Top 15 Albums at 15 | #2: Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die
Dec 18, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 10 minute read • 1930 words
Now, it’s time to tell some more stories.
Album #2: Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die by Panic! At The Disco
Last time I talked about a Panic! album, I told a few stories (and did a Panic! squat). This time, I’m going to tell you “don’t panic”, but I’m also going to continue those stories by talking about how I progressed from that really cringey state, and how I consume music now. I guarantee you that this blog post is going to cause some cringe for me 5, 10, 15 years in the future, but I’m fine with that. Plus, at least this process is well documented (rip GitHub code).
Let’s talk about how I consume music now. I no longer keep a constant eye on Monstercat’s YouTube channel (which was the only thing I did in Grade 7), but as I alluded to in the previous Panic! post,
Since then, we’ll also add 1MILLION’s YouTube Channel, since I’ve recently been digging Korean dance, and they actually have variety in their song choice (unlike Monstercat, which is very EDM-centric), but also have a touch of K-Pop! I’ve found out about CL, G-Dragon, and Jay Park from watching some pretty good dances and jamming out to the song in the background.
Spotify is a no-brainer, since I use it so much, and I don’t think their algorithm is that bad! If you want, you can check out my Spotify profile, I end up making a few tastemaking playlists :P I use it for at least 2 hours a day (commute), and when I do work, play video games, and chill. I’ve found a lot of really cool artists from Spotify’s Discover Weekly, including IshDARR, The Mowgli’s, and Miike Snow.
/r/hiphopheads is a subreddit on reddit that’s dedicated towards people who listen to hip-hop, hence the subreddit name. Unlike other music subs, HHH (as it’s affectionately known) is ridiculously meme-y (not sur ehow you spell that, memey looks weird), and the sub is very hyphy about literally every project (except SB2H, that was just terrible). Unlike the vibe you normally get from rap communities, HHH is very inclusive, and is just generally a fun group to be a part of, even if I’m just lurking. HHH is introduced me to rappers like Kaiydo, Aminé, and 21 Savage. Also, their analysis of rap, even though it’s a subreddit, has been really high-quality: their posts have lead me into a deeper analysis of TPAB, MMLP2, or The Chronic. Plus, the content is hilarious.
theneedledrop, or Anthony Fantano, is the only music reviewer I consistently come back to. Not only is he a well-spoken, smooth, passionate reviewer, but he’s also extremely knowledgeable about music: most music reviewer’s I’ve found are very surface-level in their analysis, such as “this sounds good and I like this track because there are synths”, while Fantano has a very detailed level of analysis that touches on lyrics, production, album cohesion (a trait that I find is often undervalued by music reviewers), and the bigger picture in terms of message and societal context. While I don’t always agree with his reviews (he’s pretty anti-establishment, anti-trap), I still come back to them because they’re the perfect combination of hyper-analytical and slightly meme-y (less than HHH). Some of my favourites in terms of analysis and helping me better understand albums include his TPAB, Views, MMLP2, Coloring Book, and Random Access Memories reviews. If you’re looking for some of his funnier ones, I was a fan of his Top 10 Worst Albums of 2016, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Pets Review, and Speeding’ Bullet To Heaven album… bashing.
Also there’s Sara, but I’ve already talked pretty extensively about her influence of music on me in this blog post.
But other than these sources (that I didn’t cite in MLA, my bad), I also learn a lot about music socially. How? Why? What does this have to do with TWTL, TRTD? Let’s find out next time, on Dragonball Z…
debate, part two, and many other social events or how not to be a music prick + a fake book review
I occasionally try do to things with my life, and a lot of that is centered around debate and technology. The former is me doing things like high school debate, model UN, and the World Affairs Conference, and the latter is me doing stuff like robotics, compsci club, studentserverspace, GitHub fanboying, etc. Throughout most of these experiences, I’m working with other people, and you know, interacting with human beings. And the majority of said human beings like some sort of music, and chances are, their music taste is very different from mine.
For a long time, I was super, super pretentious about my music taste: I thought that EDM was the be-all and end-all of what good music could be (oh how wrong I was). Since then, I’ve been working on being more inclusive on musical ideas. My musical boundary shifted from just being EDM to a (kinda) wide range of genres: rap, EDM, pop, rock, that kind of thing. I don’t claim to be an unbiased, listen-to-all-genres kind of music consumer (because I’m not), but I like to think that this kind of change was good for me. Not only did I get to listen to more awesome music (which is good), but I became more open-minded to things in life in general, and that’s super-beneficial because it challenges my worldview and makes me respect others and their opnions more.
