Sunday, 4 January 2015

The NSV Awards 2014: Category 1 - Music

Hello all,
Steve and I are proud as punch to be introducing the second annual NSV awards!
Weren't they the TMT Awards last year?
Quiet, Jim. It's still the second annual one.
But nothing. It just is.
Are you sure, Steve?
Yep. Look, a picture of Taylor Swift!
That'll keep Jim occupied for a while. He's so easy to please. Like a puppy... Anyway, while I consider my choice of partner, I present to you the NSV Awards Category 1 - Music!

More than ever before, music has been my lifeline this year. In times of great stress, I turned to songs to make me feel better or occasionally worse. For example, as I wrote the Asperger’s post earlier this year, I had Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘Keep Breathing’ on a loop. While it started out as a comfort, it soon became something that made it impossible for me to continue. My fingers started to type in time to the music as I allowed it to see inside my soul and pull out the deepest torments, knowing that the music was something there that would remain constant and safe. Music’s always been like that for me. But this year, when I took my self-analysis to unprecedented new levels, it was good to have comfort musically. Even my favourite TV shows use music as an important part of their appeal. Hell, my Sexy 60 this year could’ve been made up of songs that have been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and which I’ve loved.
   That’s not to say that the music released this year hasn’t been wonderful, because it has. Some of my favourite artists released new albums which I adored (Angus & Julia Stone, Christina Perri, Dolly Parton, Ingrid Michaelson, Kate Miller-Heidke, Kylie Minogue, Lady Antebellum, Lana Del Rey, Lily Allen, Maroon 5, Neon Trees, The Veronicas, Within Temptation) while I was also able to discover some new and exciting artists (5 Seconds Of Summer, A Great Big World, Iggy Azalea, Jenny Lewis, Karmin, Lea Michele, Mary Lambert, Megan Washington, Sam Smith, Sanna Nielsen). In fact, there was so much good music this year that I found it impossible to pick a single best album and have instead decided to talk about three, but we’ll come to that.
   First, I just wanted to mention that one of the unexpected perks of getting a boyfriend is the many new things he introduces you to (pop culture wise, you dirty minded readers). In regards to music, I was mildly shocked to discover that he’s a metal head. It’s a genre I’ve had a very ambiguous relationship to in the past (with the only bands I’ve liked being Nightwish and Within Temptation) but since dating Finn, I’ve discovered an appreciation of the heavier types of music. In fact, the song I most associate with my boyfriend is by Slipknot (and actually REALLY depressing if you listen to the lyrics) and you can’t get much more metal then them. Now, if I can only get him into Taylor Swift...
   In the new year, I’m looking forward to yet more Grey’s songs entering my musical love, more metal love and Adele finally releasing her next album (I’ve been waiting so long)

The Sexy 60

I decided to do something a little different with this year’s Sexy 60. Not only have I included my favourite songs from 2014, I’ve also worked in a couple of songs that were released a little while ago, but were still key to my year. Many of this year’s songs tend to be pop focussed, but there are also a couple of lesser known gems and some truly guilty pleasures (Anaconda, I’m looking at you...) And I look over this list, I remember all the wonderful associations I have, but also realise that just like last year, my music taste really hasn’t improved...

You can listen to the whole list on Youtube here: listen here

1.       Blue Smoke (Dolly Parton)
2.       Something In The Water (Carrie Underwood)
3.       Body Love (Mary Lambert)
4.       Let It Go (from Frozen) (Idina Menzel)
5.       O Vertigo! (Kate Miller-Heidke)
6.       Take A Ride (Put 'Em In The Air) (Eric Saade)
7.       #SELFIE (The Chainsmokers)
8.       Anaconda (Nicki Minaj)
9.       Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
10.    Take Me To The Church (Sinead O'Connor)
11.    Chandelier (Sia)
12.    Undo (Sanna Nielsen)
13.    Dead Air (CHVRCHES)
14.    Fancy (Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX)
15.    Out Of The Woods (Taylor Swift)
16.    Girls Chase Boys (Ingrid Michaelson)
17.    Say Something (A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera)
18.    I Don't Wanna Break (Christina Perri)
19.    To Build A Home (The Cinematic Orchestra)
20.    Outside (Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding)
21.    Les Sex (Kylie Minogue)
22.    Can't Remember To Forget You (Shakira, Rihanna)
23.    Habits (Stay High) (Tove Lo)
24.    Red Lights (Tiesto)
25.    Burning Gold (Christina Perri)
26.    Breakaway (Celine Dion)
27.    Ugly Heart (G.R.L.)
28.    Air Balloon (Lily Allen)
29.    Come On Back This Way (Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders)
30.    She Looks So Perfect (5 Seconds Of Summer)
31.    Clean (Taylor Swift)
32.    Rainmaker (Emmelie De Forest)
33.    Heaven Knows (The Pretty Reckless)
34.    Let Her Down Easy (George Michael)
35.    Wherever You Are (Angus & Julia Stone)
36.    Keep Breathing (Ingrid Michaelson)
37.    Only Love Can Hurt Like This (Paloma Faith)
38.    Once Upon A Dream (from Maleficent) (Lana Del Rey)
39.    Young Blood (Sophie Ellis-Bextor)
40.    I Believe (Christina Perri)
41.    Bed Of Lies (Nicki Minaj, Skylar Grey)
42.    Sirens (Cher Lloyd)
43.    Whole World Is Watching (Within Temptation, Dave Pirner)
44.    Into The Blue (Kylie Minogue)
45.    Unavoidable (Neon Trees)
46.    Secrets (Mary Lambert)
47.    Rise Like A Phoenix (Conchita Wurst)
48.    Really Don't Care (Demi Lovato, Cher Lloyd)
49.    Human (Christina Perri)
50.    I Walk Alone (Cher)
51.    Just One Of The Guys (Jenny Lewis)
52.    Love Is A Bourgeois Construct (Pet Shop Boys)
53.    Cue The Rain (Lea Michele)
54.    All About You (Hillary Duff)
55.    Snuff (Slipknot)
56.    Animals (Maroon 5)
57.    Bang Bang (Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj)
58.    Empty Handed (Lea Michele)
59.    Follow Your Arrow (Kacey Musgraves)
60.    Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (Hillsong)

