“Tainted Love”: from Synth to Screamo

I know the song “Tainted Love” because I am weirdly obsessed with 80’s music and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from 1981 is one of the classics. So classic in fact, that I only just learned that it was first recorded in 1964 by Gloria Jones and is not a Soft Cell original. Although, the versions are oddly similar considering the changes in music between those decades.

Unfortunately for Miss Jones, her version was critical flop. Of course, Soft Cell added the quintessential 80’s instrumentation and hella high falsetto backing vocals, but the base sounds of the song remained the same, despite the change in keys and the swap from real instruments to machines. This is quite the compliment to songwriter Ed Cobb, for his song seamlessly transitions from genre to genre.

For further proof of this genre jumping, look no further than Marilyn Manson’s cover of the song. His cover was released in 2001 for the soundtrack of Not Another Teen Movie. Predictably a bit different than the previous versions, Manson takes a decidedly more rock take on the song, with heavier drums and electric guitar. The bridge even turns the song briefly into a screamo track—a genre of music I normally hate—that somehow works really well.

Needless to say, Soft Cell’s version is still my favorite. I apparently have a soft spot in my heart for trippy music videos featuring floating heads in space and Tinkerbell-esque orbs causing trouble. Maybe this says something about my psyche, but let’s not think about that too much.

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Welcome to the Wondaland

I’m sure by now, you have heard of the upcoming pop/R&B artist, Janelle Monae.  Tightrope, from The ArchAndroid, is a tune frequently played in the R&B scene, and her new song, Yoga, attempts to appeal to the younger audiences, whilst still retaining Janelle’s classy, upbeat style.  Yoga is also released on Janelle Monae’s new record label, Wondaland Records.  Whilst this may not seem like a huge deal at first, it must be noteworthy since she was able to land a partnership with Epic Records, which is a division of the flagship Sony Music Entertainment.  The list of artists currently under her roster are well known, but highly talented, and they all write their own music and have production backgrounds.  They are Jidenna, Roman GianArthur (who wrote all of the classical overtures on Janelle’s albums), Deep Cotton, and St. Beauty.

I hope to see this label, and its artists, do well.

However, I think what is worth special mentioning is Janelle taking a role in the business half of the industry, being comparable to Kanye West, P. Diddy, and Jay-Z.  Janelle herself has said that she idolizes particular businesswomen in the industry, such as Mellody Hobson and Queen Latifah.  I would love to see Janelle establish herself as yet another mogul in the music industry, because she is certainly talented and deserving of more attention.  Check out some of Janelle’s previous works below!

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6472849/janelle-monae-mini-mogul-wondaland-label-epic-la-reid

Let’s Talk About Video Games

I absolutely love video games.  I’ve been playing them since I was about six years old, when I got my first Gameboy Color.  I remember playing the video game rendition of A Bug’s Life for hours on end as a child, and then getting my first Xbox as a teenager.  Then later, I got an Xbox 360 and online gaming was a huge part of my life in high school.  Even today, I am a very proud owner of an $1100 Windows PC that I built with my own hands.

The video game industry is massive. In 2014, the video game industry brought in revenues of 46.5 billion dollars.  Just revenues.  That isn’t the value of the industry, which includes marketing, advertisements, etc.  Enough people bought enough video games to earn the producers of video games 46.5 billon dollars.  (I personally have contributed to a large percentage of this, I’m sure, but that’s irrelevant.)

In the same year, the music industry brought in just 13 billion dollars from revenues of purchased music, and has been steadily declining.  Well, why is it that the video game industry is making almost four times as much money as the music industry? What can we as musicians, and consumers of music learn from video games?

First, I think the obvious answer is pirating.  For years, we were enraptured with Limewire and Frostwire which provided millions of consumers with free music for download.  It is very possible to pirate games, but they are not in so accessible a format as MP3.  Most consumers will not go through the trouble.  The dawn of online pirating spelled certain doom for the music industry.

Secondly, I believe there are some core values that the video game industry has that the music industry lacks.  The most important being communication.  Communication between producers and consumers of video games is damn near transparent.  I can google the new Call of Duty six months before it comes out and know how to beat every level and what all the weapons are.  Many companies maintain online forums, such as Reddit, where they regular communicate with their customers.  And that’s how you maintain loyalty.  So many music consumers wouldn’t even be able to fathom being in contact with the producers of their favorite songs.  Social media like Instagram and Facebook are helping to mitigate this, but only a little bit.

In music, the producers seem untouchable.  But that transparency will always add a level of humanity and tangibility that will keep gamers buying and supporting games.

Lastly, I think that there needs to be a mentality shift within the music industry.  When we regard our favorite artists and their upcoming songs and albums, we feel that this is something that we deserve.  There is a sense of entitlement. We don’t feel like we are purchasing a product from a business, we feel that we are doing the artist a favor by receiving their music.  We need a strong paradigm shift if we ever want to see music being purchased again.  Because the way it is happening, people are going to use their money for the latest Xbox One game while they listen to their favorite songs torrented for free.

http://www.statista.com/statistics/237187/global-video-games-revenue/

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/global/5937645/ifpi-music-report-2014-global-recorded-music-revenues-fall-4

That Whitney, What a Doll(y).

