Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Real Boy Band

I used to have a thing for boy bands. Well, one in particular (Lance Bass will always make my heart sing, gay or not!) But here in the US, they have become a thing of the past as is per our lousy next bigger, better, louder, faster, one-hit-wonder custom. Lucky for me, the US isn't the only country putting out pop music.

I've spent time actually living in other countries. It's a sad fact to state that the US is completely wrapped up in their own music. When I lived in Germany, I heard French pop on the charts. I listened to German pop when I lived in Poland. Trust me, there are borders in Europe, but they are not quite as thickly defined as our own.

So where is the next generation of real pop coming from? Asia.

I've followed the Korean boy band machine that is Super Junior. They began as a 13 member all-boy super group. Due to their popularity (and smart business moves of their label) they have also been divided into smaller sub groups, simultaneously targeting different music industries and audiences. Super Junior KRY target a more mature audience using R&B ballads, Super Junior T use Trot music for their fanbase, and Super Junior Happy is all about the bubble gum pop. (You want to see real bubblegum pop? Check out their video for Happiness. It's so sweet it'll make you sick.) Super Junior M focuses on the Chinese market (they're actually the first international music group in the Chinese music industry to have members of both Chinese and Korean descent.)

What I love most about Super Junior is their simple style. They dance. They sing. Nothing is ever over the top. Story lines in their videos are never complicated or over-sexualized. Their music is fun and catchy. They are truly what pop is meant to be.

Here is the latest video from Super Junior M, Super Girl

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Hopeful Fallen Idol

Katherine McPhee...what the hell happened to you?

She was the runner-up on the fifth season of American Idol (sadly losing to Taylor Hicks). Her first single, Over It, did well on the U.S. Billboard charts, and topped the charts in both India and Asia, eventually going gold from digital downloads of the song. McPhee had stated however that it was not "[her] favorite song" and she did not want her "song to be something that [she] was a part of." The video, while cute and singer-centric, is nothing but a few boring shots of her in cute clothes, lamenting or following around her ex-boyfriend.

What I remember most from Cathering McPhee however was that she could sing. The girl had a phenomenal voice and a natural grace and ease to her stage presence.

Her Idol audition:

And who can forget this:

Now, this was all back in 2006-07. She released a video for Love Story which showed off much more of her R&B sound, and while still singer-centric, was much more fun to watch with its Tina Turner/French Beatnik throwbacks.

And here we are in 2009. McPhee has released a new single, Had it All.

What. The. Hell.

She looks like some coked-up blond model. The red lipstick is ridiculous. Her voice sounds like a hot mess. Where is the powerful singer we once knew? Is this new McPhee supposed to be pop or country? What kind of boring cross-over shit is her label making her produce?

'Tis a sad day indeed. The death of a career from McPhee.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

GaGa does it again

She is the queen of all that is weirdly talented. You know you can't ignore her. She was the musical guest on SNL this past week and honestly, this is just fun to watch.

The thing that really gets me about her though is that she can sing in tune. It's a sad pop state we live in where everything is so mass produced that it doesn't matter whether you can really carry a tune. And here she is, singing, performing, dancing. Doing it all but always the music comes first.

Best of all though...she knows how to have fun. Even with Madge in the picture.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Because who doesn't love watching a boy run around in his underwear?

Oh, Mika. You have always had a big place in my heart. Ever since this video, Big Girl (You are Beautiful), I have loved everything about you.

Mika is not one to shy away from going against popular culture. He has this wonderful playful quality to his music and his videos have an almost careless freedom to them. There is no glitz and glamor. It's just Mika being himself. And his newest video, We Are Golden, is exactly that. I mean, who doesn't love to watch a boy in his underwear run around his room like a maniac?

And just for nostalgia's sake, here's his first video, Grace Kelly. It was designed to be a mocking satire of musicians who try to reinvent themselves to be popular. Mika claims the song was inspired after a bad experience with a record company executive, in which he was told to be more like Craig David. The lyric "So I tried a little Freddie" is a reference to Queen's Freddie Mercury, to whose singing voice Mika's has been compared. On at least one occasion, Mika confirmed that he used the main melody from Figaro's famous aria Largo al factotum in the opera The Barber of Seville by Rossini.

Bonus! Here's a great interview interspersed with my favorite Mika song, Lollipop. He actually wrote it for his younger sister which is actually kinda sweet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Once More

These last few weeks of summer school are killing me. So, I'm going to procrastinate for another hour more and give you some more fun things to watch and discuss.

I have a thing for movie and tv soundtracks. I can't get enough of them, no matter what type they are; classical score or alt pop tracks, it's all the same to me, good music that reminds you of a moment, a feeling, or a story.

I'm currently stuck on the Once soundtrack (again). I listen to it when I'm slowly falling down into that depressed I'm-thirty-and-single-again mode. August is always the hardest month for me. It's fitting that the first track off this album is called Falling Slowly.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, RUN to the nearest store and get it. The story line is beautiful (knowing that even if it feels so right, sometimes things just aren't meant to be), the acting poignant (both actors are musicians and very sincere in the story they are telling), and the music some of the best you'll ever hear (composed by the actors). Go, now. I'm telling you.

