22 December 2014

22 December 2014 - Chloe Wang - Uh Oh

I've been saving this gem for quite a while now.

Chloe Wang is a Chinese pop star.  She is a Chinese-American, born in Chicago to Stephanie and Bennet Wang. Put a pin in dad's name.  We're coming back to it in a minute.
She moved to China - at age 15 - to become a pop star.  Quickly learning Mandarin, she released her debut single - "Uh Oh" - in both Mandarin.....

...and English.

It's a fun song, to be sure.  There's not a lot of substance here - it's a light-hearted pop song.  But it doesn't pretend to be anything more than that.  And I have no problem with that - music is supposed to be fun.

Some of you in the United States are thinking.... "Hey, she looks familiar.  And yet I'm not up on Chinese pop stars. Where have I seen her before?"  Let me help you a little with that....

After she released a couple of singles in China, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.  Of course, Chloe WANG sounds way too Chinese to appeal to American audiences, so she took her father's first name as her last.  Chloe Bennet.  Which is how she was billed on "Nashville" and how she is billed on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", where she plays Skye (or was that Daisy?).

And now you know.

17 December 2014

17 December 2014 - Charli XCX - Breaking Up

You knew this post had to happen.   You just thought it would happen on Monday, the day when Sucker was released.

Nope.  I was too busy listening to Sucker. Highly recommended.  It isn't True Romance - few albums in the last 20 years are THAT good (and we had three in 2013 that were that good, in my opinion) - but it is a solid record.

And this song... Some of the comments online about it have not been kind.   It continues the fuzzed-up sound of "Break The Rules", but this is a much angrier song. 

It's not like this is a new song.  It was around at least in March, when Charli was at SxSW..... Lyrically, it's a little different, but not significantly, and it is clearly the same song.

Oh, in case you were wondering....  Night Time, My Time, by Sky Ferreira, and Pure Heroine, by Lorde. With True Romance, the three best albums of 2013. 

11 December 2014

11 Dec 2014 - Mr. Probz - Waves

By now, you've all heard this song on the radio.  Seemingly out of nowhere comes this somewhat slow jam. It's cool, acoustic while still being a little bit EDM....

....but, as is the case with most songs that are hits elsewhere first - in this case, The Netherlands - it only became popular in the US a year after its release, after a significant remix.  Here it is, as it was originally intended.  It's no longer EDM, but a much slower jam.  And it remains cool.

28 November 2014

28 November 2014 - Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora - Black Widow

If a single one of you is surprised that I am posting this, then you have not been paying attention for the last year.....
Two great talents, making one great song.  You cannot ask for more out of music, people!

26 November 2014

26 November 2014 - Tove Lo - Habits (Stay High)

Look, the message of this song isn't the greatest.  I get it.

But the song itself - it's really cool.  Tove Lo - real name Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson - has a really powerful voice, and brings a lot of passion to this song.  I don't think we're dealing with a one-hit wonder.

But, maybe for her next song, she can not promote substance abuse as an answer for depression, mmmmkay?

(Update! 18 June 2015) So since I posted this today.....  I just wanted you all to know that I still think this is a better song.... but since I've listened to Queen of the Clouds all the way through - by chance, really.  I was bored and had time to kill - I love it so much more.  And I no longer have the problems with the message, in context.

I also heard this bonus track, which, on the surface, is just a remix of this song.  However, it is a lot more than that.  In some countries (the UK comes to mind) this version was a bigger hit.  It's a sparser version, and in my opinion a completely different song, but it's still a valid good song - and a lot more nihilistic.

24 November 2014

24 November 2014 - Nicki Minaj - Anaconda

She sampled the song and back beat of "Baby Got Back", a classic.  She even lifted the title right from that song.  So why the hell is this a pleasure?

Because Onika got this one right.  She took a great hook and added something great, making it her own. Even Sir Mix-A-Lot had to shout.... well, OK, he didn't shout, but he does love the song. (And the video - he is a documented ass-man, after all).

And I like it, too.  It's hummable, and let's face it, Nicki Minaj has got skills.  She understands hip-hop, both musically and culturally, like few other artists, male or female, do, and it shows.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

21 November 2014

21 November 2014 - Snap! - Rhythm Is A Dancer

Sure, I've been taking a break from this blog for awhile.  I've been listening to a lot of new pop music, and I want to share it all with you.  But, today, I want to talk about a different epidemic.

Yeah, I'm talking about THAT SONG.  That stupid, atonal song by Jeremih - "Don't Tell 'Em" - that just sounds whiny and out of tune.  First line of his song is "Rhythm is a dancer", but there's no energy behind it.  There's no.... passion.

And there's certainly no soul companion.  There's no soul at all.  I can't feel it, no.

Compare that to the power of the 1992 single by German dance group Snap!  It's passionate, it's powerful.  Thea Austin on the lead female vocal has a huge voice, and doesn't let the power of the words or the synthpop overcome her.  It's a song that is still remembered more than 20 years later, and not just because Jeremih lifted a couple of lines from it.

To be fair, Snap! did get a songwriting credit on "Don't Tell 'Em".....  And, as you will see next week, it's not always a bad thing to lift pieces of other people's songs.

15 October 2014

15 October 2014 - Zedd (feat. Foxes) - Clarity / Foxes (feat. Matthew Koma) - Clarity

I waited an awfully long time to post this.  Mostly because I got really sick of it when it was overplayed.  I mean, it's a well-written song, and Zedd is a pretty good DJ, and Foxes has a pretty solid voice, and was able to own this very emotional yet heavily electronic song despite being so young and untested.

Then I heard this.  And I heard the ache and longing.  I heard the power of Foxes's voice - who really makes this song hers with a simple piano accompaniment - and I heard the power of Matthew Koma's (who wrote the song and is an excellent performer in his own right) (and who still couldn't stand up to Foxes) and suddenly I wasn't sick of it anymore.

