Album Releases: Standard vs. Deluxe Editions

Album Covers

I don’t know about you but when new albums are released, I more often than not end up getting the deluxe edition of an album. I’m not talking about a re-release deluxe edition; I mean, album gets released and there are two versions available on that day. If it is an artist or band I love, it is an obvious decision for me, but I would still heavily consider it for a regular artist as well. Why? Because for a couple of dollar difference, you get more music! Who doesn’t want that? This music fan absolutely does! I feel like it’s gone are the days where the bonus tracks are just remixes of the songs on the album (though one or two still crop up in the mix from time to time); you legitimately get brand new songs that for some reason didn’t quite make the cut in the standard CD release. But lately, I’ve found that there are a lot of gems in these bonus tracks on the deluxe releases.

Take for instance, Kelly Clarkson’s latest album Piece by Piece. It’s her most pop album yet, with its electro pop inflections, but Kelly’s voice transcends everything and doesn’t make the songs derivative (in lesser hands or voices, some of the songs might not have worked as well). But one of my favourite songs off the album is a bonus track, only found on the deluxe edition, and that’s “Bad Reputation.” It’s a fun and sassy pop/soul/R&B track that invokes a very retro, yet decidedly modern feel to it. In terms of Kelly’s overall discography, it’s like if was a lost track from the Thankful days and upgraded to fit in with Stronger/Piece by Piece.

Maroon 5, with Hands All Over, Overexposed and V, have included a wonderful cover song in each of the deluxe editions (Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” Prince’s “Kiss” and Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy,” respectively). Again, there are some gems in the other bonus tracks. Hands All Over featured “Last Chance” a song that will serve as a precursor to “Maps”; and “No Curtain Call” which shows off a more arena rock edge. Overexposed got the special distinction of including an updated version of “Wasted Years” – a song the band had written and performed live in between Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. V, meanwhile, featured what could be the next phase in the M5 trajectory – pop/dance/rock by way of Mark Ronson – in “Shoot Love”.

Both parts of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience are fully realized, complete albums, but that didn’t stop JT from releasing deluxe versions with additional songs. Three of the bonus tracks – “Dress On,” “Blindness,” and “Electric Lady” – were like throwbacks to 90s R&B, while “Body Count” sounded almost like Justified-era JT.

It has actually been a little funny in regards to album releases, with me being in Canada. When news gets out of releases, I read more from U.S. sources, so my thought processes are quite American-based for such pop culture things, forgetting of course that some things don’t get to Canada in the same way. As luck would have it, that weird difference has sometimes worked in my favour. I believe the deluxe editions of The 20/20 Experience were Target exclusives in the U.S, but here in Canada, that was our standard version. The same goes with the Begin Again soundtrack, wherein the deluxe edition was only available digitally in the U.S., but we got it as our standard.

So anybody like me and prefer buying the deluxe edition of albums? Has it proven to be a worthwhile investment, with songs that are truly gems? Let me know in the comments!

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5 Fandom Friday: Songs That Changed My Life

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Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I can’t do anything without having music on in the background. Music has this way of making you feel things: joy, sadness, anger, nostalgia – in a lot of ways, it’s very therapeutic. In any case, this week’s Fandom 5 was a simultaneously fun and daunting task. How am I supposed to pick FIVE songs that changed my life, in any way shape or form? And what songs should I pick? Well, here it goes.

1. Bao Han & Don Ho, Lien Khuc Thien Dang Ai An

Vietnamese music was my gateway to all music and in particular, pop music. As a first generation Vietnamese-Canadian, one of the ways that my parents used to make sure I still knew my Vietnamese background was through Paris By Night. I feel like this was one of the first songs that I actually remember listening to when I was a kid and both of these singers became my favourite Vietnamese singers. Because of my early exposure to it, I still listen to Vietnamese music regularly, which I can’t say the same for a lot of other people my age.

2. Britney Spears, Baby One More Time

It seems a little funny to be including this song, but it did impact my life. Growing up, obviously I listened to music but it was more passively than anything, I feel. Then Britney got introduced to the pop music world, with this song and things changed. 1999 was the height of teen pop music, with NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, among others all making their marks on the scene. With Britney and this song, I became a whole-hearted fan of someone/something.

3. Christina Aguilera, Fighter

For the longest time I was Team Britney all the way. But then I saw Christina Aguilera in concert (when she did the Justified and Stripped tour with Justin Timberlake) and I became a fan with no allegiance to one particular “pop princess”. This song was what turned me into a fan, with its rock-infused pop that makes it a great song to let off some steam. It’s an anthem for all of us, to not let anyone get us down and keep fighting. The sheer power of Christina’s voice mixed with the rock sound of the song is what makes it so amazing, and even more-so when you hear her perform it live.

