For MONTHS - MONTHS! - my daughter Juliana has begged to take over my blog. She keeps wanting to post one song.
This is that song. It's hard-rocking while retaining its goth feel. It wouldn't normally be a song I would post - it's not terrible, mind you, but c'mon, I'm mostly posting pop music here - but I'm glad I did.
Also, it's Juliana's birthday, so if you see her, wish her a happy birthday.
Every once in a while, there's a song that transcends genre. Eddie Rabbitt released one of these in 1980, with "I Love A Rainy Night". The song topped both the Billboard Country and Hot 100 (which is pop) charts.
I mean, the song is catchy, even all these years later. Admit it - you started singing it as soon as you saw the title of this post.
I mean, we know what Ty Dolla $ign ACTUALLY means here. He isn't talking about cats here, despite the prominent feline heads here. He wants the ladies to drop it like it's hot. That doesn't mean he didn't perform a very catchy song. He seems to be competing with T-Pain in the Autotune sweepstakes (and winning).
He's kind of wasting Charli XCX and Tinashe (who both co-wrote the song - Charli was working on it for another artist before Ty came on board), though. And they STILL manage to steal the show and get you to not notice Wiz Khalifa in the background. I'd actually like to see what these ladies could do without anyone with a dollar sign in his name.
But back to this subtle performance. I mean, the real message kind of sneaks in there.....
First of all, I'm posting something on a Saturday. That's because my daughter Isabella loves this song, and today is her birthday.
But really, this is exactly the type of song you're coming to this blog to see. And Fifth Harmony has.. well, harmonies... that I haven't seen since the days of En Vogue. These ladies will have a great career as long as they can hold themselves together. So I'm going to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Ultimately, I determined it was worth the extra effort. MØ (that's the woman dancing in the video, but you already knew that) is an amazing talent, and Major Lazer backs her up nicely. Far and away the biggest hits yet for all concerned (even DJ Snake, although that's arguable), and deservedly so.
I did see the movie Straight Outta Compton, which was excellent. And mostly unflinching.
Except for one piece. Dr. Dre came out looking pretty clean. I mean, even Eminem mentioned Dee Barnes (at about the 3:05 mark of this song)! I remember admiring Dre for letting that happen back then - like maybe he was facing his bad choices honestly for a minute.
Now, let's talk about this song, which was an early Eminem single. The call and response between him and Dre is masterful. I'm not personally the biggest fan of Mr. Mathers, but this is a high water mark for him. Enjoy this good vs. evil masterpiece.
Let's talk about Alesso. He actually appears in his own video.... even though he's a DJ. Hey, David Guetta, Skrillex, Avicii, and all you other DJs who like to remain anonymous - knock it off. Alesso is seen as the future of Swedish EDM, the direct result of Swedish House Mafia and their demise. I'm looking forward to hearing more from him.
But c'mon. If you've been paying attention, you know I really posted this song because it features Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson on vocals. This song was most people's first exposure in the US to Tove Lo, including mine. Of course, "Habits" would (pretty much concurrently) become a bigger hit, but this song shows a different, more impassioned side of her. She's a true talent.
Let's not even mention that David Bowie got a songwriting credit here.
For a lot of years, I wouldn't have dared called Smashing Pumpkins a guilty pleasure. They seriously rocked....
....and then they didn't. They got wimpy. Billy Corgan made his band into a guilty pleasure.
This song, from their 2nd album Siamese Dream, remains to this day one of my favorites of theirs. Only recently have I learned that this was a song with a message. You see, every grungy sounding band in the early to mid 1990's was compared, fairly or not, to Nirvana, and Billy Corgan was pretty adamant that he was not Kurt Cobain.
This song was the 2nd single from her 2008 studio album Some People Have Real Problems. Seeing that album displayed for sale at my local Starbucks was my first introduction to Sia. Of course, I didn't actually hear her until years later. And it is, of course, fantastic pop music that was criminally overlooked in this country, and really around the world.
No wonder she retired!
