Monday, August 17, 2009

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.

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