“Learning to Fly” (Tom Petty)

Tom Petty was one of my favorite musicians.  I loved almost every song he released during his long career.   I owned several of his albums, spanning from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

I heard “Learning to Fly”  in the car this morning and was overcome with bittersweet nostalgia that stayed with me all day.  1991 (the year this song was released) was a year that had a lot of personal meaning to me, and this was one of my favorite Tom Petty songs.  It’s absolutely surreal to me that 1991 was 27 years ago.   It’s sad and a little scary  how much faster time passes by as we age.

Tom Petty’s premature death in October 2017 was a great shock.   Music like his will never be made again.   But he finally got his wings and learned to fly.

Advertisements

“Praying” documents Kesha’s transformation from bad girl to mature woman.

I heard this song, “Praying,” for the first time today and when I found out it was Kesha I thought I was being punked.

I’m blown away by Kesha’s transformation from her shallow, partying “Tik Tok” days to the woman she has become.  I’m also blown away by her incredible, powerful voice.  I always thought she was a lightweight vocally, more a rapper than a singer really.  How wrong I was!

The raw emotion and spiritual depth she shows here is so different from the cartoonish “bad girl” image of 2009.   She fought hard to get here.

Yes, the dollar sign in her name is gone.   It would no longer fit.   Something tells me she was never that shallow, cartoonish bad girl, but was always a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis.   I’m a fan now (though truth be told, “Tik Tok” was damn catchy).

This song is emotionally cathartic for me.   It may be for you too.

“Praying” was released last year. Kesha is a warrior who not only managed to conquer her own demons of bulimia and depression, she also held her own against a controlling and abusive manager who tried to destroy her. From her psinful struggle, she learned that it’s from the greatest pain that empathy can be born and true forgiveness can occur. Few ever learn this valuable truth. She writes:

“Praying” was written about that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow. Once you realize that you will in fact be OK, you want to spread love and healing. If you feel like someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate, because it will just create more negativity. One thing that has brought me great relief is praying for those people. Being angry and resentful will do nothing but increase your own stress and anxiety — and hate is the fuel that grows the viruses. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness!

In this emotional interview from Good Morning America, Kesha talks about her spiritual and emotional journey (and sings too).


Hey Mickey (Toni Basil)

This song from 1982 has been stuck in my head for two days.   Major nostalgia!  I just learned Toni Basil was 39 years old when she made this video.    This is one of the greatest one hit wonders ever made.

Every pop song of the last 40 years in one Awesome song (Axis of Awesome)

The Australian comedy rock trio Axis of Awesome made an earth-shaking discovery:  many if not most pop songs of the last 40 years use the same 4-chord progression:

I – V – vi – IV

Example:  In the key of C major, this would be: C–G–Am–F.    Whatever key you start in determines the mood of the song.   Other than that, I know nothing about writing music, so I dare say no more.  You can play around with the chords if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, it seems that if you write a song using these 4 chords, you will have a guaranteed hit, especially if you write a catchy melody to go over it.  These four chords are also the reason why so many pop songs all sound the same.

All you have to remember is the melody and lyrics are the skin, but the chords are the bones.  The bones may stand on their own with very little skin attached to them (generic commercial pop songs that are catchy but easily forgotten fall into the “bones without much skin” category), but a bunch of skin with no bones (bones could be other types of chord progressions) will collapse like Jello when it’s dropped on the floor.

We humans seem to be wired to especially favor the I-V-vi-IV sequence of chords, so if you want to become a filthy rich superstar, write a song using them.  Conversely, if you want to be an artiste who turns their nose up at anything commercial or too popular, avoid them like the plague.

Here’s a hilarious (and surprisingly listenable!) video by Axxis of Awesome that proves almost every pop song written since forever uses the same four chords.

 

Ray LaMontagne: “For The Summer” and “Beg, Steal or Borrow.”

Here are two songs that when I first heard them back in 2010, I could swear were old James Taylor or Crosby, Stills and Nash songs I had somehow never heard.

Both these ballads were written and sung by a musician named Ray LaMontagne, who was in fact hugely influenced by Stephen Stills and other singer songwriters of the late 1960s and early 1970s, even though he himself wasn’t born until 1973.

