31 January 2024

31 January 2024 - Kylie Minogue - Padam Padam

You probably didn't even know that Kylie Minogue was making music.  

Let alone be a Grammy-nominated artist - in the Pop Dance Recording category, for this song.  

This song, from her 2023 album Tension (her 16th!), was a huge hit all over the world, and got real airplay.  Written by Ina and Lostboy (who produced it as well), the title isn't just gibberish, but rather an onomatopoeia for a heartbeat.

It's really good and my pick to win the Grammy in this category, by the way.  It will be an upset win, but still.

At 55, Kylie is still touring and performing live, which I think is just great.  Also, if anyone doubted me about it being a worldwide hit, just listen to the crowd, who are singing along.   It's a hit.

30 January 2024

30 January 2024 - SZA - Kill Bill

SZA is an overnight success story who has been around for a decade.

Nominated for nine Grammys this year - three for this critically acclaimed song from her critically-acclaimed album SOS - SZA finally scored a #1 US hit on the pop charts (#3 on the year end chart!) with this song.  Written by SZA with Carter Lang and Rob Bisel, the song is definitely named after the Quentin Tarrantino movies - and SZA emphathized with Bill, who didn't really know why he did what he did (at first.  Clearly, it was love).  

Anyway, the song is cool and nuanced and, well, it took me a while to get into it, but it grew on me.

When you perform a song like this live - like SZA did a lot - you don't even have to sing the song.  Everyone knows the words.  I mean, she did sing the song, but everyone knew the words.

Doja Cat and SZA are frequent collaborators, so it was not a surprise when Doja Cat remixed "Kill Bill" with a new video and her own vocals....

Still, pretty cool.

29 January 2024

29 January 2024 - Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero

I purposefully posted this after the Ravens-Chiefs game.  Not because I'm sick of seeing Taylor Swft's face on NFL broadcasts (she brings positive attention to the game, so she's a good thing for the games)

Congratulations to whoever won last night.  You're going to the Big Game or something. (edit: Kansas City won that game).

This was the lead single from Taylor's album Midnights, which might be her best yet (I'm partial to Lover, honestly), written by Jack Antonoff and Swift.  Swift herself is nominated for six Grammy awards this year, three of them for this song.  The song was #4 on the Billboard 2023 year-end Hot 100.  It is her longest-running top Ten hit (spending 29 weeks there but destined to lose that crown to "Cruel Summer")

Anyway, it's a good song and this post will make the Swiftie that lives in my house very happy.

On January 12, 2023, the band The 1975 performed live in London.  As a surprise to the audience, Taylor Swift walked out on stage and performed this song live for the very first time.  It was just Taylor with a guitar.

And these fans of a DIFFERENT BAND knew every word.

Blah blah Eras Tour blah blah.

Just kidding.  Enjoy this more traditional live performance.

26 January 2024

26 January 2024 - Fountains of Wayne - Stacy's Mom

So this 2003 single came out at a time when I wasn't into new music.  I felt the "alternative" wave that was being pushed was nothing more than power pop-rock repackaged as somehow outside the "mainstream".  

Fountains of Wayne epitomized that for me.  

But this song, about Stacy's clearly hot mom, was a cultural icon.  Written by Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, the song owes a debt to "Just What I Needed" by The Cars, for sure - and they even tried to get Ric Ocasek's wife Paulina Porizkova to play the titular role in the video (they failed and instead cast band and song fan Rachel Hunter - who really was a good choice).  

The band essentially broke up in 2013, but before that, they performed the song a lot.  I find it endearing that they just look like normal guys and clearly have fun with this song.

Adam Sclesinger passed away at age 52 in 2020 from complications from COVID-19.  It is a horrible loss and we hope you're taking this disease, which still persists, seriously.   

25 January 2024

25 January 2024 - Culture Beat - Mr. Vain

You were thisclose to forgetting this song, weren't you?

That's why we're here.  

Culture Beat was a German group. I say "was".  They still exist.  They've just changed lineups a LOT.  Vocalist Tania Evans, heard here, led the group from 1993 (the year this single hit it big) to 1997, their most successful period.  Jay Surpreme, also heard here rapping the verses, is also long gone. 

This was by far their biggest international hit, and their only hit in the US.  

24 January 2024

24 January 2024 - Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing

This song was the debut single by Dire Straits - which I didn't know before writing this.  It also hit #4 on the US pop charts - which would end up being their 2nd biggest hit - and was a huge hit worldwide.  

And it sat on Mark Knopfler's shelf until he played it on a '61 Strat with open tuning.  He found the song boring until that guitar made those chords come to life.  