4. Kelly Clarkson, Because of You

Kelly singing “Without You” on American Idol sealed it for me as a fan. Post-Idol though, I loved her debut album, Thankful, but I think we can all agree that Breakaway, her 2nd album, was a turning point. There was just so much honesty and truths in this album that I could relate to on some level. But with this song, I attached my own experiences at that point in my life to it, and it grew into this big emotional song for me. Honestly, I can’t even hear this song without tearing up, and it gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME.

5. Maroon 5, This Love

This song made me a fan for life, from the very moment I watched them perform this on TRL (hey, remember TRL?) At the time, it was everything I didn’t know I wanted from pop music: the fusion of pop, rock, soul in a completely different way from that of JT or Kelly Clarkson. It’s a definitive M5 sound that’s been an inspiration to other pop/rock bands.

6. Justin Timberlake, Like I Love You

Ok, so I’m cheating a little by adding one more song but I can’t help it! JT made a seamless transition from a member of NSYNC to a solo artist with this song. For me, this song will always hold a special place in my heart because it marked the beginning of my life in high school and my Dance Crew life. As it was, I was already learning the choreography from the music video, and then when I tried out for Dance Crew, as luck would have it, they taught a combo to this song. After that, I spent the remainder of my four years being a part of Dance Crew, who became my second family. All the good and bad memories from my high school years started with this song.

 

5 Fandom Friday: My Favourite Holiday Songs

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For a couple months now, The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick have put together a link-up, 5 Fandom Friday, each week with a different theme. I’ve been neglecting it but no more – starting December right with my first 5 Fandom Friday post! Now, I admittedly can sometimes be a grump about Christmas-related things. Some people will listen to Christmas music as early as November 1st; I, on the other hand, consider two weeks before Christmas to be an acceptable time-frame, but that’s just me. Anyways, that being said, I give you my 5 favourite holiday pop songs, and just because I feel like cheating a little bit, my 5 favourite classic holiday songs!

HOLIDAY POP SONGS

  1. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (NSYNC) – I’m sorry, but as far as original Christmas songs goes, it does not get any better than this song. I’m a little biased because I love NSYNC, but tell me this song doesn’t instantly put a smile on your face and get you excited for the holidays! Or how about that hilarious music video? (Oh the 90s…)
  2. All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey) – An original song that became a classic. Who doesn’t love this song?
  3. Last Christmas (Wham) – It’s kind of a sad Christmas song, wrapped in an upbeat pop tune, but I love it nonetheless. For some reason, this is one of the first Christmas songs I ever knew (I call it a mix of my sister being a George Michael fan, plus hearing a cover of it by one of my favourite Vietnamese singers – my influences as a kid are so varied, you don’t even know).
  4. Christmas Time (Christina Aguilera) – “There’ll be family, and Christmas cheer/Peace and good will to all man/ Everybody is home for Christmas/It’s Christmas time.” A perfectly solid pop/R&B song that sums up Christmas.
  5. My Favorite Things (Kelly Clarkson) – Was this song always considered a holiday song? I don’t really know, but it is now! Of course only Kelly Clarkson could get me to listen to Christmas songs early when she released her holiday album “Wrapped in Red” last year, and I instantly fell in love with her jazz-y version of this song.

 

TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY SONGS

No explanations necessary. I just love these songs.*

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. Silent Night
  3. The Christmas Song
  4. White Christmas
  5. O Holy Night – *Though for what it’s worth, I LOVE NSYNC’s acapella version of this song.

 

Music Monday: Reality TV Alums

There was a time I used to love American Idol, before everything about it started to annoy me. These days, The Voice is my singing competition of choice, but even I have to admit that them doing two seasons year is quickly burning me out. But you know what? At the end of the day, you can’t deny some of the talent that comes out of these TV singing competitions. Just two weeks ago, American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen released his third album, Horizons, and it got me thinking about all the other alums who came out of Idol or Voice, whose career I still follow and music I still listen to.

