31 January 2013

31 January 2013 - Bon Jovi - Runaway

C'mon, I know you've all been missing it, so for one week only . . . IT'S THE RETURN OF HAIR METAL THURSDAY!!!

Here's some classic Bon Jovi for no good reason. I was going to post the Bad Medicine video if only because Sam Kinison is in it, but Runaway is a much cooler tune ("cooler" of course being a very relative term).

30 January 2013

30 January 2012 - When In Rome - The Promise

Sometimes, a song is a pleasure from first listen.  Sometimes, it takes a little longer for me.

I hated - HATED - this song when it was new.  It was 1988.  I was 16.  And this song didn't connect to me and it didn't interest me and it bored me.  But, at the time, I was just starting to understand music outside the mainstream, and this was probably too close to the border between mainstream and alternative for me to understand.

But now, I appreciate song structure and lyrical creativity a little more.  This song starts with a piano melody that reprises throughout, but has a very contemporary-sounding (for 1988) electronic beat as the base of the song.  Two men - Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann, specifically - harmonize throughout.  It's considered a classic song, because it is structured just like this, combining electronica with harmonized vocals.

And that chorus! Intensely catchy (and a little creepy)!

29 January 2013

29 January 2013 - Holly Throsby - A Heart Divided

As some of you may or may not know I'm a total tennis junkie (I even coach a high school team in my town). Needless to say I spent many a late night in the last two weeks watching the Australian Open. And if anyone else was watching they certainly heard today's song as it played during pretty much every commercial break in the form of a travel ad for the city of Melbourne. So while it's been a few days since Novak Djokovic took the Men's title, it's also been a few days since I've had my Holly Throsby fix. Luckily I found the video to feed my addiction.

28 January 2013

28 January 2013 - Big Boi Featuring Phantogram - CPU

It was fun to surprise you during our American Idol weeks with posts like this, but it's time to get back to the business of Wicked Guilty Pleasures.

I never would have thought that Big Boi would be the groundbreaking member of Outkast.  And this song and performance are seriously, seriously cool.  I'm waiting to see what a video for this song will look like.

But what I love most about this performance?  That Big Boi is not afraid to share the stage, and the spotlight, with a really, really good artist.  Sarah Barthel doesn't waste her national exposure - I know Phantogram gained a lot of fans that night on Jimmy Kimmel Live.   Phantogram did three songs with Big Boi on his new album, which is interesting and different than just about anything out there right now, so I urge you to check it out.

UPDATE: The old video broke, so here's a new one, same performance.

25 January 2013

25 January 2013 - Carrie Underwood - Two Black Cadillacs

And so the American Idol love comes to an end. I like how we bookended the two weeks with the two biggest Idols. Tony kicked things off with the original Idol Kelly Clarkson and I'm closing it with Season 4's winner Carrie Underwood.

When Carrie's most recent album Blown Away was released in May I posted a funny little tale about buying it at this here music blog. I enjoyed the record so much that she even found her way into my top Artists of 2012.

Yesterday, the third video off Blown Away was released. I thought the album's title track and video were pretty dark, but WOW, Two Black Cadillacs makes Blown Away seem like All-American Girl. See for yourself.

I know we've been posting Idol footage, but that All-American Girl "joke" makes absolutely no sense if you've never seen the super sweet cavity causing video. Also, it's a cheap excuse for me to watch the video for the bazillionth time.

24 January 2013

24 January 2013 - Granville Automatic - Never On A Sunday & Glorieta (& Vanessa Olivarez - You Keep Me Hangin' On)

When I was watching Season 2 of American Idol, and enjoying Vanessa Olivarez (12th place - she was the 1st finalist eliminated, and I was angry about that), I never in a million years would have imagined that I'd be rediscovering her music ten years later.  But, as I was researching music for these two weeks of American Idol tribute, I did just that.

As lead vocalist (and harpsichordist) of Granville Automatic, Vanessa (along with Elizabeth Elkins) makes classic country music, with a warm southern feeling and a respect for history, musical and otherwise.  This song is lighthearted, and seems like it could have been written 75 years ago, or 2 weeks ago, sounding both fresh and classic.

