30 April 2021

30 April 2021 - TWICE - Likey

Is there anything remarkable about TWICE when comparing them to other Korean girl idol groups?

No, not especially.  

I mean, there's nine of them.  That's pretty remarkable in and of itself.

This song is also pretty remarkable.  On the surface, it seems pretty shallow - but really, it's about the struggles of maintaining a social media image.  It is not unlike a future song we are going to post on here, "#Selfie" by The Chainsmokers, in that it is direct social commentary.

The video was filmed on location in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  

The group has experienced some worldwide success, including strong support in North America.  However, they are more successful in Japan, so they did record a Japanese version of this single.

29 April 2021

29 April 2021 - Marmello - Wake Me Up

You had to know, if you actually read this blog, that Marmello was making an appearance here.  They are inevitable.

Why did we feature this song, though?   There's two things about this that are unique in Korean pop music. 

1) Instruments as opposed to a focus on performance and dancing.
2) Minor chords

This is just fun and happy po-rock music, different than anything else that was coming out of Korea in the mid-to-late 2010s.  They disbanded in 2019, but I still hope for a comeback. 

28 April 2021

28 April 2021 - BTS - Dynamite

OK, people, we were going to obviously get to BTS.  How could we not?  Their harmonies are absolutely infectious.

You will notice over the next couple of weeks that we are talking in a lot of superlatives - biggest, best, first.  We are also using words like "influenced by" or "a throwback to".  And, a lot of those do apply here.  This is the band's first all-English language song, and it is both their first #1 hit in the US and the first #1 hit by any all-South Korean group.  It earned the band their first Grammy nomination.

But this song isn't influencED.  It is influenTIAL.  It is a fresh, modern pop hit.  The country of origin doesn't matter.  Other artists are now looking to South Korea for influence.  This song is a great example of that.  

I mentioned the Grammys.  BTS performed this song at the 2021 Grammy Awards broadcast... and gave a hell of a performance.

27 April 2021

27 April 2021 - Wonder Girls - Nobody

Wonder Girls are true pioneers of K-Pop.

You see, in 2009, this song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 76.  Modern K-Pop fans take for granted that there will be South Korean artists on the pop charts.  Here's the list of all the artists that were on the Billboard Hot 100 from South Korea before Wonder Girls:


Oh.  Wait.  There weren't any.

NOT ONLY was this the FIRST South Korean song to be a US pop hit, it would go on to become the best selling physical single of 2009 (in an era when the physical single was dying a quick death).  The song itself is a bit of a Motown throwback in its harmonies.

The version above is the one that hit the US charts.  Of course they did a Korean version, and of course it was a hit in their home country.

26 April 2021

26 April 2021 - Rosé - On The Ground

Roseanne Park was born 11 February 1997.... in Auckland, New Zealand.

She lived in New Zealand, and then Australia, until she was 15, and she had an audition with YG Entertainment, the famed K-Pop label.  Two weeks later, she was in Seoul, and she hasn't really looked back.  

The way K-Pop works, when a label signs you, you usually train with them in singing and acting and dancing until you are ready to join a group.  With Rosé , that happened four years later, in 2016, when she was paired with Jennie, Jisoo and Lisa - which the world knows better as BLACKPINK, who are likely in your area.  

K-Pop groups often have a set beginning, middle, and end.  I don't think BLACKPINK is done, and since the debut of Rosé as a solo artist happened AT a BLACKPINK concert, I think the group has a future.  

That doesn't mean that Rosé isn't a great artist in her own right.  Internationally, this song, released on 12 March, 2021, has been huge.  Its debut on YouTube has been the largest ever by a South Korean solo artist - with nearly 42 million views in its first day.  This song has so far peaked at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100, far higher than any other Korean female solo artist.   Worldwide, it's done even better.  Universally, this song is loved and respected.

Two things of note with this song.

1) The song is 100% in English.  100%.  Since it's Rosé's first language, it makes sense that she would cross over and do that.

2) Her first single probably could have been light and fun pop music.  This isn't.... and in fact, Rosé is listed as a co-writer of this deep and meaningful song.

I add this "live" performance to illustrate a piece of the K-pop machine that I don't really enjoy.  There's several videos like this. Rosé CLEARLY wants to sing her song.  She's fully capable of singing her song.  The helper track is turned up so high she can't.  When she can break through that track, you can hear the absolute passion in her voice.  

Here she is on the Tonight Show.  Pretty much the same performance.  She doesn't break through as much.  

23 April 2021

23 April 2021 - Vanessa Paradis - Tandem

Those familiar with the Spotify music platform know that they automatically create a number of daily mixes of music for subscribers.  Usually, they are broken out by genre - electronic, rock, folk, indie.

