07 September 2023

7 September 2023 - R.E.M. - What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

In 1986, TV journalist Dan Rather was assaulted by 2 men in New York City - and these assailants kept repeating the phrase, "Kenneth, What's the frequency?"   

This phrase translated into a 1994 single, the first from R.E.M.'s 9th album, Monster. According to lead singer Michael Stipe, the lyrics are from the point of view an old guy who knows everything about Generation X based solely on what he's reading in the media, which, of course, is utter and complete bullshit.  

The song is a cautionary tale, people.  

It's also a complex song, with a lot of fuzzy guitar... but you might notice the pace slows down at the end, almost as if they are running out of breath. Well, that's partly true - as they were recording the song, bassist Mike Mills slowed down his pace... and the rest of the band followed along.  Well, it turns out that Mike Mills had appendicitis and was in a lot of freaking pain.  Rather than rerecord the song at full speed, the band chose to rush him to the hospital.

See if you can find the point where Mike's appendix started to burst.

Normally, I try to sprinkle in a live performance, but in this case, they all sound like the studio.  R.E.M. is funny that way. 

I figured you'd like to see what it looks like when Dan Rather tries to sing with the band.  Seriously.  This is Dan Rather, singing with R.E.M. He would go on to tour with R.E.M. keep his day job.

06 September 2023

6 September 2023 - Haddaway - What Is Love

What, indeed, is love?

Baby, don't hurt me..

This infectious song was #11 pop hit in the US in 1993, and again was a hit in 2008.   Written by a couple of producers, they drafted a guy named Nestor to sing the song.

Nestor Haddaway.  His name was Nestor Haddaway.   

It would be Haddaway's only significant hit, but if you;'re only going to have one hit, this is the one to have. Of German and Trinidadian descent, Haddaway created a hell of a Europop club classic that endures to this day.

You knew we had to get there, right?

That's right.  Haddaway performing his hit live in 2022.  And the crowd loves it!

No, no, you wanted Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell, didn't you?

Indeed, the two of them created a popular Saturday Night Live sketch about a couple of idiot club rats from Boston who had their own head-bobbing dance style when it came to this song.

They turned their characters into a terrible 1998 movie, A Night at the Roxbury, that ended up making about $30 million at the box office.  It also brought this song back into prominence again, as it featured on their briskly-selling soundtrack.

So, here you go.  A compilation of Chris Kattan and Wll Ferrell dancing like morons.

05 September 2023

5 September 2023 - Smash Mouth - Walkin' On The Sun

I have to be honest.

Going into the weekend, I had no plans to post Smash Mouth songs.  I mean, I did post ther biggest hit a couple of years ago.   

Then, on Sunday, news broke that Steve Harwell was in hospice care and near death.  I didn't read that news until Monday morning, and that news was quickly followed by news of Harwell's passing.  

So, that changed some plans for the week.

I saw Smash Mouth live several years ago, with Steve Harwell on vocals.  This song was, of course, a highlight of that show - it being their first single and a pretty big hit.  From San Jose, California, this song was written by guitarist Greg Camp and heavily influenced by the then-recent Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles - I have to imagine that hit differently in California, even in San Jose, which isn't all that close to LA.  

Of course, record labels will push songs with a little social consciousness with an organ accompanyment as a party song.  Even though it wasn't - the lyrics are a little darker than the music lets on - Steve Harwell sold it and made it a top-tapping classic.  His live performance of the song was always a highlight, and it was a highlight on this 1997 Tonight Show clip.  

01 September 2023

1 September 2023 - Willow - Whip My Hair

Willow was billed as Willow, but her name is Willow Smith,  She is the daughter of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith.  This single was released in October 2010.   She was born on Halloween, in the year 2000. 

So, do the math.  She recorded and released this single when she was 9.  



I was still playing with my Hot Wheels at age 9.

Willow Smith was recording a top 20 song.  

And not just any song.  "Whip My Hair" was her debut single, and it not only was a hit, the song is absolutely a bop.  It was a club hit.  It was a kid's radio hit.  It was everywhere.  The song was, and is, iconic.  

And she did this at 9.

In this live performance five years later, I think it is clearer than in the original video just how talented a hip-hop artist Willow Smith is. She's got stage presence, and a command of the microphone.  

