31 December 2023

31 December 2023 - Olivia Rodrigo - get him back!

If you thought I'd be ending the year with anyone other than Olivia Rodrigo, you haven't been paying attention.  

Olivia Rodrigo released, in my opinion, the best album of 2023 - GUTS - and, unlike other years for me, it wasn't close.  It's incredible, and, if you like pop music, especially power pop, you need to check it out.  

This is my 4th post about Olivia this year - the most of any artist.  This is mostly because every song she releases nowadays ia a straight-up banger.

I rarely swear on this blog.  And, in two of my previous posts about her, I used the big one.  The F-dash-dash-dash.  I didn't say 'fudge'.

Anyway, this song contiunes the teen angst themes from GUTS, and it's deeper than you think.  The phrase "get him back" could mean that she wants the relationship to resume, or it could mean that she wants revenge.  She address both in her lyrics.

The video was filmed entirely on an iPhone 15 Pro Max - before its announcement - and released soon after that device was available for public purchase.


There are a lot of live performances of this song, but I am partial to this acoustic version  It's practically acapella, with her voice shining through very strongly.  

29 December 2023

29 December 2023 - Joywave - Obsession

I lived in Rochester, NY from 1996 until 2022.  In all my years there, I wasn't really someone that listened to the biggest hit band of the last twenty years to hail from the 585, Joywave. I was clearly aware of them, and heard them - but I wouldn't have called myself a fan, per se.  

Then, one day in the summer of 2023, I was pooping in a Target bathroom in State College, PA.  And I heard "Dangerous", which was a song I knew, but hadn't really resonated with me until that moment.  

So, yeah, I am a fan now that I've left Rochester.  

This song is from their third album, Possession, but, like most of the singles from that album, it was released before the album was.  It is one of their biggest alternative radio hits to date.  Recorded entirely at the band's studio in Rochester, I cannot help but feel a little adopted hometown pride.  I find the song to be catchy as well. 

The video is a bunch of fake movie titles and previews, and is cool as hell.   


We really appreciate the band's attention to safety when performing.  This live performance is from Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.

28 December 2023

28 December 2023 - Juliana Hatfield - Universal Heart-Beat

So I was on a bit of a Juliana Hatfield binge last week, as I am wont to do from time to time.

It surprised me that this, one of my favorite Juliana Hatfield songs, was missing from this blog.

Let's remedy that.

From her 3rd album, Only Everything, this was the album that she toured in support of that led to The Story.  Juliana, you were right.  The sound was more agressive and fuzzy than her prior work, both solo and with the Blake Babies - but it was still poppy and accessible.  


Juliana still relentlessly tours and records - because that's how she puts food on her table and supports herself.  

Here she is in support of another recent album (Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John) released, singing this classic.

27 December 2023

27 December 2023 - The Ting Tings - Great DJ

It's been a while since we posted The Ting Tings.  

We actually wrote that first line in 2021.  Mostly because, in 2021, it had been a while since we posted the Ting Tings.  In fact, it's now been more than ten years.  And, frankly, every post about the Ting Tings have been about songs from their debut albim, 2008's We Started Nothing.  

Which is a shame, because they're still making music, all these years later.  The duo are a talented pair.

This song, which was a UK minor hit and a US club hit, was written by the band, with Katie White writing that guitar riff you hear throughout (despite not being terribly proficient on the guitar at the time).  It's a simple, sparse song (like a lot of theirs) but also a rich banger.

Anyway, just because we aren't posting about them incessantly doesn't mean we don't still love the Ting Tings.


If you are wondering where some of the synthesized sounds are coming from when there's only two people in the band (even live!), watch Katie's feet during this live performance.

26 December 2023

26 December 2023 - The Smithereens - Top of the Pops

From their fourth album, Blow Up, this song was a mainstream and alternative rock hit song.  Written entirely by Pat DiNizio, it's a straight-forward rock song, off what is arguably their most accessible album.  

The video was directed by John Lloyd Miller (who directed several of their videos) and filmed in Atlantic City, NJ.  


