What is the best recent song by a younger artist?
November 29, 2009 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Are there any GREAT new songs?

In a recent conversation, it was stated that none of the younger artists are writing truly meaningful great songs that will stand the test of time. John Lennon's "Imagine" is profound, but to be fair he was 30ish when it was released, and he had his share of early lighter-fare with the Beatles. I am no authority on music but some of these younger performers are very talented. I am looking for examples of great recent songs by younger artists.
posted by kgn2507 to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Of course there are great new songs. If you want recommendations you should probably be more specific. Are you looking for something that sounds like "Imagine?"
posted by ludwig_van at 9:00 PM on November 29, 2009

Well John Lennon is a pretty high bar to measure up to. I don't think there will ever be another Lennon, but my favorite young songwriter is Conor Oberst. I would check out the Bright Eyes album, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," to start with. He's still in his 20s (I think) and he has written some brilliant songs already.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:05 PM on November 29, 2009

What is your definition of great? Lyrical profundity? That hardly factors into a lot of people's definition of "great song", including my definition. I don't think "Imagine" is deep or meaningful, it means far less to me than something like "When I'm Sixty-Four", an earlier Beatles track you might dismiss as light.

You might like a song called "I'll Follow You into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie. Find it on Youtube.
posted by meadowlark lime at 9:08 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, "Great" is completely subjective. I'm sure some would be of the opinion that Lennon's "Imagine" is not profound, or even good. It's a matter of taste.
posted by DeltaForce at 9:08 PM on November 29, 2009

On preview, what meadowlark lime said.
posted by DeltaForce at 9:09 PM on November 29, 2009

As much as you want to hate them, Panic at the Disco's second album, Pretty Odd, is really amazing. It's pretty reminiscent of The Beatles but the group is very talented on it's own accord. Here are a few of my favorites from the album.
posted by Taft at 9:09 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Should be melodic and original, with a message. Something we will still be touched by in 30+ years. Thanks for your help!
posted by kgn2507 at 9:12 PM on November 29, 2009

Seconding Taft, I love that album.

I really like Speechless by Lady Gaga. Don't dismiss it just by her earlier work.
posted by kylej at 9:12 PM on November 29, 2009

I love everything that IAMX (Chris Corner, formerly of the Sneaker Pimps) has been doing over the past few years - incredible lyrics, amazing melodies - like "This Will Make You Love Again" for example.
posted by HopperFan at 9:14 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

In a recent conversation, it was stated that none of the younger artists are writing truly meaningful great songs that will stand the test of time.

I am confident that this has been said by every aging generation since the first hominid banged a hollow log with a rock.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:17 PM on November 29, 2009 [57 favorites]

Should be melodic and original, with a message. Something we will still be touched by in 30+ years. Thanks for your help!

Your definition is particular, and not shared by most people. It sounds like you are describing "We are the World".

I am touched by "Sh-boom" by the Chords, a 50+ year old song that has, as far as I can tell, no message other than a simple declaration of wishful love.

What is your definition of a "message" and why does that have to be part of a song to make it "great"?
posted by meadowlark lime at 9:18 PM on November 29, 2009

I'm pretty sure it's difficult to know what the lasting songs will be until at least a decade later. That said, Rebellion (Lies) by the Arcade Fire is certainly a candidate.

What exactly do you mean by "message"?
posted by lunasol at 9:25 PM on November 29, 2009

Lunasol is right. There's no way to know what songs by young song writers will pass the test of time until time has tested them -- after which the song writers are no longer young. See, for example, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:46 PM on November 29, 2009

...and Elton John.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:47 PM on November 29, 2009

I agree with BitterOldPunk. I mean, the sentiment that whatever art/music/culture the kids are into is just not as good as the way it used to be.. Well, my guess is everybody was saying that about John Lennon back in the day. I'm not wild about "Imagine" anyways.

that said, Mary J Blige - Be Without You
posted by citron at 9:58 PM on November 29, 2009

I don't see "great music" and "songs that will stand the test of time" as congruent. If I had to lay money on what people in the year 2030 will be remembering, I would start with which musical guests are headlining Saturday Night Live right now, since stuff that appears there seems to have some degree of cultural resonance. Maybe U2 for starters.

But once we factor "good" into all this, that's a totally different yardstick. I could rattle off a list of fantastic 1970s and 1980s stuff that is almost forgotten. But what stands the test of time seems to be the usual yacht rock, overplayed ballads, and so forth.
posted by crapmatic at 10:10 PM on November 29, 2009

Keep an eye on Frank Turner.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:11 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

There have been many generations of humans. MANY. So the onus is on the person making the argument: why, again, is this new generation unique in its break from every other generation in its inability/unwillingness to produce art that is "meaningful" or "stands the test of time"?

