Music Monday: Current Obsessions

I love the feeling of hearing new music; there’s just something so exciting about it. While there are a lot of songs on the radio I really can’t stand, there are quite a few radio hits and a few songs from recently released albums that I’m currently obsessed about.

  1. Keira Knightley, Lost Stars – It brings me absolute pleasure to see Begin Again (fka Can A Song Save Your Life?) finally get released and people loving it. I saw it at TIFF last year and just fell in love with both the movie and the songs, so it was an excruciating wait to get my hands on the soundtrack. There’s actually two versions of Lost Stars, the other sung by Adam Levine, but surprisingly I love Keira’s version more. There’s a sort of pure quality to the mix and her voice, that I really love.
  2. Nikki Yanofsky, Necessary Evil – Nikki Yanofsky is a Canadian talent, whom you may remember as the voice of the official Olympic song for Vancouver 2010. Regardless of that fact, she just released a new album with the help of the legendary Quincy Jones. This song got me right away when I first heard it because I immediately started picturing an Argentine Tango being choreographed to it. [The barometer of how much I like a song now depends on whether I can picture choreography to it…despite not being a dancer.]
  3. Ed Sheeran, Don’t – You thought I was gonna pick Sing, with all its Justin Timberlake/Justified inflections, which I still love but I’m obsessed with Don’t. It samples a Lucy Pearl (remember them?!) song and just has this awesome R&B groove to it.
  4. Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea, Problem – That 90s R&B throwback sound with the horns? LOVE.
  5. Tessanne Chin, Everything Reminds Me of You – Tessanne’s recently released debut album is actually the first Voice winner album I’ve bought. This song in particular seems made to fit in with Top 40 radio in the same vein as Emeli Sande’s songs, which is part of the reason why I really like it. If you listen to the other songs on her album, you can really hear her Jamaican influences mix well with the pop/R&B sound. Everything feels authentic and doesn’t feel like it was haphazardly put together.
  6. Maroon 5, Maps – I was a little bit wary about the song because I feel like Overexposed (their previous album) was playing too much as mainstream pop. There were still some songs that I really loved, but the album as a whole didn’t do it for me. Maps though, is a little bit more true to form for the band; it has a quality that plays well to Top 40 radio but still feels more decidedly Maroon 5 than most of Overexposed. Jesse Carmichael being back certainly helps, as does the fact that it doesn’t sound so Ryan Tedder-y despite him having a hand in producing/writing the song.
  7. Michael Jackson ft. Justin Timberlake, Love Never Felt So Good – Let’s be real, this song just feels good.
  8. Coldplay, A Sky Full of Stars – Let it be said that even when Coldplay is experimenting with their sound, their songs still sound distinctively theirs. You can tell it’s a Coldplay song and this one’s no exception.
  9. Hayden Panettiere, Don’t Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet – OK so this is kinda old but for some reason, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s the right amount of country with a little bit of an edge that I seem to gravitate towards.
  10. John Mayer, XO – John Mayer doing a cover of Beyonce’s XO and it is awesome. After two very folk-ish albums, him doing this cover just made me think: Where has this John Mayer been for the past 5 years?! It sounds like the JM I used to know and love! Will he keep this up for the next album? I don’t know but I hope so!

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – August

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. So as we continue on with what summer brings us, here’s what I’m looking forward to in the next few months.

AUGUST

After all the excitement of July, the month of August winds down the summer. This year for me, it will be a music-based month. John Mayer announced not-so-long-ago that his new album Paradise Valley will be released on August 13th. Lucky for me, the very next day John makes his way to Toronto on his Born & Raised tour – his first in three years. I haven’t seen him in concert since his promotional album release show for Battle Studies (and boy, was that an experience I’ll never forget. We may have feared for our lives, either by being trampled over or lack of air). Another concert that I’m VERY excited about is the Honda Civic Tour featuring a double headliner in Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson (Technically, they call it Maroon 5 with special guest Kelly Clarkson, but come on.) I mean, TWO of my favourite music artists/acts on the same bill?! I’m not imagining it right?! SO OF COURSE I’M EXCITED!

On the movie front, there’s really only one movie coming out this month that I’m interested in, and that is The Spectacular Now. The film, based on a 2010 novel, stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller as Aimee and Sutter, two teenagers who could not be any more different, yet find themselves falling for each other. On the outset, it doesn’t seem like the movie is breaking new ground, but the trailer gives off a sense that there is more to the movie than your typical teen drama. The movie was also incredibly well-received after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

 

And that’s about it for what I’m looking forward to this month. Most summer TV is in the middle of their seasons and will be wrapping up soon, so there’s nothing really new until the official start of the fall TV season. It’s rare to see a new show premiere in the late summer, but I was just reminded that on August 5th, it will be the 10-year anniversary of The O.C. premiering on FOX (can’t believe it myself). It’s a slow month to say the least, but it’s a sign that summer is almost over. Before I know it, fall will be here and September will bring forth the start of a new TV season, along with the Toronto International Film Festival. More fun is still to be had!