His finger-picked guitar solos in this song are some of the best known in music.

Of course, this 1978 hit was huge, but they became much larger in 1984 with another song that MTV still uses in promos.

So, in 1985, they were a star at Live Aid - and their performance of this song is absolutely iconic.  Knopfler's guitar solos here are amazing and a thing to see.

And yes, there's a sax break.

23 January 2024

23 January 2024 - Jewel - Who Will Save Your Soul

Most of the world first heard of Jewel Kilcher with her debut single... this song.

I am part of most of the world.  

Did you expect some hipster "I heard her so much earlier than that"?

No, no one did.

Jewel has been very clear that this was the first song she ever wrote - and wow, it was a doozy - while hitchhiking through Mexico at age 16.  This version of the song was a radio-friendly version that removes a verse - and since it hit #11 on the US pop charts, it was probably a decent call. 

The iconic video was recorded in the LA City Hall ladies room - so, if you are in the Los Angelas area, you can see a music video set, too.  

Of course she performs this huge hit live, and it takes many forms.  For example, this performance from Woodstock '99 is soulful, extended, and not at all encouraging people to break stuff.

The performance from 1997, on Later with Jools Holland, is sparse and folky, with just a guitar and faint piano.  It showcases the beauty of the song and the unique style of Jewel's vocals.

This performance from 2022 - SHE IS STILL PERFORMING - is a little more laid back, and has a bit of a western flair (even down to the cactus motif of her outfit and the turquoise on her hat).  Stick with it.  It actually rocks by the end.

22 January 2024

22 January 2024 - Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers

This is the band that Prince was a huge fan of, because they could do things he could not do.

Well, Liz Fraser's voice was absolutely unique.  

This song was actually my first introduction to the Cocteau Twins, as the song was released on their 1988 album, Blue Bell Knoll.  That was the year my musical awakening really took off.  I did not know that this would be their biggest hit song in the US - and still have a huge following 35 years later.  

Let's talk about these lyrics.  You know, there are lyrics - this isn't just Elizabeth Fraser doing bird calls.  Seriously, she harmonizes with herself on this song.  She turns the word "love" into at least a three syllable word.  She can hit the very high and very low notes.   It's amazing.

The song is actually very guitar- and bass-driven, although there are electronic keyboards and drum loops as well.  Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde somehow manage to get an ethereal sound that defined a record label - 4AD - out of those instruments.

When performed live in 1994 on the Jools Holland program, two things are apparent.

1) The song is clearly guitar- and bass-driven and not as electronic as it sounds - and sounds cool with real drums.
2) The song is immensely difficult to perform vocally, as Fraser struggles at first.  Stay with it.  She gets a LOT better.  

19 January 2024

19 January 2024 - Disclosure ft. Lorde - Magnets

This post is just to get us over a hump.  We've been bad at posting lately, and we need to fix that.  

So we went back to drafts.  And this song, that came in a gap in Lorde's career post-Pure Heroine, was a good choice.  Written by Lorde and Disclosure, they all took an active role in composition.

The song was a worldwide hit and not so much a hit in the States.  However, it's a banger and was a huge club hit - the biggest of Lorde's career to date - AND an alternative and rock hit - Disclosure's first.

So, all in all, a good way to shake the cobwebs. 

11 January 2024

11 January 2023 - Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe

I debated whether or not to put this song here or on Totally Covered.  Ultimately, I settled on here.  Why?

The chorus is straight up "Cotton-Eyed Joe", a traditional American folk song from the 1800s.  The song was repopularized in the early 1980s by the movie Urban Cowboy.  

What Rednex - a Swedish group seemingly formed just to make this one song - did with that little sung sample - and it's not a sample.  It is sung by Göran Danielsson. - is something different.... different enough to be a #1 in 25 countries and a top 30 hit in the US.  

Is the song annoying?  Yup.  Is it catchy?  Yup.

Does the song interrupt Canadian Open matches between Jessica Pegula and Iga Swiatek?  Yup.

Is this band seemingly formed for this one song still together and performing live?  

Yup.  And they're really more of a brand, so that will continue for years to come.

10 January 2024

10 January 2024 - Caroline Polachek - Welcome To My Island

Caroline Polachek is a rising star that has taken a long path to that rise.  Originally a founder of Chairlift, she has had a lot of irons in the fire, including a stint where she released music under the name Ramona Lisa.

She finally claimed her own name in 2017, and it's been a rise of electro-pop-rock since.  She's made innovative music, both by herself and with other artists.

