By Jack Sharkey, February 3, 2017

This is week five of our 50 week journey to explore the music of the last 50 years. Every Friday during 2017 we’re going to offer up five songs from each of the last fifty years that tell the story of music as it existed during that year, and how that music ultimately played a role in getting us to where we are today.


Some of the 250 songs will be giant hits and some will be somewhat obscure: To make the list a song needs to be representative of the time, or the beginning or end of a particular style or movement. Was the song an important part of the year or was it a harbinger of things to come? Did other artists copy the style or feel of the song and turn that into a whole new stylistic movement? The songs are not ranked in anyway, as each one played an equal part in the year in music.


Like every subjective list of art, we hope this will at times make sense and at others spark debate (and maybe even a little criticism). Take the trip with us in 2017 as we look back on the music that got us to where we are today.



The year was a bit all of the place musically: Popular music was divided into three camps: producer-based mainstream featuring solo vocal artists, bro-country, and more traditional guitar/piano based music from artists fronting bands or straight old-school bands. Twenty-twelve fought back against the mono-genre by giving music fans a lot of different directions to seek out new music. There was pretty much something for everyone in a year without a major breakout or easy-to-find new direction.


Red Solo Cup - Toby Keith The other choices for the bro-country entrant for 2012 was Kip Moore's Somethin' About A Truck or Jason Aldean's Dirt Road Anthem. In a choice between beer and pickup trucks, beer should always win. There is obviously no room for Hank or Patsy in the new Country, yet the people drank copious amounts of beer and sang the inescapably ear-worming hook. But strident intellectualism aside, it is okay just to have fun once in a while. 



Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen Speaking of fun, it's kind of hard to deny that this song is just fun, like Pringles or Bugles - harmless until that's all you consume. But you know, it's pop music and sometimes that's all we should really expect from it.



Goodbye Kiss - Kasabian  The rich musical tradition of British musicians finding the best of American music, making it more interesting (if not better) and then selling it back to us as something new lives on with Kasabian's countryesque ballad. You've heard it all before but somehow that's a good thing.



We Found Love - Rhianna ft. Calvin Harris EDM's invasion of pop is on full display here. Root to the 6th, followed by the second to the 5th with few if any changes to the melodic structure, heavy on the synths and rhythm loops underneath a simple melody in this case featuring Rhianna's sweet and silky vocals. That's how you make a hit in 2012.  



Stars - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals  It's easy to look at a particular year and bemoan the course of music, but it's also just as easy to find artists who are carrying the evolution of music forward. In Grace Potter's case, she didn't break any new musical ground, but she took the hallowed turf of the lovelorn ballad and made it her own, and for that we should all be thankful.

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