Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best Songs of 2008?

Last year by this time I had already posted 2 lists of my favorite singles of the year. I just haven't been too up on music this year and seem to have little desire to catch up. Thus there are many good albums and songs I haven't heard. So before I post this list let me clarify that I have not heard any 2008 output from Danity Kane, Jordan Pruitt, Vanessa Hudgens, any rock music, and most other non-hit music. I am not worrying about single eligibility or year of release too much here, either. Nevertheless, these are my favorite songs this year of what I've heard:

1. Cassie - "Thirsty": OK let's assume this counts. My guess is that it will never be released. At least 3 or 4 of the leaked Cassie songs would be on this list if I counted them all, but I'll need to see the album released before I pull that trigger. Nevertheless this is my favorite of the songs and I will be shocked if it does not end up being my song of the year.

2. Jordin Sparks ft. Chris Brown - "No Air": A really, really pretty ballad filled with tons of drama and great singing. And it's also really catchy! This is a top 10 of the year worthy song, for sure.

3. Ashlee Simpson - "Little Miss Obsessive": I really love the lyrics to this song and it also has an excellent melody. Maybe should be rated higher due to awesomeness of lyrics? But, I dunno, I love the two songs above so much. The top three are really close and may well end up being my top 3 of the year.

4. Sara Bareilles - "Love Song": The latest in the line of very soft female fronted coffee shop style songs that I adopt and love ("White Flag", "Hunter", "Unwritten", "Breathe (2AM)", "I Wanna Have Your Babies"). For whatever reason I really love this style of song and this is a great example of it.

5. Brooke White - "Let It Be": Brooke White took one of my least favorite Beatles songs and made me really care about it. She has a beautiful voice and you can tell she's really earnest. This is truly remarkable and my favorite ever American Idol performance.

6. Miley Cyrus - "Goodbye": The latest Armato/James masterpiece is this closing ballad from Miley's new album, and by far the best song on it.

That's it, only 6 songs, but all 6 will seriously compete for top 10 of the year. If I had to round it out to 10, I'd throw in "Bleeding Love", and a few more Ashlee/Cassie songs. I couldn't help but notice that all 6 are female fronted ballads. That's just the way it's gone so far this year. Once I catch up on the other music of the year (if I in fact ever do), the list will probably round out with a little more variety. I mean I love female ballads, but normally only 1 or 2 will make my year end list. Then again, I really love all 6 songs, so it could just be a banner year, I dunno.

Any songs you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Wizards of Waverly Place

Reviving the dead blog, to speak of Wizards of Waverly Place. Well, that's as good a reason as any. There's actually a few things I want to talk of them, we'll see how many of them actually make it to posts.

There is a new live action Disney show that I haven't really discussed on this blog, and that show is Wizards of Waverly Place (notwithstanding shows such as Cory in the House or iCarly which I also haven't talked about but which I also have nothing to say about). I have to say that I think it is now the best live action tween/teen/whatever show on TV. Which is not to say that it's on the level of Phil of the Future or Unfabulous but it is a solid second tier Disney/Nick show, much better than Naked Brothers Band and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and other such detritus.

Absolutely, Selena Gomez is the breakout star of this show, but I was and continue to be surprised that the show is as focused on the David Henrie character as it is. Justin plays just as strong a role in most episodes as Alex does, and in many episodes a stronger role. On the whole, they are probably about equal characters. That places the show in the same vein as an Even Stevens or even a Phil of the Future featuring two siblings who are roughly equal characters with separate plots in most episodes. The difference is that Alex and Justin interact a lot more in the episodes than do Ren and Louis or Pim and Phil, which makes their relationship more important and real. That's good to see because I don't think there have ever been any other Disney shows which featured a meaningful sibling relationship. This is not mentioning the Max character, who is indeed completely pointless on the show. But the Alex and Justin characters are two of the strongest and most likable characters I've ever seen on a Disney show.

Then there are the parent characters. There's a spectrum of parent characters on Disney shows and it goes as follows. The parents on Phil of the Future were funny and prominent characters who often featured in plots and jokes. The parents on Even Stevens were 100% pointless except as advice outlets and occasional plot devices. The parents on Lizzie McGuire were somewhere in between. Wizards falls close to Lizzie on this scale, though it does veer close to Even Stevens on occasion. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though I do feel that at times the characters do get excessive face time given their general pointlessness 90% of the time.

But I'm not criticizing the actors, because they do a pretty good job with what they have! In fact, all of the actors are pretty good. I particularly like Selena Gomez, who is far better than Miley Cyrus, though well below the Emma Roberts/Aly Michalka level. But she's cute and she handles the drama OK and usually delivers the jokes pretty good. David Henrie also does a very good job as the older brother character. Further, the show is packed with great and usually really cute plots and situations, and it has a good cast of suitably wacky supporting characters (though the Harper character has to be the most pointless main credits character in Diz history, even more pointless than Oliver, and that's saying something. I would be so mad if I was Jennifer Stone.). In fact I would say the cuteness of plots and amusing side characters are right up there with any other show of its type.

So if the plots and side characters are as good as Phil and Unfabulous why does it still rank well below those two? First, while Selena is v. good, she is just not up to the level of the outstanding work by Aly Michalka and Emma Roberts. Second, and there's no beating around the bush with this, the joke writing is almost undeniably terrible. Whereas those two shows, plus Even Stevens, would not uncommonly make me laugh on their own merits, I've found that the jokes on this show are at best ignorable and sometimes not even to that level. In fact, this show is even less funny than Hannah Montana, though the superior acting and supporting characters still rise it above that show in my opinion.

All in all, it can be tough sometimes to watch a show which is constantly hurling unfunny jokes at your head, but if you like cute shows I think it's well worth it anyways. I love the Alex and Justin characters, and the show is really cute, so that's enough to make me keep watching. Eventually Hannah Montana stopped improving, and the characters became annoying and the cuteness became old. I don't foresee that happening to this show because the characters are more dynamic and the actors are better than the ones on HM. But I've been wrong before so who knows.

Also, as I believe I've mentioned on this blog several times before, the show has an amazing theme song. Right up there with Hannah Montana even!

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