Before online streaming music sites became popular in the late 2000s, discovering new tunes back in the day was done in two ways: mass media (like TV and radio) or the internet, either illegally or legally. With music being spread like wildfire all over the internet, how we listen to music changed. More and more people also got curious about various musical genres from around the world. One way was through blogs. I remember reading each week on various LiveJournal sites about tunes I had never heard before, listening to each one, and then falling in love with new favorites.
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.
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.
Do you have a soundtrack or two that you have fallen in love with? Perhaps so much that you have replayed it over and over over a long period? That is the case with Tangerine Dream’s “Legend” soundtrack, my new beloved earworm.
I have seen the 80s’ fantasy movie “Legend” only once or twice. The version I have seen was the Director’s Cut, which features Jerry Goldsmith’s orchestral works. The movie had two soundtracks: the European release had Goldsmith’s orchestral score, and the American release contained an electronic, pop-sounding score composed by German band Tangerine Dream. The reason for the change was that test audiences didn’t enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s score.
One track from Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack, “Unicorn Dream”, was transformed into a love ballad for the US version’s ending. “Loved by the Sun” resulted from this transformation with the song being performed by rock band Yes’s frontman Jon Anderson. He also wrote the lyrics.
“Loved by the Sun” starts off with a quiet duet between an electric guitar and a synthesizer with two functions: starry sounds and synthesized deep bass. The duet continues on while Anderson begins the first verse softly. He continues to sing as the instruments build up the song’s emotion with an increase in volume. Some drums, a choir, and the trumpet function from the synthesizer are added in. This build up spills out in full energy at the final chorus with every instrument and voice’s volume raised to heighten the passionate message in the lyrics: “that legends teach us to love for goodness’ sake.”
My favorite part comes at the end, around the 4:15 mark, when the key changes from major to minor. The change begins when Anderson’s sings his note; a note that doesn’t resolve the phrase into a final cadence but instead slipping into the relative minor key. The song stays in the minor key till the end, as it fades into the instrumental piece “Blue Room”, which is another minor tune.
“Loved by the Sun” is a quiet piece. It doesn’t feature many instruments; only the synthesizer and electric guitar serve as the primary players. But, as Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Or, in layman terms, simplicity is beautiful. The song serves its purpose well: a gorgeous yet simple love song to support the movie’s romantic happy ending.
Here is the US version’s ending with the song playing along:
Eurovision 2018 has a handful of excellent tunes. I have said before that Netta’s “Toy” and Mikolas Josef’s “Lie to Me” are a few of my favorites. Let me introduce my third favorite from this year’s batch: Alexander Rybak’s That’s How You Write a Song from Norway.
Rybak is no stranger to the Eurovision competition circuit. He participated in the contest in 2009 with the song “Fairytale“: a sad yet uptempo folk-pop tune written by Rybak himself. He found inspiration from a past relationship and the Scandinavian folklore of Huldra. The song won the top prize at the 2009 Eurovision Contest. He released his successful debut album afterward. Rybak continued to have a fruitful career by releasing new material and taking part in many TV shows.
Many have speculated on why an earlier Eurovision winner would enter the contest one more time. What are his reasons? Does he want to prove something? Whether we know the singer’s actual intention of competing once more or not, you have to admit that “That’s How You Write a Song” is very catchy. It opens with a memorable funky bass line and a bouncy drum beat, then comes to a cool violin riff that serves as the primary melody. That violin makes the song bouncy and feeling good. And the instrument shines around 2:26 mark when it performs a passionate solo.
Speaking of “feeling good”, the lyrics radiate a positive vibe too. The song’s message could be interpreted as a simple discussion on how to write a tune. But if one looks deeper into the lyrics, one can see that the messages of “believing in yourself”, “being creative is easier than one thinks”, and “don’t fear in being creative, embrace and enjoy it” are present – these are valuable to anyone.
It is unknown if this year’s Eurovision will give Alexander Rybak his second win; especially that the current fan favorite is Netta. Things could change from now to the live performances. But the important thing is “That’s How You Write a Song” is an enjoyable, upbeat song that sends positive vibes with its lyrics and melody. Plus, don’t you think the music video is too cute? Check it out below and tell me what you think.