According to my boy Malcolm Gladwell, there’s a specific tipping point that propels a fad forward, or makes people change their behavior. That in itself isn’t brand-new: that’s what the expression tipping point means. In the book, he talks about three big concepts: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. Now, this isn’t a book review, but this plays into my shift in mindset on music, so bear with me here.
The concept that intrigues me the post is The Law of the Few. Gladwell says that in order for some change to happen, there are a few, very influential people who act as leaders that push a movement forward. I think there were these few, potent changemakers in my life too, especially when we deal with music. This next part is me just name-dropping people, but it’s nothing negative: rather, they’ve introduced me to new kinds of music. Sara introduced me to, well, appreciating pop and rock, especially their emo variants. She’s the one who introduced me to Panic!, and we both loved this album. Kimathi and Malcolm are my go-to rap discussers: while we have varying opinions on everything, their depth of knowledge is absolutely insane (and only rivaled by their debate skills). Aidan (the better one :P ) has introduced me to the indie scene, especially indie rock. I don’t discuss music in-depth with a majority of my friends (it’s mostly did you hear the new Chance tape?), but these few friends that I do go into in-depth discussion with ultimately end up changing my social behavior about music, and about life. I’ve got a lot to thank for these few who’ve made a big impact.
Now I know I’m kind of shilling Gladwell’s book, but I do think it’s pretty good. The other two ideas, The Stickiness Factor, which is based on how “sticky” or “catchy” an idea is, and The Power of Context, or how context is relevant to your movement, doesn’t play into this narrative as much. To be fair, Panic! is hella catchy/sticky, and contextually I discovered them just when I was edging to be more open-minded: the band (and this album) ended up being the rallying flag of the “new me” in terms of listening to music. Most of this is self-evident, so no paragraph essay on those two.
So then, how does Panic! play into this, and how does TWTLTRTD play into this? Well, TWTLTRTD acted as both a rallying flag, and a symbol of this new me. I genuinely liked this album, and that made me expand my music listening habits and look for non-EDM songs. The emo-based lyrics of these songs used to be something I’d scoff at (remember, I was in Grade 7), but now it’s something I can appreciate, even if I haven’t experienced it myself (in this case, lots and lots of breakups). This album ended up being that tipping point that opened the gates for the hundreds of artists that I love to listen to now, ones that I would’ve probably never found if I didn’t give Panic! a shot.
Also, I do like this album. I haven’t talked at all about the actual musical content (typical Matt and his long-winded off-topic posts), but I think TWTLTRTD is a well-composed album. While it isn’t conceptual in its nature (unlike TPAB), it has a central idea based in the band members’ personal experiences, mostly tied to Las Vegas. I also think they did a great job in creating a certain aesthetic for this album: it was a blend of synthpop and emo-rock, with a little touch of hip-hop/rap. I’m personally a fan of this composition (I love rap, I love synthpop, and I love emo-rock), and I also think they did a good job of using this aesthetic to convey their message: a very stereotypical Las Vegas styling of love, sex, and drugs, with some bitter self-reflection inbetween. Their songs are musically diverse: slow, emo-pop songs like This is Gospel and Girl That You Love combined with hip-hop and rock influenced fast songs like Miss Jackson and Vegas Lights bring a split personality to the album that you rarely find with other contemporary pop albums.
When I first listened to this album, I realised that there were so many things I liked about this kind of music that I’d never heard before. I seeked out other artists with similar styles: older Panic! like Hurricane or Nine in the Afternoon, new Paramore like Still Into You or Anklebiters, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, the list goes on. A solid 50% of my music collection stems from just listenting to this one album: no other piece of music has had this profound of an impact on how I listen to music.
There are flaws with TWTLTRTD, and I wouldn’t put it very high on an objective scale. But for me, it’s more than just a pretty good album. It’s a symbol of the change I’ve gone through, and just how happy that I took that first jump. If you’re reading this (all one of you), I suggest you look back on your own music listening “career”, and see where your tipping point is. Or maybe you haven’t found it yet. That’s fine. Keep on searching, find the power of the few, and think with an open mind. That’s my gospel for all of you.
Favourite Songs: This Is Gospel, Miss Jackson, Vegas Lights, Girl That You Love, Nicotine, Girls/Girls/Boys, Casual Affair, Far Too Young To Die, Collar Full
Our next album is the very final one, lot’s of pressure here!
Until next time!
Dec 18, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 10 minute read • 1930 words