Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A slight delay.

James and I have been talking and we both feel that updating once a week with the recommendations and reviews might be a bit much for both of our busy schedules. As you can see, Week 2 was a little behind, but we made it somehow. We are discussing how to make this work and looking at alternate posting days and times. We also think it might be cool to post random music happenings when we want to; to keep things fresh and such. We will back with your regular scheduled programming shortly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

James Reviews Two Brits

To whom it may concern, I'm sorry about taking so long to post this week's review. Just one week in, and I've already broken many of the cardinal rules, but I hadn't anticipated being this busy when the rules were formed. I've been in the process of moving to a new college, and I've had about twenty seconds of free time over the last week. Well, I'm back now. I must admit, I was quite concerned coming into this week because Madonna really did a job on me last week. On the other hand, since last week was so bad, there's only one direction that this week's artists could go. And they did.

Like most people, my only experience with Amy Winehouse coming into this week was all the horror stories I've heard about her abusing drugs, having relationship problems, and generally ruining her life. There can be no doubt that she's not right mentally, and much like Elvis, she should serve as a warning beacon for anyone who desires fame and fortune. A lot of people might laugh at her and her troubles, but they would be better served to have pity and compassion for a person who made a bet with the Devil and lost.

Where Amy Winehouse is about tragedy and sickness, Adele is quite the opposite. A teenage sensation a la Taylor Swift, Adele's music is lovestruck and simple -- both in its lyrics and music. She's an up-and-comer with the world in front of her and amazing potential. But let us not forget how easy it is for a good person to fall.

--The Two Brits Top 10--

1: Just Friends (Back to Black)
I had pretty high hopes for this song when it started with that kind of blue-jazzy feel. The mellow touch created by the jazz organ and guitars really seems fitting for the lyrical content (which is, by the way, about two thousand orders of magnitude better than Madonna). To my chagrin, however, Amy fails to develop this into a discernible melody, and instead pretty much gets rid of the feel altogether by adding something that sounds like a brass instrument. Not my favorite, but not unlistenable.

2: Daydreamer (19)
Simple music is not a bad thing if it's done right, and I would say Daydreamer is not an example of how to do it. While I understand that the monotony of the song actually has artistic purpose, to me it's pretty darn boring. In a lot of ways, I think the lyrics are intelligent and relatable, but it's hard to even pay attention to them. I would like to see some more musical creativity and depth.

3: Tears Dry on Their Own (Back to Black)
Amy Winehouse is not at her best when her songs rely heavily on her singing ability, of which there is little. She is clearly able to create some pretty melodies, but she does not play that card in either of these first two songs. Ostensibly, her vocal failures can be attributed to her drug problem, but I'm not sure that's the case, although I'm sure it doesn't help.

4: First Love (19)
Once again, I have no complaints about Adele's lyrics, which are noteworthy and admirable. Musically, though, I just have to think that Adele is nothing to write home about. The music's simple, yes, and if that were its only purpose it would achieve it extremely well. I said earlier that simple music is not necessarily a bad thing, but it bears noting that simple music isn't necessarily a good thing either. If there's less going on in a song, the scale of individual errors increases dramatically, so you have to make what you have count. I don't think this song does that satisfactorily.

5: Wake Up Alone (Back to Black)
I like this song in a lot of ways. It comes a lot closer to accomplishing that upbeat-yet-sad bluesy feel that I felt got overlooked in "Just Friends." The chord progressions are pleasant and surprising at first -- my only complaint being that after being repeated ad-infinitum, they lose their charm. Still, the feel remains and blends well with the lyrical and thematic content. Now I find it necessary to bring out one of my biggest beefs with Amy Winehouse to date: her singing. I touched on this earlier. I'm not buying that her singing deficiencies come from a drug problem. Her singing deficiencies come from her trying to be something that she is not: a black singer. Every syllable is pronounced and enunciated exactly the way you would expect from Beyonce. I keep getting uncomfortable images in my head of K-Fed, which I believe to be the proper analogy in so many ways.

6: Crazy for You (19)
Pretty much, ditto everything I just said about Amy Winehouse. This is my number one problem with Adele, more than musical depth, more than anything. She tries to sound like a black woman. This is important for two reasons: 1) She doesn't do it as well as an actual black woman, and 2) it's impossible to gauge whether or not she'd be a good singer without this masquerade. As it stands, her singing feels forced and out of place compared to the actual music she's singing with. It doesn't fit her simple music style at all.

7: You Know I'm No Good (Back to Black)
Overall, I find this to be a somewhat catchy tune, and I like the craziness that it brings out in Amy. The lyrics make no sense at all; they're like the psychotic ramblings of an asylum patient. Intriguing.

8: Hometown Glory (19)
The first 15 seconds of instrumental piano almost made me jump out of my seat. Earlier I was complaining about a lack of musical depth, and for a second there I thought she had finally broken out from the sea through the icy and frozen shelf. But as I continued to listen, I found that sense of joy gradually fading. There is no development whatsoever of the musical portion. I almost feel that Adele really just doesn't give a damn; like she's not even trying. There's a part where the music is literally begging to resolve in a different contrasting direction, and she blanketly refuses to grant its wish.

9: Back to Black (Back to Black)
Why this song is not higher on the list, I truly do not know. This is by FAR, my favorite of this week's 10-for-10. The music is stunning and chilling, and although it's repetitive, it does indeed develop the way you would hope. The way the chorus brings in the strings to complement with the higher frequency ranges is simply fantastic, and exactly what the music is asking to have done. The lyrics, while not on par with, say, Eminem, do enough to get the job done. Even Amy's crazy singing style seems to fit.This is one of those songs I could put on repeat and listen to for a while.

10: Chasing Pavements (19)
I have to say, I had the highest hopes for this song, what with it winning all those Grammys and all. Disappointing. Everything I've already talked about comes together to form a big cluster of music that seems like it should be good but somehow isn't.

That's all for this week, folks. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week 2: Donell Reviews Brad Paisley

While fulfilling my duties here at the 10 for 10 Music Expansion Project some things have been brought to the forefront of my mind. I have always considered myself a music buff and fan. I like a LOT of music. That isn’t the problem though. I don’t mind liking a large range of things; but when it becomes a problem is when I can’t figure out why I like something. Then it makes me wonder what don’t I like? When I try to think of what I don’t like, it’s actually kind of hard for me. If I dislike something I don’t necessarily hate it or need to rip it apart (James), I just don’t like it. So then I thought, well maybe I need to be more passionate about it. Maybe there is too much grey area and there needs to be more black and white. Love and hate. What music can’t I stand? What music makes my blood curdle when I listen to it and makes vomit rise in my throat. Well, that’s easy. Flo Rida.

