Friday, September 26, 2008

Beyonce' in the Shower, Mary J. Blige in the Car

I love to sing. Am I good enough to make a career of? Probably not. It doesn't stop me from singing my heart out. I am a big time car and shower singer. Actually I sing around the house, in my office, etc. I even sing at work.

Why do I sing so much? It is therapeutic. I haven't done tests, but I think it must lover my blood pressure and calm me down. It releases pent-up emotions. I'm a tense person with no sex life, so I probably need a release. Also it keeps me awake on those long commutes. Do I get crazy looks from neighboring drivers? You bet. Do I care, no. I am having fun!

My favorites to sing along with:
Mary J. Blige
Erykah Badu
En Vogue
Sarah McLachlan
Duran Duran
Edison Glass
The Police
Crystal Lewis

I sing R&B, soul, pop, rock, alternative, you name it. I love karaoke. Of course I never go out, so I end up doing my own version of it. However, when we played Rock Band last Saturday, my favorite gig in the band was singing. These are the songs I sung:
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
When You Were Young by The Killers (I love this song)
Creep by Radiohead

I realized that singing for long periods can be very hard on the voice. I can see why musical artists get so exhausted. But yet, it is so exhilarating to sing.

So as much as I love singing, I know I don't have the chops or the outgoing nature to go on tour with a band. I think I would open my mouth and a terrible sounding croak would come out. But the shower, car, and various semi-private places, call me The Diva.
I encourage you, when you are having a bad day, open that mouth, turn on the radio, and sing, sing , sing!

Post in the comments and tell us whether you were Born to Sing, or not so much.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For the Love of Blue-Eyed Soul

If you are not familiar with the music genre called blue-eyed soul, it is exactly what the name makes you think of. Well, to be precise, it is soul music by Caucasian artists. Some might find the term racist, but I think it works pretty well (at least until we all come to the realization that the color of someone's skin is not as important as the world makes it. We are all human beings, and pigeonholing just doesn't work. Enough editorial on that. ) It's actually a complimentary sort of thing, in my opinion, showing that the love of music transcends racial boundaries. I think it's great that although soul music originated in the African American community, it was embraced by others outside of that community. Since I prefer male blue-eyed soul, lets focus on the male artists in this movement.

Blue-eyed soul is not a new phenomenon. It's actually been around for a while. I would dare to suggest that Elvis was a blue-eyed soul singer. What about the Righteous Brothers? I think yes. Then there was Hall and Oates. No one would argue that George Michael was a very prominent blue-eyed soul artist in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps even some of Elton John's songs evoke the essence of this genre as well. Everybody knows that Boy George had an incredible voice, driving the blue-eyed soul sound of the British 80s pop band Culture Club. Also Tom Jones, although Welsh, definitely has some serious soul vibe going on. British Rick Astley channeled the Motown male crooner sound, and did it excellently in the 90s. So, although when the term crops up, one might start to think of artists like Justin Timberlake as a forerunner, and as much as I love his music, he is not a pioneer in this arena. Probably most people aren't familiar with British musician Paul Weller, a former member of The Jam and The Style Council. This man has a great soul voice, and if The Style Council isn't very R&B/soul-sounding, I don't know what is. The list goes on, including Paul Young, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones music, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Michael McDonald, Dan Hartman, Paul Carrack, and others. To me it is clear that R&B and soul music had a huge influence on British popular music, explaining why there are so many British artists with this sound. Boy bands N'Sync, Backstreet Boys (A.J. McLean has a great voice for R&B), and 98 degrees (Nick Lachey is great at the Motown crooner sound) also carved territory in this genre of music.
A special word about Jeff Buckley. When he died, it left a hole in my heart. The term gone too soon definitely applies. His voice was heavenly. He could wail, but he could croon. Songs like "Everybody Here Wants You," "Last Goodbye," "Hallelujah," and "Morning Theft" would be defended by me as blue-eyed soul in a court of law, just on the strength of his vocals, although "Everybody Here Wants You" is the most overtly soulful in its arrangement. I think he would have very successfully recorded a soul album if he had lived longer.

Who are some of my favorites of the newer blue-eyed soul artists? Let's discuss them.