Then send them a link to Hipster Runoff and watch as they try to figure out what your point is.
posted by BaxterG4 at 10:13 PM on November 29, 2009

I'm not sure if you'd consider it recent, and I don't know if I'd consider it meaningful, but Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes seems to be one of those songs that is going to "stand the test of time". Its already been covered many times over, and has a great beat that everyone seems to find appealing, in spite of their musical preference.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:14 PM on November 29, 2009

'80s - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - The Message
'90s - Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike
'00s - Flaming Lips - Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

It seems like you're not just talking about bands who write great songs, you're talking about bands who write catchy "message" songs. There are loads of great and beautiful songs that have been written since "Imagine" came out (thousands?), but big hits with heavy-handed political messages are rarer, and for good reason. They're only good in small doses.

If you just want pretty songs, Norah Jones writes and performs very pretty songs that are, for the most part, very good. Here's one of her new songs.
posted by paperzach at 10:22 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ignition (Remix). We'll be bumping that forEVER.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:23 PM on November 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

There may never be a song as meaningful to you as "Imagine" because you will never be the same person you were when you first heard "Imagine."
posted by mbrubeck at 11:22 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

truly meaningful great songs that will stand the test of time

I challenge your premises. I think "songs" as musical form - as in guitar-strumming singer songwriters - have declined a great deal in popularity, as music without a narrative emphasis (dance/experimental/instrumental) has ascended. It's not that young folks aren't as capable, they're just not devoting their energy to this particular form as often or as ardently.

That said, I'll take Sufjan Stevens over any of those crooners from last century.
posted by phrontist at 11:32 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Chatfilter for sure, especially when the word "best" is associated with art/music.

That aside, I agree on Bright Eyes.
posted by querty at 11:48 PM on November 29, 2009

Sufjan Stevens and Stephin Merritt give some recommendations.
posted by benzenedream at 12:00 AM on November 30, 2009

"Die Vampire, Die" is, in my opinion, a GREAT new song - about self-empowerment in the creative process. Written for the Broadway musical [title of show]. Not going to go digging for a link for it, since I don't want to waste time as I'm almost certain there is a mod somewhere about to hit the delete button on this thread. Cause, yeah, it's chatfilter.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:54 AM on November 30, 2009

This is a great question. The doubters in here should cut the musical relativism down a notch—even if artistic quality isn't an objective trait, it's not impossible to have discussions about it. Most people would take a question seriously about whether there have been any great, timeless books in recent history, but for some reason people are hesitant to think in the same terms about popular music. Maybe they associate it more with entertainment, but obviously people have been doing great art within popular music for almost as long as it's existed.

So. Greatness. There is a risk of everyone just naming their favorites, but this shouldn't be impossible. Sigur Rós' Svefn-g-englar seems to be a modern classic. Lots of Radiohead, of course: No Surprises, How to Disappear Completely, Nude. My Bloody Valentine's Soon. Flaming Lips, Do You Realize??. Arcade Fire, Wake Up. I could go on. Almost no one will agree with all of those but lots of people will agree with most of them.

Unless we're in a total musical dark age relative to previous generations (and I think it's quite the contrary) there should be classics coming out every year. Some of them are already pretty obvious, like those above, it's just that the consensus isn't as easy to notice as it is for older classics because we haven't had as much time to let the lesser stuff drop out of the collective consciousness.
posted by abcde at 1:09 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Beirut album was pretty damn great.

Fleet Foxes and co-project White Antelope.

Grizzly Bear will probably fit, as well as assorted sideprojects.

Also not new, but Bonnie Prince Billy - I See A Darkness is bone-chillingly beautiful.

Then Glass Candy - Miss Broadway is absolute genius, a malevolent, careening and tattered neo-disco KNIFE TO THE HEART.
posted by krilli at 2:00 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, yes, also Lightning Dust - Antonia Jane.
posted by krilli at 2:11 AM on November 30, 2009

For some reason flag wavin by k'naan comes to mind. Though, since you cited Lennon maybe Mute with a bullhorn by Ben Sollee would be more up your alley.
posted by magikker at 3:39 AM on November 30, 2009

Langhorne Slim's Diamonds and Gold has the absolute best "message" ever and it's a catchy poppy song ... plus it's the opposite of the message in Tom Waits' Diamonds and Gold, which gives it a nice yin-yang intergenerational twist.
posted by headnsouth at 5:39 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd put Ryan Adams up against just about anyone in the songwriting category. Exhibit One, Two, and Three.
posted by griffey at 5:57 AM on November 30, 2009

Midlake's Roscoe always stops me dead in my tracks.