10 October 2014

10 October 2014 - 5 Seconds of Summer - She Looks So Perfect

Forget that these very photogenic boys are being compared to and adored to the levels of One Direction (they are colloquially known as 5SOS).  Forget all the comparisons to Blink 182 and Green Day. Forget how absolutely boring "Amnesia" was. Forget the clear American Apparel name drop.  Forget how ridiculous this video is and how many people they got to take off their clothes for it.

This song absolutely rocks, from the opening rift to the last chord.  No one can forget that or deny that.

09 October 2014

9 October 2014 - Transvision Vamp - I Want Your Love

I don't know why I haven't posted Transvision Vamp, one of the most underrated bands of the 80's and early 90's, before today.   Why were they underrated?  Probably because Wendy James was too sexy, had hair that was too blonde, and showed too much boob and leg.  Oh, yeah, she was blonde AND British AND dared to be the front person of a rock band, so they must be just like The Darling Buds (let's not even get into the fact that Andrea Lewis is Welsh here.  We'll do that on May 6th.) and The Primitives (Tracy was going more Marilyn with her look than sexpot). 

The fact that Transvision Vamp had their roots in Agent Orange and X-Ray Spex (Anthouny Doughty), and members went on to somewhat successful solo (Wendy James) and band (bassist Dave Parsons was in Bush after TV) careers... that doesn't seem to matter.  But the fact is, they were an excellent power pop band with two great albums and a 3rd that wasn't awful.

And I'll say it.  I'd love to hear a 4th.

This is a song so good, it was on both of their first two albums, the excellent Pop Art and the woefully underrated (in the United States) Velveteen (in my opinion, one of the five best albums of all time) The song was only included on US pressings of Velveteen, but I still have my copy purchased on the day of its release to prove it was there. 

But this song is just a perfect piece of power pop that will get you going even on your worst days.  A top 5 hit in most of the civilized world in 1988, it failed to chart in the States.  Which is just a crime.

03 October 2014

3 October 2014 - Natalia Kills - Zombie

I am on a bit of a Natalia Kills kick of late.  Scott posted one of her songs more than a year ago, and that is a gem.  Of course, that song is called "Problem", which just happens to have the same title as a little Ariana Grande song that did a little better on the charts (and was also a gem).

18 September 2014

18 Septenber 2014 - Barenaked Ladies - The Old Apartment

When the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies released their Born on a Pirate Ship album in 1996, it signaled a new era for the band.  More to the point, it was far darker than the lighthearted fare that had been the hallmark of their earlier songs ("If I Had $1,000,000" comes to mind).  While Steven Page had not lost his penchant for obscure words ("blending into dull tableaux") and Canadian references ("the Danforth" refers to Danforth Ave. in Toronto), he used it not for humor but for drama and nostalgia.

The resultant song is a gem, full of emotion and angst, that would be the first of several US Top 100 hits for the group.   That's right.  This was the first. This is the song that paved the way for "One Week", one of the very first songs posted on this blog. 

27 August 2014

27 August 2014 - Charli XCX - Break The Rules

True story - I did consider starting a Charli XCX-centered blog.  I mean, I post enough of her stuff here.  

But I didn't.

I am, however, a fan of hers on Facebook, and I was discussing with other fans who were bemoaning the end of True Romance-era Charli, calling songs like "Fancy" and "Boom Clap" a "different kind of creative."  Others shouted down that comment, but I agreed.  Evolution isn't necessarily bad.  Sucker - her upcoming album - will be poppier but solid.  We had already heard the sugary "Boom Clap" (which is also on the new album) and the pop/EDM of "Superlove" )which is also presumably on this album - Charli said that it was there last year, but it isn't on the pre-announced track list, which I find odd).  So we are looking at a more mainstream pop record. So I thought.

I wish I had heard "Break The Rules" first. This song here is why I never should have posted "Boom Clap".  This should have been the big hit song, not that.  But this could be a big hit song.  I'm hoping this is a big hit song.  This song reminds me of the great "Nuclear Seasons" - dark and punky, while retaining its pop edge.  By the way, that song will be your #1 suggestion at the end of this video.  Thanks, YouTube!

Back to this song..... so far this and others I have heard from Sucker (NOT named "Boom Clap") really have a straight-ahead rock feel - very Runaways-inspired.  This song is what I think what we would hear if Joan Jett discovered EDM. 

Also, she quite famously cannot dance. Any number of live performances of "Fancy" should have told you that.  Or the first 30 seconds of the "What I Like" video. This video leaves no doubts. Just check out her moves on the top of that bus.  Or this live performance of the song..... which I'd like to add sounds really good even without all the effects on Charli's voice....

26 August 2014

26 August 2014 - Katy Perry - Birthday

You know, I hadn't really been a fan of a lot of Katy Perry's latest songs.  I don't know why.  They just weren't doing it for me.   But, then again, a lot of her songs in the past have taken awhile to grow on me - "E.T." being the most noteworthy example.

Well, then came "Birthday".  And my faith in Katymanity was restored.

The video - Katy Perry in disguise crashing birthday parties - is amazing.  And don't worry, folks - she didn't really ruin anyone's day.  (Check out 5:40 in the video to see how she made a whole bunch of kids happy.)   But, even without the video, it's a fun song, worthy of our Hall of Fame.

25 August 2014

25 August 2014 - Ariana Grande - Break Free (ft. Zedd)

This is. The part when. I say I like this song, even though it's derivative EDM/pop.

This is. The part when. I claim Ariana is the future of pop, even though people call her a cut-rate Mariah Carey clone.

Yes, I know it is a tear in the space/time continuum that Ariana Grande is the big hit pop star and not Victoria Justice. (Or, for that matter, Jennette McCurdy).  Yes, I know Zedd isn't a spaceship pilot.  Yes, I know Ariana's boobs just turned into missiles. Yes, I know this video is completely Barbarella redux.

This is just a fun song, by a young artist collaborating with another young artist.  And it isn't half bad.  Enjoy it for what it is.

21 August 2014

21 August 2014 - Fine It's Pink - Secret Island

Let's get the formalities out of the way.

