31 December 2020

31 December 2020 - David Bowie - Heroes

At this point, I'm sure you've heard this song a lot this year.  This can be the last time, if you want.  But it seemed fitting, in a year when we've needed everyday heroes, in a year without a superhero movie, this song seems to provide an appropriate coda.   

Or you can go to Totally Covered and check out the "Heroes" special.

Not really a hit in 1977, when it was released, it DID become a worldwide hit on its posthumous rerelease in 2016.   It is seen as an inspiration for the reunification of Germany - that's how powerful a song this is.  His June 1987 performance in Berlin, featuring this song broadcast to both sides of the Berlin Wall, is seen as an early catalyst for these unification efforts, as music lovers on both sides of the wall enjoyed the concert live, together.  

I was lucky enough to see David Bowie perform this song live in 1991, on what he billed as a farewell tour to his old songs (of course, it wasn't - those songs were amazing).  Here he is in 1987 - the same tour as the one in Berlin (although not his Berlin performance).  

30 December 2020

30 December 2020 - Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck

I know a lot of people think the Cocteau Twins sound dour and sad.  This is not a sad or dour song.  It's quite chipper. This song achieved something no other Cocteau Twins song had prior - UK radio airplay.  It cracked their Top 40 - and got some significant alternative play stateside.  

This song, the single on their decidedly more upbeat than past releases Heaven or Las Vegas, didn't happen by accident.  Elizabeth Fraser is happy... mostly because she was a mother.  This song is likely about her daughter, Lucy-Belle, who she had in 1989 with fellow Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie.  

29 December 2020

29 December 2002 - Incubus - Drive

"Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there."

Has a more positive line ever been written in music?

(The answer is, yes. "I can't outshine your radiance or undermine your silliness."  But still.)  

This song was a breakthrough and crossover hit for Incubus, even making the POP top 10, which was an achievement for the rock/hip-hop fusion band.  But great, motivational songs tend to be inspirational, no matter the genre.  

28 December 2020

28 December 2020 - Kool & The Gang - Celebration

I'm going to tell you something about this great song, the only #1 hit for Kool & the Gang, and one of the biggest hits of 1981 and every roller rink since.

This song is a religious song.

That's right.  The celebration they speak of was inspired by a Quranic sura.... but a story Christians know well, and that is the one of the creation of Adam.  A mild irony here - when the hostages held in Iran returned home in February`1981, this song was the one chosen to be played for them. 

I think they made a great choice.  It's a happy and celebratory song, even if you miss the religious overtones.   

25 December 2020

25 December 2020 - Clarence Carter - Back Door Santa

Clarence Carter released a happy but quite unsavory song in 1968 for Christmas.  Now, he lost the beat to Run DMC several years later.  But, since we just posted that Run DMC song, it makes sense to give you the sampled song.  

25 December 2020 - Run DMC - Christmas In Hollis

Admit it.  You're already smiling.   

Run DMC certainly had a lot of bravado, but this song was nothing but positive and honest.  Recorded for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, the song heavily samples Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa" as well as other popular Christmas carols.  How many can you spot?  

As a little bonus, here's the group performing the song on Nickelodeon, several years after its release.  Needless to say, the crowd still loves the song.

24 December 2020

24 December 2020 - Amy Grant - Emmanuel

I felt that, for Christmas, a song celebrating the holiday was in order.  

In 1985, the world changed.  Christian pop superstar Amy Grant released an album - Unguarded - that had some secular success - and it made the sales of ALL her albums go up.  That INCLUDED her 1983 A Christmas Album, which finally broke through in 1985.  In fact, I believe I brought the album myself in 1985.  

This song - written by Michael W. Smith - was the single from that Christmas album, and ended up being something of a holiday hit as well.  It is clearly a song about, well, the son of God (Matthew 1:23). It is quite celebratory, and joyous, without getting overtly preachy or melancholic.   It remains one of my favorite religious songs to this day.  

23 December 2020

23 December 2020 - Cake - The Distance

This is the most active we've been on this blog in seven years.  And our dedication has shown - you are reading the stuff that we're crapping out on the page.   Some days, we do a better job than others, but we always persevere.  We keep going, and we will keep going for a few more years.  

(Spoiler: we have some posts scheduled for the next two and a half years, at least)

We take special motivation from this song, about a protagonist who doesn't quit, and... well, goes the distance.  We hope you do as well.

22 December 2020

22 December 2020 - Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride

Matthew Wilder released this song in 1983..... his debut single ended up being his only hit.  

Even when I was 11, I recognized that this song was great and happy and brought me more joy than a Marie Kondo book.  The message of the song is positive and uplifting, and that's probably why it was such a huge hit that endures to this day.  

And by the way, this is absolutely the performance of this song from Solid Gold.  Ah, Solid Gold.  Ah, Marilyn McCoo.  

21 December 2020

21 December 2020 - Cranes - Everywhere

I need to open this with the fact that I have had this video sitting in my drafts for five years.  