Also, notice that Sia is facing the camera - a lot! and smiling - and not relying on Maddy Ziegler as a stand-in. That whole stage-fright assumption is a bunch of crap.
Dolly's been doing them for years. I mean, she didn't need to build her career on her boobs - she is a brilliant songwriter, even to this day - but they sure helped. This song isn't QUITE dirty, but she's certainly looking at an ex like a piece of meat here. Still, entertaining. It's a song of regret and falling back into prior relationships....it's more subtle than I expect from a country song, and it makes for an enjoyable song.
Queen of the Clouds might be the greatest album of the past few years that I've listened to from end to end. (Yes, people - better than True Romance - happy?) Before I listened to the whole album and just had heard this song, I thought it was a weak follow-up to "Habits" (and, to be fair, that's on my list of Best Singles of 2014, so I did think highly of it). I just wasn't a great big fan. It wasn't a bad song. It just wasn't great.....
Until I heard it in the context of the whole album - a concept album going through a relationship, from early lust and passion (where this song lies), to the middle part where it gets real and the people in it start thinking about their futures, to the breakup and the aftermath (which is where you would find "Habits"). Then it made more sense to me.
It's amazing that I took this long to post such a powerful song. And it has a great story!
"Titanium" started off life as a demo.... written by Sia, recorded by Sia, and sent to David Guetta, possibly for a collaboration with Katy Perry, or Alicia Keys. Sia had retired from performing and recording her own music, since she was meeting with little to moderate success, and, as a pop star, she was done....
My least favorite days are when I can't think of something to post. I mean, I love guilty pleasure music. If my well is running dry, even for a minute, it's time to worry.
Thank GOD for Madonna. She's been making this music for so long, I will always have a deep catalog as a go-to. This is the first Madonna song I ever heard, and I was instantly hooked, even at a time when I was fighting against my love of commercial music.
Jason Derulo's new album Everything Is 4 is out today. The first single from that album is today's post.... and despite being about what every Jason Derulo song is about (being naked with a member of the opposite sex), it's a fun throwback that shows off Jason's vocal abilities. And it's lyrically damned catchy.
Also, if you look up the phrase "guilty pleasure" in the dictionary, Jason Derulo's picture is right there.
As an added bonus, here's a live performance of the song, from The Ellen Show. Even in this performance, you can hear the song starts with a whispered "Derulo".
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
But c'mon. This song is fun, and this might be the most bizarre, inventive and awesome video in the last few year. And as much as I just wanted to let this one go, and stop it with the Charli XCX posts...
She is one of the most original pop artists today.
She's a reasonably prolific songwriter.
Charli XCX posts are usually the most widely read ones on this blog.
So, yeah, I am a fan. I won't deny that. But this is all about pandering. And enjoying what is a truly great pop song.
Also, check at about 2:38, to hear the one song off the Sucker album - the title track - that can never be a single.
You know I always like to give you a bonus. So how about a live version? Here ya go!
And, from the same show in Paris, here is "Sucker"...... Completely different style... less pop... very angry... and she pulls it off.
I've been seriously deficient on the recent pop hits, haven't I?
Well, deficiency, be gone!
I think the song is a little strange. After all, by virtue of being in a band, they are already the cool kids. But it's a fun song - a bit of an 80's throwback, in my opinion. It's fun, and I like that an unknown little band of kids suddenly had a top 20 hit.
Little known fact: that was actually the 2nd video for this song. Turns out the song was almost two years old before it was a big hit.... and I like the performing-in-the-living-room aspect of this one a little better......
A lot of people ask me, "Tony, what is your favorite song?" It's a fair question. It is a tough question, and something of a moving target. I usually give an answer that is my favorite song of the moment.
I do, however, have a favorite song of all time. You might have seen me mention it - on Totally Covered. Yes. This is a repost. Of a cover.
But it's more than that.
It's a reminder of my childhood. During the 70's, I had a lot of Glen Campbell's music foisted upon me by my parents. Well, many years later, I revisted some of it, and, to my surprise, I was a fan. And now, it's a go-to song for me.