Update (29 July 2020) - the original video is gone.  Here's a Sun Studio session version of the song instead.

Oh, the name of the band?  It's a 19th century typewriter.  Vanessa is a collector.  Who knew?

Update (10 Dec 2013): The duo finally made an official video for this song.  And CMT featured it on their front page, right here.  Of course, they're 11 months behind us.  Here's the new video.  It's a lot of fun.

Currently, the duo is working on a project - a crusade, almost - to keep (American) Civil War stories fresh.  This song, their latest, was written about a battle known as the Gettysburg of the West, in a town south of Santa Fe, New Mexico - Glorieta Pass, if you want to look it up. This project is a partnership with the Civil War Trust, who are concerned with preserving these classic, forgotten sites and protecting them from urban development.  I encourage you to go here and read more about their quest as it develops.  It's a really interesting read.  The song itself is deep in history, with a quiet, classic country feel.

And, since this is an American Idol week post, here is Vanessa, singing "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by The Supremes.  Back then, her hair was red, and her voice was huge.  Her voice still is huge, but she was already showing the raw talent that she would use for a greater good later.

23 January 2013

23 January 2013 - Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery

Only three more days left in the Wicked Guilty Pleasures American Idol Celebration. Thanks for over-indulging us. We'll be back to our usual nonsense next week. But let's keep the Idol love going . . .

OK, I'm totally going to cheat here, but it's pretty easy to put Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery together. The teens were the top two finalists in Season 10 and their debut records were released within a week of each other. Both have achieved moderate success on the country charts (Scotty, probably a bit more) and in my opinion, both have bright futures ahead of them in country music.

Let's start the video goodness with the second single from Lauren's 2011 debut Wildflower.

And now here's the latest single from Scotty's 2011 debut Clear as Day.

22 January 2013

22 January 2013 - Carly (Smithson) Hennessy - I'm Gonna Blow Your Mind / We Are The Fallen - Bury Me Alive

The Season Seven 6th place finisher was an Irish woman named Carly Smithson.  She has a huge voice and a great personality, but she came with a couple of controversies.

First off, there was the album Ultimate High.  This was an album that Carly recorded, under her maiden name, for MCA Records.  It bombed spectacularly - $2 million was spent on the album, but it sold less than 400 copies.  Really, it's because MCA didn't know how to market Carly in a world dominated by Shania Twain.  Still, this song, from that album that eventually got a sales bump with a post-Idol reissue, isn't half bad, and her strong voice and personality shine through.


Since Idol, Carly has taken on lead vocals for the band We Are The Fallen.  They aren't really all that much different than Evanescence, but at least her label knows how to market her now.  This genre suits her better.

I mentioned two controversies.  Season 7 was the 2nd time Carly wowed the judges.  The first time was Season 5.  Sadly, immigration laws, and issues with her work visa, prevented her from progressing in the competition   Here is her Season 5 audition.  Notice how all three judges love her.

And, in Season 7, she was using her married name.  And owned up 100% to her Season 5 issues.  But not her prior label signing.  Again, she sang "I'm Every Woman:, and again, the judges were impressed.

And, to wrap it all up, here she is, doing "Jesus Christ Superstar" on the show.  I've been waiting a very long time to post this one.  Just a huge performance!!!!!!!

21 January 2013

21 January 2013 - Kristy Lee Cook - Airborne Ranger Infantry

We are now entering the final week of our American Idol Hall of Fame celebration. This week I'll be doing the Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts and Tony gets the days that start with the letter "T."

Country singer Kristy Lee Cook earned a 7th place finish in the 7th season of American Idol. Her first post-Idol album, 2008's very underrated Why Wait (released on Arista Nasvhille), produced the top 30 country hit 15 Minutes of Shame. The record also featured Like My Mother Does which future Idol alum Lauren Alaina also performed on her debut record. The relationship between Cook and Arista only lasted for that one record though as they parted ways prior to 2009.

On to bigger and better things. . .

