If there were ever a year to be an outcast, 2011 was that year. I’m not being cynical about it because society can be pretty isolating and if people can find support through music, so be it. Of the year’s biggest themes in popular music (dubstep and underdogs), the anthems that heralded the misfits and anyone that the majority deems different were surprisingly heartening. There are far worse trends (homophobia, misogyny) that artists have exploited in the past. At least this one spreads a freakin’ good message. So we’ve rounded up the top 5 most notable examples of artists singing, ‘hey, just because you think stamp-collecting while drinking hedgehog blood is the bee’s knees doesn’t mean you’re weird. In fact, you’re all the better for it.’ Unsurprisingly, every single choice on this list has been featured on Glee (Edit: Taylor’s Mean totally hasn’t). That may make people roll their eyes, but it makes me want to give the show a massive hug and make it cookies. There is however, a problem with these anthems as they tend to convey a broadbrush message completely devoid of subtlety. But that’s another post entirely. Please also note that I am currently tired from an excess of eating, unwrapping and sellotape-induced injuries. I have already misspelt ‘underdog’ as ‘undergod’ twice which would give this article a much different, more worrying undercurrent. Bear with me:
1. Loser Like Me – Glee Cast
Who said Glee’s second season was terrible? Oh wait, everyone. Well, I rather liked it. We got Gwyneth Paltrow as a fill-in (which seemed like a good idea anyway), the birth of Brittana (glorious) and Loser Like Me (completely fine.) Actually, it wasn’t. My opinion on this song vasicillates faster than you can say ‘teenage.’ I like its theme of losers being okay. I don’t like its hypocritical implication that washing cars is somehow an inferior career. I like its punchy intro and stomping chorus. I don’t like some of the more basic and cliche lyric choices (‘hate on me,’ and ‘all the dirt you’ve been throwing’- although in fairness, I seem to remember that the latter was based on an actual experience in the show.) But hey, I’m still thinking about it six months later and can sing along to it easily enough which is more than I can say about any of Glee’s other original songs (I think one was called Get It Right?) or any other song in the last year really.
2. Perfect – P!nk
This is rather a favourite of mine. However many writers that P!nk has on her team, she never fails to sound authentic. It’s never more evident than in the grittiness of Perfect, form the confessional introduction to the affirmative choruses. It breathed new life into P!nk’s career and along with Raise Your Glass is probably one of her most recognizable songs. She’s had a truly diverse career but seems to have found her target audience and let’s hope she continues to create such heartfelt pop singles. One of the problems with these underdog anthems is that they tend to be slightly confused (and confusing.) Having the t-shirts in Glee that were supposed to represent things they don’t like about themselves plastered with ‘LIKES BOYS’ for example. Perfect works so well because it doesn’t really aim to be an underdog anthem, just an honest little number.
3. Hair – Lady GaGa
OMG, I know right. I didn’t pick that one that has that thing about ‘him’ or capital H-I-M.’ That’s because Born This Way was clunky, brash and we had heard it 20 years ago anyway. I’ve already written a piece on this in reference to the death of Jamey Rodermeyer but this song just keeps growing on me (like hair, really. Sorry.) every time I hear it. Beginning’s great, too.
4. Firework – Katy Perry
Chances are, if you have ears, you will have heard this song over the last year. It’s the one where Katy Perry has the audacity to rhyme sky-y-y with oh-oh-oh. It’s undeniably brilliant. When I heard this pre-video, pre-It Gets Better, I just thought it was a little firecracker about overcoming self-doubt and not necessarily a harbinger of acceptance. Well, I guess I was wrong as KP herself has said that she feels like ‘she’s doing something right with (Firework).’ And if you looked at any one of a few thousand Tumblrs with lyrics from the song on, you wouldn’t doubt her. And if Katy Perry wants to think she’s doing something important with this single, then fine. I’m not going to stand in her record-breaking way.
5. Mean – Taylor Swift
That bit where she talk-sings? Brill.