  • Robin Thicke: I would have to say that above and beyond, he is my favorite. I heard the song off his first CD, "When I Get You Alone", I knew there was something going on there. Now some might be a little wary because his father is Alan Thicke, and assume he is just hanging onto his famous father's coattails. Well just listen to him sing, and also listen to R&B and Soul stations and quite a few of the popular songs of several years ago were actually written by him. Now I enjoyed his first CD "Thicke", which was an interesting combination of R&B and hippy-inspired pop music. He even sported a hippy look with the long hair that didn't hide his good looks. I must say I prefer the short hair that he has now. Yes, I am one of the people who bought this CD, although it didn't seem to make much of an impression for the most part. I loved his next CD, "The Evolution of Robin Thicke." I saw the video for "Lost Without U" on VH-1 one morning, and I knew I had to buy that CD. I think it is incredible. Yes he does the more popular and oftimes annoying R&B gimmick of teaming up with a hip-hop artist, but he manages to knock his collaborative song "All Night Long," with 'Lil Wayne, out the park. But he also has some wonderful introspective ballads like "Angel," the aforementioned "Lost Without You," and others. He also has some great mid-tempo songs like "I Wanna Love You Girl," which is a collaboration with one of my favorite producers The Neptunes, and the slower sexy and romantic "I Need Love" and "Teach U a Lesson." 'Can You Believe" is sort of in-between, not really mid-tempo, but not a slow song. But it's a great song, for sure. One of my favorites off this cd is "Complicated." Love the song, and wore it out last fall and into the winter. All the songs off this CD are great. "Cocaine" is a good song, but not a favorite of mine. "Shooter" is a rerelease from his first album, and is very infectiously funky. I'm not surprised that this album went platinum. You go, Robin. His new CD promises to be just as good, if the single "Magic" is representative of it. It has a very old school, Motown feel to it. You can tell I really like this guy, huh. I think it's great that he's happily married to the lovely African-American actress Paula A. Patton.

  • Maroon 5: I can't talk about blue-eyed soul without giving a nod to this group. They have done a great job of combining rock, pop, and soul to develop an infectious signature sound. Adam Levine definitely has the pipes for soul music, and the rich musicianship of the band is representative of the 80s large band sound for R&B music. I heard "Harder to Breathe" and I knew we had a connection. I bought "Songs About Jane" and loved it. Not a bad song on the record, although my favorites are the aforementioned, "This Love," "Sunday Morning," "Shiver," and the "The Sun." They received pretty massive airplay for what seemed like years, and when I was wondering what they were up to, they released their newest album, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long." Definitely refusing to be pigeonholed, this CD is hard to classify. It still has the very prominent blue-eyed soul stylings I love so much, but also has a retro early 80s rock sound like The Tubes and other bands. It is very musical with brass, guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizer, piano, and keyboards. I think that the band decided that they were going to make this album as if it was their last, and the drive and commitment to make a great album shines through. My all-time favorite song off this CD is "If I Ever See Your Face Again," which has pretty naughty lyrics. It's so infectious that you will bounce along to it when it's playing in your car. I'm a little ambivalent about the remake with Rihanna, I must admit. The video is pretty steamy, though. I also love "It Makes Me Wonder," although when I first heard it, I wasn't sure what to think. It has such a different sound, very retro but eclectic. I love it though. The video is great. Adam Levine does know how to bring on the sexy, for sure. I pretty much love all the songs, but "Back at Your Door" stands out because this is straight up an R&B ballad, Motown style. Who couldn't help but take a guy back who shows this kind of passion. This band definitely has made a splash and crossed over into the various genres of rock, pop, and R&B.

  • Justin Timberlake: I won't even get started with him. He's so big that there's no point of going into him. I must say I love love love, "My Love." His continued collaboration with Timbalake has been beyond successful.

  • JC Chasez: For some reason he fell through the cracks, but this guy has a great, incredible soulful voice. He is my favorite N'Sync member, although I also like Justin. I loved his CD Schizophrenic. This album has some of every genre on it, with a serious retro R&B, new wave, and electronic feel (three of my faves). It's also pretty rocky in parts (early80s rock). My alltime favorite off here is "Everything You Want," but "Blowing Me Up With Her Love" is awesome. He does some risky songs like "Some Girls (Dance With Women)," and "All Day Long I Dream About Sex," but I think they pay off. Too bad nobody bought this CD. I hope he hasn't given up on having another CD because I knowthere is a strong fan base who would love to hear more from him.

  • Jamiroquai: This British band channels that late 70s/early 80s funk, big band style of R&B and do it very well. They make you dance in a whole different way from the modern R&B movement. If you want a good taste of their musical offerings, pick up their greatest hits CD. I guarantee you'll like it if you're into that retro funk type of R&B.

  • Remy Shand: He hasn't hit it big that I know of, but if you like your blue-eyed soul very low key and almost jazzy, I think you would like him very much. "Rocky Steady" is the song that recieved a bit of airplay. I think he's a talented guy and hope to hear more from him.

  • Daniel Bedingfield: British musician who is the brother of Natasha Bedingfield. Why she hit it big, but he didn't, I'm not sure. This guy is awesome. He has an incredible voice and great music. He's definitely more into the dance/electronic (and you will want to dance) kind of feel but has some sweet, touching ballads as well.

  • Justin Guarini: I bought his CD based on his musical talents in From Justin, To Kelly (yes I saw it at the movies and I liked it. I wish they had released the soundtrack). This boy can sing. Ok, technically I think he's mixed, but I think he still fits in this category.
Although definitely pop acts, these guys have the blue-eyed soul vibe:
  • John Mayer
  • Teddy Geiger
  • Gavin DeGraw

Let's not forget...

    • Jason Mraz: see an earlier post on this blog. I love him. :)

Ones to watch:

  • Elliot Yamin: he definitely has a great voice. His CD sounds promising.

  • Blake Lewis: the samples I heard of his CD sounded very good. I'll have to pick it up and soon.

