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1st Blog Post! 😎💁🏼‍♂️

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Hey! My name is Matt and this is my first post. I’m using this to share my monthly music reviews and occasional album reviews, as well as pieces from my book in progress. I’m currently working on a project on One-Hit Wonders and releasing them in a chronological order in reference to a calendar year. My friends suggested I have an outlet for my music rants rather than my wordy Facebook posts. Feel free to respond, reply or shoot me a message! I love music and I love talking about music 🎶

Best (And Worst) Song’s of April 2018

This is super late and I’ve been meaning to post this for days, but these are my selections for the songs I found to be shining stars and flat duds this month. And similar to how 2018 has been so far in music, there is not an abundance of spectacular (or spectacularly bad) songs, but merely a never ending barrage of mediocre. Believe it or not, it’s harder to evaluate a boring song over a terrible song, because there is not as much to grasp onto for analysis. Despite that, I managed to scrape together a collection of both extremities for this monthly gathering. And we’re off to the races!!!

The Spectacular-ish

4. “Sit Next to Me” – Foster the People. Seven years after claiming one of the biggest songs of the year by singing about a high school shooter, Foster the People manage to net themselves another song on the Hot 100 by singing about chasing a newly single female. It’s lighter subject matter, but the band has not lost their melodic sensibility and the music is paced exceptionally well. What drags this song down are the lyrics, which come across as a vulture circling in on his target. Foster the People manage to keep the tone light and playful enough so it doesn’t come across as creepy, but only just barely.

3. “KOD” – J. Cole. KOD, J. Cole’s latest album, exploded on the charts this past week and nearly every song on the album managed to find itself there. And while it is slowly growing on me, KOD is still incredibly uneven and J. Cole managed to write himself into a corner more often than not. Despite that, “KOD” the song is a bright spot on the album. Besides having bouncy production that matches the rapper’s flow beautifully, he manages to not take himself so seriously for a few minutes and actually flips his narrative back and forth to create some dynamics within the song.

2. “I Like It” – Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin. Like J. Cole, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy made a big splash in April and like J. Cole, her album was enjoyable, but very lopsided. It’s a promising debut and one of the standout tracks is the Latin flavored “I Like It”. Combining hip-hop and Latin music together is an oft-neglected venue and the sample of Pete Rodriguez’ “I Like It Like That” was an amazing choice. I hope Cardi explores this avenue more frequently. Hearing her spit bars in English and Spanish is simply irresistible.

1. “Wake Me Up” – Avicii. There’s not much else I can say about this song that hasn’t already been lamented by every music critic and fan alike. But “Wake Me Up” was evidence that the genre of EDM could push seemingly mindless dance pop in to more organic, meaningful territory. And in the year of 2013 when this debuted, this was a much needed jolt of life into the pop world. Sadly, Avicii passed away a mere two weeks ago, but seeing this brought back to current relevance is evidence of his legacy and influence on an entire genre.

The Not-So Spectacular-ish

4. “Chun Li” – Nicki Minaj. Released conveniently a week after the debut album drop of Invasion of Privacy, Nicki attempts to dig her heels into the ground and reaffirm her dominance as the top dog in the world of female MC’s. Unfortunately, “Chun Li” is a garbled mess that is easily outshone by 90& of Cardi’s debut LP. It starts off well enough, but then resorts to her trademark repetition of phrases, rhyming words with themselves and baffling/incorrect video game and pop culture references. Nicki is still plenty capable of greatness, as proved by her song stealing verse on Migos’ “Motorsport” in which she outdoes an on her game Cardi B. But this is mostly phoned in and lazy and she can do better.

3. “Heaven” – Kane Brown. I was not crazy about Kane Brown’s “What Ifs”, his big hit from 2017 with Lauren Alaina. But it seemed sincere enough and the under utilized Lauren did provide some balance to Brown’s bellowing baritone. Sadly, she’s not here this time to save “Heaven” and instead we get a droning Kane singing an octave too low and attempting to convince the world that he really loves this woman in question. You may be able to stay here forever, as you croon in the song, but I certainly hope I don’t have to myself.

