The Mid-Year Review (2016 Version)

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It has been half a year! Time has mostly definitely flown by! I am sorry that this blog wasn’t as active like last year. Work has been extremely busy since the beginning of the school year (aka April) where I would just come home, cook dinner, take a shower, and go to bed extra early.  I also worked six days a week. I felt like I was working too much and not getting the necessary sleep I needed.

But! Everything has changed as I now work 5 days a week. I also have ample time to sleep and relax on a new bed. That’s right, a new bed! I was sleeping Japanese style for the past year with a bunch of futons and mattress piled on a hard wooden floor. But now I have an actual bed, I am able to sleep more peacefully now.

Enough of talking about the love of my life, I mean, my bed and my life. Let’s talk about music! Here are the top 5 most popular blog entries from January to July 2016!


5. Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)  (Written on January 12, 2016)

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe every day and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols”.

Read more here.

4. Get ready for the Olympics with Kobushi Factory (Written on July 17, 2016)

It is less than three weeks to the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. But, everyone is preparing for the major event of the year by releasing merchandise, airing the pre-game qualifiers on TV, talking about it on every morning show, and incorporating themes of the games and Rio de Janeiro in film and music.  This is no exception to Hello! Project, who has started a trend of providing Olympic-themed songs in the last five years.

Read more here.

3. My Thoughts on Eurovision (Written on May 15, 2016)

Eurovision 2016 has already come and go. There were really exceptional acts, good acts, and worst ones. As there were 26 performers for the four hours final, it will take me a while to get through all the acts. So, if I can remind myself to do it, there will be a part two next week to cover the other performances.

Read More Here.

2. Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume (Written on May 22, 2016)

One of my all-time favorite Japanese pop girl group just released their 61st single! Yes, you read it right, 61st! Although, I did talk about their 60thabout six months ago. Nevertheless. Morning Musume always impresses their fans with the ability to successfully reinvent themselves for the past 18 years.

Now, the 61st is a Triple A single, with the songs being ‘Tokyo to Iu Katsumi”, “The Vision”, and “Utakata Saturday Night”. I won’t be talking about all three songs as that could be a huge essay that could bore you and that I wasn’t really digging two of the songs from the single.

Read more here.

1. Celebrating Canada Day with Don’t Wanna Fall in Love by Jane Child (Written on July 5, 2015)

Over the past twenty or so years. many Canadian artists have been featured and became immensely popular all over the world. Barenaked Ladies, musical goddess Celine Dion, rock-pop princess Avril Lavigne, “boy wonder” Justin Bieber (which you should check out his new single with Skrillex), and others. But, none were more eccentric or skillful at playing the keyboards than today’s featured artist.

Read more here.

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A Hip Take on a Timeless R&B Classic: “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”

innercity-whatchagonnadowithmylovin

As I travel deeper and deeper into the heart of my fanfiction for NaNoWriMo, it’s time to take a breather. During the endless marathons of typing away at plot changes and character developments, I have been listening to a ton of music on my music player, on video sites like Youtube, and from a couple of blogs. This post is inspired by one of my favorite blogs on WordPress, Mixed Tape Masterpiece. It’s a really neat site that features songs and radio snippets that were recorded on cassette about twenty years ago before the age of high-speed internet and iTunes. Please check it out if you have a chance!

At the beginning of the 1990s, it seemed like music was changing constantly.  New genres were added to Billboard’s Top 40 charts as previous established ones expanded their definitions. One group that dared to challenge musical genres in 1989 and helped throw “Detroit House” and “Detroit Techno” into the public’s eye was Inner City.

Inner City formed around the Detroit area in 1987 by accident. Kevin Saunderson, credited as a co-founder of techno and a member of the group Bellevue Three, was composing music with James Pennington one day at Pennington’s studio. One of the successes from this jam session was the creation of Inner City’s iconic “Big Fun“, which Saunderson described it as a song with “a chord, sampled, one note, spread through the keyboards and replayed, mixed down with a pad and a few other sounds”.[1] The duo continued to work on the song over the weeks, adding percussion done by Terry ‘Housemaster’ Baldwin and a keyboard solo by Art Forest. However, the song was missing something momentous.