Blitzen Trapper's Furr is a nice mix of early 1960s folk, early 1970s psychedelia, and crisp modern sound technology.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:16 AM on November 30, 2009

Amy Winehouse writes a lot of these, but the best one is 'Love is a foolish game.' that will be a standard for a hundred years.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:31 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

[Folks, if you think it's chatfilter then flag and move on—to Metatalk, if you feel strongly enough about it—but please leave the metacommentary out of the thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:40 AM on November 30, 2009

I am not a singer-songwriter person (I think you've got some of that in spades above), which seems like what you are thinking you want. But Lordy me, Outkast's Hey Ya! is going to be with us forever. It really sounds like nothing else out there, it has a really broad appeal, and if it doesn't get you ass shaking, your ass could probably be taken in for servicing.

That said, despite its first appearances, the lyrics are surprisingly thoughtful, even soulful, on the loss of love and the breakdown of a relationship. It's got some sugar (I am your neighbor!), but there is some real bitter medicine there. Just listen to the umpteen acoustic renditions to have the mystery revealed.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:52 AM on November 30, 2009 [7 favorites]

Well, 'melodic' excludes a lot of hip hop, which is in my mind some of the best music made by younger artists ever. Nas was 21 when Illmatic came out, etc.

But I think the real problem with this is that there will never be another band like the Beatles, with that kind of global reach and universal recognition. There are so many more distribution channels now, so we don't have any reason to all listen to the same thing. This is great in that you don't need a label to get noticed, but you trade cultural common ground for musical diversity. I'd make this trade every day of the week, but it does mean no more songs literally everyone knows by heart.

(Also, can I say: I hate hate hate "Imagine" for exactly salvia's reason. Insipid.)
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 6:53 AM on November 30, 2009

Try Yodelice Insanity

Or Camille Money Note

P.S: great songs are being written.
posted by litleozy at 7:01 AM on November 30, 2009

It'd be pretty easy to not only disprove this assertion, but disprove it so hard as to make it seem like an abdication of the very values Lennon was trying to impart to you in the first damned place. Entire genres of music have risen to prominence -- some multiple times -- in the time since Lennon. Entire music cultures have sprung into existence in that span. The wall fell. The iron curtain fell. The West brought rock and roll to the East and the East threw it back in our faces. Absolutely profound things have happened in music, and to dismiss them all as "younger than Lennon" -- a guy who died when I was 8 years old, whose music has never resonated with me in any significant way, the vast body of whose work took place in a genre I would consider now dusty and obscure -- is pretty weak sauce.

The recent Slayer has more than one profound track on it. I have seen Killswitch's mourning "Rose of Sharyn" literally bring a grown man to tears. I ran across the stuff a guy in New York calling himself Mux Mool has been putting out and it utterly blew my mind to the point where I'm trying to figure out how to get out there just to shake the guy's hand. Regina Spektor took the wheezing singer/songwriter thing and smacked it across the face with a herring. And these are merely examples from the last few years. That's not even reaching back to the stuff that overlaps Lennon's life, like 70s funk, early Queen, Kiss, Zepp, Phillip Glass. That's not even covering the 30 years of music since then: From Rush, Tangerine Dream, Kate Bush, Run DMC, Public Enemy, early Metallica, all the way to Turkish rock band ManGa's release earlier this year.

Anyone who thinks that the kids aren't making music, real music, meaningful music, is too narrow-minded, too deaf, or too fearful. Someone who holds up John Lennon as a yardstick ought to be open minded enough to know when the scales on his eyes need to fall away.

