What Is Your Go-to Song for Feeling Good and Being Positive?

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It’s already August! Can’t you believe it!? Time has flown by. Before I begin, I want to thank everyone who came and visited my blog last month. This blog had 1,200 views for July, and I can’t thank you guys a lot! If you haven’t had a chance to see it, I am still looking for feedback, and I am giving away a free CD to five lucky people who fill out the survey. Check out the details here.

I recently had to work six-day work weeks. To de-stress from working too much, I been listening to more jazz; either classic or smooth. I love jazz, more so the smooth jazz type, as it is soothing, exciting, and fascinating.  Jazz has that element that can soothe the listener’s soul while exciting their souls, quenching it for more. Any type of jazz (classic, smooth, fusion) is never dull, it is the opposite! Don’t you feel the same way?

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Reminiscing About Jem and How the Show’s Songs are Still Catchy

Since last week, I have been watching episodes of the 80s’ cartoon show Jem (and the Holograms) daily. Although I was born about a year after the last episode aired, it wasn’t hard to learn about the show, thanks to Wikipedia and other sources. I have been enjoying the show due to it being a 80s’ cartoon (and I am a huuuuuuuuuuge fan of this decade). But, the characters are also interesting, and the plots are simple to understand yet amusing. However, the best part of Jem is the music.

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Enjoy the Youthful Summer Fever with The Party

It’s June! Summer is almost here! Time to put on that brand-new swimsuit, lather on some suntan lotion, make sure not to forget those all-important beach items and make your way to the nearest beach (or pool if you don’t live by a beach). For me, as a passionate music lover, summer doesn’t start until I put together a mix-tape of cool summer hits to jam to and enjoy the season. The Party’s “Summer Vacation” would be one of those tracks!

The first thing that catches the listener’s attention is the sampled bass line from “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. That bass line is the real beginning as it serves as the song’s backbone with its intense and defining characteristics. The deep-sounding bass serves as a perfect contrast with the male’s tenor vocals. It’s easy to notice that the bass line is the principal character of this piece. Although, this 12-beat pattern is repeated over and over.

My favorite part has got to be the chorus. The rap verses are slick; the guys lay down the verses coolly and in a typical 90s’ teenager attitude. But the meat of the song is the chorus; the female vocals bring a refreshing yet robust and dance-able flavor to the song. It doesn’t help that the music video features two girls dancing a particular routine to the chorus. It makes me want to get up and dance that same routine. The slick, teenage bad-ass rap verses differ from the rousing chorus, but they both go hand-to-hand as their unique characteristics compliment each other.

I am now an adult working a full-time job with not enough summer vacation time. The lyrics and the summery dance beat of “Summer Vacation” make me wish I was a teenager who is on the cusp of summer vacation; when school is about to be let out for the year and teenagers make the mental (or perhaps, physically as well) dash towards their long three-month vacation. Oh, how I wish, as an adult, I could “get away” and “have fun” for three months!

“Summer Vacation” isn’t my number one favorite The Party song (that honors go to “That’s Why”) but it is a fun song. The youthful vibe and the danceable beat makes me want to break out and dance while enjoying summer in a fun way.

About The Party:

The Party was a group of five teenagers that starred on the show The All New Mickey Mouse Club in the late 80s and early 90s. The members were Albert Fields, Tiffini Hale, Chase Hampton, Deedee Magno Hall, and Damon Pampolina. The group lasted for three years: releasing two original albums, one remix album, and a handful of singles. Their most successful single was “In My Dreams”, released in 1991, a dance cover of the same-titled song by heavy metal band Dokken. Most of the members went onto pursue different fields in the entertainment industry with Deedee Magno Hall being the most recognized name among musical theatre patrons and Steven Universe fans.

Savouring the Beautiful Spring Weather with The Rippingtons’ “Sahara”

The weather here in Japan is still on a roller coaster. The days are either sweltering hot, cold with rain, windy, or sunny. Recently, the weather has been delightful. This fantastic weather means I can enjoy the pleasant spring air while listening to exhilarating pieces like today’s selection.

Sahara has two meanings in the dictionary: (a) a desert in North Africa that extends from the Atlantic to the Nile valley and (b) any arid waste. The Rippingtons’ “Sahara” doesn’t feel like a tune that fits the description of parched, barren land. Instead, it’s the exact opposite as “Sahara” is a refreshing piece that lets you indulge in the delightful weather of April.