Here's a scene from the movie where Girl is rehearsing lyrics from Guy's song as she walks home from the convenience store one night. Beautiful and simple, just the way I like it.

Other soundtracks/scores I've been stuck on lately have also included the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack. It's full of a funky mix of electronic Bollywood pop which makes for some truly interesting listening. There's aren't really any videos released for it (except MIA's Paper Planes), but definitely take a listen to Latika's Theme and O...Saya. You can hear the entire soundtrack here.

The one soundtrack that is my favorite of all time though has to be from the documentary of The Buena Vista Social Club. To see these men at this age performing in front of thousands of people is awe inspiring. They tell so many stories of their lives in Havana, Cuba, at a time when things were simpler. Their music is sensual, playful, and melts my heart each time I listen.

My favorite tracks include Chan-Chan

and Dos Gardenias sung by Ibrahim Ferrer. Here is a small video of him singing it live.

Other great soundtracks to also check out: Romeo + Juliet (it also has a second cd of just the movie score which is also amazing). The Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Ring scores are always enchanting, and last but not least, there's always whatever is currently on rotation at Grey's Anatomy.

So do you have soundtracks or scores that you love? Comment below! I need more music to listen to!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Love, Save the Empty

I'm annoyed. Dating in this day and age is no longer the typical you meet, there's a spark, you get to know each other, and slowly something grows. Everything is part of this gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, fast-paced, let's-have-sex-before-we-even-say-hello mentality. I won't deny that I've been caught up in it before. Social networking and dating websites, cell phones, and online chat have made communication so accessible yet people have never felt more alone in their lives.

It's no wonder women have mental issues and men act like predatory jerks.

There is no movie (or book) better suited to explain this dysfunctional phenomenon than He's Just Not That Into You. I watched it. I saw myself in every single one of the womens' situations. I got angry. I laughed. I cried.

And then I simply realized that this is reality.

People do stupid things. Men don't call back when they say they will. Women obsess to the point of being idiots. We're all scared. We all want to take that chance. We're just not as confident as we'd like to be. But we all want the same thing though. To find that one person who completes us, who will love us even with our stupid mistakes.

One major point in this movie that wasn't a mistake however, was the soundtrack. It's beautifully balanced between great nostalgic 80's favorites like The Human League's Don't You Want Me, The Talking Heads' This Must Be the Place, and The Cure's Friday I'm in Love along with newer tracks from Corinne Bailey Rae, The Ting Tings, and Lily Allen. Scarlett Johansson even sings one track herself (wonderful voice in my humble opinion). The small gem of the soundtrack however, comes from a singer-songwriter named Erin McCarley. Her voice has a purity that is not easily found in the pop world today, and her stunning beauty makes her one to watch out for. Her single Love, Save the Empty, actually has two different videos.

The original:

And the re-release for the movie:

While I love the original with its quaint simple charm (and cute girl carrying a fish around town), the re-released version actual had me paying more attention to what the lyrics were saying. There were many more close-ups of Erin's gorgeous face where we can see her singing full phrases rather than the choppy, quick cuts of the first video, and the movie clips are interjected perfectly adding emphasis to lyrics that connect us all in the journey to find the one.

It all just goes to show that sometimes being still is much better than the fast paced that we're all used to taking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off Topic

I'm going off topic for a minute. It's important.

I live in an amazing city. There is nothing that would ever take me away from this place. Complain all you want about how the winters are crap and the traffic and CTA is a mess. Our city and state government is more than a little corrupt. But there is a spirit of creativity and genuine delight here that I have found nowhere else. People here have the knack of finding beauty in simplicity and that is one of my highest priorities in life.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

What you may not know

What you may not know about me is that I'm actually a choir dork. I write a ton about pop music because I love it, but my real passion, more than opera, more than rock, is choir music. I love the sounds we make, the concentration of so many people for that one perfect moment. There is no experience like it in the world.

I miss the days where I sang in my choir in undergrad. We were an amazing group of musicians with a truly passionate conductor. I learned about some amazing choral composers that I probably would not have come across if it weren't for him. One of my favorites is Eric Whitacre. Not only is he amazingly talented and hotter than any movie star on the screen today, he's also extremely humble. I met him in person about four years ago at Midwest (ok, so I'm a band dork too), and told him how much I love his choral music. He was genuinely surprised and happy, and actually took a few minutes to talk to me. I was completely smitten.

But the most truly amazing thing about him though is his pushing the boundaries of music and technology. He's written an opera called Paradise Lost that infuses technology and live action on stage. One of his more recent projects has also included putting together a virtual choir for his piece entitled Sleep.

The premise is simple. A video of a conductor is posted. Everyone sings along on their own part. The outcome is phenomenal.

And he's going to be doing it again with another of his pieces, Lux Aurumque. You can bet my webcam will be ready for this one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Video Noir

Last night, I had a most excellent time at Chicago's Movies in the Park, a summer tradition running now for ten years. There is nothing like gathering with a few thousand people in the grass of Butler Field to watch a movie that everyone loves. A few favorites from the last couple of years have included Grease and The Sound of Music (can you imagine singing do, a deer, a female deer with roughly three thousand people? It's pretty awesome.) This is just another small reason that I love living in this city. There's so much to do here and it's all free.

