Category Archives: Pop

Flashback – “When You Believe” – Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey

One of my top animated films of all-time (tied with Beauty and the Beast and the first ten minutes of Up) is the 1998 classic The Prince of Egypt. A stellar script and voice cast help propel a film that, despite primarily playing to an audience of young children, doesn’t shy away from complexity and darkness, both of which are inherent in biblical stories such as that of Moses and the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt. Yes, it obviously could have further explored the moral ramifications of the actions of every party involved in the story; but for a kids’ movie, it really doesn’t skimp on the darker aspects and the questions of the story of Exodus.

The music in the film is also stuff of legend–the songs are composed by Stephen Schwartz (Broadway’s Wicked and Godspell), and the score comes from the mind of an early Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean)–and, having seen the film countless times as a child, certainly influenced my own taste.

I rediscovered the movie for free on YouTube, and watched it again. Sticking around for the end credits like the loser film major that I am, I heard Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey‘s duet of the main theme from the film, a gorgeous, epic, dynamic Schwartz composition entitled “When You Believe”. It was better than I remembered it.

This duet should be the stuff of legend. Two of the greatest voices of all-time in an epic duet back in 1998, when full orchestras and real instrumentation and no autotune were things that penetrated the culture of pop music (yes, there are some background synths, whatever, they’re in the background). Schwartz’s songwriting is genius, and the vocalists are sincerely stellar, and at the top of their game.

Literally, one of the greatest songs of all-time:

Crying yet?

Right click to download.


The Latest Internet Craze: PSY “Gangnam Style”

If you haven’t seen this, prepare to be bewildered and entertained. I cannot think of a better way to be introduced to Korean Pop, however I doubt that many of you will venture off and check out other Korean songs simply because you’ll be stuck pressing the replay button again and again.

Here’s the info attached to the music video: “The album’s weighty title song ‘Gangnam Style’ is composed solely by PSY himself from lyrics to choreography. The song is characterized by its strongly addictive beats and lyrics, and is thus certain to penetrate the foundations of modern philosophy.” I cannot believe the audacity in the claim of impacting “modern philosophy”. Utterly absurd, but so right in its mesmerizing content (Who the heck creates a dance that is based off riding a horse)? International media like CNN have covered this song because of its bizarre video, along with many Youtube videos getting thousands, even millions of hits of Westerners (Americans) growing more and more befuddled as they watch the music video. Before I go on, let’s take a look at the video shall we?

So here’s the biggest question: What the hell is Gangnam Style even mean?

Read this article off the blog My Dear Korea to be enlightened. Prepare for some real philosophy.  A quick overview:

“In Korean society the term “gangnam style” has come to represent an aspirational nouveau riche mindset among the affluent residents of the area south of the Han river. Psy’s lyrics are a send-up of the typical expectations of that lifestyle skewering the image-conscious habits of male and female residents such as the doenjangnyeo or “soybean girl” who spends more for a trendy cup of Starbucks coffee than for her entire lunch. The music video is particularly rife with ironic imagery accessible to viewers who cannot understand the Korean lyrics. Jea Kim, blogger and social commentator on Korea writes:

“The music video begins with PSY seemingly sunbathing on sandy beach, being fanned by a hot chick, but it turns out he is surrounded by little kids playing in the playground. There’s PSY walking together with two hot girls just like P. Diddy walking on the red carpet but in fact, he and the girls are in an outdoor parking lot and instead of confetti… trash is thrown at them. He looks like P. Diddy sitting in a luxurious chair, it is actually the toilet he’s sitting on.”[54]

Each of Psy’s pursuits of the luxurious lifestyle ends with a sardonic twist: a closeup of Psy in a clubhouse sauna has him sharing a steam not with the rich and beautiful but lowlife Korean gangsters. His lap in the pool reveals to be in a public bathhouse. His horseback ride at the country club ends up being a merry go round at the amusement park.

The video has Psy searching for the “classy and luxurious” girl mentioned in his lyrics “in irrelevant places such as under the bridges over the Han River or in the Han River Park and eventually finds his ideal woman on the subway and dances with her and others there, not in one of those Gangnam nightclubs”

In the end, I leave you this: http://imgur.com/a/kXkeY#12


Album Review – Erin McCarley – My Stadium Electric

Long time, no see, internet. I’ve missed you. I know you missed me too. No you didn’t. But it’s okay. Because Erin McCarley is out with a new album.

Erin McCarley is one of those singer-songwriters. You know, the ones that try to seem indie with their choices in arrangement, quirky-pop songwriting, placement on the soundtracks for He’s Just Not That Into You and Grey’s Anatomy, odd-but-solid lyricism and use of actual instrumentation and chord progressions as opposed to nonsense synths and dubstep-inspired computer breakdowns. But really, she’s a pop artist, signed to Universal Republic. I say that like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. If pop lives in the Erin McCarley universe, I like pop music. Her music is, for the most part, simultaneously introspective, catchy and often unselfish.