The song starts off mellowly with Russ Freeman strumming an acoustic guitar riff that takes the lead. The bass supplies the supporting notes here and there. Meanwhile, Tony Morales and Steve Reid perform drums (mostly hi-hat) and percussion (primarily maracas and maybe a wooden block). The real action comes at the chorus. It starts off with a trombone prelude. Then, the piece suddenly changes moods as it’s loud and lively compared to the mellow verses. The chorus is exhilarating as the saxophone, performed by Jeff Kashiwa, quenches the need for an explosive climax. It also entices the listener with its sultry melody. The finale comes after a few more exchanges between verses and chorus. Instruments continue as they fade into silence. This way of ending the song makes the listener wonder what would happen if the piece carried on.

I can’t find much information on how and why this song was written in the way it was. I would call this piece more of an oasis in the desert. It relaxes, allures, and quenches the listener’s musical soul. A true exhilarating tune for spring.

Blast From the Past: Misfits of Sciences

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Happy April, Readers! Hope that the weather is getting warmer where you are at! Indeed, it has been beautiful here in central Japan. I been passing the time by enjoying the spring weather, watching cherry blossoms spring to life beside my apartment’s window, writing, and also watching obscure 80s’ American TV shows like The Charmings, Starman, Out of This World, and others.  (All thanks to Wikipedia and Youtube!)

I have never really heard of Misfits of Science before I stumble on a Youtube video that showcased theme songs from “bizarre” 80s’ shows. Since I was born three years after the show’s premiere., all I know about the show is that: Courtney Cox starred in it, who would later star in the 90s’ staple TV show Friends, a charming Dean Paul Martin, and it sort-of piggybacks on the success of Ghostbusters as both share a mutual theme of “weird science” You could also say that “Misfits” is the distant cousin of Fantastic Four or even X-Men when you think about “beings” having strange superpowers.

For those who don’t remember this lost 80s’ show, “Misfit” premiered in the fall of 1985 on NBC. It only ran for sixteen episodes as it was canceled due to low ratings. It wasn’t the show’s fault though; it was competing against the mega-successful, ratings dominant Dallas during the same time slot.

Why am I writing about a TV show on a music blog? Am I forgetting my bearings? Let me talk about the theme song because sometimes the songs themselves are worthy to talk about.

The theme song for Misfits of Science was composed by Basil Poledouris, a Greek-American composer who created music for various TV shows and movies like Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, and Free Willy. He also wrote music for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the theme’s performer is a singer-songwriter named Karen Lawrence. Since the 70s, Lawrence has been featured as the lead singer for L.A. Jets, 1994, Karen Lawrence and the Pinz, and Blue by Nature while singing back vocals for Aerosmith and Jeff Beck. She released her only album, entitled Rip and Tear, in 1986 under the label Revolver.

The theme song is entirely an HI-NRG rock tune. There are some spots where the song slows down, especially at the pre-chorus where the BPM clocks in the lower 200s, compared to the verses’ BPM of around 225. But, it isn’t solely about the BPM that defines its sound. You can hear it in the instrumentation. The composer used a combination of electric guitars, electronic keyboards, bell-like tones, a drum kit, and a synthesizer. I feel like this song could be in the minor key to give it an edgy sound, but I could be mistaken.

I think the aspect I love about this song is the upbeat tempo, the edginess, and the “weirdness” factor that goes between the pre-chorus and chorus. You can hear it between 3:24 – 3:28 where a dissonant chord resolves into a consonant one, maybe into a half-cadence. The “weird” key, rock structure works perfectly for the show as the theme is “weird science”. But, the chorus adds a nice touch to the song as it changes directions and tries to resolve the song’s rock, edgy tension with a positive and relaxed melody.

Lastly, I think Karen Lawrence’s vocals are a perfect fit for this as her tone has that edgy, hard-rock tone to it that brings a balance to the song.

It is a shame that Misfits of Science only lasted half a season as the theme song is splendid. I might be biased as others have labeled this show as “awful,” but I love this theme song.  It reflects a perfect combination of vocals and instrumentation in the vein of the edgy, HI-NRG hard rock that was found prominent in the mid-80s. You can listen below and tell me what you think! 😀

Sade’s “Flower Of The Universe”

2018 is shaping up to be a fantastic year of brilliant movies. “Black Panther”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Konya, Romansu Gekijo de”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” are just a few of this year’s cinematic gems that have been released or expected to be released. And with great movies come excellent soundtracks. Perhaps, the soundtrack for “A Wrinkle in Time” might be a masterpiece this year. All thanks to Sade’s “Flower Of The Universe”.

An article from the National Public Radio segment “All Songs Considered” recently popped on my Facebook timeline in which the author described Sade’s newest piece as “stunning”.  I would have to agree with the author’s single word review. The song is stunning but also breathtaking, eloquent, and bare.