James Pennington suggested Chicago-native Paris Grey to be the tune’s lead singer. Saunderson sent the track to Paris, who had the task to write the vocal melody and lyrics for song. She completed the job in one month and sang the finishing product to the producers, who fell in love with her voice and the song even more. That was when Inner City was born.

Over the span of the band’s initial run, they added two more members (including Saunderson’s wife Anne), released five albums, and a handful of singles. Their debut album, “Paradise” (renamed “Big Fun” in the United States), was a hit in UK where it reached number three on the charts. As Inner City rode on their moderate success, singer Paris Grey wanted to take a step back to raise her daughter around the mid-90s. The group took a pause after the release of “Do Me Right” in 1996, enabling Paris to take a break and Saunderson to go on to do more projects.

However, the group never really broke up as they gotten back together many times since their hiatus. They released two singles in 1999 and 2000. And another two in 2011 and 2014 with an updated techno sound.

As I continue to type countless words for my novel, I cannot stop listening to the Kevin McCord Club Mix of Inner City’s 1989 single ‘Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”. A cover of the 1979 Stephanie Mills’ song, Inner City updated it by adding jazz, a hint of R&B, and 80s’ house. The song captures anyone’s attention at the beginning when Paris starts off by singing the title with a blaring saxophone bit following it. I absolutely love how this horn instrument is used throughout the song, especially at the 6:08 mark. This particular instrument helps to paint a jazzy scenario with the disco-styled piano solos thanks to the Roland TR-909 (listen for an imperfect authentic cadence at around the 4:50 mark), the bluesy percussion beats, and the tone of the background vocals. But, listeners are reminded that this is still a (then) modern-day house and R&B song thanks to the funky bass synthesizer that serves as the backbone of the song.

Speaking of vocals, can we take a minute to talk about how amazing Paris Grey vocals are. Saunderson was right in a recent interview about how Grey’s vocals are “their own instrument”.  Her voice is warm, deep, and rich as she brings out each low note with a slight hold. She ends each line with style that embodies the texture of velvet, rich and silky, that leaves the listeners wanting more.  It doesn’t end at the chorus as she continues to sing in a soulful tone.

The Kevin McCord Club Mix of  “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'” is a tasteful mix of past and current musical genres. The tune is a spectacular blend of disco, R&B, soul, blues, jazz, and others. Anyone who is a fan of any type of musical genre will enjoy this musical gem.

If you enjoy to take things slow, you should listen to the original version. I find it too slow for my taste but still amazing.


References

[1] Saunderson, Kevin. “Kevin Saunderson, Inner City and the inside Story of ‘Big Fun’.” FACT Magazine Music News New Music. FACT Magazine, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2015. (http://www.factmag.com/2014/09/02/kevin-saunderson-inner-city-and-the-inside-story-of-big-fun/)

The Shocking Tunes of the Season: Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own”

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What do Donald Trump and Bobby Brown have in common?

No, no! It doesn’t have to do with Trump running for United States President next year. Think waaaaaaaay back, about twenty-six years ago. Still don’t know the answer?

Welllllllllllll…. Ghostbusters, of course!

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“Gasp!”

“On Our Own” was a Babyface and LA Reid produced song, sung by Bobby Brown, that served as the theme for the film Ghostbusters II. Nothing like the original theme song by Ray Parker Jr., “On Our Own” still captures the original theme’s concept of a lively dance beat that features lyrics about a team.

As much as “Ghostbusters” is a loveable classic, I really enjoy listening to “On Our Own” because I am huge sucker for new jack swing, 80s’ R&B, and anything by Babyface. I think what I like best from this song is Babyface’s smooth and sultry backing vocals, Bobby’s “on the edge” rapping skills, and the song’s flow. What else is great is how the producers combined the jolting synthesizers bits from the electronica genre with the bass line that is akin to funk music. Finally,I like the pre-chorus that involves an interesting sub-melody by a classical piano with a guest solo appearance from that funky bass line.

