28 February 2023

28 February 2023 - Imani Coppola - Legend of a Cowgirl

So, here we are, at the end of another month, and getting ready to start something big.

So, let's talk about someone's biggest hit, and how it doesn't define them.

I am, of course, talking about "Legend of a Cowgirl", the only song by Imani Coppola to ever hit the charts.  Described by Wikipedia as living "in Bedford-Stuyvesant with her cat", which of course was the most important fact of the day, Coppola released this song in 1997 to commercial and critical success.  

And no, you aren't imagining.  "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan is absolutely sampled here.

The song is great.  Absolute pop perfection.  But it doesn't define Imani Coppola.

Just because this is her biggest chart hit does NOT mean she hasn't been successful.  Quite the contrary - the multi-instrumentalist has written many of your favorite commercial jingles - brands like Chase, Target, Revlon.  She's also an accomplished violinist.

By the way, she hated this song.  Which, well, I don't understand, but artists have their own opinions about their own work.

Here she is, performing it live.  Donovan was unavailable for this live performance.

21 February 2023

21 February 2023 - M.I.A. - Bad Girls

It's said that your musical taste is formulated in your teens.  The music you like for the rest of your life is the music you are exposed to during the years 13-19.

This song, one of my favorites, was released on my 40th birthday, so I reject that thinking.  So, I reject that thinking.  This song, co-written by M.I.A., incorporates a lot of Middle Eastern-influenced beats that didn't exist broadly in popular music when I was 13-19.  

I encourage you to grow with me and enjoy this song, mid-tempo and in your face from the Moroccan dessert.  

20 February 2023

20 February 2023 - k-os - The Love Song

Next week, we begin our third annual #MapleLeafMarch.  You know, that one month of the year that I fill with Canadians, for absolutely no reason other than I am the world's biggest fan of poutine.

But today is k-os's birthday.  He turns 51 today.  So, rather than wait a week, we feature his 2005 hit from NEW ZEALAND - where it was featured in a commercial for Vodafone.  

It's not a love song.  

17 February 2023

17 February 2023 - Weezer - Island In The Sun

I cannot believe we've never, ever posted Weezer here.  

Well, let's fix that with their best known song.  

Wait, you mean it wasn't a hit in the US?  Well, it was OUTSIDE the United States, which is amazing for a song that shouldn't have even existed.   Producer of their (second) self-titled album and Cars frontman Ric Ocasek pushed for its inclusion, and it ended up being the single released after the much darker "Hash Pipe".  

So, about that video.  It's got a Mexican wedding theme.  But, say you don't want a Mexican wedding.  Say, for example, you want to see Rivers Cuomo sing at a baby bear, but you didn't want Mikey Welsh in the video.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a video like that?

Thanks to Spike Jonze, there is.

16 February 2023

16 February 2023 - Miley Cyrus - Flowers

It's hard to believe that Miley Cyrus is 30.  Her first trip(s!) to the pop charts happened when she was 15 - and still playing Hannah Montana. 

Fifteen years later, she's still releasing hits.

She's been to the top of the pop charts before, but "Flowers" is setting up to be her biggest hit by far - debuting at #1 in the US and all around the world, and staying there for three weeks in the States as of this writing.  The song, a breakup song that is more of a profession of self-love, is funky and poppy and instantly singable and danceable.   More to the point, it is a breakup song that is likely about Liam Hemsworth, her ex - the song was released on his birthday.  

The video caused a run on black lingerie thanks to the outfit Miley wears starting at the 1:00 mark of this video.  

15 February 2023

15 February 2023 - Curve - Chinese Burn

We seem to come back to Curve an awful lot.  For good reason - they are a band that had real forward-sounding music, continually.  They reinvented themselves, continually.

And they broke up way too soon.  

This song, the lead single from their third album, Come Clean, waste no time getting right into the high-energy music.  It is so high energy it was featured in the TV series La Femme Nikita, and also Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Is it the theme song for all shows adapted from better movies?  It is angry and powerful throughout, and I'd bet they loved it in the clubs.

Buffy loved it in the club.