Last night was a film noir classic that I was familiar with (having the soundtrack to the musical of the same name), but I hadn't actually ever seen the original movie of Sunset Boulevard. This is a beautiful example of film noir at its best. Shot entirely in black and white, it is a crime drama that emphasizes "moral ambiguity and sexual motivation" to the very core. What many people also don't realize is that this movie is the origin of that famous line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

The film noir genre doesn't only pertain to film. There have been plenty of videos shot in this style as well and they range in a broad spectrum of artists and styles. My mind instantly goes to this first classic from a legend in his own right, Mr. Rod Stewart. His video for Infatuation follows the film noir style to a tee.

A more recent entry close to the film noir genre is No Doubt's It's My Life. Though shot in color (and a little too closely following the plot line of Chicago), it has the early 50's crime scene drama written all over it.

Madonna is known for her outrageous and controversial videos that push the boundaries of fans and critics alike. Justify My Love, while having been banned by MTV, could also be considered in the film noir genre for its aggressive sexual nature and ambiguous sensuality.

And of course, a little bonus video for the musical theater dork in me. Here is the amazing Glenn Close in a scene from Sunset Boulevard, With One Look.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer School

It's been way too long since I've had the time to post. Summer school is kicking my ass. Just when I think I'm about to get caught up, something else falls apart and I'm left trying to pull the pieces back together. So, to remind myself of a simpler, better time...here are a few more summertime videos to tide me (and you) over till I'm back to blogging in full swing.

My personal ultimate summer jam (before Will Smith became such a huge movie star)

Classic - No one can sing it like Janis. Makes me want to sit on a porch in the early evening, just taking in some suburban ambiance. (maybe it's time for me to get out of the city)

Whatever happened to The Sundays? Another great song that simply makes me happy. I think I need to revisit my CD collection to update my iPod.

And the ultimate summer song (with karaoke lyrics)

This video is one of those summer songs that I remember from when I was just a little girl. I always loved singing along to the scat, but didn't ever really pay attention to the actual words. The best video that I could find to post today had the karaoke lyrics and wow...it's all about sex and driving drunk. Makes me wonder about other songs that I love from that era that I didn't pay attention to.

So what are your favorite summertime jams?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


This has got to be one of the most monumental days for pop music. Michael Jackson has died. I'm still in complete shock over it. It's just somehow unbelievable that someone who seemed so immortal is gone.

He was not a perfect person. We all know this. But he was an AMAZING performer and musician. He will be missed.

He will always be our King of Pop.

Here's my favorite song of his. I'll be listening to it all day today. Sadly, there was never a video for it, but this is a nice retrospective of all the different Michaels we've seen over the years.

And no tribute would be complete without the two of his biggest (and longest) videos:


Watch Michael Jackson - Thriller (Full Length) in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Bad (directed by Scorsese, feat. Wesley Snipes)
Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Favor

I don't do this very often, but I'm about to get real personal on this blog.

When I was in undergrad, I became friends with a fabulous, gorgeous mezzo named Jamie who was married to an equally fabulous man named Jimmy. A few years ago, we lost Jimmy to suicide. You never think that it will happen to anyone that you know. You never think that it could happen to you or the ones that you love. But it does. It affects so many people in our country. Someone dies from suicide every 16 minutes. This statistic boggles my mind.

So this weekend, I'm walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's "Out of the Darkness Overnight" in memory of Jimmy and for all the people that struggle with suicide and depression. I would really appreciate any donations possible, and please know that every little bit helps. If you can't donate yourself, please spread the word.

It will make a world of difference and can help save someone's life.

Please donate to my page here

Many Thanks,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another Week Gone By

It has been a really LONG week, hence no posting. I'm wrapping up a set of concerts tonight in Millennium Park so next week, it'll be back to regular postings. For now, to tide you over, here's a little somethin' somethin' to remind everyone that summertime is finally here in Chicago! Now, you'll have to excuse me while I put off my homework (again) to go play in the sunshine. (This video makes me miss Daytona...almost.)

You know what else comes with summer? Dating. And with dating comes crushes, expectations, excitement, and heartbreak. Here's one of my favorite slam poets, Big Poppa E. It pretty much sums up what I'd like to find right now. *sigh* I mean, really? What girl wouldn't want to make a fort with the guy she likes?

So what are you all waiting around here for? Get out there! It's summer!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Fight

I have been fighting so hard to ignore Lady GaGa. She's all over the damn place, but after what I saw today, I had to post.

The girl is talented. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind. She's truly outrageous (in that Jem kinda way) and I'm slowly falling in love with her. This will probably be the first of many posts that I will write.

But at least it's better than the Kenny Chesney concert that I'm forced to listen to right now. He's playing at Soldier Field and there is no escaping what is coming in from my porch. *sigh* (actually, to tell the absolute truth...I started up the grill and have been eating my dinner on the porch listening to the crowd singing along. It's not as bad as I thought)


The girl is crazy. I love her. Found another acoustic version which is a bit more raw and edgy than the one up above. Take a look. Very interesting to see how she can differ her artistic interpretation of the same song.