The music video presented a pretty cool concept. It features numerous scenes around New York City that highlights Bobby Brown, the back-up dancers, and various scenes from Ghostbusters II on buildings, billboards, and so on. While the music video does have various celebrities taking notice to the “photo-shopped” videos, it also featuring everyday New Yorkers just strolling by, enamored to the movie clips that are somehow playing on these buildings. Of course, the delightful appearance of Rick Moranis is always a treat!

So if you feel like rapping these lines “So they packed up their group, got a grip, came equipped, grabbed they Proton packs off their back and they split”, check the video below.

The Wing Beneath My Wings

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Do you remember a time when you reached rock bottom in your life? We had that moment where we felt like we couldn’t do anything to change our situation or we felt down about a certain thing. However, we always have someone to pick us up, whether it be a close relative or a complete stranger. To me, one of these inspiring individuals is Scott Dinsmore.

Scott Dinsmore is a person who made an impact on people’s goals and self-awareness. Founder of the organization Live Your Legend, Scott always wants people to reflect on themselves in order to find an enriching purpose. He travels around the world to empowered others to find the work that each would love to do. He also gave a TED Talk a couple of years ago, talking about how he turn his un-success to success with his three-step mainframe.

Scott’s mission made an impact on my life too. I came across “Live Your Legend” last year by taking the “Should I Quit My Job?” self-assessment. I was in an unlucky strut exactly one year ago at a job that didn’t seem to be self-achieving for me. I had co-workers who would love to criticize than help, no one to really turn to for help, and I became more depressed and lonely at work as my co-worker distanced themselves from me and lived in their own cliches. By Christmas time, I was really down in the dumps as I was lacking self-esteem and courage.

However, with Scott’s advice and his monthly challenge that asked to find my “passions” by keeping a blog, I was able to start up this blog again. I resumed blogging in order to find my voice and passion in the words I jotted down. I found my courage once more as I gained confidence through the blog posts I wrote and the support I received. I was able to speak in real life without being a coward or afraid what people think about me, a big problem I still face and has always faced.

Sadly, Scott passed away in an accident about two weeks ago while doing what he loved to do. You probably noticed that up to this moment, I have used the present tense to talk about Scott. That is because I believe that Scott is still living inside of everyone’s heart. His ideas and passion will continue to live on as everyone continues to search their genuine ardor in the world. His zeal and dreams will never die out as long as there is a need for them.

I picked “The Wing Beneath My Wings” to pay tribute to Scott as he was simply the strength I needed to pull me up and over the lowest points of my life and to help me to fly once more. Whenever I think of Scott, I always have the chorus’ lyrics in mind:

“Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

Thanks Scott for becoming my hero by encourage me to fly again!

Celebrating Canada Day with Don’t Wanna Fall in Love by Jane Child

janechild-dontwannafallinlove

Happy Canada Day to all my readers!

Over the past twenty or so years. many Canadian artists have been featured and became immensely popular all over the world. Barenaked Ladies, musical goddess Celine Dion, rock-pop princess Avril Lavigne, “boy wonder” Justin Bieber (which you should check out his new single with Skiillex), and others. But, none were more eccentric or skillful at playing the keyboards than today’s featured artist.

Jane Child was born and raised in “The Big Smoke”, Toronto. She came from a musical family as her mother was opera singer Lorraine Johnson and her father was violinist Ricky Hyslop. Growing up, she sang in various chours including the children’s choir at the Canadian Opera Company. By her teenage years, Jane started to create her own bizarre fashion styles as she had braided hair with a mohawk, nose chains, and the Sinead O’Connor-type of clothing.

