky feat. The Weeknd. Honestly, I thought this song was going to be out a lot sooner -- it didn't work for me at all the first couple times. As I listened to it a few more times, though, it started kind of working and I found myself jamming out to it some more. I do think the falsetto voice makes it sound much less "kick butt" and more vulnerable than I expected for this prompt, but the lyrics are pretty bold so it works out.

28. "I Have Lived" by Marc Almond. Apparently this is the lead vocalist of Soft Cell, best (only?) known for "Tainted Love." That makes sense, because this is cleary an 80s rocker's interpretation of "My Way." I like the sound of it, but I'm not sure I like it paired with the lyrics, which are a little bolder and more defiant than this fairly mellow tune would imply. It's good, but I think it's peaked.

27. "Hold Up" by Beyonce. Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who doesn't really love Beyonce. Aside from "Love on Top," which is one of the best songs I've ever heard, I'm pretty much indifferent to her work. This one has grown on me a bit from the first time I heard it when "Lemonade" was first released, but it still doesn't really wow me. It does have a very cool understated vibe that is kind of fun in contrast to the much more intense lyrics, and I like hearing this lower range of Beyonce's voice. But it is time for it to go.

26. "Let the Little Lady Talk" by Capital Lights. I do enjoy the sound of this one -- it has a very cool driving force to it. But I don't understand the lyrics at ALL, and the phrase "Let the little lady talk" just reads as condescending without any helpful context. A lot of the proposed song meanings I found online didn't help with that either, haha... But I think I'm done listening to it even if I found the perfect meaning for it, so it's going for now.

25. "Is He Worthy?" by Chris Tomlin. After listening to this song, I told Jacob, "There's no way Chris Tomlin wrote this. It's too interesting." Turns out I was right-- this was originally an Andrew Peterson tune. That makes more sense! I really like the way the back-and-forth question method here subtly makes room for questioning and melancholy in worship, and I like that the inclusion of a choir makes it a *communal* lament (with an eye toward hope), so it's not just one person being sad on their own. That being said, it feels disingenuous to keep it on this list. It feels less like a song about kicking butt and more about a song about like... holding onto an anchor during a storm. Both awesome things, both can be triumphant, but it's a different vibe than I'm looking for. This is a heckuva suggestion accomplishment, though, as I'm pretty sure I'm going to be adding this to my personal worship playlist (which is short and selective!).

24. "Forget and Not Slow Down" by Relient K. This one very nearly went out like fourth or fifth, but the more I listened to it the more it grew on me, all the way up to leaving 17th. It has a good musical contrast between the different modes of resigned, triumphant, and introspective. I love the line, "I could spent my life trying to sift through / What I could have done better, but what good do what ifs do." The whole song is very closely connected to stuff I've been working on lately in my own mental health journey, so it definitely hit home. I'm glad I gave it enough of a chance for it to resonate!

23. "The Ecstasy of Gold" by Metallica and Ennio Morricone. Let me just start by saying the idea of Metallica covering a Morricone tune is amazing. And this is a pretty great tune -- I especially love the rock vocals chiming in partway through. This feels like both a rock tune and an epic movie score, and those don't always go together. It's not hitting me quite as much as the rest of the tunes in the playlist, so it is time to go, but I'm glad I heard it.

22. "Game On" by Disciple. So in my mind I thought Disciple had been given to me in like... three previous playlists, but turns out I'm completely wrong and this is the first one. Anyway, this is fun! I like the repeated opening lyrics (which ranked very highly on my "which opening line is most kick-butt" poll, found in my first comment on this thread if you haven't voted) and the frequent changes between heavy instrumentation and almost none. It's most definitely a kick-butt song, but the screamy vocals are starting to wear out their welcome, so it's probably time to let it go.

21. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar. It's hard to come up with anything *wrong* with this song -- it's energetic and fun and Benatar's voice is great and the instrumentation is fun and the lyrics are good -- but maybe it's one that I've just heard so many times that it just fades into the background more often than not, so it doesn't quite make my top 20. But it's a good choice for this playlist and a good choice overall.