In 2010, Cook signed with independent country label Broken Bow Records (a much better fit in my opinion). Her BBR debut, produced by country chart-topper Jason Aldean (that certainly can't hurt her singing career), is scheduled to be released later this year (you know I'm looking forward to hearing it). The first single off that record is Airborne Ranger Infantry which was co-written by Cook and inspired by the poems her father wrote while serving in Vietnam. Check it out.

. . . And here she is singing Dolly's Coat of Many Colors from the American Idol Final 9 in 2008 (just ignore what that clown Simon Cowell has to say at the end. . .).

18 January 2013

18 January 2013 - Katharine McPhee - Over It & Beautiful

American Idol is good at finding country music talent, as you can see this week.  However, it's also good at finding pop talent.  Katharine McPhee is one of the more colourful contestants from Season 5, ending as that year's runner-up.  She had a nice pop star quality, similar to a Mandy Moore, but had a huge, huge voice.  I could see Mandy Moore singing this song, which is light teen angsty fare, but still fun.

As many of you know, Katharine is now one of the stars of the NBC show Smash, which I suggest you check out.  Second best music-centered show on television (Nashville being the best).  In the years between her AI appearance and this, her voice has matured, and she is now capable of carrying this big tune, just like Christina Aguilera did.

Lest we forget, this is where she started.  Actually, this was the AI5 finale, so I guess this isn't the start.  "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is the song.  And she belts it.  Such a mature voice already at that point.  Enjoy!

17 January 2013

17 January 2013 - Crystal Bowersox - Farmer's Daughter

Tony left the door wide-open for me to post about the Season 4 American Idol winner. And trust me I want to. Even if I already posted about her here. Maybe next week. Or maybe not. We'll see.

Instead, I'll go with the AI runner-up from Season 9. I heard good things about Crystal Bowersox during her AI run and was intrigued when her debut record Farmer's Daughter came out in 2010. I was immediately taken in by her strong soulful voice (think Joplin, but without the whiskey and cigarettes) and great songs (all but one of which she wrote). The first single and title track blew me away with its honesty. It's an incredibly sad song/story, but there's hope in the end. Word on the street is that her follow-up record will be released this spring and I for one am looking forward to hearing it.

And since I compared Crystal to Janis earlier, I suppose I should dig up her AI performance of Me and Bobby McGee.

16 January 2013

16 January 2013 - Carmen Rasmusen (Herbert) - Nothin' Like The Summer

The single biggest shock of the entire American Idol series came in season 2.  (That was ten years ago!) In the Hollywood rounds, before the public got to vote - when the contestant first sings for the judges - Carmen Rasmusen was eliminated.  She didn't even get onto the television broadcast of these rounds.

Strangely, she was brought back to perform in the Top 24 Wild Card night, along with a couple of other eliminated contestants - supposedly for demographic reasons. On this night, one performer was to be selected by America - that person ended up being Clay Aiken - and three were selected by the judges.  When the performances were given.... well, Simon Cowell ripped her a new one.  He very clearly called her "not good enough."  Not.  Good.  Enough.

And the next night, when the choices were made?  She was Simon's judge's choice.  And no one was more surprised than she was.

I was quite happy.  Carmen was, and remains to this day, my favorite Idol contestant ever.  She was earnest, she was modest, and she took criticism well. Plus, she could sing, and she had a voice with an appealing vibrato.  I don't think anyone has done more noble work with their Idol exposure.

She ended up in 6th place in Season 2.  Sixth.  America loved her.  Utah (her home state) (she was a Mormon, yes) loved her a lot!  Her vocal style clearly matured in her time on the show. She parlayed her vocal maturity and success on Idol into a modest music career.  Here's one of her post-Idol singles.  Now, tell me this isn't 1. radio-friendly and 2. an appealing, fun song!

By the way, Ms. Rasmusen Herbert, now a newspaper columnist, is not a fan of what Idol has become, although she calls Simon her favorite judge.

Here's one of my favorite performances of hers from Idol - her version of Blondie's "Call Me".  I don't care what the judges say - I got it and I think she did it well.

/> And, because we like to feature these things on our blogs, here's Carmen singing Adele's little hit a couple of years ago.   I still think this woman has a great voice!