We think the best tribute to the band is that they live on, years after Pat DiNizio has passed.  Here is the best underrated rock band on the planet, with Robin Wilson as a guest vocalist, still crushing it more than 30 years later.  


Of course, we miss Pat, and nothing beats their live performances with him, like this one from 1991.

25 December 2023

25 December 2023 - Lights - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Why exactly are you reading my blog on Christmas morning?!

Well, since you're here, Merry Christmas!  Here's Lights, one of our #MapleLeafMarch highlights, with her take on a Christmas classic.

And yes, we did say this once before, exactly.  This was part of a double A side with another Christmas song.  

24 December 2023

24 December 2023 - Cœur de Pirate, Pierre Lapointe, Garou, Marc Dupré - Noël des enfants / Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

This is starting to become an annual tradition, isn't it? 

I mean, it's Christmas Eve, and here I am with the œ on my clipboard again.  

La Voix is the French Canadian version of The Voice, a singing competition show I'm sure most of you have heard of.  These were the four judges in the 2020 version of the show - right around the beginning of the pandemic.  Do you remember the pandemic?  

(I'm writing this in 2021.   I really hope the pandemic is something we are remembering and not still living) (2023 update: yes)

This song was released in late 2019, ahead of the 2020 season as something of an announcement.  It is, of course, a cover of a John Lennon classic.

22 December 2023

22 December 2023 - Olivia Newton-John - Hopelessly Devoted To You

Let's talk about Grease.  An adaptation of a stage musical of the same name, it starred Olvia Newton-John and John Travolta.   The soundtrack was the second biggest selling album of 1978 - second only to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever.    

By the way, both movies were definitely in theaters at the same time, because I remember going to see Grease in 1979 with my mother and literal one-month old sister and seeing posters for both.

Written by longtime ONJ collaborator John Farrar, this song did not appear in the original stage musical (the movie, to be fair, took several liberties with the source material), but was accepted into the movie immediately.  It ended up being one of Olivia's biggest hits, reaching #3 on the Billboard charts and earning Farrar an Academy Award nomination (he also earned a Golden Globe nom for a different original song for the movie, "You're The One That I Want").


Because it was an Academy Award nominated song, Olivia performed the song at the 1979 Oscar ceremony.  The backing was by the Oscar ceremony orchestra - and, if it's possible, she sang it bigger on that stage.


Olivia performed this song at least through 2017, as it was one of her favorites (mine, too).  Here is one of her last performances (she retired from live performance soon after, and passed in 2022).

21 December 2023

21 December 2023 - Bee Gees - Night Fever

In 1978, the Bee Gees owned the music world.  This song spent eight weeks at #1, on the strength of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album that was, essentially, a Bee Gees album.  That soundtrack is the best selling soundtrack of all time, and one of the ten biggest selling albums of ANY kind.  

It ended up being the second biggest hit song of 1978, behind their brother Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing", which, well, they wrote.  In fact, five of the top ten songs of 1978 were either by the Bee Gees or Andy Gibb and written by the Brothers Gibb.  8

To put that in perspective, Debby Boone's cover of "You Light Up My Life", one of the biggest singles of all time, was the #3 song of 1978.  In the moment, "Night Fever" was the bigger hit.  

By the way, the movie was originally called Saturday Night, but the band, who hated that as a song title, convinced the director to rename the movie to match THEIR song.  It was the right choice.  The song began life as something of a disco-based rerecording of Perth Faith's "Theme From A Summer Place", which, now that you know that, you cannot unhear.

The song is pure disco perfection.  

20 December 2023

20 December 2023 - BLACKPINK - Pink Venom

I promise I didn't plan a theme week this week.  Sometimes, I go where the posts take me.

And this week, they took me to "Pink Venom", the 2022 hit song by BLACKPINK.

Fun fact - this song was BANNED in Korea.... not because it was dirty or anything.  No, it's because Lisa rapped about the French brand Celine - which she endorses - and that level of product placement in songs is not allowed in music in Korea.  

