29 February 2024

29 February 2024 - Faith No More - We Care a Lot

If you know Faith No More, you likely know them from their later stuff.  This song, however, was one of their first - featuring a different lead vocalist than you might recognize.

The original lead vocalist and principal songwriter was a man named Chuck Mosley (who passed away of a presumed heroin overdose in 2017).  The lyrics for this song were written by Mosley and Roddy Bottum, the latter of whom also had a hand in the music.

This version, the best known, is from their 1988 album Introduce Yourself, but was originally recorded for their 1985 rare debut We Care A Lot.  At this time, you can really hear the Bad Brains influence on the band - very bass-heavy, very activist.  

Now, compare that to the harder, sparser version from their 1985 debut.  Yes, lyrically, it's a little different, but the musical differences are actually more apparent here - with a more drum-heavy mix going on here.

Mosley left the band soon after - some say he was fired, but it seemed to me to be more of a creative direction thing, as Mosley wanted to do less hard rock and more acoustic stuff.  Bottum has characterized it as "fired without being fired" and somewhat amicable.

The band did not abandon their best known early song, though, and released a live version of the song in 1991 as a single, with Mike Patton on vocals.  It's a different song, and Patton does a lot of ad-libbing while trying to hold onto the legacy of Chuck Mosley. 

The band did eventually break up, but reformed with Mike Patton on lead vocals - and of course they still perform this song (as they did here in 2015), which still carries the anger and activism Mosley and Bottum wrote in 1984.

By the way, anyone questioning whether or not the Mosley departure need only look to this performance from 2010, which featuted him on vocals with the band performing several of his songs, including, yes, "We Care A Lot".  

Here he is with the band AGAIN in 2016, a year before his passing, performing the song and others from their reissued debut,.  He sounds great (and looks awful). 

As far as we can tell, that's the last time the band has performed live, although they've scheduled other shows that were cancelled. 

28 February 2024

28 February 2024 - MC Hammer - Pray

"Pray" is the answer to a trivia question.

What is MC Hammer's biggest chart hit?  

Answer: "Pray", the third single from Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em.  

That's right. Not "U Can't Touch This". 

Both songs have a lot of similarities.  Both feature prominent samples that are easily identifiable - this one samples Prince's "When Doves Cry" (and, in a great example of a fact you cannot unlearn, it also interpolated "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More).  Both are a little boastful, although this one a little more humbly so. 

It is a preachy song, but also enjoyable.  

27 February 2024

27 February 2024 - Matthew Sweet - Sick of Myself

In 1995, Matthew Sweet released his album 100% Fun.  His fifth solo album, it would be the biggest thing he would do for his whole career - including generating this big hit single, his only appearance on the US pop charts.

Really, Matthew Sweet has made a career making great pop-rock music in relative obscurity.  So how did he get his gem in his hands?

Well, he wrote it.  And performed most of it himself.  Sure, he had a couple of guitarists and a drummer backing him on this track.  Richard Lloyd's guitar is particularly strong here - but the licks were crafted by Sweet.

Here are Sweet and Lloyd performing the song live on MTV in 1995.  You can see Richard just shreding and Matthew giving his all.

Sweet still performs, too.  Here he is, with Jason Victor backing him on lead guitar, at the Paste Studios in 2017.  With no rhythm section to back them, the song just becomes a guitar god dream, complete with trick ending.

26 February 2024

26 February 2024 - No Doubt - Spiderwebs

This was the single that directly followed "Just A Girl".  That single after a huge hit song is usually the indicator on whether or not a band has the legs for a long career.  

By most measures, "Spiderwebs" ended up being a bigger hit, charting higher on most charts and getting more mainstream radio airplay.  History might remember "Just A Girl" more, but this song... it was a bigger deal.

Written by Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal, it's clearly a song that leans heavily into their ska roots, while continuing the pop/rock sound that permeates the whole Tragic Kingdom album.  It started off much slower, but the single release ended up being a pretty funky tune.  Lyrically, it, like others on that album, their first without Eric Stefani (their prior principal songwriter and Gwen's brother), is a very personal song, of breakup and turmoil (likely the breakup of Kanal and Gwen Stefani was the subject).

