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!

MORE MUSIC! Songs That Get Me Singing + Dancing

If it isn’t evident by now, music plays a huge part in my life. I hate the sound of silence, so I always need some kind of music playing whenever I’m doing anything. The right songs will always instantly put me into a good mood. You will never see me happier than when I am a.) at a concert or, b.) by myself in my room or car. It’s only in those instances that I completely let myself go and sing/dance along like there’s no tomorrow. Believe me when I tell you that I’m constantly singing and making up choreography while I’m driving. It’s terrible, but I do it anyways (and I’m still a perfectly safe driver, thankyouverymuch). With that being said, for the last post of my personal blogging challenge, I present to you a rather lengthy playlist of songs that I will always sing along or dance to (also, what I will be listening to all day today for my birthday).

Music/Lyric Therapy

Anybody who knows me would know that I’m a quiet person, who doesn’t talk a lot. Anybody who really knows me would know that I’m not so great with words and explaining things, which is why I’m usually quiet and would much rather listen to what everyone else has to say, then jump in only when I feel like I can contribute to the conversation. I’m kind of socially awkward that way. (The exception to all this being when you get me going on a really good entertainment subject, I can probably ramble on for a good while.) Over the years, I’ve been the one who is always there for my friends, support and encourage them, and especially while I was still in school, I was almost always the positive and optimistic one. Once real life kicked in though, it became hard for me to keep up that positive outlook. Some days, it actually feels like I can’t count anyone or turn to anyone for support. With my tendency of being quiet and letting everyone else talk about their problems, I’ve grown to internalize my problems and feelings, which is not incredibly healthy.

That’s where music comes in. Music is my therapy. It cheers me up when I’m in a bad mood. It sings the words that I can’t seem to let out and all the things that I’m feeling. Over the years I’ve learned to listen to the lyrics as much, if not more than the actual song itself. I found myself drawn to songs with lyrics (even if it was just one line) that I could relate to. Even if I gave the lyrics a different meaning than what was intended (which happens quite a bit), it still became important to me because someone had given words to what I was feeling.

This reminds me of something said from One Tree Hill:

You know, I got this theory that there’s two kinds of people in the world: There are lyric people and music people. You know, the lyric people tend to be “analytical,” you know, all about the meaning of the song. They’re the ones you see with the CD insert out like five minutes after buying it, pouring over the lyrics… interpreting the hell out of everything. Then there’s the music people, who could care less what the lyrics are, just as long as it’s got like, a good beat and you could dance to it. I don’t know, sometimes it might be easier to be a music girl and not a lyric girl, but since I’m not, let me just say this: sometimes things find you when you need them to find you. I believe that. And for me, it’s usually song lyrics.

Music and lyrics are my inspiration, what gets me through tough times. Over the years, I began to compile lyrics from numerous songs and artists that served as a catharsis to explain how I felt. This is by no means a comprehensive list, because it could go on forever, but just a sampling of music + lyrics that have put into words what I could never explain about myself.

SONG LYRICS

I’m asking for your help. I am going through hell. Afraid nothing can save me but the sound of your voice. – Maroon 5How

I’m getting tired of believing. Even sicker of pretending, that it’s not so bad, just wait it out. I think you’re feeding me lies again…And that’s how I feel right now, so just let me be – Kelly Clarkson “How I Feel”

Sitting in a big white room alone, Tilt my head back, feel the tears fall down. Close my eyes to see in the dark. I feel young, broken, so so scared. I don’t wanna be here anymore – Jessie J “Big White Room”

Don’t lose who you are, in the blur of the stars. Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing. It’s okay not to be okay. Sometimes it’s hard, to follow your heart. Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising, just be true to who you are – Jessie J “Who You Are”

When you lose what you love, live on live on. When the road gets too rough, be strong, be strong. What you can’t understand, but you’re starting to see, it’ll work in the end, you just got to believe and keep on – Tyler Hilton “Keep On”

All my life I’ve tried to make everybody happy, while I just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide – Sara Bareilles “King of Anything”

‘Cause when you’re in your darkest hour and all of the light just fades away. When you’re like a single flower, whose colours have turned to shades of grey. Well hang on and be strong – Delta Goodrem “Be Strong”

2am, where do I begin? Crying off my face again, the silent sound of loneliness wants to follow me to bed. I’m the ghost of a girl that I want to be most. I’m the shell of a girl that I used to know well – Christina Perri “The Lonely”

The girl I used to be has a terrible case of mistaken identity. – Delta Goodrem “Mistaken Identity”