If you’ve kept up with my column thus far you’ll notice that most all of the posts I’ve written have had one thing in common: the cover I’m writing about is generally more famous than the original composition. This particular post however, is about the all too rare case of an original and a cover both having their moment in the spotlight and both receiving hefty praise from fans and critics alike.

I grew up knowing “I Will Always Love You” as a Whitney Houston song. Released in 1992 as the theme to the film Bodyguard, it immediately gained worldwide acclaim. Among other awards, Houston picked up six Billboard Music Awards, two Grammys, and two American Music Awards, in addition to the song’s chart success. The track is seen as Houston’s signature song, despite being composed and first performed by none other than Dolly Parton.

Parton’s original country version of “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1974 on her album Jolene. The song topped country charts and won her a County Music Award. She didn’t let the song stop there, though. Parton had a leading role in the film adaption of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which used most of the production’s original score. However, two of Parton’s songs—one being “I Will Always Love You”—made it into the film. The version used in the movie also found success on the charts—a historic moment for the singer/songwriter who was the first artist to have a number one record chart twice as a singer, and three times as a songwriter. Houston and Parton publicly shared in the success of the song when Parton presented Houston with her Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1994.

As always, there are many more covers of the song than just the ones I’ve focused on here. John Doe’s version was actually used in Bodyguard as well, during a scene where Houston and costar Kevin Costner dance together to the jukebox tune. Linda Ronstadt released her cover of the Parton original on her 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise, and would later go on to collaborate with Emmylou Harris and Dolly herself on album called Trio.

Four decades after the original release and “I Will Always Love You” has lived up to its name. The song is still a go-to for powerhouse vocalists wanting to show off their skills, broken hearted people needing a good cry, and loud, drunk people at a karaoke bar who are convinced they can hit those high notes.

Did I miss your favorite cover of “I Will Always Love You”? Let me know in the comments!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Damn It.

It turns out that Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”—an upbeat, female anthem—was written by none other than a man who was looking to make a point about how many women he’d slept with. I didn’t see that one coming. Maybe this is a well-known fact, but it was news to me. News that came soon after I found out that Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” had a similar evolution from misogynistic male song, to inspiring karaoke classic.

Cyndi Lauper’s producer at the time, Rick Chertoff, had heard Robert Hazard’s original recording of the song, and received permission from him to change the lyrics up a bit. A noted feminist, Lauper swapped out the tales of a man bedding many women and turned the song into a powerful story of, well, I’ll let Lauper explain it: “It doesn’t mean that girls just want to fuck. It just means that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have.” Lauper wasn’t just about equality between the sexes though, but between races as well. Her video for the single was one of the first music videos to feature women of multiple races.

Aside from the lyrical improvements, the entire song got an upgrade when Lauper took it over from Robert Hazard. Listen to the original below, if you can even make it through the whole song. It’s uncomfortably fast, and a feels like the lyrics are shoved into spaces they weren’t meant to fit. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the original, but I have a hunch I wouldn’t dig it even if I had heard Hazard’s
first.

Lauper’s version went on to be covered many more times, while Hazard’s version was left in the dust. Other artists that have performed the track range from Arcade Fire (joined onstage by Lauper herself), to Relient K, to Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. The song is an 80’s classic, and rightly so. I’m certain it will be performed by generations of karaoke goers and famous musicians alike in the decades to come.

The British Invasion Continues: Jacob Collier

For years, British artists have been invading and inspiring American music.  It all started with the Beatles in the 60s.  From Adele, to Jessie J, to superstar Sam Smith, British musicians have proven time and time again that we Americans love their music like none other.  In comes Jacob Collier, a prodigal multi-instrumentalist whose Youtube videos are absolutely mind-blowing.

Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

 

At only 20 years old, Jacob sings, plays piano, bass guitar, various synthesizers, electric guitar, drumset, and many many others with a musical maturity well beyond his years.  Taking heavy influences from jazz, as well as blues, funk, gospel, classical, and even hip hop, Jacob’s performance is definitely a very unique, and extremely listenable sound that he can call his own.  He’s gotten the support of huge faces in the industry such as Quincy Jones, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock, just to name a few.

 

Here are a few of videos.  Hopefully you groove and “stank face” as much as I do.

 

A digitized version of Selena is happening

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 7.42.49 PM

The life of a women loved by many Selena Quintilla, was cut shorts 20 years ago in March leaving her full potential unrealized. Al though gone, her legacy has lived on and will continue to on this new project called Selena the One.

