What I said last year... came true.
I don't know how to start this genre-searching, artist-loving segment so let's just start from when. When I said last year that I'll augment my music exploration in 2016, although I was earnest I wasn't committed to doing that. The then-incoming year saw spotlight on NEWS, and my new KPop fandoms also started to get exciting--I thought, 2016 would be a year of settling on the artists I discovered on/before 2015. In short, no new fandoms please!!! Focus on your existing loves!!!
Well, it turned out that 2015 was just a taste test. Because in 2016, that's where the buffet began to be served.
Window shopping, genre hopping
For the true love of genres, I studied them. There were probably almost 10 times I hooked up *LOL* with Wiki-kun *LooOOoL* and other sites to randomly research about Rock and is subgenres, Electronic and its subgenres; refresh my knowledge of Classical music eras, etc. The result, I got better at identifying genres. It's a small dream of mine to hear songs and identify their precise genre in a snap. For example, knowing that Blood, Sweat and Tears by BTS is Tropical House just by listening to its first 10 seconds.
No one can deny (except EXO-Ls? hahaha) that this is the grandest KPop release of the year. I still didn't get into KPop boys, though.
Genre is like food; both are/have flavors, it's inevitable to pick your tastes. Power Pop is one. I think this is pretty apparent in my fondess for hyper, driven tracks. Progressive Rock, like Queen's (and Panic! At The Disco cover) Bohemian Rhapsody, is a genre I'd want to challenge, whether composed or sung, in the future. Aside from the fact that it's one of the hardest to pull off, it's the fulfillment of my vision of pieces so varied you hear symphonies the one minute, and Swing the next!
The original Bohemian Rhapody in 1975 and the 2016 cover. Asking the forbidden question: which version is better?
Skipping hundred more genres and subgenres, appreciating them from afar (thus, "window shopping" xD) as this post won't go into the technical side of things, let's head to the highlight--the songs and the artists.
I didn't just Panic!
In my six years of being a loyal NEWS fan, Panic! At The Disco is the only band/artist that reached the level of love I have for NEWS. (You can see my P!ATD-appreciation post here) But it doesn't mean that my bias treatment is the same. Instead of focusing only on P!ATD as I did on NEWS especially on the getting-to-know stage, P!ATD became the door for a genuine music enjoyment by means of actively searching for more.
I could say that I'm the musician with the least knowledge of songs. Despite my frequent assertions of open-mindedness to music, I admittedly don't listen to a lot of songs (IF we're talking about songs I choose to listen to. Otherwise, I've known a lot of songs from the TV, radio, karaoke, and other media since childhood! Haven't we all?) I tend to repeat only the ones I like, and I can do that for years.
Here's a comparison for a clearer picture. Tegoshi said he has over 10,000 songs in his music player. 500 is already too many for me. Brendon learns almost 500 songs a year. I could only go with 50-100. Tegoshi also said he loops songs for an average of 2 times. When I heard his solo Encore for the first time, I looped it for 2 straight weeks!
This means that while I'm very open to genres, I'm notoriously picky with songs. My exploration this year is my wildest so far. If it goes beyond on 2017, why not, right?
And we've reached this point! There are many artist/bands I wanted to feature, but I'll only show whose discographies I've already dug (that says I've loved them enough!) Carry on~
Artist: Panic! At The Disco
Quick Fact: Formed in 2004, the band went into different member changes and losses throughout the years. It is now a one-man band.
Why love? "Swear to shake it up if you swear to listen", said the lyrics of their first ever single. The band lived up to its promise, shaking things up, by trying insanely different genres every album!
Most famous song (you might've heard this): I Write Sins Not Tragedies
I recommend: Death Of A Bachelor [video], Ready To Go, Northern Downpour, This Is Gospel
Quick Fact: One of composer/producer Yuki Kajiura's project, Kalafina debuted in 2007 as a duo. Currently they are a trio.
Why love? If you love J-music but haven't heard of Kalafina yet, listen to them and you'll be impressed! They sing Baroque Pop to Folk and other related genres; all tailor-made to the members' characteristically sterling voices in different vocal classifications (range).