Believe it or not, the band is still together. Sure, Gwen is a lot busier nowadays - with her solo career and other obligations - but in this performance from 2012, it doesn't look like they aged a day and have not lost a single beat. 

Several years later, in this performance released in 2023 but likely a little older than that (the copyright is 2020, and they reportedly have not played together since 2015 (but are playing Coachella this year), so we're going with that), they still had not lost a step.

23 February 2024

23 February 2024 - M.I.A. - Boyz

Few artists do as good a job bringing Middle Eastern, Indian and Tamil beats to western Hip Hop as well as M.I.A. consistently does.  

This is a song that absolutely throws EVERYTHING at you - drums, horns, jumping, more horns, more drums, samples - and does not stop.  It is an upbeat dancehall track and in your face, and it's all about, well, boyz.  It's a fun, happy, upbeat song that ended up being a dance hit and a minor pop hit in the US.  Co-written by the artist and Switch - both of whom also produced the track - the song includes strong influence from Tamil music - from M.I.A.'s home country of Sri Lanka.  

It's a delight, seriously.

M.I.A. also puts on a hell of a live performance, such as this one from 2018 at the Sakifo Music Festival.  You can see the Tamil drums in full effect in this performance - they are really used to get the song's unique sound. 

22 February 2024

22 February 2024 - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Something That I Want

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a band that has lived on the fringe of rock.  They're certainly a talented, straight-ahead rock band.  They've gotten some airplay on adult alternative radio, and have only hit the Billboard Hot 100 ONE time - in 2012, with "Stars" (a future song for this blog, no doubt).

This song, today's song, was not released as a single.  It was kind of a throwaway song.  And yet, without knowing who the artist is in a lot of case, this song is beloved and probably the band's best known song.  It is credited by Potter as "the only reason I was able to pay my bills" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You see, the song played at the end of the 2010 Disney movie Tangled, over the closing credits.  And it goes HARD - not a song you'd expect in a Disney movie.  Written by Grace Potter herself, it is a tour de force.

Someone must have known, because a video for this song, filmed at Disney Animation Studios and featuring Potter, was filmed. And it was fun!!! (Edit: Disney took the video down.  We added this fun 2023 live performance instead)

Now, sit down, because I'm gonna hit most of you with knowledge.

Grace Potter was on an episode of One Tree Hill in 2008 - two years before Tangled was released.  Guess what she performed?

The song was slightly rewritten and definitely rerecorded for Tangled, but it was a repurposed song.

Even though the band is still together, Grace Potter's work over the last ten years has been largely solo.  This performance in 2020 was a solo performance, but she still pulled out her best know song.

And, by the way, this woman is a rock star.  No doubt.

21 February 2024

21 February 2024 - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force - I Wonder If I Take You Home

This story starts with Cult Jam, a Brooklyn-based R&B group, led by a vocalist named Lisa Velez.  At age 14, Velez auditioned for a group of R&B producers and performers who called themselves Full Force.  

Somewhere along the line, they decided that Lisa Lisa's name should be pulled out separately.  

This single, released in Europe in 1985, was such a huge radio hit AS AN IMPORT that CBS decided it needed a US release - and yes, it was not only a huge hit, but also would go on to be one of the most sampled songs in history.  

The song was written by Full Force, and they also perform on the track.  It's, of course, about teen sex.  And, in this case, there's a pro/con list - they are, believe it or not, extoling the virtues of saying 'yes'.  By the way, Lisa was 18 when she was singing this.  

Cult Jam broke up in the early '90s, but Lisa Lisa still performs.  She still has the same energy, too, as is clear in this performance from 2022.  

20 February 2024

20 February 2024 - Dua Lipa - Training Season

You want to talk about recent?  This single was released LAST WEEK.

It's already in my moderate rotation.

Dua Lipa wrote the lyrics with Caroline Allin, with a team doing the disco/Middle-Eastern composition. Is that an ABBA influence I hear?  Maybe.  It is a confident, fun song, to be sure.  

It's not a big hit song yet, but give it two weeks.  Geez!

The song was released last week, but she also performed it PRIOR to its release, at the Grammys.

