Posts tagged ‘Music’

Lolly’s Top 5 Michael Jackson Songs

5. “Black or White” (1991)

“Eat this,” Macaulay Culkin says, in an “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” sort of music video. Call it ironic, call it corny, but it’s the best pro-miscegenation song to date.

4. “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1987)

Work out, groove, or make love to this song: It will provide the appropriate soundtrack.

3. “Will You Be There” (1991/1993)

Michael Jackson released “Will You Be There” in 1991 on Dangerous and in 1993 on the Free Willy soundtrack. The lyrics read like a prayer: “Hold me like the River Jordan”; “Mary, tell me: Will you hold me?” Jackson expresses vulnerability, sorrow, and hopefulness as a gospel choir sings in the background, crescendoing and decrescendoing like ocean waves.

2. The Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” (1970)

This love song manages to croon and groove simultaneously.  Michael and Jermaine harmonize perfectly as the lead vocalists, each of their lines flowing forward smoothly and sincerely. I imagine many brides and grooms use these lyrics as an inspiration for vows. I can also vividly envision teens and preteens in the early 70s swaying back and forth to the ballad at school dances. Mariah Carey’s cover of “I’ll Be There” was nominated for a Grammy in 1993.

1. The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” (1969)

Love and/or  lust isn’t as strong as you thought…until it’s gone…and someone else has a chance to do better. Young Michael sang this so sincerely that it almost seemed like he had experienced a broken heart. “I Want You Back” is naïve, honest, and groundbreaking. Like the love interest in this hit, we took Michael’s genius for granted.

I want it back.

June 30, 2010 at 4:10 am 2 comments

Celebrating “Semi-Charmed Life”

In the summer of 1997, my girlfriends and I camped out in a backyard tent and listened to “Semi-Charmed Life” on repeat for several hours. I’m the kind of person who tires after hearing a threshold amount of even the best music (How many times can a person really stand to listen to The Joshua Tree or Thriller?), but this Third-Eye Blind hit has never ceased to astound me.

As thirteen-year-olds, we only somewhat understood the sexually and chemically charged lyrics. Also, the breezy, fast-faced tempo made it difficult to decipher what lead singer Stephan Jenkins was even singing. It didn’t help that we couldn’t just “Google” a line from the song and retrieve the lyrics. I recall mistaking “And I speak to you like the chorus to the verse” with “And it speaks to you like the birds in the forest.”

Now, of course, I realize that “Semi-Charmed Life” is the seminal anthem of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. It was also my brother’s theme song. We played it at his memorial service, and it was awesome to hear “Doin’ crystal meth will lift you up until you break” and “How do I get back there to the place where I fell asleep inside you?” blast in a room full of relatives, young people, old people, Christians, atheists, and floral arrangements.

I went to Newport Beach this past weekend and had a great time slowly running my bare feet through the sand. I thought, “I believe in the sand beneath my toes / The beach gives a feeling / An earthy feeling / I believe in the faith that grows.” I thought about how hard it really seems, sometimes, to get through this bittersweet, ironic, defeating, gratifying, semi-charmed life. I thought about how I can’t not believe that there’s life after death. I simply cannot accept a reality in which I will never see Alex again.

I’m not listening when you say goodbye…

April 1, 2010 at 6:14 am 1 comment

“I’d Rather Keep the Trash and Throw You Out”: Feminine Angstiest Songs #3

See also Feminine Angstiest Songs #2 and #1

“Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” samples Carly Simon’s quintessential song of feminine angst, “You’re So Vain.” Janet Jackson sings, and Missy Elliott, a veritable hip hop guru, raps. The music video, clearly alluding to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” stars a fleet of undead women. Janet dances in the midst of the ghouls as she stalks her former lover through a creepy mansion, bathroom, and parking garage. She wields a baseball bat, strutting her svelte figure in a sexy outlaw getup. Missy accompanies Janet and the zombie women on this hot pursuit. In an eerily erotic scene, Janet seductively swallows a black spider and growls, “I’d never be your lover / I’d rather make you suffer / You stupid motherfucker.”

Basically, don’t fuck with, lie to, cheat on, steal from, or disrespect these women…unless you want to end up in a “show down, knock down, drag down, gun slugger, shoot ’em up” with demonic damsels. But this post isn’t about you anyway, is it?

