Music Monday: New Music, Old Faves

It suddenly dawned on me on Friday that a number of my favourite artists are releasing (or will be releasing) some new music, in some way, shape or form, and I just had to share my happiness and enthusiasm over the fact.

kellyclarksonlive.com

First, the artist who spurned my realization: Kelly Clarkson. Throughout last week, Kelly went live on Facebook everyday to sing songs that would serve as hints to an announcement that came on Friday. The news? She’s switching labels, from RCA to Atlantic Records. The product of the label change will be a soul album that Kelly will work on this year, for release in 2017. But on top of that, she has also decided to release some free content on kellyclarksonlive.com, on the last Friday of every month. Said content may include anything from videos to downloads of fan request songs on tour. For instance, on Friday, she released her live covers of “Creep” (Radiohead), “Fix You” (Coldplay), “I’d Rather Go Blind” (Etta James), and “Ready for Love” (India Arie). So the promise of new music, with guaranteed covers every month – I’ll take it!

Another artist who announced a new album is forthcoming, Australian singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem! Early last week, Delta announced a tour (only in Australia, of course), which led many to believe a new album was coming as well. A few days later, Delta confirmed that an album was on its way, but way sooner than most expected; Wings of the Wild is coming out July 1st! Now if only I could find a way to get my hands on the physical CD here in Canada…

Though not a new album of original songs, Kyle Riabko, along with the London cast of Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined released the cast recording of the show (digitally; physical CDs come out July 1st). I’ve been such a fan of Kyle’s for so long and it’s been a very long time since he has released any new music. Of course, he’s been busy working on this musical for about 3+ years, so it’s understandable. This cast recording is the closest thing to new music we’ve gotten in years (not including the Grammy Song of the Year covers he did last year on his website), so I’m going to take what I can get.

Last but not least, Justin Timberlake! So it’s been almost two weeks since JT released “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” but what can I say? I’m obsessed with the song and I can’t get enough of it! And outside of the Trolls soundtrack coming out later this year, I’m hopeful we’re getting a proper album from JT in 2017. Sure, I’m still listening to his previous four albums constantly, but I still want new music! So in the meantime, I’m gonna go listen to “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” again and again.

Unfortunately, nothing new from Britney Spears. Ditto Maroon 5, though they did just celebrate 14 years of Songs About Jane on Saturday, so that’s something? (Not really. I’m waiting for new music from them too.)

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Music Monday: Rediscovering Songs

It’s not really news that I grew up listening and watching Vietnamese music, that’s just how it was in our house. Vietnamese music has been the one thing that still makes me feel connected to my roots, culture, heritage, despite being born in Canada. My love of pop music stemmed  from my love of Vietnamese pop, which is not to say that I don’t like some of the more adult contemporary stuff, it’s just that I didn’t have much of an appreciation for it until later in life. One of the things that I did always love growing up were the French songs that got translated into Vietnamese. There were songs in other languages that got translated into Vietnamese, but French songs, especially the older ones, just have a really special quality to them.

So listening to these Vietnamese/French songs growing up and pretty much knowing those songs just as that, embedded in my brain since I was a kid, has amusingly led to a kind of music rediscovery nowadays. Much like watching an old movie or TV show and recognizing a now-famous actor, I’ve stumbled upon a few songs in English that I once only knew in Vietnamese or French (or both).

Megan Hilty recently released a new album called Live at the Cafe Carlyle. On it, Hilty performs a collection of standards, Broadway tunes, songs from Smash, and such. One particular song caught me by surprise when I heard it, and that was “Autumn Leaves.” As soon as Megan sang the first couple of words, I instantly recognized it as a Vietnamese song called “La Thu Vang” Honestly, I knew that song was a translated French song, but all my life, I have only ever heard it in Vietnamese and famously sung by Khanh Ha. It felt so different and weird hearing it in English, but I also became instanly obsessed with it, mainly due to the fact that it’s Megan, though it really is just such a beautiful song.

