Music Review

Surrounded by Confusion

Let’s take it back to 2011, when Charlie Sheen was still “winning” and when the iPhone 4s was the hottest phone on the market. It’s hard to believe that time passes so fast. And with the always decreasing attention span of the masses, our memory quickly erases the past and replaces it with the most current trends.

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Obviously, the people who recite this mantra have not seen To Catch a Predator. Jokes aside, being in the spotlight for bad reasons can somewhat be an asset for public relevance. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with the next big thing, being replaced and forgotten is a very real possibility. Justin Bieber, who could have faded into child star oblivion, kept himself as a hot topic of the public eye by constantly upping his bad boy image. His bad behavior was rewarded and it elevated him to a legendary status.

However, bad publicity does not always work in your favor. 2011 was the birth year of Rebecca Black’s Friday, which was dubbed one of the worst songs of the year. Black eventually released a follow up video a few years later where she self reflects and laughs at her infamous song. Her self awareness is endearing and we are reminded of the fact that she was only 14 when that song came out. As annoying and meme-worthy that the song was, it has become a relic of the past that memorializes 2011. In short, Black did bad in a good way.  Sure, Friday was horrible, but it was catchy and lighthearted. It was the kind of video you couldn’t help but share with your friends. Say what you want about Rebecca Black, but at age 14 as an unknown artist, Friday has 113 MILLION views on Youtube.

Earlier I said Friday was named one of the worst song’s of 2011. So what song was labeled even worse than Friday?

I present you with Design The Skyline’s Surrounded By Silence.

Apparently, Design the Skyline considers themselves to be a mathcore/hardocore band. This song is almost indescribable with words. You have to listen to it to fully understand how much of a cacophonous train wreck it is. The title of the song is quite funny in that after listening to the song, all you would want afterwards is complete and total silence.

Cheesy synths, over the top screaming vocals, random breakdowns, and copious amounts of auto-tune – it’s just fucking confusing to listen to.  What strikes me the most about this song is the overwhelming lack of structure. Even in the most undecipherable black metal, underneath the distortion, the growling, and the ruckus there exists a structure to hold the piece together. That’s one of the beauties of the genre. To make something so organized sound like chaos.

There is no repeated riff, no verse, no chorus, no bridge, no commonality between any sections. It sounds as if each member of the band wrote a few bars and meshed it all together without any thought and planning.  Without structure, a song will just sound like noise.

Surrounded By Silence did not reach the popularity that Friday did, because frankly this song is unlistenable. Even though it was regarded as the worst song of the year, it was overshadowed and it lacked the charisma of Friday for the band to take advantage of its negative press. Perhaps that is due to the fact that Friday was a failed attempt at a pop song, which obviously is more mainstream than a failed mathcore song.  But at least Friday was a clearly structured song with a distinct verse, hook, chorus, and bridge. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally here for complex music that has a unique structure; in fact, I’m a fan of progressive rock. But musical complexity is not synonymous with throwing together as many different riffs, time signatures, and breakdowns into a 5 minute song as you can. Mastering musical complexity takes nuance and restraint; it is a balancing act that not many can achieve. Design the Skyline eventually broke up but recently reformed. Like Black, they were also very young when they released this song, and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they probably matured as musicians over the past six years.  At the end of the day, despite the negative criticism, the band still stands behind this song and you’ve got to respect their conviction. At least they live in their truth. One man’s ruckus is another man’s masterpiece.


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