19 February 2024

19 February 2024 - Becky G - Shower

Becky G is a badass.

You would not know it by her first Top 40 hit, an ode to new love.  She wrote the bridge, but it was mostly a Dr. Luke special - and despite her badassery, her youth gave her what was called the "Call Me Maybe" of 2014.  

It would be eight years before Becky G would have her 2nd hit

Despite it not really fitting with the rest of her catalog - which is largely Spanish-language and harder edged - she still performs her first hit live.  And she's gotten to be a truly complex performer.

16 February 2024

16 February 2024 - Jon Batiste - Worship

Jon Batiste was nominated for six Grammys this year, including one for this song.  He has WON Grammys in the past - including one for Album of the Year.  He is a two-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner (so far - one of his nominations is this year).  He was Emmy nominated when he was bandleader for Stephen Colbert on his late night talk show.

And no, I had never heard of him.  I have a blind spot for some music, I suppose, and I am trying to correct that.

This jazzy, souldful, hiphoppy gospel song is an absolute delight, and I love it.  Co-written by Batiste, it is a cornerstone of his Grammy-nominated concept album World Music Radio

Of course I had to seek out live performances of this song.  It is really good.  One of our favorite was that time he returned to Colbert's show to perform. It is a quieter and yet energetic performance, and it is a work of art.

15 February 2024

15 February 2024 - Lady A - My Name Is All I Got

This is not the artist we posted on Monday, nor are we linking to it.  You can look later, though.

This is Anita White, a blues singer who goes by Lady A and has since at least the late 90's. So, when Lady Antebellum changed their name in the wake of the George Floyd death - to get rid of a Civil War reference - it was a serious issue.

Luckily, this little confusion didn't stop Anita White, who still goes by Lady A - and can, legally, thanks to a settlement in 2022.  She's still releasing music, too.  We applaud her for standing up to a huge name and winning.  

This song was clearly written as a response to the band formerly know as Lady Antebellum.  It's also a really strong and empowering song that is full of soul.

15 February 2024 - Metric - Help I'm Alive

We have featured Metric on this blog before - including last year, when they were nominated for a Juno Award.  They're nominated again this year - and we think they might actually win.  

This is a 2008 song of theirs, and not what they are nominated for this year.  Although not their best known song today - now that the truth is just a rule that you can bend - it is their biggest hit, reaching #21 on the Canadian charts and even higher elsewhere.  It was also their first time gaining any traction on the US charts -   

Written by vocalist Emily Haines - and sung by her and not Brie Larson - it's an emotional powerhouse.

Does this song sound just as emotional and strong stripped down to an acoustic version?

Yes.  Yes it does.   

14 February 2024

14 Feburary 2024 - Amanda Seyfried - Amanda's Love Song

This strange little song was released in 2010.  Written by Seyfried, it doesn't REALLY have a title. It just kind of adopted this one.  The video, made for postthelove, is just her, singing and playing the guitar.  

The song itself is absolutely beautiful and you have got to hear it, so I figured today, Valentine's Day, would be a great day to release it.  Enjoy.

13 February 2024

13 February 2024 - H.E.R. - Hard Place

I have to admit, when I was watching the Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Usher, it took me a minute to identify the female guitarist who was clearly a featured guest - as did a lot of people, I am sure.  When I figured it out, which I did pretty quickly, I was ashamed of myself.

You see, Gabriella Wilson, still early in H.E.R. career, is already an accomplished and well-respected artist.  A prolific songwriter and multiinstrumentally talented, she has already accomplish a lot - and won a few Grammys for her efforts.  She's been redefining R&B, infusing country and rock into her sound as well. 

So yeah.  I should have known right away.  To be fair, it took me a second on Ludacris, too.  

This song was Grammy nominated for Song of the Year, and was co-written by H.E.R.  It was an R&B and a minor pop hit in the US.  

H.E.R.'s guitar skills are on full display in this live version of the song, from Austin City Limits.  It is, in my opinion, the best version of the song that exists. 

12 February 2024

12 February 2024 - Lady A(ntebellum) - Need You Now

This was sitting in drafts for a VERY long time, and I am so glad to finally uncork it.