A couple of years ago, there was a movie that came out called Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Oscar Isaac. The movie itself was just okay for me, but I instantly fell in love with the soundtrack. The movie and soundtrack featured a song performed by Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Stark Sands called “Five Hundred Miles.” I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking “This sounds really familiar…” and me being me, it annoyed the hell out of me trying to figure out where I had heard it. I knew I had heard Vietnamese singer Thanh Lan sing it before, but it was me digging through my music library until I found it (it gets hard when all the French medleys are labelled as that, just different artists lol). But I found it, and it was just funny because again, all my life I only knew it in French, even though “Five Hundred Miles” is the original song that spurred multiple translations, including the French version entitled “Et j’entends siffler le train”

Music Monday: The Rise of Unnecessary Remixes

So I wouldn’t say I’m a music snob, because I love a lot of different genres, but no one genre is superior to another. Just like TV, everybody has different tastes; everybody can like what they want. I am, however, kind of particular about what I like and don’t like. This revelation kinda happened over the past five years or so, but it was sort of always there. I have my favourites of course, but I’m a little bit more reluctant to discover new artists. Chalk some of it up to no time to actively search the internet for new music to listen to, but it’s also the fact that I’m not particularly impressed with the new batch of singers or music that get radio airplay.

Anyways, one of my biggest pet peeves are remixes. Hear me out though: some remixes are good, only if they’re done right. Again, personal preference as to what’s considered “done right”, but for me the remix has to add something of value to the song or changes it in a way that makes it feel like a different version but an extension of the song (if that makes any sense). I am not a fan of the unnecessary remix; the big one I file under that is the Dance/EDM Remix. Considering I’ve always hated EDM as a genre, it just annoys me to no end. Lately, however, the unnecessary remix I loathe is the Radio Edit/Remix where they take a perfectly beautiful song and “pop-ify” it/make it more “radio friendly.” I remember when Lady Antebellum released “Need You Now” which we all know is a great country-pop song, and then I heard some radio stations play a mix of the song that turned up the pop value and made it more upbeat. It was probably one step away from being a full-out club remix. And things have just gotten more ridiculous since then. It used to be every once in a while, typically when you get one of those genre crossover tracks and they get the “pop radio edit.” I’ve heard three, arguably already pop songs, get an unnecessary remix.

ADELE, Hello

Of course, everyone fell in love with this song as soon as it dropped. Powerful and dramatic, with Adele’s sweeping vocals. But then I heard a new mix of the song that still kept most of what you love about the song (Adele’s vocals) but increased the pop factor. It’s a subtle change in the arrangement, but you can tell the difference with the added drums that makes the song sound pop/rock (I would compare it to a OneRepublic song). It just takes away from the drama of the song itself.

Hello – DJ Mike D Remix

KELLY CLARKSON, Piece by Piece

This goes to show how much I try to avoid listening to the radio. After Kelly performed this song on Idol, and subsequently released that stripped down version, that is the version that I’ve been hearing. I love it, I heard it when she went on tour, it’s just a great fit for what the song is about. One day, after hearing the Idol Version on radio, the on-air DJ was talking about how this is such a stark difference to the “original” which was upbeat. I remember sitting in the car thinking, “What is she talking about? Upbeat?! It was maybe a midtempo pop song.  It wasn’t a dance pop song by any means.” Little did I know, the version that actually did get released as a “radio edit” was pretty dance pop-y. The accompanying video confirmed as such. And that just boggles my mind because the version I know from the album was good as is. I didn’t see a need to make it MORE POP. I’m just happy that people have been accepting of the stripped down Idol Version.

 

JAMES BAY, Let It Go

The most recent annoying remix I’ve heard is of James Bay’s Let It Go. For the past couple months, I’ve been hearing the original, simple beautiful song I know and love from the album. One day, I accidentally stumbled upon a satellite radio station that was playing this song, but an R&B remix of it?! WHAT?! It’s not terrible, doesn’t mean it was right to do so. I mean, I’d probably tolerate it more if it was like a reality TV competition show and a contestant had revamped the song for themselves (or maybe not), but giving the song an R&B groove, to me, takes away the purity of the original. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

*It was only while doing this post that I realized that two of the remixes I hated and made as an example were done by the same DJ. He is now on my hate list.

2016 Grammy Nominations & Predictions

For some, the Grammy Awards are just another awards show. However, it’s the biggest music award in the business. Say what you will, but the Grammys still hold more weight than say an MTV award. Now for all that the Grammy Awards get right in the nominations, there’s still a lot that I have issues with. I probably should’ve done this analysis when the nominations were announced, but hey, now I get to make my predictions (or alternatively, what I WANT to happen).

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton, Traveller
  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness

The only album I’ve actually listened to of the bunch is Beauty Behind the Madness, and as much as I like it, I don’t think it’s AOTY. I feel like it’s probably going to end up being 1989, which honestly Taylor Swift annoys me so I’d rather not have it win.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Really Love
  • Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
  • Taylor Swift, Blank Space
  • The Weeknd, Can’t Feel My Face

“Uptown Funk” deserves the win, hands down. One year later and I’m still not tired of hearing it. That’s saying something.

