Our (Arguable) Top 10 in Music

A column where our opinionated music critic SAVAGELY reviews the current top 10


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Hello BHS! I hope you have been listening to music to help you stay sane. If you have not heard these songs before (which is almost impossible), I recommend you give them a shot (but not the ones I don’t like).

1) Butter (BTS) – I’m not super crazy about this song. It’s very K-pop-esque (obviously), with sampling, basslines, and vocal patterns traditional to the genre. The bassline, to me, is very obnoxious in how it starts and stops. It’s not continuous, relying rather on pulsating “hits” in order to generate momentum. Much of the song also feels very samey. I found myself wondering how long the song was about halfway through, which is never a good sign. The song is generally happy, and I appreciate the light summer vibes generated by the overall groove. But I just felt this song was bland and uninteresting.

2) good 4 u (Olivia Rodrigo) – This approach felt like a departure from Rodrigo’s typical style– it’s far more high energy than, say, “drivers license.” I appreciated this shift into a more energized state. The electric guitar in the refrain works extraordinarily well, bringing a forward momentum which hearkens back to the likes of mid-2000’s pop, a genre I grew up with. Rodrigo’s vocals are also far more energized and forward pointing, bringing the heat to the song. This is a different kind of breakup song, one where she dances over the grave of her relationship, and I am here for this change. My one complaint generally falls on the ending– it’s so incomplete, which is one of my pet peeves. But otherwise, I believe she executes this shift excellently.

3) deja vu (Doja Cat feat. SZA) – Here, Rodrigo hearkens back to her typical genre– sad breakup music. I love the bell sample which continues throughout the song, as it shimmers in and out of focus. Again, Rodrigo’s producers should be lauded for their use of synth in the background of the song; the synth revving up and down is simply delicious to listen to, and it’s placement within the context of the song is sublime. I especially love how the song oscillates between the dominant (a higher energy chord) and the tonic (a resolving chord). The oscillation tugs and pulls at us as listeners and reinforces the concepts of the song. Rodrigo is also excellent in both her lyrics and how she delivers them, making her words clear enough that I got lost in them listening to the song. Unfortunately, this song is very similar to “drivers license,” and I just wish it was more original.

4) Kiss Me More (Doja Cat feat. SZA) – I love the looping progression of this song. The background bass, synth, and guitar run through a simple series of suspensions which never really resolves, generating forward momentum through the song. It’s an old trick, very reminiscent of contrapuntal lines from the likes of J.S. Bach, but highly effective. The drumline is also set in a very catchy and pleasing groove, generating a light, warm feeling as the song moves along. The production of the vocals is also very pleasant, smooth, and well blended– it sticks beautifully within the context of the song. The early summer vibe of the song is also very attractive, and left me tapping along to the beat of the song. Overall, I love the way the song loops through itself and yet still finds ways to move forward towards an end goal.

5) Traitor (Olivia Rodrigo) – I hope you love Olivia Rodrigo, since there’s so much of her on this list. I enjoyed the opening choir with a subtle organ in the background. As I said before, Rodrigo is an excellent lyricist, and still delivers those lyrics well. Unfortunately, I really think this song is too similar to “deja vu”, “drivers license”, and various other Olivia Rodrigo songs. For this reason, the only Olivia Rodrigo songs I will be reviewing for the remainder of the list are those I feel differ significantly from the formula established by “drivers license.”

6) Brutal (Olivia Rodrigo) – This song differed pleasantly from the “sad weepy song” formula, which I enjoyed. The sampling is really interesting: violins fade into electric guitar loops. The violin harmonies feel like something directly out of a Shostakovich string quartet– chromatic harmony, open dissonances, and shifts to diverse tonal structures. The descending chromatic figure in the guitar line is also fascinatingly different. Rodrigo here excellently generates momentum building to her refrain, where a resolution to the tension built by the guitar line becomes apparent. She also does an excellent job of generally capturing the mood of teenage anxiety with her quick shifts between large instrumental backings and exposed solos. The subtle, quiet ending mirroring the beginning is also fascinating and different from this typical genre of punky pop.