But luckily, Flo Rida is not a part of the 10 for 10 Music Expansion Project. And I hope he never graces these pages anytime in the near future. But I had this thought while listening to Brad Paisley this week. Most of the music I did not like. And it’s not that I wanted to throw my computer out of the window when it was playing, it just didn’t speak to me. It didn't hit me. I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. What I am trying to figure out is this – the music I like, how does it speak to me? Why does that music grab me while Brad Paisley does not?
I think what it comes down to is that Brad Paisley, generally, is too country for me. I like country-pop but this doesn’t have much pop in it. On the other hand, the thing I like about country music is that the songs tell stories. That is the advantage that country music has on pop music. I am much more of a pop head than a country head, but being an actor and being in the theater I love a song with a good story behind it. There isn’t much storytelling in pop music and country has mastered that skill (which makes me wonder why there aren’t more country musicals…). So yeah, just an observation. Now on to the list:

"Mud on the Tires" Mud on the Tires (2004)
Nope, this song was far too country for me. But I will say, the harmonies on the chorus are GOREGEOUS. I can also appreciate the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the title. But other than that, not for me.

"All I Wanted Was a Car" 5th Gear (2007)
There is no denying this man is a BEAST on the guitar. So, yeah, good for him. Great. Nothing really stood out to me in the song except – the last minute and ten seconds of this song are pretty cool. When he overlaps his 2 vocal phrases it’s beautifully matched.

"Celebrity" Mud on the Tires (2003)
This song is very smart and it made me smile. As someone who regularly reads online blogs and tabloids, I love the pop culture references and the digs at the “famous” lifestyle. The tune is very catchy and the music has a feel good vibe to it. I think I have heard this song before and would probably listen to it again. I would have liked this to be higher on the list. Shame on you, James.

"Whiskey Lullaby" Mud on the Tires (2004)
Loved it. This song is beautiful. If it were up to me, this would have been my #1 song on the list. The lyrics are beautiful and different than anything I was expecting to hear. I picture a rainy night and the screen door swinging back and forth and hitting the house. The comparison of alcohol to a gun blew my mind (no pun intended). I loved the simplicity of the lullaby. The chorus is stunning and haunting. Also, Alison Krauss’s voice is so pretty to listen to. I could listen to this song all day long. It’ll probably be the only song I revisit from this list. Well, this and…

"Letter to Me" 5th Gear (2007)
Loved it. I was a big fan of “WL” and this song. These were my 2 favorite songs on the list. It has such a great concept and story. This song brought a smile to my face because I can totally remember feeling this way about love a few years ago (minus the girls, of course), family, and the other themes in the song. Especially the lyric about not being able to see past Friday night. Very clever. The chorus is great (I enjoy singing the top harmony along with Brad) and I love Paisley’s delivery on the song. When the music cuts back before the last chorus it’s truly beautiful. I love when songs do that – cut out all the other stuff and let’s get simple for a second. That’s how you’ll win me over.

"Kentucky Jelly" Play (2008)
Nope, not my cup of tea. But let me say – I listened to the songs the first time through without reading what you said about them. I wanted to listen without being influenced by your opinion of the music. When I first listened to “KJ” I didn’t get it – that was before I read that this was from his instrumental album. I was waiting for lyrics the whole time that never came. It’s like looking for a gay at a cage fight. Bruno anyone? Anyway. That being said, the second two listens were whatever. I’d rather Brad sing to me. I will say, maybe if this was a visual clip I might feel different. I love a man that can play an instrument.

"Waitin' On a Woman" 5th Gear (2008)
I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed the story of the 2 men sitting together and talking but nothing grabbed me. Not much else to say about that.

"The Best Thing That I Had Goin'" Mud on the Tires (2003)
I liked it before the music kicked in. That first verse had me but then the song was lost upon my ears with all the instruments. There’s something about that COUNTRY sound that makes my face suddenly frown up and my nose shrivel up on my face. I don’t know what it is. Too much knee slapping and washboard strumming, maybe.

"Spaghetti Western Swing" Mud on the Tires (2003)
Annoying is right. Um, no thank you. Next.

"When We All Get to Heaven" 5th Gear (2007)
Okay, let me clear something up. I don’t want to give off the impression that I hate spiritual music or can’t stand the mention of Jesus in a song. That’s not what I meant at all. I happen to enjoy plenty of gospel music and spiritual tunes. I just feel that at times it’s forced and THAT is what bothers me about a lot of country music that I hear. I don’t like being hit over the head with the message. Or maybe the music just needs to be more interesting. Whatever it is, it can be annoying and THAT’S why I don’t really care for it. This one was far too “coombayah” for me. The image of people standing in a circle holding hands and swaying back and forth made me dizzy.

So basically what we learned this week is this: while I only LOVED 2 of the songs on the list and don’t plan on listening to any of the other songs, I didn’t completely despise the other 8. They will just simply fade into the back of my memory. I guess that is how James and I differ. Or who knows, maybe they’re the kind of songs that will creep up on me and with time I’ll learn to love them. Whatever the case may be, I must be harder on my ears. And on James.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week 2: James Recommends Brad Paisley

Well, folks, I'm still trying to figure out a system for my music recommendations. Should I do it by genre, chronology, or favorites? Should the order be ascending or descending? So many questions to be answered. Ultimately, I've decided to go through my music by the order in which I first heard it. However, since I'm already on a Country binge, I figured I'd finish working through the relatively small list of Country artists I enjoy, and then go back and start from the beginning. Since Brad Paisley is my favorite Country artist, I reckon I'll recommend him first.

Before I talk about why I like Brad Paisley so much, let me talk about why I don't like most Country that much. I'll be the first to say that I simply do not understand the phenomenon of its amazing commercial success. If you're anything like me, your first (and possibly final) experience with Country music was one of intense boredom. Every song that comes on the radio is exactly the same as the one that came before it, and the one that came before it was pretty nondescript. You can pretty much count on the same chord progressions, the same vocal style, the same structural style, and the same lyrics to be present in 99% of popular Country. It's a genre where who's singing a song matters far more than what that person is singing. Every big name artist is guaranteed to top the charts despite the fact that there is rarely anything new or original about their performance. In a lot of ways, I find it infuriating that such a culture exists, but, lately, every time I'm in the car I find myself turning on the Country station. Why? Well, I think the answer comes in two parts.

First, the good songs are really good. Every once in a while, you'll find yourself audibly laughing, smiling, and getting chills for a variety of reasons that may include but are not limited to: lyrical wit and creativity; intensely personal and sympathetic subject matter, musical riffs that blow you away, and just plain excellent musicianship. Second, the spectrum doesn't extend that low. While most Country songs sound similar, none of them are that bad. Compare this to your average station that plays Top-40 hits all day long, where the percentage of songs I love is roughly the same, but where I find myself genuinely and absolutely hating every other song. Thus, listening to the Country station will be, at worst, bearable, and at best, stunning, making for a better overall experience.