Sometime near the late 80s, Jane was offered a recording contract with the label Warner Bros to write and produce her own music. She released her self-titled debut album in the fall of 1989  It produced a couple of singles, including the hit “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”. That single was featured on many top 40 charts in various countries, including #2 on the US Billboard 100. Jane released a follow-up album, named “Here Not There”, four years later, which was not as successful as her first one. By the late 90s and early 2000s, Jane Child faded from the spotlight as she worked in many indies outlets with her husband Cat Gray.

“Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” is a pure synthesized keyboard pop song with some R&B thrown into it. You can hear the R&B influences within the first fifteen seconds of the song with the mid-range, twangy melody to introduce the song. After that, the song keeps going with Jane’s meticulous use of the keyboard. She really knows how to master a keyboard with the techniques she displays during this song. One of my favorite parts of the song happens to be the modulated chords before the first verse. As you could see in the video, Jane plays with such raw emotions that you can even feel it while listening to “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”, especially when she rams the modulation switch back and forth while pounding away on her keyboard. Other great parts are at the musical interlude (she has some amaaaaazing keyboard skills here because I haven’t heard or seen a person play like that ever, or maybe I have…) and at the big musical exposition with Jane moving up the scale before the last chorus.

The other prominent aspect of this song is Jane Child’s vocals. Her vocal style reminds me a lot of Avril Lavigine’s as both are, as you could. classified as “rock meets pop” vocals. Although Jane’s are more nasally and trying to emulate a R&B style in this song, both ladies put that “oomph” that you can only hear in a rock or R&B song. You can hear this particular vocal style during the second verse when she sings “And you have started sinking in, Whoa baby you’re way out of line now”. When she sings like this, it intensifies the song’s emotion. Sadly, I feel like she has lost that fiery vocal style recently. If you take a look at the performance on “The Wayne Brady Show” below, she can barely sing  “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” with ok vocals.

Besides that, you should listen to “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” as it displays Jane’s amazing keyboard skills and fiery vocals. The song is one of my most recent favorites because it’s an amazing song that you can’t really attach a label to it. Sure, it’s a mixture of rock (as it’s edgy), synthesized dance music (hey, keyboards), and R&B (see “wooo” and “oh baby” vocal parts), you can’t exactly say it solely belongs in one genre. It belongs in many.

Please give it a listen and tell me what you think!

A 2004 performance of the song on the “Wayne Brady Show”:

“I’m Lost Without You” by BeBe & CeCe Winans

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Continuing on the same vein of last week’s Music Rewind (which is where I share a past blog post on Twitter and Facebook), I want to talk about another group that was very popular during the same time. Now, before I introduce the artist and song, I want to let my readers know that this wasn’t an easy pick. Like BeBe Winans said in a past interview, this song made me nervous because a) it could be viewed to be too secular (as its contemporary gospel but with lots of R&B mixed in)[1] or b) the Christian message behind it might be viewed as too much by some. If you are thinking like that, I want you to clear your mind now and sit back and enjoy the song. If you like it because of the message, that is cool. If you like because you like the R&B vibe to it, that is cool too.

I don’t know where or when I got into gospel music. Growing up, I was raised in a Christian family who went to church every Sunday, read their bible, and practiced Christian values regularly. At church, we would sing old-fashioned or contemporary hymns, depending on the topic of the sermon. Later on when I was in high school, the church congregation started to sing songs by the likes of Relent K, P.O.D, and other Christian Rock artists. I tried to get into that kind of music but I failed. Yes, the message is the most important aspect for them. But for me, it was the musical flavor. And that’s why I liked the gospel more then Christian Rock because it was with soul, used a wider vocal range, vocal ad libs were prominent, and the songs just excited me.