As of 2022, she wasn't really playing the song live with her band anymore - she's gone in a more rock direction - but does do it acapella on request at her shows, like this one at the iHeart Radio festival.

One thing Willow always wanted to do was shave her hair during a performance of this song, and, with her full gand playing, she did just that.

Also, this version really really rocks. Willow is a hell of a frontwoman and should still have a long career ahead of her. 

31 August 2023

31 August 2023 - Deadboy & the Elephantmen - Stop, I'm Already Dead

Deadboy & the Elephantmen were a band from Louisiana until 2007, when they broke up.  And then, no one really thought about them. 

Until 2015.  On The CW.  Tuesday, March 17th, 2015, at 9PM ET - or, really, probably about three minutes after that.  That's when this happened.

That, you see, was the night of the debut of a new series on The CW called iZombie.  It lasted five seasons and it's on Netflix - and it's better than the title makes it sound.  Highly recommended.  

Immediately, this became the best known song by Deadboy & the Elephantmen.  

It's not quite a zombie song, but it works as such.  The song is very simply constructed - just guitar and drums.  The band was, at this point in 2005 when the song was released, a 2-piece.   

It's worth noting that Henry Rollins was a fan of Deadboy & the Elephantmen, so he used his radio and TV platforms to promote the band.  You can see the 2-piece at work on Rollins's IFC show.  

30 August 2023

30 August 2023 - Taylor Swift - Cruel Summer

Summer is almost over, and we're finally getting to this song.  

We've been largely avoiding the hits on top of the pop chart this summer, mostly because it's been strange and partly because some of it has been terrible. But, now that we're at the end of the summer, we feel like we should address it.

How is a four year old song that had a run on the pop charts and was a top 30 hit in 2019 suddenly a top 5 hit in 2023?!  

If you weren't aware, Taylor Swift is on tour.  I know.  She's kept it pretty low-key.  But yes.  And this song from 2019's Lover album, not released as a single but still a minor hit in 2019, was featured prominently on her tour this year.  It makes sense - in a summer dominated by country music, a song that bridges her origins in country (the 2nd half of this song is clearly country-music influenced) and her current pop focus (this song is incredibly synth-heavy) fits in well.   

Co-written by Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and Annie Clark (who is St. Vincent and we hear clear shadows of "Los Ageless", which was also written by Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark, by the way), the song is not a Bananarama song, but rather a song about a summer romance and the associated pain. 

The song became so popular as part of the tour that Republic Records rereleased it as a single and it took off, peaking at number 3 on the pop charts. 

Those who read this blog know that I'm not a huge Taylor Swift fan and I did not attend this tour.  This song, however, is fantastic. 

Her current tour has a remarkable similar setlist every single night.  Every show opens with a couple of songs from the Lover album, and this song is the 2nd song in almost every show.

Shockingly, people have recorded this song live on the tour.  This is from her stop in Santa Clara, California.

29 August 2023

29 August 2023 - MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This

Why yes, that is a Rick James sample that dominates this song.  In fact, Rick James and Alonzo Miller - the original writers of "Super Freak" - are listed as co-writers of the song.  

But let's be clear.  This song was written and produced by MC Hammer.  

How big a hit was it?  Well, in the short term, it was a big, but not mega-big, hit.  It was the THIRD single from MC Hammer's 3rd album, 1990's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em. This song, however, got airplay long before it was released as a single, and that drove album sales - to the point where it was the longtime best selling rap album of all time (it has since fallen to 5th on that list).  

The single itself was a top 10 hit on the pop charts - never making it to the top spot, though.  It was also a number 1 R&B hit, and a hit worldwide.  Moreover, it brought rap to a much broader audience, including many in my group of friends at the time.  

You know the song.  Now, it's Hammer time.  

One thing about MC Hammer... you probably know him for what he recorded.  His live performances were full of energy.  He was one of the most dynamic performers of his generation - which made him an excellent bridge from the old school sound that dominated the 1980s to the more in-your-face rap style of the 1990s.

Did I say "were"?  MC Hammer famously lost all his money from "U Can't Touch This" pretty quickly, which means he didn't get to just retire (although all indications seem to be that he recovered from that).   Twenty years after the song came out, he was still touring and still putting on a hell of a show. 

Here he is in 2018, STILL performing this song.  Yes, he's got other people doing his dancing, but he's still putting on a hell of a show.