The weather in Chicago these past few weeks has sucked. Today was no exception. It's been raining all morning long, and I have yet to even open one book to start my homework. It's been one of those days where I've just been ruminating on things that I shouldn't be reflecting on. But from stormy skies and rainy days come better things...like Missy.

I've been meaning to write a blog post exonerating all the amazing creativity that comes from this one woman. Missy Elliott is one of the few women artists that I truly respect and admire. Every video she puts out is unique and surprising. She is a woman who is always ahead of her time.

When The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) first came out back in 1997, everyone was amazed at the trashbag on her body, the stopmotion camera work, and the overall weird feel of the video. Nothing like this had ever really been seen before in the pop music of the 90's. The angles of her body, the overly magnified facial features, and futuristic sets all came from the genius mind of Hype Williams, who's worked with the likes of Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, t.A.T.u., and Coldplay. Check out his extensive videography here.

What many people don't realize however, is that producer Timbaland sampled the chorus from an old 70's hit by Ann Peebles. Check out the original song along with some pictures of Ann from back in the day.

What can I say? Homegirl can still work it after all these years. (There's some great footage at the beginning of this next video of the the writers talking about what inspired them to write this song followed by Ms. Peebles singing it live. Definitely worth watching.)

So yes, the rain and haunting memories might suck right now, but there's always something just a bit better right around the corner, like the afternoon sunshine that's finally breaking through all these damn clouds.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Being a Student

It sucks being a broke student, having to wait on money that you know is coming (thank you financial aid office), but just unsure of when it is coming (again, thanks a lot financial aid. really. any day now would be great.)

So to rejoice in all that is great (and awful) about being a student, I give you:

It's a classic that everyone knows and loves, For the Love of Money by The O'Jays.

Some days, I really wish I had been born just a few years earlier. The 70's look so fun, what with their sparkly suits and big hair. Of course, it was far from perfect though, with a crap economy, continual struggle for civil rights, and oh yeah, a little something called the Vietnam War.

But still, I would love to go back just for one day to experience what our culture was like back then. Pop music was made for celebrating good times (and bad), artists weren't afraid to sweat on stage to put on a good show, and there was no such thing as lip-synching. Musicians knew how to really play live and having a brass section backing you up meant you were the shit. Funk was truly badass.

I can haz disco nau plz?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Something Brand New

Today you get two posts for the price of one!

I have to admit though, I'm not too thrilled about this second post of mine. DMB has released their first video off of their newest album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. The song, Funny the Way it is, has already become a great summer anthem among fans and the general public alike. But I was in for a shock when I clicked play.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to post the video itself yet. Here's the link to watch it. Take a look and you tell me. Just what in the hell were they thinking?

#1 Crush

In grade school, I was the girl who ran around the playground in pigtails trying to kiss the boys (and even planted one on a few of them). In high school, I had my first love that broke my heart multiple times. College came and went by in a non-dating blur, and here I am now, at thirty-years-old with those same stupid feelings; the fascination that comes with getting to know someone, your pulse quickening when they enter a room, and all the angsty stupidity that makes you feel like you have the self-esteem of a sixteen-year-old.

Having a crush sucks. Truly.

But having a crush when you're a girl especially sucks because there's nothing you can do. You have to sit around and wait, hoping that the guy down the hall will glance your way and see something special, something out of the ordinary. You aren't supposed to make the first move. The men are the ones who are supposed to do the chasing. Which leaves the girls to their own devices...

So all you can do as a girl, is think. Which complicates things. Which is stupid.

At my angst-iest, I was in high school. It was the late 1990's and my world revolved around boys and music (has much changed? yeah, that would be a big NO). When I was angry and needed to feel like a total badass chick, I rocked out to Garbage. Shirley Manson was my idol with her fiery red hair, heavy blue eye makeup, and black fingernail polish. There was something so primal about her attitude and her sexuality was able to break through the ugly grunge-pop mold of bands at the time.

What I love most about Stupid Girl, is the worn, used feel of the visual textures against the lyrics of the song. The scratched in text blocking the views of the band adds even more grit to the words being sung.

"You stupid girl
All you had you wasted"

"Don't believe in love
Don't believe in hate
Don't believe in anything
That you can't waste"

The video itself is a performance piece, inspired by the title sequence from David Fincher's 1995 movie Se7en. The clip was shot in just four hours entirely within a warehouse. Samuel Bayer, the video's director, cut the film into pieces, and soaked it in his bath, applying deliberate fingerprints and abrasions to the footage before putting it back together by hand.

Shirley Manson is quoted as saying the song is an "anthem for a girl who won't settle for less than what she wants."

Now, that's my type of song.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Deviation from the Norm

I know some pretty amazing people in my life; writers, musicians, health care professionals, computer geeks, historians, designers of different forms, scientists, singers, and teachers. All of these people bring me inspiration in some way and I'm always surprised when the smallest of details can make such a huge impact in my life.

My friend Erich is visiting me from Texas. He has a friend named Sara.

