11 Somewhat Fourth Of July-Appropriate Songs That Are Way Better Than Katy Perry's "Firework"

Tomorrow is the fourth of July, which means the celebration of American independence from Great Britain, which means Americans gathering in various wide-open spaces in order to watch things blow up. The big New York fireworks party is sponsored by Macy's, with the featured entertainment being none other than one-woman spectacle Katy Perry, who has a pop hit called "Firework" and a new movie about how her self-proclaimed "weirdo" persona became really really popular coming out this Friday. How fortuitous! Of course, the "it gets better, you be you!" message of her song is completely undercut by her insistence on continuing to play her metrosexual-shaming ditty "U R So Gay" in concert, not to mention the mean-girlness inherent in way too many of her other songs. If the celebration of her noxious persona on America's big day is enough to make you renounce your citizenship, fret not! After the jump are 11 (because seven plus four, get it?) tracks about the holiday, bright things in the sky, and blowing things up that you can turn up while Perry is trying to turn on the sincerity act. Feel free to suggest your own favorites!

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part I: Was 2011 The Worst Year For Music Ever?

A number one song from 2011. Not really helping the year's case, this.
Welcome to the 2011 edition of the Sound of the City Year-End Critic Roundtable, an epistolary back-and-forth about the year in music between five observers of the medium: Tom Ewing; Eric Harvey; Nick Murray; Katherine St. Asaph, also of Popdust; and me. We'll be discussing the year in pop over the course of the next few days, in hopes that a few healthy arguments (nothing too knock-down, drag-out) ensue, and that even if we don't figure out any answers, we'll pose a couple of new questions as the calendar flips to 2012. As was the case last year, when music editor emeritus Rob Harvilla launched this initiative, we are totally ripping off Slate's Music Club, which is currently ensuing with five different music smarties. (Read 'em all!)

To start things off, I'll pose the question in the title, which spins off the query Rob posed at the close of 2010. That is to say: Was 2011 the worst year for music ever?

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Radio Hits One: Playing Armchair A&R With The Singles From 2011's Biggest And Best Albums

The two big formats that have long ruled over popular music are the single and the album. They have a great duality between them: the song and the collection; the sliver and the whole; the appetizer and the main course. Albums are the full-length format long considered pop music's ultimate artistic medium, while the hit single is the galvanizing force that sells albums while blaring from millions of radios, televisions, YouTube windows and cell phones. I've long been fascinated by a slightly more ephemeral concept that exists somewhere in between: the singles campaign for an album. The way an artist or label chooses which songs are released to radio to promote an album, and the sequence in which they're released, often forms a kind of narrative just as much as the running order of the album itself.

Of course, that narrative is often largely about how successful those songs are as singles, and they are often chosen and judged purely by their charting potential. But at its best, a singles campaign is as much an art form as it is a marketing tool. There are formulas and clichés—lead with the stylistic curveball and follow it with the surefire hit; start with an uptempo first single, then bring out the ballad second; and, of course, throw songs at the wall for the fourth and fifth singles if the artist has the profile and the promotional budget to go that far.

Just as sports fans often play Monday morning quarterback, analyzing how their home team did in the big game and how they would've made better choices, music fans are prone to imagining a more ideal world, one in which their favorite albums had better production and their cult favorites were worldwide superstars. For me, that often means speculating on and critiquing which songs were released as singles from an album.

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We Interrupt Our CMJ Recommendations To Tell You That Patrick Stump's Soul Punk Is Out And Very Good

Today marks the release of Patrick Stump's debut solo album Soul Punk, and I'm going to put my cards on the table: It's my favorite album of 2011, and has been since I first heard it. (You can stream it here.) Hooky and witty and jam-packed with instantly hummable tunes, it is a fantastic pop record, one that I probably would have worn out by now had it been issued to me in a format less durable than the infinitely spinnable MP3. Stump plays all the instruments on the album (save Lupe Fiasco's cameo on a Chicago-centric remix of the civic-pride endorsement "This City") and he gets off a lot of casually virtuosic bits; the guitar solo on the ebulliently bittersweet "Everybody Wants Somebody" is particularly delightful. And then there's his voice, which helps him channel both swaggering snake-oil salesman types (on "Greed") and people whose hearts have been punctured by the vagaries of love ("The 'I' In Lie").

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Watch Patrick Stump Cover Jeff Buckley's "Everybody Here Wants You"

On October 18 Patrick Stump will release his solo debut Soul Punk (Island), a fantastic, hooky pop-soul record, full of choruses that soar into the stratosphere and crystalline lyrics. The Fall Out Boy lead singer plays every instrument on the record, and the album lays bare his appreciation for both the Jam/Lewis R&B aesthetic and the sort of arena-ready crunch that defined his band's most recent output. As a sort of pre-emptive bonus track, we have a premiere of Stump covering Jeff Buckley's "Everybody Here Wants You" one-man-band style; this version both shows off his formidable falsetto and that possesses the heart-tugging soulfulness of Scritti Politti's "The 'Sweetest Girl'." Clip below.

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Here Is "Allie," An Awesome (And Funny) Tale Of Young Lust By Patrick Stump

Categories: patrick stump

One of my favorite albums of the year that isn't out yet is Soul Punk, the first solo full-length from Fall Out Boy vocalist/producer/former Law & Order guest star Patrick Stump. (It comes out October 18.) Each of its tracks is packed with pop crunch and funk bite and heart, but "Allie" has been the song I've gone back to more than any other. Its pummeling guitar opening leads into funk-pop delivered with a just-light-enough touch, with Stump telling the tale of being younger and absolutely petrified by an older woman who's trying to seduce him. His voice sounds great, the chorus imprints itself on your brain after half a listen, and if I ruled the pop world (which I don't) (at least not yet) it would be a massive hit immediately upon its being released into the atmosphere. It's streaming at Soul Punk's preorder page right now; there's a live version of it from an April show he played at Joe's Pub below.

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Patrick Stump's "Explode," Your Tuesday Morning Jump-Outta-Bed Song

Yesterday hiatusing Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump released "Explode," a twitchy, danceable track about a man so pressured by his midlife crisis, he's willing to blow up everything he knows. Its world-crashing-down mania is led by Stump's spirited vocal, which leaps octaves in a single bound while putting forth one of the saddest lyrics of the year: "If I'm never your hero, I can never let you down." Clip after the jump.

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Live: Patrick Stump Gets Soulful At Joe's Pub

Patrick Stump, Om'Mas Keith
Joe's Pub
Sunday, April 10

Better than: Watching his YouTube medleys at home with your cat.

His band Fall Out Boy's on hiatus, so lead singer Patrick Stump has gone solo, releasing an EP (Truant Wave) that puts aside his band's punk leanings and adds funk and soul elements to its pop backbone. Stump took the stage at Joe's Pub on Sunday night in a tux, white moon boots and fingerless leather gloves; a quick glance at the alabaster-skinned singer might bring to mind Justin Timberlake comparisons, except Stump's stage antics were so impeccably choreographed and his voice so genuinely able that the crowd gleaned his vibe immediately.

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