Both songs are featured on his 2010 studio album “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise” and both received moderate airplay.   “Beg, Steal or Borrow” was nominated for a Grammy (2010 Song of the Year) but did not win.

I love these songs because they’re so calming.   I also find them both a bit melancholy and somehow nostalgic.   Love the lyrics too!

 

 

 

Stressed Out (Twenty-One Pilots): iconic anthem of the Millennials.

twenty-one-pilots-feature

Rock and pop music in recent decades (since the 1960s) have always had iconic songs and music styles that define the angst and existential concerns of generations that were coming of age when those songs and music styles were popular.   For the Boomers, it was  The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, or The Who’s “My Generation” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For “Generation Jones” (my own age group) — those straddling the Boom and Gen-X (who were born approximately 1956-1966) — their iconic music was punk rock and the new wave of the early 1980s.   For Gen-X, it was Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box.”  For Gen-Y (those straddling Gen-X and Millennials), Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or Blink 182’s music might be good examples.

What about Millennials? Since 2009 or so, rock music as we knew it seems to have died as a genre, at least on mainstream radio. It’s been usurped by EDM, hip hop influenced R&B, and pure pop.   But there are still a few mainstream bands that retain rock sensibilities (even if they’re not exactly rock) and produce music expressing this generation’s own unique sort of angst.    Twenty-One Pilots — a newish band that mixes elements of hip hop, rock, pop, and EDM — seems to get them best, and of course it doesn’t hurt the bandmembers are themselves Millennials.

I really enjoy the music of 21 Pilots, even though I’m way past Millennial age — in fact I have adult Millennial children.  Their 2015 rap-rocker, “Stressed Out,” I think captures Millennial angst best:  the feelings of pressure to succeed in a society that has made their entry into the adult world so incredibly difficult, coupled with a nostalgic longing to return to the childhood world of fantasy, when adults promised them they could be and do anything they wanted.   The bleak economic reality that faces them as they enter the adult years has proven everything they were promised they could achieve as children was a lie.    “Stressed Out” is an anthem that describes that frustrating experience that– to a lesser degree or another — affects my own kids and all of their friends.   It’s also just a great song, well-crafted, with extremely catchy hooks and very listenable.

Video Killed The Radio Star (The Buggles)

I played this one-hit-wonder nonstop when it came out in 1979.   It was definitely ahead of its time, setting the stage for the sounds of the ’80s and the MTV age.

Monday Melody: Careless Whisper (George Michael)

Since George Michael died today (f*ck you, 2016!) I thought I’d use one of his songs for this week’s Monday Melody.  Careless Whisper (released in 1984) is probably my favorite George Michael tune.   Now it’s touched with sadness for me, but is still a classic.

 

Monday Melody: True Colors (Cyndi Lauper)

I haven’t posted a new Monday Melody in a few weeks, but one particular song, one of my favorites from the 1980s, is really resonating for me right now and fits in with my last few posts.

This lovely video depicts True Colors as a romantic love song, but it’s really a song about agape (as opposed to erotic) love–when you can love unselfishly enough to allow a friend or family member or anyone you care deeply about to be their authentic self, when you can love enough to to stand back and let them go their own way, yet be there to help them back up when they fall.

Its message is timeless and very much needed right now.  Cyndi Lauper rerecorded this song for the Artists Against Bullying campaign in 2012.


You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

Can’t remember when I last saw you laugh

If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

Bad Blood (Ryan Adams — cover of Taylor Swift)

Taylor Swift is a guilty pleasure of mine (I think she’s a suberb songwriter and knows how to craft incredibly catchy songs) but I didn’t care too much for her version of “Bad Blood” from her hit “1989” album.

Sometimes covers are better than the originals.   Indie singer-songwriter Ryan Adams (not to be confused with BRYAN Adams) did this gorgeous cover of Swift’s song, which gets played a lot on our local indie station.   I like his low-keyed pop-rock arrangement of it, which sounds quite different from Swift’s upbeat dance-pop original.

Swift’s original:

Which version does everyone prefer? Let me know in the comments.