26 February 2024

26 February 2024 - No Doubt - Spiderwebs

This was the single that directly followed "Just A Girl".  That single after a huge hit song is usually the indicator on whether or not a band has the legs for a long career.  

By most measures, "Spiderwebs" ended up being a bigger hit, charting higher on most charts and getting more mainstream radio airplay.  History might remember "Just A Girl" more, but this song... it was a bigger deal.

Written by Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal, it's clearly a song that leans heavily into their ska roots, while continuing the pop/rock sound that permeates the whole Tragic Kingdom album.  It started off much slower, but the single release ended up being a pretty funky tune.  Lyrically, it, like others on that album, their first without Eric Stefani (their prior principal songwriter and Gwen's brother), is a very personal song, of breakup and turmoil (likely the breakup of Kanal and Gwen Stefani was the subject).

Believe it or not, the band is still together. Sure, Gwen is a lot busier nowadays - with her solo career and other obligations - but in this performance from 2012, it doesn't look like they aged a day and have not lost a single beat. 

Several years later, in this performance released in 2023 but likely a little older than that (the copyright is 2020, and they reportedly have not played together since 2015 (but are playing Coachella this year), so we're going with that), they still had not lost a step.

23 February 2024

23 February 2024 - M.I.A. - Boyz

Few artists do as good a job bringing Middle Eastern, Indian and Tamil beats to western Hip Hop as well as M.I.A. consistently does.  

This is a song that absolutely throws EVERYTHING at you - drums, horns, jumping, more horns, more drums, samples - and does not stop.  It is an upbeat dancehall track and in your face, and it's all about, well, boyz.  It's a fun, happy, upbeat song that ended up being a dance hit and a minor pop hit in the US.  Co-written by the artist and Switch - both of whom also produced the track - the song includes strong influence from Tamil music - from M.I.A.'s home country of Sri Lanka.  

It's a delight, seriously.

M.I.A. also puts on a hell of a live performance, such as this one from 2018 at the Sakifo Music Festival.  You can see the Tamil drums in full effect in this performance - they are really used to get the song's unique sound. 

22 February 2024

22 February 2024 - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Something That I Want

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a band that has lived on the fringe of rock.  They're certainly a talented, straight-ahead rock band.  They've gotten some airplay on adult alternative radio, and have only hit the Billboard Hot 100 ONE time - in 2012, with "Stars" (a future song for this blog, no doubt).

This song, today's song, was not released as a single.  It was kind of a throwaway song.  And yet, without knowing who the artist is in a lot of case, this song is beloved and probably the band's best known song.  It is credited by Potter as "the only reason I was able to pay my bills" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You see, the song played at the end of the 2010 Disney movie Tangled, over the closing credits.  And it goes HARD - not a song you'd expect in a Disney movie.  Written by Grace Potter herself, it is a tour de force.

Someone must have known, because a video for this song, filmed at Disney Animation Studios and featuring Potter, was filmed. And it was fun!!!

Now, sit down, because I'm gonna hit most of you with knowledge.

Grace Potter was on an episode of One Tree Hill in 2008 - two years before Tangled was released.  Guess what she performed?

The song was slightly rewritten and definitely rerecorded for Tangled, but it was a repurposed song.

Even though the band is still together, Grace Potter's work over the last ten years has been largely solo.  This performance in 2020 was a solo performance, but she still pulled out her best know song.

And, by the way, this woman is a rock star.  No doubt.

21 February 2024

21 February 2024 - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force - I Wonder If I Take You Home

This story starts with Cult Jam, a Brooklyn-based R&B group, led by a vocalist named Lisa Velez.  At age 14, Velez auditioned for a group of R&B producers and performers who called themselves Full Force.  

Somewhere along the line, they decided that Lisa Lisa's name should be pulled out separately.  

This single, released in Europe in 1985, was such a huge radio hit AS AN IMPORT that CBS decided it needed a US release - and yes, it was not only a huge hit, but also would go on to be one of the most sampled songs in history.  

The song was written by Full Force, and they also perform on the track.  It's, of course, about teen sex.  And, in this case, there's a pro/con list - they are, believe it or not, extoling the virtues of saying 'yes'.  By the way, Lisa was 18 when she was singing this.  

Cult Jam broke up in the early '90s, but Lisa Lisa still performs.  She still has the same energy, too, as is clear in this performance from 2022.  

20 February 2024

20 December 2024 - Dua Lipa - Training Season

You want to talk about recent?  This single was released LAST WEEK.

It's already in my moderate rotation.

Dua Lipa wrote the lyrics with Caroline Allin, with a team doing the disco/Middle-Eastern composition. Is that an ABBA influence I hear?  Maybe.  It is a confident, fun song, to be sure.  

It's not a big hit song yet, but give it two weeks.  Geez!

The song was released last week, but she also performed it PRIOR to its release, at the Grammys.

19 February 2024

19 February 2024 - Becky G - Shower

Becky G is a badass.

You would not know it by her first Top 40 hit, an ode to new love.  She wrote the bridge, but it was mostly a Dr. Luke special - and despite her badassery, her youth gave her what was called the "Call Me Maybe" of 2014.  

It would be eight years before Becky G would have her 2nd hit

Despite it not really fitting with the rest of her catalog - which is largely Spanish-language and harder edged - she still performs her first hit live.  And she's gotten to be a truly complex performer.

16 February 2024

16 February 2024 - Jon Batiste - Worship

Jon Batiste was nominated for six Grammys this year, including one for this song.  He has WON Grammys in the past - including one for Album of the Year.  He is a two-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner (so far - one of his nominations is this year).  He was Emmy nominated when he was bandleader for Stephen Colbert on his late night talk show.

And no, I had never heard of him.  I have a blind spot for some music, I suppose, and I am trying to correct that.

This jazzy, souldful, hiphoppy gospel song is an absolute delight, and I love it.  Co-written by Batiste, it is a cornerstone of his Grammy-nominated concept album World Music Radio

Of course I had to seek out live performances of this song.  It is really good.  One of our favorite was that time he returned to Colbert's show to perform. It is a quieter and yet energetic performance, and it is a work of art.