When the static clears and all is said and done, I will realize that we all need someone. So when you see me crashing and there’s nowhere left to fall, will you lift me even higher to rise above this all? – Christina Aguilera “Lift Me Up”

I’m tired of looking ‘round rooms, wondering what I’ve got to do or who I’m supposed to be. I don’t want to be anything other than me – Gavin Degraw “I Don’t Want to Be”

And I know that it’s a wonderful world but I can’t feel it right now. Well I thought that I was doing well but I just want to cry now…But who am I to dream? Dreams are for fools, they let you down – James Morrison “Wonderful World”

In my life I don’t mean much to anyone…Some people say that I’m not worth it. I’ve made mistakes but nobody’s perfect – James Morrison “One Last Chance”

Some of us we’re hardly ever here. The rest of us were born to disappear. How do I stop myself from being just a number? How will I hold my head to keep from going under? – John Mayer “Vultures”

In the night we’re all looking for a guiding light, we’re all seeking something more than right. It must be there. Everyday, we’re all trying to find a better way. We’re all hoping for someone to say we’re almost there. We believe there’s a reason that we’re all here, that every doubt will disappear. We believe that tomorrow carries something new and after everything that we’ve been through, we believe – David Cook “We Believe”

I wanna think good thoughts. I won’t let the negativity turn me into my enemy. Promise to myself that I won’t let it get the best of me. That’s how I want to be – Colbie Caillat “Think Good Thoughts”

Please remind me who I really am. Everybody’s got a dark side. Do you love me? Do you love mine? Nobody’s a picture perfect, but we’re worth it, you know that we’re worth it – Kelly Clarkson “Dark Side”

Would you face me? Make me listen to the truth even if it breaks me. You can judge me, love me. If you’re hating me, do it honestly – Kelly Clarkson “Honestly”

I’m feeling like I always see them but they can’t see me. Hello, is anybody listening? Let go, as everyone lets go of me. Won’t somebody show me that I’m not alone…Wishing I was more than what my story has told…Holding on to the memories of when I didn’t know. Ignorance isn’t wise but it beats being alone  – Kelly Clarkson “Hello”

Why do I even try when you take me for granted? I should know better by now. It’s never too late to turn it back around. Don’t bury your demons deep in the ground – James Morrison “Up”

Now in life there’s gonna be times when you’re feeling low and in your mind insecurity seems to take control. We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval. We keep forgetting that the one thing we should know is, don’t be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own. Love will open every door it’s in your hands, the world is yours. Don’t hold back and always know, all the answers will unfold – Christina Aguilera “Soar”

Now I’m sitting here alone in my bed. I’m waiting for an answer I don’t know that I’ll get. And I know there’s someone out there somewhere, who has it much worse than I do. It’s like I’m only tryin’ to dig my way out of all these things I can’t…These times will try hard to define me, but I will hold my head up high – SafetysuitThese Times

It makes me that much stronger, makes me work a little bit harder. It makes me that much wiser, thanks for making me a fighter. Made me learn a little bit faster, made my skin a little bit thicker, makes me that much smarter, so thanks for making me a fighter – Christina AguileraFighter

Hear me, I’m crying out, I’m ready now. Turn my world upside down, find me. I’m lost inside the crowd, it’s getting loud. I need you to see, I’m screaming for you to please hear me – Kelly ClarksonHear Me

Sometimes we fall, sometimes we don’t feel the crash at all. Sometimes we break, sometimes we’ve taken all that we can take. But tonight ain’t the end of the story, just keep turning the page. Don’t give into the heartache. Don’t give into the pain, this world will turn your way – Tyler HiltonThis World Will Turn Your Way

When there’s no one else, look inside yourself, and like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within. Then you’ll find the strength that will guide your way. You’ll learn to begin to trust the voice within – Christina Aguilera “The Voice Within”

I’m tired of hiding behind these lying eyes. I’m tired of this smile that even I don’t recognize – The WreckersThe Good Kind”

‘Cause someday maybe, somebody will love me like I need. And someday I won’t have to prove, ’cause somebody will see all my worth. But until then I’ll do just fine on my own – The WreckersCigarettes

Why do I try and make them happy? Why am I always playing nice? It isn’t easy trying to tell you, exactly what’s on my mind – The WreckersHard to Love You

Oh these times are hard, they’re making us crazy, don’t give up on me – The Script “For the First Time”

But I’m scared to death, that there may not be another one like this. And I confess, that I’m only hanging on by a thin, thin thread – Maroon 5 “Sad”

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!

5 Fandom Friday: Songs That Changed My Life

fandom.5.friday

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.