Fine It's Pink formed in Romania in early 2013.  They may be the first band featured on here younger than Wicked Guilty Pleasures.  That they were so new I did not know when I featured their cover of "When I'm Small" on Totally Covered.  The band has gained comparisons to Sigur Ros......

.....but I don't really see it so much.  They're clearly fans of Phantogram (see previous post), but they have upped the ethereal to Cocteau Twins levels while increasing the fuzz on their guitars.  This is their latest single, off their upcoming album.  Check it out.

Did I mention they're from Romania?  Not much music makes it out of Romania, and that's a shame,  because this is amazing, and if it is indictive of the Romanian music scene, we are missing out.


By the way, you can also follow the band on Twitter.  I bet they'd appreciate that.

18 August 2014

18 August 2014 - Disclosure - Latch (ft. Sam Smith)

The Disclosure album Settle was listed by many publications as one of the best of 2013.  Which is why, when I first heard this song on pop radio as a big hit, it didn't register with me that it was the same artist.  I mean, as much as I love pop radio, I know not everyone does, and it isn't usually considered the best of ANYTHING.

But this song, originally released in the UK as a single in 2012, is different.  First of all (and this will make more sense to those of you who know music), the song is in 6/8 time, unlike the usual 4/4 so popular on pop radio.  This is an EDM song, meant for clubs.  Lyrically, it's a little creepy. 

And yet something so very weird is a massive worldwide hit.  Compare it to everything else on pop radio.  This song is weird.  But perhaps it is that weirdness - musically, lyrically, comparatively -that makes it resonate with so many.  Sam Smith's amazing vocal range - Sam is a guy (a fact that shocked the guys in Disclosure when they met him), by the way - only deepens the allure of the song even more.

As an added bonus, here is Smith performing the song without Disclosure, with a piano accompaniment.   It's a little more torch song-like than the original, and beautiful.  You can truly hear the ache in the lyrics.

28 July 2014

28 July 2014 - Laura Cantrell - All The Girls Are Complicated

I know it is quite strange that such a fantastic artist such as Laura Cantrell, who has drawn comparisons to the great Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith, would be featured on THIS blog.  But hear me out.

I fell in love with Laura's music when listening to an episode of Mountain Stage.  Mountain Stage, for those who don't know, is a weekly 2-hour live music radio show from West Virginia, and it attracts big-time artists.  She did a lot of old-timey covers - I remember hearing her version of "When The Roses Bloom Again", which she thought was a Woody Guthrie song when she found it.  I've written about this song before - and just loved the old-timey Americana country feel to her music.  It was something I wasn't hearing anymore in country music.

Earlier this year, Laura released a new album.  She went to Nashville (and not her current New York home) to record it.  This song, the opener on the album, does not have the Americana country feel of her earlier work.  It almost feels (gasp!) poppy.  The whole album is like that, and it's fun.  I love her covers, but it's nice to hear original music as well.

A special treat today:  Not only do I have a performance of this fun song - from this year's SxSW - but NPR has a free download of it.  You can grab that here.

By the way, if you are in the Columbus, OH area, and you happen to see this on the day I publish it, go see Laura - she's opening for Camera Obscura tonight.  (I wish I was)

18 July 2014

18 July 2014 - Charli XCX - Boom Clap

I have a confession to make.  

I long ago wrote this post.  I knew this song was coming, because, even though I've kept it a secret, I'm a little bit of a Charli XCX fan.

This is most likely my least favorite Charli XCX song.  I really, desperately want to like it.  It's not a bad song, to be sure - it's got a nice beat, and lyrically, it's smart and sweet, like a lot of the other great songs that Ms. Aitchison has written.

But what I do like is that this is a hit song, and so, for that reason, I am going to take a little bit of guilty pleasure in the fact that an artist that I have been touting for the better part of a year and a half is finally getting recognized for her work.

(I mean, you all knew I had to post this, right?)

07 July 2014

7 July 2014 - Twisted Sister - I Wanna Rock

In the 1980's, it was considered OK for a man to wear excessive amounts of makeup if he was a big rock star.  And Dee Snider took full advantage.

This was the 2nd single by Twisted Sister, following the blockbuster "We're Not Gonna Take It".  I always liked this song a little better.  It rocked harder and showcased the band's personality and performance much more expertly than its predecessor. 

Plus it had the better video.

03 July 2014

3 July 2014 - Quarterflash - Harden My Heart

You know, we used to post stuff here besides current pop hits.

Stuff from when music was REALLY guilty.

The early 1980's.

Remember when saxophones were soooo cool?  Of course, the novelty of Quarterflash was that the lead singer played the sax!  Not sure how she did that live, but that's what they did.  This was their biggest US hit, and it's an emotional powerhouse that still resonates today! This is real fun music, full of emotion, a classic ballad. 

02 July 2014

2 July 2014 - Murray Head - One Night In Bangkok

Let's look at the concept for this song....

From the musical "Chess", by the way.

A musical about chess.  In Bangkok.  Written by the guys from Abba and Tim Rice. 

With a Cold War theme.

Did we mention it was about chess in Bangkok?

And still it was a big hit, and very catchy.  Who knows what's going to catch on?!

01 July 2014

1 July 2014 - Percy Faith and His Orchestra - Theme From 'A Summer Place'

A little known fact - this might have been the (slightly improved version of) theme to the 1959 movie "A Summer Place", but in reality, this was a re-imagined 1960 cover of the song.

Another little-known fact - Percy Faith was Canadian.  And so this is appropriate for this Canada Day.

The movie itself, starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue, was forgettable teen beach fare.  This song, the original slow jam, is more memorable than any of the movie.  Give it a listen.  You'll be humming it all day long!

30 June 2014

30 June 2014 - Iggy Azalea - Work

Since y'all are all Iggy-crazy....

I have been a fan of Iggy Azalea since 2013.  I found her sound to not at all match her image, and I was intrigued by that.  My first post of one of her songs came in late 2013.  And I remember when I posted that song, that I was originally going to post this one.  This was by no means her first single, but it was the first one where she finally started looking and acting like the classy star that she is now.

