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.

Music Monday: Keeping Up With New Music

I will be the first to admit that I am not on the top of my game when it comes to discovering new music. And even so, TV has taken up so much of my time that even if I find out about somebody new or a new song, it takes me a while to actually go and listen. Last week, I get a random text from a friend asking if I have heard of James Bay. This is the gist of our conversation following that question:

Me: I’ve heard OF him. Haven’t gotten around to listening to his music.

Friend: He’s amazing! He’s playing a show in Toronto tonight. I’ve been looking for tickets but it’s sold out.

M: [quickly goes to YouTube, listens to a song] HE’S GOOD! You have to give me notice about these things!

F: You’re supposed to be the concert guru!

M: Only if I know about them!

Basically, our conversation just made me fully realize just how much I’m slacking when it comes to new music. Actually, I’m slacking all together when it comes to music because I missed out on some concert news that have resulted in sold out shows. FAIL. So in my attempt to rectify my recent music situation, I finally checked out the music of two artists I had been hearing so much about: James Bay and Tori Kelly.

I’ve quickly become a fan of James Bay, who is yet another British import, though very much different from his contemporaries Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. He’s got a very raspy/soulful tone that reminds me of James Morrison, but with a slightly more folk rock sound.

Tori Kelly is a pop/R&B singer/songwriter, who started out like many people do these days, on YouTube, though she’s more than proven her talent. The first single from her debut album “Nobody Love” puts her sound alongside the likes of Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez, very mainstream pop. Go back a couple years to some of her older songs and they are reminiscent of JoJo and maybe even a little Jessie J.

Music Monday: Absolute Favourites

If you’ve read the blog or have known me long enough, you probably have a good idea at who my most favourite music artists are – Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Kyle Riabko, and Delta Goodrem. I could go into detail about why I love them so much, but the simple and vague answer is that, there’s just something about who they are and their music that I connect with. There are also a bunch of other artists whom I am a big fan of and really love – Sara Bareilles, Matt Nathanson, Gavin DeGraw, Christina Aguilera, Kris Allen, The Script, Tyler Hilton, James Morrison, Michelle Branch – though not quite at the same level as the other six. That’s not to mention my love of Vietnamese music as well. For this week’s Music Monday, I share with you my favourite songs from my favourite artists (limited to 3 songs each), plus some additional songs I absolutely love (not including any Vietnamese songs in this playlist though, that’ll be for another day/post).