2. “This is Me” – Keala Settle. My initial reaction to this song was certainly not positive, but I wanted to give it a pass because it seemed sincere enough. Even after witnessing the over the top spectacle that was her Oscar performance, I wanted to like Keala’s interpretation of The Greatest Showman soundtrack song. But after hearing Kesha’s version, I can no longer give this first version a pass. There is such a thing as pace and subtlety in singing and performance and this Keala Settle version lacks any sense of that. What we are left with is essentially a Glee version of a ballad being sung by a Lea Michelle knockoff singer.

1. ‘Japan” – Famous Dex. Picking a Worst song this month was difficult, as much of the charts right now is scoring a 4/10, and while I was tempted to slate this in that category, it claims the top spot here for similar reasons that “Freaky Friday” landed here last month. Basically, it’s an offensive, lazy dive into outdated stereotypes without expanding upon them or even bringing any clever wordplay to the table. Not only is this boring and mindless, it goes nowhere and would be instantly forgettable if it wasn’t so flagrant. It is not the most awful song I have ever heard but there it really no point in its existence.

Bubbling Under Track:

“I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” – Jack Owen. This Mellencamp-inspired pseudo cover is hardly the most original thing ever recorded, but certainly has its charms and is a cute homage to small town, teenage love. It’s irresistible in all the right ways and Owen knows how to put just enough swing on his vocals as to not overplay his hand.

Best and Worst of March 2018

So far, 2018 has been a slog for the pop charts. The top ten remains mostly stagnant and the remainder of the songs seem awfully same sounding. It also remains a sexless sausage fest and the distressing lack of female entries continues to baffle me. With this in mind, I decided to do my picks a bit differently this month, In honor of Women’s History Month and in response to the underrepresentation of female acts, all of my top picks this month will be from female artists. It helps that they happen to be songs I thoroughly enjoy. Without further adieu, here are my choices, starting with the duds:

THE WORST:

4. “Everyday”- Logic & Marshmello. Logic continues to be a rapper who I want to like more than I actually do. And while he steers clear of the preachy melodrama that inflicted much of his material last year, this clunky, trap-electro mix does him no favors either. Marshmello does not give him much to work with here and even with a decent flow throughout, the content is aimless and his decision to sing on the hook is questionable at best. Overall, this is mostly disappointing. Logic, you can do better than this.

3. “I Like Me Better” – Lauv. Another nameless crooner whimpers out a love ballad with a haphazardly framed narrative and a horrendous beat drop in place of an actual chorus. This is lazy, thoughtless and pointless and while I may not have been crazy about James Bay’s stripped down “Let it Go”, at least he has an interesting voice. Lauv does not and paired with a boring song, I’m wondering why he is even here.

2. “Sad!” – XXXTentacion. While I’m certainly not the right audience for the emo SoundCloud subgenre of hip-hop, I can call bullshit when I hear it and that’s all I hear in this self-pitying, manipulative slog of a song. It’s the worst of emo and rap, almost like Dashboard Confessional and Quavo had a baby who turned out to be an absolute terror.

1. “Freaky Friday” – Lil Dicky feat. Chris Brown. There are times where I hear a song and it’s so offensively terrible that I have a hard time explaining why I hate it. The fact that this exists baffles me. Someone higher up in the stratosphere decided that this would be a good idea and because the internet is full of trolls, this is actually becoming a hit. Just give it a listen. If we needed further proof of why Chris Brown is a revolting performer, Lil Dicky only makes it more evident.

Bubbling Under Hit: “Done For Me” – Charlie Puth feat. Kehlani. So far, I’m batting 2-2 on predictions from the Bubbling Under hits this year, with “Broken Clocks” and “One Number Away” both crossing over to the Hot 100. I’ve liked all of Puth’s new material thus far and this is no exception. The Miami Sound Machine-era grooves paired with the easy delivery from both performers makes for a great track. I never thought I’d be excited for a new album from Charlie, but here we are.

THE BEST:

4. “No Roots” – Alice Merton. Nearly two years after its initial release and months of camping out under the Hot 100, this has finally made a splash on the charts in large part to its inclusion in a Ford commercial. This song is not perfect, particularly the vocal melody on the chorus, which teeters on the verge of irritating. But Merton’s husky delivery is a breath of fresh air and you will not see me complain about seeing an alternative act cross over to the pop realm.

