Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40: January, 2023

In today’s post I am going to be featuring three songs that are currently charting around the world and three songs that are hot off of the presses and may turn into the chart-topping songs of tomorrow. So, let’s get started with three of the hottest songs in the world.

TOP OF THE CHARTS

Pointless: Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi

Lewis Capaldi is a Scottish-born singer who burst onto the world music scene in 2019 with the monster hit song “Someone You Loved”. This song helped Capaldi win the Brit Award for Best New Artist, as well as having the song nominated for Song of the Year in England as well as in the U.S. Lewis Capaldi has a new album coming out in the spring time and is presently pre-releasing singles in advance of his album coming out. The first single is a song called “Pointless”, and let me tell you, it is the first song of 2023 to be mentioned as a potential Song of the Year candidate for this year. It is a four-tissue tear-jerker of a song about a mother’s love for her son. Capaldi insists that the song is not biographical but one has to wonder. The video for this song plays like a home video from my own life. So many of the moments that he alludes to and captures on film are exactly right based upon my own recollections of being loved by my own mom. In a morbid sort of way, I predict that, from this point onward, “Pointless” will become the #1 song played at funerals for mothers. If you are a mother of a son or sons, or if you are a son with a loving mother, this song was written expressly for you. As you read these words, “Pointless” by Lewis Capaldi is #1 on the BBC Radio 1 charts. ***Lyrics video is here.

Anti-Hero: Taylor Swift

The “real” Taylor Swift learning to live with the “celebrity image” that she portrays when on brand, as seen in her Anti-Hero video.

Taylor Swift’s latest album, Midnights, dropped just prior to the Christmas shopping season. In press releases that accompanied the release of this new album, Taylor Swift said that each song on the album reflected some part of her life in which there were problems, fears, questions or concerns that kept her awake at night. The album has been well-received by fans and critics alike, with the song “Anti-Hero” being the one most are pointing to as being the best track. In literature or the movies, an anti-hero is a character caught somewhere in the netherworld between heroes and villains. An anti-hero often seems to possess the desire to act in a villainous manner, but in the end behaves in a good way. For Taylor Swift, this song is about the nature of living a life under the weight of being a celebrity. Swift claims that her life is actually different from her image, but that it is difficult to just be herself when her every move is scrutinized to such a tremendous extent that she can barely breathe. I have stated in previous posts that I harbour not a single ounce of envy for those living in the glare of the spotlights. It may seem glamorous on the surface, but as someone who values privacy and freedom of movement and calmness, having my every utterance analyzed would be almost unbearable. “Anti-Hero” is Taylor Swift’s musical declaration that she finds being the living embodiment of her own brand is growing wearisome and that she longs to live a normal life. As you read these words, “Anti Hero” has been a #1 song in the U.S. and remains in the Top Ten of many charts around the world. ***Lyrics version is here.

Sza: Kill Bill

Sza

Sza (pronounced SIZ-a) is a female Hip Hop singer. She has had much success over the past few years but really has a hit on her hands with the song “Kill Bill”. This song was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino movies Kill Bill and Kill Bill Vol. 2 that starred Uma Thurman as a revenge-seeking woman who is determined to bring her ex-lover to justice no matter who stands in her way. As is customary from Tarantino, both Kill Bill movies were very violent. That sentiment that equates violence to Art is at play in Sza’s song. In her song, “Kill Bill”, Sza is a spurned lover who seeks to kill the girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend because her love for him is just too strong to ignore. Sza is being praised by fans and critics for creating a song that displays such honest emotions. Have a listen to this song for yourself and see if you agree that killing in the name of love is a praise-worthy accomplishment. As you read these words, “Kill Bill” by Sza is the #1 song on Billboard, Spotify and KEXP-FM charts, as well as a Top Ten song on most charts around the world. ***Lyrics version is here.

NEW ALBUM RELEASES

Living On Mercy by Dan Penn

In a recent post *(which you can read here) I wrote about Dan Penn and the important role he played as a songwriter at the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama during the 1960s and 70s and how he had contributed to the launch of the genre of music called blue-eyed soul. What I didn’t really do is give the man his due as a performer in his own right. I wish to correct that oversight here and now. Dan Penn has written some of the most important and recognizable songs in the history of modern music and has written for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Wilson Pickett on to Janis Joplin, Percy Sledge, Hank Williams Sr., Sam and Dave, Ronnie Milsap, Faron Young, Albert King, Nick Lowe and many more. But, as much as Dan Penn is respected as a songwriter for hire, he is equally respected for producing excellent albums of his own. Just as the pandemic was getting underway in 2020, Penn released an album called Living On Mercy, which contained a series of restrained Soul-influenced songs that tap into the wisdom of a man who has seen and done much in his eighty years on this planet. The lyrics track can be listened to here.

This Stupid World by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo

In a previous post *(which you can read here) I wrote about Yo La Tengo being one of the most adored and respected alternative bands in the world. They have been quietly going about their musical business for over two decades now. The band consists of a trio of performers: singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan, keyboardist Georgia Hubley and a rotating series of bass players, the most current being James McNew. I have always considered their sound to be a coffeehouse/indie vibe. Their lyrics are often lyrically evocative and filled with gorgeous sensory imagery. If you like your music on the quiet and literate side, then you will like Yo La Tengo. This Stupid World is their 17th album. The first single off of the album is a song sung by Georgia Hubley called “Aselestine”. ***Unfortunately, there isn’t a lyrics version yet.