  • Ari Gold: haven't heard any of his music, but I'm anxious to hear what he sounds like. I've heard good things about him.

  • One Republic: I got kinda sick of "Apologize" getting played so much on the radio, but the lead singer Ryan Tedder definitely has the voice for R&B/soul music.

  • Taylor Hicks: he has a great old school R&B sound, along the lines of Michael McDonald

To close, I hope you know a little more about blue-eyed soul, and perhaps have decided to dip your feet in the pond, so to speak. I recommend starting with Robin Thicke :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Upgrade U Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of Beyonce'. I think she is extremely talented, beautiful, intelligent, and classy. But I do have to say that I am disappointed in the message behind "Upgrade U." It's not so much the materialism evident in the song. But I feel it is reinforcing sexist attitudes when young women and girls need to be affirmed in their right to stand on their own two feet and next to their men, not behind them.

It didn't penetrate the first several times I listened to the song, which I really like on one level. It's got a great beat and Beyonce' sings wondefully as always. But the last few times, I realized that in this song, Beyonce' is embracing standing by her man. That's great in itself. But it comes off that she is saying that it involves standing back and supporting him in his success. But that doesn't mean that a woman should take a backseat to her man. You says something along the lines of "you can take me to dinner and I'll be the perfect accessory for you." That line really bothers me. I feel it is selling a woman short to say that she should just stand by and make him look good by looking beautiful. I firmly believe that saying that was good for the old days," Behind every great man is an equally great woman." Well women had to stand behind men back then because that was the only role they were given. Historical women fought very hard to gain the rights that we should have had as human beings. Clearly this battle is still being fought. I hear and see a lot of women in the media and in my personal encounters who seemed to have forgotten how far this country has come as far as recognizing women for their achievements. We are not second class citizens whose only worth is to look good and support our men. Women are capable of being the stars of their own shows and accomplishing much without the help of men. Does that mean I am saying that women don't need men? Not really. I think that having a man to love and support you is a great thing. It helps a lot of women achieve their personal best. I think that for some women, having a loving man as their partner completes them, and I'm all for that. But some women are so great already that a man is just the icing on their cake. I believe that girls and young women should get this message from the beginning that they are worthwhile, have the inate ability to be successful in life with drive and vision, and can be fulfilled in their own right. The sky is the limit, and life doesn't depend on finding happiness in a man and supporting that man. Yes, a woman should support the man she loves, but she should do it knowing that she is equally capable and successful, even if it is in a different way. Even if she is a homemaker and doesn't work, she is doing an incredible job, keeping a home and raising future adults that can impact the world one day. She is never less than her man, by any stretch.

I am happy that Beyonce' found a great love in her husband Sean Carter, and he helped her to see herself differently, and on one level it's not wrong for her to convey this in her song. After all, it is her song, and it is her personal experiences. But on the other hand, I think she should realize that she is a role model for girls and young women. She has become successful in her own right in part due to her determination, hard work, and her commitment to be successful, and also because her parents, family, and friends supported and continue to believe in her as a capable woman. Now she can embrace love with Jay-Z and continue to be successful. But young girls may not have her advantages, and hearing some of the things that Beyonce' has to say in "Upgrade U" may send a misleading message to these girls. That pains my heart.

I think that I have struggled just as much as many other women and girls struggle with their self-esteem where the media blasts us with images that convey a very one-dimensional and undiverse concept of beauty. Wondering why boys like some girls but not me is something that most woman dealt with at least once in their lives. Why is so much of a woman's self esteem tied into how good they look? They cannot be all they can be if they are not sexy and beautiful. Well every woman is beautiful because she is a unique creation. She doesn't have to fit traditional modes of beauty to be successful.

History has shown that some pretty wonderful women may not have been glamour girls in any sense. I won't mention any names because it's beside the point. They are beautiful to me because of their fortitude, their drive, passion, and ambition. I firmly believe in the sisterhood of women and that we are pretty wonderful creations, much beloved in God's eyes. Hopefully I will be able to have at least one daughter one day. If I could teach my daughter that this is what true beauty is, not how big her breasts are, how pretty her face is, and how many guys want to date her, then I feel that I have been a success at raising my daughter to be a woman of fortitude and accomplishment.

I know that this not the place for political statements. I scrupulously try to avoid doing that. But my heart told me to post this because I want to be at peace with myself. I want to continue to admire Beyonce', and she must not be put up on a pedestal where she is immured to criticism. If she happened to read this blog, I hope that she would come away with the genuine concerns of a genuine fan, and have some food for thought when she writes more songs that will fall across the ears of young, impressionable, and desperate for acceptance young girls. I think that an artist must always have the freedom of expression, yet also embrace how the impressionable, who often view an artist as a role model, will embrace the message inherent in her art.


The Appeal of Interpol

It's funny how things can change. Years ago, when I still lived in San Diego,I had a coworker who had common tastes in music to me (i.e. postpunk and new wave music). We would talk about music and how much it meant to both of us. He as a musician himself, and me as a person who had learned a musical instrument and was an avid fan of music. He made a couple of cds of bands he thought I would like, one of which was Interpol's first CD, Turn on the Bright Lights. I thought it was good and atmospheric, with excellent guitar riffs, but a little repetitive and I didn't listen to it much. At that point, I was underwhelmed.