3. “Sativa” – Jhene Aiko feat. Rae Sremmurd. For a performer who’s best known lyric reads out as “Eat the booty like groceries”, Jhene Aiko has a great deal of critical credibility. Unfortunately, she has not been able to flip mot of this around to commercial viability. It’s great to see this chilled out ode to toking up stick around. Overall, the arrangement is gorgeous and although not overly complex, the song does not ask for it to be.

2. “Delicate” – Taylor Swift. This almost seems like a direct rebuttal to the snarly backlash generated from “Look What You Made Me Do”. And T-Swifty plays this card very well, delivering her most self-actualized and earnest track since “Blank Space”. It’s one of the best tracks from Reputation and easily the best song from the lopsided first half of that record. Another gorgeously arranged and performed single.

1. “Make Me Feel” – Janelle Monáe. I’m bending the rules a little bit by including this on here, seeing as it only charted for a single week. But with a song this good, there was no way I could not include it. I’ve never fully bought the hype surrounding Monáe, but after hearing this female posthumous Prince tribute, I’m fully sold. Easily the best thing to have charted so far this year and in a year where everything seems so flat and languid, the world certainly does not deserve “Make Me Feel”, but we sure need it.,

November 29th

I am currently writing a book on One-Hit Wonders through a calendar year format and I’m stumped on which song to use for my November 29th entry. It’s a day in history where several quality OHW’s peaked. I narrowed it down to three songs, but I’m taking a poll since I cannot decide. If you can, leave a comment with your pick!

“Turning Japanese” – The Vapors

”Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba

”Criminal” – Fiona Apple

Thanks for your help!!!

 

Best and Worst of February 2018

These are my picks for the best and worst of what the Hot 100 had to offer in February. It was a very mediocre month for the hits, meaning there were a lot of 4-5/10 tracks to choose from, which can be difficult when trying to put together a list of high (and low) points. But I prevailed (I think) and here are my choices.

The GOOD:

4. “Friends” – Marshmello & Anne-Marie. My first inclination is to call this song a disaster. All of the elements in the production seem to be fighting with each other and by the time the listener makes it to the third verse, they are treated to an out-of-left field G-funk breakdown. Add that to Anne-Marie’s rotating cast of accents that she literally spells out to a Fergalicious level on the hook. However, it’s the first time I’ve heard Marshmello sound like he’s having any fun and actually take a chance in his sound, rather than recycle the same tired Kygo rip-offs in every single. Anne-Marie is also a much more lively performer than his most recent guests and throws herself into this messy, but admittedly catchy track. https://youtu.be/CY8E6N5Nzec

3. “X” – Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz & Saudi. As amazing as the Black Panther trailer looks, the accompanying soundtrack leaves much to be desired. Considering Kendrick was given creative control over the entire project, I expected a more triumphant and bombastic result than what I’m hearing. Despite this, there are a couple fantastic tracks, my favorite being the unfairly ignored “Redemption” by Zacari, and the other being the aforementioned “X”. While Kendrick is unimpressive here, the other featured artists more than carry their weight, with Schoolboy Q delivering once again and 2 Chainz completely stealing the show. Similar to his guest verse on the “Chloraseptic Remix” with Eminem, he is showing great potential and proving he is an artist we should be taking seriously. https://youtu.be/Zv479MCnThA

2. “Let You Down” – NF. I was slow to warm up to “Let You Down”, but after repeated listens, this track packs serious punch. It is rare to hear convincing vulnerability on the radio that doesn’t come across as melodramatic or insincere, but Christian rap artist Nathan Feuerstein manages to pull it off. The whole track explores his complicated relationship with his father, but flips the narrative around so the two sides mirror each other and both seem sympathetic. It would have been easy to make this type of song an overwrought pity party, but NF steers clear of that territory. It’s easy to hear Eminem’s influence in his flow, and this track is better than anything off of Em’s last Revival effort. https://youtu.be/fbHbTBP_u7U