Best Albums
3. Sorry I'm Late (Cher Lloyd)

A somewhat lesser known album released this year, Cher Lloyd’s Sorry I’m Late is an impressive album showcasing the singer’s incredible transformation from manufactured pop to something more interesting and enjoyable. The album’s biggest song, ‘Sirens’, is a truly epic and awe-inspiring song in the spirit of Sia’s Chandelier, but with a more powerful meaning. It was a song that applied to so much of my life this year (dad’s illness, Finn trying to deal with my mental state) and one I loved doing epic lip synch performances to, which inevitably end up in tears. While the other songs in the album aren’t as impressive, they’re still fun, catchy and ridiculously awesome. Basically, this album transformed Cher Lloyd from a crappy singer with one good song (a cover of Carolina Liar’s ‘Beautiful People’) to a next album I eagerly anticipate.

2. Head Or Heart (Christina Perri)
In contrast to Cher Lloyd, Christina Perri is a singer I’ve been in love with since I first heard ‘Jar Of Hearts’. Her songs speak to me in a way few other singers do (another one appears later on, coincidentally) and I’ve spent many a lonely night seeking solace in her soulful words. However, it wasn’t until the start of 2014 that her status as one of my favourite singers was firmly established. Prior to release her album, Perri released several new songs from the album, each one better than the last. There was ‘Burning Gold’ (a power ballad that’s unbelievably catchy), ‘Human’ (about trying to please everyone by putting on a brave face, something I related to deeply at the time), ‘I Don’t Wanna Break’ and last, but far from least, ‘I Believe’. If I were to pick one song that defined my year more than any other, it would be this song. A beautiful, inspiring song about facing demons and fighting your way back from hell, it is a song I deeply, deeply relate to. It’s like listening to my soul sang back to me. It’s also something that changed as I moved throughout the year. I listened to it when I was depressed and broken, and used the final chant as a promise (‘This is not the end of me, this is the beginning’) which I would repeat to myself when I didn’t think it could get any better. Now, after Finn and seeking help for my depression, I see it as a promise to never go back to that way. It’s an acknowledgement of the person I used to be and an indication that, no matter what happens, I will never have to return to that broken place. Put simply, it was one of the most important things I listened to all year.

1. 1989 (Taylor Swift)
What else could it be? I am a Taylor Swift obsessive, loving her since I first heard ‘You Belong With Me’ and listening to the radio for hours on end until I finally heard it again. Her music has been my comfort when I was sad, my joy put into words, made me feel in love and made me feel accepted and whole. However, despite all this, ‘1989’ came very, very close to being an album I wasn’t obsessed with. After my first listen through, I found myself uniformly unimpressed. The sad songs which I’d known her for were absent and the country rawness was gone. The only saving grace was ‘Out Of The Woods’, one of the most epic pop songs I’d ever heard. I knew that there was still some joy to be found here. So, I shoved all of the songs onto my phone and listened to it wherever I went. And suddenly, I realised what I’d been missing; powerful lyrics, catchy tunes and the emotional honesty that has made Taylor Swift one of the biggest singers around. The Taylor I’d knew was not gone, she’d only transformed. The sad songs were replaced by songs of strength and determination. In my newfound confidence, I found that my favourite singer had also changed. And what an astounding accomplishment that is. Taylor Swift’s albums represent a journey from broken teenager to proud adult, still with all that emotional angst but not allowing it to control her. Like all of her albums, it’s somehow extremely personal and incredibly relatable. So, really, what else could it ever be?

Best Soundtrack Album
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Yet another stunning soundtrack from The Hunger Games franchise, filled with songs of despair and battle cries. This year’s compilation includes tracks from some of my favourite current artists like CHVRCHES (whose song ‘Dead Air’ is probably my favourite off the album), Tove Lo (sounding as raw and dancey as ever), Bat For Lashes (love their dreaminess as always) and Lorde (whose multiple contributions are all stunning), whose usual style is filtered through the gritty Hunger Games aesthetic, making for a brilliant and wonderful album to complement one of the best films of the year. I really can’t wait for next year’s album (although, I’m hoping for a Taylor Swift song on that one. C’mon, Lorde, ‘I Know Places’ was the most Hunger Games-esque song this year!)

Best Video
Blank Space (Taylor Swift
Don’t get me wrong, I loved ‘Shake It Off’ but nothing can compare to the sheer insane genius of ‘Blank Space’. Directly riffing off the way the media negatively portrays her, she takes their filth and throws it right back in their face. It’s the most wickedly self-referential thing you’ll ever see, as though Swift is winking at us all the way through it. It’s also beautifully shot (love that house!) and filled with more memorable imagery (the moment she puts the candy on her tongue, grabbing the apple and ripping it in two, trashing the car) than the average Hollywood film. It also makes for an interesting feminist analysis (about gender expectations of females as either whore or mother), further cementing it as the most wonderfully crazy music video of the year.

So, what did  y'all think? Do you agree with the choices?
Yep, Steve, I do. I really do.
For those of you who aren't Taylor Swift nerds, I mean. Leave a comment to let us know!
What's tomorrow's awards, Steve?
Why, Jim, the next category is Books!
Oh, geez, I didn't really read that many last year...
Oh don't worry, I don't think David did either. See you tomorrow.

David Gumball Watson

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