Well, now. You remember all those things I said about Country music being rigid, formulaic, and kitsch? When it comes to Brad Paisley, you can disregard every one of those statements. But do keep in mind that I said good Country songs are really good. It's going to be quite a chore to pick out only 10 songs.

--The Brad Paisley Top-10

1: Mud on the Tires (Mud on the Tires)
Mud on the Tires is the song that made me originally fall in love with Brad Paisley's music years ago, and to this day I think it remains his most complete effort. Every one of the song's elements works together in perfect harmony with the others to create a true masterpiece. Musically, the verses are perfect builds for the chorus, which takes my breath away. The lyrics are good; they're not mind-blowing in and of themselves, but neither should they be. They don't distract from the overall blend of the song. Perfect is a strong word, but I think they fit, err... perfectly. Melodically, Brad Paisley is at his best when he uses large vocal swings a la the chorus. You'll find this to be a trend in what I consider his best songs.

2: All I Wanted Was a Car (5th Gear)
I did a severe double-take the first time I realized that this song was never even released as a single, since I think that on a purely instrumental level this song is probably my favorite of all Brad's work. While it lacks the lyrical and structural depth of "Mud on the Tires," I rarely find the chills creeping up and down my spine the way they do when this song comes on. In fact, it almost feels like I'm not doing it justice by putting it as a mere #2. This is a statement that will hold true for most of Brad Paisley's music: while you may hear other Country artists use some of the same instruments, you will never hear them used in the same way, which is one of the best adulations I can give.

3: Celebrity (Mud on the Tires)
Here we have our second single from the album "Mud on the Tires," and it's a duzy. Lyrically, it's simply fantastic. You won't find Eminem-style rhymes, and it doesn't need them. It's a delightfully clever, witty, -- and risky -- commentary on celebrity culture. In fact, you'll find lyrical risk a line that Brad Paisley treads quite often, not in the sense of controversy, but rather in how easy it would be for the lyrics to fall short. They stand on the edge of a knife, on a precipice, and one misstep would be all it would take for them to fall off. But yet, somehow, Brad pulls it off, and without an extremely complex rhyme scheme. I'm a lyrical stickler, and I keep trying to find fault with this song, but to no avail. Oh, and the music rocks too.

4: Whiskey Lullaby (Mud on the Tires)
I don't really have words. I'm sure I could conjure up something -- especially in regard to the lyrics -- but it would fall short and cheapen this masterpiece. Just trust me: let this song do all the talking. In fact, now I'm having second thoughts about having it this far down on the list. That just shows you how amazing 1-3 are.

5: Letter to Me (5th Gear)
Speaking of great lyrics, this is a song leans less on musical brilliance and almost entirely on the sheer integrity and honesty of its lyrics. You won't find jaw dropping melodies and harmonies, although the music does blend nicely. This song should be every young person's creed and theme-song. If you don't identify with its sentiments, you must have skipped adolescence like that kid from "Big." I won't say any more about it because I don't want to ruin the (pleasant) surprise.

6: Kentucky Jelly (Play)
Okay, you know me, I couldn't stay away from musical brilliance for too long. This song is off Brad's album "Play," which is almost entirely instrumental. While most popular musicians could be validly labeled talentless hacks (listen to the song "Celebrity"), Brad Paisley is a sterling musician in his own right. He can make that guitar sing, boy, let me tell you. But that's not enough, in and of itself. Anyone can write immensely complicated music, but making that music sound good is about the most difficult task that can be achieved (I'm looking at you, 99.999% of metal ever written). This song is melodically/harmonically awesome, and incorporates a lot of bluegrass elements. While that's pretty well true for most of Paisley's songs, this one just happens to showcase it.

7: Waitin' On a Woman (Time Well Wasted / 5th Gear / Play)
Released on three different CDs, this stands as one of Brad Paisley's biggest commercial hits. And though the lyrics are the driving force behind the song, it's not too shabby musically either. In the original version(s) Brad Paisley did all the vocals. However, on the "Play" release, Andy Griffith stepped in to record all the lines spoken by the old man. The contrast provided here, especially in reference to the lyrics, is simply fabulous. It's heart-wrenching, funny, and a little bit encouraging, all at the same time.

8: The Best Thing That I Had Goin' (Mud on the Tires)
If you couldn't tell already, "Mud on the Tires" is an incredible album, chock full of great stuff from top to bottom. This song, while a little closer to your average Country standards, is still miles (or kilometers if you're an elitist snob) and miles above it. Great music and better-than-average lyrics.

9: Spaghetti Western Swing (Mud on the Tires)
Okay, so this song actually annoys me in a lot of ways (especially after many listens). But, if you listen closely enough, you hear a tribute to Ennio Morricone's "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," which is by far the greatest cinematic soundtrack ever envisioned. That alone merits a mention here on the Top-10. If you can get past the little skit, you might find yourself surprised at just how good the musical solos are.

10: When We All Get to Heaven (5th Gear)
One thing that I really appreciate about Brad Paisley is that he seems to stay true to his roots. Maybe it's just a massive facade put on by his producers to sell more albums, but I don't really care if it is. Hymns have been an absolutely massive part of Southern/Country culture since the get-go, and I find it so incredibly endearing that Brad will occasionally include one on his secular/mainstream albums. He's not ashamed of his heritage and beliefs, and neither am I, which is why I have no choice but to include this wonderful and timeless song in the Top-10 as we wrap things up.

Bon Appetit!

Week 2: Donell Recommends 2 Brits

Everyone’s a comedian nowadays, I guess. I thought that the Queen of Pop would bring a smile to the face and a tap to the foot of my co-writer, but I guess not. Funny timing, that little review of his, as Sunday marks Madonna’s 51st birthday. Happy birthday, Madge, I appreciate all you’ve contributed to the pop world. James has more than enough zingers in that Madonna review to make me cry, but I promise I have some tissue and more tricks up my sleeve. Madonna may not have won him over, but at least now he can’t say he’s never heard “Like a Virgin”. Mission accomplished.

Let us move across the pond, shall we? I’ve got 2 women waiting over there in the UK that I have fallen in love with over the past year and a half. One is a tabloid gracing, drug using, songbird whose hard times provide some of the darkest personal lyrics to grace my ears. The other is a 21 year old borderline drunk, poster child for the “big is beautiful” movement, who writes as if she’s had many more years under her belt than she has. Both of them have won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, respectively in 2008 and 2009. Both of their names start with A. Of course I’m speaking of Amy Winehouse and Adele.

