Music Monday: Old Favourites (AKA When Music Was Awesome)

Pop music has been sort of my bread and butter. It’s pretty much what I grew up on, between my dad listening to ABBA and the Bee Gees; my sister¬† listening to New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Madonna, George Michael; and the modern Vietnamese music I gravitated towards – pop music was in me from the get-go. Once I hit the all important tween years (before it was really even called that) in the late 90s, the pop music scene was reaching a whole new level. MTV was still playing music videos and the prevalence of TRL certainly helped elevate the status of pop stars (and other artists) to what we remember. The songs were infectious and well-crafted, which also applies to the R&B music of the time. Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia when I hear them, but 10-15 years later, I feel like a lot of the songs held up incredibly well; there was something about the music in the late 90s/early 00s that had such an appeal. So with that being said, I give you a rather comprehensive playlist of some of my favourites from back in the day.

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Music Monday: The Forgotten Pop Songs of the Late 90s/Early 00s

I loved The Nerdy Girlie’s Boy Band edition of Music Monday last week that I kinda had to steal her idea. Ok, so stealing isn’t the right word, more like inspired. From time to time, I still go back and listen to songs from 5ive, BBMak, and SoulDecision, but their inclusion in Megan’s list got me thinking: What other songs did I used to listen as an impressionable young teen that might have been forgotten about or didn’t quite strike the same nostalgia chords as say an NSYNC or Backstreet Boys song did or for some reason weren’t quite as big a hit as I might have thought they were? I mean being Canadian, we got music that came out of the U.S., homegrown in Canada, and stuff from the U.K., so I’m not even sure if everyone has heard all of these songs. Oh well!

  1. Westlife, Swear It Again
  2. S Club 7, S Club Party – If you know this song, you love it. Don’t lie.
  3. All Saints, I Know Where It’s At
  4. MyTown, Party All Night – For the longest time, I didn’t realize that Danny and Mark from The Script used to be in this boy band. Like seriously. I couldn’t believe it and now I can’t help but giggle every time I listen to The Script.
  5. M2M, Mirror Mirror
  6. Eden’s Crush, Get Over Yourself – Hey, remember the first girl group Nicole Scherzinger was apart of?
  7. A-Teens, Upside Down
  8. Robyn, Show Me Love – Robyn is known as a dance artist these days, but when she first came on the scene, she was decidedly much more pop.
  9. 5ive, When the Lights Go Out – I had to include this song, if only so I can mention the music video. Now they had a video when the song was released in the UK but then they did another one for the US release…AND it featured Bethany Joy Lenz (aka Haley from One Tree Hill)!
  10. Jennifer Love Hewitt, How Do I Deal – When JLH tried her hand at singing. It wasn’t bad – and she did actually release a couple albums – it just wasn’t spectacular.
  11. Jennifer Paige, Crush – I legitimately loved this song, almost on par with Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.
  12. Sugar Jones, Days Like That – Canada’s girl group that came out of the show Popstars, similar to how Eden’s Crush was created.
  13. Scene 23, I Really Don’t Think So – Hey, remember when Josh Henderson was in this pop group before becoming an actor?
  14. Willa Ford, I Wanna Be Bad
  15. Dream, He Loves U Not
  16. BBMak, Back Here – Because I still love this song. And it still totally holds up to this day.

Man, I could totally extend this list even more. But I won’t. This has been fun though, so I may have to do more Music Monday posts.

And for your listening pleasure, a Spotify playlist featuring (almost) all the songs!

Because even Spotify has its limits, I’ve included the videos for the missing songs below.

 

 

Album Review: Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2”

The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2

We got spoiled, JT fans! After enduring a seven-year wait, Justin Timberlake released his second album this year. Calling part 2 of The 20/20 Experience the darker, older sister of part 1, Justin and Timbaland bring on all the stylistic sounds that define their music partnership. The result is a much sexier sounding album, that for the most part, lives up the JT’s description of it being darker than part 1. Once again, thought to only be a Target exclusive, the deluxe edition of the album is the one that’s being sold everywhere in Canada (so yay for us!)

