Best Songs of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Of all the pieces of art and entertainment that I’m ranking for the decade, songs are probably the most personal. Yet somehow I feel compelled to consider how they affected the world at large moreso than all the other categories. The tunes that I value the most aren’t just the ones that make my own heart sing but also the ones that draw all of us closer together. So as I assembled this list, I asked myself both, “What has made me dance these past 10 years?” and “How would I like to dance with everyone else?” Here’s what that playlist looks like.
(I aimed to stick only to songs that were released as singles, as opening this to deep album cuts would’ve made things so overheated.)

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This Is a Movie Review: ‘Peter Rabbit’ is Fun Enough for the Kiddos, But It’s Also Kind of Insane

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2018.

Starring: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Matt Lucas, Sia, Sam Neill

Director: Will Gluck

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: PG for Cartoonish, But Quite Dangerous, Violence

Release Date: February 9, 2018

For the most part, Peter Rabbit is just another trifling kids movie with CG-animated animals. It is not the worst of the menagerie, though it is far from the best. But like many movies of this ilk, it also raises some weird metaphysical conundrums that I do not think it ever planned on grappling with but that it cannot avoid entirely. When you have anthropomorphic animals interacting with humans, especially when those humans are played by live-action actors, you have to decide how much the humans can recognize the critters’ extraordinary abilities. When the beasts talk to each other, does it just sound like animal noises to people? Or can they hear it perfectly, thus forcing the animals to be discreet? Or maybe there is only Dr. Dolittle-type, going mad over the loneliness of his interspecies communication powers.

In this case, Peter (James Corden), his triplet sisters Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley), and their cousin Benjamin Bunny (Matt Lucas) are quite sneaky, and as their schemes become more and more elaborate, there is no reason to pretend that they are not fully intelligent creatures. The confirmation that they can in fact talk to humans is a rather sloppy reveal, as it begs the question: how have they hidden this secret for so long? Regardless of what mysterious machinations they have pulled off, the narrative requires that they spill the truth, considering that Peter is responsible for extensive property damage, and furthermore, he wants to apologize to Bea (Rose Byrne), the human that he loves, and make peace with Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), the human that he has been torturing. This all makes for a resolution that is sweet but with disturbing subtext.

But beyond that, this is a fairly typical entry for this genre, as typified by its soundtrack of the pop hits of the past twenty years. Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” Basement Jaxx’s “Do Your Thing,” and Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” will keep the kids bouncing in their chairs without challenging their soundscapes. Lady Bird can take note that Peter’s use of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” is not similarly profound. Elsewhere, the film’s raison d’être is excessively painful physical gags, including a truly worrying number of electrocutions (this is nowhere near as gentle as Beatrix Potter’s source material). There is a rake gag that I must admit I chuckled at, though I am concerned that the target audience will not realize how heavily indebted it is to The Simpsons. And that is indicative of the whole: a satisfying diversion, but with some worrisome implications.

Peter Rabbit is Recommended If You Like: MouseHunt, Dr. Dolittle, the Pop Dance Hits of Today!

Grade: 3 out of 5 Winking Rabbits

This Is a Movie Review: My Little Pony: The Movie

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CREDIT: Lionsgate/Hasbro

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

Starring: Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, Cathy Weseluck, Emily Blunt, Michael Peña, Liev Schreiber, Taye Diggs, Zoe Saldana, Kristen Chenoweth, Uzo Aduba, Sia

Director: Jayson Thiessen

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG for the Stone Hearts and Warped Magic of Cartoon Villains

Release Date: October 6, 2017

There’s a contingent of young adult (mostly) male fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV series who go by the moniker “bronies.” Some might suspect irony in this demographic’s devotion to a cartoon about unicorn ponies, but everything I know about them indicates that they are completely genuine. As I am curious enough to check out any show meant to appeal to demos completely different than mine, I once upon a time wondered if I too might become a brony. So I watched an episode of Friendship is Magic several years ago, and … I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. But with a movie adaptation on the horizon, and with me as someone who is professionally bound to sample every wide release, the ponies stood another chance of hooking me into their fold.