Since #MapleLeafMarch, one of my lists has been consistently French-languange pop music.  I have no idea why.  I haven't been terribly upset about it, though, because it has reintroduced me to one of my favorite French artists and Lily-Rose Depp's mom, Vanessa Paradis.  

This song, from her 1990 album Variations sur le même t'aime, never released in the States as far as I can tell, was one of the biggest hits of her career - not "Joe Le Taxi" big, mind you, but pretty big.  With its sultry, bluesy pop and Vanessa's voice belting out with passion, it's not hard to understand why it was such a hit. But it was more than that.  It was a move to a more mature sound - a sound that would continue throughout her career. 

I don't want to give the impression that her career is over.  It isn't.  Here she is in December 2019, performing the hell out of this song, live.  

22 April 2021

22 April 2021 - Ice-T ‎- I'm Your Pusher

Ice-T's story is that he was a badass gang member before he cleaned up and turned to music, and then to the Manhattan SVU.  

In this song, he's clearly pushing something that isn't drugs - which is why we didn't post this song on Tuesday, frankly.  It's a great song that gets lost in some of his harder, flashier stuff, but this is a reminder of how positive an influence on hip-hop Ice-T really was.... and is.

21 April 2021

21 April 2021 - The Go-Go's - Our Lips Are Sealed

In 1981, there were not many all-woman rock groups playing their instruments and making music like this.  Los Angeles had two prominent ones.  This was one of them.  

So when these five women burst onto the scene with a song one of them (guitarist and backup vocalist Jane Wiedlin) co-wrote with Terry Hall from The Specials, it was something of a big deal.  Despite their short tenure (they officially broke up in 1985, after only forming in 1978), they remain one of the most successful female rock bands of all time (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fall calls them "the most successful" but I'm not sure that's true), and they still reform and play together from time to time.  

This song is a tour de force, a phenomenon in its own right.  It was a top 20 hit in 1981 in the US, and a top 5 hit around the world. 

Remember what I said about them reforming?  Here they are in 2001. I always loved that Jane Wiedlin sang that bridge, and here, she absolutely BELTS the end of it.  

Incidentally, that verse you don't recognize in the middle that Belinda Carlisle shoves in was part of the original composition.  This is the full version.

20 April 2021

20 April 2021 - Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg - Nuthin' But A G Thang

This was the first single from Dr. Dre's 1992 debut solo album, The Chronic.  It also introduced the world to Snoop Dogg, famed marijuana customer.  

Warren G is pretty openly smoking a blunt in this video.

Soooooooo, that's why we're posting this today.  It's also a song that combines the "I'm the best MC" vibe of 80's hip hop with the in-your-face style of N.W.A. brilliantly.  The public responded, too - it made it all the way to #2 on the POP charts.  

19 April 2021

19 April 2021 - Billy Squier - The Stroke

Contrary to popular belief, Billy Squier is not dead.  In fact, he's still making music.  None of his new music has the same impact as "The Stroke", which is an absolute classic song.  And the fact that he's still around is not the only thing that goes against popular belief.  

This song is absolutely not about masturbation.  Of course, everyone thinks it is, but the reality is, it is about the music industry and how artists need to sell out to make it.  Ironically, the song became a top 20 hit, probably because everyone thought it was about masturbation.  

Regardless of the subject matter, it's a great song.  Breathe it in.

16 April 2021

16 April 2021 - POWERS - Dance

POWERS is a band that has not gotten a ton of attention.  I hope to change that today.

Their Wikipedia page is very sparse, but here's what I have been able to find out about the band:

1) Their two principle members, Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru, started off as songwriters for other artists, and they have a number of Wicked Guilty Pleasures to their credit.  

2) The duo got their big break when they appeared on a single with The Knocks - we'll have to feature that here sometime, but today, I wanted to give them their due.

3) Their music has been described in many multi-adjective ways.  I won't add to that pile.  I will say that a male/female vocal duo that shares the duties so evenly and so well is rare, refreshing, and energetic.  

4) They slay live.  

15 April 2021

15 April 2021 - Don Dixon - Praying Mantis

We have talked about Don Dixon a little as a producer on his blog.  But he's a musician, too, and one worthy of Wicked Guilty Pleasures.

This song, from the 1985 album Most of the Girls Like to Dance but Only Some of the Boys Like To, served as Don Dixon's debut as a musician - he had already produced some of R.E.M.'s early albums - and, let's face it.... it's a little odd. 

I grew up in Connecticut, where the praying mantis is the state insect, so we learned a little bit about them..... but for the rest of the country, this song, which got a fair amount of MTV airplay, was an education on the mating habits of the praying mantis.  Yes, it's accurate.  

Dixon is still performing.  Here he is, performing this classic, in 2017, with his wife Marti Jones supporting him on guitar and Grammy award winner (for this) Jon Carroll on keyboard.

