31 May 2021

31 May 2021 - Doja Cat - Say So

I have made an awful lot of Doja Cat jokes in my day. 

However, this is a clever and catchy song that brings a warm summer vibe, and, on this unofficial first day of summer, I felt it was a great choice. 

In writing this post, I gained a lot of respect for Doja Cat. You see, when you have a big hit song, your record label is going to push you to perform it EVERYWHERE.  Well, that's what RCA Records did to Doja Cat when it came to the 2020 MTV European Music Awards... 

So, in response, she made a genre shift.... and it was really good. 

30 May 2021

30 May 2021 - Julie Roberts - Break Down Here

I used to go to a lot of drug company dinners concerning drugs for multiple sclerosis.  This is because it is something that impacts my life (I won't betray medical privacy by saying why, but if you know me personally, you know why).  

I remember going to one in Webster, NY, hosted by Teva Pharmaceuticals - a drug called Copaxone, which was one of the first drugs developed to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis. The way these things work, a doctor talks about the drug and its efficacy for about a half hour, and then a patient taking the drugs comes up to tell their story. 

On this particular day, the patient's name was Julie.  They are TYPICALLY only identified by their first names.  She came in singing a Barbara Mandrell song.  I know you're wondering what song, but it isn't important.  That was the first clue that we were in for something different. 

Julie told a moving story about her life - about she dreamed of being a country music superstar, how she lost her home in a flood that also triggered an MS relapse (when she was trying to ignore having anything wrong), how she came to work for a record label (Mercury Nashville) as their receptionist and eventually was signed.  And.... 

"My debut album, Julie Roberts - that's my name, Julie Roberts....."

At which point I immediately reached for my phone to 1) find the post on Totally Covered that Scott had posted to 2) make sure I remembered correctly that there was a picture of him with her 3) wrote to Scott on Twitter to basically tell him all of this.  He told me to say hi for him after the talk.

Which I did.  Amazingly, she not only remembered him, but the venue in which he saw her perform - without a prompt from me. She was exceedingly nice.

Julie's patient story was far and away the best I've ever heard - so detailed, so moving, and so engaging.  I won't tell her whole story - but she is a working musician who happened to have multiple sclerosis.    

And she is a musician, and this was her debut single from that album.  It would be a top 20 country hit, with the album receiving a gold certification.  

You might be wondering why I am posting this on a Sunday.  Today is World MS Day.  I encourage you to visit the National MS Society website and tell 'em we sent you. Donate, learn more.  Help find a cure.  

Now here's more Julie Roberts performing this song live in some elementary school auditorium.

28 May 2021

28 May 2021 - Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour

Guys, Jane was my favorite Go-Go.  Let's start there.

That's why I saved this song, her biggest solo hit - top 10 in the US, top 20 in the UK - for last.  

Two things of note about this song:

1) The video is very dolphin-centric, which doesn't really have a lot to do with the lyrics.  It's a great video, for sure. but..... dolphins.  

2) Video of this song being performed live is incredibly rare.  It's complex and tough to reproduce live..... which is why this video from a couple of years ago is such a treat, and required a large band.  

A little bonus for you - two Go-Go's songs from the same performance.  This includes Jane's third verse of "Our Lips Are Sealed" and the Charlotte Caffey-penned "We Got The Beat".

To support this great cover band that doesn't usually feature Jane Wiedlin, go to nitewaveparty.com

27 May 2021

27 May 2021 - The Graces - Lay Down Your Arms

In 1988, Go-Go's lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey formed a band with the woman who would eventually be a one-hit wonder for the song "Bitch".

Not kidding.   Meredith Brooks was a member of The Graces.  I guess she was a 2-hit wonder.

There was a 3rd member- Gia Ciambotti.   I add this because I don't feel like she should be forgotten.

On this song, the band's only hit, Caffey took the lead vocal.  

Here is the band performing the song live. It's clearly here what roles everyone plays on the song.

26 May 2021

26 May 2021 - The Delphines - I Want You The Way I Want You Not How You Are

So, I had two options this week.