The band is Lady A, but they were Lady Antebellum.  

This song was written by the band and Josh Kear - and it is the biggest thing they have ever done.  Not only was it a huge country hit, it reached #2 on the Billboard POP charts and was the 2nd biggest hit of 2010 ("Tik Tok", by the way).  The song won four Grammys, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year (with the album of the same name winning a 5th that evening).  

The song is about someone making a late night drunk dial that they are going to likely regret in the morning.  A lot of us have been there.  I've been there.  

Anyway, the song was and still is a force of nature, and now here it is.  

09 February 2024

9 February 2024 - The Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl

I used to love The Dead Milkmen.  I was introduced to them when a kid I met at summer camp wore his Big Lizard In My Backyard shirt.  I was intrigued. So I checked them out.  The jokey pop/punk fusion was fun and different and kept me interested.

Fast forward a couple of years, and they release this as the lead single from their 4th album, Beelzebubba. MTV starts playing the song in heavy rotation during the day, and people love it.  Turns out, it was a song the band had written many years earlier and were heasitant to record as The Dead Milkmen (they had a side project called Ornamental Wigwam that they used for it).  
By far, this song was their biggest hit - their only song to hit any Billboard chart (#11 on the Modern Rock chart) - and remained a staple of their live sets, especially after they reunited (they broke up for ten years and reunited soon after the tragic death of bassist Dave Blood).

Listen closely to the song, and you will hear references to Philadelphia locations, like the iconic punk rock store Zipperhead.  

Famously, the song mentions Mojo Nixon, who was their Enigma Records labelmate and fellow jokester.  In 2015, he made a suprise appearance on stage during this song right after them mention him.  

08 February 2024

8 Febraury 2024 - Lisa - LALISA

The debut solo single by your favorite member of BLACKPINK was released in 2021.

Don't deny it.  Everyone loves Lisa.  One of two members of the group who spoke fluent English from the beginning (Australian citizen Rosé being the other), she became something of a spokesperson for the band and for non-Korean brands.  She was the first non-Korean (she's Thai) to be taken on by famed label YG Entertainment. 

Born Pranpriya Manobal, she did legally change her name to Lalisa Manobal on the advice of a fortune teller. So, in this, her debut single - a worldwide hit - she's literally singing her own name over and over.  

A K-Pop live performance is about the performance, and not the singing.  That's not a criticism.  It's a fact and an entertaining one at that. I literally picked one of those at random, because Lisa's performance and dancing are absolutely flawless every single time.  

07 February 2024

7 February 2024 (Special Edition) - Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - Elvis Is Everywhere

I'm not OK with two of these in two days.  

I'm really not OK with this one. I grew up listening to Mojo.  It all started with an EP I bought in the mid-1980s... before the rest of the world got to hear him on MTV and he was singing about how MTV should be covered in ejaculate.

"Stuffin' Martha's Muffin".  It was real.

The name known at birth as Neill Kirby McMillan Jr. has passed away.  He died doing what he loved - performing - on the Outlaw Country Cruise, an annual music cruise he played and hosted.  He played a show LAST NIGHT (after playing one the afternoon before) and was partying until the wee hours.

He is literally playing guitar in the lower right photo in this tweet, last night.

Mojo was obsessed with gonads and making dirty songs about tying his pecker to his leg.... and his sideburns.... and pop culture in general.  This song skewered the widely-held belief that Elvis Presley was still alive, and using that as an explanation for everything that happened. 

Bermuda Triangle?  Elvis needs boats.

With his longtime collaborator, Skid Roper, here is Mojo performing his best known song.

This song actually brought the fringe duo some fame, with them even able to play this song on late night network television.

We miss you, Mojo.  SUPER sorry to see you gone.  

7 February 2024 - Dropkick Murphys - I'm Shipping Up To Boston

It was tough for me to decide where to put this blog-wise.  The lyrics of the song were written by Woody Guthrie - but the music is completely Dropkick Murphys.  They wrote it.  Ken Casey of the band found a fragment of these lyrics while looking through some Woody Guthrie archives.... and built a whole song around it.