1. “Get You” – Daniel Caesar & Kali Uchis. It’s rare to hear this type of nu-soul sprinkled on the mainstream pop charts, especially in 2018, but this nearly two year old song somehow managed to make it onto the Hot 100. This might be short-lived, so I need to praise this while I still can. Daniel Caesar sounds phenomenal, and seems to be channeling his inner Maxwell, singing all his lines with a confidence and ease that gives it an almost dreamlike quality. Kali Uchis also delivers a great performance and this is an unexpected surprise that just squeaked onto this list and that I hope stays around. https://youtu.be/uQFVqltOXRg

Before I share the Bad section of this post, here are a couple additional shout outs I wanted to share:

Bubbling Under Song: “One Number Away” – Luke Combs. Spoiler Alert: I’m about to crap all over a couple of country songs in the next section, so I thought I’d share one from an artist I actually like. Luke Combs is a breath a fresh air in the otherwise Abercrombie & Fitch catalog that is the male lineup for country music. When he sings about his experiences, I actually believe him. “Hurricane” almost made by Best list of 2017 and this is just as good. The sparse guitar frolics add to the downplayed tone of the song and Combs never overplays his hand. It’s currently #117, but we will see if it can go higher. https://youtu.be/Ct9BFr9XBaI

Album of the Month: Always Ascending – Frank Ferdinand. This was also a slow burner for me, as my initial impression of this is that it sounded like a David Bowie tribute project. But after a couple listens, what I now hear is a list of fun, dance rock. Franz Ferdinand seemed to have peaked in the mid-2000s, but maybe this can represent a new start for the Scots.

THE BAD

4. “Look Alive” – BlocBoy JB & Drake. It’s not enough that Drake is dominating right now with his own #1 juggernaut “God’s Plan”. He has to shoehorn himself into a guest feature in which BlocBoy JB doesn’t even show up until the 1:48 mark. Given the song is only 3:14, this clearly is just another disguised Drake promo. As far as the song itself, it’s another boring showcase in which Drake brags monotonously about how great he is. It’s a shame that Tennessee native BlocBoy JB isn’t given more time, as his off-kilter, almost maniacal flow is far and above the best thing here. https://youtu.be/NV-3s2wwC8c

3. “Never Be the Same” – Camilla Cabello. Fresh off her brief flirtation with quality in regards to “Havana”, Cabello makes a staggering return to form with this pitchy, catty attempt at a love ballad. Camilla does not have the range or depth to pull this type of track off and producer Frank Dukes seems to be playing a mean trick by giving her a gargling composition to sing against. Now that the rest of her former 5H group mates have began releasing solo material, we will see how long Cabello can trick consumers into buying her malformed scraps that she calls music. https://youtu.be/FITSPSA8gQs

2. “Singles You Up” – Jordan Davis. This was a race to the bottom as to which terrible country song was going to make this list. “Yours” by Russell Dickerson is a goopy, piano laced love ballad that hardly sounds like country, but more like a clunky, insincere American Idol castoff. And while the humble brag is certainly vomit inducing, it’s not nearly as try-hard as Jordan Davis. First off, no one “singles” anyone up. This is not a thing humans say. But more importantly, Jordan reaches Shawn Mendes levels of manipulation in these lyrics, as he lurks in the friends zone waiting for his chance to pounce on the poor vulnerable maiden. The production is not awful, but the creepy tone crushes whatever is good about that and given that he’s pushing thirty, he should know better. https://youtu.be/0hjqGN-9anA

1. “Whatever It Takes” – Imagine Dragons. I didn’t realize Dan Reynolds was not a rapper, as he clumsily hiccups through a nothing of a first verse before some actual music kicks in to jumpstart the track. What we are left with is another hollow soundtrack entry for the Spring prime time lineup or the NBA Playoffs, but not a band that is actually making unique music. Add on what is quite possibly the weakest drum set I have heard in a “rock” song in years and we get another example of a band that is trying to make songs for everyone but is consequently making music for no one. https://youtu.be/gOsM-DYAEhY

Best Hit Songs of 2017

Before we get too far into 2018, here is my list of the Best Hit Songs of 2018! I meant to post this yesterday, but it just didn’t happen. And while I may have made music sound dismal on my last list, this was a better year overall and these songs will show that. You may notice my entries on the good list all falling under a similar umbrella, namely that they tend to be more upbeat. These all stood out amongst the doldrums of downbeat ditties that dominated in 2017. Off we go, with some notable titles that were great, but not quite enough for the Top 10:

11. “Humble” – Kendrick Lamar. While I thoroughly enjoy this and the beats given to support Kung Fu Kenny, he flubs more than a couple rhymes here and the chorus is overly repetitive, so it got knocked down to here.