15 January 2013

15 January 2013 - Kellie Pickler - Red High Heels

While I've never watched American Idol for more than five minutes at a time, I've certainly become a fan of many of the contestants over the years, which is why I suggested that we do this two-week Hall of Fame AI celebration.

My first AI Hall of Fame post goes to my No. 1 artist of 2012 -- Kellie Pickler (who came in 6th place in Season 5 of Idol). This June I posted her Best Days of Your Life video (a song she co-wrote and performed with Taylor Swift). Today, I present you with my favorite Kellie Pickler song. It's off her debut album Small Town Girl.

And now, here she is performing Sara Evans' Suds in the Bucket on Idol.

14 January 2013

14 January 2013 - Kelly Clarkson - Miss Independent ( & Respect Yourself )


Since AI is returning to the air this week, Scott and I decided we'd go ahead and give you two weeks of American Idol alumni, to show you what an impact the show has had on the entire music industry.

Let's start at the beginning.  The very first winner.  She's been featured on here before - our second post, and Scott's first - and now, she kicks off our showcase.  Released in 2003, this is the song that really made Kelly Clarkson a bigger star, and broke her out of the American Idol mold and squeaky-clean image.

The song itself is sparse, hard-edged pop-rock, which highlights her huge voice really well.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the song was co-written by Christina Aguilera and originally intended for her.... but it would seem strange to hear her sing this song, which Kelly own so perfectly.

Bonus: Here's Kelly Clarkson's audition. It's one of the most colorful auditions ever.  She even had a career backup plan.

11 January 2013

11 January 2013 - Connie Britton & Chip Esten - No One Will Ever Love You

Scott was kind enough to post a song from the ABC show Nashville yesterday.  We are in complete agreement as to how great that show is.  On Twitter, I have spoken with a couple of old time country artists - Lynn Anderson most notably - who vouch for the ACCURACY of the show's portrayal of the Nashville music business, which I found heartening.

Yesterday's song was Juliette Barnes, so today, I am pulling out Rayna James.  Connie Britton, who I have loved since "Spin City", is tremendous in a role that is supposedly loosely based on the life of Reba McEntire.  I don't know if that's true, but she can sing, and well, which I found surprising.

Here's my favorite song from the show, a duet with Charlie Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne.  Forget for a second that this song is written for a television show.  It's expertly produced by T-Bone Burnett, who I've been a fan of for many years, and full of raw, deep emotion.  It's got an old-time, classic country feel that I love. And, getting back to the TV story - our two characters wrote this song many years ago, when they were romantically linked, and both actors expertly capture the emotion of the song.  It's a fantastically acted show.

You noticed that I noted Charles Esten as "Chip" on this post.  I knew I had seen him somewhere before, but I couldn't place him right away.  As it turns out, I did recognize him. His singing ability shouldn't have surprised anyone.  He did it several times on television in the past.  He was a featured player on the television show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

10 January 2013

10 January 2013 - Hayden Panettiere - Telescope

It's been a long month, but one of the few TV shows I watch returned last night and bombs were dropping everywhere. While the story lines and acting on Nashville are top notch, it's the music that makes this show must see for me. The actors and actresses are singing songs by some of the finest songwriters in Nashville and beyond (oh and the music is produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett). Here's the first of hopefully many videos released from the Nashville Soundtrack. Word is Hayden wants to put out a country album of her own. I hope it happens.

09 January 2013

9 January 2013 - Katy Perry - Wide Awake

Last year, we honored Katy Perry as our first Wicked Guilty Pleasure Hall of Fame honoree.  Since that time, she reissued her Teenage Dream album, adding a few songs.

Also, she did a documentary - Part of Me.  The documentary was shockingly and stunningly powerful.  It did a fantastic job in humanizing Katy Perry, big star.  She's just Katy Hudson, people. She's a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a friend... and, at the beginning of the movie, a wife.  Not by the end.