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • “Alright” (Kendrick Lamar)
  • “Blank Space” (Taylor Swift)
  • “Girl Crush” (Little Big Town)
  • “See You Again” (Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth)
  • “Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran)

Remember, this category awards the songwriters. I’d like to see Little Big Town win it here because “Girl Crush” is just such a musically bare but well-written track. Although “Thinking Out Loud” sort of falls in the same category, the fact that it became so overplayed is causing me bias. So ideally, “Girl Crush” wins for me. If not, I’d say “See You Again” should win; you can’t help but get a little emotional when you hear it because you know what it stands for.

BEST NEW ARTIST

  • Courtney Barnett
  • James Bay
  • Sam Hunt
  • Tori Kelly
  • Meghan Trainor

I’m happy to say there’s no “WHO ARE YOU?” in the category. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to Courtney Barnett’s music, but I had heard her name prior to her nomination, so there’s that. Now there’s something about this category this year that makes me feel like it is drastically different from recent years. You look at last year’s nominees  and really, you just knew Sam Smith was going to win. In 2014, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won, but it could have been Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, or Kacey Musgraves; however, it didn’t really matter to me who won. Same goes with 2013 when Fun won. This year, maybe it’s because I have two artists I absolutely love nominated, which means I will be super happy if either James Bay or Tori Kelly win. I’ve been going back and forth about this, but ideally I think I want Tori to win, with James winning for his other categories – that way it spreads the love and recognition!

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

  • Kelly Clarkson, Heartbeat Song
  • Ellie Goulding, Love Me Like You Do
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
  • Taylor Swift, Blank Space
  • The Weeknd, Can’t Feel My Face

Do you even have to ask? I want Kelly Clarkson to win, duh! Second choice would be The Weeknd.

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

  • Florence + The Machine, Ship to Wreck
  • Maroon 5, Sugar
  • Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk
  • Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, Bad Blood
  • Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, See You Again

This is the one category where I’m really conflicted. First choice is Maroon 5, obviously, because I’m forever a M5 fan. I love “Sugar” so frickin’ much and it just always instantly puts a smile on my face when I hear it. “Uptown Funk” is second, because like I said before, it’s still a great song to listen to. “See You Again” is my third because again, still a great song but miscategorized – should’ve been in Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. “Ship to Wreck” really has no faults, I just haven’t listened to it enough. And then “Bad Blood” is just whatever.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Kelly Clarkson, Piece by Piece
  • Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • James Taylor, Before This World
  • Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
  • Taylor Swift, 1989

Odds are 1989 takes it (*groan*). Ideally, Piece by Piece wins. I however, wouldn’t be surprised if James Taylor ends up winning because the Grammys can still surprise sometimes.

BEST ROCK SONG

  • “Don’t Wanna Fight” (Alabama Shakes)
  • “Ex’s & Oh’s” (Elle King)
  • “Hold Back the River” (James Bay)
  • “Lydia” (Highly Suspect)
  • “What Kind of Man” (Florence + The Machine)

Like SOTY, this awards the songwriters (now that I think of it, I’m surprised there isn’t a Pop category equivalent). I don’t know who Highly Suspect are and I don’t listen to Alabama Shakes, which leaves Elle King, James Bay, and Florence. And as stated above, I want James to win, not that there’s anything wrong with the other two, just preference.

BEST MUSICAL THEATER ALBUM

  • An American in Paris
  • Fun Home
  • Hamilton
  • The King and I
  • Something Rotten!

All well-deserved nominations, but let’s be real, Hamilton is TOTALLY winning this one. Not to mention, they get to perform during the telecast? Just give it to them already.

BEST COMPILATION SOUNDTRACK FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • Empire: Season 1
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Selma

As much as I love Pitch Perfect 2, I don’t think the soundtrack stacks up as well as the first movie. I say Empire takes it.

BEST SONG WRITTEN FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “Glory” from Selma
  • “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “See You Again” from Furious 7
  • “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

For the category to say Visual Media, I’ve noticed that there aren’t many nominations from TV. To consider, we have two songs from Fifty Shades of Grey nominated, but nothing from Empire. Not even “You’re So Beautiful”? Really? Lame. All for naught though, because I’m pretty sure “Glory” is going to win, with “See You Again” coming in as a close second.

