Our (Arguable) Top 10 in Music – December 2020

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


Courtesy Getty Images

Henry Bloss, Editorial Board

Welcome BHS, to something new but normal! 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) Mood (24kGolden feat. iann dior) – The song opens with a plucked electric guitar riff, soon joined by syncopated beat rhythms. The way I’d describe this song is “smooth,” not aggressive or energetic: this song is simply pleasant to listen to. The refrain is fresh, with lyrics and rhymes that flow into each other. The verses and refrain are both very much on beat, with no jarring breaks or clear rhythmic disunity, played over the looping guitar riff. All these features work together to create a chill musical experience that I really enjoy listening to.

2) WAP (Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion) – Hot take: I don’t like this song, but not for the reason you think. It’s straight up boring. I’m not going to sit here and talk about the lyrics. While I may find them gross, vulgarity is not and should not be a qualification to rate a song on (Mozart famously wrote a masterpiece of a song with a most vile title – Google it!). However, if you remove the lyrics from this song, there’s not much left to discuss. A chromatic ostinato in the bass is about as much music you’ll get. While Mozart’s work has a 7 part canonical counterpoint to highlight the lyrics, WAP has…nothing to write home about. It’s a song written solely to present controversial lyrics. If you want true music, look elsewhere.

3) Laugh Now Cry Later (Drake ft. Lil Durk) – This song bored me listening to it. While I enjoyed the opening chords in the brass, it felt a little overdone after the 100th repetition. The opening vocals blended well with the chord progression, as well. But it felt like Drake kept building to something…and he never reached what he was building to. The music never really went anywhere, which made it sound bland to me. The few times Drake threw in a drumline, it felt uninteresting, especially as it dropped 10-20 seconds each time after its introduction. Overall, I found myself checking when the song was over far too often for it to be an enjoyable experience for myself.

4) Blinding Lights (The Weeknd) – I really enjoyed this song. It’s a nice 80’s throwback, with a more modern hip-hop style of vocals production. As someone who grew up listening to my parent’s choice of music from the 80’s, I couldn’t stop smiling when the beat started. The opening soundscape is fascinating: a G minor bass synth with a few clashing tones which builds into a rocking kick-snare beat with 80’s style synth blaring above it. The chords flow and interplay excellently. Even the verses and refrain were sung in an 80’s style groove. It’s a big departure from The Weeknd’s general genre, too. This song is not typical for today’s musical landscape– and I am all here for it.

5) Savage Love [Laxed – Siren Beat] (Jawsh 685 x Jason Derulo) – I wanted to like this song. I agree with the fundamental idea of the song: combining reggae, slow hip-hop, and pop elements. It was a creative take, and I really wished I liked it. But the vocals are too heavily overproduced. It’s very clear Jason Derulo is using a pitch corrector, but tries to play it off as if he is singing his natural range. It creates a thematic clash with the elements in his instrumental section, specifically the reggae elements. He also riffs all over the place, adding little vocal ornamentation I think is entirely unnecessary. I have no problem with voice production, but it has to fit the song — and here, it doesn’t.

6) I Hope (Gabby Barrett feat. Charlie Puth) – This song is pop — in every sense of the word. The vocals, the subject matter, the instrumentation…it’s all very typical. Is this song bad? No, not at all. I actually enjoyed the chord progression: it successfully establishes this warm feeling which I think fits the subject matter. I just wish the language was slightly more poetic in the lyrics. The killer line, “Like you cheated on me!” feels underdeveloped and a little juvenile. In summary, this song wasn’t bad, or good, but just…typical.

7) Dynamite (BTS) – Spoiler alert: I’ve never really understood K-Pop. I’ve always viewed it as an overproduced and overvalued genre. In other words, if this genre was a food, I’d have diabetes just by looking at it. But this song isn’t terrible. The vocals are highly produced, of course, and the instrumentation is so musically sweet it hurts, but I actually enjoyed some of the underlying elements. The bassline had a nice swing in it. Most songs undervalue the importance of the bass, so I appreciated a more inventive approach. I also thought the basic chord progressions were smooth and somewhat creative. The key change at the end also worked really well. I didn’t expect to like anything about this song, but a few underlying elements caught my ear.

8) ROCKSTAR (DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch) – This song, like Mood, is centered around a plucked guitar riff (although this riff is acoustic). But this riff is different: an accent off the beat adds an interesting lilt to the riff, which adds a drive to the underlying beat. The drumline is also expertly syncopated, adding to this forward motion. The lyrics fit nicely within this landscape of motion. The quick bars of DaBaby and Ricch heighten the sense of drive forward. My one irk is that sometimes they aren’t quite on beat. However, the overall well-structured puzzle this song creates is quite pleasant to listen to.

9) Holy (Justin Bieber ft. Chance the Rapper) – I understand Bieber is trying to turn his career around and leave behind some of the more commercialized elements of his childhood, and that’s good for him. But here, I think his attempt at soulful music falls very flat. The lyrics all sound like they were written by a middle school boy, talking about drama and avoiding fake people and such. The instrumentation was decent, but it felt too overdone, especially with Bieber’s lyrics over it. Chance’s segment also felt out of place, especially as he often departed from the beat frequently. While I appreciate the thought behind the song, I felt as if it felt artificial, and…ironically…fake.

10) Lemonade (Internet Money & Gunna ft. Don Toliver and NAV) – Interestingly enough, another opening guitar riff, however this riff features light tambourine in the background. This song works hard to maintain the more chill vibe. The drumline is quiet and subtle, and the vocal effects soften some of the harsher realities of upper register singing. They also pull a trick I quite like: artificially modifying a voice to make it more akin to an instrument. However, I think the lyrics are a little childish, especially around the refrain: “Lemonade my neck was dripping” is a fine enough line, but repeating itself felt as if the lyricist couldn’t come up with a fourth line. Overall, though, a pleasant song.