Looking Ahead to the 2013 Grammys

I don’t often write posts looking ahead to events and making predictions, but then a funny thing happened. While watching TV with my family a few weeks ago, Canadian network CTV aired a promo for the re-release of Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream and I said to my siblings “Look at that! Music sucks so much right now, that they have to advertise an album that has essentially, been out for 2 years” (the re-release itself has been out for months.) To which my brother responded, “It does suck…So what are they gonna do for the awards stuff?” My brother, for the record, could care less about the Grammys (or any other awards shows for that matter), but for him to make such an observation, that’s kind of a big deal. And so the question is: With pop music not being entirely great this past year, what will come of the Grammys with its focus being on appealing to the mainstream audience?

*NOTE: My music knowledge is far greater in the pop category, so forgive me if my focus is on pop music*

Generally speaking, in terms of the overall Grammys, it is in my honest (and slightly biased) opinion that Kelly Clarkson will come out on top when nominations are announced. Stronger was such a great album, not to mention the title track itself is one of the best songs all year (that you’re probably still not sick and tired of hearing). After Kelly, I think Coldplay’s a pretty solid bet for nominations for their album Mylo Xyloto, as well as Grammy favourite John Mayer for Born and Raised.

The category that scares/worries me the most, as has been the case for the past few years, is Best New Artist. I feel like it gets harder and harder to determine who the best new artist is, because there hasn’t really been a standout new artist. I mean last year, Bon Iver won, where he was up against Nicki Minaj, The Band Perry, J-Cole, and Skrillex. If it wasn’t for the fact that he had won a Grammy at the 2011 show, I would’ve bet my money on Bruno Mars being nominated and winning the category; but he did win, making him ineligible in the category for 2012, per Grammy rules. Guesses for who could potentially be nominated? I think Ed Sheeran has made enough of an impact to garner a nod and even a win. Representing Country, I’m going to take a wild guess and say Thompson Square or Hunter Hayes (based purely on observation). Representing Hip-Hop, I wonder if Childish Gambino can sneak in there. Which means 2 spots left, that could go to any of the following who had hit singles this past year: fun., Ellie Goulding, Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction, Karmin, Gotye.

So some predictions (however off-base they will probably be) in some of the categories:

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
  • Coldplay, Princess of China [ft. Rihanna]
  • Jason Mraz, I Won’t Give Up

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
  • Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
  • John Mayer, Born and Raised
  • Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
  • Miranda Lambert, Four the Record

BEST SOLO POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE

  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
  • Jason Mraz, I Won’t Give Up
  • Adele, Set Fire to the Rain
  • John Mayer, Shadow Days
  • Ed Sheeran, The A-Team

BEST POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY A DUO/GROUP

  • Maroon 5, One More Night
  • Coldplay, Princess of China [ft. Rihanna]
  • Taylor Swift, Safe and Sound [ft. The Civil Wars] —> I really think they’re going to put this under pop, if nominated, just because the Grammys can be weird when it comes to this category

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
  • Maroon 5, Overexposed
  • Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
  • Jason Mraz, Love is a Four Letter Word
  • John Mayer, Born and Raised

The Grammy nominations will be announced live on their annual Nomination Concert on December 5th, airing on CBS. Taylor Swift will be co-hosting with LL Cool J, and Maroon 5 will be one of the performers. Until then, any thoughts as to who might get nominated? Who really are the best new artists of the past year? Can we possibly see some lesser known (but equally talented, if not more) artists get nominated this year? Sound off!

53rd Annual Grammy Award Nominations

It’s that time of year again! Award season is upon us, with nominations for some of the biggest names in movies and music are slowly announced. Last night, with the official live nomination concert, we found out the nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards. And as usual, here comes the accompanying rave/rant blog post!

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • B.o.B. ft. Bruno Mars – Nothin’ On You
  • Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie
  • Cee-Lo Green – F**k You
  • Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind
  • Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

I absolutely love how rap & hip-hop is so dominant in this category. All these songs are without a doubt some of the best and most well-received songs of the year. This is gonna be a tough category, but if I had to choose which will win, I think I’m gonna have to give the edge to Eminem & Rihanna. This is Eminem’s year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lady Antebellum won because of the number of rap & hip-hop songs nominated alongside them, and voters could be split.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”
  • Eminem “Recovery”
  • Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
  • Lady Gaga “The Fame Monster”
  • Katy Perry “Teenage Dream”

I’m surprised that Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint Vol. 3” didn’t get nominated, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that Eminem is winning this.