Okay – stop stop stop. I know that for most people just hearing the two words “Amy Winehouse” makes them cringe from all the stories they’ve heard and pictures they’ve seen. I can safely say that Back to Black is one the BEST albums I have ever heard. And that’s the problem. No one knows. She is such a mess in her life (ongoing issues with her ex-husband, incomprehensible live performances where she MUST be on multiple drugs, and an array of other tabloid favorites). Actually, the only reason that I bought Back to Black was because I saw Winehouse performing on the 2008 Grammy Awards and she looks like a fidgety 3 year old performing, eyes darting from side to side. I said, “Okay, I have to hear her music, because she’s got some stuff going on in her head”. I was so happy I did. She throws back to the Motown sound of the 60s, which is interesting coming from a British Jewish girl. Back to Black focuses on love gone wrong and what it can do to you. Trust me, she would know. She's only 25, by the way.

Adele was introduced to me by a friend of mine, who just said “I think you’d like her, give her a try” and so I did. I don’t even know where to begin with this album. First of all, it’s titled 19 because that’s the year she recorded it. She wrote all the songs between the ages of 16 and 19, which is FASCINATING to me. Adele, like most teenagers sings about boyfriends and breakups. The way she does so though is the amazing part. There is such maturity to her approach and sound on 19. I guess you can attribute that to her drinking problem. She’s been sober for some time now, but she admits to drinking way too much during the recording and promotion of this album. She even canceled a US tour to hang out and drink with a boyfriend in Europe. She is now sober and working on her second album (at the age of 21, dammit) and I can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next.

So below I have picked 5 songs from Back to Black and 5 songs from 19, when in actuality I would love to recommend both of the albums fully. I did not include any songs from Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, because frankly (haha) I think Back to Black is LEAPS better. Don’t you love it when you can listen to an album from start to finish without skipping any songs? Back to Black and 19 are those albums from me. Here is a sample of both albums – songs not in order of importance. Also, do you ever have memories you associate with certain songs/albums? Back to Black makes me think of Anchorage, AK (I was there for 2 weeks with Hairspray when I bought the album and listened to it on my walk to and from the theater everyday). The same exact thing can be said for 19 just replace Anchorage, AK with Chicago, IL and Hairspray with Mamma Mia!. Enjoy.

Oh, and they both write their own music.

“Just Friends” Back to Black (2007)
My favorite song on Back to Black. That hopeless feeling of wanting to be with someone who is with someone else. Knowing that it is better to just be friends with someone but not knowing how to. When the attraction is so strong how do you fight your feelings?

“Daydreamer” 19 (2008)
My favorite song on 19. "Daydreamer" opens the album and definitely sets the tone to me of her mature thoughts and song delivery. It centers around that person that just isn't there when you need them to be. They're physically there, but not really there. What to do? The repetitive guitar strum speaks the monotony of the situation to me. I've been there before.

“Tears Dry on Their Own” Back to Black (2007)
Containing a sample of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", this song has that get happy feel of the height of Motown in the 60s. The song does not necessarily have the get happy feel to the words she sings. A love that is over and done. The only thing you can do is heal in your own time.

“First Love” 19 (2008)
Lord lord lord, this song speaks volumes to me. You always remember your first love. They will always be there in your mind and in your heart. What if you don't love them anymore? How do you end it with them? What is that conversation like? Listen. I also like the simplicity and repetitiveness of the music in the background. The music box-like sound is a great juxtaposition to the situation at hand.

“Wake Up Alone” Back to Black (2007)
Amy sure knows a lot about a lover scorned, that's for sure. When you go to bed with someone next to you and you wake up with no one there what goes through your head? How do you fill your day without thinking about that person? Do you drink, do you clean, what? Giving yourself over completely to them when with them and being hit with that empty feeling when you wake up partnerless. This is my 2nd favorite song on Back to Black, edging VERY close to becoming my favorite.

“Crazy for You” 19 (2008)
Yes! Another song called "Crazy for You". I've always wanted to do a concert or cabaret and mash up Adele's and Madonna's. But I digress (I'm sure James is dry heaving just thinking about Madonna's song). Yet again - simplicity is key to Adele's music. Not too much going on. That way you can focus on the lyrics and her voice. Hopefully this version of extreme adoration with fare better than Madge's.

“You Know I’m Not Good” Back to Black (2007)
She warned you. Watch it all unfold.

"Hometown Glory" 19 (2007)
A tribute to Adele's home and experiences growing up. I get the image of her standing at the end of a road with just one streetlight shining. What is she going to go? This song closes out the album and leaves the listener wanting more from her. This is Adele's most successful single in the UK.

“Back to Black” Back to Black (2007)
Another doomed love affair. The piano chords make my spine tingle and the background vocals make me shiver through my entire body. There is something really haunting about this song. The black and white music video, with images of a funeral is also extremely haunting and a great comparison to the end of the love.

“Chasing Pavements” 19 (2008)
While this song was nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, it won Adele the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2008. "Chasing Pavements" is the most "radio friendly" song on 19 so it's no surprise that it was a huge success. It has become her most successful song so far, but not with some fallbacks. Thanks to Urban Dictionary saying that the term "chasing pavements" had to do with homosexual relations, the song was banned from many US radio stations. Tsk tsk. They cleared it up though and we're all set.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week 1: James Reviews Madonna


About one song into this 10-for-10, I had to clarify the rules with Donell about just how critical I am allowed to be. "Am I allowed to hate this?" is essentially the question I asked, since the purpose of this project is not to rip apart eachother's musical taste, but rather to expand our own musical libraries. Ultimately, however, we both agreed that this project is about complete musical honesty, and I will expect no less from Donell when I inevitably reccommend him some music that he despises. Brutal honesty. And after the extensive research I've done this week, I have no choice but to come clean.

Right then. What is the most bone-jarring, disturbing sound you can think of? Fingers running down a chalk board? People screaming in agony? That hideously low-budget radio commercial for Dan's Air-Conditioning & Repair? Roll all those up into a piece of tragedy paper, and light this newly-formed joint with a match made out of mental scarring and the sad, salty tears of a thousand crying sea otter pups. Now take a deep breath. In case you didn't know this already, long ago, the elders of our world coined a term for this exact scenario (the universe was more abstract back then and cuddly otters in greater demand). What was it? Are you ready for this? Madonna. This word passed down through the generations to the Ancient Pygmies, who used an abbreviated definition: "apocalypse. See also: famine, pestilence."

In an early draft of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, it was posited that Madonna Louise Ciccone was originally named Thelma Louise Ciccone, but after studying Ancient Pygmie lore, made a deal with the Devil to exploit a wormhole in the space-time continuum, travel back in time, cause herself to be named Madonna, and fulfill her destiny of destruction and ruin. In an interesting side note, the Modern Webster's Dictionary has extened its definition of "Madonna" to include the phrase "disease-ridden prostitute," an ex-post-facto prophesy of sorts.