This, the fourth single from her album Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, (which is a great album and you should listen to it.  Top 5 of mine in 2023), is described by Polachek - who also co-wrote the song - as "bratty".  I don't get that - but I do get a dreamy feeling (she spent a lot of her youth listening to Enya - no joke).  

This song opened her set on tour in 2023.

Here she is performing the song on the Tonight Show in 2023.  Most of the performance is dark and clearly played with a backing track (and clearly sung by her), but at 3:20, she pulls out a guitar and plays...

At Glastonbury, she was backed by a full band and the performance was dynamic.

08 January 2024

8 January 2024 - Tesla - Modern Day Cowboy

There.  Let's pull out some 80's glam rock to get us back on track.

This song, from December 1986, was the debut single by California band Tesla.  Written by the band, the song ties old-time villians like Billy the Kid and Al Capone to the at-the-time current-but-dying Cold War.  Lyrically, it's kind of brilliant.  Musically, it held up to the hair metal of its day, rocking just hard enough to make an impression.

This song is what made me a fan of Tesla.  It just hit right.  The video, featuring Nikola Tesla playing old movies in a mostly abandoned theater, got me interested in the scientist as well.  

All these years later, Tesla is still together and still touring. Here they are at the Clearfield County (Pennsylvania) Fair in August of 2023. Voices may be slightly faded, but the song still rocks.  

I totally chose the Clearfield County Fair at random, and not becaue it's where I obtained half of my family's pet rabbits.  Totally random.  

05 January 2024

5 January 2024 - Ashlee + Evan - I Do

Today is this little blog's 12th birthday.

My God, I've been doing this for 12 years.   

So, I figured it was a good time to go back to where it all started.

Kind of.

You see, when we first started, Ashlee Simpson was a pop star who was married to Pete Wentz, and legally going by Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (although keeping the "-Wentz" off the professional name), but had recently divorced him.

Two years latter, she married Evan Ross-Næss (whose mom is Diana Ross, by the way) - he was Evan Ross at the time - and became Ashlee Ross (later Ross-Næss).  (Don't worry, she's still professionally Ashlee Simpson).

Anyway, they make music togehter now.  Here's a single from 2018 that they released.  It's sweet and cute and not quite pop - more adult contemporary, I suppose.  

04 January 2024

4 January 2024 - That Poppy - Lowlife

A lot of you saw the artist in this title and were wondering if it's an artist named That Poppy or if it's actually that Poppy.


Moriah Rose Pereira was 20 when she released her debut EP, bubblebath - and this, its lead single, was out for almost a year before that.  Written by the artist, Simon Wilcox and Sir Nolan (who also produced), this song is less the electronic/metal sound people know Poppy for today.  No, That Poppy was a ska/reggae/pop artist.

And she was good.  This song is catchy - and although the video is as weird as a lot of Poppy's videos, the performance shines through.

I know what people think.  Pop music is just vapid, autotuned garbage.  


Good music is being made, even in pop music.  And Poppy can sing.  Island Records released an acousitc version of this single as well - which highlights that. In fact, despite the weird guys behind her, this video isn't all the weird.  It's a vulnerable young singer/songwriter who is performing her heart out.  

We can do one better.  Here she is performing it acapella in Brussels.  And we think it's super cool.

02 January 2024

2 January 2024 - Suzanne Vega - Marlene On The Wall

It's gonna be that type of year where we struggle to get posts out on time.  

That's OK.  It's late, but here is Suzanne Vega with oue of her early singles, exhibiting her pop-folk sensibiliites from her very first album, her self-titled debut in 1985.  We love how fast she sings at parts in this song.

Written by Vega, the song was her first top 40 hit in the UK and remains her biggest hit there.  The "Marlene" in the title is actress Marlene Dietrich.  An obscure reference for a pop song? Maybe, but it still works.

Nearly 40 years later, she still performs this very upbeat song, as she did at the Glastonbury Fedtival in 2022.  She still sounds as brilliant as she did in the 1980s.

01 January 2024

1 January 2024 - BRATS - 決まりごと (Kimarigoto)

Happy New Year!  Rather than regaling you with more Mariah Carey, we thought you might appreciate some Japanese hard rock music.

BRATS were formed in 2011 by sisters Rei Kuromiya and Aya Kuromiya.  They were 10 and 12.  Rei is the vocalist here, in this song and video released in 2018.  They rock way harder than you might expect them to.  

They are part of a generation who are actually influenced by Japanese rock bands, and not international ones.  It is a great day for Japanese music when that is a claim that can be made.   

The title of this song literally translates to "The Rules", which, well, doesn't seem like something a rock band would support.  

And yes, they can do it live.  They are, after all, a band and not manufactured.