Sara has to be the most amazing person I've ever come across in my entire life. She is the embodiment of creativity. She writes and performs her own music; she sings, plays cello, guitar, and piano. She is a yoga instructor and competes nationally, has a master's degree in environmental science, and to top it all off, she is a phenomenal professional photographer. Her attention to detail and keen eye make me want to weep. I hope someday that I can meet her in person, but for now I'll be content to follow her blog, listen to her music, see the photographs she takes, and watch the creativity pour forth, knowing that she's inspiring people everywhere.

Take Me Down (the track on her photography page) has to be one of the most gorgeous pieces of adult contemporary music I've heard in the last decade. There's a sweetness to her voice that is undeniably honest and full of warmth. Her musicianship is impeccable and her lyricism poetic.

Unfortunately, Sara doesn't have a music video (yet?), but I felt that she is someone we all should look to for the inspiration we need.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goodness in the World

Did I mention that the new Dave Matthews Band CD is out today? Yeah, it is. And I have zero dollars to buy it. 'Tis a sad day indeed.

So instead, I'm just going to post another wonderful video, Everyday.
(I promise that this blog will not become a shrine to all that good and beautiful about the DMB)

The video features actor/comedian Judah Friedlander in the act of doing one of the most simple and humane things that anyone can do, giving a hug. After his first minute and twenty seconds of unsuccessful attempts, he finally gets some. Dave's lyrics of "all you need is, what you want is, all you need is love" are a powerful statement (as were the Beatles back in 1967) and take on a whole different meaning when that little old granny finally gives in and says yes. And later come the celebrities...Conan O'Brien, Vincent Pastore, Sheryl Crow, Blue Man Group, Tiki Barber and Hallie Kate Eisenberg, as well as the band themselves.

I love the fact that this video makes me think. I spend everyday commuting on a bus, my earbuds in my ears, not paying attention to those around me. Most of the other riders are also in that same catatonic state. Simple conversation has become a lost art. So what would happen if I were to turn down the music for a moment to say hello?

So get out there. Hug someone today. I dare you.

Bonus DMB trivia about Everyday:
When the song is played live, the song "#36" is mixed in with the song "Everyday." It is also a tradition for the crowd to sing, "Hani, Hani, [sometimes transcribed as 'Honey, Honey'] Come and dance with me" during the parts of the song that #36 mixes in with. The song "#36" was written in response to the assassination of Chris Hani, who worked to end South African apartheid (as Dave himself is from South Africa). Here's a clip of a live concert where the audience begins the familiar mix of songs. This is exactly why I go to Dave concerts. The play between the band and audience is beautiful to be a part of and there's a mutual love and respect that you can't find in most performing acts today.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I'm finally back from vacation and it's time for another round of videos! There's nothing like a summer trip to get out of the city and into nature. I spent the past week whitewater rafting in the woods of West Virginia, and made close friends with the bugs that inhabited my cabin and bathing area. As much as I love being in nature, it's really great to be home and showering without all the spiders. Did I mention I'm deathly afraid of spiders? Yeah. I showered quickly out there.

For me, summers always consist of two things: Grant Park and DMB.

From June through August, I sing with the chorus of the Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park. It's one of the best classical singing gigs in the city. And for those of you in the area, the concerts are FREE. So come check it out, and let me know when. I may just meet you out on the lawn afterward.

Summers also mean that the Dave Matthews Band is on tour! I've been a fan of DMB for over twelve years now, and my dream is to someday see them live at their three day at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. For now though, I'll have to settle for the videos.

One of the first Dave songs that I fell in love with was Crash Into Me, a staple in any DMB fan's playlist. The band is known for their inspired (though not always sensible) lyrics and use of nursery rhymes. What I love them best for though, is their artistry.

Crash Into Me is a serene song and the video follows suit. Hazy pictures of the band in the woods, nymph-like dancers, and a skirt made of violins show the playful, creative side of the group. What's so extraordinary about this video though is the use of camera focus. It's never static and always showing us a picture that is worth a thousand words. The slightest shift brings the curve of a violin, the face paint of a geisha, or one of the band members paying homage to the instrument that enlivens him.

The other beautifully artistic choice made for this video is the use of sexual tension drawn from simplicity. There is no nudity, or overly vulgar, sexed-up women in bathings suits playing the saxophone (old skool style). The women are covered head to toe in full length gowns and costumes, and their makeup is other worldly. The sexual charge comes from small nuances (such as the almost parting legs of the geishas) and the exquisite lyrics themselves:

You've got your ball
You’ve got your chain
Tied to me tight tie me up again
Who's got their claws
In you my friend
Into your heart I'll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock
And sweet you roll
Lost for you I'm so lost for you
You come crash into me
And I come into you,
I come into you
In a boys dream
In a boys dream

Touch your lips just so I know
In your eyes, love, it glows so
I'm bare-boned and crazy for you
When you come crash
Into me, baby
And I come into you
In a boys dream
In a boys dream
If I've gone overboard
Then I'm begging you
To forgive me
In my haste
When I'm holding you so girl...
Close to me

Oh and you come crash
Into me, baby
And I come into you
Hike up your skirt a little more
And show the world to me
Hike up your skirt a little more
And show your world to me
In a boys dream... In a boys dream

Oh I watch you there
Through the window
And I stare at you
You wear nothing but you
Wear it so well
Tied up and twisted,
The way I'd like to be
For you, for me, come crash
Into me

Tonight the band is playing a live concert at the Beacon Theater and you can watch it here on hulu for free starting at 9 pm (but of course, I have rehearsal). Tomorrow, the band's newest album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King (an almost memorial album for LeRoi Moore, the band's Saxophonist who died last August) will be available for sale.