Dance Fever by Florence and the Machine

Florence and the Machine

In a recent post *(that you can read here) I wrote about listening to the radio as I drove across the top of Toronto at nearly two in the morning. The first song I heard once the dial found radio station CFNY-FM was “Stereo” by The Watchmen. The very next song was “Free” by Florence and the Machine. For those unaware, the “Florence” in Florence and the Machine is a female singer from England named Florence Welch. About a decade ago, she was the winner of one of Simon Cowell’s on-air television talent shows and because of that was awarded a recording contract. She has released a string of hits in the years that have followed. My favourite moment of hers was when she acted as fill-in headliner at the Glastonbury Music Festival for the Foo Fighters one year when Dave Grohl had broken his leg. The first song she sang in her set was “Times Like These”, which is a Foo Fighters song. Dave Grohl and the band returned the following year as headliners. Grohl opened his set with a story about watching Florence and the Machine singing his song. It is a funny NSFW story, but it is well worth watching to get a sense of how respected Florence Welch is in music circles. *(You can watch the Dave Grohl/Florence Welch video here. You can watch Florence’s original performance here). In any case, Florence and the Machine released a new album called Dance Fever right at the end of 2022. “Free” is the second single released from it. The song is about how Florence dealt with the anxiety that was associated with the Covid pandemic and how music helped her retain her sense of inner balance. It is a peppy, uplifting song co-written by Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote the songs on Taylor Swift’s last few albums as well. You can listen to “Free” right here. ***The lyrics version is here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the written consent of the author. ©2023 http://www.tommacinneswriter.com

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #372: Autumn Sweater by Yo La Tengo.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #372: “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo.

So far in our countdown, we have covered a variety of music genres such as Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk, Blues, Country, Instrumental, Alternative and now, a new one to add to the list, Coffee House. What is “Coffee House”, you ask? Picture yourself, pre-pandemic, in a cozy little cafe or bistro. The ambience is warm. The decor is artistic and worldly. An aroma of roasted coffee and baked goods fills the air. And, while you sip your warm drink and let your mind drift away from your troubles and toils, sitting off to the side, over in a corner, is a musician or duo playing softly and sweetly. Their music can be the soundtrack to your daydreams or, it can, also, be something that captures your attention and holds it steady because of the intimacy of the venue. Singers such as Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan all honed their songwriting craft in coffeehouses before moving on to bigger stages and brighter lights. In her biography that I am currently reading, Buffy St. Marie states that her days performing in coffee houses near Boston, while in university, were her favourite times to perform because of how close she was able to be to her audience. She always felt like the messages she was embedding into her songs were able to reach listeners better in that type of relaxed, informal setting.

Being adept at creating the meaningful music that goes over well in small venues is what the trio, “Yo La Tengo” have been known for for almost three decades now. They are an American group consisting of Ira Kaplan (lead singer), Georgia Hubley (drums and backing vocals) and James McNew (bass guitar and backing vocals). The name of this group means, “I Have It!” in Spanish and is not meant to sound as self-assured as it may come off as. It is actually a baseball reference that is used to help English and Spanish-speaking players communicate with each other when it comes time to try and catch a ball that has been hit in the air so as to avoid collisions. Baseball lingo aside, “Yo La Tengo” have been making Coffee House calibre music for many years and have become the darlings of music critics for the intricacy and lushness of their quiet sound. If you are a fan of this band then, chances are, you are a huge fan, an absolute devotee. Their fanbase, along with the critics of the world, are known for their devotion. If this is the first time you are hearing about this band then, you are in for a treat.

I am going to post a video below for a song called, “Autumn Sweater” that just shows the lyrics so that you can understand the live performance better when you see that below, as well. That live video is amazing because the band is performing in a record shop, making small talk with the crowd and then, just like that, they burst into this beautiful song, creating something lovely where, only moments before, there was only silence.

The question that some of you might ask, after having listened to this song is, is this really one of the best songs of all time? Well, I think the answer to that question is a personal one but, in general, I have always believed that our world is comprised of all sorts of different but, beautiful people. Well, so too is music. There is no one song that is the “right type of song”. If you are at all like me then, you will like all types of music depending on your mood or the setting you find yourself in. The same is true of “Yo La Tengo”. I am willing to place a very large wager that some folks have fallen in love while this song was playing or that babies have been made with “Autumn Sweater” as a soundtrack. There must be a place in the musical universe for small gems that uplift us and fill our souls. That’s what “Yo La Tengo” contributes to the world. So, prepare to listen to a small, perfect gem of a song this day. “Autumn Sweater” is a lovely sounding song and, as I said above, I really admire how effortlessly they create something wonderful out of nothing in the live video below. Have a soulful, relaxing day, everyone. Bye for now.

The link to the video for “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo”, can be found here.

The link to the video of the live performance of “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Yo La Tengo, can be found here.

The link to the official website for KEXP, who are known for playing small, perfect gems of songs, can be found here.