At What Age Do You Stop Shakin’ Dat Booty?

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Seems like a LOT of pop music today is concerned with one thang…and that’s how you shake dat ass. Now…I’m 45 years old AND a dude so…if I go shakin’ MY booty, there’s gonna be a lot of broken parts to pick up. But there are quite a few artists that are singing about your derriere and how it should move and I understand that in order to dance you have to kinda know how to move your body but there sure is enough of it to go around these days. For example…Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” I wouldn’t call this a Minaj song because, quite frankly, it’s not. Sure…she adds her rap in it, but for the most part, it’s Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” from 1992. It’s not the song that concerns me but the video that goes with it. It’s mostly a bunch of scantily clad women and Nicki herself, shaking what they got in the jungle to that famous Sir Mix-A-Lot background music. Now…from an artist like Nicki Minaj, I get it. She has shot to the top of the pop charts being outrageous and has used her ample bottom to create quite a stir on the internet over whether or not it’s a real butt or a fake one. For the record, I don’t really care. I’m not a Minaj fan nor do I follow her on the Twitter, however she’s hard to miss with her fake Barbi doll makeup and day-glo outfits.

Nicki Minaj

What I AM concerned about and why I’m even writing about this topic is because of the OTHER booty shakin’ song that has hit the world wide web by one of the more famous and popular artists in the world, Jennifer Lopez. Jennifer Lopez is a 44 year old pop culture phenomenon. She is an American actress, author, fashion designer, dancer, producer, singer, and songwriter. She has taken her place among the upper echelon of superstars in American & Latino cultures. She’s a judge on one of the biggest television shows in the past 15 years. She’s had countless hit singles, made plenty of entertaining movies (except for “Gigli,” which is commonly placed as one of the worst films in movie history) and has been credited with breaking racial barriers in the entertainment industry. She is on top of the world…and then she goes and releases her new single, “Booty.”

Actually…it’s not even the song that I find disturbing. The song, by itself, isn’t a great song, but I can see how it might be popular in dance clubs and why she would choose to include it on her latest album, “A.K.A.” Originally the song was with rap artist, Pitbull, but for whatever reason, she had it remixed with the latest “hot” thang, Iggy Azalea, and released a soft core porn video to go with it. It’s the video I want to put up for debate here today because I’m not sure I get it. I’ve watched the video, I’ve listened to the song and now I’m wondering…why?

Why does a 44 year old woman at the top of her game, with millions of adoring fans (mostly young women, I imagine) want to make a video of herself shaking her butt in the camera while dripping wet or covered in honey? What kind of message does this send our young ladies?

Look…I’m all for making a buck. I understand that, as an artist these days, you really have to be at the forefront when it comes to promoting yourself and keeping yourself relevant. But Jennifer Lopez? Who DOESN’T know who Jennifer Lopez is? Now Iggy Azalea shaking her butt at the camera I kinda get. She’s what…22? She just hit the scene over the last 8 months or so? So I imagine the music industry EXPECTS her to make this kind of video, much like Nicki Minaj and a slew of other popular R&B/Pop artists today. Sex sells…and Hollywood and the music industry often take every opportunity they can to market the latest and greatest booty they can find. But JENNIFER LOPEZ?

C’mon J-Lo. You can be ABOVE all of this. If YOU don’t stand up and say, “This is bullshit! I don’t NEED to shake MY butt at the camera because I am J-Lo!”, then who will?

All I hear and read about these days is how women are tired of being objectified. Tired of dealing with the over-sexualization of our culture here in America. Tired of not being equal in the workplace and in their homes and among their male friends. Women NEED a strong voice. Women need someone to set an example. I’m not saying leave your sexuality at the door. That’s not what I’m talking about. Beyonce made an excellent album last winter that included some pretty sexual lyrics and then she included videos to go with the songs and they were pretty racy. Admittedly I haven’t watched all of them but the couple I DID see I found myself blushing a little bit and wondering…why does she feel the need to put herself out there like that? In music, one can use their imaginations. But once a video is included, it kind of takes away that sexual edge. Then it just becomes an artist exposing themselves for the sake of making money. Jennifer Lopez has done exactly that with this new single and for some reason it makes me sad. Although I’m not a big fan of J-Lo, I have always found her to be an artist that I would want my daughter to listen too and to look up too. My family enjoys American Idol and Jenny From The Block has been one of the main reasons we enjoy the show. I know she has used her beauty and her body to create a niche for herself. But at the age of 44, does she NEED to be making videos like this one anymore?

I’m leaving this open to debate. I am NOT a religious fanatic. I am not condemning her to hell for it. I’m just curious…why? I hope this will open up some interesting discussion and not a bunch of hate-spewing angst but that always seems to go along with this type of post so…

What do YOU say? Here’s the video (conveniently attached to an American Idol promo). Just an FYI…it’s not safe for work. There’s no nudity but there IS a lot of gluteus maximus being thrown at your computer screen…

Lamenting The Death Of…The Cassette

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Everyone I know who is an audiophile will tell you…there’s no better way to listen to music than on vinyl. Placing the record onto the player, dropping the stylus onto the record, kicking back and listening to the music as it pours from your stereophonic speakers, pops and scratches and all. I get it. Everything about records is cool. With their black, circular grooves, sweet cover art and their stackability. EVERYONE loves records! But what about the evil stepchild? In the 80’s, prior to the vinyl record spawning into a much smaller and shinier CD, there was a boom of a different form. It wasn’t round, it wasn’t flashy and it wasn’t cool. It came in a small box, was made primarily of plastic and tape and had a history of the oxide tape getting caught in it’s player. It would occasionally pop and hiss and make odd squeaky noises. It was the cassette…and I owned HUNDREDS of them.

Listening to music today, most people my age cannot argue that, in most cases, everything IS clearer and cleaner these days. MP3’s and WAVS, the digital age has cleaned up all the pops & hisses. There are no more fantastically beautiful large, square covers to have to stack. There are no more small square boxes, be they cassette or CD, to have to store. Everything is ON your computer! Despite the fact that nostalgia is normally reserved for the vinyl LP, I have to tell you…sometimes I miss the cassette. I miss how small it was. I miss how it smelled when I unwrapped it. I miss sitting in front of my radio for hours on end, waiting to press “record” when the local radio station FINALLY played that one song that I HAD to hear and I finally caught it on tape so I could play it over & over again. I don’t miss the cassette for the audio quality because truthfully? It was kind of dreadful. But for my generation that grew up ordering 10 cassettes for a penny (and I’m pretty sure I STILL owe Columbia House thousands of dollars!), making mix tapes and running out of recording room on that VERY LAST SONG and hearing the squeak, squeak, squeak of the wheel turning on a tape that was just about to crap out, I can say…I miss that old plastic box. It was a good friend for 12 years or so.

I remember have drawers full of tapes and this morning, when I fired up the Facebook, an 80’s music and memories site that I enjoy called EMF (Eighties Music Forever) had posted the photo above and I HAD to count how many of the featured cassettes hanging on the wall I used to have. Surprisingly, it was a lot lower than I would have thought. Now…MOST of them I have now on CD or on my hard drive for whenever the mood strikes me to fire up some The The or Clash, but I was never cool enough to know who The Specials were and I never listened to Jane’s Addiction until I reached college in the early 90’s. My cassette collection consisted of mostly pop and R&B. So looking at the photo above, I remember owning maybe 23 of them on cassette.

In the 90’s, the CD had started to wipe out my cassette collection by TKO. The fall of the cassette was not painful. It was a swift and merciless changing of the guard as the compact disc blew away the little plastic box and, despite the fact that cassette decks were still being implemented into cars and trucks up until the late 1990’s, most of MY collection had found itself in the trash by 1995. Oh sure…I kept a couple and I imagine I have a few stored away in a box somewhere (gotta keep that first copy of U2’s “The Joshua Tree”…right?) but for the most part, my love affair with the cassette format has died and now I am a straight audio file kind of guy. They’re just easier and it takes a LOT less time to download a song on the internet than it does to get in my car, drive to the store, sift through racks of albums, buy the few I want (at FULL price?) and then drive home. Being a father of 2 and having to pay the bills, I don’t have the time to enjoy that process anymore. But I have to tell you…I DO miss those lazy days, sitting in front of my cassette player and sorting through my old cassette tape boxes, looking for the one song that was gonna make my day and then having to rewind the tape to the beginning because I FORGOT TO REWIND IT the night before. Those were the days, my friends. Those were the days…

My buddy, Newman, posted the following on his Facebook site the other day. I think it is an extremely well written and it has gotten me to reflect on the “good old days.” I’m going to re-post it here because I think it should be seen by whoever might appreciate it like I did. The cassette will always be dear to me, more so than vinyl or CD, because it reminds me of MY youth. Would I ever want to throw in an old cassette and pine away for the days gone by? Probably not. But for memories sake, I love the cassette and all of it’s weaknesses and I remember those days before its demise with great affection.

CHRIS NEWMAN FACEBOOK POST (May 22, 2013):

The first album I ever purchased was “Sports” by Huey Lewis and the News. I can remember buying it on cassette at Sam Goody’s in Columbus for $5.99 and thinking how grown-up I felt when I took it to the counter. I was 15, I think, circa 1985. Now there’s a 30 year-anniversary edition out which I have no interest in other than nostalgia but it is as good a time as any to reflect on an obsession that has only grown since that day. In fact behind my family it ranks surprisingly high as something I value even though the ubiquitous nature of music and media has made owning music less of a treasure than it used to be. It has always been about discovery for me, I can hear a song a million times but its meaning or sound can change depending on anything from the weather that day or my level of maturity (also on that day, but that’s another issue). Music I didn’t like in the 80’s (if it didn’t have guitar riffs count me out) has new found prominence in my collection like Depeche Mode or an album with mature themes like Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits makes much more impact now as a 40ish father of three than it did as a teen. I still get giddy (yes giddy) over finding newer artists I like such as !!! or rediscovering Queen and how amazingly rich their albums are and wonder how they never were quite the sensation in the U.S. they should have been. I also get obsessed over their biographies (God help me if “Behind The Music” ends up on Netflix) especially over The Beach Boys or The Who or some other equally volatile yet creative force that continues to fascinate me. I own safe to say a thousand, two thousand, three I don’t know really, albums and surprisingly I can actually pick a favorite. (Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blue, for the record).