And of course, since this is a DMB post, there must be bonus videos! Here's almost twenty full minutes of the band from their free live concert at Central Park.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An Obsession

Main Entry:
ob·ses·sion           Listen to the pronunciation of obsession
\äb-ˈse-shən, əb-\
1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling

I am admitting here for all the world to see that I have an incurable obsession with Grey's Anatomy. It's truly pathetic. The show has been in decline for over three seasons now, yet I (with legions of other Grey's fans) consistently watch what Shonda Rhimes and her writers put in front of us each week. And let me tell you, if you haven't seen it lately, it's definitely been unreasonable.

One thing however, that hasn't suffered quite as much on the show is the music.

The first few seasons, Grey's always had a very prominently promoted song that invaded the airwaves, commercials, and all that we held dear.

The minute you heard Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars, you knew that it was time for Grey's.

Season three's theme was by far the most prominent of all the Grey's music. The Fray's How to Save a Life became a hit, not only on the show but on the pop charts as well.

Oh angsty, angsty. How I love thee.

Sadly, the last few seasons have not had a theme song as in the good old days. Hopefully tomorrow night they may just pull one out of the cracks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Blog for Dustin

A year ago my good friend Dustin introduced me to an artist that changed my outlook on pop music. I had already been a fan of Europop having lived in Poland, Germany, and Austria for a year. I had been listening to Wilki, Anna Maria Jopek, and Kasia Kowalska from Poland (yup...there's going to be a full blog on just Polish pop music one of these days), and Heinz aus Wien and Die Prinzen from the Germanic countries. Kate Ryan was the only exposure I had from the French pop scene.

And then came Yelle.

What I truly love about her is the fact that she doesn't take herself so seriously, but is still truly committed to her music. Her sexuality comes out through her own natural je ne sais quoi and not some over produced, skankified, buy-my-record-because-I'm-hot dribble. Her videos are fun and unique. I will never get enough of this petite little poplett.

A perfect example of exactly what I mean is her newest video, Ce Jeu. I mean, who doesn't love candy stripes and french fries?

Yelle's lyrics however are what put her spot above the rest of the French pop scene. She is not afraid to poke fun at other artists and the two hot guys in her band always make fun cameos in her videos.

(see translation here)

And no mention of Yelle can go by without my favorite song A Cause des Garcons (Because of the Boys). Apologies to Dustin come here...he got REALLY sick of this song once I kept it on repeat for about a month.

And just for old times sake, here's the video of the concert we attended at the Logan Square Auditorium. You can see Dustin and I at the front of the stage. This was literally one of the best nights of my LIFE.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Two Worlds

One of things that I love most about my life is the amazing assortment of friends that I have. I come from two different worlds, musical and literal. Being an opera singer, I've got my over the top, knowledgeable of all music genres, drama filled yet lovable friends, but I've also got an entirely different set of much more relaxed, cerebral, yet somehow still extremely fun friends as a writer. The worlds collide sometimes and this is the result.

I put out messages yesterday on facebook and twitter asking for suggestions for my next videos to blog about. A writer friend had been listening to The Ting Tings. Take a good close listen to Katie White's leads vocals. Sound familiar?

The video itself is a simple one, but really lends itself to the song. The drum beat is pounding and Jules De Martino (the second half of the group) definitely pounds it well in the video. Katie has a great vocal ability that sets her apart from the pop queens that usually rule the roost, but the blond hair, spunky outfits, and slightly too cute hat make this perfect pop fodder. The use of such intense colors is an explosion of sight equal to the sound we hear, but to be honest though, it looks like a complete rip off of the new marketing campaign for iPod (like the link I posted above).

I have a burning question though. What exactly is Jules saying in between the lyrics that Katie is singing? He's definitely mouthing something, but I have no idea what.

One of my singer friends suggested something much more classic, a video very dear to my own heart, Take On Me. Being a child of the 80's, I followed A-ha religiously. Morten Harket was one of my first celebrity crushes (followed by the likes of Jordan Knight, Corey Feldman, Anthony Michael Hall, and did I mention Jordan Knight?) The video won six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, one of which included Most Exprimental Video for the pencil-sketch animation/live-action combination called rotoscoping, in which the live-action footage is traced over frame by frame to give the characters realistic movements.

However, what I found on my musical quest today is that it is not the original video for the song. There is an earlier version of both the song and the video that did not fare well in UK pop rotation in 1984. Warner Brothers decided to give the song a try in the US and the video we all know and love was brought to life. It soared to the top of the pop charts and another one hit wonder was added to the history books. So without further ado, the original version for Aha's Take On Me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Man at the Piano

So it's been quite a while since I've posted. Things have just been super busy (last weeks of the semester in grad school, never fun). Tonight I will post something that doesn't really need any explanation. The man is legend. His music is legendary. He is one of my true loves. I give you...