And it's a reminder of my musical failings. Glen Campbell no longer tours. I will never see him live. But at least I have this recording.
This song has been my earworm for the past two weeks. In fact, I cannot remember hearing this song, from 2006, ever, before two weeks ago. Before two weeks ago, I was not a fan of any Yeah Yeah Yeahs music.
However, this is not your typical Yeah Yeah Yeahs song. It's generally slower and more deliberate than their other material, with more acoustic guitar than you might be used to when thinking of their sound. Lyrically, it's simple - not all that many lyrics. It doesn't need them. It's musically compelling enough.
How the hell am I supposed to pronounce an O with a line through it?
I think the first is most accurate, but it's not a letter we pronounce in English. Danish, yes. English, no.
It was hard enough to figure out how to type it! (Alt-0216 on a Windows keyboard, by the way).
That doesn't matter right now. What matters is that she is making smart music - electronic pop music with teeth. Best known in the US for singing on an Iggy Azalea tune, MØ is making good music on her own.
I am going to post this very chipper and slightly sad song that she did not perform in 1995... probably because it sounded very Blake Babies-like. Which I would have been OK with.... except at the time, she was trying to distance herself from that period.
And if you haven't read her book, When I Grow Up, you should. Really good book.
Anyway, the song is still sweet, more than 20 years later. It remains an enduring favorite of mine. At the time of its release - around about 1992, when I was still mourning the end of the Blake Babies - I remember liking her whole Hey Babe album, because it gave me hope that the classic sound would live on. This song was a surprise (to me) single choice, but a solid one, and one that still endures for me, so many years later.
I kept hearing that this song was more earwormy than "Call Me Maybe". And from this blog's standpoint, that's a big deal. That song was the first one of our posts to crest 100 page views. (We've done better since).
I like the song. Let's be clear. It's sweet and inoffensive. But to call it with such high praise....well, that's just throwing a wish in the well.
This might be the only artist on here who wants you to have her phone number...
By the way, it's (323) 362-2658.
And yes. She answers. Sometimes. It's a cell phone. So you can text her.
Bet let's not stalk our favorite buzzy musicians. Let's talk about their great music, instead. She didn't make a video for it or release it as a single. But the song is so emotion-filled that I couldn't not post it. The pain in BANKS's voice is tangible, like you can touch it, grab it with your hands. It's a rare talent that can do that. So, discover and enjoy.
The song that blew everyone away with Jennifer Lawrence's untapped abilities. But here's what you don't know....
If you've read the book, you know that the lyrics were written by author Suzanne Collins. Two guys from The Lumineers did the music. And, of course, Jennifer Lawrence provided the vocals..... but she didn't want to.
No. She wanted Lorde.
We're glad it's Jennifer who sang this. It gave the song a less polished feel that fit the movie better than Lorde's voice would have there, and suited the intention of the song in a far greater way than Lorde could have....
Pretty much how you're feeling this year, right, New England?
Actually, this song just perfectly captures the dichotomy of life in the United States Northeast - New England and New York can probably be lumped together here. Winter is hard, but the rest of the year.... just lovely and welcoming.
And, with the harsh winter New England is getting, I figured y'all needed a tribute.
It was only a matter of time, people. I was going to break this seal eventually. I just needed to find the right way and the right time.
On March 12, 1991, Throwing Muses released The Real Ramona, two weeks ahead of schedule. I walked into that record store with the full intention of purchasing R.E.M.'s Out of Time, which was also released that day. But, as Throwing Muses was my favorite band (still is), I had to go see if, maybe, just maybe, there was a schedule change.
Totally had to do a double today. But I had a good reason. Mary's Danish was one great band with two amazing voices. Gretchen Seager's voice was clearly well-suited for straight-ahead rock music. Her voice was - is - raspy and powerful. Take her lead vocal (with Julie Ritter taking background here) on their first single, "Don't Crash The Car Tonight", a drunk driving PSA waiting to happen....
