#2. Tom Jones -- "International"
The last time I wrote "Large Hardon Collider," it was an intentional typo joke. Tom Jones wrote it as a video plot and said "Done."
Tom Jones appeared in my last list of video glories. He realized that while other singers need music videos to make them sexy, music videos need Tom Jones to make them sexy. Which is why he cast himself in a featureless void and called it "Sex Bomb."
Tom Jones, Sony Music
When Tom Jones says he's all you need, he's existentially accurate.
In "International," he passes right through that absolute zero point of music videology, coming out the other side to actively take the piss out of the idea of acting sexy while still doing it. It starts with an old man insisting he's still relevant under a harsh white light while people stare and take notes. It rebuilds the CERN particle accelerator as a secret military plot to build a Sex Bomb, and he overloads it. Scientists construct robotic hips just to out-thrust him, and fail, and women have to be harnessed to hold them back from his then-sextuagenarian booty. It features old, chubby white men who have to be forcibly restrained from pretending to be sexy because they think they're Tom Jones, and it doesn't bother him, because he knows he's Tom Jones.
Tom Jones, V2
No lie, every act should have these guys as backup dancers.
If someone was making a video to mock him, this is the exact one they'd make. In fact, that may well have been what happened, because Tom Jones could stroll into his worst enemy's stronghold and make it his by sheer charisma. He knows it looks tragic when older men try energetic moves, so he simply doesn't. He moves back and forth slowly, like the tides, and is just as powerful, and gets just as many women wet. Then the whole laboratory complex undergoes sexiness red alert and becomes a nightclub, which is the other plot my brain wrote when I was 13. It's more proof that true sexiness is all about self-belief, and Tom Jones believes in himself hard enough to bend local space-time over and make sure it comes first.
#1. "Stellar Alchemist"
Thousands of songs try to focus on the one thing that gives us all life and hope and warmth, but then screw up by thinking it's "love." Kim Boekbinder gets it right.
This isn't analogy; this is absolutely a song about nucleosynthesis. Endlessly interchangeable romances make thousands of other songs sound identical, like the confessions of an army of cloned stalkers. (Hint: If you wonder why your "romantic" target won't love you when you talk constantly about how much you want to have sex with her, that's why.) But there are an infinity of other subjects no one has ever sung about, and Boekbinder chose the hottest one.
Kim Boekbinder, The Impossible Girl
Punching darkness and unoriginality in the face.
If you happen to get undertones of romance and loss from it, well, that's you mapping emotions and feelings onto the unstoppable physical processes of the universe. You know, the same way you do by existing in matter.
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
"I see what Rodin did there."
Using a truly interesting subject gives us some of the smartest lyrics ever sung: "My heart is an iron fist" and "When I go you will get gold." Fusing smaller atoms into larger ones releases energy until you reach iron, after which point fusing into even larger atoms would cost energy, so the star can't keep going. Instead it collapses and explodes, and there's enough energy released in the explosion (just one of many amazing things stars do) to drive that heavy fusion, creating all the elements heavier than iron. All of them, everywhere, all of it, except a few atoms we made in particle accelerators. The zinc you need to see properly? The copper without which your body will poison itself? Stellar detonation corpse bits.
And the best bit is you don't need to know any of that -- it works as perfect pop without the astrophysics. It's just even better with it.
Checking the credits reveals "Sound of star HR3831 courtesy of NASA." This is a musician so cosmic, she has rocket scientists acting as sound engineers, recording the universe as a backup singer.
This isn't just a great song, it's brilliance brought about by the Internet. With Kickstarter support for the album, and then the tour, you've got someone building a music career -- and appearing in cities all over the world -- as a fully independent artist. No recording labels, no executive overview, no albums released according to a marketing schedule instead of creative impulses, no buffing off the interesting edges to reach the largest market possible. This is what can happen to music when you remove the corporate filters. Boekbinder, aka the Impossible Girl, has a whole album of this stuff. The Sky Is Calling is pop with brains and only $5 for a digital download.
The Internet, direct sales, and social media support enable a bit of local intensity to draw in thousands more little bits from all around until it can ignite into a shining beacon others can bask in. Which reminds me of something.
"Real subtle, and I'm saying that as a nuclear reactor 1 billion meters across."
Luke also explains the most insane politician in the world with The Real Rob Ford Located in Body of 19-Year-Old Drug Dealer. He also studies the Japanese Lightning Punisher with 56 Thunder Gods Who Could Kick Thor's Ass.
For more musical joy, groove to 4 Music Videos That Will Make You a Better Person and 5 Music Videos That Justify the Existence of the Internet.