Billy Joel

'Nuff said

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Man with the Glove

Last night I was having dinner at Flat Top in the west loop (you know, the one right across the street from Oprah). For some odd reason, they decided to forgo their usual eclectic mix of music for one full album, beginning track to end. This is one CD that I actually own, but haven't listened to in quite a long time. The album playing that night was Dangerous. The memories that it brought back though are definitely worth reminiscing about. I started watching some of the videos and was reminded of a man that we all once loved, and all once admired. The King of Pop himself, Mr. Michael Jackson.

This is a man who once told stories.

I remember the first time I saw Thriller. I was five. I couldn't wait for the premier. I had been talking to my mother about it for weeks. The second those zombies popped up, I ran behind the couch and hid. I had nightmares for weeks, but I was completely mesmerized by the imagery, the story line, and that amazing dancing. You and I both know that anyone reading this has done the Thriller shuffle about as many times as they've brushed their teeth in the morning. It swept the nation (and still impacts us to this day).

The sad thing is though that what sweeps his reputation now is his outlandish, erratic behavior and a private life so thoroughly publicized. I do not condone any of what he has done. I do not judge him. But I miss him. I miss the story teller. I miss the performer. I miss the quality of music and lyrics like no other.

Because of this over-sensationalism of his personal life, we've all but forgotten about the amazing contributions he made to pop music. His full length videos told us stories about equality in our racial differences (Black or White), they pushed sexual boundaries and secrecy (In the Closet), and even took us all the way back to ancient Egypt (Remember the Time). There was never a dull moment. At the root of it all however, was wonderful music and amazing dancing.

These videos have withstood the test of time, as will MJ's unfortunate reputation. But it's good to reminisce about a love we all once shared. (Click on the links above for the videos mentioned)

And now, the full length video for Smooth Criminal from the Bad Album (9:36)

What I love most about this video is its' film noir feel and attention to detail. There is not one single feather out of place, no dance steps missed, and it is chock full of references to other videos and personal affects belonging to Michael Jackson. Be sure to watch it a second time and ignore him. Watch everything that is going on around him. You'll be amazed.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Yesterday, I spent the entire day doing my taxes. I hate this time of year because I always see how much money I wasted (drinking, eating out, dating men who just weren't all that into me, and did I mention drinking?) It's a good thing that I'm changing my old habits. Ask me again this time next year, and you'll find me quite the different woman. The taxes however will still be same. The need for money will still be there. And so will my love for that classic 70's super group ABBA.

My adoration of ABBA began when I was just three years old, dancing around with my drunk Polish family and friends in my living room, not understanding lyrics or worrying about quality, just simply having fun. With any party we threw, ABBA was always there. Now that I'm an adult, I'm still listening to them and still dancing drunk around my living room.

Their videos however are a different story. It was the 70's and disco was king. The concept of music videos as promotional material had just begun taking off, and it's in this era that we get the art form with its pure, unadulterated intent, simply showing off the band. There was no over the top hood-glitz or over-sexed girl groups (who only think they can sing). It was simply the band doing what they do best up on a stage.

What I love best about Money, Money, Money is the balance between Frida Lyngstad portraying the lyrical story and the shots of ABBA as a whole. They never focus too much on any one member. The few candid shots of the group (traveling in a car somehow implying that this is the way the nouveau riche lived) are interesting, but a bit out of place. The oddest thing comparatively to today's standards is the fact that coins and dollar bills were used in shots. Diamonds and champagne however, never go out of style.

So another day, another dollar, another blog post done. You'll have to excuse me now. Chiquitita and a messy living room are calling my name. Time to clean. Drinking and dancing to follow shortly.

(and to see all of ABBA's videos in their entirety, visit their official website which has been redesigned)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

For the Boys (otherwise entitled No Means No)

Dating in this day and age has drastically changed from the times when my mother was spending her Friday nights with my father. Even in the past ten years, there's been a radical shift in the way that people meet. The internet has changed everything.

Online dating sites are now a dime a dozen and I've got a profile on all of them. To tell you the truth, I don't get hundreds of men approaching me on a daily basis. I am not a skinny girl by any means, but I am pretty in my own little exotic way. The men that do approach me usually have a few things in common; They are drawn to some physical aspect of my pictures (my smile, eyes, lips, or other curvaceous feminine part). They are dorks in some way (trekkies, music lovers, history buffs -- I truly love men with brains), and 9 out of 10 times, they are desperate for anything that they can get. This last characteristic however, is where I draw the line.

I try to tell the desperate ones no in a nice way. Sorry, I'm not dating now or Sorry, our age difference is just too great. What I really mean though is that in no uncertain terms will I ever date you. Ever. I deserve better than desperate. Some of these men though simply can't take no for an answer. They keep writing back hoping for some glimmer of hope that I will respond in a different way. Maybe if they show me how wonderful and caring they truly are that I will change my mind. It's for these men that I post this video today.

One of the most classic girl groups of my generation is En Vogue. Without them, there would not have been a Destiny's Child, Pussycat Dolls, or Danity Kane (RIP DK). Winners of more MTV Music Awards than any other female group in history, they had raw vocal power, enticing harmonies, and appearances that were the definition of beauty. More importantly, their lyrics brought a woman's perspective to a male dominated music world.

