A classic rock devotee reviews pop songs


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How much will a classic rock devotee enjoy modern pop songs?

Daniel Bethke, Editor-in-Chief

I consider myself a classic rock fan. When I wish to listen to music, whether for rest or for rejuvenation, I often turn to time-tested classics: AC/DC, Dire Straits, Tom Petty, Heart, Boston et al. 

Yet in my captivation by these bands’ and this genre’s ethereal guitars and freewheeling vocals, I feel I have missed out on many more modern musical phenomena. Of course, I listen to other music, but most of it is contemporary with classic rock. When it comes to modern artists, I have heard all the big names, but I am unable to put a sound to many of them. To expand my understanding of contemporary music and popular culture, I decided to listen to four pop songs and review them through my own idiosyncratic, possibly archaic lens.

“Chateau”- Blackbear

The song opens with a fair vocal hook, though I am not a fan of the lyrics. Reverberating underneath is a synth reminiscent of “Marvin the Martian” sound effects, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As the song progressed, I increasingly disliked the lyrics, which I found a bit trite, and liked the bassline. The latter is so catchy that this could even be a Eurovision song! “Chateau”’s very clean vocal mixing reminds me of a lot of modern songs, but something that stood out was the snare drum in the middle, which made the song feel more like a march and brought some life to the song. Overall, it is a fair song, but it is not quite my style.

“Needed Me”- Rihanna

“Needed Me” begins strangely. It seems cut-off and missing parts of some beats, but I suppose this effect is intentional. The effect continues into the chorus, where about every other eighth note is missing. While it is a bold musical choice, it does not really suit my tastes, and it makes it hard to identify the real beat. The rest of the song essentially consists of just stretching out vowels (longer than I thought possible), which I found a bit bland. Overall, while I liked both the singing style and the way the song ended quite a bit, “Needed Me” is just not particularly catchy for me. However, I appreciate the talent that went into it.

“The Night is Still Young”- Nicki Minaj

I like the opening progression to the song a lot, and the percussion adds to the energy quite a bit, but the strange accents every measure harm that. The singing style is adequate, and the percussion mixed with the bass sounds really catchy. A quiet guitar, which I wish was higher-up in the mix, comes in before the chorus, only to vanish just as I realize how much I love it. I am not a fan of the chorus, which I find a bit lacking and repetitive, but the instrumentation throughout the rest of the song makes up for that. Again, I find myself craving that underlying guitar in the pre-chorus. “The Night is Still Young” ends with firmness and resolve, leaving me in surprising enjoyment. While I would not personally elect to play this song, I must admit I enjoyed many of its components.

“I Fall Apart”- Post Malone

The dreamy, open sound of the beginning starts pleasant, with very pleasant guitar chords. Once again, however, I find myself desiring more from the guitar than is provided. As the song progresses, I find the percussion typical yet the vocals generally passionately sung; the phrase “Takin’ these shots” in particular I really enjoyed. The instrumentals get a bit old by the end, so I find myself relying on the vocals. Their lamenting quality was initially captivating but is, I find, a bit excessive by the end. In sum, “I Fall Apart” was pleasant yet left me wanting more: more guitarwork, more dynamic vocals, etc.

As part of my musical-exposition experiment, I listened to more than a dozen total songs, but I found these were the best to write about. While each song was by no means perfect or even holistically enjoyable, each one had its own elements that, upon closer inspection, were enthralling. I must confess… I am not a convert and am still a steadfast classic rock supporter. However, I have exposed myself to new music and learned the sounds behind the songs—the magic behind the music. I am now motivated to continue exploring the genre, drawing connections to classic rock favorites and picking out idiosyncrasies I seek to replicate or further explore. The benefits of this short experiment, if I may be so bold, are immeasurable, and I highly recommend everyone expand their sphere of music. You never know just how much you will enjoy what you have missed until you seek it out.