One last memory I have to share while I’m thinking about it, I also have to blame the day I heard Led Zeppelin II on launching me into the obsessive world of rock and roll. I borrowed a homemade tape from a friend of mine back in high school, Jeff Ignatius. He loaned it to me to listen to Rush but I put on the wrong side and out came Whole Lotta Love and that was the difference between thinking music was nice background noise for a date at the local roller skating rink and realizing there was an entire world out there of things I had no idea about. That’s where “discovery” began and it’s not even close to being over with any luck. But thank you to Sports and all other touchstones on the way (Journey, I admit it). I feel like a better person because of my appreciation of rock music which is ironic since I was brought up in a time where Kiss, AC/DC and others were labeled devil music among other things so I was afraid to even be around that kind of thing as a kid. I hope thirty years from now people still buy physical albums because downloads are like getting sherbet when you really wanted ice cream. As long as artists keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and continue to learn odd little details about their music and about my own life.

For the record…MY first cassette that I ever bought with my own cash was Supertramp’s “Paris” double album. I can’t say it’s anywhere near close to my favorite album now but at the time it seemed like a bargain because it had all of their songs on one cassette! Well…it made sense in 1980 anyway…
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Confessions Of A Rick Springfield Fan

Rick-Springfield

I was 11 or 12 the first time I heard “Jessie’s Girl” on the radio. Back then, there weren’t a lot of options in my little town as far as radio stations went, so I listened to the same station every day, usually while I hung out in my room, reading comics or making mix cassettes. The year was 1981 and I spent most of my summer riding my bike, playing basketball or hanging out with my friends. There wasn’t a lot else to do out on old Route 60, so I spent many hours in front of that radio, hoping to hear my favorite songs and one of those songs was definitely “Jessie’s Girl.” I eventually bought the album, “Working Class Dog,” when the second single dropped. Rick Springfield was on a roll that summer, with his newfound teeniebopper fame and his role on a network soap opera. “Working Class Dog” went platinum and everyone knew who Springfield was. Well…except those who got him confused with Bruce Springsteen. But that aside, Springfield was considered one of the top artists of that year and even won a Grammy Best Rock Vocal Performance.

From there, Springfield blew up and was all over the place. He followed up “Dog” with “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet” which included several big hits including “Don’t Talk To Strangers” & “Calling All Girls.” Needless to say, I wore that album out also that following summer also. And then when he released “Living In Oz” in 1983, which included “Human Touch” and “Affair Of The Heart,” he had pretty much burned up my radio 3 summer’s of my life in a row. Obviously I listened to other artists and I bought albums from other bands but still…3 years of my life I was spending some quality time rockin’ out to with Rick Springfield. His songs were on at the pool, at the mall, on my car radio. He was everywhere! Then he made a movie in 1984 that was a critical disappointment (even though it included one of my favorite all-time pop songs, “Love Somebody”), had another couple albums that didn’t do as well and then he was gone. But I still I loved throwing on some classic Springfield tracks and his songs continually made my many mix CDs through the years.

Songs For The End

Cut to 2013. That’s almost 30 years later. Springfield reappeared in 2009 on one of my favorite Showtime series, “Californication,” playing a version of himself that was simply hysterical! Musically though, nothing he had done since the early 80’s had really connected with me until he released his album “Venus In Overdrive” in 2008. “Time Stand Still,” one of the tracks on the album, is and will always be one of my favorite songs EVER now that I have kids and have reached my 40’s. It connects with me in a way that only a really good pop song can and I couldn’t help but include it in my favorites of that year. In October of last year, Springfield released his best album (in my opinion) since “Living In Oz.” “Songs For The End Of The World” is a little darker lyrically than most of his albums but he makes a case for his style of music with amazing guitar hooks and some of his best lyrics to date. He may be getting older, but Springfield still knows a great hook when he hears it. His appearance in Dave Grohl’s documentary, “Sound City,” sealed the deal for me. Springfield is back in a BIG way! Not only is the dude reconnecting with his fans in a way that no other artist is (he used his fans as a chorus for one of the tracks on his album called “I Hate Myself”), but he understands his place in the history of rock and is reveling in it. He also recorded a track with Grohl that appears in the film that will definitely be one of my favorites this year called “The Man That Never Was” that rocks pretty hard and is just AWESOME! I hope that this resurgence keeps him in the spotlight for a while and I am totally looking forward to whatever he does next. The guy is a class act and a great spokesman for my favorite generation! Here are some tracks from his latest album and a review of his latest album by a critic from Tampa that does the album justice. You should check it out!

Here is a home video that I have edited using “Time Stand Still.” I put it together for my wife for Mother’s Day and it is the perfect song for what I wanted to express as my kids grow up and I grow older…

Rick-color-with-Guitar620Here’s lookin’ at you Rick. Thank you for all the great music!!!

If I Picked The Winners…(2013 Grammys)

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Well…tonight’s the night that the Grammy Awards parade out a ton of artists to perform live and will showcase quite a few acts that I’ve been listening too for the past couple years. I realize it’s late and that truthfully no one really cares, but while my kids are watching The Disney Channel, I figured I’d crank out MY picks to win a Grammy this year…

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Gotye – “Somebody I Used To Know”
Despite the fact that it came out in 2011, “Somebody” is a great song and deserves the honor. If not, then Black Keys “Lonely Boy” wins!

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The Black Keys – “El Camino”
LOVE this album and I must have worn it out…back in the summer of 2011? What is going on here?

SONG OF THE YEAR: Miguel – “Adorn”
This entire album is pretty strong and despite the fact that “Adorn” didn’t make my Top 50, I still consider it one of the best on the album.

BEST NEW ARTIST: The Lumineers
I’m not sold on the sound, but this band seems to be making waves right now.

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
You kidding? It was EVERYWHERE last summer. It HAS to win.

BEST POP DUO PERFORMANCE: Maroon 5 – “Payphone”
Believe or not, I kinda liked this song before I heard it 3,789,532 times.

BEST DANCE RECORDING: Swedish House Mafia – “Don’t You Worry Child”
I kinda dig it and it WOULD have made my Top 100…if I had gone that deep into it.

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE: The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Loved this song, love the album, love the band!

BEST ROCK SONG: The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Everyone is rooting for The Boss and I kinda dug the Muse song also but Black Keys will be what I’m listening to 10 years from now.

BEST ROCK ALBUM: The Black Keys – “El Camino”
Going for the sweep…

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM: Goyte – “Making Mirrors”
It’s a really good album and despite some strong competition from Fiona Apple’s latest (which I listened to on ITunes and wasn’t impressed), I’d like to see this one take the prize!

BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM: Miguel – “Kaleidoscope”
I like it better than Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” and Chris Brown is a jerk.

BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE: Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away”
Love this track (it’s in my Top 50) and it deserves to win!

BEST COUNTRY SONG: Eli Young Band – “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”
Mostly because it’s written by Will Hoge and I’ve met the guy and he’s pretty cool! Other than that, I like “Blown Away” here also…

BEST TROPICAL LATIN ALBUM: Romeo Santos – “Formula Vol 1”
Just kidding….I have no idea….

So there you have it…MY picks for this year’s Grammy awards! Wonder how it will go down…

The Best Songs Of 2012

Grace PotterShe got legs for days and knows how to use ’em! Oh….and she can sing also…

So we managed to survive just by the skin of our teeth (stupid Mayans) and with the coming of 2013 comes the closing of 2012. And 2012 had plenty of good music in it! My interest in music, while wavering a little bit as I find myself steeped in work, home repair and being a daddy, is still strong and all over the map. One day I’m in a country mood, the next I’m jamming with my kids to “Gangnam Style.” It was truly bizarre in music this year. Too much EDM and not enough good riffs. But with that being said, there was still enough great music out there…I just had to go find it sometimes! So without further adieu…here are my Top 50 Favorite Singles of 2012 and my Top 10 Favorite Albums! Enjoy and just a reminder…these are MY choices. They do not reflect record sales or popularity on any record charts. They are simply the top songs that burned a hole in my ears all year…and I believe they are all equally awesome!

50. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” (pop)
I’m just gonna get this out of the way right off the bat. Look…it’s annoying now but back in the early summer? EVERYONE loved this song and it was played and played and overplayed until no one could stand it anymore! However, that being said, whenever I hear this track I will be instantly transported back to the summer, watching my son play baseball and listening to my daughter sing this song at the pool.

49. The Darkness – “Cannonball” (rock)
I dunno why but I still hear Queen whenever I listen to The Darkness but this track, off their album “Hot Cakes”, is more AC/DC than Queen! I love it!

48. Half Moon Run – “Nerve” (alt-pop)
They opened for Metric in St. Louis and I was struck by the multiple layers of this song. Very 80’s sounding and watching this band perform it was mesmerizing.

47. Brad Paisley – “Southern Comfort Zone” (country)
Being from a small town, I remember when I moved to Dayton then Cincinnati and then began traveling for a living for my job. This song captures that wonder of leaving your “comfort zone” and visiting places that you never dreamed you would ever see. That is my life to a tee and this track says everything I would say if I had any songwriting ability whatsoever.

46. Green Day – “F%$# Time” (rock)
A little bit rockabilly that is all about…well…um….sex. As you can imagine, Billie Joe & company blow this one out with thunderous drums and a rocking chorus. If it wasn’t so X-rated it would probably do well on rock radio!

45. Wild Nothing – “Nocturne” (alt-pop)
Light & fluffy, this song could sit on a cloud with no problem. It’s got lots of synthesizer and sort of floats in your ears. I like it!

RaveonettesWhaddaya mean we didn’t make the Top 5?!?!

44. The Raveonettes – “Night Comes Out” (alternative)
Although they aren’t charting in my Top 5 this year like last year, I still consider them to be one of my favorite bands. I just love how dark they are and I would love to see them live someday…

43. Tegan & Sara – “Closer” (alt-pop)
With their new album dropping in early 2013, I’m expecting great things if it’s as good as this first single! This duo has always had my ear but I really like the path they’re taking, going a little more upbeat and less mopey. I’ll take it!

42. Rascal Flatts – “Hot In Here” (country)
This band is always good for a hot summer single and this one SHOULD have been a hit! Nevertheless, it hasn’t been released to country radio but I found it and I LOVE it! Great track from a perennial country pop band!

41. Slightly Stoopid – “Top Of The World” (pop reggae)
Trippy and bouncy. Nothing too heavy but catchy as hell and I played this one through most of the summer. Grab a pina colada and relax…

40. Alex Clare – “Too Close” (pop)
Featured on a commercial last spring, I actually “Shazam”-ed it to find out who it was. Then…a little while later, it blew up and you couldn’t turn the radio dial without hearing it. Did I grow tired of it? Sure. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the “wah wah wah” of this song resonates deep in my chest whenever I crank it up!

39. Greg Laswell feat. Sara Bareilles – “Come Back Down” (alternative)
Laswell has limited vocal range but having Bareilles join him gives this song the lift it needs to take it to another level. Nice pace with a fast beat and high production value makes this a great track for this inspiring artist!