The song brings direct references to Taylor Swift, Rhianna, and Notorious B.I.G., all of whome are quoted in the lyrics - see if you can find them.  It is a confident and bold song that critics have compared to musical anarchy - with shifting musical styles between pop, rock, hip hop and Middle Eastern influence - almost as if each member chose a style and shifted it every time it was their turn to sing.  

It works, though.  It remains one of the group's biggest hits.  


We've mentioned that a live performance in the K-Pop world is more about dance than singing - but these ladies are getting better at the live singing part, too.

19 December 2023

19 December 2023 - AleXa - Wonderland

How does a K-Pop star win American Song Contest?

Well, AleXa may live in South Korea now, but she was raised in Oklahoma and is an American citizen.  She was born in Tulsa.  And, when it was announced that a K-Pop star was going to participate in this show, she became the odds-on favorite to win what was essentially American Eurovision.

This was the winning song, and remains her only US chart hit to date, reaching #38 in 2022.  


The song is still a fan favorite, even in her adopted home country of South Korea. The focus is on dance performance here - and it matches what she actually did on the NBC show, and not the video above.


To compare, here is her week 1 performance from the show.  To be clear, this is the song and performance that won the show for her.  And the win was NOT close.  She beat Michael Bolton, y'all!

18 December 2023

18 December 2023 - Rolling Quartz - Fearless

K-Rock?  It ain't pop, for sure.

In any language, this is real rock music.  Jayoung is a charismatic lead vocalist with a hell of a stage pressence.  The entire band is full of talented musicians who know how to play.

Watch at the 0:55 point of the video.  It's clear the video director told the band to each individulally give a deep, serious, sultry look to the camera.  Iree - the guitarist, who is a damn virtuoso - is way too happy to be there at 1:00.  It becomes her song at 1:59, when she goes into what is arguably the sickest guitar solo in Korean music history.  


I know there's a tendency to believe that a lot of Korean music is manufactured and built in a studio, with limited reliance on live talent.  Yes, sometimes, that's true.  It is NOT true with Rolling Quartz. Three things of note in this live performance.

1) It's not perfect.  Live performances shouldn't be.
2) Yeonguen's feet are going a mile a minute on those drums.
3) There are actually TWO guitar solos in order.  Rhythm guitarist Hyunjung gets a solo, too - and she's pretty damned solid herself.

15 December 2023

15 December 2023 - Heart - Barracuda

One of my best friends in high school was a woman named Heather.  We don't talk as much as we used to (and in fact, I really should check and see how she's doing because it's been a couple of years), but I still think of our friendship.

A lot of it was rooted in music.  Her favorite artist back then was Heart, a group I didn't fully appreciate becuase, well, I first heard them with "What About Love", which wasn't really classic Heart.  Because of her, I know now of older Heart.

This song, which peaked at #11 on the pop charts, was from Heart's 3rd album, Little Queen, and was written by the band.  The song was produced by Mike Flicker, who is best known for his work with Heart.  It also happens to be one of my favorite songs of theirs.  


Heart is still together, a half century after they started - with the Wilson sisters as the only original members. In 2013, the whole band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and played with a band that included other Seattle legends, like Chris Cornell (who gave the induction speech) and Jerry Cantrell.  This was the first time in three decades that the original lineup was all together on one stage.  

14 December 2023

14 December 2023 - Madonna - Hollywood

This song is being posted not because it is one of my favorite Madonna songs.

I mean, it is.  Absolutely.  Co-written by Madonna and Mirwais, it is a minimalist masterpiece.  Released in 2003, it was a bigger hit outside of the US than inside - but it was a minor hit here, too.... and a huge club hit.  It was her first single in 20 years to NOT make the Billboard Hot 100, though.

It's not because the video is iconic.

I mean, it is.  Madonna being Madonna all throughout this video makes this an even larger experience.  

It's not because Madonna is a WGP Hall of Famer

She's likely to be our next inductee.  Let's be honest.  

No, no, there's another reason.


Before we get to that reason, let's hear "Hollywood" live.