Madonna is the complete package, much like the Tsar Bomba was the complete package; she's a great musician the same way Stalin was a great dictator and Obama is a great president. It takes a kind of ethereally sick talent and ability to be able to successfully achieve the paradoxical popular music trifecta: terrible voice, reptitive/mundane music, and the most mind-numbingly trashy lyrics to be found north, west, east, and south of the Misssissippi. To modify an expression I once heard, she may have no creative talent, but at least she can't sing.

Let's move on. The songs.

1: Like A Virgin (Like A Virgin)
Before I go any further, I need to clarify that "song" in this case is used loosely. It's more an endurance contest. I can't find out for sure (damn CIA), but I'd say it's likely that the Guantanamo Bay Torture Soundtrack consisted almost entirely of these songs. It's kind of like Russian Roulette, except with your soul at stake and six times as many bullets in play. Now, with that said, this song is completely lyrically implausible, since its base premise assumes that Madonna ever knew what it was like to be a virgin. Numerous studies have shown that she had already done the dirty with at least 70 partners by the time she was conceived.

2: Crazy For You (Vision Quest)
Crazy For You is intended to be a love ballad, which makes perfect sense, since that is the exact opposite of what the song is. It conveys perfectly the depth of emotion and intellect with which Madonna understands what it means to love someone. The entire chorus consists of 13 lines, 6 of which are (reproduced in their exact form), "I'm crazy for you." The other 7 lines are variations of "It's all brand new/you know it's true." Thank you, Madonna. Thank you so much for teaching me what love isn't.

3: Papa Don't Preach (True Blue)
As I'm reviewing Iron Man Triathlon Equivalent #3, it's suddenly occurred to me that I haven't said much about the music itself so far. I've been avoiding talking about it, much like I would avoid talking about being sat on by Rosie O'Donnell. And even though it's not fun to talk about, I feel I must address it. Only then can the healing begin. It's shallow, repetitive, obnoxious, and probably carcinogenic. In fact, the other day I was at the doctor's office for a heart tremor, and the diagnosis came back, "overexposure to Madonna."

4: Like A Prayer (Like A Prayer)
Finally, an area from which Madonna has expertise: her knees. Yes, think of all the nice, fuzzy images you have associated with prayer and answers thereof: Jesus, your loved ones, your job promotion, the fact that good music does actually exist, etc. Now spill nuclear waste all over those associations. You can thank Madonna for your extra appendages and third-degree burns. This whole song is about her and her powerful pair of lungs doing what she does best (hint: it's not singing), which she equates with the act of meta-universal connection with Deity.

5: Vogue (I'm Breathless)
For a moment, I thought the music to this song might be decent, but nope. It's literally exactly the same as every other Madonna song, which is another reason I'm not focusing too much on the musical aspect of this. Also, I take special issue with the lyrics in this song, since they mention some of the classiest, most talented people to ever grace the silver screen. I can't help but think that the mere mention of these modern angels taints their respective legacies. It would be like Mao Tse Tung listing you as a role model or Adolf Hitler saying "for James" in the dedication section of Mein Kampf. So help me, if this trashy skank had mentioned Audrey Hepburn, not only would I currently be breaking out into a piercing string of profanities, I might have had to assassinate a certain someone. I'm getting furious at the possibility that this could have even happened. Phew. Close one. It's already bad enough; how dare she mention Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Grace Kelly, but it gets so much worse. She mentions the name of the man whose name is not to be mentioned without a thorough ceremonial washing and the blessings of at least 3 Hassidic rabbis: Gene Kelly, the man who did this:

And Madonna thinks that dancing means humping a stage. Calm down, James, calm down. Stop shaking. Anyone have a paper bag?

6: Justify My Love (The Immaculate Collection)
OHHH SPLENDID. Madonna decided to do a tribal chant. Oh well, at least she talks about incest. The biggest joke on Madonna ever is this: the one song where the music is almost slightly catchy downplays the music to the point where it's a non-factor.

7: Take A Bow (Bedtime Stories)
I can't tell you how my heartstrings pulled at me as I scrolled down the list of songs by the name of "Take A Bow." The 30 results for the Rihanna song of the same name called to me like they were starving Asian children and I was eating the only bowl of rice in the village. The themes for the two songs are the same, and the two songs are actually very similar, with the one difference being that Rihanna's version doesn't suck.

8: Frozen (Ray of Light)
Okay, I actually like the tune to this song. It's catchy. But, I can't forgive Madonna for almost mentioning Audrey Hepburn in "Vogue", so it sucks.

9: Music (Music)
Does not live up to its name.

10: Give it To Me (Hard Candy)
Get stupid, indeed.

There's one last thing I need to address: Madonna writes her own music and lyrics. That would seem honorable, right? But then you start thinking about it. She came up with all this. It's not like I can spread the blame over a bunch of different producers or songwriters. It's not like I can blame corporate America. No, there is someone out there who actually thought that all this, as a cumulative whole, was a good idea.

Now that's scary.

Week 1: Donell Reviews Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts – a group I had heard before but never really considered listening to that often. I am fascinated by the success of country artists. Country is such a huge genre but if you’re great, you’ll shoot to the top. Rascal Flatts has 6 studio albums (all featured on this list except Melt), 10 #1 country singles, and a Grammy Award (for one of the songs on this list). I am very glad that I have become more familiar with their music thanks to James’s recommendations.

Tid bit: all of their album covers make me laugh. There is something strange about them all to me (especially Unstoppable). There is something uncomfortable about these three men taking pictures together. They’re not a boy band. I don’t know what the solution is, but the covers make me chuckle.

Side note: when I was making the song list for this review I kept writing Me and My HAND instead of GANG. I wonder what I was thinking of.

“What Hurts the Most” Me and My Gang (2006)
Okay, so this song is the jam. When it first started I just got the vibe that I would love it. I think I like it so much because it doesn’t sound too country to me. I am a fan of country, but mostly country-pop. This song (as I’ve done my research) was Rascal Flatts’ crossover into Adult Contemporary. I am very glad that they did that because this song made me consider them a group I would listen to. My favorite parts of the song are the fast patter lyrics at end of the verse (I’m not afraid to cry/every once/in a while…); it slightly reminds me of an r&b style of singing. Also, the drums are reminiscent of that to me as well (if you look up other songs the producer, Dann Huff, has worked on you’ll better understand – “Man in the Mirror”, “All I Want for Christmas is You” “Straight Up”, etc). I also like the musical stop in the middle of the last chorus. That is always a vice I enjoy. I love the driving vibe of the song – the pushing forward. I can see why this was #1 on James’s list.

