On this week’s Monday Mixtape, Marco Cartolano embarrasses himself by recommending some of his guilty pleasures. You can listen to the songs here. Transcript below.
[“Cum On Feel The Noize”-Quiet Riot]
Hello everybody and welcome to Monday Mixtape. I’m Marco Cartolano and I’m going to regret this mixtape. This week’s playlist focuses on my guilty pleasures, the songs that I thought I was too cool for when I was a teenager – which I was not. I’ll argue most of these songs actually have merit, but they’re a far cry from the hipster-approved music I usually recommend. The first song is a throwback to ‘80s rock at its most immature. “Cum On Feel the Noize” was originally a Slade song from the ‘70s, but there was no way a hair metal band could turn down covering a song with such a creatively spelled title. Quiet Riot’s version embodies hair metal at its most fun. Vocalist Kevin Dubrow sells the chorus and it’s hard not to sing along with him. While no one will confuse the band for virtuosos, the drum beat and hard rock soloing help to make it a good jock jam. “Cum On Feel the Noize” helped popularize hair metal, a genre I hated back when I obsessively listened to The Beatles, but I always had a soft spot for this boneheaded anthem.
[“Welcome To The Black Parade”-My Chemical Romance]
One of the worst insults at my high school was “emo.” This insult usually referred to the mopey aesthetic of the pop-punk bands that became popular in the mid-2000s. Looking back, a lot of that hatred was fueled by how insecure most of us were about our masculinity. I grew out of that and started hating these bands because they were too commercial. They weren’t “real” or “political” like my favorite punk bands. It’s still not my favorite type of punk music, but I think one band deserves more respect. My Chemical Romance started experimenting with classic rock on their album The Black Parade and made some epic tunes. “Welcome to the Black Parade” starts out as a piano ballad recalling a parade, but then it morphs into a Queen-inspired romp about dying. The soaring chorus is legitimately excellent and I respect their ambition. It still has the sort of cheesy emo lyrics that I would roll my eyes at in a lesser song, but they’re a natural fit for this anthemic track.
Don’t lie, this song’s instrumental rules. “Toxic” by Britney Spears thrives off of Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant’s production. The surf guitar and the Bollywood-style strings blend together to create a narcotic effect that suits the song’s theme. Britney’s boyfriend may be bad, but she feels so good around him. The drug metaphor practically writes itself. Britney’s seductive vocals work well within the context of the song. It’s a good use of her infamously limited range. I also appreciate that the song frames her as an adult as opposed to her earlier songs, which still creep me out.
[“The Way I Are”-Timbaland ft. D.O.E. & Keri Hilson]
If you couldn’t already tell, I wasn’t the most fun teenager. I used to hate going to middle school dance parties and I blamed it on the music. I still hold a grudge against Will.I.am and his stupid stage name, but I may have been a bit harsh on club music. Timbaland, one of the biggest producers of the 2000s, took dance-floor ready beats to interesting places. His song, “The Way I Are” featuring Keri Hilson and D.O.E., takes cues from electro. The busy synthesizers have the futuristic sound that he used on Justin Timberlake’s album FutureSex/LoveSounds. It also subverts typical club fair in the lyrics. Timbaland raps about being broke and he tries to convince Keri Hilson that he can still be a good lover. The earnestness of his bars kind of compliment his basic delivery. Hilson has great chemistry with Timbaland as she flirts with him in a slightly mocking way.
[“679”-Fetty Wap ft. Remy Boyz]
Fetty Wap hit it big during my senior year of high school, and his popularity lasted into my freshman year at Northwestern. His music was undeniably fun, but I wouldn’t call it great. When listening to “679,” my personal favorite of his singles, the term “lyrical miracle” doesn’t come to mind. And unlike Timbaland, the trap beat doesn’t stick out for its creativity. Honestly, it’s the hook that makes this song. It’s so catchy and the bad singing gives it character. It also helps that it’s easy to sing along with. While the verses may be stereotypical brag rap, especially when the guest rappers step to the mic, they all have the sort of positive energy that makes this a great song for house parties. Hip-hop heads may smirk at the simple technique, but sometimes a feel-good chorus can be worth a thousand bars.
[“Night Changes”-One Direction]
I told you I was going to regret this mixtape. When Justin Bieber started his juvenile delinquent phase, One Direction became the new favorite punching bag of every smartass teenager. We hated their pretty faces and thought their music was totally lame. Now, the first 10 times I heard “Night Changes,” I had no idea that One Direction sang it. I associated them with squeaky-clean boy band music that had a gross habit of exploiting the insecurities of their fanbase. However, they grew out of saying that your low self-esteem was what made you beautiful and tried a more folky approach. “Night Changes” tackles how quickly time passes by and the fear of having regrets. Sure, the song makes sure to mention that the boys will always love you no matter what, but it at least admits that they have anxieties, too. Their more mature voices sound better with the more organic production. And, I much prefer the simpler chorus over the group vocals of their earlier songs. Also, please don’t tell my little sisters I like a One Direction song.
["Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)"-ABBA]
Finally, I’m going to recommend a song by every rock snob’s least favorite band. ABBA’s disco hits and Swedish accents pissed off fans of “serious” music in the ‘70s. Fortunately, they have received a critical reappraisal for their strong melodies and songwriting. But, most of their big hits sound too dated and mild to my ears. I like to feel the groove on dance tracks, which I usually can’t with overly orchestrated ABBA songs. On the other hand, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" has tight keyboard arpeggios and a solid bass. Agnetha Fältskog (yes, I had to look up the pronunciation) takes lead vocals and there’s a sensuality to her voice that’s usually not present on ABBA’s lighter tracks, which is fitting in a song about desiring someone during the night. I’m not going to front, this is a great song and I vibe to it with no reservations.
And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist will be available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. Make sure to subscribe to Monday Mixtape on Apple Podcasts so you get a notification every time we post a new episode. I wouldn’t blame anyone for never taking me seriously ever again, but I stand by my taste. Until next time, this has been Marco Cartolano for NBN Audio.