Years later, after I had moved back to Texas, I was at work, listening to the Flashback Alternatives internet station, and they played a song called "Take You on a Cruise." I recognized Interpol because they just have a very signature sound. I loved the song, and frankly I couldn't get it out of my head. I went to and looked up their CDs, discovering that it was on their second CD "Antics." I then made a note to buy it. Well, one Saturday after doing relief work, I went to Best Buy and bought it for $9.99. I couldn't even wait until I got home to listen to it. I started playing it in the car, skipping to that song that had so captivated me. I was hooked. It was official. I was now a bonafide Interpol fan.

"Antics" has some really good music throughout, but the standout tracks were, of course, "Take You on a Cruise," "Narc," and "C'Mere." Let me tell you, I probably have "Take You on a Cruise" and "Narc" on at least sixteen different mix cds, and on every computer I own, as well as both media players. "Take You on a Cruise" has to be my favorite song ever. If I could get away with playing it at my wedding, I would definitely try. This song broke the barrier between myself and merely seeing Interpol as a good band with great guitar music, and turned me into a life long fan. And I am not alone in my admiration. There is a piano cover and a string quartet cover on You Tube. Both are excellent, by the way.

Let me just say that what they do with guitars is an art. That was one thing that impressed me from the beginning, the way they managed to make the blending of guitars into a symphony. I was always more of a piano, therefore keyboard, and percussion girl (hence my love of New Wave music), until bands like Interpol introduced me to the art of guitars. When I realized that bands that play in this style are part of the postpunk genre, I rapidly became a fan of this musical movement. Although I do like some bands that use the electric guitar in a rocky style, such as Journey and Def Leppard, I have never been the heavy metal, hard rock kind of girl, and I guess I associated guitars with this kind of music. But the guitar is a complex instrument that can be used to various ends. Interpol really seem to understand the art of the guitar.

The next thing that draws me to Interpol is their interesting, complex, introspective songs. For instance, they are lyrically rich, and have a mystique that makes you wonder what they were thinking about when the songs were written.

Lastly, Paul Banks' voice also calls to me. What can I say? I really like the monotone, post-punk, new wave way of singing. I am throwback to the 80s in that sense. Although I am sure his voice probably doesn't appeal to some people (my mother for one), I find his singing very seductive and beautiful, a perfect match for the music. He seems to know the exact right way to sing to accompany the music, and for maximum effect of the lyrics.

"Our Love to Admire," Interpol's newest CD, definitely cemented my love of the band. Although "Antics" will always have a special place in my heart because of the gems of "Take You on a Cruise" and "Narc," I must say that "Our Love to Admire" has more songs that I love, such as "All Fired Up," "The Pace is the Trick," "The Heimlich Maneuver," "No I in Threesome," "The Score," and "Pioneer to the Falls." Each song demonstrates the musical diversity and complexity of the band, without compromising their signature sound. And I must say I definitely love the addition of keyboards to their musical sound (did I mention earlier that the piano is my favorite?) I can definitely say that although some bands definitely have been inspired by Interpol (such as Bloc Party), no band has the unique sound of Interpol. Case in point, I can tell that it's an Interpol song, just a few notes into the song, when I hear a song playing.

I must say that this band has won me over in many ways. Even in their live performances, they have a uniqueness that comes through. I like to watch the bandmembers play, and it's funny how they manage to be pretty mellow and almost stargazing, but also transmit so much personality and frank enjoyment of being musicians and playing for an audience. They are pretty snazzy dressers, typically wearing suits or nice shirts with ties. Very much a nod to their new-wave/postpunk sensibilities. Carlos Dengler, the bass player, is especially interesting to watch because he has such personality. Sometimes he does splits with his legs while he plays, and sometimes he just walks around, casually playing with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. Daniel Kessler, who plays the guitar, is so low key, and so gentlemanly, always wearing a suit, and calmly playing his guitar as though he doesn't have a care in the world. And the drummer, Sam Fogarino, doesn't mind being stuck in the back, playing his skins, at all. And Paul Banks, the lead singer and guitarist, well, let's just say I have a major crush on him. :) He is very sexy in the way he sings, with his low-key, mysterious, and almost shy personality, that comes alive when he starts a song. I watched a performance of "The Heimlich Manuever", and it was droolworthy the way he kept the audience waiting anxiously, and then, in a move full of what seemed to me akin to sexual prowess, broke out in the first line: "How are things on the West Coast?"
It is a joy to see that they are fulfilled. That's all you can hope for in anyone who is pursuing a career of interest. In the interviews I have watched, they seem to view their music very seriously. There is no indication that this is just a lark to meet girls and get famous. They look at themselves as artists who are very committed to the creative process. As an artist, I definitely admire this and appreciate this about them.
It's interesting how large their following with so little airplay. Only one of the singles from "Our Love to Admire," "The Heimlich Maneuver," charted on American charts. Yet, their CD sold at least 500,000 copies. Go figure. I think it's word of mouth and the strength of their live performances. To be honest, I'm glad they are a bit off the popular radar. I think it gives them distinction, as long as they are doing well financially and critically.