“My Wish” Me and My Gang (2006)
Not a fan. This is the thing – I teeter GREATLY on the edge when it comes to inspirational songs. Most of them I find very corny and desperate (I was actually just having this conversation with friends about “Heal the World” and “I Believe I Can Fly”). I also got a “ugh” feeling when the God’s grace lyric passed by. I know that most country has heavy spiritual (I won’t say religious) influences, but I just would rather it be in subtext than actual lyrics. This song didn’t have the hook that “WHtM” did, for me. Overall thought, I think I like the style of Me and My Gang is my favorite of their albums.

“Stand” Me and My Gang (2006)
While still on the inspirational side – maybe not inspirational, but personally encouraging – the chorus hooked me and made me like this song. The musical simplicity of the first verse made me wonder where the song was going. There was a little rumble underneath, like the calm before the storm. A little mystery is always good. You can’t “blow your load” (as some would say) from the very beginning. The bridge is KILLER and rocks my world. I love a good bridge and “Stand” definitely has that.

“Life is a Highway” Cars (2006)
My mom loves this song so I love this song too. That’s almost a completely true statement. Both parts of that sentence are true, but not the linkage– they stand alone. I remember my mom watching Rascal Flatts perform this song live on some award show (she LOVED Cars) and brought me into the room to watch it. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever saw who they were or saw them perform live. I am now going to take this time to talk about Gary LeVox and his STUPID voice. If you don’t know me, stupid = amazing. This man sings his FACE OFF (another great thing). His vocal range and flexibility is outstanding. He riffs and runs with the best of them. For people that think only black singers riff, they need to listen to LeVox. There were a few songs on this list that he blew me away vocally. I love the “break down” section after the musical break. Who doesn’t love hand claps?

“Here Comes Goodbye” Unstoppable (2009)
Okay I am a sucker for a power ballad. BUT I am on the edge with this one. I think what James said about the chorus was correct. The melody is unexpected and caught me off guard, which I liked. Overall though, I feel like I’ve heard this song before. After hearing “WHtM” (which many say this song is a less good version of) I don’t know if I’ll like anything as much, funny enough. “HCG” is from their most recent album and I feel like they’ll have to take more risks with their music, like they did with “WHtM” to keep me entertained.

“Where You Are” Feels Like Today (2004)
This song was too predictable for my taste. I knew where it was going and was bored by it. I can see how the memory James has associated with it makes it a song he enjoys. I, on the other hand, was not impressed.

“Bless the Broken Road” Feels Like Today (2004)
See, I like this song. I think there is something about the simplicity of it. It has a basic pattern and it does it well. Not too fast, not too slow. And I actually don’t mind the God lyric used in this song. It doesn’t bother me like it does in “MW”. I think I remember this song from when it won the Grammy award. When I played it, it sounded familiar to me and that’s all that came to my mind. This was also the Rascal Flatts CD that my ex-boyfriend owned, so maybe that’s how I heard it. Who knows? Anyway I like this song, semi-kitschy lyrics or not.

“I’m Moving On” Rascal Flatts (2000)
This is my problem with this song. Lord knows I loves me a piano. I kind of wish the whole song was just piano. The beginning tugs at my heartstrings and I wanted the piano to stay. When the other instruments started I yelled “come back piano”! I would have loved for it to be all piano and have the little mandolin part in the middle still be there, but then go back to just piano. I don’t know if that still would qualify it as country, but it would definitely make me like it more. I really would have liked that simplicity.

“Fast Cars and Freedom” Feels Like Today (2004)
I would not like my looks to be compared to fast cars and freedom, so this song does not go on the good side of the list for me. I don’t even really know what that lyric means. Enlighten me, please. This song was too much on the straight country side of the spectrum for me. I am a country-pop kind of guy, remember, and this smelt too much of straw and mud to me (just trying to make some sort of country analogy here). I did like that the song featured the other guys on vocals backing up LeVox towards the end.

“Here” Still Feel Good (2007)
Eh. The two words that come to mind when listening are “good enough”. There’s nothing exciting or different about it. Not stellar but not horrible. Listenable but I probably won’t revisit it that often. This goes in the maybe pile with “HCG” and “IMO”.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 1: Donell Recommends Madonna

Okay, so this 10 for 10 is going to be a little different than the ones to come, I'm sure. Since my dear co-writer James claims he doesn't know Madonna I have decided to give him a crash course in the woman that is the Queen of Pop and why she rightfully deserves that title. (You can read my recent Madonna entry at THE DJF here.)
Madonna Louise Ciccone emerged onto the music scene in 1983 after moving to NYC from Michigan and claiming that she was going to "rule the world". She has become one of the highest selling artists of all time as well as winning a Golden Globe for the film Evita. Madonna has 11 studio albums (Madonna, Like a Virgin, True Blue, Like a Prayer, Erotica, Bedtime Stories, Ray of Light, Music, American Life, Confession on a Dance Floor, and Hard Candy), 2 live albums, 2 soundtrack records, and multiple award winning singles. Madonna has had at least 1 single out every year since 1983, with the exception of 2004.

Madonna, also know as Madge, Mo, or The Material Girl is best known for her visual career and her ever-changing style. With almost every album Madonna emerges looking different and taking on many different styles. If she has new music coming out, you can bet she'll have a new look. That being said, Madonna's music videos are ART. She is a person who puts lots of thought into how her songs are represented visually. So as EXTRA CREDIT I encourage you to look up the music videos that accompany the songs listed below. The songs themselves don't represent even half of why she's a star. She is a visual artist.

As you listen to these songs I also want you to listen to the way her styles change throughout the years. To me, just like her appearance, she likes to take on different styles with every album. When her debut album, Madonna, dropped it had heavy club/dance influences. When she released her sophomore album, Like a Virgin, she made a swift change to bubblegum pop. Listen to how her style changes throughout the years from pop, gospel, r&b, house, to hip-hop.

Edit: the links with the song titles are either music videos or live performances. The links of the album titles give more information about the album.

"Like a Virgin" Like a Virgin (1984)
This is the Madonna the world fell in love with. With the success of her debut album behind her, Madonna made a swift transition from dance hits to bubble gum pop. All of Madonna’s songs would have heavy dance roots from this point on, but there was a distinct change in her sound to appeal to a more pop audience. “Like a Virgin” because Madonna’s first #1 single in the US. The single was fueled forward thanks to a racy performance at the MTV VMAs that year, where Madonna rolled around and humped the floor dressed in a white wedding gown including a belt that read “BOY TOY”. She knew how to push people’s buttons and this would definitely not be the last time she would do it. Madonna would cause controversy on several on her world tours when she would perform the song, most recently dedicating the song to the Pope while she was in Rome. In 1990 while performing the song in concert in Toronto she simulated masturbation on a bed. The police threatened to arrest her if she didn’t change the number. She refused and ended up not being arrested.