Either I open the week with Belinda Carlisle or I end with her.  

Either I open the week with Kathy Valentine's band The Delphines, or I end with it.  

Pretty clear which way I went.

Smack dab in the middle.

So enjoy The Delphines.  They are led by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Kathy Valentine.   This was a great band in its own right - so great I won't even mention that other band she was a member of.

25 May 2021

25 May 2021 - Belinda Carlisle - Mad About You

Belinda Carlisle's first solo release was this song.  It peaked at #3 in the Untied States and was a hit worldwide.  Featuring Andy Taylor from Duran Duran on guitar (yes, he's in the video), the video also features her husband - who she married three weeks before this song was released in 1985 (they're still together, people).  

Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go's sang bankground vocals on this song, and replacement Go-Go (for Jane Wiedlin!) Paula Jean Brown co-wrote the song, so any rumors about acrimony in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band were not well-founded.  In fact, this was almost a Go-Go's song - but when the band split, the song went to Belinda.  

24 May 2021

24 May 2021 - House Of Schock - Middle Of Nowhere

InB4 the hate mail I will get reminding me that House of Schock was a thing.  I know.  I grew up in the 1980s.  

Former Go-Go Gina Schock is clearly not drumming here.  No, no.  She's singing and playing guitar.  And she does a fine job - the song is enjoyable pop-rock - but the band - formed with Ellen's brother Vance DeGeneres - was clearly lacking in chemistry and record label support, so they were a one-album wonder. 

21 May 2021

21 May 2021 - Guided By Voices - The Official Ironmen Rally Song

Robert Pollard is perhaps the most prolific songwriter of all time.  He's written few better than this song.  

A clear workingman's anthem from the Dayton, OH band - that's the middle of the Rust Belt - it starts somewhat calm and controlled in the first verse, but Bob Pollard goes full on yell in the second verse, struggling to exceed the music that has also increased in volume, tempo and desperation.  The third verse is a hypercompressed repeat in feel of verses one and two - with something of a greater desperation ending on a more somber note.

Live in Cincinatti in 2016, the contrast between verses is even more pronounced,

What really got me feeling the chills on this song, however, was this version billed as the demo.  I heard a version the band recorded for the radio station KCRW, which is quite similar to this one.  The desperate emotion in Pollard's voice really shines through with a slightly quieter mix.  

20 May 2021

20 May 2021- Warren Zevon - Keep Me In Your Heart

This was Warren Zevon's last single.  He wrote it after he realized he was dying.  It was released on his last album, The Wind, two weeks before he passed away from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.

Think about mortality as you listen to it.

Despite being dead, Warren Zevon managed to appear on the Grammys in 2004.  This is a very special tribute to the man, and you should see it.  These artists - most of them legends in their own right - aren't singing a duet.  They are singing backing vocals.

19 May 2021

19 May 2021 - Marti Jones - Cliché / Don Dixon - Cliché

Let's be clear.  The Marti Jones version, released in 1988, is absolutely a cover of Don Dixon's version.   I am OPENLY posting a cover here, and not on Totally Covered.
However, Marti Jones brought a feel to her husband's song that was simply transcendent.  It is a desperate, haunting song that I cannot get enough of, to this day.  Also, this version adds a bridge, which absolutely adds to the mysterious appeal of this simple folk song.  

Of course, this doesn't mean the Don Dixon version sucks.  It's amazing.   Here it is.   It is a much simpler song in its arrangement - which is why it doesn't get top billing on this post.  

18 May 2021

18 May 2021 - Everly Brothers - All I Have To Do Is Dream

This week has a theme.

It is "Songs That Are So Good They Give Tony Chills" Week,

We start with this 1958 single by the Everly Brothers.  Written by famed country songwriter Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote a lot of Everly Brothers hit songs, it is a beautiful song of longing for the one you love.  The harmonies of the brothers absolutely make the hairs on my arm stand on end.  

The song was so good, it topped the pop charts for five weeks in 1958 AND returned to the charts in 1961.  It also topped the R&B AND Country charts.  Literally everyone loved this soulful, mournful song.  