March 11, 2010 at 8:12 am Leave a comment

Lolly’s Top 5 Hip Hop Hits of 2009

See also Lolly’s Top 5 Hip Hop Hits of 2008

Runner-ups: “Birthday Sex” and “Imma Star” by Jeremih, “So Sharp” by Mack 10 featuring Lil Wayne, “Best I Ever Had” by Drake, “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey, “Girls on the Dancefloor” by Far East Movement

#5 Omarion featuring Gucci Mane (or Lil Wayne) “I Get It In”

This song is cocky (pun intended) as hell: It’s about fitting really big things into tight places. Omarion brags about how his girl “fumble(s) when it hangs down,” and Gucci Mane is hooking up with gal who has “done fired” her panties. In the Lil Wayne version, Mr. Carter quotes Beyoncé’s “Ego” to make the same boast: “It’s too big; it’s too wide; it won’t fit, but…I get it in.” Ironically, the most phallocentric song of the year has a video that’s about as phallocentric as last year’s “I Kissed A Girl” by Katie Perry. Omarion has moves that would make most ABDC teams jealous, but he doesn’t save them for the few ladies in the video. Toward the end of the three-minute clip, the rapper forms a human seesaw with a male dancer. This quasi-homoerotic display is almost unheard of in hip hop videos. Perhaps the compact “parking spot” is unisex.

#4 Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem “Forever”

The line-up doesn’t get much better than this. Unfortunately, some radio stations abridge the 6+ minute song by removing one of the rapper’s verses. In ascending order, here’s how I would rank each rapper’s rhymes: Eminem (“He ain’t had a real buzz like this since the last time that he overdosed”), Drake (“Labels want my name beside the ‘X’ like Malcolm”), Lil Wayne (“My mind shine even when my thoughts seem dark”), and Kanye West (“You would think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband”).

#3 Mario featuring Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett “Break Up”

Breaking up never sounded so good! It seems Mario would do just about anything for his girlfriend (“Don’t I lace you with the Gucci? / Don’t I deck you in the Louis?”) except, of course, be faithful. And, for him, it isn’t so much about getting back together but, rather, having one last midnight rendezvous (“If you leavin’, baby, don’t leave me till tomorrow / Tonight we gon’ get a lil’ tipsy with a bottle”). If the break up is final, Gucci Mane reminds us that “girls are like buses: Miss one, next fifteen, one comin’.”

#2 Keri Hilson featuring Lil Wayne “Turnin’ Me On”

Miss Keri, baby! This song should be renamed “Pleasing Women for Dummies.” Keri stresses the importance of “recogniz(ing) a real woman,” and Lil Wayne brags about his oral prowess (“I’ma kiss the spot for ya…I turn you on like a handle / Like a television on the Weather Channel”). Sporting “on” and “off” brass knuckles, Keri rocks the music video that’s full of dichotomous imagery.

#1 Kid Cudi featuring Kanye West & Common and sampling Lady Gaga  “Make Her Say”

“And we can have one hell of a night / Through the day,” promises the casual (hetero)sex anthem of the year. Kid Cudi wonders, “When it’s said and done, will she spit it up or swallow?” Kanye West wants to hook up with a shorty, but he doesn’t want to make it “statutory”: “Hold up…Born in ’88. / How old is that? / Old enough.” Common reminisces about a girl whose “head was gooder than the music.”

And each wants a ménage à trois the only socially acceptable way he can have it (XX/XY/XX). To emphasize this common goal, each rapper begins his verse with a version of “She wanna have whatever she like / She can if she bring her [girl]friend.” Cudi wants a dominant girl with a “fat ol’ ass.” Kanye makes me wonder why I didn’t love college. Common likes to take charge – even if he has to pay for it.

That which is explicit in this hit is misogynistic at best (Cudi and Co. sample Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” to the tune of, “I make her say, ‘Oh…Oh-Oh-Oh…Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh’ when I p-p-p-poke her face.”). That which is implicit, however, is compelling and provocative. Just as most novels have autobiographical inspiration, lyrics often reveal aspects of artists’ personal lives. Each performer in “Make Her Say” shares more information on sexual preferences than would most hip hop artists. It’s one thing to talk about getting “brain on the train.” It’s another to express as-yet-unfulfilled desires, previously secret reflections, and subtle sociopolitical commentary to boot.

The melancholy undertone of an upbeat song that’s entirely about sex seems strange. The subject matter, however, isn’t as lighthearted as the music video’s balloons and peaceful scenes would have you think. “Casual sex” is a misnomer: There is nothing casual about sex. As a society, we take healthy sex lives for granted, and yet sexuality influences most of us in some very problematic ways. Whether they realize it or not (I think they do), all three rappers express this tension between carnal desire, heteronormativity, and mainstream constructions of masculinity. Lady Gaga, who defies gender norms, genre, and Jehovah, creates the backdrop for this musical dialogue. The final product is far from a “Bad Romance.”