Alas, after catching My Little Pony: The Movie, I must report that I still remain unconverted. But I suspect the fandom will be pleased. Normally when reviewing something, I keep every possible audience in mind, but MLP should not be faulted too hard for catering to one crowd in particular. It has no desire to expand its appeal with the self-awareness of DreamWorks, or the adult themes snuck into Pixar’s childlike wonder, or the anarchy of Despicable Me. Furthermore, the plot is simple, straightforward, and archetypal: the heroes make a bunch of new friends on a Campbell-esque hero’s journey, and the villain is not evil so much as misunderstood. While I would be more impressed with My Little Pony if it were more ambitious, there is something to be said for easy-to-understand positivity.

For those looking for some distinct personalities and imaginative flourishes, there are some  pleasures to be had. Emily Blunt is positively purring as Tempest Shadow, a heavy metal-influenced purple unicorn who threatens to ruin the good vibes of the ponies’ homeland of Equestria. Then there is Taye Diggs familiziairing everyone with the message of the beatniks in his voicing of hepcat humanoid feline Capper. The color palette is relentlessly bright, which certainly earns my favor, but for those who like it a little darker or at least subdued, it is still impressive how fastidiously each shade of the rainbow is woven together. In total, MLP: The Movie does what it sets out to do.

My Little Pony: The Movie is Recommended If You Like: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Unikitty from The Lego Movie, Parent-child bonding time

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Hippogriffs

Best Songs of 2016

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All songs on this list were released as singles in 2016, or 2015 but didn’t make an impact until 2016.

1. Kiiara – “Gold” – An ingenious production trick wins the top spot. The best music in the world rewires your brain.
2. Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom” – Beyoncé BUSTS out every emotion of the year.
3. Phantogram – “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” – I can feel myself dissolving in the despair.
4. Lady GaGa – “Perfect Illusion” – GaGa’s crying out in beautiful pain.
5. Kanye West – “Fade” – From another dimension.
6. Rag‘n’Bone Man – “Human” – The blues are alive and kicking.
7. Sia – “The Greatest” – Sia’s career is the soundtrack for perseverance.
8. Alessia Cara – “Scars to Your Beautiful” – What could have been an anodyne message piece instead infuses an influx of attitude.
9. Flume ft. Tove Lo – “Say It” – An airy, effervescent blast from 2016’s top DJ.
10. Childish Gambino – “Me and Your Mama” – Where did this burst of neo-P-Funk come from?!
11. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles” – This sounds like nostalgia and the future.
12. Glass Animals – “Life Itself” – Alternative quirk’s top spot of the year.
13. Bishop Briggs – “River” – I need at least one lady rocker belting it out like this per annum.
14. Beyoncé – “Formation” – The production is so much more adventurous and more mature from Queen Bey than ever before.
15. BANKS – “Gemini Feed” – Icy and boopy, with attitude to spare.
16. Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker” – I’m vociferously nodding along to every declaration Mr. Cohen makes.
17. Kaleo – “Way Down We Go” – That title is sort of like musical onomatopoeia.
18. Highly Suspect – “My Name is Human” – These guys from Cape Cod ought to be rocking stadiums to their core.
19. Beck – “Wow” – Beck’s gonna keep uncovering these strange corners in the aural landscape.
20. Kongos – “Take It From Me” – These South African rockers are totally in control.
21. Tove Lo – “Cool Girl” – Tove keeps freaking up the airwaves.
22. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People” – A necessary anthem.
23. Sia ft. Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills” – Bounce along when you’re looking for fun.
24. Ariana Grande – “Into You” – Features the year’s most killer opening line
25. Rihanna ft. Drake – “Work” – One of those great songs that defy natural analysis.

Billboard Hot 20 – Week of December 24, 2016

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Each week, I check out the Billboard Hot 100, and then I rearrange the top 20 based on my estimation of their quality.