12. “iSpy” – KYLE feat. Lil Yachty. This was originally my #10, as the juxtaposition between the lyrics and jovial beat provide a compelling narrative. However, pulling it back is the disastrous performance of Yachty. Like he did on last year’s “Broccoli” with Dram and the excellent Calvin Harris track “Faking It”, he has the uncanny ability to crap all over an otherwise fantastic song.

13. “Sign of the Times” – Harry Styles. By far the most promising 1D member gives us the best song of the bunch thus far. It does feel like a classic rock pastiche rather than a unique artistic vision, so he still had work to do to achieve greatness.

14. “Swalla” – Jason Derulo feat. Ty Dolla Sign and Nicki Minaj. I never thought I’d be putting a Derulo track here, but in a downcast year, this unapologetic romp was a highlight. Despite Nicki’s best guest verse of 2017 and some bananas production from Ricky Reed, the song is too gross and sloppy for me to give it the full endorsement.

15. “Water Under the Bridge” – Adele. This received no promotion or video and barely managed to become a hit. And it’s hardly her best work, but still great and a change of direction for Mrs. Atkins.

16. “Feel it, Still” – Portugal. The Man. I want to like this a lot more than I actually do, but in 2017, we have to grasp the meager alternative entries that end up on the Year End list.

THE TOP TEN BEST HIT SONGS OF 2017

10. “Malibu” – Miley Cyrus. I went back and forth on this for half the year and it’s not her best, but I a year where things could seem dismal, this sweet, stripped down ode to her man shows Miley at the rawest she’s ever been. She didn’t completely stick the landing with her new artistic direction, but this is pretty great.

9. “DNA” – Kendrick Lamar. If I judged this strictly on Kendrick’s performance, this would be very close to the top of the list. But pulling it back it the plodding production of Mike Will Made It. While it garnered praise from many, I find it tiring and exhausting and the midpoint key change is clumsily executed. It’s still awesome, but not quite where it could have been.

8. “That’s What I Like” – Bruno Mars. “Versace on the Floor” very well could have been #1 here had it become the hit it deserved to be. But that song floundered and this is somewhat of a consolation prize. But don’t be mistaken: This is still fantastic and contains the best bridge section of any big song I’ve heard this year. Bruno should stay in this lane and hopefully his success will lead to a full on revival of the New Jack Swing sound of the early Nineties.

7. “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Brett Young. Country music continues to struggle in adapting to the times and only managed five entries on the Year End. While its biggest entry was a disaster, its second biggest was a fantastically understated country ballad that has been largely overlooked. Young’s vocal is one that simultaneously conveys sorrow and love in one swoop. Brett shows promise in a genre that is desperately trying to find its footing.

6. “Love Galore” – SZA feat. Travis Scott. This is probably the most flawed entry on this list. The verses are repetitive and could use a rewrite. SZA’s vocal, while compelling, is a little crackily in parts. And Travis Scott, while passable, could have done more with his guest feature. But this song is mostly here for its content and potential. There was a drought in female breakouts this year, specifically ones willing to push their music into bold, and even unflattering, territories such as this, and SZA was a breath of fresh air.

5. “Castle on the Hill” – Ed Sheeran. Most of you probably assume I don’t like Ed. This is not true and this is proof of that, as he is the shining star. In a year where U2 released an album, I never thought the best U2 song of the year wouldn’t even come from them. This is reminiscent of their early work and shows Sheeran at his absolute best.

4. “I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk. An early contender for the #1 spot, this is an unapologetic Michael Jackson impression that is even better than “In The Night”. Besides an overly repetitive chorus, this song is near perfect. I hope an exclusive Weeknd/Daft Punk EP comes to fruition someday, because if its contents are anything like this, we would have something truly special.

3. “Slide” – Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean and Migos. I bestowed the honor of Most Improved of 2017 to Calvin Harris and this opening single also had a great shot of topping this list. The breezy, disco centered track sound like nothing else on the radio or in Harris’ discography and when one can name Frank Ocean’s sleepy but effective vocal as the weak point, then the song in question is truly a great one. Props to Offset of Migos as well for delivering the best verse here and showing why he’s the most promising member of his group.