Yes, I just called a woman who declares herself to be in the "murda business" "classy".  Don't hate.

The song is somewhat autobiographical, talking about her early life in small town Australia and running away to Miami just before her 16th birthday.  To put things in perspective, that was about 8 years ago.

Why she is walking down a desert highway wearing Loubotins is a mystery to me.

25 June 2014

25 June 2014 - Ariana Grande (feat. Iggy Azalea) - Problem

I swear, Iggy Iggs is going to be a Hall of Famer in a hurry!

 But let's not focus on how this song is part of history - as Iggy Azalea's first two singles to chart are at #1 (the long-ago featured "Fancy") and #2 (this) , the first artist to do that since The damn Beatles! - but instead on the topline artist, who I have been meaning to write about for a very long time.  Indeed, Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande - a performer of several fun pop songs - is probably the most unjustly ignored artist on this blog.

Well, our ignorance ends today, and it ends with some funky saxophone blasts!

Let me assure you that a lot of other artists want to work with Iggy now. Stay tuned.

24 June 2014

24 June 2014 - Sia - Chandelier

Let's start with the song.  Most people in the US didn't know who Sia was until "Titanium", her song with David Guetta (which, for some reason, hasn't made it to this blog yet.  Strange.).  Now that we do, she can rise and grow on her own.

No offense meant to Flo Rida and "Wild Ones".  She was featured there, too.

Her first single off her sixth album - yes.  Sixth.  She's been around for awhile. - is a seemingly happy song about partying.... until you listen to the lyrics, and realize it's about a very sad party girl.  The video is happy, though, featuring a very happy, lively dance routine by Maddie Ziegler.  US television viewers will recognize this girl from Dance Moms.

And the sequence in the hallway starting at 2:45 makes my back hurt.

Oh, but that crazy dancing can't be real....

Oh, but it is.  And yes.  That is Sia in the corner, not facing the camera.

23 June 2014

23 June 2014 - Rita Ora - I Will Never Let You Down

A few years ago, Rolling Stone Magazine did a feature on women in rock music   They ran a contest on their site to determine who would be on the cover - it was a flip cover, but it was a cover.

Karmin won. And you know I was campaigning hard for them.

The artist they beat in the finals of this NCAA-type tournament?  Rita Ora.  Now, I had no idea who Rita Ora was, but I. Knew. I. Didn't. Like. Her!

After hearing her new single - already a huge hit overseas - I know I was wrong about her.  This song, written and produced by Calvin Harris, is a clear possibility to be declared Song of the Summer. Sure, she's prematurely comparing her song to Whitney Houston, but that doesn't mean this is not a solid tune.

(By the way, Rolling Stone did a nice article on Rita Ora, too.)

20 June 2014

20 June 2014 - The Pierces - Believe In Me

I had never heard of The Pierces before a few days ago.  And yet they've been around for years.   YEARS!

The Pierces are Allison and Catherine Pierce, and they released their debut album in 2000(!). Oh, my shame!

They even do the theme song for the TV show Pretty Little Liars!   How have I not heard these ladies before?!

I will atone for my sins with their new single.  The 2-part harmonizing is beautiful.  Their latest album, Creation, is scheduled for a September release.  Check 'em out!

09 June 2014

9 June 2014 - Lorde - Tennis Court

This song was the original B-side to "Royals", but has now found some modest and (hopefully) growing success as a single in its own right.  It's a song about her rise to stardom - she's been working with Universal since she was 13, so this wasn't entirely unexpected.  Watch the worldwide "Royals" video, and you see it ends..... on a tennis court, with the beginning of this song.

This video is really boring.  Unless you like looking at nearly motionless emo New Zealander redheads.  The song, on the other hand, is powerful and deep, typical of Lorde's compositions.

As a bonus, here's Lorde actually performing the song, and not just staring at you. It is really great that 1. the song sounds more fuzzed-up live and 2. she looks like she's still enjoying herself!

05 May 2014

5 May 2014 - MNDR - Feed Me Diamonds

She doesn't appear prominently in her own video.  Amanda Warner's huge voice, however, shines through in this amazing, aching song.

Notice how I didn't just call her MNDR.   Sure, she goes by that name on stage, but, technically, this song is by the duo, which means Peter Wade is the mastermind behind the music. They certainly act as a duo, even if she acts solo under the same moniker.

Confused yet?  Don't be.  Just enjoy the music!

28 April 2014

28 April 2014 - Marina and the Diamonds - Hollywood / Are You Satisfied?

I know, I know, we've been terrible about posting!  So let me bring you up to speed.

I am currently completely and totally obsessed with Marina and the Diamonds.  So why not post a song, from her 1st album (which has more of a singer/songwriter feel) about her being completely and totally obsessed with America?

Because 'Merica.

And because Marina is freaking brilliant in her imagery and song construction.  

Really, I have had THIS song stuck in my head for WEEKS!  It's a song about believing in yourself, specifically when pursuing your dream of getting a record deal.  This is a quiet version of the song, from the KCRW studios.  And it's my current favorite song.

07 April 2014

7 April 2014 - Toto - Rosanna

This song, a Grammy-award winner for Record of the Year - yes, this song.  Not "Africa" - was NOT about Rosanna Arquette, but the band really wanted you to think it was.  She was dating a member of the band at the time, but the song wasn't really about her, but about a lot of ex-girlfriends.  She just had a nice, melodic name.

The song, like a lot of Toto's work, is heavily jazz influenced, using a lot of structure and meters from that genre not usually seen in pop/rock music.  Horns and keyboards sit right alongside guitars, basses, and drums. 

By the way, if you look closely, you'll see Patrick Swayze is one of the backup dancers.  No joke!

02 April 2014

2 April 2014 - Cameo - Word Up

Cameo had been around for well over a decade - making good, funky music - when "Word Up" hit the radio airwaves in 1986.  For some reason, this is the song that made them huge - a crossover sensation to mainstream radio.  Maybe it was the non-stop old-school funk, which was gaining in prominence with the rise of hip-hop.  Maybe it was the timely horn sound.  Maybe it was the red codpiece that Larry Blackmon wore throughout the video, which also got heavy MTV airplay. 

