We’re still in that dark time between album rock and YouTube. Record company executives had almost all the power to decide what we got to hear. Worse, what they decided we wanted to hear was still boy bands and nu-metal for some reason. And the only good thing to come out of 2001’s nu-metal was this brilliant Cracked skit:
It took some serious searching, but despite all that I found some gems. For example, one woman was so supernaturally talented even focus groups couldn’t ruin it. There were also a couple French robots and some dude named Andy Wilkes-Krier who presumably got bit by a radioactive party.
Daft Punk — “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”
I’m of the opinion that whatever upgrade the robots got for Random Access Memories in 2013 (and also maybe Pharrell Williams) improved Daft Punk’s musical quality, so expect them to come up in a couple months. I couldn’t leave them off again—especially when their competition for the year is Drowning Pool.
In addition to the great music of course is the bit. I love when a band commits to a bit. Daft Punk has been around for decades and they’re still rocking the helmets and sticking to the robot thing! That’s awesome.
Destiny’s Child — “Survivor”
For those of you who are annoyingly, frustratingly young: Destiny’s Child is basically Beyonce and Friends.
You may think I’m being snarky—and I am—but it’s also true. Destiny’s Child was Beyonce Knowles, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson and Kelly Rowland. At some point Luckett and Roberson quit and were replaced by Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin. Then Franklin was kicked out for some reason. But none of it mattered because Beyonce was still there, and she’s always been this good.
Rowland is probably the second-most successful band member by virtue of her role in Freddy vs. Jason (really), so I’m not completely sure why Beyonce didn’t just go solo from the start.
Slipknot — “I Am Hated”
It’s time for one of my patented violent tonal shifts!
I’m not gonna pretend there’s any objective reason why I love Slipknot so much, and there’s probably less reason for me to love this song. It’s loud and abrasive and violent and just generally a mess. There’s not even a proper video.
Try putting it on while using an elliptical at the gym, though. Once you get to the bridge you’ll burn a whole bunch of calories before you keel over, and someone has to call 911.
Garbage — “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)”
Less than a decade after “Transgender people sure are gross!” was the punchline of an entire movie, we got this, a girl power anthem for girls who had to work for it a little harder. And that’s awesome.
Granted it also came out more than 30 years after a surprisingly sweet, fairly sensitive love song about a cis man and a trans woman, but we backslid quite a bit there in the middle. Baby Boomers discovered money and cocaine in the ’80s, and it all went off the rails for a while until their grandkids got old enough to start putting things back together.
Andrew W.K. — “Party Hard”
There’s a reason for that: It’s because Andrew W.K. is the best.
“Party Hard” itself is an absolute masterpiece of a song for a whole list of reasons, but the proof is that it’s still well-known and well-loved 17 years later. The man who wrote and performs it isn’t just a great musician but a fantastic writer and, I’d argue, a pretty solid philosopher. But it goes beyond all that.
Andrew W.K.’s catalog of songs, and “Party Hard” in particular, is one of the last bastions of sincere joy in American music. From the beginnings of rock up to the B-52s, joy and fun as a form of rebellion were a recurring theme in music. Then sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s, detached cynicism got popular, and we as a society have yet to break free. It’s been more than 20 years, and the concept of fun is still lame.
Happy songs are written by committee and devoid of any genuine feeling. Hipsters try to be sincere but end up forcing it and stripping any actual positivity from it. Twitter is … well, it’s Twitter. And then there’s Andrew W.K. and the Power of Positive Partying. “Party Hard,” if only for about three and a half minutes, pulls your mind from all the horrors of the modern world and makes you stop to smell the hard rock roses.
It may not always be time to party but, like the song says, when it’s time to party you should always party hard. We need more reminders of that and more encouragement to follow through, but I appreciate what we’ve got.
Alien Ant Farm — “Smooth Criminal”
Gorillaz — “Clint Eastwood”
Weezer — “Hash Pipe”
Static-X — “Cold”
Drowning Pool — “Bodies”
The White Stripes — “Fell In Love with a Girl”
Puddle of Mudd — “She Hates Me”
System of a Down — “Chop Suey!”
Tenacious D — “Tribute”
Britney Spears — “I’m a Slave 4 U”
Rob Zombie — “Feel So Numb”
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.