Sometimes the best songs are the ones that aren’t played enough

BY ERIC COKER AND RACHEL COKER
Press & Sun-Bulletin
   Did someone say Entertainment Authority? The real authority on entertainment this year has been the Magic City Music Hall in Johnson City, which has brought more quality acts to this area in the last six months than the Tier saw in the previous five years.
   Did someone say Pimp My Ride?
   Television viewers did, though many of them were muttering it under their breath after finding MTV wasn’t playing videos yet again.
   Did someone say Usher?
   Yeah, a lot of radio disc jockeys did, as they introduced some of 2004’s most overrated songs.
   But there was much more to the year’s music. Here are a few things you (and those DJs) may have missed:
    Album of the Year
   Eric: With Hopes and Fears, the trio Keane took Britain by storm. They deserve the same kind of success in America. The fact that the group lacks a guitarist would seem like a gimmick, but Keane counters with more hooks on one album than most acts have in their careers. It’s not only the best album of the year; it’s the best debut album of the past decade.
   Rachel: I’ve had The Corrs’ Borrowed Heaven in heavy rotation since June. I still don’t understand why Summer Sunshine wasn’t a huge hit for the Irish sibling pop act. I love to listen to it in the car. It can make me smile on the most dreary Monday morning.
  Best Songs
   Rachel: The Killers’ Somebody Told Me reminds me of the very best Duran Duran. But since nothing out there sounds like that these days, the song really stands out. And speaking of the ’80s, Bowling for Soup’s 1985 is fantastic. Every line is so clever, just like their Girl All the Bad Guys Want from a few years back. I will admit that the video chock-full of references to the decade made me love the song even more.
   Eric: The Killers are great, a Las Vegas band that made it big in Britain first.
   Here are five tunes that leaped out of the radio: U2’s Vertigo (see celeb.sitings below),
   Gary Allan’s Songs About Rain, Jimmy Eat World’s Pain, Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying (which should win the Grammy for Song of the Year) and Maroon 5’s This Love.
   Song You Liked Before Radio Killed It
   Rachel: Tim McGraw? TIM McGRAW? Yikes! You really are getting old if that song does it for you.
   I do adore Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane, and wish I had had the foresight to pick it for my best album of 2003. But the singles have been beaten into the ground by radio and VH1. I don’t mind if I don’t hear She Will Be Loved for five years or so. Los Lonely Boys’ Heaven is another candidate for that special vault.
    Eric: From a songwriting standpoint, 100 Years by Five for Fighting (aka John Ondrasik) is brilliant, on par with his 2001 hit Superman. From a radio standpoint, the continued airplay for 100 Years represents a lack of imagination and the need for an updated play list. Give something new a chance, soft rock stations!
  Song That Should’ve Been a Bigger Hit
   Eric: Snicker if you must, but George Michael’s Amazing was worthy of being a smash. The upbeat comeback single was better than the uneven album, Patience, but it doesn’t matter. Thanks to past indiscretions, George couldn’t get a song on the radio now if he performed with Eminem, Beyonce and 50 Cent.
   Rachel: Take Your Mama by the Scissor Sisters, another American band that made it big in Britain first, is truly infectious. In fact, I love that whole Prince-meets-Elton John album. I’m not sure their Saturday Night Live appearance last week will give them the bump they deserve.
   Top Video
   Eric: Two words: SOLID GOLD. Thanks to Sum 41’s We’re All to Blame, the early ’80s lip-syncing variety show reached a new generation. Who didn’t love the Solid Gold Dancers?
   Badly Drawn Boy’s Year of the Rat was an animated delight. Its “the world needs a hug” theme seemed appropriate for 2004.
   Rachel: I’m not the world’s biggest Alanis Morissette fan. But her video for Eight Easy Steps is creative and fun. The time-traveling gets taken a bit too far at the end, but it’s one of those videos I can’t help but watch when it comes on. Joss Stone’s video for You Had Me isn’t nearly as inventive, but I’ll give it credit for introducing me to a good song that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.
   Guilty Pleasures
   Rachel: I confess: Occasionally, when I’m alone in the car, I crank up Martina McBride’s This One’s for the Girls. There’s no explanation. And please don’t tell me I’m on my way to being a country music fan. I’m almost 30 and I can’t take it.
   Eric: That’s embarrassing. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll admit that I still love Since U Been Gone, even after I found out Kelly Clarkson sings it. And nothing defines guilty pleasure like the spoken-word stylings of William Shatner’s Has Been.
   Worst Moments
   Rachel: Ashlee Simpson’s pitiful “performance” on SNL earned its place on this list. If you’re going to lip-sync, at least have a competent person pressing the buttons for you. A better dance routine also would be in order.
   Eric: I would like to travel 30 years into the future and see if anyone is singing along to dreck such as Lean Back, Goodies or some of the other hip-hop songs topping the charts these days. This is the low point for Top 40 music.
  Other Stuff We Liked
   Eric: So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Semisonic drummer Jacob Slichter, the best inside-the-music-business book ever written. Bruce Hornsby’s Halcyon Days. Comebacks from John Fogerty and Loretta Lynn. U2’s performance on Saturday Night Live. The liner notes for the Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs.
   Rachel: Lucy Kaplansky’s The Red Thread, which is exactly the kind of album that should be getting a Best Contemporary Folk nomination at the Grammies. R.E.M.’s Around the Sun and Mark Knopfler’s Shangri La. Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Lonely Goes Both Ways, a new album I’m just starting to play too often.
   2005 Wish List
   Eric: Here’s hoping Stevie Wonder lays off the saccharine and returns to form with his new album. A little Stevie could go a long way to curing the ills of the music industry.
   Rachel: My wish is that children’s music doesn’t take over our CD player now that we’re parents. Having kids is no excuse for listening to bad music. That means you, Wiggles!
   Eric Coker is assistant news editor and Rachel Coker is deputy metro editor at the Press & Sun-Bulletin. This story appeared in the Good Times section at the end of 2004.

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