Happy Canada Day with The Barenaked Ladies!

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Happy (Late) Canada Day!

Two years ago, I wrote a post about Jane Child to celebrate Canada’s Independence. This year, I want to talk about the Barenaked Ladies and their infamous song, “One Week”.

Before you say “Wait, what?”, hear me out! “One Week” was one of the musical themes during the fourth grade. I still remember riding in my mom’s car, hearing then-musical newcomers such as Britney Spears, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and etc. on the radio, and debating which boy band member was the best during lunch time. Even though the Barenaked Ladies weren’t technically new when they released “One Week” in 1998 (as they formed ten years earlier), they were pretty new to me as well as the United States music scene back then.

Why was “One Week” such a popular song back in the 90s? You have to admit, the musicality of the song isn’t anything amazing; a basic 90s’ rock song that doesn’t have any amazing vocals nor instrumental solo that really stand out. Yet, the answer doesn’t lie in the musicality, but more in the lyrics. These lines are oozing with multiple pop culture references.  As someone wrote on the song’s Wikipedia article: “The song is rife with pop culture references, which includes the following: Aquaman, Swiss Chalet, LeAnn Rimes, Bert Kaempfert, The X-Files and its character, The Smoking Man, the film Frantic and its star Harrison Ford, Sting and tantric sex, Snickers, sushi and wasabi, golf clubs, the film Vertigo, Akira Kurosawa and his film Seven Samurai, Sailor Moon, A Tribe Called Quest’s song “Scenario”, Birchmount Stadium and its annual Robbie International Soccer Tournament.”[1]

These popular references give listeners something to relate to. For example, I have watched X-Files with the lights on (who hasn’t done this?). — though I had to because I watched X-Files as a young girl and let me tell you, that show was scary as hell when you are young. Another example is the Sailor Moon reference. Whenever this song came on the radio, I would always wait for my favorite part, which was when the band’s vocalist Ed Robertson sang: “Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes”. I was beginning to become a big fan of Sailor Moon when this song came out twenty years ago. So, when I heard it being mentioned in a hit song, I became super excited: someone famous knows my favorite anime, and put it in a popular song!

Robertson also makes this song addictive to sing to with his smooth style of rapping during the verses. The cleverness of how Robertson writes the lyrics also makes anyone want to sing this at karaoke.

“One Week” might not be memorable as a talented musical piece like Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always As Love You”. But with its bouncy rhymes and pop culture references, the song made listeners excited to listen for our favorite pop culture items inside the tune back in the 90s. Now, it lets us reminiscence on 90s’ pop culture.

Were you are big of “One Week” back in the day?


About the Band:

Barenaked Ladies is a Canadian rock band with four members: Jim Creeggan (vocals and bass), Kevin Hearn (guitar, keyboard, and vocals), Ed Robertson (guitar and vocals) and Tyler Stewart (vocals and drums). Barenaked Ladies formed in 1988 in Ontario as a duo (Robertson and Steven Page). The band kept adding members afterward with brothers Jim and Andy Creeggan joining at the end of 1989 and Stewart was added in 1990. When Andy Creeggan left the group in 1995, he was replaced by Kevin Hearn. Also, Steven Page retired in 2009.

The group released their first album, named “Buck Naked” in 1988 as a cassette tape under a indies label. The became popular when they released their third indies album, named “The Yellow Tape”, in 1991. The album reached #9 on the Canadian charts. Due to the success of “The Yellow Tape”, the band signed with the major label Reprise a year after and released “Gordon”, which reached #1 on the charts. They broke into the US music market in 1998 with the release of “Stunt”, which reached #3 on the charts there.

The band is still active as a quartet as they released the album “Fake Nude” last year.


References:

[1] “One Week (Song).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Week_(song).

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Vaporwave: A Genre That Goes Forward by Moving Backwards

Neon lights accent the various billboards and signs around the city. Hits from the likes of Chicago, Lionel Ritchie, and Steve Winwood softly streaming from multiple speakers all around with electric guitars blazing, a drum kit faintly pulsing, and an electronic keyboard acting as the leading performer in the piece. As you continue walking, you detect the passing smell of a woman’s perfume, was that the scent of Calvin Kline’s Obsession or perhaps, it was Yves Saint’s Laurent Opium?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since these sights, smells, and sounds from the heart of the 80s were part of our lifestyles. Once the 90s brought in grunge rock, modern fashion, and less dramatic design styles, it was expected that we would ultimately forget the 80s or have our children grumble how old-fashion and tedious that decade was. That isn’t the case with Vaporwave: a new genre that has brought back the sounds and feel of a retro decade.

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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.

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)

A Critical Point in Miho Nakayama’s Music Career

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I am slowly processing all the CDs I got from an auction lot about two months ago. There are a lot of good and surprising finds, including an album from one of my favorite Japanese female singers Miho Nakayama!! 😀

For those who aren’t familiar with  Ms. Nakayama, let me fill you in. Nakayama didn’t initially start her entertainment career in music. In fact, she was a model for magazines and print ads during her junior high school years. It wasn’t until she switched agencies in 1984 or 1985 that she became an idol singer.

She released her first single, entitled “C”, during the summer of 1985. The single did really well, reaching #12 on the weekly Oricon charts and sold over 170,000 copies. Nakayama nabbed the Rookie of the Year Award at the Japan Record Awards due to the successful start. However, her first #1 didn’t come until two years later with the release of the upbeat dance tune “CATCH ME” (which I looooooooooooove because Toshiki Kadomatsu, whom I adore a lot, wrote it).