I encourage you to listen to this twice.  See if you can catch the speed-enhanced sample from the theme song for The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Also, see if you can catch LeVar Burton, at the time best known for his part in Roots and as the host of Reading Rainbow, as the funkiest cop alive.

26 March 2014

26 March 2014 - Lorde - Team

Sure, everyone loved "Royals".  I loved "Royals".  I still do love "Royals". 

"Team" is not "Royals", but it's still a really good song, cut from the same working-class New Zealand cloth lyrically.  Musically, this is a far more upbeat tune, clearly showing Lorde's American hip-hop influence. This is a dense song, with an a capella portion at the beginning. 

However, in this live performance, you can see it's just keyboard and drums backing Lorde.  In other words, in all this density, the song and the sound are still sparse, carried almost completely by Lorde's voice.

I think this is what fascinates me about Lorde the most - her sound is, at its core, so sparse, and yet she finds a way to bring a lot of depth to it, without a lot of instruments or guitar solos. 

25 March 2014

25 March 2014 - Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

Sports-related depression is a real, but mostly stupid thing. In that same respect, I'm a real, but mostly stupid person. I can relate. Not to go into the brutal details of Saturday night (suffice to say if you know me, you know what game tore my heart out) I found myself drinking beers and watching old alternative music videos on YouTube to cheer me up. Music saves.

After a steady stream of Belly and Velocity Girl videos I somehow ended up watching a bunch of Kate Bush videos. Let me start by saying I adore Kate Bush. Such a unique singer and songwriter. BUUUUUUUT (that'd be a big but), her videos are so unintentionally funny. I sent Tony a message the moment my eyes peeped the over-dramatic interpretive dancing for the Wuthering Heights video (always one of my favorite songs by her) which read: "Kinda drunk so it's up to you to remind me to post Kate Bush Wuthering Heights video on WGP. LMAO. Great song, the video . . ." To which he replied: "The video is epic." I knew I was on to something.

He never did remind me so I guess I was in better shape than I thought. Anyway, something tells me this won't be the last epic interpretive dance-laden Kate Bush video that I post here (there are some doozies out there). But for now let's enjoy the video for her first single from 1978.

24 March 2014

24 March 2014 - Pitbull (ft. Kesha) - Timber

Pitbull has a signature sound. A lot of people think all of his song sound the same.  I disagree completely, but that's not important, really.

So Pitbull decided to include elements that were not generally part of his signature sound.  For example, that's not a sampled harmonica sound.  It is in the style of the band War, but it is not Lee Oskar - the harmonica player for War - but a session player who is clearly familiar with the style.

Now, of course, Pitbull still sounds like Pitbull, and he does collaborate with another (female) artist, as he is known to do.  The resulting sound keeps Pitbull's Latin dance/hip-hop feel, but adds a little country feel, from the surprising source of Kesha.

Oh.  Yeah.  While we're on the subject.  Kesha.  Not Ke$ha.  Her choice. She's growing up.

Anyway, I tried to hate this song - as I do with most Pitbull music - but, once again, I just couldn't.  It's creative and interesting.

The two of them recently performed this song, which spent 3 weeks at #1 in the US, on the American Music Awards broadcast. I even think it sounds like they are singing it live!  At any rate, the live performance shows the energy that both Pitbull and Kesha bring to their art.

Yes.  I called it art.  Don't hate.

21 March 2014

21 March 2014 - Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a great time for saxophone solos.  The greatest of all came in Gerry Rafferty's masterpiece. At its core, this song is a simple jazz piece with folk undertones, but its iconic saxophone solos make it a classic of modern music.   Even when it was new.  The song peaked at #2 in the US and was a hit worldwide.

The sax riff itself was played by a musician named Raphael Ravenscroft.  To this day, it's out of tune to his ear - it's flatter than the rest of the song.  Which isn't a surprise, since the intention wasn't for that to be a sax solo until Ravenscroft suggested it. And his tone was beautiful, even if his solo was flat. 

Everyone else thinks it's the greatest sax solo ever performed, by the way.

I really can't think of any more to say about this song that hasn't already been said by the music.

(It's not like Scott has the market cornered on corny closing lines)

(except, if you think I'm kidding about the out-of-tune reference.....check at about the 2:00 mark for the details)

20 March 2014

20 March 2014 - Madness - Our House

IT'S MARCH MADNESS BABY ! ! ! This is my favorite time of the year. Two weeks of yelling at the TV and screaming at the crumpled up piece of paper that was once a bracket with so much promise. I wouldn't miss it for the world (which is also why I have three TVs in my basement bar . . . the laptop will have the fourth game when such occurrences deem it necessary). So while I'll be watching the first few games today at my favorite saloon, most of the time I will be enjoying the Madness in Our House.

Please Note: I'd hate myself for that last line if it wasn't for the fact that it was the most clever sentence I've written here in months.

19 March 2014

19 March 2014 - Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy

(Goddamn it, Tony, enough Charli XCX!!!!)

OK, but hear me out. Two young white non-American women have written and performed a song that has become a high-charting song on an American hip-hop chart! Co-written by Charlotte Aitchison and Amethyst Kelly - Charli and Iggy, respectively (why Amethyst Kelly needed to change her name to a different one for a stage name is beyond me.  Amethyst Kelly would be a great stage name!) - the song is an ode to glam, the video a tribute to "Clueless". 

But even this great, catchy, fun song wouldn't have been enough for me to ONCE AGAIN put Charli XCX on this blog - this is her 7th appearance - if not for Seth Meyers.  He had both of them on Late Night this week.  We'd love to have it here for you, but NBC isn't letting me post, so go here and see this really solid performance.

And, if you are too lazy to do that, watch their performance from SXSW.  It's clearly Iggy's song - she's the one in the murda bizness - but she's also clearly gracious for Charli's appearance, who knows what she's doing.

(Update: 10 June 2014) - This song has been #1 for the last two weeks. And you knew so long ago. Congratulations for being in on the ground floor.