February 12, 2010 at 7:26 am 2 comments

Lighters Up

Lighters up
like at a Queen concert
if Freddie Mercury were still alive
if you were still alive
singing Bohemian Rhapsody

Mama, just killed a man
a lot like Miss Jones,
I think I just shot her son

I think it just snowed in East Texas
Who knew
memories of you would get me
singing Randy Travis
higher than the pine trees
that grow tall upon the hill

The one in the summer
where we used to smoke pot
I thought, what’s wrong
with this neighborhood?
urban life decay

I look for you everywhere:
in crossword puzzles,
clouds, thin air, Rumble Fish,
katamari damacy, Disneyland, flour bags,
snow, the Aurora Borealis, grocery stores,
dreams, nightmares, everywhere
Wouldn’t you?

Lighter’s up
its flame
cathedral champaign
and my bleeding heart
A most beautiful ruby red.

December 9, 2009 at 6:50 am Leave a comment

A Message from Aunt Kathy

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Dear Alex,

Where are you? What are you doing? Can you still hear our thoughts?

I know our time on earth must be a small blip compared to eternity, but it is still hard for us to comprehend.

Every time we hear certain songs, we believe you hear them also and we treasure those brief reminders.

We love you so much. We miss you so much. We are still having a hard time understanding.

September 8, 2009 at 7:32 am 1 comment

“Jumbo Jessica” and the Marlon Brando Paradox

Jessica Simpson needs to fire her stylist. Ever since the singer donned a pair of high-waisted jeans and double-layered leopard print belt to the KISS Country Chili Cookoff, the tabloids haven’t given her body a break. The New York Post described her as a “corpulent country star” and assigned her the hurtful “Jumbo Jessica” moniker. Us Weekly eagerly repeated the nickname, and People used the same series of unflattering pictures to publicize “her new fat curvy body.”

Days before her humiliating and oh-so-public breakup with Tony Romo, Jessica sang the National Anthem at the AT&T National golf tournament in a horizontally striped Michael Kors dress. The Daily Fix commented, “As the ditzy blonde singer’s career shrinks, her bottom line continues to expand.” Not to be outdone, Perez Hilton blogged, “Is JSimpleson finally pregnant with her dream baby?…That’s an ass you could serve Thanksgiving dinner on!”

Just under 5’3″, Jessica is a petite woman who has been blessed with curves in all the right places. Minor weight fluctuations become exaggerated on her small frame. Case in point: Within the same month, OK! ran stories on Jessica’s wardrobe woes, Romo breakup, and “revenge diet.” She “look[ed] like a blimp” one week and boasted a fit physique the next.

This repulsive practice of inventing weight problems for female celebrities certainly takes its toll on the common (wo)man. I’ve found myself turning down desserts lately and worrying about how I look in form-fitting jeans. It also serves as yet another example of our society’s rampant sexism and double standards: Tom Cruise’s diminutive stature and Jack Nicholson’s gut receive little press/criticism. This is what I call the “Marlon Brando Paradox.”

Marlon Brando is rightfully considered one of the greatest actors of all time. The Academy Award winner’s career spanned over half a century, but his svelte form progressively widened throughout. At almost no point, however, did the media criticize Brando’s weight or deny his talent because he wasn’t as conventionally attractive or as physically fit as he had been as a young man. With performances as “Vito Corleone” in The Godfather and “Paul” in Last Tango in Paris on his impressive résumé, we didn’t need him to look a particular way. But if he had been a woman, he almost certainly would not have landed comparable roles.

The Marlon Brando Paradox perpetuates our society’s commodification and fetishization of the female body.  By scrutinizing the female form in this manner, we are preventing progress and gender equality. While Jessica Simpson is the latest victim, almost no one–celebrity or not–escapes being viewed through this perverse, distorted lens: I am anxiously waiting for it to shatter.

August 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm 2 comments

Blame It (On the Concert Hall)

Warning: This post contains a lot of adult language.