14 April 2021

14 April 2021 - Five for Fighting - Superman (It's Not Easy)

This is a song I don't expect to enjoy. And yet, I do.  

Five For Fighting is named for the penalty given in hockey (and is a penalty I never got in my years playing hockey, because I avoided fighting on the ice.  Not a fan.)

Five For Fighting is also the stage name of John Ondrasik, This Grammy-nominated song from from 2002 was his biggest hit - and has a pretty interesting subject.  The titular narrator of the song is, of course, the famous DC Comics superhero, talking about how surprisingly hard his life is.  You wouldn't think empathy for the Man of Steel would result in an a moving hit song, but yet, it did.  

13 April 2021

13 April 2021 - The Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly

In 1993, I can tell you that I thought the Flaming Lips were a fun novelty band that wouldn't endure.  Especially on the strength of this song, which to this day remains the bands biggest radio hit, if not their most recognizable song anymore.  

Boy, was I wrong.  Led by Wayne Coyne, the Lips have proven to be an interesting and inventive band who really respects, honors, and relishes its loyal fans.   Plus, the band is chock-full of excellent musicians who have all contributed both to the Flaming Lips catalog and other artists who might have once palled around with a blue dog.  

Lyrically, this song is goofy.  Musically - it's catchy and uplifting and fun and rich.  

If you doubted me in how much the band respects their fans, this 2013 performance of the song, which is highly interactive, should illustrate that.  There are fans on stage.  They are playing with the crowd, who are singing along.

12 April 2021

12 April 2021 - The Knocks ft. Foster The People - All About You

If you've been reading Totally Covered today, you know that we featured three tracks from the Knocks ft. Foster The People EP Melody and Silence.

As you may have guessed, this is track 4, which is the single.  It is both melancholic and uplifting.  Musically, The Knocks have always had a distinctive electronic sound.  Adding Mark Foster to the mix  - with whom they've collaborated in the past, and it shows - adds depth to an already rich, deep song.  

My plea to you: go encourage your local radio station to play this song.  The way music like this gets made is if music like this is supported.    

09 April 2021

9 April 2021 - DMX - X Gon' Give It To Ya

Earl Simmons was born in Westchester County, and died in Westchester County this morning.

You knew him better as DMX.  He was a groundbreaking artist, gone too soon.

DMX is still the only artist to have five consecutive albums debut at #1 on the Billboard album charts.  A lot of hip hop artists before him chose accessible or angry forms of the music.  His success showed that an artist can reach both.  

He will be missed.  He leaves a large catalog of music behind, perhaps none better known than this song.

9 April 2021 - The Wiggles - Fruit Salad / The Wiggles ft. James Harkness, Jawan Jackson, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Rakete, Taylor Symone & Victor Valdes - We're All Fruit Salad

We don't normally cover children's music here on Wicked Guilty Pleasures, especially when it wasn't music we grew up with.  

The Wiggles made sure we made an exception for them, especially since we've now featured them twice in the last month on Totally Covered.  If you didn't read yesterday's Totally Covered post, I strongly encourage you to do so.

This song, one of the signature Wiggles songs, first appeared on their 1994 album Yummy Yummy, so this version, from one of their many videos, features the classic, original Wiggles lineup.  The song is earnest and inoffensive, and at the same time, teaches kids how to make a fruit salad.

Of course, the Wiggles are known for their live shows, too, and they do perform this song live, A LOT.  You'll be happy to know that I listened to this song A LOT when I was writing this.  I know definitively how to make a fruit salad now.  This version, complete with a lot of dancing fruit, is from 2011 and their 20th Anniversary concert.

In 2013, the Wiggles changed, with only Anthony Field remaining from the original lineup.  At that time, the modern lineup, with Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce, and Emma Watkins debuted, and they've been quite popular with the modern kids.  The original educational theory, 

But the history of the Wiggles endures, and, rather than just tritely talking about bananas, apples and grapes, the Wiggles did something a little different to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  They celebrated the concept that we're all like fruit salad, in the same bowl... while still acknowledging that fruit salad is, indeed, yummy yummy.  It is truly a delicious tribute to the times we in which we live.

When the Wiggles (along with a couple of OG Wiggles) appeared on Triple J's "Like A Version" to perform, well, yesterday's Totally Covered post, they also performed their new song, live.  Emma did not play drums this time.  

08 April 2021

8 April 2021 - Tame Impala - Elephant

Sometimes, a song is so mind-blowing and transcendent that I have to drop everything and reschedule posts just to make sure I fit them into these blogs as soon as possible. 

This 2013 song from Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala is not that song.  It is, however, a great song, that combines blues and psychedelic elements with a fantastic guitar riff that defies understanding.  One of Kevin Parker's oldest songs, it was pulled out and recorded in 2013, and ended up being one of the band's most successful songs.  