14 March 2014

14 March 2014 - Soul Coughing - Circles

I think anyone with a decent Internet connection and a passing knowledge of mathematics knows that today - 3.14 - is Pi Day.

But, have you ever stopped to think what pi - the number, not the letter in the Greek alphabet - really is?  Well, this math major can tell you! Put simply, it's a constant number, equal to the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.  A circle is a funny shape - every point on it is equidistant from the center, so a constant like this is possible.

And since we're talking about circles, I think it is appropriate to use the greatest song ever written about this cool shape!

12 March 2014

12 March 2014 - Kristin Hersh - A Loon

I was a long time Throwing Muses fan (still am) but I still love Kristin Hersh's solo work, which tends more to the acoustic side of things.  It's hard to pick just one song as a favorite.  But this one - a song that really is, in my view, two songs - floats to the top.

The first half of the song is an angry, string-filled piece that seems to be a tribute to Kristin's bipolar disorder.  The second half, when the video switches to color, seems to be more reflective on the same subject matter.  At any rate, it is a masterfully crafted song.  Check it out!

11 March 2014

11 March 2014 - 311 - Down

This one seemed kind of obvious. So much so, that I wonder why I didn't think about it before. Anyway, let's celebrate 3/11 with one of my favorite 311 songs. Truth time: I actually liked their first and third albums and saw them in a small club before Down blew up. I can't say I've really liked anything they've done since, but that may have more to do with a change in my musical tastes. Seriously 311, it's not you, it's me.


10 March 2014

10 March 2014 - Charli XCX feat. Brooke Candy - Cloud Aura

I know what a lot of you are thinking.

"Enough with the goddamn Charli XCX."

The reason I am posting this anyway?  I mean, besides my undying respect for anything that Charlotte Aitchison touches?  It's the bravery in partnering with the intensely charismatic and immensely polarizing Brooke Candy, and not getting overshadowed.   Brooke Candy, to her credit, is far less in-your-face than usual.

Also, it's a lesbian love song.  Well, a lesbian break-up song, anyway.

So what happens when Brooke Candy isn't available?  It still works - Charli has some hip hop chops, if not the metal bra and absolutely insane hair.

07 March 2014

7 March 2014 - Bloc Party - Ratchet

Apparently, "ratchet" is a derogatory term nowadays.  Hell, in my day, it was a kind of wrench.

But Kele as a lead vocalist (we've heard his voice before) really makes this very energetic song work. It's different - are those minor chords they're using there? - but still dance music.  How can we go wrong with such a song?

We can't.  We can't go wrong.

06 March 2014

6 March 2014 - Janelle Monae - Dance Apocalyptic

While I'm not normally exposed, and thus not really that into R&B and Soul, the first time I heard Janelle Monae's Tightrope I was blown away. She's an undeniable force who definitely captured my attention with her fantastic debut The ArchAndroid and retained it with her latest album The Electric Lady. As I was listening to the "new" album last night I was immediately drawn to the frenetic Dance Apocalyptic and hoped beyond hope that there would be a video for it. Voila!

05 March 2014

5 March 2014 - Snow - Informer

By far, the most widely requested for this blog is "Informer", by Snow.  Apparently, there is still demand for Canadian reggee/hip-hop fusion.  Just not beyond this song.

Seriously, as much as people like to make fun of this song nowadays, but it spent 7 weeks at #1 in the United States in 1993.  Seven weeks, people.  It was a gigantic hit.  Probably because it was completely different than everything else that was on the radio at the time.  It would be his biggest US hit - its follow-up was a top 20 hit - and it endures today.

04 March 2014

4 March 2014 - Avicii - Hey Brother

OK, I know Tony wrote about Avicii in January, but hey, that doesn't mean I shouldn't have a say as well. Besides, I have a hook, which is usually not the case with me. We must embrace the hook. Embrace it!

Last week I received a cryptic message from my mom while on vacation: "Do you have A v i c i L cd?" Confused, I jokingly replied: "Do you mean Avril or Avicii because I have both. Now if it's some odd collaboration between the two, then no." Her response: "Avicii. Send it to me when you get home?" She's direct like that. I certainly did not expect that answer. Is the senior citizen-set now into EDM collaborations?

That also got me thinking about a couple things: First, does a 60-something mom wanting this CD make it a Wicked Guilty Pleasure? It probably should, but not in this case as I'm fairly certain that the on-the-pulse teens I coach probably dig it too (they seem to like anything EDM-related . . . kids these days). This record really is universal.

Second, I'm really curious as to what song she heard that piqued her interest? She does like pop music and country music as long as it's not "too country" (if you know what I mean). I suspect it was Hey Brother featuring bluegrass great Dan Tyminski as I know she has the O' Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack. That's why I picked it up, well, that and it was $3.99 at AmazonMP3. I suppose I'll have to ask her on our weekly phone call and maybe give her a pat on the back for liking good music.

03 March 2014

3 March 2014 - Marina and the Diamonds - How To Be A Heartbreaker

OK, folks, I'm back.  Scott has done a fantastic job supporting and embracing all that is Wicked Guilty Pleasures while I was off being obsessed with curling pants.  Seriously.  But I did do some posts, and I hope you go back and check them out.

Today, however, we are talking Marina Diamandis and the Diamonds.  Sure, she sees days of the week and musical notes in different colors - seriously, she does, thanks to a condition known as synethesia - so maybe that's why she makes such fun, interesting, different pop music. Sure, Scott has shown his love as well.  (Actually, so have I).

But, really, I want to talk about the absolute versatility of this amazing singer/songwriter.  First of all, listen to this version of the song, from the official video.   Although guitar-driven, there's a strong electronic aspect to this song.  And it's entertaining, to be sure, but it would be really easy to dismiss this as heavily AutoTuned. 

But now listen to this, a live version from The Today Show. It starts off as an acoustic ballad, and although it eventually reaches the tempo of the original, it stays acoustic. And sans AutoTune. Also, as much as I like Florence and the Machine and Katy Perry, I don't at all get the comparison.

