Thursday, December 29, 2011

Songs of 2011: "My Dilemma" and "What Do I Have to Do"

I'll be announcing my 20 favorite songs of the past year within the next couple of days (catch up with 50-21 here). But until then, I wanted to briefly talk about two of the most important songs to me this year that were ineligible for my end of the year list for various reasons (one is an album track while the other is over 20 years old). These two songs got me through some rough patches this past year, and I am eternally grateful that they came into my life when they did.

Selena Gomez & The Scene, in my estimation, is quickly becoming one of the best pop acts around. Between their debut album and this year's When the Sun Goes Down, no artist has matured and found their sound quicker than Selena & The Scene. And within that short period of time, they have become the go-to artist for songs about indecisive men who send mixed signals about what they want leaving you confused and frustrated. "Round & Round", their first stab at this type of song, was my fourth favorite song of 2010. With such incredibly large shoes to fill, how would another song in this admittedly small genre even compare? Not only did this song handily surpass its predecessor, it also outshines nearly everything in Selena & The Scene's entire discography. Lumped in between two of the album's lesser tracks toward the end, "My Dilemma" can be easy to miss if you're not paying attention.

But you would really be doing yourself a disservice underestimating or, even worse, ignoring this track altogether. "My Dilemma" touches on what I suspect (or I hope since it happened to me repeatedly this past year and I don't want to feel so damned alone!) is a universal problem for a lot of us out there: men who confuse the fuck out of us. It's a song about how you can see every fault a guy has and tell yourself that you are over them, but the minute they are online or they text you something nice, you have to stop everything and talk to them. You hate yourself for doing it later on, but it feels so right in the moment and there's nothing you can do to stop yourself. And it finally gets to the point where you are not even interested in the guy anymore, you just love all the attention and drama of the situation. The lyrics of "My Dilemma" are simple, yet they nimbly and ably navigate this precarious situation. What really sells the song for me, I must admit, is Selena's vocals. The way she switches between high and low notes reflects the indecisiveness of the song: just as she can't decide how she feels about this boy, she can't decide whether she wants to sing the song in a falsetto or in her normal range. It's a smart choice for a smart song, and shows off Selena as one of the smartest vocalists around.

Within the first few months of 2011, I really got into Kylie Minogue's discography, finally getting around to listening to all of her early albums. I was already familiar with "What Do I Have to Do" when I was going through her Rhythm of Love album, but it wasn't until this year that the song really clicked for me. And boy did it ever click for me--rather unfortunately, I must add, as the song is all about pining for an oblivious guy showing absolutely no interest in you romantically. It's quite funny, actually, because, sonically, "What Do I Have to Do" sounds like the uplifting, catchy pop song we expected from her at this time. But, buried beneath Kylie's sweet delivery is a raging torrent of melancholy and longing. "What Do I Have to Do" is quite possibly the most devastating song in Kylie's discography--and that's saying a lot because the woman has done quite a few melancholic tracks over the years.

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