Most famous song (you might've heard this): To The Beginning [video]
I recommend: Magia, Far On The Water, Hikarifuru
Quick Fact: Halsey is an anagram of her real name, Ashley. She started songwriting at 17, and at 22 she has released an album and an EP.
Why love? She combines pop music elements with her innocent yet exploiting, no-saccharine lyrics. Making it into the mainstream muscic scene, she's got the best of both worlds--Pop recognition, and Indie expression.
Most famous song (you might've heard this): Colors
I recommend: New Americana [video], Hurricane, Young God
Quick Fact: YG's newest (and now, only) girl group, consisting of 4 members.
Why love? A younger 2NE1, which isn't a surprise because they're made in the same image as their unnies. Differences? All members are good in English, and all are visuals. Their songs are less edgy KPop and are on the Pop-Hiphop border.
Most famous song (you might've heard this): BOOMBAYAH [video]
I recommend: Stay, Playing With Fire, Whistle
Quick Fact: Famous for their Youtube covers, they got a record deal and started to release original songs while continuously doing covers up to this day.
Why love? The fact that they're a singing group of sibs! And they are some of the wholesome western pop artists out there (outside the Christian music genre)--their songs have good, inspirational messages. Oftentimes though, they're just really fluff and cute.
Most famous song (you might've heard this): Made In America
I recommend: Hearts On Fire, I Got You [video], Acid Rain
Artist: The Brobecks
These artists almost made it on the Feature list! I'd still like to mention them in a shorter, separate list (because I am really motivated when it comes to listing stuff :>)
Artist: Fall Out Boy
Why include? Because FOB bassist Pete Wentz discovered P!ATD and put the band under his music label. He is their literal senpai! Also, FOB is part of the "Emo Trinity", with P!ATD and My Chemical Romance.
I recommend: 20 Dollar Nosebleed (Feat Brendon Urie)
Why include? I learned this band through Dallon Weekes, P!ATD's ex-bassist, wherein in The Brobecks he was the frontman. Although now inactive before even hitting it big, the band made cool alternative tracks.
I recommend: Love At First Sight
Artist: Justin Bieber
Why include? A pure coincidence, or by Tegoshi's influence? Nevertheless, I really like his new material and recent collaborations.
I recommend: Let Me Love You (DJ Snake feat Justin Bieber)
Artist: 4th Impact
Why include? A Filipina group of sisters (again!) that made it into the top 5 of X-Factor UK Season 12. I don't know if they already have original songs; anyhow, I got addicted watching their contest performances on Youtube.
I recommend: Their classic and viral audition hit, Bang Bang
Artist: Fifth Harmony
Why include? Im a year where both Fifth Harmony and Little Mix are equally relevant (more relevant than male groups like One Direction!), I prefer the sassier and sexier Fifth Harmony. Nothing personal, I just like their songs more.
I recommend: That's My Girl
This part is tricky. I don't have a clear basis for the list; if we go by my favorites for each featured artist above, my other favorites outside these artists won't be included. Same as if I give featured songs outside of these artists. To settle, this will be a random list of 10 songs that'll immediately pop in my mind *meaning this part is candidly written!!*, trying to be as artist-varied as possible without forfeiting my actual favorites! Here we go~
Song: That's My Girl by Fifth Harmony
Why put this again when I've just mentioned it two paragraphs before? That's how I love this song. Women empowerment in addictive catchphrases, bass-laden EDM, flourished by Fifth Harmony's sass and distinct voices.
Song: The Greatest by Sia feat Kendrick Lamar
The music video below shows only the Sia version, but I actually like the version with the rapper more (despite popular opinion that Kendrick Lamar ruined the song). This was dedicated to the Orlando shooting incident and the whole LGBT community. Fun fact: Shige once played it in his radio program SORASHIGE BOOK, but it isn't solely the reason for including this in the list. Honestly I found its verses weird at first, but along with the chorus and the rap, it grew on me quite fast.
Song: Kids by OneRepublic
A review of the song said, "The song is a triumphant mix of pop, electronic influences and indie rock, seeped in nostalgia for when they were kids." Accurate. I can't actually describe the song in practical terms... It just gives me this big nostalgic feeling, specifically the occasional guitar licks that makes me feel jelly.