Nakayama continued her music career throughout the late 80s and 90s. She worked with significant musicians in the industry like Mariya Takeuchi, Tetsuya Komuro, Toshiki Kadomatsu, and ANRI. She also went overseas to record material in places like Los Angeles and France.

Nakayama took a break from singing at the turn of the new century. She then went on to marry Tsuji Hitonari in 2002 (whom she would later divorce twelve years later) and put her entertainment career on hold to move to Paris with her husband. As of August 2016, she is still living in Paris and helping her ex-husband to raise her only son.

Miho Nakayama has always found new ways to reinvent her music career. Starting off with the innocent idol kayokyoku of the 80s, Nakayama bounced in and out of various musical genres like dance, latin, electronica, blues, and AOR. She constantly modified her sound every two years as the market and her fan’s tastes were continually shifting. Wondering what her fans wanted next, she decided in 1992 to go to Los Angeles and recorded the album Wagamama na Actress.

“Gakeppuchi” (崖っぷち; critical point) is a bold number that opens the album. The song attracts listeners with its boisterous and upbeat feeling. It opens with a bluesy organ solo followed by a dynamic horns section. The piece includes a wicked 90s’ style guitar solo during the break. This style reminds me of Amy Grant’s 1991 album Heart in Motion, something like “Every Heartbeat” and “Hats”. It also sounds like Peter Cetera’s 1988 album One More Story. Maybe I am just crazy. Do you hear the similarities too?

The only issue I have with this tune is that the instrumentation is a bit overpowering. Miho Nakayama has always been a good singer. However, she always had a soft voice that fits perfectly with her songs “Mermaid”, “Rose Color”, “Tada Nakitaku Naru no”, and “You’re My Only Shinin’ Star”. Those songs are pretty quiet with the instruments kept to a minimal.

I also noticed that Miho Nakayama struggles vocally with bluesy music quite often. SThe singer struggles a bit on “Gakeppuchi”. She also has problems on the poorly arranged “Sea Paradise -OL no Hanran-“. Albeit, it isn’t my favorite Miho Nakayama tune as the arrangement is so messy. It does point out that Nakayama has a weakness at very fast and loud songs. Maybe the producers should have scaled back a bit on both songs.

Overall, “Gakeppuchi” isn’t a terrible song if you ignore its flaws. I love it because the song has an upbeat tempo with an awesome 90s vibe to it.  I also loooooooove early 90’s AOR songs like this one.

If you are a fan of early 90’s Chicago, Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion era, or and Peter Cetera’s One More Story era, then this song is for you!

You can listen to the song here on Ket nool.

 

 

 

Choosing the Right Key to My Heart with Choice

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Hey, hey, do you remember Kazaam?

That horrible movie that featured basketball legend Shaq?

You probably have at least seen it once if you a child of the 90s. I remember watching this bizarre film on videotape when my mom bought me every kid movie tape out there.

Nooooow, do you remember this movie?

What?  You want the painful memories to stop?

Don’t worry, we won’t be talking about the movie, which will turn twenty years old next month. Instead, we will briefly talk about a song from it’s soundtrack, which features a mixture of R&B, hip-hop, and pop. It had songs from well-known artists like Spinderella (from Salt ‘n’ Pepa), Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (from TLC), and Nathan Morris (from Boyz II Men). But, it also spotlighted up and coming artists like Backstreet Boys, Usher, and P!nk who were just scratching the surface of the music world at the time of Kazaam’s soundtrack release.

One of the groups featured on this album was the girl group Choice. The group was made up of three girls from the suburbs of Philadelphia; Stephanie Galligan, Alecia Moore, and Chrissy Conway. The R&B-flavored group recorded songs and sent them to various record companies in order to get a deal. One person who noticed the group’s music and talents was L.A. Reid, who signed Choice on his own record label LaFace Records. He flew the girls down to Atlanta to record their debut album. During this time, one of their recorded songs, “Key of My Heart”, appeared on the Kazaam soundtrack.

However, Choice’s debut album never saw a physical release as the group disbanded before anything could be released. One of the possible reasons behind the breakup was the LA Reid gave Alecia a hard choice, go home or go solo, as he thought she was too talented to be in Choice.[1] And so she did, changing her name to P!nk and releasing her two time platinum-hit debut record “Can’t Take Me Home” in 2000. The edgy, in your face singer has had a successful career since her debut as the artist has dabbled in various musical genres from R&B to rock and beyond.

While P!nk was doing her thing, Chrissy Conway went onto join a Christian pop girl group called ZOEgirl from 1999 to 2006 and COLMANblue from 2008 to 2010. Meanwhile, Stephanie Galligan left the music business after the breakup.[2]

You probably wouldn’t notice P!nk’s vocals when you first listen “Key to My Heart”. The song features vocals that is completely different then P!nk’s powerful, brazen vocals that you typically hear in such songs like “Just Like Fire” and “Get This Party Started”. Instead, it features a mellow tone from the then-young singer to fit in with the mid-tempo flow.

The song is pretty soothing with the light tones from the members’ tone, a great flow, and a laid-back mood. It’s a basic 90s’ mid-tempo R&B that is a bit generic as you could hear the synthesizer, those types of vocals run, and the prominent woodblock mixed with snaps backbeat that you could find in any smooth R&B jams during the same time (see SWV, Allure, and others). However, it’s a pretty decent tune that doesn’t really bore anyone. It’s a great listen while you are relaxing on this beautiful Sunday.


Sources:

[1] Behind the Music. Perf. P!nk. VH1, 1999.

[2] Ali, Rahsheeda. “Solo Artists Who Got Their Starts In Now-Forgotten Bands.”VH1. 2014. Web. 05 June 2016. <http://www.vh1.com/news/53694/solo-artists-forgotten-bands/&gt;