I surprisingly didn’t feel offended when D12 ordered “all the independent women in the house” to “show [them their] tits and shut [their] mother fuckin’ mouth[s]” in 2001’s “Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music.”  Nor did I get upset when Jay-Z boasted, “I thug ’em, fuck ’em, love ’em, leave ’em/’Cause I don’t fuckin’ need ’em/Take ’em out the hood/Keep ’em lookin’ good/But I don’t fuckin’ feed ’em,” in “Big Pimpin.'” With lyrics so blatantly misogynistic, it’s difficult to take these songs too seriously. Maybe that’s why I rhymed along with the rappers instead of sending them hate mail. Lately, however, two songs have almost made me lose sleep at night.

“Baby, Let Me Rape You” might be a more appropriate title for Jamie Foxx’s (feat. T-Pain) latest hit, “Blame It (On the Alcohol).” The song describes a relatively innocuous situation: A bachelor is in town for the weekend and hits up the club scene because he wants to get some tail. But then he meets a “girl” whose looks probably wouldn’t suit him in the light of day (I was unaware/How fine you was before my buzz set in), and she doesn’t seem too interested in hooking up (She say she usually don’t/But I know she front). Deciding to create his own window of opportunity, the guy “seduces” the girl with alcoholic beverages (Girl, what you drinkin’?/Go on, let it sink in) until she gives in to his sexual advances (Fill another cup up/Feelin’ on your butt, what?/You don’t even care now).

I could be overreacting. After all, there’s nothing wrong with sippin’ on some “‘tron” and gettin’ it on. But if the prospect of having sex isn’t consensual before drinks enter into the equation, it’s not OK to proceed. Jamie Foxx goes beyond just talking smack about women: He seems to endorse forced sex through inebriation. All that said, the song is catchy as hell. Maybe I just need to take a few shots, crank up the stereo, and blame it on the ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-alcohol.

If “Blame It (On the Alcohol)” teeter-totters the line between impertinence and acceptability, 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me” completely obliterates it. The female victim is under 21 (X’s on the back of your hands/Wash them in the bathroom to drink like the bands), and the guy we shouldn’t trust preys upon her vulnerability and anonymity (B-b-b-bruises cover your arms/Shaking in the fingers with the bottle in your palm/And the best is, no one knows who you are/Just another girl alone at the bar). The instructions he gives her speak for themselves: “Shush, girl! Shut your lips/Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” If “Don’t Trust Me” is an electronica or hip hop parody, it’s one thing, but the song doesn’t give me satiric vibes a la Weird Al.

Sometimes I really miss the days when Milli Vanilli and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam dominated the air waves.

May 27, 2009 at 6:57 pm 1 comment

How to Sing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish

The Spanish version of “Happy Birthday” is more poetic than what we usually sing in English. Have you ever stopped to think that the “Happy Birthday” song only contains six different words, including a proper noun? It’s about as simplistic as they come, so here’s a new jingle to learn and practice on your celebrating friends and loved ones:

De las velas las luces

Ellas quieren decir

Que tú  tengas, Carlito,

Cumpleaños feliz

The great thing is that, while the lyrics are in another language, the music stays the same. Loosely translated, the “Feliz Cumpleaños” song says:

The lights from the candles

Would like to wish you, Charlie,

A happy birthday!

I know: It’s much more poetic in Spanish, as it lends itself more readily to the traditional tune.

Now all I need is someone to teach me the song in Arabic!

 

April 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm 1 comment

“I Hate You So Much Right Now”: Feminine Angstiest Songs #2

Kelis’s “Milkshake” brings all the boys to the yard, but her rhymes in “Caught Out There” put them in their places. She dedicates the song to “all the women out there/that been lied to by their men/over and over again” and admits “maybe you didn’t break the way you shoulda broke, yo, but I break.”

From her 1999 debut album Kaleidoscope, “Caught Out There” paved the way for the cocky and confrontational lyrics of “Bossy” (featuring Too $hort) and “In Public” (featuring husband Nas). In fact, when Kelis declares herself “the first girl to scream on a track” in “Bossy,” she’s referring to exercising her irate shouting skills in “Caught Out There”: “I hate you so much right now / I hate you so much right now / I hate you so much right now / Ahhhhhhhhh!” Kelis repeats the angsty chorus no less than seven times and outdoes Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” with threats like, “So sick of your games / I’ll set your truck to flames / And watch it blow up, blow up / (Tell me how you gonna see her now?).” I certainly think that’s worse than taking “a Louisville Slugger to both headlights!”

It may seem like I’m hating on my man right now, but that’s not the case at all. I do, however, feel severe animosity toward “The Man.” He can go fuck himself. And I’m grateful to “the one that’s tattooed on his arm” for giving me an outlet to vent my ire through.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 14, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

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