This spring has brought out a handful of new releases as well as different takes on older hits. One such example is ATSUSHI (from EXILE)’s take on Bruno Mars’ debut song “The Way You Are”.
ATSUSHI is one of the current leading vocalists in the megahit boy group EXILE here in Japan. He got his start in 2001 when Hiro, a veteran performer who rose to fame in the early 1990s as a member of ZOO, asked him to join the newly formed group named J Soul Brothers. HIRO’s invitation came after seeing ATSUSHI’s audition on the legendary audition show ASAYAN. J Soul Brothers would later be renamed as EXILE with ATSUSHI penning lyrics for a lot of their hit tunes. Heard of “EXILE PRIDE (Konna Sekai wo Ai Suru Tame)”? “Rising Sun”? How about “Yasashii Hikari”? Yeah, those are a few of the many songs he wrote lyrics for.
The vocalist later went on to release his debut single in 2011, entitled “Itsuka Kitto…”. Being a vocalist AND a songwriter wasn’t enough for ATSUSHI. He also created groups like Deep, first as a member then as the producer. He later formed Red Diamond Dogs, which serves as his backing band whenever he goes on tour. In 2017, he announced that his activities in EXILE would so he could focus more on international activities
That is where we come full circle with his latest release. Of course, he isn’t the only one in the EXILE tribe to be releasing covers of famous Western hits. GENERATIONS (from Exile Tribe) released a Best-Of album early this year that contained best hits (in two languages: Japanese and English) and covers, which one was the Jackson Sisters’ “I Believe in Miracles”
The covers that were performed by GENERATIONS and ATSUSHI have a similar issue: the lack of energy. I dislike the GENERATIONS’ cover of “I Believe in Miracles” and the reason why is that it sounds so boring. It’s like the main singer didn’t put enough soul. And instead, sounding like he was asleep when recording the song. That is the same for ATSUSHI’s cover of “The Way You Are”. Don’t get me wrong, ATSUSHI is a talented vocalist as well as a musician. But, this cover sounds so lackluster and boring. Like, there is no energy in the vocals, no feelings nor soul.
I appreciate ATSUSHI’s sincere efforts in trying to cover a Bruno Mars’ song. Furthermore, even to go as far to penning the Japanese lyrics himself. There are no snags with his translation of the songs. And, his approach of trying to convey the original message in his native language is pretty sincere. There is also no problem with his musicality or his skills. But, if he had to record this song over again, I would suggest that ATSUSHI put more soul/heart and feelings into the vocals (and more of what makes him, vocals and musicianship). Bring some “oomph” and life to the song while making it your own.
Here is the music video for the original version by Bruno Mars:
We have a month left until the “Superbowl” of the European music scene happens: Eurovision. There has been a plenitude of great entries this year, including from the Czech Republic.
Mikolas Josef is an up-and-coming artist from the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, who made his musical debut in 2015. He first performed as a street performer in various European cities like Oslo, Hamburg, and Vienna. He released his debut single, “Hands Bloody”, in the same year by himself. Although it didn’t chart on local charts, his second single, entitled ” Free”, did. It reached #15 on the Czech music charts. He hasn’t released any albums yet as he is primary releasing singles at the moment (His Eurovision single is the fourth in his discography).
“Lie to Me”, in my own opinion, is a luxurious piece that can catch anyone’s attention at the very second it starts. The song begins with a sassy, fiery trumpet solo. Then, after the introduction, Josef crones the opening verse with a smooth tone. However, Josef showcases a variety of sounds during the song. My favorite part is at the 00:33 mark when he sings in a low, seductive tone.
This tune reminds me a tiny bit of Austin Mahone’s “Dirty Work”. Maybe because the vocal tones between the two singers are very similar. Nothing else though, as “Dirty Work” is more EDM while “Lie to Me” is less electronica.
I have admitted before that I have a soft spot for Czech entries as my mom’s side of the family came from the Eastern European country. However, this is not the case. I repeat: this is the not the case. “Lie to Me” is an excellent song that is sooooooo catchy as well as scorching hot.