This song played over the closing credits of that documentary.  The power of Katy's vocal - the woman can sing, doubtless, and she makes sure you know it with this huge song - and the heartbreak of the lyrics really match well with the 2nd half of the movie.  Really, the video is an allegory for her high and low points of the past year, starting with scenes from the first video from Teenage Dream ("California Gurls") and ending with the opening scene from the movie.  It's a dark, dark song, to be sure, but still enjoyable.

I strongly recommend the movie.  Here's the trailer.  At about the :33 mark is the day that Russell Brand filed for divorce.  I choked up a little at that part.  It was difficult to watch.

08 January 2013

8 January 2013 - Marcy Playground - Sex and Candy

Was this song really from 1997? Yikes. Anyway, I always liked this Marcy Playground tune. I got to see them in 2009 in support of their Leaving Wonderland record (they were playing on one of the free side stages at a small music festival I go to every year in Virginia Beach). I have to say, it was a fun show and as expected this song got the biggest crowd reaction.

07 January 2013

7 January 2013 - 'Rent' (Movie) Cast - Santa Fe / Seasons of Love

The movie version of 'Rent' was really well done.  This was probably due to the fact that almost the entire Broadway cast came back to do the film. (Exceptions: the fantastic Tracie Thoms was a step up from Fredi Walker as Joanne, and Rosario Dawson replaced Daphne Rubin-Vega as Mimi and did an admirable job).  At any rate, Jesse L. Martin, who originated the role of (Tom) Collins, takes the primary lead on this song, which, for me, perfectly captures the hope and hopelessness combined in the first act.

Of course, if I am going to talk about the 1st act of Rent, I need to also share the song that opens Act 2 and captures the feeling of the act to come. Jesse L. Martin and Tracie Thoms - who proves she's got pipes! - take lead roles in this song.

By the way, I love how the movie handles this song - just like it is handled on stage.  Perfect.  Spot on.

04 January 2013

4 January 2013 - Ashlee Simpson - La La

I started this blog on the 5th of January, 2012.  I started it with this post, dedicated to an artist that my friend Scott and I had discussed many times in the past, and who really was the inspiration for this entire blog.

So, what better way to honor our first anniversary than a post once again dedicated to that artist?  This song, from 2004, was the one that really brought Ashlee into the limelight, out of her sister Jessica's shadow (pun intended).  It wasn't a light-hearted pop song at all.  It was more in the power-pop-rock genre where Ashlee dominated.  Visually, there are a lot of sparkly things to look at here.  And, clearly, Ashlee is trying to distance herself from her sister's (at the time) squeaky-clean image.  You know, as she sings about quasi-S&M.

In all seriousness, I saved this song for this date, because it is one of my favorite songs, guilty pleasure or not.    It is catchy and danceable, straddles pop and rock perfectly, and is lyrically clever.  I don't give a damn how well Ashlee did or did not sing on Saturday Night Live.  Music is supposed to be fun, and this song is, perfectly.

As a bonus, here is Ashlee, singing live - not on Saturday Night Live, obviously - adding a little "Santa Baby" to this song.

03 January 2013

3 January 2013 - Go Go's - Vacation

Time to bring back 80s Thursdays. I've actually missed the cheesy goodness. But I have no cheese this week because everyone knows that the Go Go's are freaking awesome. I normally would have chosen Our Lips Are Sealed, but seeing that I'll be spending the next five days in sunny Key West this video seemed a bit more appropriate.

02 January 2013

2 January 2013 - Everclear - Everything To Everyone

I struggled for a bit to figure out what my first post of 2013 should be.    Ultimately, I decided on this - a pop-rock classic from 1997 that didn't get nearly the attention it deserved (although it was the biggest hit of their tenure on the Modern Rock charts).

It seems strange that I didn't pick a straight-ahead pop song to start the year, but this video and this song simply fascinate me.  I know it's a lot of clever editing that makes the video work - I am pretty sure it's not a skinny oval room with a camera spinning in the middle - but it's a neat effect.

Lyrically, the song is perhaps the most clever and biting we've ever posted.  Both in that respect and musically, the song gets angrier and more frenetic as it goes on.  Despite all this anger, it's a fun, fun song you can bounce to - as is evidenced at about 2:30 of the video.  Enjoy!