14 February 2023

14 February 2023 - Eagle-Eye Cherry - Save Tonight

Today, we feature Eagle-Eye Cherry, one hit wonder half-brother of a one-hit wonder (Neneh Cherry) (at least from a US standpoint - he did have more hits in Europe).  This is his one US hit.  

This video for this song was filmed in Stockholm, Sweden - Eagle-Eye Cherry is 1/2 Swedish, so this was his home country.  The song itself, released in 1997 but not a North American hit until 1999, is a soulful journey through the impending loss of love - and relishing the moments you have, tonight.  

So, on this Valentine's Day, please, enjoy your night, no matter how you spend it.  Don't worry about tomorrow.

13 February 2023

13 February 2023 - Rebbie Jackson - Centipede

Growing up, I was a big fan of music videos.  Thankfully, I didn't just digest these videos from MTV (although this particular one got a little airplay there).  I watched a lot of BET, which, back then, was openly calling itself Black Entertainment Television.  They had a lot of shows that played R&B and hip hop videos.  

Thus, I discovered what was a minor pop hit - but a huge R&B hit that didn't cross over hard.  

Rebbie is the oldest of the Jackson siblings. She has not had as many hits as her brothers or even her sister Janet, and she doesn't have the psychic network of LaToya - but she had "Centipede", her 1984 hit and best known song - a top 30 pop hit that reached the top 5 on the R&B charts.  Written and produced by her kid brother Michael - yes, that's him on background vocals, along with Izora Rhodes and Martha Wash (who are better known as the Weather Girls).  

For Rebbie, family came first - the album of the same name and this single were not released until her children were old enough and she had spent time with them while they were young.   Despite that focus on family, she didn't initially want to use her maiden name (Jackson) as an artist - but relented because, well, it's her name and it carries power.  If you look at the album and single for this song, you'll notice "Rebbie" is big and "Jackson" is small.

I don't make these things up.

 Anyway, it was BET that introduced me to this song, and I am grateful.  I hope you enjoy it.

10 February 2023

10 February 2023 - Fishbone - Sunless Saturday

This 1991 song isn't likely Fishbone's best known song - "Ma and Pa" comes to mind - but it is their biggest hit to date.

The song is pretty blatant lyrically - the narrator hates his life and everything around him. The song is probably straight-up about depression.  The high-speed ska-funk-punk-rock fusion masks the sad nature of the song, 

I did say it was their biggest hit to date.  They're still together and they still perform.

09 February 2023

9 February 2023 - Bad Brains - I Against I

Little known fact: Bad Brains started off life as a jazz fusion band. 

Sure.  I hear it.  

The title of this song, the title song from their 1986 album, is actually a reggae reference - "I and I" is a phrase used in reggae to signify one's relationship with God.  Although Bad Brains was - is - clearly a punk band that I first learned about on the pages of Thrasher magazine in my days as skate punk in the 1980's (yes, I still have my board), their influences include reggae, jazz, and funk.  

Anyway, if this is the first time you're hearing Bad Brains, enjoy.

08 February 2023

8 February 2023 - Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)

In 1985, Tina Turner was well into her musical comeback, already having the record for oldest person to ever score a #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984 ("What's Love Got To Do With It").  Other opportunities were falling into her lap.

One of those was to star in a movie - Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - the sequel to Mad Max and The Road Warrior (if you aren't reading this from the United States or Canada, that second movie was Mad Max 2, and I apologize for the confusion). The film did modestly at the box office, but sparked a #2 hit that would be one of Turner's biggest hits.

The song, a power ballad, referenced the movie and the post-apocalyptic future of 1997 directly.  (That's right.  This futuristic look in the video is what 1985 filmmakers thought 1997 would look like). It would be a bigger hit than the movie, and received a lot more critical acclaim, too, including several award nominations.

Throughout her career, Turner has continued to perform this song..... and dress up when she does.  Here she is in 2009, pushing 70, still belting this song hard and huge as she always did.  

07 February 2023

7 February 2023 - Prince & The New Power Generation - 7

So let's just go with what is arguably his most ambiguous song in his catalog.