My Lovin (Never Gonna Get It) is a perfect example of the classic girl-group video. There's great dance sequences, interesting wardrobe/hair/makeup, and a storyline unwrapped within the lyrical confines. The most unusual thing about this video however is that we never see a man's face. All the male dance sequences are shot in shadowed outlines, and the played-out narrative relationship is echoed through a somewhat creepy, latexed head-to-toe, dancer man.

The best part of the video (and song for that matter) however, is the "breakdown". The girls are singing in all their a cappella glory. The shots are quick cuts between the quartet members, reminiscent of the 50's & 60's girl groups that they were inspired by. It's classic and refined, just like the girls themselves.

Now, some twenty years later, En Vogue is (amazingly) still making music. Girl groups come and go with more ease than should be allowed, the latest tragedy being the breakup of Danity Kane (another insanely talented group of young girls). Lucky for us, En Vogue has stood the test of time.

And a bonus video (with someone you're all familiar with):

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Video for the Girls

I have never been a huge American Idol fan. (My parents are a different story and this somehow just doesn't seem right). I've had my eye on a few contestants from the current season; Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey, who are both wonderful singers and entertainers. My favorite though is Allison Iraheta who at 16 years old is blowing most of the competition out of the water. Her attitude and powerful vocals definitely are reminiscent of that famed first winner, Kelly Clarkson.

What exactly was it about Clarkson that rocketed her to stardom? It's true that she had an amazing vocal ability, but there was also something so very down to earth about her (which Allison also shares). Kelly connected with fans easily, both male and female, but especially with the young women who so readily sang along to her girl-empowering lyrics. This wasn't enough however to keep the critics at bay from her third album, My December. They panned it and dismissed her as quickly as they had vaulted her to this star status. Throw in some volatile weight issues and it looked as though Clarkson was headed to the great pop wannabe graveyard in the sky.

When I heard that she was going to release another album, I was scared. What kind of Kelly would we be getting this time? Sad, angsty Clarkson? Bubbly, pop Clarkson? The hard rocker Clarkson who kicked ass and took names? Luckily for us all, we got the Clarkson that we fell in love with. All I Ever Wanted is Kelly back to her pop roots, and her two newest videos are all that we could ever want from her. They tell great stories, they're light-hearted and fun (she even falls off the bar in the video for I Do Not Hook Up), and best of all, they showcase a singer who has bounced back from her own personal issues to return as the pop queen once more.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kanye is a Bitch

Continuing on my favorite city trend from yesterday, Chicago's very own bastard son: Kanye West

As much as I absolutely love Kanye's music, I really can't stand him as an entertainer and persona in pop music today. Spin magazine called his album Late Registration "as ornate and bloated as (his) ego." Just this past week, he was immortalized on South Park, and we all know what happened at the Hurricane Katrina benefit.

As great as his music is though, what the hell happened to his videos? Homecoming is the perfect example of ego getting in the way of artistry. Kanye has always wanted to portray himself as "hood" (even though he grew up in the suburb of Oak Lawn), and he again fails miserably. Most of the video is shot downtown at the tourist traps that we all know and love (Millennium Park, and The "Bean"), but West also tries to put in his ghetto spin. There are shots of Carbini-Green (the most famous of ghettos in Chicago, but definitely not the most notorious) along with the DuSable Museum. We get it. You're black, hood, and proud -- but soon after, we get a shot of Marina Towers, one of the "whitest" apartment complexes in the downtown area. Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Just like the video for the Plain White T's 1,2,3,4, we have another black and white homage to Chitown (pronounced SHY-town for those of you non-Chicagoans). Kanye however, rather than being artful and bringing that great Midwest vibe, shoots himself in the foot by trying too hard to proclaim his domination over the city that once held him up on high.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


This first video has a very special place in my heart. It was filmed here in my city and most of it just ten blocks north of where I live. The bus you see in the very beginning is what I take everyday to get around (the #3 southbound to 95th). These are the streets that I call home.

The Plain White T's are a rock band, originating from Villa Park, Illinois (just outside of Chicago). They are best known for "Hey There Delilah", which received a Grammy nomination in 2008.

What I love most about the video is its simplicity. There was no huge budget. It was shot in black and white. These are real people in real relationships. The video is not trying to be something that it's not. This is what the Midwest vibe is about; Simply being true to yourself.

(sorry about the commercial before the video. Hopefully, I'll find a place to host these myself soon so I won't be tied to commercialized crap that we deal with on a day to day basis)


This morning I turned on the tv. The VH1 Top 20 countdown was on and I couldn't remember the last time I actually took the time to watch a show like this. I didn't think they even produced them anymore. Most of all though, I was shocked to see how much great music I've been missing. It's been said that radio is dead, but I never realized it till today.

So here is the small plot of cyberspace I'll be planting in, digging through music videos that are in some way meaningful, artful, or just idiotic. Welcome to the musical garden of my mind.

(and a special thank you to my friend and fellow writer Adam who gave me the inspirational nudge that I needed.)