Five.  Years.

It is one of my favorite songs of all time - a simple love song.  Alison Shaw's voice makes this very simple song all the more appealing.  It's even sweeter when hearing her light voice that brings comparison to a small child singing lullabies at the bottom of the well with a background of grinding guitars.  This is actually something a reviewer said.  

Anyway, I like the combination of her ethereal voice and the driving guitar, and I think you will, too.

18 December 2020

18 December 2020 - Three Dog Night - Joy To The World

The song isn't called "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog", despite how you know the song.

It is a drinking song, and a happy one at that.  Is it a serious song?  No, of course not.  It's just a lot of fun.  It's a song specifically written to elicit a smile, and it succeeds tremendously.

As I write this, I have learned that it is featured in a current JCPenney holiday commercial.  It's fitting, but I am rarely this accidentally timely.  

17 December 2020

17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Channel Z

This.  This song is why I was excited about Cosmic Thing.  

By the way, it's just as upbeat and happy as "Love Shack".  Why wasn't this the big hit?  

No worries.  Just enjoy this bonus post today, too.

17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Love Shack

I HATED this song for a lot of years.  

There were few people more excited than me over the release of the Cosmic Thing album in 1989.  You see, 1) I had been a fan of the band for years prior to this and 2) their first single, "Channel Z", was one of my favorite songs at the time.  Also 3) it was their first album in four years, and the first since the death of Ricky Wilson

I purchased the album on cassette at a record store in Cheektowaga, NY, while on vacation soon after its release, and I was not at all disappointed.  Top to bottom, every song was great.  Even this one.  

And then this song was released as the second single, and it was EVERYWHERE.  Now, everyone was a fan of this quirky little band from Georgia that I had been a fan of for a very long time.  This song was largely responsible for that, and I resented that for a very long time.  

I grew out of that eventually.  This song is one of the best illustrations of the three-part harmonies that make the B-52's great and unique.  Plus, it's a song that you can't help but sing along with.

I will admit that I was not a huge fan of the single edit.   Even though cutting out a few "bang bang"s might have seemed like a good idea, I do think it took something away from the song - the build-up to Cindy Wilson's famous line.

You know it.  You just said it in your head.  I don't need to.

I could not resist sharing this version that the band performed with Sugarland, making it a FIVE part harmony in spots.  This is faithful to the album version and you can hear what I mean when I say that buildup is important.   It makes the whole song better.

16 December 2020

16 December 2020 - Edie Brickell - Good Times

This solo debut by Edie Brickell - because, let's not forget, she was in a BAND called New Bohemians - was included with each copy of Windows 95 when it was released.   

That's right.  If you have a Windows 95 CD, you have a copy of this video.

The song itself is a pleasant song about someone who doesn't want the good times with her lover to end - in that moment.  In Ms. Brickell's case, that would be Paul Simon.  This song is about Paul Simon.  And it's a very happy song as a result.

15 December 2020

15 December 2020 - Sugarland - All I Want To Do

"Hey, let's skip work and just love each other."

That's pretty much a synopsis of this song.

That's all they needed to make a big hit song that was the feel-good song of 2008 and a huge country-pop crossover hit.  

That, and this video, which was really working hard to sell Jennifer Nettles as a sex symbol....  

14 December 2020

14 December 2020 - Bill Withers - Lovely Day

I think it's pretty obvious why we're posting this song this month.  It's one of the happiest songs ever written.  A moderate hit in the late 1970's, it's fondly remembered as a classic today.  

It's also got a single note that Withers sustains for eighteen seconds.  This is one of the longest ever sustained in a pop song.  

The song has experienced something of a resurgence in 2020, largely due to its placement in this Allstate commercial. Admit it, you're smiling now, aren't you?

12 December 2020

12 December 2020 - Charlie Pride - Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'

Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Pride, the first black country superstar and a favorite of my mother, has passed away at age 86 of complications from COVID-19.  

It's real, people.

Anyway, here he is performing one of his sweetest songs on Marty Stuart's show.

This song, released in 1971, was Pride's only Top 40 pop hit, but his 8th country #1, and endured as one of his signature songs.  

I grew up listening to Charlie Pride because my mother and father were fans of his.  He will be missed.  

11 December 2020

11 December 2020 - KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See

OK, folks!  It's time for a history lesson.  Today, we're going to learn about Queen Boudica.

In short words, Boudica was a Celtic tribal queen in what is now eastern England in the early A.D. times.  Around 60 A.D., she led an uprising against the invading Roman Empire (who had killed her husband and raped her daughters), by uniting the warring Celtic tribes for the first time in history.  That's right.  A woman led that uprising.  It was an uprising that they eventually lost and ended in her death, but it was 1) enough to make the Romans consider withdrawing and 2) enough to make her a folk hero to this day.

She did not mess around.

10 December 2020

10 December 2020 - Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good

In the words of Dr. Stephen Strange, in the Marvel movie Dr. Strange, Chuck Mangione "charted a top 10 hit with a flugelhorn."

