Over/Underrated 2014 – Part Four

4 Jan

Overrated

Sam Smith

–Andrea

Men have been singing falsetto for decades. Probably, actually, since mankind first used voices to produce song. Frankie Valli. Smokey Robinson. Prince. Michael Jackson. Justin Timberlake. Like I said, singing falsetto is hardly a modern technique.

Ever since Sam Smith hit the radio airwaves this spring with his song “Stay With Me,” however, critics have been praising his breathy and high-as-a-kite vocals as though they come straight from Jesus’ lips. “Stay With Me” has been called “soulful,” “euphoric,” and “harrowing” by critics from Digital Spy, Nouse and Billboard (respectively). Now, after being played endlessly by every radio station known to man, “Stay With Me” has earned three Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

I always thought that Grammy awards were for artists who ventured boldly into uncharted musical territory. For artists who pushed the boundaries of their genres, creating something new and unique that the world has never seen before. Singing falsetto and then throwing in a gospel choir for good measure does not a revolutionary make.

Now I get that not everyone is going to have the same musical taste. Differences of opinion are good. I’d be happy to let bygones be bygones and simply chalk Sam Smith up to a variation in personal preferences, if it weren’t for the atrocity that is the “Stay With Me” lyrics.

Specifically, it’s the opening verse that irks me. For anyone still blissfully ignorant, the lyrics are:

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man

What?

You emotionally find one-night stands difficult, but you have them anyway because of some sort of primitive, primal need? Boo-hoo for you, dumbass.

I spent the bulk of 2014 desperately hoping that Smith’s next song would be something different that I could finally get on board with. Something, original. Grammy worthy. Unfortunately, what I got was “I’m Not the Only One,” which sounds exactly the same as “Stay With Me” to my ears, down to the gospel choir.

When the Grammy Awards air on February 8th, I’ll be crossing my fingers that artists like Iggy Azalea and Hozier take home the trophies. While not everyone may appreciate their particular brands of music, at least it’s music that we haven’t all heard before.

Sam Smith

Underrated

Guardians of the Galaxy

–Brook

On this frigid January day, let’s harken back to a warmer time: the 2014 summer movie season.

Summer 2014 saw the release of yet another Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Marvel saw yet another set of impressive box office numbers. The film made something in the neighborhood of over $700 million.

It’s hard to imagine that a film that made that much money can be considered underrated, but it’s Andrea’s and my world, and you’re just living in it.

Much like Iron Man in the summer of 2008, Guardians seems to be the summer hit that no one saw coming, let alone banked on as one of the top grossing films of the year.

When I initially saw trailers for Guardians, I thought it looked like a waste of time. And the more I heard about it, the more I was convinced it was a joke…a spoof film à la  Spaceballs. “Please, for the love of Christ, not another comic book movie,” I thought.

But I have this friend on Facebook who talked for weeks before the movie came out about how excited he was to see it, and for weeks after about how great he thought it was. Unbeknownst to him, I basically saw this movie based on his recommendation (thanks, Byron!).

And I’m so glad I did.

From the moment I saw grown-up Starlord in outer space jamming to classic rock on his vintage Walkman, I was hooked.

And that right there was one of the reasons I loved the film. The juxtaposition between seeing James Gunn’s futuristic, sci-fi world and hearing songs like Redbone’s “Come and get Your Love” was so perfect.

That juxtaposition was just one of the many ways Gunn’s film showed that it didn’t take itself too seriously. The movie was fueled by smart-assery, and served as a tongue-in-cheek response to the comic book movies that so many of us are growing tired of. Given Gunn’s indie cred, the movie felt more B-list than blockbuster, and it was refreshing.

I hardly have enough space to parse out how awesome each actor was in their respective role, but suffice it to say that the main reason the movie worked as well as it did was because of the excellent chemistry between the ensemble cast (and, yes, if you were wondering, that was Kirk from Gilmore Girls, a.k.a Sean Gunn, James’ bro)

The clear show-stealer, though, was Groot, a tree-like creature voiced by none other than Vin Deisel. Groot only ever says, “I am Groot.” But Diesel was somehow able to make each individual line distinct, and fill every word with a surprising amount of emotion.

And then there’s Chris Pratt, who, until this point, had for some incomprehensible reason been relegated to supporting roles in film, basked in the glow of leading man. He was such a natural as the swashbuckling leader of this band of intergalactic misfits, one has to wonder, what the hell took so long?

And Parks and Rec’s fans will kill me, but who knew he was such a dreamboat?

Guardians

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