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • Ray LaMontagne – Beg Steal or Borrow
  • Cee-Lo Green – F**k You
  • Miranda Lambert – The House That Built Me
  • Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie
  • Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

As always, this category is not to be confused with Record of the Year. This category awards the songwriters for any given song, while ROTY awards the artist and producers of a song. If Lady Antebellum does not win for Record, they’ll win here. The song was just so damn good. I remember them performing this song at last year’s Grammys, and that was it, I became a fan after that performance.

BEST NEW ARTIST

  • Justin Beiber
  • Drake
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Esperanza Spalding

Drake is taking this, hands down. If for some reason he does not win, I sure as hell hope that Florence and the Machine win. Justin Beiber? Really? And I don’t even know who the other 2 are. I’ve heard the name Mumford and Sons in passing, but that’s about it. I really don’t know who Esperanza Spalding is. You know what would’ve been great? If Matt Morris or Ry Cuming got nominated, although granted, they were longshots. I would’ve even taken Kris Allen or Adam Lambert, but the only Idol to have been nominated in this category was Carrie Underwood, and that was because she was a lock to win (which she did).

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE

  • Sara Bareilles – King of Anything
  • Beyonce – Halo (Live)
  • Norah Jones – Chasing Pirates
  • Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
  • Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Because I’m a big fan, I want Sara Bareilles to win. However, her chances are a little on the low side, due to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE

  • Michael Buble – Haven’t Met You Yet
  • Michael Jackson – This Is It
  • Adam Lambert – Whataya Want From Me
  • Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are
  • John Mayer – Half of My Heart

If we base it on previous years, John Mayer practically has it in the bag. But he’s got serious competition this year. Personally, if I had to choose, as much as I love “Just the Way You Are”, I love “Haven’t Met You Yet” more.

BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS

  • Glee Cast – Don’t Stop Believin’ [Regionals Version]
  • Maroon 5 – Misery
  • Paramore – The Only Exception
  • Sade – Babyfather
  • Train – Hey Soul Sister (Live)

First of all, GLEE IS NOMINATED?! Not just for a compilation soundtrack (which they are nominated for), but for an actual song. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love Glee, it’s just a little surprising, that’s all. Secondly, why is it the live version of “Hey Soul Sister”? Regardless, Maroon 5 HAS TO WIN! Chalk it up to me being biased, I don’t care, I just want them to win.

BEST POP COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS

  • B.o.B. ft. Eminem & Hayley Williams – Airplanes, Part II
  • Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare – Imagine
  • Elton John & Leon Russell – If It Wasn’t for Bad
  • Lady Gaga & Beyonce – Telephone
  • Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg – California Gurls

I have a strong feeling that Herbie Hancock and co. will take this. Never underestimate the veterans, not to mention that’s a lot of people in one song. Otherwise, I would think that Lady Gaga and Beyonce would take it.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Justin Beiber “My World 2.0”
  • Susan Boyle “I Dreamed A Dream”
  • Lady Gaga “The Fame Monster”
  • John Mayer “Battle Studies”
  • Katy Perry “Teenage Dream”

I can’t believe Beiber is nominated here. SERIOUSLY? You’re telling me that his album is better than Maroon 5’s “Hands All Over,” Sara Bareilles’ “Kaleidoscope Heart” or Florence and the Machine’s “Lungs”? REALLY? I’ll take Susan Boyle’s nom because it sold a ridiculous number of albums, Gaga because it’s Gaga. But Beiber? COME ON! I hate to go against John Mayer in terms of his music, but I’m pretty sure Katy Perry’s gonna win.

BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION

  • B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars – Nothin’ On You
  • Chris Brown, Tyga, Kevin McCall – Deuces
  • Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie
  • Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind
  • John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common – Wake Up! Everybody

Another tough one to call, but ultimately will be down to Eminem & Rihanna vs. Jay-Z & Alicia Keys.

And that’s all from me. Most of my comments are with the Pop categories anyways. What can I say? I’m a pop music fan first, everything else second. Overall, Eminem received 10 nominations, followed by Bruno Mars (for performing/producing/songwriting) with 7, and Jay-Z, Lady Antebellum & Lady Gaga each with 6 nominations. The Grammy Awards will air on CBS, February 13th, 2011.