38. The Fixx – “Take A Risk” (alt-rock)
Seriously…a show of hands of those who even knew these guys were still recording??? ‘Cause I didn’t! But here they are and despite the fact that they could be considered an 80’s pop band, they return with a blistering track that speaks of the future and what it holds for generations to come. Possibly one of the best “lyric” songs on my list AND it rocks!

37. He’s My Brother She’s My Sister – “Touch The Lightning” 
It just kinda lopes along like a tripping hippy, meandering along with a slow bass line and a tie-dye sort of feel. It takes me back to the Mamas & The Papas in a way and just sorta settles there. I DIG IT MAN!

36. Florence & The Machine – “Breath Of Life” (alternative)
With a thunderous intro, Florence Welsh’s vocals once again soar and this song, which was featured in the end credits of “Snow White & The Huntsman”, strikes a chord of something sinister and yet hopeful. A perfect blend for the movie and for my ears.

35. Cat Power – “Silent Machine” (alternative)
Her album “Sun” got rave reviews and her appearance on “Funny Or Die” was a highlight of this past year. This is one of several quality tracks on the album but I like the throbbing beat and her vocals. It catches my ear and that’s good enough!

34. Neon Trees – “Close To You” (alt-pop)
I’ve been hearing “Everybody Talks” pretty much since early summer but for me? I like this one. It’s dark and exotic, moody and hypnotic. Check it out.

33. Haley Reinhart feat B.o.B. – “Oh My!” (pop)
American Idol Reinhart steals a page out of the Adele pagebook and goes retro with this track. Her vocals soar, the sax gives it a sultry pulse and B.o.B. makes an appearance to make it even more tasty! Great track that shoulda got more airplay! Here’s a clip of her performing it live. Seriously…she can jam.

32. Sleigh Bells – “End Of The Line” (alternative)
This band is noise but IN that noise are some pretty amazing hooks. This song clings & clangs with heavy beats and the breathy singing of Alexis Krauss.

31. DIIV – “Follow” (alternative)
I wish I knew more about this band but the fact of the matter is…I don’t. What I DO know is I totally dig this song. Go check it out and look up the band while you’re at it. Let me know what you find out. Very 90’s sounding and atmospheric rhythms.

30. The Offspring – “I Wanna Secret Family (With You)” (rock)
This band has continually managed to find new life and this song off their latest album called “Days Go By” has a great 80’s hair band hook!

29. Chris Brown – “Stuck On Stupid” (R&B)
He’s released just about everything else off “Fortune” but for whatever reason, this awesome song hasn’t hit the airwaves. It’s one of the best pop songs of the year. I think it’s about time to give this guy some credit. He might be an a$$ but as far as I’m concerned he’s every bit as good as Usher.

28. Lupe Fiasco – “Around My Way” (rap)
Lupe does what Lupe does and this jazz infused jam is right up his alley. With a funky sax and a dope beat this song hops along as Fiasco tells it like it is.

carrie-underwood-denim-shorts-legs-0

27. Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away” (country)
I originally saw her perform this live on an awards show earlier this year and it “blew me away!” Love the chorus and Underwood hits some sweet notes on this one!

26. Bruno Mars – “When I Was Your Man” (R&B)
For all the pop that this guy puts out, it can’t take away from the fact that at his heart he is a true artist in the same vein as a Michael Jackson. In this one, he scales WAY back and goes simple and beautiful. Nothing but a piano and his vocals and it is excellent.

25. Luke Bryan – “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (country)
This song of a relationship that has fallen apart but still having that wanting is a typical example of good country gone pop. While pop radio cranks out the EDM and rap, country music is still creating quality pop songs about love and love lost. Tis is a good’un.

24. Twin Shadow – “Five Seconds” (synthpop)
Synthesizers made a HUGE comeback this year and this track by George Lewis, Jr. is a prime example at how well it can be done again! Very upbeat and poppy, it reminds me of the best of Duran Duran!

23. The 1975 – “Sex” (alternative)
MORE synthesizers? HELL yeah!!! I love me some good sex…er…synthesizer and this song blows me away! Reminds me of college in a great way!

22. Eels – “New Alphabet” (alternative)
I’ve been listening to this band for an eternity so when this track arrived in mid December I decided to give em the benefit of the doubt and put them in my favorites of the year. It’s not a stretch for them but it’s everything you expect from a band that’s been around since the late 90’s!

21. Frank Ocean – “Lost” (soul)
He’s a critics darling this year and his album Channel ORANGE will be getting all kinds of awards this year so…I woulda had a hard time leaving him off this list! This is my favorite track off the album and it’s very much everything that Ocean is about.

20. No Doubt – “Undercover” (pop)
How nice of them to come back and bring their synth-infused sound back to rejuvenate THIS decade! Let’s face it…NOBODY does this kind of music like Gwen and the boys and having them put out a new album (which is one of my favorites this year) was a pleasant surprised. Now…if I could just get them to go on tour…

19. Miguel – “The Thrill”
A lot of critics are lauding his album “Kaleidoscope Dream” as being the modern version of Prince. I dunno if I would go THAT far but it IS sexed up the way Prince used to be. I will say this though…the guy knows how to catch your ear and this song is smooth as silk.

18. The Constellations – “Hallelujah” (rock)
Hailing from Atlanta, this blues band hit me with one of the best albums of 2012 and this song was a highlight! This is NOT a remake of the Rufus Wainwright classic but still just as good!

17. Gary Clark, Jr. – “Things Are Changin'” (blues)
He’s bringing blues back in a big way and this track is infused with a kiss of blues, a little R&B and a lot of heat. Love it!

16. Rudimental – “Feel The Love” (electronic)
Seriously…if you’re gonna do EDM, go with something that varies it up a little bit. It’s repetitive sure, but the beat, the horns and the change of pace in the middle makes this the best of the bunch!

15. Electric Guest – “This Head I Hold” (R&B)
I told you about this band a LONG time ago and here is the song that caught my ear. It’s everything you want in a pop/soul song. It’s got that 60’s vibe and that makes it worth your time.

Jacob Martin

14. Jacob Martin – “I Don’t Wanna Be The Only One” (country rock)
Don’t go looking for this one on ITunes because it’s not there yet. I found this band playing in downtown Cincinnati at Toby Keith’s Bar and when they played this song, I was hooked! I chatted it up with the bassist and found out that this track will be released later in 2013. Well…go to their MySpace site and check it out. A LOT of potential here and I love this one!

13. Graffiti6 – “Never Look Back” (pop)
Released WAY back in January, this song grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. The entire album, called “Colours,” is a pleasant reminder of what GOOD pop music can be.

12. Muse – “Madness” (alternative)
Remember what I was saying about synthesizer making a comeback? Yeah…well…these guys started it back in 1994. Taking the reigns from where U2’s “Achtung Baby” left off, this song definitely reminds me of my favorite band and that’s probably why it’s been burning up my IPhone for the past month or so.

11. Metric – “Breathing Underwater” (alternative)
Having seen Emily Haines work her magic on a crowd in St. Louis, I can now say that her voice is not her only asset. She’s thoughtful and approachable and there’s something so freaking sexy about her that I am pretty sure I’d listen to her gargle. Needless to say, she ain’t gargling here and she soars with this song which has one of my favorite lines of the year…“They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes/When they bowed at their feet, in the end it wasn’t me.”

The-Killers-Battle-BornAlbum Cover Of The Year!

10. The Killers – “Runaways” (alt-rock)
I wouldn’t define this band as alternative or rock, but they definitely have a niche somewhere in the middle. With lyrics that rival Bruce Springsteen and a sound that is borderline U2, this song is up there with anything on “Born In The U.S.A.”

9. Mark Lanegan Band – “Riot In My House” (rock)
Remember the early 90’s when bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Screaming Trees were stealing airtime from Nirvana? Well…some voices never change and in the case of the Tree’s Mark Lanegan, he’s one of the most recognizable voices from that decade. He returned with his brand of rock with his album, “Blues Funeral,” and this song is the crown jewel of the bunch!

lana-complex-intv-lead

8. Lana Del Rey – “Radio” (alt-pop)
I’m not sure HOW you categorize Del Rey’s sound. It’s somewhere between 60’s pop or a David Lynch film soundtrack. Either way, she roared onto the scene with an appearance on SNL before her album was released (a first for ANY artist) and then was slammed by critics who didn’t understand her schtick. I get it…and I LOVE it! This song is my favorite off her album “Born To Die” but it is probably not the one most would have picked. Either way, it is what it is and THIS track is my pick for best on the disk.

7. Jack White – “Freedom At 21” (rock)
Here’s the thing about me…I keep an eye out for artists I like and I know when they release a new album. In the case of Jack White, I knew he had a new album coming out but I really didn’t listen to it until well after its release. Dunno why but Jack has become a lot of the same old sound for me. This song is reminiscent of the stuff he did with Meg in the mid-90’s with the White Stripes.

6. Animal Kingdom – “White Sparks” (alternative)
Another moody synth song from a critical fav. They appeared on my favorites list in 2009 with “Tin Man” and here they are making a return! This might have been the most romantic song on my list if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m a old smoothy who has a thing for romantic love songs which leads me to…

5. Robert Francis – “Perfectly Yours” (alt-pop)
Oh how I love the little love songs and Francis is so good at writing them. My sister turned me on to this artist and his “Strangers In The First Place” has been on repeat on my IPhone for a couple months. This song is silky smooth and perfect in every way and the lyrics are amazing…

4. Morning Parade – “Under The Stars” (alternative)
I’m sorry…but there are just times you connect with a song and there’s nothing to explain really. There’s something about this track that is like that for me. It reminds me of Fuel’s “Shimmer.” It has that slow build and then it kicks in and…pure, pop perfection with this really odd bridge in the middle which makes it even more unique.

the-constellations-11

3. The Constellations – “Black Cat” (blues rock)
Not gonna lie…this is probably my most listened to song of the year. I love the bluesy feel of it and it has a laid back organ caressing the background that just kicks it for me. Love this one and I hope you do too!

2. Taylor Swift – “State Of Grace” (country pop)
What do you do when you consider yourself a “serious” music lover but find yourself listening to a song by an artist who is stereotyped for teenage girls. Well…that was my situation. But I gotta tell you, as far as I’m concerned, Swift has made a masterpiece with “State Of Grace.” Not only is it an uplifting song, it truly doesn’t sound like a country song to me. This could easily be played on ANY format. Well…except for maybe rock. But it could be classified as pop, country, alternative, easy listening, whatever. Either way, Swift soars on this one and I love the uplifting message. If Paul McCartney is correct and some people DO wanna fill the world with silly love songs, then this one is a great example of how it can be done.

1. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Roulette” (pop rock)
This song is track 12 on the June release of “The Lion the Beast the Beat” and it is listed on ITunes as a (Bonus Track). What?!?! This song is AWESOME! I’ve worn it out and it STILL gets me every time. Let’s get this straight…I LIKE Ms. Potter and her band. I don’t LOVE them. But for whatever reason, this song has been stuck in my head ever since I heard it and I can’t deny…it is straight up a great pop song. With it’s blistering short guitar solo at the end and Potter’s soaring vocals, this track is right up my alley. Here you go…my favorite song of 2012…

My New Album…(kinda)

A couple days ago, a friend posted on Facebook a fun project and so I played along. You know how these things go…you follow the directions as such…

1. Go to Wikipedia and hit “Random Article.” The first article you get is the name of your band.

2. Go to “quotationspage.com” and hit “Random.” The last 5 or 6 words of the last quote on the page is the title of your album.

3. Go to Flickr and click on “Explore” then “Explore Last 7 Days.” The third picture on the page is the cover of your album.

4. Put it all together in Photoshop (or editing program of your choice) and share with all your friends!

So here is the up & coming hot new album by my new band, Sykehouse (which is a civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, England. It has a population of a little over 400 as of 2001)!

20121005-225918.jpgWatch for it in an independent record store any day now!!! Well…maybe once I find a lead singer, bassist and a drummer…and learn how to play the guitar…or the triangle. Whatever…

Welcome Back, No Doubt!

After taking a rather LONG hiatus (since 2001’s classic “Rock Steady”), Gwen Stefani and the boys are finally back and have released a new single called “Settle Down” today. This is the initial single before they release their latest album next month entitled “Push & Shove.” If I must say, this is a great return for this 90’s ska band that has been an influence for so many pop/ska bands that proceeded it. Here is the latest and here’s hoping the rest of the album is just as strong! There’s no doubt that No Doubt is back!!!

RIP Adam Yauch

In the summer of 1987 (my high school senior year), I bought “Licensed To Ill.” With “You Gotta Fight (For Your Right To Party)” being such a HUGE hit, I HAD to have the entire album and to this day, that album remains one of my all-time favorite party albums. So it was with heavy heart that I heard that Adam Yauch (aka MCA) had passed away after almost 3 years of cancer treatment.

The great thing about Yauch, as well as his Beasties brothers, Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock) and Mike Diamond (Mike D), is that they never wavered from their convictions OR their eclectic taste in music, creating  groovy tracks and punk rock with an energy few can match. Adding to their legacy is all the humanitarian efforts that they have taken part in, particularly Yauch, who was a major component in the Milarepa Foundation’s Tibetan Freedom Benefit concerts.

Rest In Peace, MCA. Your legacy and your music has survived 3 generations and will live long in musical history. When the man sang…

“If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece/ If you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least/ What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk/ True feelings are shown from the way that I talk”

It was 100% true.

Time to pass the mic, MCA. Gone but never forgotten…

 

American Idol: The Last 8

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So tonight, The Idol has the 8 leftover performers doing 80’s songs (Love it!) so this should be right up my alley! With Gwen Stefani & the other guy from No Doubt as “helpers,” this should be…well…weird. Why not get an 80’s artist (like Stevie Nicks last week)? This show is confusing…

Anyway…DeAndre led off the show and I was out to dinner and totally missed it but the judges apparently liked it. I can’t stand DeAndre so…I’m gonna say it sucked and hope everyone else thought so too.

Up next, Elise performing “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. I gotta say…I love Elise and after her performance of “Whole Lotta Love” last week, she was on a whole different level but honestly…this performance was surprisingly average. Damn. Here’s hoping DeAndre REALLY sucked…

Skylar & Colton break out their rendition of “Islands In The Stream” in what has to be one of the oddest pairings tonight. Seeing a rocker like Colton singing Kenny Rogers is like a bad karaoke dream and Skylar doesn’t have Dolly’s…uh…assets? So yeah…there was a lot to be desired from this ridiculous pairing.

Up next…Phillip Phillips is tackling Phil Collins & Genesis. This has GOT to be more interesting than anything else so far. In the pre-song meeting with Gwen & that other dude, Phillip sounds pretty unsure of himself but once he gets into the real deal, he nails it. All the judges loved his performance and P2 had his brother join him on stage playing guitar. His brother mentions something about Phillip staying true to himself. This may be the most over-used term on American Idol at this point and now it’s just sounding cheesy. But that doesn’t take away the fact that he killed it…in a good way!

Commercial break and I don’t know what this commercial is hawking but it’s really long and a girl and a dude both go out running and the guy ends up in an ambulance while they both sing some cutesy song. Eventually the girl ends up running over mountains to get to the guy in the hospital. Oh…it’s a Nike commercial. Why is it that the guy always ends up looking like a dweeb? Whatever…this song sucked anyway…

Hollie & DeAndre are now singing the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.” The fact that DeAndre sounds more like a Sister than Hollie is a little weird to me. And the ending fireworks is cheesy. According the Steven Tyler, it was amazing. Uh…no.

Joshua Ledet is up singing Simple Minds’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” I hate to say it, but Joshua is wearing me out with his gospel-tinged harmony on EVERY song. Now…with the stage lit up in red candles, this one is no different. A standard performance that I think I’ve seen over & over again from him. He does have an amazing voice but I’m bored. Weren’t there ANY good songs in the 80’s? Wait…don’t answer that. Jay Lo says it was a powerhouse performance & spectacular. Steven calls it over-the-top. Not WAY over the top but just enough over the top. And he’s obviously bored as well. Dawg says Joshua’s gotta have it. What the hell is he talking about?

Jennifer Sanchez is singing ANOTHER Whitney Houston song. She nailed “I Will Always Love You” a few weeks ago. This is no surprise and she’s gonna sing “How Will I Know” in her made up alias, BeBe Chez. Hey…she’s 16. Go with it. She’s performing with a guitarist and a guy with a keyboard strapped to his shoulder. She doesn’t exactly nail this one. Actually…I think this kind of upbeat tempo is actually tougher for her than reaching high notes. I don’t care for it. The judges however? Well…they think she’s great and amazing and blah blah blah…

I think I’m over Idol judges at this point. Enough already. Can we cut this show down to an hour and skip the judges at this point? Because they are terrible. I would vote THEM off, if I could.

Sweet….Elise & Phillip doing Tom Petty’s “Stop Dragging My Heart Around!” Love it and these 2 are my favorite performers. Why Elise didn’t do this song for her choice is beyond me. These 2 could do a great duet on their own someday. And now I’m thinking Elise could be okay after this performance! They should just go have babies right now ’cause these 2 are excellent together…

Hollie is up next singing “What A Feeling” from the movie Flashdance. Gwen says the song is about tough confidence. I agree and Hollie is the totally wrong one to talk to about confidence. Anyway, there’s a keyboard issue so Ryan has to ask a totally irrelevant question. There’s also a giant disco ball over Hollie’s head. Here’s hoping IT doesn’t have a malfunction! Or maybe there should have been a malfunction because this was not her best performance. It doesn’t fit her. Anyway…she’s too young and this song proves it. She’s out of her element and the judges nail her on it. She might be in trouble.

Joshua & Jessica perform “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.” I’m bored. I swear…we’re the 80’s THIS uneventful? Technically it’s fine but it just seems like everything is tired tonight. Maybe I’m listening to too much 80’s XM radio lately. Plus…I didn’t care that much for this song in 20 years ago so there ya go. Dawg says he worked on the original with Aretha & George Michael and this was on par with it. Seriously? Someone please shut them ALL up. Please?

So now Colton is gonna sing a Cyndi Lauper classic. I’m hoping for “She Bop” but instead it’s “Time After Time.” I love me some Cyndi but I dunno about this. Colton flirts with Gwen so…THAT was cool. Jimmy says he picked the right song so…let’s see. It’s a little more rockin’ so it has that going for it. This guy knows how to use the stage and he’s perfectly at ease up there. It’s my favorite song of the night so far! Nicely done! J Lo talks about his “journey” thru the song and around the stage and I’m not sure what she’s talking about totally but I kinda get it. The judges love his drummer. Colton admits to ripping the rock version off a current band (which is more than other singers have done in the past) but I don’t care. It was the best so far tonight!

Spunky country singer Skylar had picked “9 To 5” but when she sang “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Jimmy, Gwen & the other guy with makeup talk her into going with the Bette Midler sob fest. Skylar looks great tonight, her red locks flowing in with Farrah Fawcett curls. This is a very good song choice for her. She does a great job, taking it higher than Bette did and she nails it. Standing ovation from the judges! They like her! They really like her!

And that’s it! I give MY vote to Colton tonight. Dude killed Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” with the next 2 being Phil Phillips and Skylar. MY pick to go tonight? DeAndre or Hollie. But I think it’s Hollie & Elise who will be in trouble tonight with Hollie being voted off…barely. Elise is walking a tight rope. She’s gonna have to pick it up a notch to finish this thing because the judges are saving their “save” for Joshua or Jessica.

American Idol Top 13…Round 1 LIVE

So tonight the selected contestants have a daunting task…perform the songs of Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. Let me start by saying this is TOTALLY unfair to the women simply because Whitney’s songs have been saturating the airwaves lately and she did have a one of a kind voice. Nevertheless…here they go and…oh yeah…it’s boys vs girls tonight. I have no idea what that means but Ryan Seacrest seems hellbent on making it something big. We shall see…

Firstly, Mary J. Blige and Jimmy Iovine are “The Help” for the group and so we’ll see how big THOSE egos get tonight…

Up first is Joshua Ledet singing Wonder’s “I Wish.” This is right up his alley and he nails it. Judges love it, the audience lives it. He’s gonna move on. And so am I…

First girl is my top pick, Elise Testone. She wants to sing “Greatest Love Of All”, but “The Help” persuade her to take on “I’m your Baby Tonight.” I thought it was okay, but not as good as Elise can be. So…of course the judges ALL hated it? Really? Hate might be a strong word. It wasn’t THAT bad. I gotta believe America knows this woman is Top 3 material! In the post-performance interview with Ryan, Elise says she really didn’t know the song very well but declined to blame anyone for the song choice. I woulda said, “They TOLD me to do it!” But…she’s classier than I am. And that’s why I want her to win.

Up next is baritone Jermaine Jones cranking out “Knocks Me Off My Feet”. It’s okay but he has an entirely different voice than Stevie. I suppose this was probably the best choice for him but I have to admit…I’m not sure. I don’t really know the song and quite frankly…I don’t care much for it. But that’s not Jermaine’s fault. Anyway…the judges are kinda “Eh” on this one also. I gotta think he’s on a short leash here…

Erica Van Pelt is up next singing Whitney’s “I Believe In You & Me.” I don’t think I even know this song. This song is one of the low note Whitney songs. I’m gonna give Erika some credit…without knowing the song, it SOUNDS like she nailed it. It can’t be easy when you want to go for those high notes but then back off. A very nice song and she looks really nice also. Red is her color. Randy actually says “unbelievable” 4 times in his critique of her. J-Lo got gooseys. Whatever…The Lo looks smokin’ tonight! After last weeks crazy hair/foo-foo dress disaster, she’s got it going on tonight! Aaaaanyway…Erika killed it. Moving on.

