Hey everyone! First up, here's some bona fides. Back in 2004, I did two songs that both would have qualified for this challenge. Neither is very good, but don't let anyone tell you I don't put my money where my mouth is. The first was a tongue-in-cheek number called "Stationary Bike," and the second was an ill-advised attempt at a straight-up steroid rocker called "Have you Been Working Out?"
So there. I tried to judge based on a good balance of songwriting, performance, recording fidelity, and adherence to the challenge. I tried to be tough but fair. In the end, it all comes down to my opinion anyway. Many of these choices were so close that two adjacent songs could easily have swapped places. If it happens that you get eliminated this round, and it's only by one point, feel free to yell at me. Also, where my wife had some snarky comments, I've quoted her. She disagreed with my final rankings, so let it be known that her opinions didn't necessarily affect my rankings.
And so, without further ado...
16.) Felix Frost - The Frost Mine
I really don't get how this is supposed to address the challenge. The vocals are weak, the instrumentation is noisy and disjointed, and the melody is a bit too disjointed to cohere into anything motivational. Better luck next time, sorry.
15.) Jailhouse Payback - Kick Your Routine
I think I might have an overly-narrow interpretation of the challenge on this one, but unfortunately, I don't think it was enough to simply write a song about working out. To make matters worse, this is a song that doesn't seem to take the idea of working out very seriously, so I'm wondering what kind of effect you want your song to have on your audience. Is this supposed to make them feel superior to gym rats? Smug? Is this meant to be actually motivational? I'm just not sure. All I really know is that I definitely can't work out to this.
My wife sez: "This doesn't sound like a pump-up song; this sounds like something that would be in one of those short films from the 70s that MST3K used to make fun of." She is a harsher critic than I, to be sure.
14.) Glen Raphael - Pump Down the Volume
This shiny exterior belies a song with some real issues here. You tried to tackle the challenge by doing something superficially similar which is actually the exact opposite of what was asked. The song implores us to be quieter, and the narrator is trying to study in piece and quiet. I'm sorry, but that's not what this challenge was about, and I'm docking you points for that. Worse, you're using some overly-familiar GarageBand loops, which I've heard in other songs before (in fact, I think in your songs before).
The wife sez: "Catchy... but more 'danceable' than a true pump-up tune."
13.) The Boffo Yux Dudes/Chris Cogott - Big, Better, Best
Boffo Yux Dudes shoot for "funny," which for this challenge isn't necessarily the best approach, in my opinion. If the goal is to pump the listener up, the jokes and over-the-top vocal performance really get in the way. But if the goal is to be a funny parody of that kind of song... well, it still isn't a great example of that, because it's not actually very funny. Sorry, guys.
12.) Jeremy Lambright - Shut Up And Dance
It's really hard to be convincingly inspirational or "pumping" with obviously fake instruments. You made an honest go of it, for real, but I'm really too distracted by how silly some of those patches sound. Not like it matters where I rank you; I'm pretty sure this is disqualified for not having lyrics anyway.
11.) Mariah Mercedes - Hurricane
This is a straightforward take on the challenge, but I'm not sure your voice is up to the challenge. The strain is obvious at points, which creates a couple of notes that sound pitchy in the chorus, and on top of that, they sound out of sync with the rest of the piece. I can hear the goodness of the song trying to break out here, but it's not there yet. Needs some more polishing in the vocals, the guitars need to sound "bigger," and maybe some backup vocals in the chorus.
10.) The Chocolate Chips - Nothing Can Stop You
I had my fingers hovering over the keyboard, wondering what the heck I would say about this, when... well...
The wife sez: "It meets the genre, but it's kinda boring. It doesn't compel me." Yeah, that.
9.) Rats Of The Sky - Dance To The Groove Libido
This is a pretty good dance groove, but I'm not sure it rises to the "pump up" challenge. Your rap is competent, and even funny at points, but unfortunately, I think "funny" is a liability in this challenge. In my mind, being pumped up is about intense focus, and this is a little too class-clownish. This is a problem that was pretty common for this round, so it didn't hurt you as much as it could have. Oh, I almost forgot to write about your auto-tune section. It was a nice unexpected twist that breathed some life into the song at a point when it needed it. I don't generally like the whole auto-tune-as-effect thing, but this is a judicious use of it. You could have made the settings even tighter and let your voice drift a bit more to really emphasize it.