20. "Ignition" by TobyMac. I didn't pay a *lot* of attention to TobyMac after his first album, which I listened to obsessively, so I'd heard this but didn't know it well. I definitely love the sound of it; there's a very forceful drive to it that serves this playlist well. It's starting to fade into the background a bit, so it's time to kick it out before I get tired of it, but it was nice to get a chance to dig a little deeper into this one.

19. "Kick Out the Jams" by The Presidents of the United States of America. We're starting to get down to much tougher decisions on what to eliminate because I like all of these. This one has just the right kick-butt feel, very punky and fierce, and I like how short and concise it is. The lyrics are a little vague to *really* give me a sense of empowerment listening to it, but it's a good listen.

18. "Finish Line" by Skillet. When I first saw this on my list of songs, I did a little internal sigh. I was never much of a Skillet fan but I always felt as a teen like everyone else around me was. This is by far the best song I've heard from them though. Those verses are pretty fantastic -- they bring to mind the opening of "The Greatest Show," aka the only song from The Greatest Showman that I kind of enjoy. And then the chorus jumps in and is equally awesome. The lyrics are pretty generic, but the sound of it is really great.

17. "Ten Thousand Against One" by Unleash the Archers. Whoo, lady vocalist metal! This is definitely a huge "stand up and fight" kind of song, both in its sound and in its lyrics, and it's a whole lot of fun. Even the instrumental solos, which I usually am not into, has that same forceful energy that really works for it. The song is starting to lose its power a little bit so it's probably good for it to go out now before it fades.

16. "Not Ready to Make Nice" by Dixie Chicks. While this definitely doesn't reach the delightful heights of "Goodbye Earl" (which the submitter at first suggested before I said it had unfortunately already won a previous playlist and was therefore ineligible), I do really enjoy this one as well. It's a different *kind* of kick butt than the rest of the playlist. It's got a determined exhaustion to it, which is the kind of kick butt you need when you just DON'T have the spoons to actually fight anything. It's a good vibe and plays with the rest of the playlist in an interesting way. Glad I got to know it.

15. "Rebel Girl" by Bikini Kill. This one was another on this list that nearly got kicked out in the first four or five. Why? I don't know. There is something about punk that sits awkwardly with me sometimes, and it hit me here at first. Something about the ugly rawness of the vocals. But the more I listened to this one, the more interesting it became, and I kind of love the lyrics and how much fun they are. Glad this one stuck around this long!

14. "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC. I actually know very little AC/DC, so this one was new to me, and, yeah, it's pretty awesome. I am not fully sold on the vocals on the verses, it sounds almost silly to have that level of screaming in the quieter opening sections, but it *definitely* works once the build-up happens, and the chorus is great.

13. "Some Bodies Gonna Get It" by Three 6 Mafia. So this is part of a compilation album of songs for WWE wrestlers, and that makes total sense, because that's exactly what it sounds like. It's got a very cool dark sound to it, and the lyrics are... far from subtle about kicking butt. It's almost comical how over-the-top their cheerful cries of violence are (there's one section where they just yell, "BEAT HIM UP! BREAK HIS NECK!" over and over again). At first I thought that was going to bring this one down, but turns out I love the sound of the song enough to overlook how silly the lyrics are.

12. "High Hopes" by Panic! At the Disco. I do super enjoy Brendan Urie's voice, especially when he goes theatrical with it, which definitely happens here. This one is just a huge burst of high energy and optimism -- a good vibe to have in your pocket for kicking butt. It's just a tremendously fun song.

11. "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys. While there is no denying this is a *powerhouse* of sound and most definitely kick butt, it's starting to lose its power the more I listen to it, and on my last listen I tuned it out entirely. Looks like I need to give it a break for it to come back around to me. Glad I got a chance to relisten to this one and get to know it a little better.

10. "Come Alive" by Foo Fighters. On my first listen I thought this might walk away with the whole thing, but others have crawled up over it, but it's still proudly finishing in the top 10. It's got such a slow build, but when it hits that high point, it is *fierce*. The last few choruses are so intense. I love it.