20 February 2014

20 February 2014 - House of Pain - Jump Around

Some days are much harder for me than others to find "guilty pleasure" videos to post (Tony seemingly does not suffer from this affliction, for which I am extremely jealous). After alternating between staring at a blank screen and my Twitter feed for the last two hours I thought all hope was lost. Pack it in buddy. Admit failure. Blow it off yet again. Come back refreshed in 10 days. And then it hit me with all of the subtlety of a Jock Jams Compilation - JUMP AROUND BY HOUSE OF PAIN!!!

. . . And with that, my meteoric rise to mediocrity continues . . .

18 February 2014

18 February 2014 - Lily Allen - Air Balloon

Tony is probably going to kill me for posting Lily Allen's new video for Air Balloon. Chances are he won't realize it until after Olympic curling ends and by that time I should be on a plane to the Dominican Republic to hide out. Or vacation. Anyway, we love Lily Allen here at Wicked Guilty Pleasures. Actually, we should seriously think about inducting her into Wicked Guilty Pleasure's Hall of Fame which currently has two members: Pink and Katy Perry. So kick back and enjoy the fun video for Air Balloon while I consider changing my ringtone back to the chorus of Lily's epic song F*ck You from her It's Not Me, It's You album.

17 February 2014

17 February 2014 - Phantogram - Black Out Days

The new Phantogram album Voices is out tomorrow.  This is the first single, as well as the lead track off their EP from last year.  It's a little less dark than their prior stuff, and more hip-hop influenced (probably thanks to Big Boi) but it's still clearly Phantogram.

06 February 2014

6 February 2014 - Broken Bells - Holding On For Life

James Mercer (The Shins) and Danger Mouse, collectively known as Broken Bells, returned this week with their second full-length album After The Disco. While they just released a lyric video for the atmospheric second single Leave It Alone, I think the album's first single Holding On For Life is just so freaking cool . . . so let's watch that one instead.

04 February 2014

4 February 2014 - Jamie Lynn Spears - How Could I Want More

To be honest, I know very little about Jamie Lynn Spears other than the fact that she's Britney's little sister. Recently though, there's been a lot of buzz about her new country single How Could I Want More. I kind of shrugged it off in one of my fits of arrogant snobbery that sometimes still rears its ugly head when it comes to music (trust me, I've gotten A LOT better about this and I think this blog has certainly proved that point). I finally caught the video on CMT Pure a couple days ago and I was pretty much blown away by the time the first chorus hit. It's a finely written song (co-written by Jamie) that is sung with a strong, yet vulnerable voice. After hearing the song a few more times I have to say that I certainly wouldn't mind if Jamie Lynn Spears becomes the next big pop country star.

31 January 2014

31 January 2014 - The Wreckers - Leave The Pieces

Did you know that Michelle Branch had a country career?  Indeed, The Wreckers were Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp.  This song was nominated for a 2007 Grammy, so clearly this venture was seen as respectable.  And I respect it, too - it's hard to go from a solo career, be it in pop or country, and move into a collaborative situation like this.

And, sure, this group didn't last very long, but I hope they come back. 

30 January 2014

30 January 2014 - Lucy Hale - You Sound Good To Me

Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale released her first single You Sound Good To Me a few weeks ago and it's tearing up the country charts with its breezy verses and big sing-a-long chorus. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from her in 2014, especially if the song hits the Top 10, which I think is very likely.

28 January 2014

28 January 2014 - Colbie Caillat - Hold On

Colbie Caillat's new song Hold On is certainly a departure from her previous California sunshine, playing an acoustic on the beach days. If Hold On, and what I've read about her new material is true, she's heading into bold new pop territory with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder. Tedder and Caillat previously worked together on Brighter Than The Sun off her All of You album, and of course he has written a ton of huge pop songs for artists like Adele, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and many, many more, so I'm fairly certain this new direction will be good for her. Will I may miss the coziness of Colbie's previous work? Probably, but I'm more than willing to give the new material a shot . . . and as a fan of hers, I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

24 January 2014

24 January 2014 - The Captain and Tennille - Muskrat Love

Oh, sadness!

The Captain and Tennille are divorcing!!!!!

Except they are still living together.

And The Captain doesn't know why. Although the rumors are that his failing health is the issue - she's filing to get him better access to health care as a single man.

Well, let's hope they work it out.  In the meantime, we're going to enjoy one of their biggest hits, technically a cover of a song by America, but we'll play it here anyway.

22 January 2014

22 January 2014 - Avicii - Wake Me Up

Rarely has a song been so able to mix acoustic guitar and electronica. And yet this song sounds like both a folk song and dance music.  When it was first introduced, live, the crowd of electronic music fans were reportedly confused and angered.  It's a different type of song.  But it works.

The stage name of Swedish DJ Tim Bergling, Avicii has been a prolific remixer for years.  The vocals on this song were done by Aloe Blacc, with Mike Eizinger from Incubus providing the acoustic guitar. 

20 January 2014

20 January 2014 - Bowser and Blue - The Curling Song

A simple song about curling?  That makes it clear that curlers "always get the girl"?  Yes.  Please.

Based in Montreal, George Bowser and Rick Blue have been performing together for more than 35 years, throughout Canada.  Most of their stuff is comedic.  This isn't.  This is a serious folk song about curling. 

16 January 2014

16 January 2014 - Tennis - Origins

This is the time of year when I start to really obsess over Tennis. The sport. Not the band. But they're pretty darn good too, so here's a video from their 2012 album Young & Old.

. . . and now I return to watching replays of last night's Australian Open...

15 January 2014

15 January 2014 - Chumbawumba - Tubthumping

We'll be singing when we're winning.

I get knocked down. But I get up again. You're not ever gonna keep me down.

Pissing the night away.  Pissing the night away.

He drinks a whiskey drink.  He drinks a vodka drink. He drinks a lager drink.  He drinks a cider drink. He sings the songs that remind him of the good times.  He sings the songs that remind him of the better times.