"Crazy for You" Vision Quest (1985)
My 2nd favorite Madonna song is her 2nd #1 single. One of Madonna's first ballads, "Crazy for You" was from the film soundtrack for Vision Quest. This was a time for Madonna to show her ability to be considered a legitimate singer. Before this time her image had overpowered the public's opinion of her as someone with actual vocal ability.

"Papa Don't Preach" True Blue (1986)
Madonna stirred controversy with a song many viewed as a pro-pregnancy rant. People thought Madonna was telling young girls to go out and get pregnant and that was promoting an image of it being "cool". In concert Madonna dedicated the song to Pope John Paul II, which led him to urge Italian fans to boycott her concert. But back to the music, shall we? True Blue marks a time in Madonna's career where she was very interested in Spanish culture and music. Throughout the album she uses Spanish influences to aid her sound. Can you hear any of that in this song?

"Like a Prayer" Like a Prayer (1989)
Who doesn't love a gospel choir? I truly feel like a gospel choir can take any song to new heights. Madonna uses that in this song to give it the spiritual boost that she was looking for. In the grand tradition of controversy Madonna upset many with the music video for "Like a Prayer" showing images of burning crossed and representing Jesus as a black man. Madonna has lots of religion images in her music from beginning to end. She even lots her endorsement (got to keep the money) with Pepsi when this video was aired. This song would become one of Madonna's highest selling singles of her career.

"Vogue" I’m Breathless (1990)
If Madonna weren’t already God to gay men across the world, “Vogue” would definitely set her atop that pedestal. Based on a form of dancing found in underground gay clubs, Madonna brought this type of dance to the mainstream. To “vogue” is to pose and use elaborate hand gestures to imitate models and old famous Hollywood stars. Nowadays there are tons of songs where the artist tells you what kind of dance to do and Madonna was at the forefront of this movement. Although it has nothing to do with the I’m Breathless (which is music from the film version of Dick Tracy) Madonna’s record label felt the song was too good to be released as a B-side, so they slapped it on the end of the soundtrack. Until 2008 “Vogue” would be Madonna’s biggest selling single of her career, catapulting her from pop star to icon.

"Justify My Love" The Immaculate Collection (1990)
My favorite Madonna song of all time is her 9th of 12 #1 singles. “Justify My Love” was an original song that was recorded to promote The Immaculate Collection, a compilation of greatest hits. The song features background vocals and production by Lenny Kravitz. Based on a poem, the song contains no singing. Madonna speaks and whispers all of the lyrics (singing a few background lines) giving heavy sexual overtones. This seductive song would give in a glimpse into her next album, Erotica, which would become her most controversial album to date due to its heavy sexual content (as well as a book entitled Sex that was released alongside the album, which features Madonna in the nude photographed in various poses, and sometimes with other celebrities). Madonna stirred up controversy due to the music video that accompanied “Justify My Love”. It’s shot in black and white and features Madonna in a hotel engaging in sexual acts with a lover. The doors to other hotel rooms are ajar and you can see different sexual acts happening including s&m, androgynous dancers, and bisexual acts. The video only aired twice and then was banned from MTV. In turn Madonna released the video on VHS and it became the highest selling video single of all time, reinforcing her ability to turn controversy into dollar signs.

After the sexual awakening of her career Madonna decided to take a turn to the smoother sounds of R&B. This was also around the time that Madonna gave birth to her first child. "Take a Bow" was produced by the R&B king of the time, Babyface. You can also hear him on the background vocals. There is something so haunting about this song that it's always been a favorite of mine. Bedtime Stories also marks the last time a Madonna song was on the R&B charts. "Take a Bow" also marks the longest amount of weeks Madonna has spent at the #1 spot. Check out the string section leading into the bridge. Stunning.

Considered one of Madonna's best songs, "Frozen" gave fans something completely different from the star. Madonna uses heavy electronic influences with darker tones to enrich the Middle East inspired track. Whereas the title song from Ray of Light gave fans more of the house/dance music they had grown to love with Madonna, "Frozen" was something fans had not expected from her. The song was a huge success overseas but did not see it's star truly shine due to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" topping the charts in the US. Definitely check out this music video, especially after watching something like "Like a Virgin" and you will truly see the transformation of Madge, herself.

"Music" Music (2000)
As of right now "Music" has been the last Madonna single to hit #1 on the charts. Working with a brand new unknown producer, Madonna tweaked her sound but continued to display her heavy dance roots. The funny thing about "Music" (which features the "music makes the people come together" chorus) is that the song was released at the height of Napster's popularity. The song was leaked before it was finished and Madonna joined forces with other artists to protect their work. The controversy surrounding the song made it soar and become one of the biggest selling singles of her career. The music video features a practically unknown Sacha Baron Cohen.

"Give It 2 Me" Hard Candy (2008)
From Madonna's latest album, "Give It 2 Me" is quickly becoming one of my favorite Madonna songs. Not nearly as successful as the other songs on this list, I think "Give It 2 Me" displays something that Madonna is a genius at. Many fans were weary about her new album being mainly produces by Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes. The album has heavy hip-hop influences but still remains pop. "Give It 2 Me" is the prime example of this. The song is easily translatable from the dance floor to the ghetto basement. The middle bridge of "get stupid, get stupid" while somewhat laughable, still shows Madonna tapping into a generation that wasn't even alive when she released "Like a Virgin". She is still the Queen of Pop.

Week 1: James Recommends Rascal Flatts


tap tap

Is this thing on?

Perfect. Well, I hope you've already read my introduction and the rules for the MEP (Music Expansion Project). If you haven't, now would be a great time to do so! If you have, let's get this thing started.

This subject of my recommendations for this week is Rascal Flatts. Before I make any recommendations, though, let me add a bit of a prologue; if you just don't care, skip on ahead. Still here? Awesome. Let me start out by saying that Rascal Flatts is, by no means, my favorite band in the world. In fact, when all is said and done they probably don't even crack the top ten. So why, out of all the bands/musicians in the world, have I decided to start my part in the MEP by recommending their 10 best songs? Well, let me put it this way: this project owes half of its existence to Rascal Flatts.

You see, earlier this week, my good friend/co-writer Donell and I were discussing music, as we had done many times before. He was telling me how he had recently been on a Madonna binge, and I was telling him that I'd never willingly listened to a Madonna song in my life. Then I was telling him how I had heard an awesome Rascal Flatts song on the radio, and he was saying he had heard of them but wasn't much of a Country fan; blah blah blah, long story short, we made a deal: I would listen to 10 Madonna songs if he would listen to 10 Rascal Flatts songs. And thus was born the MEP.