Alan Update: I really, really wish I could stop coughing. My head hurts, my throat is burning. I took a couple Night Cold formula pills earlier and I figure once this show is over, I’m gonna crash. Here’s hoping I hold on to see Phillip Phillips’ performance. That dude is awesome (oh…and he replaces that loser Creighton who didn’t get picked to move on by the judges or America. I disagree with them but this ain’t the first time I’ve been disappointed).

Ryan explains that the girl & the guy who get the fewest votes get the boot tomorrow. So THAT’S what they mean about “Guys vs Gals.” Still not understanding. If each get someone voted off, how is it one versus the other? This is dumb.

Up next is Colton “Skunkhead” Dixon singing “Lately”. I don’t recognize this song at all. Is this a Stevie Wonder song? Either way…I thought it was pretty damn good for a rocker dude. Judges seem to like it. Okay…he moves on. Now Seacrest is talking smoldering eyes. He weirds me out sometimes…

Up next is Shannon Magrane looking to sing “I Have Nothing.” Mary J gives her some pointers that seem to make her happy. She starts out a little weak. Here’s the thing with this song though…it’s got a killer ending. Let’s see if the judges forgive the early part once she gets to…HERE! Aaaaaaand she is having some difficulty. She looks like she needs a drink or something. And her mic seems to be having issues. Either that or the band is overpowering her vocal. Hey Mr. Audio dude…fix that, will ya? Jenny From The Block tells her she thought about it too much. Apparently she was a little bit nervous. Well the girl is 16 and a there’s millions of people watching…no shit, she’s nervous! The judges try to soften the blow but…wait…what the hell IS that on Randy’s jacket? Whatever…it wasn’t good. I still don’t think she’s gone though.

So this brings us to my least favorite contestant, Deandre Brackensick. Ryan shows video of him crying like a baby. Why, oh why, Idol? Ok…he’s singing “Master Blaster” by the Wonderman. I HAVE to believe this is in his wheelhouse with that high pitched voice of his. Once again, the vocal falls behind the instruments. What is going on with the mix tonight? He LOOKS the like he’s having a good time but I can’t hear him over all the horns and bouncy beat. And he ends with one of his patented high notes. And that’s pretty much all I heard of it. Steven Tyler says a bunch of stuff that I have to believe someone is feeding him because there’s no way he even knows what the hell those words mean. All 3 judges liked his performance and Randy is rambling. Oh shut up already…

Singing “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is country artist wannabe, Skylar McIntire (yes…I know that’s not her name but seriously…she’s Reba’s doppleganger!). She gives Mary J goosebumps. Let’s see what she does for me. Actually…this makes a pretty good country song. I’m surprised no one has remade it (or maybe they have?). It’s a good showing by Skylar. I’m liking her more & more every week but I’m SO tired of country artists winning this thing. Anyway…she nailed it. Judges will blather on about this, I’m sure. For MY money, I prefer it when she’s rocking out like last week but she DID do a good job.

Commercial break and Ellen Degeneres is hawking  for JC Penney? I love Ellen. She can hawk mens hair nose clippers for all I care because she’s ALWAYS funny. Come to think of it…that WOULD be funny!

Okay…so now Heejun Han is singing “All In Love Is Fair.” He’s a funny guy, this Heejun, so to see him singing this song is a little weird. It’s slow, it’s sappy and I’m not digging it. But his vocals seem good enough. J-Lo loves the Heejun. Randy says it wasn’t perfect. I’m starting to think Randy might be a little tone deaf. Heejun hugs Ryan and then it’s over.

“The Girl The Show Forgot” is singing the second “All” song…”All The Man That I Need.” Hollie Cavanagh SHOULD destroy this song. Taking Steven’s advice from last week, she has let her hair down. I’m sure THAT will help her performance. She does a good job while singing in a sea of candles (thank you Idol Video Boards) and Randy says she nailed it. Hollie is so cute but she kind of reminds me of Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”…NOT the Meg Ryan with the huge, weird lips.

Jeremy Rosado is singing…something. I missed it. Anyway, the “Help” is saying he’s nervous. Let’s see, shall we? Sounds silky smooth so far. Okay…he’s singing “Ribbons In The Sky” and he is also getting drowned out by the orchestration. What the hell is going on here tonight? If the audio guys can’t get this right, what’s the point of watching? Oh look…they took a shot of J-Lo getting all googly eyed. Dawg didn’t like his performance. I could take it or leave it. But the kid does have a smooth sound.

Ok…here it is. Jessica Sanchez is singing the iconic “I Will Always Love You.” This 16 year old is a sensation but THIS song is scary. It’s Houston’s cornerstone song and if there is one thing off, it could be a disaster. Here she goes. First off, let me start by saying…this girl is WAAAY older than her years. In her voice, her look, her demeanor…everything. Well shit…she NAILED it. That was the performance of the night. Unbelievable and it gave ME goosys. Standing ovation from the judges. And I think we have a frontrunner. Randy blathers on about something. I kinda just wish they would not even say anything. Oh look…J-Lo says she’s speechless but then she continues talking. Why?

Okay…so I’m thinking we have a winner in tonight’s contest! As much as I love Elise…THAT performance was amazing. And I don’t even like that song THAT much!

Last but definitely NOT least is Philip Phillips doing “Superstitious.” This is a layup for this dude and it’s a GREAT choice  for him! Can he compete with Sanchez? Vegas bookies are picking him as the odds on favorite. I dunno about that but lets see how he does. Aaaand…he kills it…I think. Enough with the band already! I can’t HEAR the contestants! Crap! But the dude is a performer and Steven Tyler is stoned beyond belief. Dunno what he just said but J-Lo says he killed it. Randy is STILL talking and I need to go to bed.

Night America. Vote wisely…

Who Will Be “The American Idol” For 2012?

After skipping last season due to disinterest, I tuned in early to this season of The Idol to see if my thoughts on last season continued. Has it become a high-end karaoke machine that is churning out average talent in order to sell singles on ITunes? With the early shows being notoriously ugly as the producers have done their best to focus on the non-talented instead of those who DO have the ability to sing, I have been more & more likely to say yes. I didn’t watch any of last season but the season prior, an average talent won (Lee Dewyze recently released an album that has disappeared into obscurity already) and before that, the Freddie Mercury wannabe, Adam Lambert, screeched his way into the winners circle. So imagine my surprise when FINALLY the Idol producers figured out that they need to stop focusing on the non-talent and put the spotlight on the guys & gals who matter.

Baylie Brown may be pretty…but she’s ain’t gonna make it…

Early on there was a LOT of talent that came through the Idol screenings. It’s amazing to me how much talent we DO have in this country. Needless to say, there were the returning previous season early exits who made a splash and then there were plenty of fresh faces to focus on. As of last night, after watching the group get whittled down to the Top 24, I can honestly say that this really IS one of the better batches of voices that Idol has seen in a while. There are soulful singers, rockers, country singers, a few non-de script artists who are similar to popular artists but juuuuust different enough to hold my interest and a baritone voice that Idol has never seen before that is amazing (but will probably get voted off early on). It really IS an interesting group and the talent on the guys side is far greater than that on the women’s side. There are quite a few women who sound eerily similar to me and I can see them going quickly. But there is one who, I feel, could make a push to win even though her gender vastly underperformed in last night’s Top 12 competition and it will be interesting to see how America votes. The show needs to whittle it down to the Top 13 (America picks 10 [5 guys, 5 gals], the judges pick 1 each) and of the guys, 15-year old Eben from Cincinnati was the only one who I thought totally botched it (unfortunately the kid is as cute as they come and will probably be voted in by the teenage girl vote). So with much calculation and thought…here are MY picks to who will become the Top 13 on this 2012 edition of THE American Idol…

Dude wins “Best Hair” award but he ain’t making it either

The girls are a lot easier to pick, but there IS some contention simply because I know what America will pick and I disagree. So MY Top 6 girls (the guys get the extra 6th person) are as follows and in order:

  1. Elise Testone
  2. Jessica Sanchez
  3. Hallie Day
  4. Hollie Cavanagh
  5. Shannon Magrane
  6. Jennifer Hirsh

Where I feel America will screw this up is they will vote in country firecracker (and Reba McEntire lookalike) Skylar Lane. Her performance last night WAS one of the better ones but Hollie Cavanagh is a better talent. Unfortunately, America likes country music and Hollie is completely under the radar. The show didn’t even feature her until last week and Skylar is just so damn cute and energetic that I imagine this swap will happen whether I agree with it or not. The wildcard here is Jennifer Hirsh. I like her a lot but she just isn’t standing out like I thought she would. We’ll see what America thinks on this one…

For the guys, it’s a LOT more complicated. There is more talent on this end and their performances the other night were all pretty damn good. But here are MY Top 6 picks and we’ll see how America votes…

  1. Phillip Phillips (loved his version of “In The Air Tonight”!!!)
  2. Reed Grimm
  3. Joshua Ledet
  4. Adam Brock
  5. Creighton Fraker
  6. Colton Dixon
  7. Jermaine Jones

The judges did the smart thing by inviting baritone singer, Jermaine Jones, back onto the show. The guy has AMAZING pipes. Unfortunately there are limitations when singing with such a deep voice and that is that most popular music isn’t sung in that range. So whatever he sings, most of the country who votes won’t know the songs and so…there ya go. Eben will get voted in, thereby knocking Jermaine out and forcing us to sit through another couple weeks of listening to Eben singing songs that are WAY too big (and old) for him (his rendition of Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain” was painful).

Oh yeah…SHE’S got talent!

Now…The Top 3. This is tough but I’m going with my gut on this one…

  1. Creighton Fraker
  2. Elise Testone
  3. Jessica Sanchez (pictured above)
WHAT??? 1 guy?? Yep…and here’s why. Phillip Phillips, as much as I like the guy, is a Dave Matthews sing-alike. He’s great and all, but his limitations will eventually catch up to him (dammit). Adam Brock is too bluesy and that never bodes well on The Idol. Reed Grimm is too quirky and his goofy smile and on-stage antics will finally wear down the audience and the judges. Colton Dixon is a generic rock star type who has done well but has limitations. The Eben/Jermaine matchup will show the limitations of either singer for all of the reasons I’ve already mentioned and Joshua Ledet will be the shocking 4th spot singer voted off BEFORE HIS TIME (as the producers will promote ad nauseam for the week before the show airs). Creighton Fraker is just quirky enough, just soulful enough, just likable enough and just similar enough (you KNOW you know someone like him…admit it!) that I think his talent will shine through much like his rendition of “True Colors” was the understated highlight of the show the other night.