I find myself hanging out on You Tube, watching their performances over and over again, and kicking myself for missing the opportunity to see them perform live in Austin last year. Next time, I won't miss out on this chance to see a band that has become one of my alltime favorites live. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself when I do get to see them live.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Did I Think I Didn't Like Pop Music?

I guess when I think of pop music I think of canned, corny, and limited in real talent, like Hilary Duff's music. That kind of stuff that makes you cringe and instantly reach out to turn the dial or turn off the radio. You know what I'm talking about. But it's really unfair to tarnish a whole category of music by the bad seeds in that group. That's like saying 80s music sucked because you don't like Hair Bands. How did I come to the conclusion that I was being unfair to pop music? I've been listing to various internet radio stations at work and indulging in my love for music. It started with British Rock (one of my favorite sub-genres), progressed to 80s New Wave (love it), Classical, Hip/Hop, Christmas, Just plain 80s music, Eclectic, Alternative and Pop music, and jotted around in various sequences. I like variety so if they start playing the same songs I tend to change the stations. Well, I'm glad I decided to check out the pop station. I have listened to some really good music that isn't suffering from a lack of talent or originality. Well there are some like the aforementioned Hilary Duff. But I have also heard great songs from artists like Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, The Backstreet Boys, Lindsey Lohan, The Veronica's, Jason Mraz (who's becoming one of my favorites), Gwen Stefani (love her), Mariah Carey, The Pussycat Girls, Darren Hayes, and others. For example, I'm really digging a song by Kelly Osbourne called "I Can't Wait," which I never would have heard on the stations I hang out on. What defines pop music? Well it's a very wide category actually. It's short for popular music. Why does this have to be a bad thing? After all, popular is a good thing isn't it? It just implies that a lot of people like something. Yes, if you were a geek or nerd in school like I was the word popular quickly brings on a negative connotation. But it doesn't have to. Popular music can feature angst-filled, introspective songs just like alternative rock. It can also feature hip-shaking songs that make you want to wiggle your southend. But also it can include songs that make you feel good, and that's not a bad thing if you're having a crappy day. I've heard a few songs that I think, you know that's actually a pretty good song, even if the person doesn't sound like they're going to jump off a bridge any second (I say that with love because I happen to love melancholy songs and their singers). Just in the short time I've been tuning into the pop stations, my Amazon wish list has grown by leaps and bounds. I even asked my sister to borrow her Lindsey Lohan cd to wear out a certain song that you already know about if you read one of my previous blogs. So I guess I'm going to have to eat my words. I don't in fact, hate pop music. I just hate bad pop music. That's a whole different thing.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jason Mraz in Concert

My friend had the opportunity to attend a Jason Mraz concert last night. I liked his music and his persona. He seems like a very down to earth, cheerful, talented soul. I have his first CD
Waiting for the Rocket to Come, which I bought because I like male singer/guitar players. It was very good with some fun, inventive lyrics and vocal stylings, excellent guitar playing, and passion-infused songs. So I said sure, I'd love to go. It turned out to be a great decision. He was wonderful in concert. All the things I liked about him were multiplied in concert. Jason has a beautiful voice. It is sweet enough to sing in a church choir or a chorus of heavenly angels. His guitar playing is melodic, able to induce toe-tapping and swaying, and powerful. Jason has the ability to improvise lyrics and syncopate like a jazz singer. He seems to go back and forth between genres with amazing ease. I truly believe that the same person could put out an R& B, Rap, Jazz, Alternative Rock, Gospel, and probably even Country album. Not only is Jason a consummate musician and singer, he has a wonderful personality, complete with self-deprecating humor. He knows how to please the crowd and keep them interested. And the crowd certainly loved him. He had women yelling out that they'd make pretty babies with him. He even had some male groupies in the audience. But after the hour or so long performance, I can see why he has such a loyal following. I love music. I always have. It really touches me on a personal level to go to a performance with an artist like Jason who gets music and loves it to the same degree, and seems to have it flowing freely from his soul. Jason was accompanied by his friend Marion who has the guitar-playing ability to remind one of a Spanish grandee or mariachi of old. He accompanied Jason beautifully, matching his delicate strokes to Jason's deeper, flowing chord-driven melodies. It was like a musical buffet, you came away filled but tempted to have more. In short, the whole experience was lovely, making me a life-long fan and on a much deeper level, of Jason Mraz. My advice to you is that if you love music, especially authentic, creative, intense vocal and guitar stylings, don't miss the opportunity to see Jason in concert.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Music To Write To Part II

I told you I'd think of other songs, didn't I?

Here are some more

I must give a shout out to Coldplay's newest CD X&Y. Practically the whole CD puts me in the zone. Just beautiful music, you know!