7) Montero (Call Me By Your Name) (Lil Nas X) – I have mixed feelings about this song. Objectively, I think the beat is pretty good. The guitar and bassline in the back switches between an E flat major and E major chord, which adds an interesting, spicy flavor to the music. I love the instrumentation as well…the mix of real percussion, sampled percussion, guitar, and deep electronic base creates a sweet fusion of genres, and the break in normal instrumentals for a solo from a stringed instrument further builds on the foreign feel of the song. I also think Nas is a very good singer, with a good mix of bass and pitch for a pleasant sounding voice. His voice also blends very well with the song’s musical landscape. Objectively, I believe the song is well-constructed. However, I am just a little uncomfortable with listening to a song about copulation with Satan. I’m not going to flip about it: it just kind of feels…weird, you know?

8) enough for you (Olivia Rodrigo) – I know what I said before, but I just wanted to talk about this song. Somehow, it feels like an ode to “Hey There Delilah,” by Plain White T’s. The simple guitar strumming opening, which continues throughout the song, immediately reminded me of “HTD,” which I actually loved– I think simple music like these two songs isn’t made frequently enough. The subject matter is also very similar: both the
“HTD” and “enough for you” are about lost love and their old lovers. Given the impact “HTD” had on my generation, of which Rodrigo is a member, I appreciate the effort made to mirror it and extend its legacy.

9) happier (Olivia Rodrigo) – This song is different enough from “drivers license” that I felt it worthy of discussion. This song is about tension and release. The song begins with a tension-filled electric chord and pauses before the song gets into gear, which removes any resolving effect of the next notes. Every verse begins with a piano playing gentle arpeggios on the tonic (the most basic, consonant chord within the context of the song). The piano, joined by strings and electric synth, progresses through arpeggios with more and more tension as it moves away from the tonic and towards even higher tension chords. The tension builds until the end of each verse, where either an electric bass or electric synth descends back into the tonic after a brief pause. The pause, mixed with the delayed descent (instead of an immediate resolution) removes any feeling of fulfillment typically gained by a resolution. The song also ends unresolved. This builds towards the general idea that Rodrigo’s love is unfulfilled, making this song an excellent example of using musical technique to get a point across.

10) Without Your (The Kid LAROI) – Wow, is America okay? There are some depressing songs on this list, this one being no exception. Subjectively, I like this song. It puts me in my feels every time I hear it. It’s pleasant, and the sampling on Laroi’s voice is pretty nice. However, this song just feels…basic. I don’t know…it’s just him and a guitar. The guitar isn’t doing anything objectively interesting. It’s just looping a VI-IV-I-V chord pattern, which is just a simple rearrangement of the normal I-IV-VI-V pattern you see all over pop. It’s not an “HTD” extension: it’s just a simple song to get people in their feels. And while it works on that front, in terms of actual musical content, I feel this song is extraordinarily lacking.

Editor’s Pick: m y . l i f e (J. Cole feat. 21 Savage and Morray): I love this song. To me, it feels like the next evolution in the genre of hip hop. The slow percussive buildup replaces the typical space before the beat drop which features ad libs. It’s something I hope becomes a feature, not a bug. I love the general groove in the beginning as well; it feels like it hearkens back to the day of soul rock and acknowledges the roots of hip hop. The drumline is interesting enough, featuring frequent syncopations and triplet figures. Cole’s flow on top of the beat is also very good, if a little typical. I love the constant buildup to the choir in the background as well; I feel like it really fits the vibe of the song. I also love how the song frequently devolves into plain singing, which I think is another cool feature. 21’s flow is also very good (I don’t know how he keeps getting away with libbing “21” but he does). Overall, I think this is a really cool song which deserves a listen.