Oh, wait. Maybe "Hollywood" was part of an infamous VMAs performance in 2003 when Madonna famously kissed both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on the mouth.... literally right as they finish the song.  

13 December 2023

13 December 2023 - Rita Ora ft. Fatboy Slim - Praising You

Wow, did we have the debate behind the scenes where to put this worldwide hit song.  

There is ABSOLUTELY no doubt that this song leans very heavily on the Fatboy Slim hit "Praise You". The question is, does it cross the threshold of being a cover.

Well, Rita Ora is credited as a songwriter here - and adds a LOT of lyrics.  That's why it's here and not there.  Absolutely, Norman Cook - who we know better as Fatboy Slim - is also listed as a songwriter, because it leans SO heavily on his song.  However, Ora took his creation and made something new and different, that brings a completely different feel and a lot more lyrics.

  

For reasons we don't understand, Ora made two different videos for this song.  We like the first one (directed by her husband, Thor:Ragnarok director Taika Waititi) better (because it pays homage to the "Praise You" video), but the second (directed by Joseph Kahn) is also pretty entertaining.


Lest you think Fatboy Slim isn't on board, here they are together performing THIS song at the Glastonbury Festival.

11 December 2023

11 December 2023 - Green Day - Brain Stew/Jaded

I wasn't initially a fan of Green Day.  I'm not really sure why - they don't make bad music.  

And, really, this is the first time in my life that I was aware at the time that this was a band that was made up of people my age - or younger.  That's right.  This hip bastard is an old man now.  

This single - which is really two songs released together - changed that for me somewhat.  It was minimalist ("Brain Stew", anyway), it was well-crafted, and it was catchy.    It was also an alternative radio hit, like most of their singles before this one - in fact, this seems like LESS of a hit than their others.  It wasn't, really - it just seemed that way at the time.  

Anyway, "Brain Stew" remains to this day my favorite Green Day song, and you can't truly appreciate it until you also listen to it with "Jaded".  


You know this is a live favorite.  Just listen to the crowd.   They know the words.  


Green Day is one of those bands that formed in the late 1980s and never, ever broke up.  They're still back in the club they performed at in Berkeley, CA in the late 1980s - still bringing that energy now.

08 December 2023

8 December 2023 - MC 900 Ft. Jesus - If I Only Had A Brain

It's hard to believe that this song is nearly 30 years old.   The song came from Mark Griffin's - that's his real name - 3rd album, Looney Toons.One Step Ahead of the Spider.  His first two albums were dark, and this one was bright and cheery.... and self-effacing.   

At any rate, this ended up being the biggest hit of his career.  This charming song about being stupid reached #25 on the Modern Rock charts.  


I will always remember this song from this clip from Beavis and Butthead, where Beavis annoyed the living hell out of Butthead.


MC 900 Ft. Jesus is a classically trained musician, which shines through in this clip from MTV's 120 Minutes.  That is what that is, right?

07 December 2023

7 December 2023 - Danielle Dax - Cat House

You may have never heard of Danielle Dax.   That's a damn shame and I am going to remedy that situation now.  She's been sitting in my drafts for so long, it was time to do that.

Dax was previously in a band called the Lemon Kittens, and went solo in the early 1980s.  She self-released a few albums, and finally got a US record deal in 1988.  She released the album Dark Adapted Eye in 1988, which was mostly a repackaging of her 1987 album Inky Bloaters.  "Cat House" has only previously appeared on a compilation album, so it was a new single....

....and it ended up being a club hit.  Dax's combination of dance sensibilities and Middle Eastern inspired beats made for a unique sound.  

Dax went into musical retirement in 1995 and became a renowned interior designer.  She returned to performing in 2017, sporatically.  We hope to see her live soon.

06 December 2023

6 December 2023 - Fetchin Bones - Love Crushing

I really really want to put an apostrophe at the end of Fetchin' but the band leaves it off.

This song was the lead single from the band's 1989 album, Monster.  Produced by the great Ed Stasium - the only one of their four not produced by Don Dixon - the North Carolina band heard a lot of "sell-out" talk upon its release... which likely broke up the band, because it wasn't a successful sellout if that's what happened.