BeBe & CeCe Winans are one of the most prominent names in Gospel back in the 80s and 90s. Born into a family of Gospel musicians, the two siblings made their debut in 1982 as part of The PTL Singers, releasing one album under the PTL Records label. Wanting to branch out and start their own musical careers, the dup left The PTL Singers and signed onto the label Sparrow Records soon after. With the help of producer Keith Thomas, who has produced a lot of songs like Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby”, the two released their self-titled album in 1987 with huge success. Thanks to the album becoming a hot seller, BeBe & CeCe Winans become the first African-Americans to be featured regularly on CCM radio stations.[2]

The follow-up album “Heaven” was even more successful as it was the first gospel album to reached Number 1 on the Billboard charts. The pair released more albums over the years until 1994 when the siblings both decided to focus more on their separate solo careers. However, they got back together in 2009 to release “Still”, a Grammy award-winning album.

“Lost Without You” is a mellow R&B song that came from the 1989 album “Heaven”. The song features drum kits, the harmonic fat sounds of the blues guitar, and a touch of the synthesizer’s twang. From the crystal sounds to the cool jive bit after the line “Now, some say I’m crazy am I’m acting insane”, the synthesizer frequently changes roles during the song to create the ambient sound. This is further amplified by BeBe’s sooth baritone tone and CeCe’s water-like strong vocals.

What else is strong is the message behind the lyrics. In an interview, CeCe said that this song was one of favorites because it represents her personal story.[1] You can sense those feelings of something so power and comes from the heart and soul within every beat. The best songs out there are the ones that are influenced by the artists’ emotions and stories.

If you like Luther Vandross, Shanice, or Vanessa Williams, then “I’m Lost Without You” would be a perfect fit in your music library.

(Sorry guys, I don’t really know any Contemporary Gospel artists well enough to compare.)

References

[1]  “BeBe & CeCe Winans–Revealed Pt. 5–“Lost Without You”” YouTube – BeBe & CeCe Winans–Revealed Pt. 5–“Lost Without You” Official CeCe Winans, 20 Oct. 2009. Web. 31 May 2015. .

[2]  “BeBe & CeCe Winans.” Wikipedia – BeBe & CeCe Winans. Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Aug. 2005. Web. 31 May 2015.

[Single] SHIHO – Giri Giri Yuuwaku

Happy New Year!! Here is another music review that you should not miss out on!

Artist: 志穂 (SHIHO)shiho1

Single Title: ぎりぎり・誘惑 (Giri Giri Yuuwaku)

Date Released: April 21st, 1989

Catalog Code: CA-8216

Label: Nippon Columbia

Genre: Japanese Pop

Tracklist:

1.  ぎりぎり・誘惑

2.  SECRET DANCER

About / Review

SHIHO (whose real name is Toshiho Sakamo) was an sexy idol singer from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Not much is know about her except she did a lot of AV Videos, photobooks, and singles/records. She seemed have been riding the popular wave at the time in terms of being sexy and having a good to great singing voice (Please see Aya Sugimoto, another sexy idol singer who help paved the way for other sexy idol singers to be rising stars in the Japanese music industry).

Girigiri Yuuwaku is nothing short of what you can call a “sexy single”. SHIHO’s vocal and the tone of music in each track helps solidify that there is a sexy tone going on with this single (especially with SHIHO, who has a sexy voice type when it comes to singing). The first track, Girigiri Yuuwaku, is a great song that starts off with being a great song with the downbeat of beat one with the guitar solo. The major climax of the song is the sax solo, which is a really amazing feat of the song and my favorite part of the song, that sets the song’s theme of a sad theme (with the help of the minor overtones within the piece too). As for the B-side, SHIHO doesn’t fall short of another great song. SECRET DANCER is like a sexy latin song with a dance beat to it. The best part of the song is again the  awesomeness of Shiho’s sexy singing voice and instrument soloist in the song (which, this time, is a guitar solo).

In conclusion, this single is a what you call the sexy sound of the 80’s with the latin beat, the dance sound, and the singer’s “sexy” vocals. This single will not disappoint you if you like the 80’s type of dancr music. Please give this single a listen! (You won’t regret it!)

Trivia: Girigiri Yuuwaku was the opening theme to the TBS Dorama “I Love You kara Hajimeyou”, which ran from April 7 to June 16, 1989.