The underlying motif of “Flower Of The Universe” starts off the song with Sade’s humming a rich, warm-sounding melody. Sade’s vocals are the main instruments in this piece as they control the mood, action, and climax. She is only supported by an acoustic guitar and piano. Yet, that doesn’t make the song sound boring at all. Sade’s unique voice attracts the audience’s attention and quenches their desires to listen to the end.
The first time I listened to this song was on my way back from a class on a warm evening here in Nagoya. Words cannot describe how beautiful, soothing, and pleasant having the two elements combined. It was awe-inspiring. Maybe I am into the music a little too much. However, it would be a great track to listen to during your evening commute, waking up in the morning, or even now.
“Flower Of The Universe” is a beautiful, breath-taking piece that shows its beauty through Sade’s vocal and bareness. Give it a listen and tell me what you think.

Is Ralph Tresvant Right? Can Money Really Not Buy You Love?

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This September has been filled with a bunch of rainy days. Rather than going out in a downpour, I kept to myself indoors with some activities like sleeping, studying, listening to music, and watching a ton of movies and TV shows. During this weekend, I was able to watch the new “Eight Days a Week”, “New Jacket City”, and “Mo’ Money”. These movies shared one common theme together. And, that was music.

I always wanted to watch “New Jacket City” and “Mo’ Money” as their soundtracks included a few of my favorite artists like Johnny Gill, Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant, Christopher Williams, and others. The songs appearing on these soundtracks were heavily influenced by a popular genre of the late 80’s and early 90s called New Jack Swing, which I really love as it perfectly blends together different musical elements.

Ralph Tresvant started his music career in the early 80s as a member of the “boys next door” R&B group New Edition. Labeled as the new Jackson 5,  Tresvant was only 13 years old when the group released their first album entitled Candy Girl. The album’s lead single reached #1 on various music charts. The group released more hits as the group grew up by changing their sound from sweet, innocent R&B to adult-oriented new jack swing. The group initially broke up in 1990 to let the members pursue their own solo careers. However, they continue to reunite from time to time for special occasions, TV shows, and concerts.

Billed as one of the leading vocalists for the group, Tresvant was all too ready to go solo when New Edition dissolved. There were rumors in the late 80s about the musician wanting to make his own music. However, the ambitions didn’t come into fruition until the success of Bobby Brown’s New Jack Swing-fused album Don’t Be Cruel in 1988 and the wildly popular New Edition album Heart Break. Knowing what to do, the musician released his self-titled album in 1990 with huge success. The album was #1 on the R&B charts and spawn a couple of hits. His follow-up album didn’t meet the same success as it reached #24 on the charts. 

“Money Can’t Buy You Love” was the fourth and last Top 10 single for the New Jack Swing singer. The song was in the 1992 Wayans Brother film Mo’ Money. The movie itself was critically panned by movie critics and actually bombed at the box office. On the contrary, the soundtrack fared better as it reached #6 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The soundtrack features a variety of splendid songs by Johnny Gill, Color Me Badd, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, and other well-known artists. Adam Greenberg  from AllMusic.com gave a spot-on analysis of the soundtrack as it “is a perfect blend for a fan of the early-’90s R&B sound. Yet, the praises do fall short to a weak point with Greenberg mentioning that the soundtrack “doesn’t really meet the same standard as music of later years”.[1]

Tresvant’s tune is a true embodiment of the new jack swing style as it features elements of rap, hip-hop, jazz, R&B, funk, electronica, and a bit of dance. The song starts with the singer’s smooth vocals singing “Can’t Buy You” while a slick rap is placed over. The song leads into the first chorus which is my favorite part. The chorus is the meat of the song’s sandwich as it is well-crafted with an SP-1200 providing the hip-hop styled MIDI sequences, the beautiful electronic piano bits here and there, and Tresvant’s smooth background vocals (which are heaven-sent and sooooooooooo smooth that it is so wonderful).

The lyrics are pretty satisfying as there is a strong message behind them. They were originally written with the idea of the movie’s theme of “money can’t buy can’t buy love” in mind Nevertheless, I feel like the message can apply to everyone and how they live their lives. Haven’t ever you thought about the issue deeply before? Is money REALLY THAT important in buying someone’s love and affection?

“Money Can’t Buy You Love”  is a wonderful example of what new jack swing was in the 90’s. It’s smooth, slick, meaningful, and catchy. The song might make you want to listen to it over and over. Or, just sing the lyrics out loud at random moments like walking to work. I know I have.

 


Sources

[1]  Greenberg, Adam. “Original Soundtrack Mo’ Money.” AllMusic.com. N.p., 2016. Web. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/mo-money-mw0000079784)