So here's Writing CD part II
1.Kean--We Might As Well Be Strangers (What a lush beautiful song. It's the regret of love lost from a guy's perspective. They have grown apart and he can't deal with it).
2.Lacuna Coil--Comalies (My sister and friend who are into goth-metal got me into this song. It has the beautiful voice of a woman over a rock/synth beat that is just so very good. The song seems to say don't give up on us to me.)
3.Midnight Show--Killers (They're on the road, about to stir up some trouble, possibly of the sexual kind :)
4.The Bravery--No Breaks (another early 80s time warp band. Excellent. If you want me, it's cool but I'm not compromising on who I am).
5.They Say Vision--Res (not sure what it's about but it inspires me to write. I listened to this song about 30 times in one day, I kid you not. And finally my mom asks, "Are you going to listen to that again?" I was waiting for her to do it and she actually showed some great restraint.
6.How Do You Mend a Broken Heart--Al Green. (The man is like one of the most romantic souls on earth. Okay I know that the Bee Gees wrote this song. But the way Al sings it is so delicious and so full of pain. His regret is palpable and poignant. I have never been in love, hence I haven't had my heart broken in a romantic sense. I have had a dream broken and that pain is what I think Al conveys in this song. This would have to be a very low moment in a story of mine.)
7.We Belong Together--Mariah (This is The Wentworth Song as in Wentworth Miller, perfection! You might know him from Prison Break. Between visions of his loveliness in the videos and the beautiful way this song is sung by Mariah, it has made it's way into my creative consciousness. She wants to be with him. That's all she wants! And the knowledge that she can't is killing her.)
8.Warning Sign--Coldplay (I know you're probably thinking "not again!" Well I'm sorry but this song is so gorgeous. He misses her so much! He sees her in his mind and he wants to be with her. He regrets that things fell apart. I try to forget that they played this when Buffy got all skanky with the jailbait on "Him". How dare they funk up my song that way!
9.Love Comes Tumbling--U2 (classic post-modern 80s deliciousness. Bono's talking about love and I'm feeling it.)
10.Lemon-U2 (love this song. Sexy and also at the same time experimental and different. The woman has made an impression on him. And he can't get her out of his head. I can picture my hero thinking and thinking about his woman. His brain can't forget her.)
11.Protect My Heart-Kelis (she doesn't want to fall in love. This is a modern woman who knows what she's about. She knows the games that guys play. But against love there is no defense.
12.Goodbye is Forever-Arcadia (one of Duran Duran's splinter projects singing about when you have to let go of someone and facing that moment where you know that what you had is a memory from now on).
13.I'm Going Down-Mary J. Blige (Time on my hands since you went away boy. ...Feel the tears falling from my eyes..oh baby. I'm going down... Nobody sings it like Mary! )
14.32 Flavors--Alana Davis (this is an Ani DeFranco song, I know. But I heard Alana's version first. This woman is declaring that she's happy with who she is and not about to change. I picture the credits coming up and a woman's riding in her car with the top down. She crosses a bridge over water. She's free of other's expectations and criticisms of herself.
14. Alone. Together--The Strokes ( This song casts a spell. He's wooing her with remarkable skill..In his very Generation X kinda way. This is modern love.)
15.Get Mine..Get Yours--Christina Aguilera (I don't write this kind of smut..Just kidding. This is strictly a booty call song. But so well done. I picture a woman freaking on the dancefloor with a guy. Tobey Maguire comes to mind since I heard a rumor that they did the horizontal tango once. He's known to be a player, by the way. He knows the score. So does she. Again, not up my alley. But what if someone thought they could just have sex, but ended up falling in love? Maybe.
You're gonna laugh. But I love these sappy 70s songs.
16.I'm Not in Love--10 cc. (This chap is in denial. I can see a hero going through this spiel in his head. Knowing deep down that he doesn't buy it.)
17.Hello It's Me--Todd Rungren (He wants a woman who he thinks can have a better guy then him, but that doesn't stop him from trying to woo her. "Think of me.")
and then there's
18.Impossibility--Remy Zero (very short but memorable song. It's dramatic and building, and reminds you of a climactic moment. I can see a character in transition, dealing with the reality of his situation).
19.The Worst Way--Essence (a woman knows that this man is a dangerous obsession but she's not willing to walk away).
20.Love is The Price We Pay--Essence (She's reflecting on the fact that her love is her chain to that person who has her heart).
21.Dark Angel--Essence (The heroine loves a mad, bad, and dangerous to know fellow. Perhaps a spy who might be on the wrong side of the game).
22.Up All Night--Razoright (This sound just seems to have an undercurrent of sadness, searching and longing that's very fruitful for my imagination. I love the way the music (the guitar builds up along with the singer's voice).

Okay, I admit I'm an unrepentant sap. I think I was born to write romance because I'm am just so on that wavelength.

Look for more...and I'll probably have a list of songs like the Dandy Warhols that are completely linked to movie moments and tv. Veronica Mars theme song comes to mind....