  1. Kelly Clarkson, Sober – Too obvious to put Kelly in this list? Who cares? Let’s be real, it all started when Kelly won that first season of Idol and moved on to international success. It would be easy to put one of her massively successful singles, but instead, I’m going with my favourite Kelly song of all time.
  2. Kris Allen, In Time – As previously mentioned, the winner of American Idol season 8 just released a new album and “In Time” is one of my favourites off of it. People may have wanted to Adam Lambert to win that season, but I was a fan of Kris’ from the get-go and have absolutely loved everything he’s done since the show.
  3. Tessanne Chin, Count on My Love – I’ve loved The Voice from the beginning, but Tessanne’s album (which got released in June) is the first Voice winner’s album I’ve actually bought. She’s an amazing and unique talent, and the album does feel like its an extension of the person you met on the show.
  4. Chris Cauley, She Can’t Take My Love – Chris appeared on the second season of The Voice and immediately impressed me with his rendition of “Grenade.” Though his time on the show was short-lived, I was so impressed by his voice that I continued to follow his music. So glad I did and helped fund (through Kickstarter of course) his EP My Turn which was released last year.
  5. Dia Frampton, Walk Away – She may have been known as one half of the sister duo Meg & Dia prior to being on The Voice, but Dia made a name for herself and took it to second place in the first season. Her album Red was one of my favourites in 2011, with its eclectic mix that still managed to personify Dia as an artist.
  6. Will Champlin, Eye of the Pyramid – Will came in third place in season 5 of The Voice, and that was after being stolen twice during the run of the show! His album Borrowing Trouble was released in June and like Tessanne’s album, it’s what you would have expected from him if you were a fan of his during the show.
  7. Jordis Unga, Hold on Me – I first remember Jordis from when she competed on a show called Rock Star: INXS and one of my favourite songs she did on that show was “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie – that was 2005. Flash forward to 2012, where Jordis re-appears on my radar, appearing on season 2 of The Voice. Like Chris Cauley, I backed her Kickstarter, and “Hold on Me” is one of the songs that is featured on her album A Letter from Home.
  8. David Cook, Life on the Moon – I think it’s safe to say that David kind of ruined how I watch American Idol, in the BEST way possible. That is to say, season 7 of Idol was a game changer and that’s because David regularly remade the songs he performed on the show so they didn’t sound exactly like the original. I mean, who can forget his rendition of “Always Be My Baby“? Classic. Since then, he’s released two full albums and I actually wanted to include his song “Laying Me Low” which is a little bit more recent, but because Spotify doesn’t have it, I picked my favourite song from his first album.
  9. Tony Lucca, All My Friends – Tony had a pretty decent career/following before going on The Voice. I wish I could say I’ve followed his career for a long time but The Voice really was my true introduction to his music (I only knew of him previously as a former Mickey Mouse Club member). He released an EP under Adam Levine’s 222 Records label, but has now gone back to his indie roots and has released another EP Drawing Board on his own.
  10. Melinda Doolittle, You’re the Reason (U.R.Y) – One of the best talents to come out of Idol and she needs to get more recognition. Melinda is simply amazing and this song, from the album of the same name, features her flawless vocals over a modern R&B sound that still has a little old school feel to it. So in other words, it’s awesome.
  11. Ben Hazlewood, Twice – Ben surprised me on the first season of The Voice Australia and it continued post-show. I was incredibly impressed by his EP Loveless which turned out to be a very solid collection of pop songs.
  12. Diana Rouvas, If We Never Said Hello – I feel like it’s a pattern with me, following the careers of more non-winners than actual show winners, but that’s because there’s just so many talented singers who deserve recognition. Diana is another alum from the first season of The Voice Australia, who has such a soulful yet cool voice. I’ve got one of her original songs here, but may I suggest you check out her rendition of Beyonce’s “Love on Top”? Just as good, if not better than the original (yeah, I said it.)
  13. Carrie Underwood, Undo It – I wasn’t a huge fan of Carrie’s, thought she was a great singer on Idol and she deserved to win, I just wasn’t that big on country music. I slowly became a fan after the release of “Before He Cheats” and by the time she released her third album Play On, which features “Undo It” I was a convert. I still can’t do the REALLY COUNTRY songs, but give me a country song with a rock edge and we’re good.

 

My Blog as a Mixtape

Joie Fatale of Confessions of a Book Pimp wrote a post recently called¬† “My Blog as a Mixtape”, and thinking that it’s a really cool idea, I got inspired to do it for Pop Cultured Randoms. The challenge is pretty self-explanatory: make a mixtape – five songs on side A, five songs on side B – that encapsulate what the blog is all about.

Now Pop Cultured Randoms is and always has been an extension of who I am: a fan of all things pop culture – music, movies, television. Trying to define the blog in a mixtape however, has turned out to simultaneously be a fun and difficult task. I don’t want this to simply be a compilation of my favourite songs because that’s a hard task and honestly, it’d end up being like 100 songs with half of it being comprised entirely of Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 songs. That being said, seeing as how I often blog about my favourite artists and whatnot, it’s inevitable that my favourites will indeed be included in this playlist.