So, Rascal Flatts. I think the most accurate description I could give them would be this: Country music for people who don't like Country. And that's exactly what they are. Pop-Country. The diet version of Honkeytonk. You still have good ol' steel guitars and just a hint of that hillbilly twang, but really, you're feeding yourself a Top-40 piece of fried chicken alongside a big plate of Mainstream cole slaw. But who's saying that's a bad thing? Far be it from me.

Rascal Flatts make some damn good music. Or, I should say, Rascall Flatts make some damn good music. When they're on the top of their game, they can stand toe-to-toe with the very best musicians out there, both lyrically and musically. And when they're not? Well, it's just another sappy love song that makes you want to hit the "next" button on your stereo and roll your eyes. I'll admit, at first I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to find 10 tracks that I could recommend with good conscience. But no worries, there's plenty of goodness to go around. Tracks 1-6 are what I would call All-Time-Classics, while 7-10 are purdy darn good themselves. Without further adieu, I present the list (note: clicking song titles will let you listen to them for free!):

1: What Hurts the Most (Me and My Gang)
"What Hurts The Most" is, by far, the pinnacle of Rascal Flatts' musical achievement. Stunningly tragic melodies/harmonies and heartbreakingly identifiable lyrics not only place this song at the top of this list, but also put it in the running for one of my favorite songs of all time. I can't tell you how many times I've sung along with tears in my eyes after once again failing to say what I wanted to say to that one girl who gave me butterflies and left me speechless. Here's to you.

2: My Wish (Me and My Gang)
I only recently heard this song for the first time, and was pretty well blown away. It's bittersweet and absolutely inspiring at the same time, which is a rare combination for sure. While all the lyrics are top notch, pay special attention to the last few lines of the chorus: they still give me chills.

3: Stand (Me and My Gang)
This was the song that originally introduced me to Rascal Flatts. As a matter of fact, it introduced me to Country in general. I remember driving in the backseat of my brother's girlfriend's car and thinking "Oh no! Not Country!" About a minute in, though, I was hooked. Great music, and pretty inspirational lyrics.

4: Life is A Highway (Cover)
Featured on the Cars soundtrack, this song was not originally composed or recorded by Rascal Flatts. But since it's better than the original, I've decided to count it for consideration and it overachieves to become #4 on the list. No doubt, you're familiar with the lyrics, but if you haven't heard this musical rendition of the timeless classic, you're missing out.

5: Here Comes Goodbye (Unstoppable)
Another song I've only recently become acquainted with. On average, it's a good-not-great song. The one truly stellar part of the song is the chorus, and that's what bumps it up to #5. An unpredictable melody combines to make normally-run-of-the-mill lyrics simply stunning.

6: Where You Are (Feels Like Today)
I remember driving out to California and listening to a mix CD that my friend Yishi had provided when this song came on for the first time. At the time, I was hopelessly crushed on this girl in LA, and I watched as the lyrics to this happy song transformed into something sad. Oh well. Until I looked up the lyrics, I thought one line in the chorus went "You're the loveliest fear," when in reality it goes "Your love lifts me up." I like my version more, so the song gets bumped to lowly #7.

7: Bless The Broken Road (Feels Like Today)
Bless The Broken Road begins the part of the list that contains listenable songs that won't blow you away. Decent melodies/harmonies, and pretty good-if-not-slightly-kitschy lyrics make this worth a listen.

8: I'm Movin' On (Rascal Flatts)
Sad music is appropriate for sad lyrics.

9: Fast Cars and Freedom (Feels Like Today)
Slightly catchy; a fun song that won't make your jaw drop.

10: Here (Still Feels Good)
Not their most complete effort, but it does enough to make the top 10.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. These ten songs should pretty well familiarize you with Rascal Flatts. If you're not a fan of Country, I'm hoping they'll be like a gateway drug for you, because guess what's coming next week?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Rules

As follows are the rules for the 10 for 10 Music Expansion Project.

1) Be OBSESSED with music. Done.
2) List 10 songs that have a unifying link (whether that be artist, genre, etc). Music you enjoy and think the other person should listen to. Explain why you think the songs are great and why the other person should listen to them.
3) Obtain (in whatever fashion is best for you) the 10 songs that are suggested to you.
4) Listen to each song a minimum of 3 times each. You have a week to do so.
5) Write your response to the songs that were suggested to you. What you liked/disliked about them. You have a week to do so.
6) Recommend 10 new songs with a unifying theme.
7) Rinse and repeat.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Introducing James

Hey there! I'm James Patterson. Here's a quick run-down about me:
  • I'm 18 years old
  • I'm white
  • I'm a straight male
  • I'm currently enrolled at The University of Arizona, studying systems engineering
  • I really don't enjoy writing biographies of myself
Ok, that's out of the way; onward to music! I'm a classically trained pianist, and I've been playing for 15 years (or since I was three, for those of you who are keeping count). For the first part of my life, my musical influences consisted of this "genre" almost entirely. I also spent time as a church pianist, and to this day I am involved with worship leading.

Around the age of 11, my musical horizons changed dramatically with my introduction to the album "Astro Lounge" by Smash Mouth, which I regard as being one of the better albums of all time. This began my musical roller coaster and journey into the world of modern music. Today you'll find me listening to anything from death metal to bluegrass to techno. If it's good I'll listen to it.

Which brings me to my one and only point: good music is damn hard to find. I'm never happier than when I've found new, good music, and I'm never more upset than when I'm stuck listening to trash on the radio in a mate's car. I've got high hopes for this project. I'm always trying to expand my musical viewpoint, and I'm pretty sure Donell and I are pretty much opposites. This is very exciting (and a little bit scary), because I'm pretty sure I've never in my life listened to the type of music he'll recommend. Sparks may fly!

So if you're looking to stretch your musical tastes like I am, you should stick around!

Edit: it's come to my attention that I need to post a picture of myself. Feast your eyes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Introducing Donell

Donell here! Welcome and buckle your seat belts, kids.

I don't want to bore you with too much personal information (for that you can go to The DJF and read my personal blog) so we'll make this short and sweet. Male. 21. Black. Gay. Actor. Done and done.

Okay - anyone that knows me knows that I am OBSESSED with music. Ever since I can remember music has run my life, whether it be pop or musical theater. I actually sing ALL day long. As soon as I wake up the iTunes start and I sing along with basically every song that plays.

The first CD that I owned was the soundtrack of The Bodyguard, which will explain my love for belting divas (I'm sure there will be plenty on here). My iTunes is a mass of music that can't be put into categories. I am drawn to all different types of music and I am really grateful for my eclectic tastes. I was actually listening to The Cranberries yesterday. Random. I am hoping my co-writer James will help me to expand on these musical tastes I have.

I do not play any instruments but dream of marrying a man that plays the piano. I can't wait to sing love songs well into the hot summer night while enjoying a crisp glass of white wine. Heaven.

So yeah, that's me. Sit back, relax, and put on your headphones.