Other Notable Nominations (or the other nominations that I care about):

  • James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm for Best Rock Album!
  • Amy Poehler is nominated in Best Spoken Word Album for the audiobook of Yes Please. In other words, I think Amy’s winning a Grammy before she wins an Emmy
  • Pentatonix is nominated again in the Best Arrangement category. This time, it’s for “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from their That’s Christmas to Me album.

To summarize this post, I want all my faves to win (duh) and I’d rather not see Taylor Swift win, even though she probably will. Also, so excited to see James Bay and Tori Kelly perform together during the show! AND, it’s too early to call but Adele is just going to win all the awards next year right? Like no question? 🙂

Favourites of 2015

Getting this in on the last day of the year! I like to take part with my version of the usual best-of lists/year-end recaps, which is basically just a list of my favourites from the past year. It is in no particular order at all. It is what it is.

ALBUMS

  1. PENTATONIX, Pentatonix
  2. KELLY CLARKSON, Piece by Piece
  3. ADELE, 25
  4. MATT NATHANSON, Show Me Your Fangs
  5. TORI KELLY, Unbreakable Smile
  6. JAMES BAY, Chaos and the Calm
  7. JOY WILLIAMS, Venus
  8. HAMILTON Soundtrack
  9. DAVID COOK, Digital Vein
  10. SARA BAREILLES, What’s Inside – Songs from Waitress

Some of my favourites released some truly good albums this year that I haven’t stopped listening to. 2015 also brought on new favourites in Tori Kelly and James Bay, plus Joy Williams’ first solo effort since The Civil Wars ended. And of course, there was Hamilton; how I wish I could witness it in all its glory, but I’ll have to settle for hearing the soundtrack on repeat.

SONGS

  1. JANET JACKSON, BURNITUP! ft. Missy Elliott
  2. MISSY ELLIOTT, WTF (Where They From) ft. Pharrell
  3. JOJO, Save My Soul
  4. ROZZI CRANE, Crazy Ass Bitch
  5. BRITTANY CAIRNS, Everybody’s Got That Something
  6. JUSSIE SMOLLETT & YAZZ, No Apologies
  7. DEMI LOVATO, Confident
  8. SELENA GOMEZ, Same Old Love
  9. NICK JONAS, Levels

Outside of all the songs I loved on my favourite albums this year, there were these songs. First of all, the return of Missy Elliott! I would’ve been fine with just the feature on Janet’s song, but then she released “WTF, which is just so classic Missy. Also, the return of JoJo who was in record label limbo for so long; she came back with an EP that was a nice re-introduction to her and I can’t wait for what’s next. I loved a lot of the songs that came out of Empire, but my favourite of the bunch is definitely “No Apologies” which fuses the rap, hip-hop and R&B so well. I have to say that I’m actually quite impressed with what Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez did this year on their respective albums; they’ve really come into their own as music artists.

NEW TV SHOWS

  1. iZombie
  2. Fresh Off the Boat
  3. Agent Carter
  4. 12 Monkeys
  5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  6. Daredevil
  7. Dark Matter
  8. Killjoys
  9. UnREAL
  10. Empire
  11. Master of None

SO MANY TV SHOWS!!! These were by far my absolute new favourites of the year. There were also shows I enjoyed like Limitless and Quantico, as well as shows I haven’t had time to watch yet like Jessica Jones.

RETURNING TV SHOWS

  1. The Flash
  2. You’re the Worst
  3. Jane the Virgin
  4. Agents of SHIELD
  5. Orphan Black
  6. The Americans
  7. Outlander
  8. Arrow
  9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  10. Survivor

These are the shows that are still tops for me, though there are a whole other bunch that are just below these ones that I still really like to watch.

SHOWS THAT ENDED/GOT CANCELLED

  1. Parks and Recreation
  2. Hart of Dixie
  3. Parenthood
  4. Chasing Life
  5. Graceland
  6. Hindsight

The first three shows came to their natural end, the other three were abruptly cancelled (or in the case of Hindsight, renewed then cancelled – thanks a lot, VH1). Either way, it sucks.

MOVIES

  1. Dope
  2. The Martian
  3. The DUFF
  4. The Last Five Years
  5. Brooklyn
  6. Spotlight
  7. Ex-Machina
  8. Cinderella
  9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  10. Inside Out

Mind you, there are A LOT of other movies I still haven’t seen yet, so this is a very small sampling.

So that’s that, my favourites of the past year! I hope you all had a wonderful pop culture filled year, and here’s to more fun in 2016!