2. “Praying” – Kesha. Originally my top pick, this is a triumphant return for Kesha and a magnificent piece of music on its own, utilizing the most of everyone involved, including a fantastic Ryan Lewis as producer. But the star here is Kesha with her best ever vocal performance that builds upon itself and eclipses with a bridge and final chorus that are breathtaking. This is likely to end up on most reviewers Best lists for good reason and will hopefully earn her a Grammy in February.

1. “Redbone” – Childish Gambino. As you all know, I like to be surprised and this internet meme/Get Out soundtrack theme/retro throwback was a slow burner for me. Never has Donald Glover sang like this or produced a track in this lane, but this is wonderful, not only in its sound, but in its lyrical complexity, first sounding like a cautionary lovers tale and soon dipping its toes into more socially conscious boundaries. Songs like this are not supposed to become hits and yet here we are. The most pleasant surprise of 2017 and the best hit song of 2017.

I promise this is the last list of 2017. Even though it’s now 2018. You have at least a month free of my rants. I hope you all are enjoying the new year thus far. Much love 💕

Best/Worst Songs of January 2018

Here’s my super late monthly music post! Not a terrible start to the year so far for music! Let’s start with the bad songs!

Thumbs Down 👎

4. “Most People Are Good” – Luke Bryan. While the sentiment here is admirable and it’s nice to hear the forty-something Bryan sing about something else other than drunken hookups and Spring Break, the message of ignoring the events around you comes across as aloof and naive.

3. “Filthy” – Justin Timberlake. I hate to jump on the hate bandwagon and I usually don’t pick on the easy targets, but this song is a colossal disappointment. And it starts off so well, with some revved up guitars and swell, only to slam itself into a wall at the start of the verses. What we are left with sounds like the twelve year old moldy leftovers of Futuresexlovesounds.

2. “Gummo” – 6ix9ine. I will give an iota of credit to Gummo for having a delivery full of firepower and presence. Unfortunately, it’s the only inflection he’s got and it’s gets grating in record time. Pair that with some heavily offensive racial and sexist slurs in his broken bars and we have a rapper who’s fifteen minutes of internet fame are hopefully almost over.

1. “Sick Boy” – The Chainsmokers. Just when I couldn’t imagine this duo becoming more loathsome, they defy my expectations yet again. I don’t need to be preached to by the frat douches of EDM. An absolutely atrocious track with a hugely misguided message, let’s hope the plummeting success of this song is a sign of what’s yet to come.

Before the good list, here are a couple shout outs I wanted to throw out there for you guys to check out!

Best album Of January: Ephorize – Cupcakke. An occasionally lopsided, but still awesome third outing for the young Chicago MC. I’m hoping this takes off.

Best Bubbling Under Track: “Broken Clocks” – SZA. Fresh off her Grammy performance, this standout is getting some much needed airplay. Hopefully, we see this on the Hot 💯 soon.

Thumbs up 👍

4. “Mine” – Bazzi. Rarely do I give props to a Vine star and this track is far from perfect. At 2:10, it mostly sounds like a promising demo and the lyric sheet could have been hashed our a bit. But the chilled out, almost space age vibe hits right at home for me and I’m excited to hear more from him.

3. “Motorsport” – Migos, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. Easily the best offering from the overbloated Culture II, the ladies steal the show here with some of their best verses of the year thus far.

2. “MIC Drop” – BTS feat. Desiigner. This is barely clinging onto its #98 spot in the Hot 100, but the fact that it has lasted this long is amazing. Just this past week, BTS became the first Korean group to score a Gold record in the United States. This is a breakthrough for a music industry that is enormous, yet historically underrepresented in the United States. And the song itself is a blast of sonic energy on an otherwise downbeat listing of songs.

1. “One Foot” – Walk the Moon. These guys topped by 2015 list with “Shut Up and Dance” and I’ve been waiting for a follow-up. This isn’t as instantly catchy as their former hit, but still a snappy throwback gem to the Eighties that I adore. Plus seeing an alternative rock band here in 2018 that is not Imagine Dragons is amazing.