Here we go…

SIDE A – Pop Favourites

  1. Justin Timberlake, Let the Groove Get In – I can’t not have JT in a mixtape and though this track isn’t my absolute favourite of his, it is just so much fun to dance to.
  2. Kelly Clarkson, How I Feel – This jem from Kelly’s underrated third album “My December” is pretty much me in a nutshell. The title itself is also very indicative of the blog; I write about how I feel on various pop culture things, so just let me be.
  3. Maroon 5, Sweetest Goodbye – Picking a M5 was so hard but ultimately, I just ended up with, no question, my favourite song of theirs, which happened to stem from “Songs About Jane.” The song is everything I love about M5 – the fusion of pop, rock, R&B; a kind of slow-burning love song that builds to a climax featuring Adam’s longing vocals and the band just jamming, made all the more euphoric when you hear them perform this song live. DAMN I LOVE THIS SONG!
  4. Kyle Riabko, The Rules of the Game – We have a lot of talent coming out of Canada and one of my favourites is Kyle Riabko. He’s an incredibly talented singer-songwriter and actor, who has done quite well for himself on Broadway (he took over for Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening back in 2008, went on to Hair,¬†and most recently starred in What’s It All About, a reimagination of Burt Bacharach classics for which he arranged the music). I am Canadian and though I don’t regularly acknowledge Canadian talent, do go and check out Kyle’s discography, which is filled with an incredible amount of soul and a hint of indie folk rock.
  5. Delta Goodrem, Waiting for Forever – I’m a little fuzzy on how exactly I came across Delta in the first place, but I’ve been a fan of this Australian singer/songwriter for 10 years. Even as she dives deeper into the pop sound, she holds onto her core of piano-driven songs and thoughtful lyrics.

SIDE B – Random

  1. Tony Lucca, Baby One More Time – This song is a reminder of what I loved when I was growing up (Britney Spears, pop music) and how much (or little, it’s debatable) my tastes have changed. What I have always loved is a good cover, and this one done by Tony (who was on the Mickey Mouse Club back in the day with Britney, JT, X-Tina, Ryan Gosling) on the second season of The Voice was just all kinds of genius.
  2. Gavin DeGraw, I Don’t Want to Be – “I don’t wanna be anything other than me”; how is that not everyone’s motto? As much as we try to run a successful blog/life/whatever, at the end of the day we just have to do what works for us. The song was also the theme for one of my favourite TV shows One Tree Hill, so this song will always have a special place in my heart. Plus, now every time I see Gavin in concert performing this song, I picture the OTH finale with the whole gang singing along.
  3. Jay-Z & Linkin Park, Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer – Here’s where we get truly random. If you actually met me in person, I don’t think you’d expect me to be a fan of either of these acts, let alone the fact that Collision Course is quite possibly one of my favourite albums. I love me a good mash-up, which by extension brings forth the fact that I love a lot of different music, and this entire album was filled with them. The rap and alternative rap-rock melds so well and truly personifies the random part of the blog.
  4. Legally Blonde the Musical, There Right There – My adoration for musicals is a lot more believable than the Jay-Z/Linkin Park pairing. Say what you will, but Legally Blonde is one of my favourite movies (I will always stop to watch it if it comes on TV) and not surprisingly, I fell in love with the musical. With this song, it’s equal parts silly and awesome.
  5. Thanh Bui, Mirror Mirror – Holding onto my Vietnamese heritage is something that’s important to me and one of the best ways for me to do that is through music. Every once in a while I’ll blog about a Vietnamese entertainment show called Paris By Night. PBN is amazing to me because though its focus is on Vietnamese culture and music, it is by no means just some concert. The production is actually done by Hollywood standards.; they hire the best in the business from their directors, lighting, camera crew, dancers, etc. This song in particular appeared in PBN 96 as a featured performance by Thanh Bui, a singer/songwriter out of Australia (he was a contestant on Australian Idol), and what makes it so special is that it’s actually written/performed in equal parts English and Vietnamese. It’s a pop song in the veins of OneRepublic (circa the “Apologize” days) and so well-crafted, it pleases me to no end to have a song that melds all these parts of me (Vietnamese, Canadian, music fan) into one.

Geez, that was difficult. You have no idea how many changes I made and what songs almost made the cut, but in the end, I’d say this is a pretty decent mixtape that properly represents Pop Cultured Randoms.

Thanks again Joie for the idea!