My wildcard for the Top 3

As for the Elise & Jessica? Well…as much as I hate to admit it…they are the surprise talent in this year’s group. Jessica has been pretty consistent throughout the season so far and has a great voice. She’s young but doesn’t act it and has the looks to be a superstar. But MY money is on Elise. She’s one of the oldest in the group, she has that “girl next door” quality about her, she’s not “stunningly good-looking” but definitely attractive (much like many of the female winners of the past) and has an amazing voice that shines with each performance. I look for her to be consistent week in & week out and as she starts to tackle more current radio-friendly material, her vocals will shine as someone who could go on to have quite a career in pop music.

And my winnah is…

So tonight is the voting process….let’s see how it goes and odds are very good that 5 of the contestants I picked will be gone before tomorrow…and that includes Elise (but I don’t think so).

P.S. As much as I like Steven Tyler on this show, I’m quickly growing tired of he & J-Lo’s boring critiques (“beautiful,” “amazing” and “outstanding” should be words that NO ONE says again on this show). Randy Jackson is a little full of himself BUT I love when he breaks into producer mode and gives TRUE criticism that music producer would give any artist who is recording in the studio with him. Unfortunately…this happens only so often and I CAN say this…Simon Cowell is missed if simply for honest opinion of the performances…even when they were rude & obnoxious.

Buuuuut…maybe…? Nah…America doesn’t get it…

My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2011

As much as I hate to admit it…I’m not as into buying albums as I once was. It’s so much easier now with ITunes and other music outlets to simply pick & choose singles and a lot of times I would rather spend a dollar or two on a couple of songs rather than spend $12 on an entire album online. Shopping for music isn’t the same as it was 5 years ago and that is unfortunate. I used to really enjoy shopping for CD’s at the local music shop but those days seem to be gone now. It takes too much time and I haven’t got a few hours to waste going through bargain bins and racks of $20 CDs. So…I am sad to say that I don’t buy as many albums as I used to. But there were a few this year that I made the trip out to the store to get because I wanted the physical copy of it and so…without further adieu…here are my Top 10 favorite albums of 2011!

10. Teddybears – “Devil’s Music”
This Swedish band knows how to make you move your butt. From the opening track, they hit you with techno beats and silly lyrics that are just fun. And with a slew of artists making appearances (from The Flaming Lips to Cee Lo Green), they leave no beat unturned.

Favorite Tracks: Rocket Scientist, Devil’s Music

9. Foo Fighters – “Wasted Light”
From the opening track, David Grohl & company hit you with solid left hooks and slamming guitars and they have made another incredible rock album. It’s almost to the point now where you would think Grohl would phone in an album or two but when it comes to rocking out, there’s no one that can put together the melodies with the metal like the Foo.

Favorite Tracks: Bridge Burning, Rope, These Days

8. Social Distortion – “Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes”
7 years came and went between their 2004 album “Sex, Love and Rock N Roll” and this one but it was worth the wait! With their bluesy rock still as fresh as when they rolled it out of California in 1983, Mike Ness leads the way on this jam packed album. Solid from start to finish, it’s kind of refreshing that my favorite track on the album is actually a slower song.

Favorite Tracks: Bakersfield, California Hustle & Flow, Machine Gun Blues

7. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2”
If ever there needed to be a return to their roots, The Beasties picked the perfect time. After a few overproduced albums and one cancer scare, Committee is a return to the glory days of chest thumpin’ and party bumpin’ of “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”. Hooks and wicked beats pepper this album and it’s hard not to get motivated when you got this album boomin’ in your system.

Favorite Tracks: Here’s A Little Something For Ya, Don’t Play no Game I Can’t Win, Make Some Noise

6. Blue October – “Any Man In America”
I don’t know what to say about this album other than it is honest in every way. With his marriage falling apart, lead singer Justin Furstenfeld dove into his art and came out with one of the most curious and angry albums I have ever heard. The key is listening to it in its entirety as it goes from the beginning to the end of the relationship and where it stands, we’re not sure. But it sure is a fascinating journey.

Favorite Tracks: The Honesty, The Follow Through, You Waited Too Long

5. Gotye – “Making Mirrors”
Not gonna lie…I haven’t had this album very long. It came out in August but I just recently discovered it when it appeared on ITunes as a “selection I might like.” And man…I really do! It’s quirky and poppy and has all kinds of loops and whisperings and…well…you get the point. Wally De Backer is a unique talent and this album showcases his ability to find the perfect hook to go with his unique style.

Favorite Tracks: Eyes Wide Open, Save Me, No Easy Way Out, Somebody That I Used To Know

4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
The half of Oasis that is known for writing the music continues to do so and he does it so well. This album is chock full of soaring guitars, Beatle-esque hooks and the famous Gallagher attitude.With brother Liam leading the charge for the rock band “Beady Eye,” Noel stays true to his roots and puts together a classic that I’ll be listening to for a very long time.

Favorite Tracks: Record Machine, AKA…What A Life, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach

3. David Nail – “Sound Of A Million Dreams”
If there is one thing I love about country music, it’s that it can be familiar and yet new all at the same time. Taking a page from the Glen Campbell handbook, Nail has that smooth country croon that makes everything he sings about seem like it could be happening at this very moment. It could be love, it could be heartbreak, it could be a fleeting moment in time. But whatever it is, it grabs my attention and I can’t stop listening, wondering what will happen next. This will undoubtedly be one of my favorite country albums of all-time. Granted, only time will tell. But I enjoy ALL of the songs on this album and it’s damn near perfect in it’s pop country way.

Favorite Tracks: She Rides Away, That’s How I’ll Remember You, Let It Rain, I Thought You Knew

2. Black Keys – “El Camino”
There’s not a hotter rock band in the world right now than these guys. Straight outta my neck of the woods (Akron, OH is maybe 2 hours from my hometown), The Keys have won several Grammys and this highly anticipated 7th release was everything I hoped it would be. With fuzzy guitars and thumping drums, this album can only be played loud or it’s just not being played correctly. And the fact that it sounds like it’s straight from a 70’s porn flick gives it all that more street cred.

Favorite Tracks: Lonely Boy, Gold On The Ceiling, Money Maker

1. R.E.M. – “Collapse Into Now”
My world was rocked when one of my favorite bands of all-time called it quits earlier this year…but I totally understand. They’ve been together for almost 30 years and each member has other interests outside of the band so it makes sense. And it is only fitting that they call it a day with this album. Sounding almost like a collection of greatest hits that spanned their careers, this album, the 15th studio album in their collection, is far and away one of their best since drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. I am hoping that there are hundreds of new tracks in a vault somewhere that will be released over time however if that’s not the case, then this album is a classic that R.E.M. should be very proud to leave us with.

Favorite Tracks: It Happened Today, Oh My Heart, Discoverer, Mine Smell Like Honey, That Someone Is You, Blue

My Top 50 Favorite Songs Of 2011

Nicki Hit A Home Run…But Did It Go Far Enough?

2011 was a great year for music! Despite what some prognosticators say…I DO NOT believe the music industry is dead. On the contrary, there was great music across the board this year from all genres…from electronica to pop to rock to alternative to instrumental. You name it, there was lots of it. Some was easily accessible. Some you had to go find yourself. But there was a lot to select from and honestly…I probably coulda done a Top 100 with no problem! Here they are…MY top 50 songs of 2011. What a year it was….

#50:  Snow Patrol – “Called Out In The Dark” (alternative)
The new album won’t be released until 2012 but this early release single shows a lot of potential for the band mostly known for their musical appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy.” It has an uplifting message and I like the beat. Nice start…

#49:  Radiohead – “Seperator” (alternative)
Oh so dreamy song from the “The King Of Limbs” and easily its best track. No one does dream rock quite like Thom Yorke.

#48:  Lowline – “Suicide” (rock)
I “discovered” this band back in the early summer and their debut album ROCKS! This track was the first that grabbed me and shook me around. Love to drive to this one…

#47: Social Distortion – “Bakersfield” (blues rock)
A strong album released last January from this California rock band and this slow burn of a song is my favorite on the album! Funny…I feel like this a lot…

#46: Jane’s Addiction – “Ultimate Reason” (alternative)
Although not the strongest album by this classic alternative rock outfit, their latest, “The Great Escape Artist,” had a few good tracks and this was my favorite. Thanks to Perry Ferrell for keeping the dream alive!

#45: Wiz Khalifa – “Black & Yellow” (rap)
The Steelers went to the Super Bowl (and lost) and this was the mantra as they beat the snot out of everyone else in the AFC. Hometown boy Wiz trumps it up and roots for the hometeam…

#44: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes” (alternative)
Sounding a lot like Chrissie Hynde, lead singer Dee Dee Penny cranks up the heat in this little ditty. It’s 60’s pop rock at its best!

#43: Wild Flag – “Romance” (rock)
An all-girl band that rocks! With influences ranging from all over the place and lots of guitar work, Carrie Brownstein brings her unique sound over from Sleater-Kinney and jams on it!

#42: City And Colour – “Fragile Bird” (alternative)
Straight from the great north, Canadian rocker Dallas Green goes a little soft on us. Little known fact…the name of the band comes from HIS name…Dallas (city) and Green (colour).

#41: Jeff Bridges – “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do” (country)
Bridges takes his Bad Blake character one step further and with the help of T-Bone Burnett cranks out this simple yet effective classic country tune.

#40: Max Rafferty – “Go Down Easy” (alternative)
This nice little acoustic track from the Kooks’ lead singer is a haunting song that sounds like it was produced in a tunnel. Very effective use of reverb without losing Rafferty’s vocals.

#39: Maroon 5 – “Moves Like Jagger” (pop)
I know, I know…seriously? But damn if this song doesn’t just stick in my head. And having Christina Aguilera doesn’t hurt it one bit.

#38: Girl In A Coma – “Smart”
Another product from the great state of Texas. This little known band has opened for Morrisey, Social Distortion, Frank Black & Tegan & Sara. Time for them to make an impact on their own, doncha think?

#37: Thievery Corporation – “Culture Of Fear” (rap/trip hop)
This band has been around for a while and for this track, they enlist political rapper Mr. Lif to slam on the man. Damn the man!

#36: Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks” (alt-pop)
Yes…it got played to death. But it doesn’t take away the fact that I was listening to this song WAY before pop radio got its hands on it.

#35: Gavin DeGraw – “Not Over You” (pop)
Sad little pop song with a killer hook. DeGraw hits this one out of the park…even if he does lose his heart in the process.