9. "U + Ur Hand" by Pink. This is such a great choice for me. I always love Pink's rockier anthems, and this one has long been one of my favorites (which Sarah well knows!). I love how cheerfully snarky it is -- just gleefully dismissing someone being a possessive jerk to her and being like, "Nah, I'm good." The only reason it's going out this early is because I have listened to it SO MANY TIMES before this, that it is starting to fade into the background more with each subsequent listen, so it's time for it to head on out. But it's such a good tune.

8. "Give Up the Grudge" by Gob. My immediate first reaction to this song was just a smile, because it sounds exactly like Trent's band from Daria. But the more I listened, the more I just really enjoyed the sound of it. Much like the Pink song I just kicked off, I like that it sounds *cheerfully* angry. It's angry in a way that doesn't sound like the singer's leaving in a bad mood, just being like, "You suck," and then going on their way to live their own life. So much fun.

7. "Stand Up" by James Covell. This song is from a McGee & Me movie I watched growing up, and hooooly cow is there a bunch of nostalgia here that almost certainly pushed it up further than it would normally have gone. But it is also a fun song. It is the kind of cheesy 80s song that *absolutely* belongs in a "learning to skateboard so you can beat a bully in a skateboard race" montage (which, yeah, was exactly how it was used). So silly and so much fun.

6. "All I Do Is Win" by DJ Khaled (featuring T-Pain, Ludacis, Snoop Dogg & Rick Ross). I only had a generic sense of this song before listening to this, but whoa, this song is *forceful*. It's got this big expansive-sounding instrumentation and all the verses have their own vibe, from Ludacris' more aggressive one to Snoop's chill, "yeah, whatever I do what I want" section. It is an incredible hype song that fits this playlist perfectly.

5. "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J. I'm always pleased to have older hip-hop in these playlists. It's a huge blind spot for me, and I nearly always like it. That's obviously the case here. It's... infectiously aggressive, if that combination of words makes any sense. It's most definitely a great kick butt song, and the use of the rhythm and the way LL Cool J creatively uses his vocal inflections heightens it awesomely. This is so great.

4. "Cool Patrol" by Ninja Sex Party. Another NSP song from Carmen did super well on my "Left-Handed Musicians" playlist like a year and a half ago, and it's becoming more obvious I need to check out this band, because this one is also hilarious. This song is about trying to help someone stop their bullies through a series of increasingly difficult dance moves. (It does not work.) It's just so much fun and so silly and makes me laugh and dance. Though not quite according to their instructions.

3. "Get Down" from Six. It is incredibly difficult to kick anyone out among this top three. It's kind of an astonishingly great group of songs (and all female vocalists, which is fun). This one definitely makes me want to check out the whole show, as this is a fantastic electronic hip-hop song from the point of view of Anne of Cleves. The lyrics are smart and funny, the vocals are perfect, and the music is so, so much fun. It's a great tune, and I'm glad I got to know it.

And here we are at our final two. As always, I'll do a write-up of both and then announce the winner.

First up we have "Juice" by Lizzo. So it appears I just freaking love Lizzo's new album, as every song from it that I've been given in a playlist thus far has landed in the top 10. This one, though... DANG. Goes to a new level of just pure delight. The funk instrumentation is so incredible, and as always, Lizzo's confidence and self-love dance through here in a way that makes me be like "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS." And for whatever reason, I absolutely adore the line, "If I'm shining, everybody gonna shine." As quite a few of these top ones have been, this isn't a kick butt song coming from deep anger, this is a "Pfft, I'm great, don't really care how you feel about it."

Second is "Woman" by Kesha. A lot of what I said up there about "Juice" applies to this one too. This song is an infectiously *free* song, down to the laughter at the end of the second verse, like Kesha's having such a good time and feeling so great about herself that it just leaks out into her performance. In an interview, she said, "I just really love being a woman and I wanted an anthem for anyone else who wants to yell about being self-sufficient and strong." And, um, yeah, that's what this is.

It is nearly impossible to choose between these two, and I debated cheating again and doing a double win... but it's only *nearly* impossible, not fully, and I have a little twinge in my heart pushing me one way.


#2 is "Woman."

#1 is "Juice."


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