It's likely Woody didn't release this as a single.  He wrote a lot of stuff he didn't release.  What is clear that the Dropkick Murphys turned this not only into a huge hit song - but a de facto anthem for all Boston sports teams.

The band, formed in 1996 in Quincy, Massachusetts, still exists, and they are presently touring.   They're coming to a town near us, and I think we're going to try to go.  At any rate, here they are in 2022 (missing Al Barr, so Ken Casey had to do all the vocals himself), performing the song for an eager crowd.  

06 February 2024

6 February 2024 (Special Edition) - Toby Keith - I Wanna Talk About Me

I did not know Toby Keith was sick, so when I found out he had passed away from stomach cancer, I was shocked.

Toby was known for his goofy and funny songs that also spoke plainly - "Red Solo Cup" was his best known.  This 2001 single was his 7th country #1 and it falls in the plain speaking category.  It was also nominated for several CMA and ACM awards - mostly for this fantastic video.  

And yes, he performed it live. Here he is at the American Music Awards, where he was also nominated.

6 February 2024 - Big Boss Vette - Pretty Girls Walk

During the Grammys on Sunday, we saw a commercial with this song.  I immediately clocked it as Megan Thee Stallion, so I had to look it up.

It wasn't Megan Thee Stallion.  

It was Big Boss Vette, who finally broke through with this boastful song.  I mentioned it's been in a commercial (the commerical's subject escapes me as I write this), and it's also been used in South Park.  Is it a hit song?  Not a charting one (it's probably too dirty for airplay) but people know who Big Boss Vette is now.

Seriously, the song is super funky and it's now going to be on repeat in this house.   Sorry, guys. 

By the way, when she keeps mentioning diamonds, she's talking about herself.  Her real name is Diamond Alexxis Smith. 

An official remix of this song, featuring some ad libs by Coi Leray, also exists. And it's fun.

05 February 2024

5 February 2024 - Sam Smith & Kim Petras - Unholy

I can imagine the people losing their minds right now.

A non-binary artist and a transgender artist singing about unholy things.  

Well, this song won a couple of Grammys last year, making Kim Petras the first transgender woman to win a Grammy.  Yeah, people lost their minds.  

This song, which was a huge hit (and #11 on the 2023 year-end Billboard chart), is excellent and fun and somewhat delightful, and I'm glad it won awards. 

These two did a lot of versions of this song live, but my favorite is this one that they did with a full orchestra.  The Middle Eastern elements of the song really shine through here. 

02 February 2024

2 February 2023 - Doja Cat - Paint The Town Red

Why yes, that is a signficant and prominent Dionne Warwick sample in this song.  

Sampling is nothing new.  Artists do this all the time.  

Because of the samples, there's a long list of songwriters, including Burt Bacharach, for this song, but Doja Cat wrote the lyrics 100% herself.

In 2023, it became her 2nd US #1 hit, and her 1st as a solo artist (she previously hit for "Say So" with Nicki Minaj).  It was and IS a huge hit worldwide.  It's constantly sung by other people in my house.   It's infectious.  

The song is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance this Sunday, at the Grammys, and it's got a solid chance, being the only nomination for the song.  

In this performance for BBC Radio 1, Doja Cat performs the song live with a full band and clearly sings the hell out of this.

For her part, Dionne Warwick is happy about the sample.

01 February 2024

1 February 2024 - The Rolling Stones - Angry

Who had "The Rolling Stones release an absolute banger of a single with an iconic video" on their 2023 bucket list?

I did not.

From the band's latest album, Hackney Diamonds, the song was written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Andrew Watt (who produced the track).  It's a pretty typical Stones song - but it's lyrically and musically distinctive enough to be literally the FIRST song of theirs featured on this blog.  

The song is nominated for the Grammy this year for Best Rock Song, and it deserves it.  

The video features the band on billboards, singing and performing the song.  Clearly, they are older images of the band from throughout their career - a lot of images you will recognize - animated by AI. 
Oh, and Sydney Sweeney in black leather studded chaps makes an appearance or two in the video.  Don't sweat any objectification - she chose her own clothes and rejects any objectification calls, instead choosing to be empowered.

Of course the Stones toured to support this.  Of course they play this song.