#34: PT Walkley – “Save The World” (alternative)
Wikipedia says Walkley is “regarded by many as one of the top truly independent artists of his time.” I don’t know about that but what I DO know is that this song is AWESOME! May be one of my most listened to tracks of this year…

#33: Peter Bjorn & John – “Second Chance” (pop)
Catchy as hell, this song bounces all over the place and fills your ear with bubblegum pop goodness!

#32: Paul Simon – “The Afterlife” (adult contemporary)
Ever wonder what happens to us after we die? Paul Simon does…and he wrote a song about it. Purgatory has never seemed so much like the DMV…

#31:  Manchester Orchestra – “Leave It Alone” (rock)
A very bleak look at a trouble relationship. The song has emotional resonance and sticks with me.

#30: Kurt Vile – “Puppet To The Man” (alternative)
Vile has had a great year with Spin listing his 4th album as one of the best this year. I’ve downloaded several tracks but this is my favorite. We may be underdogs but we’ll get by folks…

#29: The Kooks – “Rosie” (alt-pop)
Sometimes I just like a good pop song and the Kooks are pretty good at producing power pop alternative rock hooks that can stick to your ear like hair gel. Wonder what I’m talking about? Yeah…me too. But I like this track.

#28: The Kills – “Future Starts Slow” (rock)
Who writes lyrics like this anymore…?

You can holler, you can wail
You can swing, you can flail
You can fuck like a broken sail
But I’ll never give you up
If I ever give you up my heart will surely fail
And after all God can keep my soul
England have my bones
But don’t ever give me up
I could never get back up when the future starts so slow

Apparently The Kills do…and they are awesome!

#27: Foo Fighters – “Bridge Burning” (rock)
Oh come on. A Top 50 without the Foo Fighters would seem just…so…empty. And this leadoff track to their latest album, “Wasting Light,” is the bombastic thrill that only Dave Grohl can produce.

#26: Flo Rida – “Good Feeling” (rap pop)
This is NOT your typical rap song which is why I like it this much! It builds slowly and then smacks you in the face with it’s heavy trippy bounce. A good anthem for any sports arena!

#25: David Nail – “Let It Rain” (country)
Nail nails it as far as a country album goes. His “The Sound Of A Million Dreams” is what pulled me back into the country scene and I love it! This song was the first track to be released and it soars with the pain & guilt of a one night stand. And if THAT doesn’t make a good country song, I don’t know what does.

#24: David Guetta featuring Chris Brown & Lil Wayne – “I Can Only Imagine” (rap/pop)
I dare you to turn it off. Catchy as hell from the DJ who is the hottest thing this side of sliced bread and when the song drops out at 1:15 it gets nasty…

#23: The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling” (blues rock)
The little band that could from Akron, OH is winning over EVERYBODY with their blues rock sound and this song is as funky as they get with fuzzy guitars and grungy vocals.

#22: Gotye – “Easy Way Out” (alternative)
Wally De Backer is an indie darling and he sure knows how to layer a song…and this song soars. If you like the band Spoon, you’ll totally dig Gotye. I struggle with which song to choose for this list because, quite frankly, the entire album is excellent. But I’m going with this one because I like the lyrics and the texture of the background vocals.

#21: Blue October – “The Honesty” (alternative)
I have to be honest…taking ANY track from the latest album by this band is a like stealing a part from an engine. They all work in unison to make a classic album that is so honest and brutal that it was hard to select just one. But this track is indicative of what the rest of the album is like and it could be a the most “honest” of all of them.

#20: Chickenfoot – “Come Closer” (rock)
What do you get when you throw a bunch of classic rockers together from Van Halen and Red Hot Chili Peppers? An amazing song about a struggling relationship is probably  NOT what you would think. But this song works wonders and is a perfect vehicle for all of them to showcase their abilities.

#19: Future Islands – “Balance” (alternative)
I don’t know anything about this band and this song was a part of a bunch of free tunes I got from Spin magazine but it immediately caught my ear and now I can’t STOP listening to it. Like Frightened Rabbit on soda pop, it has this odd lilting sound to it that keeps me hooked.

#18: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “Record Machine” (pop rock)
Half of Oasis went to Beady Eye, the other half made an album so good that it can be considered a classic. This song has Oasis written all over it, from the soaring vocals to the backing guitars. The Birds fly pretty high and I would pay big money to hear it live in a huge arena. And THAT is really what rock n roll is all about.

#17: Mat Kearney – “Ships In The Night” (pop)
Know the joke about hallway sex? If you do, then this track elaborates on that. Just…not in a funny way.

#16: Friendly Fires – “Show Me Lights” (electronic alternative)
This song is right up there with “Second Chance” as the catchiest songs of 2011. Dunno what they’re talking about but the song rocks!

#15: MuteMath – “Tell Your Heart Heads Up” (alternative rock)
Although their latest album isn’t as strong as “Armistice,” it still offers a few songs that are as good as anything released by any other band this year. I love the pace of this one…

#14: Active Child – “Hanging On” (alternative)
If there is one song that sounds almost religious in its presentation, it’s this one. But it’s about a bad relationship (again) and the vocals are painful and haunting at the same time.

#13: Mumford & Sons – “The Cave” (alternative)
This one is a layup. One of the best tracks of the year…as voted by just about everyone.

#12: Katie Cole – “Gravity” (rock)
You might not know her yet, but this singer/songwriter from Melbourne, Australia will be lighting it up in 2012. This song I found while watching a wristwatch commercial on television and I HAD to find out who sang it. Turns out it was Katie. And she’s awesome!

#11: Wye Oak – “Civilian” (alternative)
This track has the most blistering guitar solo of the year midway through it. I can’t seem to turn my stereo up loud enough when it comes on.

#10: Raphael Saadiq – “Heart Attack” (funky R&B)
This is old skool at the heart of it but it sounds so fresh that you can’t help but wonder where you’ve heard it before. Saadiq returns to the roots of funk and gets brilliant.

#9: The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” (rock)
With their fuzzy guitar and hot back beat this song makes me wanna dance. And for a white guy, that’s pretty damn funky.

#8: David Nail – “She Rides Away” (country)
Oh look who’s back. Country artist Nail has said that he didn’t even think he wanted to record this song and it is my favorite song on the album. Arena country rock that has me seeing a woman driving her El Camino in the desert, leaving her man in her dust. Odd imagery but that’s what I got…

#7: Teddybears – “Rocket Scientist” (dance)
I dare you to put this on and NOT shake your butt. Go ahead…DOUBLE dare ya…

#6: Gym Class Heroes – “Ass Back Home” (pop rap)
In many cases, music is a soundtrack to my life. In the case of this song, it is a reflection of my life on the road. Much like last year’s “The Wind”, this man in this song is very much like myself…on the road a lot and trying to keep his relationship intact. Tough stuff for a pop rap outfit but this song nails it.

#5: R.E.M. – “It Happened Today” (alternative)
How much am I gonna miss Michael Stipe and the boys? After retiring a few months ago, I broke out this CD and wore it out…again. It’s a fitting ending for an amazing band that has been a staple in my music collection for decades. And this song has Stipe and Co. singing to the heavens…

#4: Joe Bonamassa – “Dust Bowl” (blues)
Listening to this song makes you feel as if you’re walking through the desert in search of a cold drink when you find yourself in a dirty old cactus town. There, over at the corner bar, you ask for a bottle of whiskey…and this guy is playing on the jukebox. And yes…it is EXACTLY like that.

#3: Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass” (rap pop)
This song will forever remind me of the summer of 2011. Nicki was only a backup voice until this song shot her into the upper echelon of today’s pop rap artists. There wasn’t a catchier rap track on the radio this year…

#2: The Raveonettes – “Ignite” (alternative)
Something about this Danish duet that does it for me. I don’t know if it’s the fuzzy guitar or the distorted vocals or just the vibe but The Raveonettes are about as cool a band as you can ask for these days. This song never got any airplay but it is a classic. If there ever was a great simple song about longing and unrequited love, this is it.

AND FINALLY…

#1: Beastie Boys – “Here’s A Little Something For Ya” (rap)
The REAL Beasties have returned and their latest album saw them return to their roots. For those about to party, feel free to put on the ultimate party jam. With classic rap lines and a beat that kills it, the Boys give you a song that you can blow out your speakers and that’ll make your tires bounce. Here’s the Beastie Boys with the best song of 2011. And if ya feelin’ chilly I’m gonna get ya a shawl…

Everyone Needs A Little Sunshine…

Back in Nashville last week and, as always, had to get my fill of some live music. Although country is the obvious genre of choice in Nash-Vegas, my friends and I discovered a real talent off Broadway at a little jazz club called “Jazz & Jokes.” I’ve seen my share of entertainers however I gotta tell ya…if there ever was a singer/performer built for the stage, it’s Avery Sunshine.

With all the energy of a hummingbird, a smile that’s infectious, a great sense of humor and a voice that is amazing, Sunshine hit the stage on Friday night and blew us away with a strong mix of great R&B, some very funny lyrics, a little bit of gospel and a great backing band. I had never heard of Avery Sunshine but I will be watching her career as it takes off. A voice like this can’t be held back and neither can her personality. I checked out a lot of her videos on YouTube and I gotta tell you…she’s something special on stage. Her recordings are good, but to get the FULL effect of this genuine artist, please check her schedule and make an effort to see her live. You won’t be disappointed!

And here is her latest video that has been featured on BET called “All In My Head…”

What Is Going On With Christina Aguilera?

In 2007

I am a professed Christina Aguilera fan. In my mind, there is no one out there in pop music today who can hold a candle to her vocally. She simply has amazing talent and despite the fact that her career has taken an odd turn, I can’t help but wonder…what is going on with her?

Pictures taken at a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Cardiff, Wales recently have been less than flattering and I can’t figure out what is going on. Here she is in Wales…

I have no idea what to think. Is this just a bad shot? I realize that she had a baby in 2008 but in last year’s film, “Burlesque,” she looked like this…

And then last year on “The Voice,” she admittedly had gained some weight but I thought that maybe she was either pregnant again (even though she had divorced from her husband in late 2010, she was said to be dating a production assistant that she had met on the set of “Burlesque”) or maybe just not as in shape as she normally is. So…I dunno. I’m hoping that whatever she’s doing she’s okay physically and mentally. She looks…well…frankly she looks like she needs some help. With her last album, “Bionic,” never really finding an audience (even if it did have a couple of hit singles) and “Burlesque” doing less than expected at the box office (I liked it), I’m hoping she’s not slipping away and losing sight of where her talent really lies. “The Voice” might have had an audience but her strength is HER voice and I hope she can find it again…and find herself some help with her weight. Not that she looked bad on “The Voice” but the shots at the MJ concert are horrible. She looks insane!

Here she is in the latest single with Maroon 5, “Moves Like Jagger.” I gotta think there’s some kind of odd camera trickery going her because a person can’t just leapfrog from what she looks like in this video to what she looks like in the above photo. It’s just not physically possible!