Julie Ritter's voice, on the other hand, has a more bluesy feel. Their 2nd single featured her voice (with Gretchen on background here) on a meloncholy ballad with a countryish - cowpunk, maybe - feel.
In both cases, their harmonies made the songs work, but it made for a versatile band. Sadly, they broke up under label pressures in the early 90's, but their music lives on.
So far this week, I have given you music from the 80's and called it guilt-free. Well, guilty is in the eye of the beholder.
So I had to bring you back to today. Well, really, last year. 2014.
Angel Olsen's album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was, inarguably, one of the best of 2014 (on my list, it tied for #1). It is criminal how ignored by radio - country, rock, whatever - this album was. It was certainly in my heavy rotation all year long, and it will remain there for years to come.
The entire album reminds me a lot of another classic album - Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. Both are angry and brilliant and occasionally profane. Both are lo-fi masterpieces. Both vacillate between electric fuzz and acoustic melancholy.
This was Angel Olsen's first full-band album (and only her 2nd overall). Who knows what brilliance is to come?
As an added bonus, here is Olsen, performing the song live in 2013, before her album was completed. It's a little sparser, but it is amazing, still.
You might wonder how I selected the songs for this Guilt-Free week.
I put my iPod on Shuffle.
And Track #2 was this song, the first national single for Los Angeles band Concrete Blonde. No one knew who they were, and then they disappeared for a few years. This song is angry, and brilliant, and paints a much different picture of Hollywood - a more true one, if you've ever been - than you see in the movies.
Many of you don't know who the Blake Babies are. But you do know who Juliana Hatfield is. Well, if you were paying attention to the cover of Sassy magazine in the 90s, you know who Juliana Hatfield is.
Before she was Juliana Hatfield, she was lead singer of a band called the Blake Babies, featuring John Strohm and Freda Boner (who recruited Juliana) and occasionally their buddy Evan Dando, who later went on to found The Lemonheads (who occasionally had Juliana and John as members). The Blake Babies broke up in the early 90's, but the four of them (not the well-received three-piece) got back together in 2001 for one last hurrah.
By far, the best song on God Bless The Blake Babies was this duet featuring Juliana and Evan. It's a dark, cool, angry, sad song that will worm its way into your ears and hook itself into your brain. It isn't a typical Blake Babies song - it's much darker and more mature, to be sure - but it's close enough that you know it's them.
The song was so good, and the chemistry between the two singers so strong, that they toured together as solo acts without the rest of the band and reprised this song. Check out the ad lib in this one!!!!!!
This isn't yet a single. I really hope that it is. The song that closes Sucker, it is, in this writer's opinion, the best song on the album. It is full of ache and angst and hurt and love. It deserves to be a gigantic hit, and I hope it is.
This live performance from The Late Show With David Letterman begs two questions:
1. When did Charli stop getting dressed for public appearances?
This song is the theme song to the television series Pretty Little Liars.
That's pretty much the only reason these two ladies are on this blog. This song, away from the context of the show (the song predates the show), is dark and sinister and devilish. It's got a different feel - different harmonies - than some of their other work.
I started off writing this not knowing exactly what song I would choose. It's the first time I knew I wanted to do a blog post, but I didn't know what I wanted to write. You see, it's been a tough day. I had a lot on my mind today.
But I came out of today with one thing, and that was hope. And this song, which might be the most beautiful thing Guided by Voices ever did.... this song popped in my head. It was on an episode of Scrubs, so it totally counts. And if I am being honest... it makes me teary, every time. I hope you enjoy it, too.
When I'm about to go crazy, 'cause I'm still livin' here I just get my friends together and we dance, dance, dance.
I find it slightly ironic that Kate Schellenbach left The Beastie Boys, over creative differences surrounding the hip hop direction that band was taking, to join Luscious Jackson, a group that's for more hip hop than punk.