 

They are developing a new technology that embodies Selena digitally. According to Media representative, Abelardo Rodriguez. This is incredible because it will be able to have Selena move and sing not only to old songs, but new songs too.

 

It will not be a hologram al though many people believe it to be so! This is NEW technology. This digitalized version of Selena with release new songs and new videos that will be collaborating with current his artists, as well as plans to go on tour in 2018.

 

Family of Selena state they are right alongside them developing everything. Suzette Quintilla her sister says that this project is not creepy or weird but rather something amazing.. This gives a lot of the new fans the chance to be able to experience Selena thanks to this new technology. Crowd funding campaign is being used and is seeking $500,000 to launch the project.

 

CROWDFUNDING LINK

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/selena-quintanilla-selena-the-one

Check out one of her major hits

“Lost & Found” Buena Vista Social Club

 

Buena Vista Social club just released a new album “Lost and Found” which brings together a collection of unreleased tracks that were originally recorded with the initial Buena Vista Social Club crew. Nick Gold the record producer said “over the years we were often asked what unreleased material was left in the vaults.” He knew there was gold material but they had always just gone to the next project. No one looked back to see what else they had so when they finally did they were amazed at how much wonderful music there was.

These lost treasures have now been released and as I listened to the opening song, “Bruca Manigua,” it brings me back nostalgia and happiness. The old music combined with the old members of the band brings us back to the era that was lost and now found once again. A Live audience with the big band brass, takes us all back to old Havana, a place where today many can barely abide. Ibrahim Ferrer walks on stage as the audience cheers and our souls come alive to hear the magic that he brings when he begins to sing.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club has a number of tour dates scheduled for 2015 which forms part of their “Adios” Tour. They plan to tour around Europe in South America throughout the summer. I recommend getting a ticket if one is around this show is a must and will have you singing all the lyrics even if you don’t know an ounce of Spanish.

Lost and Found track list.

 

1. “Bruca Manigua”
2. “Macusa”
3. “Tiene Sabor”
4. “Bodas De Oro”
5. “Black Chicken 37”
6. “Habanera”
7. “Como Fue”
8. “Guajira En F”
9. “Quiéreme Mucho”
10. “Pedacito De Papel”
11. “Mami Me Gustó”
12. “Lágrimas Negras”
13. “Como Siento Yo”
14. “Ruben Sings!”

TCB (Taking Care of Business): Aretha Franklin

Spelling never felt as sassy as it did when Aretha Franklin sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”. Franklin transformed the song into the hit that it deserved to be and that the original writer and singer of the song—Otis Redding—was unable to make it.

Redding couldn’t even argue with that. He once jokingly said that “Respect” was the song that “a girl took away from [him]”. Redding and Franklin’s tracks sound different from each other musically, but the biggest difference in the versions comes from the perspective change that Franklin created by adding a few key lines, and editing some of Redding’s. Check out the tunes and an example of a lyric change:

Otis Redding:
Hey little girl
You’re sweeter than honey
And I’m about to give you
All my money

Aretha Franklin:
Your kisses
Sweeter than honey
And guess what
So is my money

In the original version sung by Redding, the “respect” that is referred to is a euphemism for sex. Clearly this is not the case in Franklin’s version. She recorded the song in 1967, two years after Redding had, and in the middle of significant changes in the United States. “Respect” quickly became a landmark song for both the women’s right’s movement, and the civil right’s movement, and continues to be an empowering female anthem in an age where women are paid less than men, harassed regularly, and often looked as little more than a pretty face. If that doesn’t make you respect Ms. Franklin, I don’t know what will.

Everyone wants Candy

In 2000, I spent hours listening to Aaron Carter’s new album Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) while jumping on my bed or dancing around the room with my Aaron Carter poster. Little did I know that one of the songs I had memorized all the words to was actually a cover of a song from the 1960s. That song was “I Want Candy”. It was years later that I learned the song was originally written and performed by The Strangeloves, and was the title track of their first and only LP release.  Carter’s version was pure pop, and stayed loyal to the original.

In between the original and Carter’s version is new wave group Bow Wow Wow’s cover of the song. Their cover swapped pronouns, opting for their female lead singer, Annabella Lwin to sing “Go to see him when the sun goes down, ain’t no finer boy in town…” instead of “see her” and “finer girl”. The song was released in 1982, and continues to be a staple of 80’s music, being featured in films or TV flashbacks set in the 1980s, as well as landing on many “Best of” 80’s compilations.

Though the song is not covered terribly often, a few other artists have shared their take on it. Good Charlotte recorded the song to be featured in the film Not Another Teen Movie. Cody Simpson covered the song for the soundtrack to the animated movie Hop. Melanie C chose her cover of the song to be the first single off her album This Time.

No matter how many more artists cover the song, I know that whenever I hear “I Want Candy”, I will always think of Aaron Carter dancing around in a silver puffer jacket and matching pants with Hilary Duff on Lizzie McGuire, and their real life relationship that seven year old me was so excited about.