This was the song that got me into Fetchin Bones.  I think it's a great song and a good album.  That's why this song made it into my drafts.  

The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame agrees, and the band was inducted into the Hall last month!  Congrataulations, guys!!!!

05 December 2023

5 December 2023 - Charlotte Cardin - Feel Good

This one was sitting in drafts waiting for March.

You see, Charlotte Cardin is Canadian.  Specifically, she's from Montreal - and sings in both English and French.   It's been such a big year for Cardin, though, that it wasn't necessary to wait.

You see, her critically acclaimed 2nd album, 99 Nights, was released in Augsust.  It was a hit in the French-speaking world but really should be a hit wider, because Charlotte Cardin is one of the best pop singers on the planet at the moment.  

Now, normally, that would be enough of an achievement for an artist.  Release an album, go on tour.  Not for Charlotte Cardin.  She followed this up with an EP in September that was ALSO a hit (admittedly centered around a French version of her hit single "Confetti").  This song is from that EP and it is a pop delight, even though it's mostly in French.  

Anyway, this song has been sitting in our drafts for a couple of months, and today seemed like the right day.  Enjoy it.  


It's a new song, so she has not performed it live, and our loyal YouTube listeners have not gotten a great reording of the song live - despite several stops on a US tour.  However, she also performed it live in studio for Basique, on French television.

It sounds a LOT like the studio recording.   


OK, OK, fine.  Here's a pretty poor recording of the song performed live in Philadelphia.  You can see the energy she brings to the song.  She goes into another song - "Main Girl", which was her first hit - afterwards.

04 December 2023

4 December 2023 - Adriano Celentano - Prisencólinensináinciúsol

On Friday, I gave you my oldest draft.  Today, I give you my newest, and it started as a meme,

You might have heard about Adriano Celentano, the Italian artist who wrote a song that was complete gibberish but supposed to sound like American English, and whose absolutely bonkers song was an Italian hit.

I had to know if this was true.

It was.

Yep.  Celentano and his wife really did this, not to make fun of American English, but to show communication barriers - but also, to show that "ol rait" was a universal sound.   

The lyrics do NOT say "all right."  They say "ol rait".  

Celentano wrote the song over top of a bunch of looped drum beats in the studio and added bass guitar - and not the acoustic guitar he's playing here - and horns.  Despite making ABSOLUTELY no sense, it's a remarkably catchy song.


But how the hell do you perform such a dense song live?

In 2012, Celentano did just that, with what looks like a full orchestra.  Also, he would have been 74 when he performed this, and he's amazingly spry.


Those of you familiar with the TV show Ted Lasso may think this song sounds familliar.  

It is.  Season 3, Episode 3, over a montage of Zava.


The song was also part of an elaborate prank on Italian TV at Will Smith's expense.  No word on whether or not he smacked the host and said anything about keeping his wife's name out of anyone's mouth.


In 2016, Celentano rerecorded the song, with additional vocals from Italian star Mina and beats from Benny Benassi.  It's got a different feel, but it's clearly the same song.


This was not the first time he had done this.  In the 90s he gave his song new lyrics and turned it into the hip hop parody he didn't know he had written in 1972.

01 December 2023

1 December 2023 - The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of drafts here.   There are literally hundreds of songs in my queue - and there are a few artists that are heavily represented in that queue and will be future Hall of Fame choices, probably.

I did decide, however, that this December would be one to remember, and I would highlight some of my very oldest drafts - ones that I have been sitting on for a good long time.   My very OLDEST draft was this song from 1990, this breakthrough modern rock hit by The Sundays.  Written by David Gavurin and Harriet Wheeler (members of the band, the latter the vocalist), it is a fun and sweet jangle-pop breakup song.  

The irony is, it wasn't released as a single in their native UK, as their UK label, Rough Trade, suffered an epic business collapse soon after the release of the album and went into recievership.

Still, this song is great.  Enjoy.