This is an undeniably uplifting instrumental by a Rochester, NY native - the same place where I am writing this blog right now.   As I write this, it is cold and there is snow on the ground - but the most famous song for flugelhorn ever written is warming it up in here today.

Mangione rerecorded the song (albeit more guitar-heavy) in 1982, with a vocal by his longtime guitarist, Don Potter.  The song takes on a different meaning, but it's still a sweet song.  

09 December 2020

9 December 2020 - Lizzo - Good As Hell

This very uplifting song was a huge hit in 2019.   

The weird part about that?  The song is from 2016.  It took three years and a performance at the MTV Video Music Award to make it a big hit.


That unexpected 2nd life for this great song meant that a new video was in order..... given that the first one was a movie tie-in for a movie that didn't enjoy the same resurgence.     

08 December 2020

8 December 2020 - The East Pointers - Wintergreen

The YouTube comments on this song say everything you need to know:

"Top 10 Crossovers Nobody Expected: Canadian folk music and the Wiggles."

Yes.  That's Emma from The Wiggles.  And she visualizes a song about recognizing the light in someone else that they might not see in themselves well.  Not that the lyrics needed the help.

If you aren't Canadian, chances are you haven't heard of The East Pointers, a delightful folk group from Prince Edward Island.  Juno Award winners in 2017, if you know anything about Canadian geography, you'll understand their name.  Even if you aren't, you can't help but smile when you hear this song.... can you?

(Update: 26 January 2021): I don't often update posts this quickly, but 1) this song is so amazing I wanted to post a 2nd version of it and 2) I wanted to answer one question I've gotten more than once from our mostly American audience.  Emma is using AUSLAN, which is Australian sign language, and not ASL, or American sign.  That's why you don't recognize all the signs.

Now enjoy this live performance.  

07 December 2020

7 December 2020 - Dido - Thank You

Have you ever had a day that was going just terribly and then someone says something that turns it around?

That very feeling is why this song was such a big hit.  That, and the fact that Eminem sampled it.  

The song itself starts out with a string of bummers - and then makes a super positive left turn.  Dido's light and airy, yet powerful voice makes you appreciate the positive message even more.   

By the way, Dido didn't go anywhere.  She's still around.  And still performs what is inarguably her biggest hit song.

04 December 2020

4 December 2020 - The White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl

This song makes me smile literally every time I hear it.  It's a minute and half of pure joy.  Really, it's 45 seconds of joy repeated twice.  Lyrically, it's somewhat beautiful - about quick, pure and true love.  It is as hyper and energetic as the actual emotions.  Truly, this song is a short masterpiece.

And if you aren't smiling at a LEGO-mation video, then I don't know if I can help you.  

03 December 2020

3 December 2020 - Owl City - Good Time (Acoustic)

It isn't often that I blatantly repost a song I already posted....  

....and given my recent self-covers week over on Totally Covered, you'd think I'd put this THERE.

This is Adam Young doing his big hit song without Carly Rae Jepson.... and it takes on a different meaning - one of equal optimism, sure, but more reflective optimism.  The first version of the song was rapidly released in the wake of "Call Me Maybe".  In my post about that song, I said the following:
"Owl City has put together a song that benefits from Carly's presence, but doesn't require it."
Thank you, Adam Young, for proving me right.  

By the way, even though this song is billed as acoustic, it isn't.  There's a fair bit of electronic enhancement.  THIS VERSION, on the other hand, is ACTUALLY acoustic, and a gem.

02 December 2020

2 December 2020 - Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

Who would have thought that a slow jam could be so uplifting?

The song might seem gloomy, and the title ends with the words "It's Over".  However, there's no comma in the title.  It's not a command to stop dreaming, because it's over.  It's a request to not dream THAT it's over - there's a long road ahead.  

Let's not even talk about how this is arguably the greatest song ever composed by a New Zealander - it is most certainly the biggest international hit by someone from that county.  Just soak in Neil Finn's lyrics.  

Now that you heard this, go to Totally Covered for a great version that respects the local New Zealand culture.   

01 December 2020

1 December 2020 - Oasis - Live Forever

To close out 2020, I wanted to feature songs that would be somewhat uplifting.  

And when you hear about the theory about the genesis of this song, you might think that it's an odd choice for uplifting.

Written by Noah Gallagher, although he has denied it, it was originally seen as a direct response to the Nirvana song "I Hate Myself and Want To Die".  I believe him.  This was one of the first songs he wrote and would have had to anticipate the Nirvana song many years later.  He did, however, strongly come out in favor of not dying young.  

More likely, it was a tribute to his mother, and stresses an optimistic outlook.  Forget how beautifully the song is crafted - the opening drum beat, the guitar solo.  Forget that Oasis constantly compared themselves to the Beatles and were generally egotistical.  Listen to the lyrics.  They're an ode to living as long and as well as one can, as opposed to dwelling on minutia and every ache and pain in life.