Is it?

The Secret Of Success

Not working in the music industry, I have no idea what it takes to become a musician or a singer or a hot new band. Obviously there are a variety of ways for achieving success. With the flood of music-based television shows right now, you could hop in line and attempt to sing your way into the hearts of America. With the average American Idol season lasting a few months, that is probably the shortest route . Of course, with that option you are up against some pretty stiff competition. I would imagine that the odds of winning Idol  are a lot like winning the lottery!

Some artists have used the internet to get their music to the masses. Many rap artists such as Eminem, B.O.B. & a slew of others have “mix tapes” they put online and have been “discovered” that way. MySpace was originally a music camp for artists hoping to get their tunes to a mainstream audience. Or…as most artists do…you slog it out, night by night, in dark bars and small towns, singing to groups ranging from 10 to 350. That’s what I saw the past 2 weekends as I found myself in Nashville, TN. The home of country music shines brightly on Broadway Avenue in downtown Nashville as men and women search for a dream that may or may never come true. There are the stories of success, often passed down from generation to generation, as many country greats adorn the walls of  bars such as “The Stage,” “Legends Corner” or “The Whiskey Bent Saloon.” But I have to imagine for every success story, there have been bright lights that have flickered out while searching for their moment on Broadway.

I had a chance to spend a few minutes chatting with 3 singers while in Nashville. Each of them have music that has been released and is available on ITunes. Mitchell Ogelsby is one of them. I had a quick chat with Mitch while drinking a cold brew and he told me that he has been working for more than 12 years, getting his reps in at “The Stage” while performing in front of hundreds of people who walk through its doors. Mitch has an easy style, a deep southern drawl and his set-list is littered with country hits that are often requested by patrons. During his set, he also manages to squeeze in his original material from time to time and I have to admit that even though I’m not a huge country fan…I really like his stuff! I checked out his album “Something New Under The Sun” on Itunes and his songs are jukebox-ready country singles such as “She Drives Me To Drink” and “I Ain’t Dead Yet.” If I were a betting man, I would bet that at some point Mitch will have his moment in the sun. He seems like a great guy and it was nice of him to chat with me before hitting the stage for a 3 hour set.

I also met 2 young women who are vying for attention on Broadway. The first is a tall, young blonde named Hali Hicks. I watched Hali at a smaller venue in Nashville (the name escapes me) and she has a special gift. She has a remarkable voice that is specifically geared for singing country music. If there is one thing I don’t like about Broadway, it’s that the artists are forced to sing more popular songs instead of their own music. When I saw Hali, she had 2 band members who she had never performed with before backing her on guitar and drums. Apparently this is normal in Nashville as musicians find themselves on gigs with acts who need their services. So the night I saw Hali, she was chatting with her band, working with them to get everything just right for each song. I learned later that Hali has been performing in Nashville since the age of 15 and has been a full-time singer since she was 17. She has a lot of potential and is now on tour around the country promoting her album, “Can’t Hide Country,” which is available now on ITunes. Visit her site to see where she will be appearing next!

I also met Hali’s roommate and writing partner, Anna LaPrad. I was able to listen to Anna perform on 2 different stages on Broadway on a Friday night last week. She told me that it wasn’t unusual for that to happen and that she has even managed to do 3 gigs in a day, singing for over 12 hours! With those kind of reps, I’m amazed her voice doesn’t crack! But doing a double set didn’t seem to bother her the night I saw her and if anything, it got stronger as the night went on. A fan of Patsy Cline & Shania Twain (her version of “Walking After Midnight” was a treat the night I saw her), Anna has a deeper voice than Hali and reminds me of a young Sara Evans. She’s from South Carolina and has been performing since she was 10, singing in her church choir. She moved to Nashville in 2009 where she met Hali and now the 2 of them are working to become the new voices of a promising group of Nashville hopefuls. Her self-titled debut album can also be found on ITunes and I would recommend the single “Another Ride” if you were to ask my opinion.

Having grown up listening to country, I can appreciate good country vocals when I hear them and between the 3 of these artists, there appears to be a lot of talent in Nashville right now. Here’s hoping that success finds them and that their dreams are fulfilled soon. If you get a chance, go check out their websites and listen to their music. I’m sure they would appreciate it and give you a big “Thank You” for giving them a moment of your time!

R.E.M. Begins Again

One of my all-time favorite bands has pulled the plug after 31 years and I’m confused. I’m confused because this year they released what may be my favorite album of this year. I’m confused because this album seemed to return them to the greatness of their 80’s & early 90’s music. I’m confused because, quite frankly, they seemed to disappear for many years and then returned and seemed stronger than ever. Nevertheless, there it was on their website on 9/21/11 that they are “calling it a day” as a band and are leaving as friends who have moved on and have new interests to pursue.

This is, for me, sad news. There are few bands that I can honestly say that I would wait in line at midnight to buy their new albums. R.E.M. was one of those bands. I remember when I first became fan of R.E.M. It wasn’t in their early years. Actually, I had never heard of them until their breakout hit, “One I Love,” hit the pop charts in the summer of 1987. That was my senior year in high school and it was a staple in many mix tapes that I would make that year. The single will always be one of my favorite songs and to this day I hear it and it transports me back to my younger days. From there I went to college and ended up working in the radio industry. R.E.M. released “Green” in 1988 and I remember playing “Stand” and “Get Up” on AM radio and getting the album for free as the station got extra copies. I played it non-stop in my car and, even though it’s not the strongest R.E.M. album, it still resonates with me whenever I hear a song off it.

And then, in the early spring of 1991, I was a senior at Ohio University and program director of the campus radio station when “Out Of Time” was released. I imagine we played every track off the album in heavy rotation that year. I can’t hear a song from it that doesn’t remind me of that year in school. College is where I became who I am today. Those days spent with friends, working at the station, going to classes and enjoying my final year of school are all wrapped in “Out Of Time.” I hardly remember listening to anything else. And those days, in my mind, are as pure as any memory I have. From the super-hit “Losing My Religion” to the final track “Me And Honey,” there’s not a bad track on the album and it’s a classic by any standard.

The year after I graduated, in the fall of 1992, R.E.M. released “Automatic For The People” and, once again, I wore it out in my tape deck in my car, listening to it repeatedly that winter. It’s funny to me that “Everybody Hurts” became as big as it did because it’s one of my least favorites on “Automatic.” My personal favorite, “Try Not To Breathe,” never became a hit but it’s one of MY favorites by the band…

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me. Don’t dare me to breathe
I want you to remember, oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
Baby, don’t shiver now
Why do you shiver? (I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe – I have seen things you will never see)
I want you to remember

In 1994, R.E.M. released “Monster.” On that album, the band went more mainstream rock with “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” and it was on their tour for this album that I that I finally got to see them live in Cincinnati in October of 1995. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen many. Unfortunately it was also the only time I got to see them perform live. I remember them opening with “Kenneth” and blowing me away with their sonic power. I also recall Stipe singing “Let Me In” with his back to the audience and then whipping us into a frenzy with the show ending “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”  They also performed many songs from their upcoming album that I had never heard and I remember thinking that their next album was gonna rock harder than anything they had ever done before. And I was right.

After “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” was released in 1996 and it was everything I wanted it to be. From the sheer sonic force of “The Wake-Up Bomb” to the pounding “Leave,” I really don’t think this album gets the status it deserves. It ranks high as one of my favorite R.E.M. albums mostly because it’s a combination of so much of everything that R.E.M. was up to that time. In 1997, drummer Bill Berry left the band. Tired of the spotlight, he left with the band’s blessing but they seemed lost without him. They released 4 albums without him but never really seemed the same. Until this year and “Collapse Into Now.” And it might very well be my favorite album of the year to this point.

So now R.E.M. is no longer but I have to believe that there are more songs to be heard by this band. 31 years leaves a lot of opportunity to create music and I’m sure there are plenty of songs stored in a vault somewhere just waiting to be heard. They’ve already been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame (in 2006) and will always be mentioned whenever the discussion of greatest alternative bands of all-time comes up. With 15 studio albums, countless bootleg live albums and a few greatest hits collections, R.E.M. has made its mark on alternative rock radio and will always be one of my favorite bands forever.

Active Child…Terrible Name, Awesome Song

Last week the album “You Are All I See” by Active Child dropped and ITunes featured one of the songs as a freebie. Having never heard of the band, I did some research and discovered that Active Child isn’t really a “band” but artist Pat Grossi, who is one of a slew of new artists who are using their laptops to create their music. For this album though, Grossi hit the studio and made some alt-pop ambiance music that, according to his website, “sounds cosmically huge and yet intimate all the same.” I haven’t listened to the rest of the album but, in the case of this first single, that is definitely a good description. I’ll have to check out more of Grossi’s work a little later on but for now…here is “Hanging On” by Active Child. I’m 99% sure this one is gonna be one of my favorites of 2011…

You know we can get away
Because I’m calling your name
Every day I feel this pain
But you just turn and walk away

I just can’t keep hanging on
To you and me
I just don’t know what is wrong
With you and me

Touch me and then turn away
Put your hands into the flame
Tell me if you feel this pain
‘Cause I don’t want to be a ball and chain

I just can’t keep hanging on
To you and me
I just don’t what is wrong
With you and me
With you and me

I just can’t keep hanging on
To you and me
I just don’t know what is wrong
I just can’t keep hanging on
To you and me
I just don’t know what is wrong

RIP Clarence Clemons

The saxophone is, without a doubt, my favorite instrument. Growing up in the 80’s, the radio was filled with songs that featured the instrument and I have always loved listening to the songs of Clarence Clemons. Whether he was playing with The Boss as part of his E Street Band or working with other artists such as Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, Ringo Starr, Michael Stanley, Lady Gaga, Gary U.S. Bonds or bands such as Great White or his own band, Temple of Soul, Clemons was an example of how great musicians can bend the rules and perform any genre of music if their heart desires.

Known affectionately as “Big Man” due to his size ( he stood 6’4″ and was an imposing figure standing next to Bruce who is only 5’10”), Clemons was considered to be the backbone of the E Street Band. It’s his tenor sax that many identify in many great songs, including “Born To Run,” “Dancing In The Dark,” and “Thunder Road.” I list “Born To Run” as one of MY personal favorite sax songs of all-time and he also performs in another personal favorite by The Michael Stanley Band, “He Can’t Love You.”

Clarence Clemons had so many fans and his passing has left a gaping hole in music today. He is one of the most recognizable solo saxophonists of our time and he will be missed greatly. Clemons passed on June 18th after complications from a stroke. He was only 69. Rest in peace, Big Man. Those of us who appreciate a great sax solo will look forward to hearing you again on the flip side…