Oh Danny Boy  Danny Boy

Don't cry for me next door neighbor.

I didn't really think I could write anything better about the song than the lyrics.  I mean, I could have told you that Chumbawumba is probably the least likely bunch of anarchists to ever have a big hit song. I could have written about their political slants, and how this song wasn't really the lighthearted drinking song that it seems to be on the surface.

I could have shared the Pete Postlethwaite quote from Brassed Off that actually opened the song.(start at the :23 mark of this speech).

But why do that?  The lyrics are just so much better.

14 January 2014

14 January 2013 - St. Vincent - Actor Out Of Work

I just heard Birth In Reverse, the first single off St. Vincent's next album and it's all sorts of cool. She definitely has a unique, chaotic sound that continues to grow with each album. There's no video for Birth, so instead, we'll go with one of my favorite songs by her, Actor Out Of Work off of 2009's Actor album.

13 January 2014

13 January 2014 - Grimes - Genesis

When the main star of your video is known more for doing your video than her own music, you've truly accomplished something.

And yet, with this epic video, which prominently features Brooke Candy, Grimes has accomplished just that.  Can you blame Grimes for the casting, though? I mean, there are several other actors in this video.... and your eye keeps going back to those long, pink braids and that complete metallic costume. It's said that Ms. Candy is one of the most charismatic characters in the L.A. party scene (which is what drew Claire Boucher (Grimes) to her) so her casting was perfect.

The song itself is a dreamy electronic marvel that, despite not completely understanding the lyrics - Grimes has a unique, pixie-like voice that makes me smile.  Which is strange, because the lyrics are kind of sad, but beautiful.  Musically, it's a lot of sample loops and keyboard work, which means that Grimes is doing it all herself, which is impressive.

Also, she is carrying a flaming sword at about the 4:48 mark of the video.  Also impressive.

10 January 2014

10 January 2014 - Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

There are a lot of songs out there that I don't want to like.  This is one of them.  I mean, it's over the top, preachy, and somewhat annoying.

And yet, these very aspects that make the song one that I don't want to like are exactly what make it likeable.  The over-the-top nature of the song gives it an epic feel, different than a lot of other stuff on pop radio.  For sure, it's percussion-heavy, and Dan Reynolds needs to have a big enough voice to overcome that, which he does successfully. It's preachy, sure, but it does so in such a way that is catchy.

OK, I can't explain away annoying.  I guess it just grew on me.  Either that, or I'm a sucker for a music video with Lou Diamond Phillips and stuffed animals.

Still not convinced?  I urge you to check out this live version of the song.  First of all, it's in a slightly different key and it still works.  Second of all, the big arena environment really lends itself well for such a huge, epic song.  Finally, the band added both dubstep-y elements and a strings solo to the song, which, in my opinion, really enhance it. 

08 January 2014

8 January 2014 - CHVRCHES - The Mother We Share

I'm late, and I'm lazy.  Perfect combination for a post by one of the buzziest bands of 2013.  Even if they can't spell "churches".   Anyway, the buzz is deserved - this song is a pop gem, and their album The Bones Of What You Believe, one of the best of 2013 (I didn't like it at first, but it's growing on me), is one you should check out.  Here's the first single from that album.  Enjoy.

07 January 2014

7 January 2014 - Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You

I was pretty shocked to read yesterday that Wicked Guilty Pleasures just turned two years old. It sure seems like we've been doing this for A LOT longer. Since Tony took us back yesterday with his first WGP artist Ashlee Simpson, I figured I'd enter the terrible twos with mine. Here's Kelly Clarkson and the wicked fun video for My Life Would Suck Without You.

It goes without saying, but I just want to thank y'all for reading, tweeting, retweeting etc. My life truly would suck without you! (like you really didn't see that one coming?)

06 January 2014

6 January 2014 - Ashlee Simpson - Shadow

On the 5th of January, 2012, a blog celebrating all that is bad for us musically but we don't care about because we love it anyway was born, with this Ashlee Simpson song.  Together, Scott and I have been bringing you Wicked Guilty Pleasures for two years.  We're happy to do it, and we will continue to do so, at least for the foreseeable future.

We continue that Ashlee Simpson love with her 2004 single about being the lesser sister to Jessica. Which, of course, we all know isn't true. They've each had an equal number of hits, and Jessica has been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live at least one less time than Ashlee.  On second thought, maybe we shouldn't talk about that.


Now, we are running out of Ashlee Simpson music to post, so if she could publish something new, that would be just great.....

03 January 2014

3 January 2014 - Amy Grant - Thy Word

I was very surprised, when I first heard this song, how much I loved it.  I was surprised not because it was Amy Grant - the woman can sing, and I already knew that - and not because it was so openly religious - this wasn't the first Amy Grant song I ever heard - but because it was lifted almost straight out of Psalm 119:105.  I didn't expect a song with lyrics so ancient could sound so lovely, and yet she and Michael W. Smith took those words and made them into a beautiful song.

Of course, they added lyrics - it's said that the added lyrics came to Amy when she was lost in the Colorado mountain darkness - but the base of this song was still biblical.

"Thy Word" is from Amy's 1984 album Straight Ahead, her last as a pure Myrrh Records artist.  Christian record labels have such distinctive names.  It would be the first ever Myrrh Records album - first Christian pop/rock album, in fact - to ever hit the Billboard Top 200 album chart.   I did not discover this song then, but several years later, on The Collection, which was her first "greatest hits" album and a monstrous commercial success.  This was my favorite song on the entire compilation, and remains to this day my favorite Amy Grant song.

The version below is from a live performance in 2004, with the two songwriters collaborating. Amy tells a nice story before they start playing.

01 January 2014

1 January 2014 - The Lumineers - Ho Hey

We kick off a new year on Wicked Guilty Pleasures with a surprise hit from 2013.  It's a song that starts very sparse, but picks up in excitement as it rolls on, while still keeping the folky feel.  Lyrically, it's perhaps the sweetest song about unrequited love we've seen in years.  While we know that songs like this are not always going to be hits, but we will enjoy it while they are.