7?  Seven of WHAT?  Seven names of God?  Seven deadly sins?  Is he just into numerology? Either way, it's clearly heavy on the religious undertones.  Also, in the video, he kills past versions of himself - even Purple Rain-era Prince, people.  Also, his wife dances with a sword on her head, which is pretty badass.

The song has middle Eastern and funk influences, with a heavy drum and bass.  This unusual song made it to #7 on the pop charts, mostly because of Prince's intellect and savoir-faire.  

(Yes, of course we chose to post this today.  Makes sense, right?)

06 February 2023

6 February 2023 - Ava Max - So Am I

I pretty much hated pop music in my teens and twenties…well with very few exceptions.

In 2009 I turned the corner so to speak and fell head over heels for the one and only Kelly Clarkson and her song “My Life Would Suck Without You.” I actually hid the fact that I owned All I Ever Wanted for longer than I would care to admit. It was a matter of punk rock pride. Like I, a huge Archers of Loaf and Quicksand fan, would dig the first American Idol???

(For the record, I have never watched that show…even if I have friends who have done well on it…I don’t watch The Voice…anymore either…but an old friend did well last season).

So that takes us to the somewhat present. XM Radio’s Hits 1 is always on in my wife’s car. I dig it. Especially when Albanian-American artist Ava Max comes on. Her tunes are so reminiscent of Clarkson’s “rockers” but not as wholesome. “Kings & Queens” and “Sweet But Psycho” are her two big songs off her first album, but there’s something about “So am I.” It has that Clarkson vibe but throw in the empowerment of Pink and Katy Perry (two artists we here have paid tribute to in the past) and we’re talking gold.

03 February 2023

3 February 2023 - Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day

I know we all think of "gangsta rap" as super angry and negative.... but Ice Cube, one of the godfathers of the genre, shows us that it doesn't have to be.  

This single peaked at #15 on the POP charts.  The POP charts, man.  It's his biggest hit to date...... which, given that he's also the godfather of Daddy Day Care, is likely to hold. 

The song was a reflection of Mr. Jackson's life in 1992 - it was pretty good.  He was well known, on top of the world, and not slinging constant disses back and forth with N.W.A. anymore.  Funny thing is, some people have tried to pin-point the exact "Good Day" in the song.  Note: there wasn't ONE.  It was a compilation of a lot of good days.  

02 February 2023

2 February 2023 - Living Colour - Glamour Boys

Why this New York City band used British spelling is no mystery to me - guitarist and principal songwriter Vernon Reid was from London.

This 1988 single - a top 30 hit - was a biting rebuke of those who were caught up in fashion and lifestyle. The best part?  Produced by Mick Jagger - from a little British band himself - who was instrumental in getting the band signed to a record deal.... a fact the band found bittersweet.  In the 1980s, there weren't all-black rock bands getting major label deals, but the fact that Mick Jagger happened to see them live and "endorsed" them got Living Colour signed.

Still, I'm grateful.  This unique, funky band got real MTV airplay and attention thanks to a chance meeting with a rock and roll legend.  

Let's get to this song.  The verses are clearly reggae-influenced, with an "island" feel.  The chorus, however, ramps up the heavy and rocks hard.

The band briefly broke up in the 1990's, but got back together.  Here they are in 2019, performing this song. Personally, I don't think Corey Glover has lost a bit of his vocal power.

01 February 2023

1 February 2023 - Aya Nakamura - Baby

Most of my readers are from the United States.  So, you've likely never heard of French/Malian singer Aya Nakamura.  In Europe, though - she's huge, without a doubt. Nakamura isn't her real last name (she lifted that from a character on the TV show Heroes, which I can't recommend enough unless you want to watch it past the first season.....).  Her fame grew out of, shockingly, her YouTube channel.

This is the lead single off her latest album, DNK, released on January 27th.  Written by Nakamura herself, it is a pretty standard R&B song both musically and thematically.  It just happens to be in French.  So, I encourage you to give it a listen, and I hope you like it as much as the last French-language artist I pushed down your throats.