Music to Write To

There always seems to be this deep connection between music and the other artistic media, namely writing and movies. I hear a song in my head and I see a picture that my mind conjures of that song. It may have nothing to do with the song in actuality but it's what my brain and heart seems to derive from the words and music.
Literally there are songs that make me want to run the nearest computer and plug away at my innumerable unfinished stories. Since a great love of mine is romance, those melancholy songs really seem to hit home with me. They make me want to write of great lovers struggling toward their happy ending together.
One example that comes to mind is Lindsey Lohan's Over. That song really gets me. My interpretation is one in which a woman mourns the death of a very intense, meaningful relationship. She wants closure but then she doesn't. Isn't love such a feeling. Like a pain that reminds you that your flesh lives even as it throbs. Songs like this take my mind to the next step. I want to fix that pain by getting the couple back together. I haven't came up with a concrete storyline yet, but it did remind me of my story with a hero who looks and acts remarkably like Josh Lucas. But if I pursue that story I'll have to figure out a way to break up the couple, and the idea didn't initially go in that direction. So it's still brewing away in my overstuffed brain.
Usually a certain song will make me think of one of my interracial stories, since that is a particular literary urge of mine. As a matter of fact, the Josh Lucas story is an interracial. Another song that get's me going is Maria's "My Soul." What a lovely song and I want to write a story that fits the dreamy, anguished quality of the singing.
"Are You Happy Now" by Michelle Branch is a song that inspires me to write of a woman who has faced the same trial as Lindsey sings about but she seems more angry. Alas, how to make that right, I don't know.
It's really frustrating in a way because the connection between song and story doesn't usually help me to find a workable plot.
Going a little off subject, there is a song that reminds me irrevocably of a certain moment in movie time: "You Were The Last High" by the Dandy Warhols. That moment is not a happy one. It is the scene where Terry Sheridan betrays himself and Lara Croft by choosing to do the wrong thing, trying to kill Lara and take Pandora's box back to civilization and the highest bidder. This makes me feel very melancholy but I love it. Why? Because my mind doesn't mind thinking about Gerard Butler at all. The sadness comes in that he will die. Perhaps one day I will write a story with a Terry-esque hero who makes the right decision. He lives to turn his life around as you can clearly see Terry wants to. He seems to have regrets over how he disappointed Lara and ended up on his dark path. Sense I like nothing more than a bad boy on the path to redemption, I will not be surprised if Terry Version 2.0 doesn't end up in one of my stories.
I think I should just make a writing CD and get it over with. Put all those songs that drive my brain crazy and stimulate the massive writing urge. What songs would I put on it?
Some I mentioned above:
1.You Were the Last High
4.Are You Happy Now
and others...
5.Small Town Boy by Bronski Beat (ironically about a young gay man leaving his restrictive home--it makes me think of uncertainty and pain, which is universal)
6. Put Me Down by the Cranberries (desperation and anguish are part of the character's journey)
7.This Life by Mandalay (Moody and atmospheric, beautiful. The perfect soundtrack for a darker, spy-themed love story).
8.Home by Depeche Mode (The strings part always gets me! It builds to a climax. This would be good for a spy story too).
9.Who's That Girl by the Eurythmics (always makes me think of a female spy who's a femme fatale and a mistress of disguises)
10.Don't Ask Me Why by the Eurythmics (another broken love affair song)
11.Ice King by Res (A woman who loves a man whose heart is frozen)
12.Lose Control by Silk (Sexy and seductive song, perfect music for a love scene)
13.Wild Horses by The Sundays (whistful, melodic, speaks of missed opportunities)
14.Fade Into You by Mazzy Star (someone reflecting on their feelings for the person who captured their heart)
15.Live Again by Better Than Ezra (in the midst of that crazy fixation of love and infatuation)
16.Over You by Better Than Ezra (about the way it feels to make love to someone)
17.Speeding Up To Slow Down by Better Than Ezra (hometown starcrossed pair of interracial lovers--I picture the girl on a bus and the guy is running after her. I'll probably cut to years later when she comes back)
18. A Thousand Years by Sting (About the complete irrevocable love that he has for a woman)
19.The Book of My Life by Sting (this person has years on them..they have seen and experienced much. They are reflecting back. I could picture Anthony Hopkins doing this set to the song).
20.My Antarctica by Duran Duran (he's in love with a woman who just isn't in as deep as he is)
21.Last Chance on the Stairway by Duran Duran (he's young and willing to risk love but afraid at the same time).
22.Forbidden Love by Madonna (loving the one you shouldn't love...perfect for an interracial love affair. The problem is I try to write ones where that's not the main issue.)
23.The Love Thieves by Depeche Mode (I picture that scene in La Femme Nikita when she goes away after faking her death. It's been years but it's stuck in my brain. She's gone and he mourns her with his whole heart and soul although words of love remain unspoken).
24.Shiver by Coldplay (This man is not going to ever leave her or let her down!)
25.Green Eyes by Coldplay (Sounds country but the simplicity and the emotion wins me over and sends my brain wondering. This one I haven't worked out yet).
26.Amsterdam by Coldplay (He's committed even when the obstacles are against him)
27.I Still Love You by 702 (This guy isn't the best fit for her...things aren't ideal..but she's still in love and committed to him).
28.Kissing You by Total (She's just awakening to the attraction and she's daydreaming about how it would feel just to kiss him.)
29.An orchestral piece from The Specialist (the scene of the fake funeral. I love the feeling it inspires of a couple who are so into each other but circumstances prohibit them from being together, but just maybe the can be together in the end).

