Editor’s Note: Welcome to V7, an all-day series on May 15, 2020 that celebrates Vanyaland’s 7th anniversary. We launched back on May 15, 2013 with a brand new publication and a livestream (yeah, before it was cool), and to celebrate the day, Vanyaland’s editors, senior writers, and publisher have offered up their own personal favorites from the world of music, film, and comedy. Below is a contribution from Editor-In-Chief and co-founder Michael Marotta.
This fun little digital playground we call Vanyaland launched seven years ago today — May 15, 2013 — just two short months after the Boston Phoenix closed. Since then, for better or worse, I’ve written 7,340 articles under the glaring pink V, mostly to promote new bands, new artists, new songs, new shows, new something — each of which captured my excitement and inspired this bulky, angry human to hunch over a laptop and pound out a bunch of animated words that sometimes actually even made sense. As this anniversary approaches, for article #7,341, I’ve thought of the songs that defined this era for me, so far, with each having their own personal attachment and reasoning different from the other. Some are Marotta-wave (first coined at the Phoenix for a neon style of electronic-pop), some are certainly not. But all helped soundtrack my brain — and editorial vision — as I slowly realized, somewhere along the way, it never came with an off switch.
Miley Cyrus, ‘Wrecking Ball’
Vanyaland came in like a wrecking ball in 2013, and so did Miley Cyrus‘ crushing anthem. Between this, her other single “We Can’t Stop,” and really the entirety of the Crazy Miley Era, we pretty much launched as a Miley Cyrus stan page, bridging the narrowing gap between pop music and alternative at a time when the two were at relative odds. It would go on to define the site’s approach to covering music in the years that followed, giving pop music the love it deserves while operating in a dirty rock and roll town. We wrote countless articles about this fucking song (here are just a few), printed out “Wrecking Ball” Christmas ornaments, and even re-designed our homepage to pledge Miley allegiance. I’m not sure how we even survived.
Memory and mental associations are a tricky thing, but Muse’s throbbing ballad “Madness”, from their 2012 album The 2nd Law, will forever be entrenched in the V Team’s ill-fated drive from Boston to Austin for SXSW 2017. Paul Armstrong, Victoria Wasylak, and myself jumped into a rental car under threats of a historic blizzard, and that blizzard kicked our asses eight ways to Sunday, stranding us for days at a dank hotel in Scranton, PA, before finally — several days, thousands of miles, endless gas station food, and countless “What the fuck are we even doing?!?!” moments — we approached the city of Austin. At some point in this trip, and I have no idea when, or if this even actually happened, “Madness” came in on one of Austin’s FM rock radio stations, and we realized we actually made it to SXSW. Nevermind that our showcase was hours away, or that we were staying in a hotel where someone mysteriously died days before. We made it to Austin: “Like some kind of madness, was taking control.”
Katy Perry, ‘Dark Horse’
Before the shitshow that was 2017’s drive to SXSW, there was the fast blast to Austin in 2014. Armstrong and I loaded up my 2012 VW Jetta with endless 5-Hour Energy, Red Bulls, and the excitement over throwing a SXSW showcase less than a year after our launch. Then we realized just how large America is — Boston to Austin is 1,962 driving miles away, and we got there in two days. Two fucking days. A pair of non-stop 15-hour blasts, all with me behind the wheel, cruising through the states with reckless abandon, nearly getting killed by a Subway employee in Arkansas over Paul’s British accent, and doing it all in two moods: Absolute silence as we mapped the future of Vanyaland, and with Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” blasting from the speakers. I can’t even recall how many times we listened to this fucking song. But it will forever be one of the greatest Vanyaland anthems of all time.
Shallow Pools, ‘Haunted’
The selections above are about moments and moods and sharp points in time that reflect on a larger emotion, and Shallow Pools’ majestic 2020 single “Haunted” fits right in. Last summer, the Boston alt-pop band debuted an early version of it at our and the Boston Music Awards’ Off The Record party at The Verb Hotel — Shallow Pools live by a shallow poolis so veryVanyaland — and released its final form at the start of this year. It’s a brilliant, explosive jam, and hearing it first by the pool, snapping along, allowing its hook to embed into your skull, and realizing a band has a great song on their hands and feeling the excitement over it — for them, for listeners — is really what it’s all about. Months later, I booked the band for a radio gig back on Valentine’s Day, and a lively crowd in a packed room was sing-screaming along to every word of it. That’s the best.
Miss June, ‘Best Girl’
It was Sunday, June 2 of last year, and my then-fiancee/now-wife Kayley and I were set to have lunch at Casa Vallarta Mexican Restaurant in Saugus. As we pulled into the parking lot, Miss June’s ripper of a single “Best Girl” came on SirusXM’s XMU. It floored me. I parked, turned up the volume, and asked Kayley to hold up, we gotta hear this all the way through (she’s used to me doing shit like this by now, bless her). I was in awe. We had lunch, I brought up the song a few times (we had different opinions of it, I guess), and played it on Spotify a half dozen times on the drive home. When I got to my laptop, I wrote a post headlined Miss June’s new single ‘Best Girl’ absolutely rips and called it the best song of 2019 at that point. And that’s how Vanyaland rolls — we hear something, we love something, we hype something. We don’t need permission, we don’t need a gatekeeper, we don’t care if anyone disagrees and we don’t care if a post won’t get pageviews. We roll how we roll.
Charli XCX, ‘You (Ha Ha Ha)’
Charli XCX is probably the most-written-about artist in Vanyaland’s seven-year history. We were an early adopter, and V Senior Writer Daniel Brockman and I gushed over her back in the Phoenix days, when she was relatively unknown. Today she releases a new quarantine album, and she’s virtually everywhere as a dominant force in pop. But back in 2013, this track “You (Ha Ha Ha)” was my first Number 1 Year in ReView selection, topping my list of favorite songs of 2013. Here’s what I wrote back then: “How much more famous would Charli XCX be had she released ‘I Love It’ and not Icona Pop, the fledgling duo she wrote it for? We’ll never know! Instead, we got one of the finest pop records of 2013 with the diary-meets-dance-floor True Romance, and we’re beyond excited to hear what Charlotte Aitchison has planned for her upcoming Britney Spears collab. If it’s anything like ‘You,’ with its searing Gold Panda sample and bass-throb pulse, Brit-Brit will be back on top. Our choicest lyric of 2013: ‘Because we used to be the cool kids/You were old school, I was on the new shit.’ Charli XCX is the new shit.” Vanyaland was the new shit. And we’re still here.
Priyanka Chopra, ‘In My City’
On September 13, 2013, our first article to really explode across the internet caused a fury: How terrible is Priyanka Chopra’s Thursday Night Football song, ‘In My City’? It was the first time something we wrote really blew up, and brought on as much hate as it would agreement. Priyanka fanboys were out in full force, I endured my share of personal attacks (get in line), but in the end, we were right. The song was garbage, the video was garbage, and we’re still not over it. A sign of things to come, for sure. Suck it, Polash.