I admire you for asking this question and trying to see with new eyes and hear with new ears. That's what John was saying to do all along, wasn't it?
posted by majick at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Here We Go" by Jon Brion has been universally adored by everyone I've played it to, and even got two people into becoming massive Jon Brion fans (one being my dad, which is.. weird.) It's not particularly famous though, but timeless nonetheless.
posted by wackybrit at 9:06 AM on November 30, 2009

I recently made a "Best of the '00s" tape for a friend. Here was the melodic (and melodic-ish) part:

1. Wake Up - Arcade Fire
2. Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens
3. Each Coming Night - Iron and Wine
4. Frontier Psychiatrist - The Avalanches
5. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
6. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
7. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
8. Mistaken for Strangers - The National
9. Busby Berkeley Dreams - Magnetic Fields

I absolutely believe that people will be listening to "Funeral" by the Arcade Fire fifty years from now, and probably "Maps" as well. (That song just slays me, especially the line "My kind's your kind/ We'll stay the same." Because, of course, they won't. No one stays the same.)
posted by Clambone at 10:07 AM on November 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

MGMT - Time To Pretend
posted by Bobby Bittman at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh, and Chuggo
posted by Bobby Bittman at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jason Mraz - I'm Yours could be an excellent candidate for this.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:50 AM on November 30, 2009

This assertion is so easily disprovable that it shouldn't even be entertained, but here's some examples. Essentially the crux of it is anyone who says this a) hasn't been listening to modern music in any depth and b) is in a far more fractured media market than when "Imagine" came out. The volume of music is much greater and if they're just turning on the Grammys or somesuch and expecting their next Lennon, well, they're unlikely to find him. That being said --

Cat Power "Don't Blame You"
Shivaree "New Casablanca"
Patrick Wolf "The Magic Position"
Bright Eyes "From a Balance Beam"
John Vanderslice "Exodus Damage"

etc etc etc ad infinitum.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:27 PM on November 30, 2009

This shows overthinks the Peak Oil/Decline of Great Songs correlation. Coincidence? I don't think so.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 1:07 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mykonos by Fleet Foxes is just stunning. I heartily recommend it.
posted by aqueousdan at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2009

I'm not sure if you'd consider it recent, and I don't know if I'd consider it meaningful, but Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes seems to be one of those songs that is going to "stand the test of time.I'm not sure if you'd consider it recent, and I don't know if I'd consider it meaningful, but Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes seems to be one of those songs that is going to "stand the test of time.

Agree, and this may be the most important reason why this song will be around for a long, long time.
posted by iviken at 2:39 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have no idea if anyone remembers this song (it's coming up on 5 years old now), let alone whether or not it will "stand the test of time" - nothing else they've done is this good and any live footage I've seen of them is pretty hrmmmphh, but "You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve" by Johnny Boy is absolutely perfect.

(Don't watch the terrible video or any of the terrible live clips. Seriously.)
posted by mintcake! at 9:41 PM on November 30, 2009

The Beatles and Lennons and Dylans set the template, created the foundations of so much of the music that came after (at least of the music that you're seeking out). Asking why there aren't people making music that good again is like asking why nobody was the equal of Shakespeare. It was all crap after him, wasn't it?

A big reason why "Imagine" and other songs like it are still with us and still resonate is because they are woven into the fabric of our culture. The Beatles will be with us for a long long time because they were there at the beginning, starting the party that we're all still showing up to. "Imagine" describes not merely hope, but the hopes of a generation, of a moment and a movement. And until we have a cultural moment as powerful as "the 60s," we're not going to have another Lennon or Dylan (or, or, or ...). They were of their time, and without that time we won't we'll have songs as meaningful, transcendent, or long-lasting.

Fortunately, that's not stopping anybody from making absolutely incredible music.

My vote: Girls - Hellhole Ratrace
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:22 PM on November 30, 2009

Agreeing with everybody who says the question is awfully broad/of course there's amazing music being written nowdays...but this is an interesting exercise. So:

I'm surprised there's been a Flaming Lips recommendation that wasn't "Do You Realize??", which is not only catchy as hell but also very much in the same emotional vein as "Imagine" (you can probably tell that by the title).

The Sleepy Jackson's Good Dancers also comes to mind as a really gorgeous pop tune for the ages.

Also nthing "Seven Nation Army". That song is not just a song, it the a blueprint for or skeleton of all other songs like it.
posted by timoni at 1:13 AM on December 1, 2009

Nthing Mykonos by Five Fleet Foxes.
posted by misha at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2009

Hey, I added Five to their name. I have no idea why.

And my son says Maynard from Tool is a man to watch.
posted by misha at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2009

Thank you so much to all of you. I started to pick favorites… and then the responses kept coming! I am going to take my time to go through these. I must say, the few I have checked out are really good, it’s overwhelming. Mr. ‘they don’t write great songs anymore’ is going to get a whole stack of young talent under the tree. Ironic, considering he was in the ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’ generation.
posted by kgn2507 at 7:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good to hear - kgn2507, please post back the best ofs!
posted by krilli at 3:36 PM on December 6, 2009

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