There are so many's a few. I'm sure I'll find more songs that hit me where it hurts and make my fingers twitch to write a book or scene to do the beautiful piece of music justice. So expect a part II....

Thursday, May 05, 2005

R&B Music Pet Peeves

I love R&B Music. How could I not. The operative word for me is rhythm. Anything that has a good beat automatically gets a plus on my scorecard. But despite my love for this genre, I am very much aware of its inherent imperfections, especially in the latter years. Like any type of music, there are some negative things about R&B that tend to grate on my nerves and have me searching out my alternative rock cds after a while of listening to it too much.

Let me elaborate on those inherent flaws

1.It gets a little boring to sing about sex all the time
Sex is important. It's a good thing (in theory). Nothing wrong with singing about sex sometimes. But can we have more songs that are not about getting it on? Perhaps about the environment, child abuse, war, poverty, you name it? How many times to we have to hear about wanting to do someone on various pieces of furniture in various ways? Even worse, when we descend to graphic details about such actions. I could name names, but I won't. Anyone who listens to enough R&B knows where I'm coming from.
2.I really could do without the obligatory rap solo
There you are, jamming to some great singing and a hot melody when bam, insert rap chorus. Sorry that was very distracting and not necessary at all. Why did you have to ruin my song by adding the rap part? Don't get me wrong. Nothing against rap music. It's cool and all, but if I wanted to listen to a rap song I would have put one on. Maybe I just want to hear some singing straight through without an interruption. Pretty much every R&B cd is guility of having at least one song with rap solo in it, so I don't even have to point fingers.
3.Where did the actual music with real instruments go?
Sometimes I'm left to wonder if there's a musician strike going on when I turn on a R&B cd or two or three, and there's no real music in the backrgound. There's a basic, generic beat that my portable Casio keyboard at home could cook up. What's that about? Is it just cheapness on the part of the record label? Sure you can do this new cd by this hot new artist, but here's the catch: You cannot hire one musician. Just use a keyboard. Have the engineer cue it up for the artist to sing over. Um, I paid top dollar for this cd. Can I have some music with it? This usually sends me flocking over to the land of long haired, depressed, White boys singing and playing real guitars, and maybe even with a real piano or saxophone in the background. I've really gotten to the point when I wince when that what I called canned, generic r&B beat comes on. I know that it's about the voice, but the voice sounds so much better with a great musical background. Like a pretty frame to a wonderful painting.
4.Did you really have to rip off my favorite song and remake it, and I use the term loosely?
Perhaps some of you who happen to stumble across this blog were old enough to hear Tom Tom Club's Book of Love in the 80s. Great song. Well some years ago, there was a new song by a really really big R&B diva that pretty much remade the song, but not in a way that did justice to this 80s club standard. What's up with that? Sampling is a part of the music industry, but there's a thin line between sampling and remaking without calling it the same name. Come on!
5.Did you flunk out of grammar school?
I'm sure you didn't, so why do you deliberately misspell common, easy words and use bad grammar on purpose? And you rap guys are especially, heinously guilty of this. Perhaps you should use your millions that you made on that single that makes your grammar teacher turn green because everyone knows you were in her class and go back to school and remediate the fifth grade. Or better yet, buy a dictionary. Maybe your mother can stop having to tell people that she definitely made you go to school so it's not her fault if you can't spell or use proper English. I admit it's a pet peeve of mine, but it's my blog so I get to complain!
6.Why would you write a song about your bad behavior, as if you're proud of it?
Last time I checked, cheating on a spouse or a significant other was frowned upon. Do you brag about not bathing, wearing deodorant, farting in public, or having bad breath? Why would you brag about being a player, stepping out on your man, stealing another girl's boyfriend, or getting a girl pregnant while you are cheating on your own girlfriend? And ladies, are you really that proud of your thuggish boyfriend who's on the revolving door out of prison? Also if you know he's a dog, just leave him, so you can sing about global warning or the destruction of the rainforest instead. Just food for thought is all.
7.X-Nay on the Interlude-ay
Why do most r&b albums have interludes? Most of the time they are really dumb or crass with someone doing a skit that is usually blatantly unfunny. Or they may have a good song that once you start getting into it, dies a premature death. There's the standard 'insert r&b singer's name-leave a message.' That was unique and cool about ten years ago, but now it's just tired. I think of interludes, quite frankly as filler. And as long as there are great songs, I personally don't need filler on my records.
Well, hopefully someone is feeling a little gratified or commiserating with me. Perhaps all the things that I discussed are mainstays in your minds. At any right, I felt the need to discuss them these major rants that I have with the genre, from the viewpoint of a serious fan, mind you.
Well, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I think I'll go listen to my media player, chock full of r&b songs :)