TRACK-BY-TRACK REVIEW

  1. Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want) – Like Pusher Love Girl on part 1, this song sets the tone for what we can expect for this rest of this album. Gimme What I Don’t Know plays up on the jungle theme and gives us this sexy, dance sound that kind of reminds me of some of Timbaland’s old tracks. On the same end, it also reminds me a little of FutureSex/LoveSounds (the song) – can’t exactly pinpoint why, but it does.
  2. True Blood – When I saw this title, obviously the first thing I thought of was the show, and I’m like “Ok let’s see where he’s gonna go with this…” What JT brings here is a dark, sexy, and yes, vampiristic (probably not a word, but just go with it) song, that will make you dance and will be so fun to watch on tour.
  3. Cabaret ft. Drake – I think this is a great collaboration. The song itself is like the older, sexier version of My Love (the theme continues!) with Drake coming in for T.I. The collaboration works so well because Drake isn’t your typical rapper and he has the R&B influences in his own songs. With Justin’s songs being that pop/R&B/hip-hop mix, the two artists together just work so well.
  4. TKO – This was a smart choice for a second single and it plays so well for radio. Obviously I like hearing my favourite artists on the radio, so I’d be waiting to hear JT regardless, but I LOVE hearing this song when it comes on the radio and I’m sitting in the car. I don’t know why but this song just makes for good driving music (or maybe it applies more to when sitting in traffic).
  5. Take Back the Night – The lead single took some flack for its title, but besides that little controversy, the song is the best kind of throwback dance song. It evokes a feeling of some Michael Jackson classics, that you honestly can’t help but dance along to.
  6. Murder ft. Jay-Z – Justin and Jay-Z keep killing it on all their collaborations, from their songs to their stadium tour. The beats are classic Timbaland and is a slight reminder to his work with Missy Elliott. If this song was around back in my high school dance crew days, this would totally be a track we’d use.
  7. Drink You Away – JT mixes in a little country-rock flavour to this track. I call this like a follow-up to Pusher Love Girl, if only because after being high on love in that song, Justin’s now heartbroken and trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol.
  8. You Got It On – For some reason, I don’t think Justin has used his falsetto this much in a song as he does here. That’s not meant to be deemed as a bad thing, as his falsetto on this more innocent-sounding track gives it almost a Motown feel.
  9. Amnesia – For those who don’t like how long most of these songs are, I give you this song as a case for it. It’s a dark R&B track about the person you love changing so much that you don’t know who they are anymore. Just when you think the song ended, Justin comes back in with a more solemn tone in his voice, lamenting his relationship. It sounds almost like two separate songs.
  10. Only When I Walk Away – We get treated to a little rock edge to Justin’s sound on this track. It’s a little bit of a foot-stomper that will play so well live when he goes on tour.
  11. Not A Bad Thing/Pair of Wings [Hidden Track] – Blame it on the recent, albeit short, *NSYNC reunion, but my friend made a point to me that Tunnel Vision off part 1 of the “Experience” sounded like something that *NSYNC would do if they were recording in the present day. So when I heard Not A Bad Thing, I felt like there was such an easy flow to it that reminded of the 90s pop I grew up on. It’s a good song,even though it feels a little out of place on this album. The same can be said about Pair of Wings, an extra hidden track that gets put on the album. It’s a sweet (slightly cheesy in the vein of Nothin’ Else) acoustic guitar-driven pop song that seems so weird being on this album, when compared to the rest of the album.
  12. Blindness [Bonus Track] – If the previous song reminded me of 90s pop, well, this one reminds me of 90s R&B. It just has a nice smooth flow to it.
  13. Electric Lady [Bonus Track] – It’s another case of “this sounds like old school Timbaland” where you could imagine it being an Aaliyah track with different lyrics because it’s straight up R&B, and he’s not experimenting too much with the beats.

I loved this album at first listen, and with each subsequent listen, I love it even more. Then hearing it in the car, as opposed to just on the computer, I pick up more little details in the production, which is really cool (and actually applies to both parts of the “Experience”). As two separate albums, I loved the retro throwback sounds of part 1, and especially love the Latin flavour he brought on Let the Groove Get In. Not that there weren’t dance-able moments in part 1, but I feel like there’s a lot more of it on part 2. I also feel like radio will be more receptive to the songs on part 2; there’s more potential singles on this one.

Regardless, I love both albums and I just hope the wait for the next album isn’t as long as the wait between FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience.

When Songs Sound Similar to One Another

I woke up yesterday morning to my local radio station promoting the fact that they’d be playing the new Katy Perry song Roar every hour, so no one would miss it. A few minutes later, they played the song, and as soon as it started, I started thinking to myself “Why does this sound familiar?” Once the chorus of Roar kicked in, I found myself singing instead “Say what you wanna say and the let the words fall out/ Honestly, I wanna see you be brave” It turned out that Katy Perry’s new song sounded eerily similar to Sara Bareilles’ Brave. I’m not the only one who noticed, since in no time at all, others made the connection. Responses to the similarities ranged from:

  • Brave >>>>> Roar (I’m part of the group who shares this opinion)
  • The similarities are minor/ I don’t see the fuss/ Can’t they just co-exist?
  • They’re two totally different songs!

What’s funny is that both songs were written by different people, who just happened to be on the same wavelength and decided to write songs that ended up being quite similar to one another. Problem is, Sara’s song has been out since April. And compared to Katy, Sara is a minor artist, so while radio stations are rushing to put Roar on repeat, Brave hasn’t been heard as much (here on Canadian radio anyways) and now is only recognized because of this “controversy.”