17 May 2021

17 May 2021 - Throwing Muses - Pearl

Throwing Muses, as I have stated elsewhere, is my favorite band ever.  I've seen them live twice (1989, 1995) and neither time did they disappoint.

And if there was ever a post I had been dying to write, it was this one.  

This song, from 1992's Red Heaven, is almost every Muses's fan's favorite song.  It has been compared to "Stairway To Heaven", and I get that comparison - it's epic and pulls on a wide range of emotions.  Essentially a fever dream, Kristin Hersh's vocals and unaccompanied opening guitar give me chills every time.  In the middle, it moves to a very bass-and-drum heavy song

Live, the song has a slightly different feel, with Hersh on an electric instead of acoustic guitar... but Bernard Georges and David Narcizo still don't accompany her until nearly two minutes into the song, which opens a bombastic two and a half minutes before it becomes a soulful solo again. Simply beautiful, it is a song that you need to listen to until the end.

14 May 2021

14 May 2021 - Liz Phair - Spanish Doors & Divorce Song

Liz Phair has written songs about divorce before. 

This, the first single from her new album Soberish, her first album in over a decade, is nuanced and layered and beautiful.  Anyone who has been through divorce, or any breakup, can relate to the feeling of wanting to be alone and just hiding in the bathroom.  This song illustrates that in such a artful way.

Contrast that with an also excellent, but less beautiful and more gritty, song from her 1993 debut album Exile In Guyville, and the Girlysound tapes before that. In 2016, she called this one of her favorite songs, and I agree.  It's sad, and dark, but also jangly and hard not to relate to.  

13 May 2021

13 May 2021 - Mark Morrison - Return of the Mack

This song leans heavily on the beat from "Genius of Love" by the Tom Tom Club.  Samples are a hallmark of hip hop music, and this entertaining song uses it well - changing the key on the sample ever so slightly.  

This song, which went to #2 on the pop charts in 1997. would be British R&B singer Mark Morrison's only hit.  Which is OK, since he is now a politician challenging to be the mayor of Leichester, in his native UK.  

12 May 2021

12 May 2021 - The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army

That famous guitar rift at the beginning of this 2003 song was the first part written by Jack White in 2002.  The rest of the song flowed pretty easily after that.  Jack plays both traditional and slide guitar on this song, as well as providing vocals.  Meg White's drum beat keeps time.

But the song is more than that.  It's an anthem at sporting events.  It's a rallying cry for political rallies.  It was a catalyst for a growing garage band movement, based on how incredibly sparse the song actually is - able to be played by a band of 2 or 3 people.  

Of course, the White Stripes broke up in 2011, but we still have these songs and performances to remember them by.  Take this show from 2005, in Brazil - proof positive that you can play this song with a band of 2.  

Also, can we talk about how happy Meg looks on the drums?

11 May 2021

11 May 2021 - MAMAMOO - 딩가딩가 (Dingga)

We just can't stop the K-Pop.  I feel like I short-change y'all last week because, well, Darling Buds Day, so I'm making up now. 

MAMAMOO have been released really good music since 2014 - music that is both poppy and critically acclaimed.  All four members have strong solo careers outside the group..  which, in K-Pop, isn't all that uncommon - but the level of success they've all had as solo artists is nearly unprecedented - all four of them have extensive solo discographies that rival the success of the group as a whole.

Still, the group stays together and makes excellent music.  This single, from late 2020, is an example of that. Not only is it entertaining - it DIRECTLY addresses the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had (and, as of this writing, still has) on social life.

As is not uncommon in K-Pop, a Japanese version of the song was released in early 2021.  I'd like to point out that this isn't just a redubbing - there are a lot of portions of this video that were recorded to reflect Japanese lipsync.  

10 May 2021

10 May 2021 - aespa - Black Mamba

I was originally going to post this during the two weeks of K-Pop, but, you know, the Darling Buds annual celebration interrupted that.  So, you get an extra day of K-Pop.  Not like I don't have literally three months worth of solid K-Pop to post.....