I mean, I'm glad she did. First of all, I like Luscious Jackson a hell of a lot more than I ever liked The Beastie Boys. The contrasts in this song between Gabby Glaser's cool verses and Jill Cuniff's frantic chorus are not atypical in Luscious Jackson's style. Even through there's a significant Curtis Mayfield sample here, Kate's drum beat is important.
(I am not discounting Vivian Trimble here. Don't worry, keyboard fans. She's important, too.)
Anyway, this is a group that sat in the shadow of the Beasties for a very long time, and didn't get proper recognition. Today, we are here to give them proper recognition.
Part of the point of this blog is to shine a light on all that music that we really do like, whether we want to admit it or not.
A lot of my friends really like Lisa Loeb. Almost all of them are afraid to admit it. So, this post is my duty, a public service to all those friends.
But let's talk about this song, a clear breakup song, which is most likely the 2nd song you every heard by the band (I mean, we keep talking about Lisa Loeb like Nine Stories isn't in the room), after the huge, HUGE hit song "Stay". This song is far more complex than that one, as is the video - no one-take wonders on this one.
What many of you do not know, however, is that this song predates "Stay" by a fair bit. It appears on their self-released Purple Tape, which was literally a purple cassette tape demo (reissued years later, of course, because that's how things go). That really was Lisa Loeb, and here it is.
This post is about "Bravado", a song about someone who is withdrawn, doesn't want to be, and breaks out of her shell. Kind of seems to me like Lorde might be talking about herself. I personally love how this song starts out quiet and builds huge with her confidence.
I'd like to remind all of you that this was released in 2013 and recorded in 2012. She turned 16 in 2012. She was barely 16 when she recorded this, and obviously already had it written. And yet, the maturity in both music and lyic are amazing.
(Edit: 13 Nov 2020) The official video disappeared, so here's a fan-made one featuring scenes from the movie Moonlight.
When Lorde went to Live on Letterman, she didn't forget this song, even if it didn't make her album. Her live performance built up just as much as the song does on record.
How does one follow up an unexpected hit song ("Luka") and album (the great Solitude Standing)? That's always a challenge.
Suzanne Vega did it in 1990 with a Grammy-award winning album (Days of Open Hand) that went a little further from her acoustic roots and more to piano and organ music. And, at the time, I liked it, but didn't love it. Some songs, however, jumped out at me and wouldn't let go. Even 25 years later, this song, which was not released as a single, but was the lead song on the album, still haunts me. There's no video, but you can hear the richness of the song, the layers, the depth. Lyrically, it's about dreams, but it's also a scary, haunting song about being a daughter having bad dreams.
This is a live version from Sessions on West 54th. It's quieter and doesn't have the pipe organ part (clearly replaced with a concertina). It's slightly less haunting, but well performed.
As Suzanne Vega has commonly done, she's gone back and, rather than just release a greatest hits album, and rerecorded and reinvented her songs. This one was done in a completely different key, and only acoustic, with a mandolin accompaniment replacing the organ.
It's a thing from 2012 is what it is. Way before anything that resembled a hit single. But it's amazing and it is awesome and this song is what paved the way for the Iggy Iggs we all know and love today.
(Update: 8 June 2021): In tribute to the greatness that is this blog, I thought I'd give you guys a treat - Iggy Azalea performing this song, live in 2016. Even after she was a big hit maker, she never forgot where it all began.
It was three years ago that Scott and I opened this blog with this song, professing our adoration for all things Ashlee Simpson. It only makes sense that we post her last song to chart in the United States (#96 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2008) from her third album to kick off Year 4.
By the way, not an easy video to find. Almost as if she wants us to forget about this song. I don't know why - it isn't her best work, but that doesn't mean it's bad.
I always end the year with something remarkable from the prior year - an artist that made a difference to me over the year. I don't usually post a brand new single.
So, I just didn't post an end of year song. I decided to start fresh in 2015.
Thank you, Marina, for forcing me to bend my rules slightly. It's been a long time since Electra Heart. Froot is almost certain to be the 2nd ever album I ever preorder (Sucker being the first). But this song is just too, too cool to ignore.