Song: I'm Jelly BABY by AOA Cream
Speaking of jelly, this song by AOA's newest subgroup, AOA cream, is a definitive bubblegum pop! The sound is sort of a throwback to KPop golden age, when I can't see big distinctions between the winsome quality of bubblegum KPop to the kawaii JPop (girls). And uhhhhhh, Hyejeong, Chanmi, and Yuna's hairstyles are #HairGoals xD
Song: Stone Cold by Demi Lovato
Truly a power ballad, this song fully emphasizes Demi's vocal mastery since Skyscraper--personally, Stone Cold is even better, more haunting, and in a higher register/key than the former. Its highest note, which she belts, is a G♯! I don't usually like breakup songs when they're stereotypically expressed in either sullen ballads (ehem, Tegoshi solos?) or too-pumped cheering squad-esque electronic pop, and this song deviates from all I've heard.
Song: LA Devotee by Panic! at The Disco
Warning: the video depicts horror and some violence. Scrap that though--this is my absolute favorite Panic! song!! Not like there's a deep explanation--its optimistic, driven, Power Pop sound, and lyrics narrating the joys of living in Los Angeles in a metaphorical manner, is a stark contrast to the seemingly Illuminati-influenced MV. (And no, P!ATD said this ain't Illuminati, it's mocking Illuminati!)
Song: 그리고 그리고 그려봐 (Draw, Draw & Draw) by MAMAMOO
A Christmas tune on the list, this mellow, 50's inspired Blues song is picked after minutes of thinking hard which MAMAMOO song I should put. I chose this because it's the best song to hear their vocals quite clearly, and it's a break from all those belting AND growling (Oh, but I'm not complaining~)
Song: 五月の魔法 (Gogatsu no Mahou) by Kalafina
This is only my third favorite Kalafina song but once again I want to include a powerful track! Well, most of their songs ARE powerful. In this case I like the combined power and grace, the orchestration, the crazy key change, and its somehow danceable compared to the similarly heavy songs in their discography.
Song: Hallelujah by Pentatonix
Still on the songs with splendid harmonization, this acapella cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah literally came up very recently (when I was conceptualizing this post 2 weeks ago the song was still out of my awareness!). I thought that since it's already December there'd be no more new songs to be added on my LSS file, but Lord, this cover is such a marvel. No wonder it's one of the Top 20 International songs for this month.
Song: Encore by Tegoshi Yuya
Extras and Conclusion
In total, I actively listened to an average of 400 songs this 2016. This year-end feature is short of expounding the expanse of my music experiences and exploration *LOL a lot of "ex"-es there!*; for example I didn't mention my (almost) monthly Classical music meditation, where I listen to different instrumental pieces without searching for their names and composers, to keep my mind unwary of memorizing every artist and every repertoire. I started self-studying guitar, albeit it hasn't progressed from the few basic chords! I also had fuuuuuuun times with my young cousins as we formed a cover/jamming group, Panic! At The Discrew. Most of our silly covers a.k.a. shenanigans were stored in my tab, and were erased permanently when the gadget was formatted :'( Last summer, my family had plans of conducting singing tutorials at home, though it did not come to fruition (besides, I don't think I can be a reliable music teacher orz). What else? I have a pen, I have an apple... Uh! apple pen!
End the rambling with the rambling with a beat. ピコ太郎 (Piko-Taro)'s PPAP is just one of Japan's biggest contribution to 2016 in music!
This reminds me that I still have to hear Babymetal for even Brendon adores this kawaii Metal group. 2017 will be a blast! I have a feeling that next year will swivel to Japanese music in depth, a certain possibility made by the official start of MNL48 this December. Things are going fast, in fact. As for MNL48, I'll try to make a blog post from an outsider's perspective (not an AKB48 fan nor an MNL48 applicant).
Presently, the featured artists, songs, even the others that haven't touched the lists in this post, are my joys of 2016.
What's yours? *this sounds like a line from a commercial--insert commercial jingle* xD