8.) Gorbzilla ft. Gorbzookies - Superwoman
I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt about the challenge. I wouldn't work out to this, and my wife says she wouldn't either, but I'd imagine there just might be someone out there who could. This is still a little too clever by half - "Even kryptonite's not your kryptonite" is a little kitchy, and it comes up three times (!). Still, points for the horns, and for a really sweet bass line.
The wife sez: "This is a really good disco song, but disco doesn't pump me up."
7.) Godz Poodlz - In The Zone
Buzzy guitars and synths set up the mood really well. The lyrics and structure aren't standout attractions like they are for all three entries of my top four, which is what keeps you out of that tier, but this is a really strong line-drive kind of entry. Not particularly ambitious, but right on cue for what it's done. Good job!
6.) Caravan Ray - Pump It Up
Caravan Ray does the best job of all the entrants of toeing that line between being genuinely driving and being a little ironic. "Improved Biology / With Pharmacology" is genuinely funny without being distracting from the driving beat. You did a great job of layering a bunch of parts without sounding too cluttered or de-emphasizing your beat. The only good "funny" entry of this whole fight. That's sort of a dubious distinction, I guess, but winning ugly is still winning.
5.) Menage a Tune - Run!
Who do you have helping you there, JoAnn? This is much tighter and catchier than your usual. Tighter both musically and lyrically. There's some sloppiness in the lead guitar part, and the whole piece is a bit musically unambitious for my taste, but overall this is a keeper.
The wife sez: "I could see Blondie singing this."
4.) Ross Durand - Win
I now believe pretty strongly that there is nothing Ross Durand cannot do. He completely crushed us all in the rap round (yeah, I know he got eliminated that round, but in the reality that I replaced it with, he took first place and won that whole competition). He does guy-and-guitar folk like nobody's business. And now he nails the pump-up rocker! If I were grading solely on execution of the challenge, this would come in first or second place easily. Ross loses a couple of points with me for sounding a little thin in the chorus (harmony vocals or a thick B3 line might have remedied this), but structurally and thematically this is spot-on, and he plays a convincing rock thumper to boot.
The wife sez: "This should win." Well, hey, Ross, you've got another fan.
3.) Governing Dynamics - Forward
I wasn't expecting any waltzes this round, but you nailed it, man. Taking a thematic tack very similar to Edric's, but not feeling redundant, this is a song meant to motivate by being quite literally about pushing ahead in the face of adversity. The lyrics are great throughout, particularly in the chorus. It runs a bit long, and I'd love to hear some backup vocals to beef up the prechorus bit, but overall this is really strong work. If I ever take up distance running, this track will be a staple on my running playlist. You deserve to advance, and I hope you do.
2.) RC - Get Up
I have no complaints about this entry. Strong driving rock beat, clever lyrics (I like the recurrence of the hammer as a metaphor), and the catchiness of the "get up" chorus. The "band" is really tight, too. I like how the drums follow the dynamics of the chorus. Strong material throughout.
The wife sez: "No wait, this should win." Sorry, Ross.
1.) Edric Haleen - One More Step
Aside from what I think was a misstep by starting on a polyrhythm, this is a pretty much flawless take on this challenge. Edric, I know you have a habit of being a bit too clever by half, so I spent most of this song (if you'll forgive the wordplay) waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never happened. If there's irony here, it was certainly lost on me. You laid down a solid "Chariots of Fire" groove and carried the song to its inspirational peak. I like the lift in the verse melody, where it fakes out a full-step modulation before resolving back to its original key. I like pretty much everything about this. Well done, my friend.
My wife sez: "This is a little too Broadway to be a true pump-up song. I like it, but I usually don't work out to Broadway music." Oh well, no accounting for taste.