Original Version
1. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles”
2. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – “Starboy”
3. The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – “Closer”
4. Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
5. Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj – “Side to Side”
6. Zay Hilfilgerrr and Zayion McCall – “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)”
7. Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Don’t Wanna Know”
8. DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – “Let Me Love You”
9. twenty one pilots – “Heathens”
10. Machine Gun Kelly x Camila Cabello – “Bad Things”
11. Drake – “Fake Love”
12. D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty – “Broccoli”
13. Alessia Cara – “Scars to Your Beautiful”
14. Hailee Steinfeld & Grey ft. Zedd – “Starving”
15. Aminé – “Caroline”
16. gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien – “i hate u, i love u”
17. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas is You”
18. Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar – “The Greatest”
19. Shawn Mendes – “Treat You Better”
20. Rihanna – “Love on the Brain”

Jmunney’s Revision
1. The Greatest
2. Starboy
3. Scars to Your Beautiful
4. Black Beatles
5. Side to Side
6. Broccoli
7. Love on the Brain
8. Closer
9. 24K Magic
10. Heathens
11. Starving
12. All I Want for Christmas is You
13. i hate u, i love u
14. Bad Things
15. Let Me Love You
16. Caroline
17. Fake Love
18. Don’t Wanna Know
19. Treat You Better
20. Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)

Billboard Hot 20 – Week of December 17, 2016

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Each week, I check out the Billboard Hot 100, and then I rearrange the top 20 based on my estimation of their quality.

Original Version
1. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles”
2. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – “Starboy”
3. The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – “Closer”
4. Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj – “Side to Side”
5. Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
6. Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall – “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)”
7. DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – “Let Me Love You”
8. Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Don’t Wanna Know”
9. twenty one pilots – “Heathens”
10. D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty – “Broccoli”
11. Drake – “Fake Love”
12. Hailee Steinfeld & Grey ft. Zedd – “Starving”
13. gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien – “i hate u, i love u”
14. Aminé – “Caroline”
15. Alessia Cara – “Scars to Your Beautiful”
16. The Weeknd – “Party Monster”
17. Machine Gun Kelly x Camila Cabello – “Bad Things”
18. Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar – “The Greatest”
19. Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MØ – “Cold Water”
20. Shawn Mendes – “Treat You Better”

Jmunney’s Revision
1. The Greatest
2. Starboy
3. Scars to Your Beautiful
4. Black Beatles
5. Side to Side
6. Cold Water
7. Broccoli
8. Closer
9. Party Monster
10. 24K Magic
11. i hate u, i love u
12. Starving
13. Heathens
14. Bad Things
15. Let Me Love You
16. Caroline
17. Fake Love
18. Don’t Wanna Know
19. Treat You Better
20. Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)

Billboard Hot 20 – Week of December 10, 2016

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Each week, I check out the Billboard Hot 100, and then I rearrange the top 20 based on my estimation of their quality.

Original Version
1. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles”
2. The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – “Closer”
3. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – “Starboy”
4. Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
5. Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall – “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)”
6. Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj – “Side to Side”
7. twenty one pilots – “Heathens”
8. DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – “Let Me Love You”
9. D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty – “Broccoli”
10. Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Don’t Wanna Know”
11. Drake – “Fake Love”
12. Aminé – “Caroline”
13. Hailee Steinfeld & Grey ft. Zedd – “Starving”
14. gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien – “i hate u, i love u”
15. Alessia Cara – “Scars to Your Beautiful”
16. Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MØ – “Cold Water”
17. Shawn Mendes – “Treat You Better”
18. Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar – “The Greatest”
19. Justin Timberlake – “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
20. X Ambassadors – “Unsteady”

Jmunney’s Revision
1. The Greatest
2. Starboy
3. Scars to Your Beautiful
4. Black Beatles
5. Side to Side
6. Cold Water
7. Unsteady
8. Broccoli
9. Closer
10. 24K Magic
11. i hate u, i love u
12. Starving
13. Heathens
14. Let Me Love You
15. Can’t Stop the Feeling!
16. Caroline
17. Fake Love
18. Don’t Wanna Know
19. Treat You Better
20. Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)

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