Lyrically, the song is a bit naughty - the trunk of the elephant is clearly metaphoric-  and not just a tribute to Death From Above 1979 - and, for that reason, Kevin Parker found the song "shallow", but it isn't.  It's rich and deep and sultry, a musical and lyrical journey.

(Also, when you go over to Totally Covered and see who sings about "shakin' his big grey trunk for the hell of it", your jaw is going to hit the floor.)

Here is the band playing an extended version of the song, readily admitting how appropriate the song is for getting "down and dirty."  

07 April 2021

7 April 2021 - DJ Khaled ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage - Wish Wish

DJ Khaled is a very humble man.

But in this song, 21 Savage and ESPECIALLY Cardi B steal the show.  Between the two of them, there is not a single low moment - no down time, no pause - in this song.  And yet, the song does not feel rushed. 

To his credit, Khaled is happy to give the spotlight to artists he clearly respects.  This is the second time he had collaborated with each of them.

The three featured artists co-wrote the song with producer Tay Keith.  "Wish Wish" peaked at #19 on the US pop charts.

06 April 2021

6 April 2021 - Phantogram - Running From The Cops

I felt like this excellent tune, from the Phantogram album Eyelid Movies, is an appropriate post in a week when Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for his part in the death of George Floyd in police custody.

That's as political as we are going to get with this post.  

Clearly, the protagonist in this song - sung by Josh Carter and not Sarah Barthel - is not a fan of the cops.  Neither is the guy who made the video, Naje Lataillade, who very much thought through the imagery used.  In Naje's words:
"...a sexy police woman comes into frame and gives chase to the crowd. The hipster wearing the PHANTOGRAM shirt is scared for his life. As we watch, we think, "Oh I get it, the song is called 'Running From The Cops'", but there is only one cop, not plural cops. Well, here in Brooklyn, cops equal pigs. So the next character to come out is a freak with a pig nose, dressed in all pink, carrying a bottle of swine flu. He looks angry and like he wants to raise hell. This explains why the people in the beginning were wearing medical masks, as he's spraying the swine flu everywhere. Even the cop is running from because swine flu kills 'pigs'."

The video is mostly in black in white, but there are splashes of blue and red/pink in the black and white.  Those two colors are what are required to make a phantogram, the technology you may have seen in your 3D glasses of the 1980s.

It is interesting to watch the performance of this song from 2009.  It is a song that is not only performed, but constructed and looped, synthesized to the nth degree to create something noisy and chaotic and beautiful.  Second note:  they're both multiinstumental.

With a fuller band, like they had in 2014, the song is still chaotic, but less electronic and looped, and more direct.  If you happen to have one of those old pairs of 3D glasses, now might be a good time to put them on.

05 April 2021

5 April 2021 - St. Vincent - Los Ageless / The Melting of The Sun

Even though we've featured Annie Clark here before - yes, Scott beat me to St. Vincent just like he beat me to Lights - it's likely none of you know who she is.  

Or, at least, until you watched Saturday Night Live this weekend, right?  Full disclosure, I'm writing this the day BEFORE she's scheduled to appear, and I didn't know about it until I started doing research for this post.  In fact, because I discovered that fact, I moved this post to Monday.  You deserve instant gratification.

It's a shame it took SNL to bring her to your attention, but here we are. Her music is poppy yet dark.  Her 2017 album MASSEDUCATION is a revelation of sorts. This song, the second single from that album, is a commentary on the culture of Los Angeles, purposefully layered on top of distorted guitar and synth lines.   

It's somewhat easy to lose the message in the synth of the song, but in 2018, St. Vincent released an piano version of the album, calling it MassEducation - see what she did there?  She also performed the song live in an acoustic guitar version - here's an example of that. Notice how she retains the desperation of the third verse, even with a sparser accompaniment.   

If you are here to hear the song St. Vincent performed on SNL this weekend, here it is.  Her new album, Daddy's Home, is due to be released May 14th, and, since it's the first since MassEducation, we're pretty excited for it.

02 April 2021

2 April 2021 - Urge Overkill - Sister Havana

I promise you I didn't intend to wean you off of a month of Canadian music with back-to-back 1993 songs by Chicago bands.  

It just happened this way.  

What also just happened on the whole Saturation album was that Nash Kato, who wasn't the band's normal lead vocalist, sang lead vocals.  I wasn't a huge fan of the band before this album, so it was a good thing for me....

01 April 2021

1 April 2021 - The Smashing Pumpkins - Today

Welcome back to the the United States.  

As your reward, here's the power ballad 2nd single from the Smashing Pumpkins' epic 1993 album, Siamese Dream.  I remember sitting with my girlfriend (at the time) watching them perform this song on SNL.  They were becoming a big deal then.  I didn't think I'd be talking about this band nearly thirty years later.  

But here I am, and it remains one of my favorite song by the band.