Hark Back to the Vibrant Fantasy World of the 80s with “Loved By the Sun”

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:

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Alexander Rybak Teaches How to Be a Songwriter in This Upbeat Piece [Eurovision 2018]

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.

ATSUSHI from EXILE Covers a Recent Classic With Sincere Effort

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:

Mikolas Josef Gets the Audience Pumped Up for Eurovision with “Lie to Me”

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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.

 

And We Are Off With Netta’s Unique Vocal Creativity [Eurovision 2018]

And we are off!

We are about two months away to the most prominent music competition of the year, Eurovision! It is always interesting to hear what kind of songs that the various artists perform every year. It looks like 2018 isn’t a disappointment with fantastic talent like Netta!

Released this Sunday, “Toy” is an interesting piece. It starts off with Netta using various sounds to compose the starting melody. Then she uses a peculiar sound: the bawk of the chickens. Yet, that “oddity” makes “Toy” catchy and memorable.

It’s not only the scatting that makes this song memorable. Netta’s own vocals and her personality shine through. My favorite part of the song has to be around the 2:25 mark when Netta belts out soulfully. Also, the lyrics are very significant as relate to the #MeToo campaign and also mentions Wonder Woman, a character that was portrayed by Israeli actress Gal Galdot last year.

Netta’s song is fun, catchy, and unforgettable. It is definitely one of the stars of this year’s Eurovision. Although it isn’t my number one (I will reveal that in due time, I promise), “Toy” is a funky piece that I enjoy quite a bit. My favorite part is the chorus part. Also, the musical interlude that connects the first part with the second part. Even if Netta doesn’t win Eurovision this year, I hope she continues on making music as she is very talented and creative.
 

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.

[Reporting Live] Sato Mieko at Nagoya Parco (January 7, 2017)

satomieko-1

Happy Sunday everyone! I just want to let you guys know that I saw Sato Meiko at a mini-live last week. I wrote a semi-detailed report on it on the Japanese pop site Arama! Japan.

Here is an except:

These are the wishes made by Sato Mieko, a singer-songwriter who recently promoted her newly released Triple A-side “Mou Chotto / Kimi wa Mahoutsukai / Kaze ni Natta Anata e” at a free mini-live in front of Nagoya’s Parco on January 7th.

Sato is no stranger to the Nagoya music scene. She originally started her music career as a singer-songwriter under the pen name “Fuuka Koyoi”, releasing only one single in 2007. She then went on to join the mega-idol group SKE48 in 2008 as a member of Team S. There, she regularly performed with her fellow members on the local SKE48 stage or on stages in front of thousands around the country.

She left SKE48 in 2015 to continue her dream of being a singer-songwriter. The musician went on to release a single in 2015 named “YOUR COLOR” and an album named “Yakusoku” in 2016 under an indies label. She recently released another single, her first triple-A single, on December 21, 2016. However, because of the holiday season, she couldn’t promote until January 7 when she appeared at Parco in Nagoya’s Sakae shopping district.

You can read more at: http://aramajapan.com/news/saito-mieko-promotes-her-triple-a-side-single-with-abundant-zeal/69145/

😀