 

Anyways, all this talk about these two songs sounding similar to one another got me thinking about past examples, and one of my favourite memories from college. See, two of my friends and I were studying/doing homework for the one class we had together, and somehow we started talking about music (clearly not studying). At the time, Chris Brown had a song out called With You.¬†My friend Chris and I talked about the merits of the song, and it came up that it was pretty much Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, Part 2. Our friend Ian never made the connection before and so we made him REALLY listen to With You. Within seconds, he started singing “To the left, to the left” over top of the Chris Brown song, and his look of realization was the equivalent to the How I Met Your Mother “glass shattering” when they realized each others’ annoying habits. It was kind of hilarious. Then we started going with other songs that sounded similar or had similar elements: Rihanna & Ne-Yo’s Hate That I Love You and Ne-Yo’s Sexy Love; Leona Lewis’ Angel and Jordin Sparks’ Tattoo, to name a few.

 

Also, who could forget the controversy that occurred when Beyonce released Halo and Kelly Clarkson released Already Gone. Kelly Clarkson doesn’t take s**t from anybody, so when she has an opinion about something, girl let’s it be known – and she was none too pleased with Ryan Tedder, who produced both songs. As far as releasing the songs as a single, Beyonce was first, but in the production of the song, Kelly’s was first. For me, this was the beginning of when I started to not like Tedder as much. His songs started having an element about them that sounded the same.

 

Any other songs out there, released at relatively the same time, that sound alike? Songs that sample other songs are an entirely different story. I’m talking two seemingly different songs that share similar qualities.

Can One Song/Event Change Our Views of Music Artists?

Have you hated a song so much that it negatively impacted how you view an artist? If they have been around a while, their back catalogue and the memories you have associated with that artist may stay the same, but after that ONE song, anything that comes afterwards is subject to major scrutiny. Or has that artist done something that in a way taints your perception of them, and thereby affects how (or even if) you listen to their new music. These random thoughts have popped up into my mind on several occasions as of late.

It all started when I heard Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” for the millionth time. I don’t finish the song, mind you – it just pops up in commercials and whatnot, then annoys the hell out of me. The only song of hers from this period that I like is “Curiosity”, but due to the ubiquity and radio overplay of “Call Me Maybe”, it has caused me to have a certain distaste for every other song she’s done since (add to the fact that her album is not the pop music I like). It’s a shame because I was somewhat of a fan of her initial debut album Tug of War, released after her time on Canadian Idol. So while it was cool, for a little while at the beginning of all this nonsense, to see another Canadian artist get massive success, it annoys me now that it was for THAT song.

Rihanna is an interesting case study. When she first came onto the music scene, with ‘Pon De Replay” and then a little bit later with “S.O.S.”, I didn’t make much of her. It was a little fun to listen to at the time, but nothing felt special. Then she released her album Good Girl Gone Bad, buoyed by the release of “Umbrella” as the first single, which we can all agree was a complete game changer for her. That album, and its subsequent re-release, spawned numerous hit singles and she followed it up with Rated R, an equally solid effort that saw Rihanna get darker and edgier. But then she kept churning out a new album every year, and I got increasingly tired of hearing her songs on the radio. It’s like, take a break already!

It only makes sense now to include Chris Brown in this list. I was never a big fan of Chris Brown; he had a few songs in his earlier days that I enjoyed and only really cared for because we used them for Dance Crew back in my high school days. And then the pre-Grammy incident happened with Rihanna. What we thought we knew about him changed completely, and yet he continues to make more music and sell records. I have a friend who tried to get me to listen to one of his newer songs “Fine China,” but I couldn’t do it. I can’t stand him really and even a supposedly great R&B track, won’t change my opinion of him.

You want to know what really pains me to have to include in this post? Britney Spears. I’ve been a Britney fan from the beginning and love her style of pop music. Now to be honest, I have to admit that I was not a big fan of her last album, Femme Fatale – it was veering into the dance pop/EDM that I’m not into at all, though there was a handful of tracks that I legitimately liked. But then she was featured on the will.i.am song “Scream and Shout” and I honest to goodness hated it. I think it took me two (maybe three) months before I could listen to the song IN FULL, and that was because I couldn’t change the radio station. Yep, I hated the song so much, I could not listen to more than 20 seconds at a time. I think it was the Britney sing-talking(?) in a fake British accent that threw me off…well, that and I didn’t really hear much of substance in the lyrics (what lyrics?!). Now, she’s released a song for the Smurfs 2 movie and I could not care less about it either (doesn’t help that it’s for the Smurfs 2 soundtrack! THE SMURFS! Give me the original animated stuff, not this CGI stuff! Talk about tainting my childhood…Sorry, tangent.) Point is, I’m not particularly liking the direction that Britney is taking with her music. I still love all her old music (the Britney/Dream Within A Dream era was by far my favourite), but her new material really leaves something to be desired. Maybe that’s part of the problem: Britney’s music changes with the times and right now the big thing is dance pop/EDM. My musical tastes have changed and though I’m still a sucker for a GOOD pop track, my dislike of electronica/dance/techno pop still hasn’t changed over the years.

So are there any artists out there who you may have liked in the past, but now hold different views of? Has this happened in regards to other celebrities? What caused the change? Let me know in the comments!