And when I first saw aespa, I thought they looked a lot like BLACKPINK - but theirs is a unique sound.  

aespa, however, doesn't need uppercase letters.  This was their debut single, premiering in November 2020. It is an bass-heavy song that has become a worldwide hit.   

The video definitely does NOT shy away from the snake imagery.  The song itself is meant to explain the concept of aespa.....yes, there's a whole concept about avatars and experience.... you see, a lot of K-Pop is focused on performance and entertainment, and not the actual music.  

However, this one's a banger, DESPITE the high concept.  The four women in the group (I promise you there's only four) are clearly talented at singing, and the music here allows each of them to highlight their vocals.  

07 May 2021

7 May 2021 - BLACKPINK ft. Selena Gomez - Ice Cream

How do artists clearly in two different countries collaborate in the middle of a pandemic?

Clearly, via Zoom.  

Yes, they made an actual video for the song, but I wanted to show off the Zoom version first.  However, even in this version, you notice that BLACKPINK is very much not in Selena Gomez's area, as their scenes were recorded in Korea, whereas Ms. Gomez filmed in the States.  

The song was teased before its release, with BLACKPINK fans hoping the mystery collaborator not initially mentioned would be Ariana Grande.  As it turns out, Grande was a co-writer of this song, but Selena Gomez was chosen to perform. 

The song is nothing more than a huge double entendre, mostly in English, save for Lisa's Korean rap near the end.  I mean, it was partly in Korean - not that it wasn't filled with double entendres.  The song is BLACKPINK's biggest in the US to date, peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

06 May 2021

6 May 2021 - The Darling Buds - Isolation

We interrupt this K-Pop bonanza to bring you the Darling Buds.

And thank God for the Darling Buds.  They last year recorded an update to one of the tracks from their 2020 album, Erotica. Which, of course, was a really timely update.  

They even recorded it in May, but too late for our 2020 Darling Buds Day.  However, something tells me it's still going to be somewhat appropriate this year.  At any rate, Andrea Lewis's dog steals the show here.  

05 May 2021

5 May 2021 - Jessi - What Type of X

While I am writing a blog post, I tend to like to listen to the songs I'm writing about.   Sometimes, I get into the writing and I let the song go to the next song.   Usually, especially these couple of weeks, the next song is one I know well.  As I wrote yesterday's post, the next song came on, and it was one I had not heard before.... nor did the artist sound familiar.

So, that isn't the typical way I get to posts for this blog.  But Jessi is not your typical K-Pop artist.  

Because she was born in Queens.  In New York.  The Korean-American rapper was raised in New Jersey until age 15, when she moved to South Korea in search of her music career.  After early problems aclimating to the Korean culture, the hard-edged hip-hop artist has gained some momentum.  

This song was released in March 2021 and is her latest single, cowritten by PSY.  Yes.  That PSY.  I promise that wasn't planned.

04 May 2021

4 May 2021 - HyunA - I'm Not Cool

HyunA is one of the grand dames of K-Pop.  And, so we are clear, she turns 29 in June.  So, she's got a lot of career ahead of her.

You see, she debuted long ago - in 2007, as a member of the Wonder Girls.  Do the math, people.  She was 14 when she joined them.  She did leave that group and go on to 4Minute and a very successful solo career as well. 

This song, released in January 2021, was co-written by HyunA, Dawn (from Pentagon and her boyfriend) and Psy.  Yes, THAT Psy.  It's fun and does poke fun at her long-standing image as something of a bad girl.  

03 May 2021

3 May 2021 - PSY ft. CL - Daddy

Clearly, without knowing anything else, you know this song owes a huge debt to the will.i.am song "I Got It From My Mama".  What may surprise you, however, is that it was not only openly authorized, but will.i.am is a co-writer and co-producer of this 2015 single by the king of K-Pop.

That's right.  will.i.am is on board.  So, you should be, too.  After all, it's just a fun, goofy song that verges on parody.  Not like PSY knows a damn thing about parody.  

CL from 2NE1 provides the female vocal for the chorus.  

Also, he's still not quite getting the hang of what Gangnam Style actually is......