Her biggest hits from her last album, Love, Save the Empty, were the title track, which focused on the “you” rather than the usual “I” (a topic I will soon dive into greater detail on) and prays for a universal love for which to hold an ambiguous “us” together, and “Pony (It’s OK)”, a catchy number with percussion from the coolest instrument never previously used (to my knowledge), a typewriter, and a message again focusing on the “you”, advocating for self-expression. Another gem is “Pitter Pat”, which proves ballads are also in her vast range of composition abilities. Oh, and did I mention that all these songs are catchy and contain smart lyricism?

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Her new album, My Stadium Electric, is, on first listen, a slight step down from Love, Save the Empty–it’s clear she’s headed closer to mainstream pop with this record. However, a couple of her key signatures remain–well-produced, clever arrangements and catchy progressions with occasionally unselfish pieces–if she adds a few synths here and there and her lyrics become a little less coherent (I’m looking at you, “Elevator”).

The album has its highlights–“Pop Gun” is immensely catchy, as is “Elevator” (though a bit too synthy for my taste, the percussive elements are fun and the hook is neat). “What I Needed” and “Re-Arrange Again” prove her dynamic ballads are back with a smoothly executed vengeance. “There’s No Holding You Down” brings back the empowerment present in “Pony (It’s OK)”. And for the most part, it’s loaded with similarly real instrumentation, rather than synths. Oh, and “Amber Waves”, a vibes-and-xylo-tinged catchy piano-pop tune, is the free single on iTunes this week (much like “Pony (It’s OK)” was when Love, Save the Empty was first released in December 2008).

I’d compare this release to Ingrid Michaelson‘s Human Again. Similar style of artist–I prefer Ingrid on the whole as her songwriting is markedly more complex, and in my incredibly uneducated opinion better than McCarley’s–but McCarley chooses to go much lighter on the synths that have proven to be so popular in 2012 with everyone and their mother (including Ingrid), which in my opinion is a fantastic decision that should be applauded.

Definitely worth a good listen. Solid work all around.

Three videos to wrap it up. First, “Pony (It’s OK)”…

…second, an acoustic version of “Pitter Pat”, to inform you that she has real talent…

…and finally, her new single, “Elevator”:


Hell. Yes. Madeon – “The City” ft. Zak Waters

File:MadeonLogo.jpg

God damn this dude is good. Any electric music-heads out there who have not heard of this French producer must’ve been living under a rock. You know that guy who made that live mix of a song called “Pop Culture”? Yeah, same guy right here. And damn he knows how to make some fresh beats. We got a little teaser of a new track of his called “The City” yesterday, and now today, a radio station called BBC Radio 1 with Annie Mac played the song in its entirety and hoooo-boy is it fresh. Apparently the track has been out but has only been playing in live sets, but Madeon is finally relenting and coming out with this new single. Lyrics from Zak Waters provides a little different track from what you usually get from Madeon who does a lot of pure beats, but it’s still alright because the beat is still awesome. Madeon knows how to make some banging beats and doesn’t disappoint with this one; way overshadowing any singing. Great track. Give it a listen and let your love for Madeon grow (or begin to grow!) Stay aware. This guy is changing the electropop scene.

LYRICS:
There is a place in the distance
A place that I’ve been dreaming of
No more time and space don’t exist there
We can dance like there’s no tomorrow
There is a place, no time in space

I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to

I can feel the city crumbling around me
I can’t seem to find my way
But I can see a bright light calling through dark night
Hoping I’ll find my way

Yeah I had what I wanted
It went away so fast fast
Yeah I got to let go
We can dance like there’s no tomorrow
So here we go

I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to

I can feel the heartbeat underneath the concrete
Just like a kick drum plays
Running in a straight line guided by the street lights
Pushing the dark away

Yeah I had what I wanted
It went away so fast fast
Yeah I got to let go
We can dance like there’s no tomorrow

There is a place in the distance
A place that I’ve been dreaming of
No oh time and space don’t exist there
We can dance like there’s no tomorrow
There is a place, no time in space

There is a place in the distance
A place that I’ve been dreaming of
No more time and space
We can dance like there’s no tomorrow
Oh oh oh!

I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to
I’ve got to go all the way
I’ve got tomorrow to

Tomorrow
Tomorrow
We can dance 


The XX – “Try”

I would be very surprised if any Indie music fan has not heard of The XX, the British trio that makes great soft songs that just tug at your heart’s strings. Another leaked single off of their upcoming album “Coexist” is “Try”. If you’ve been following the band, then you’ve already should have given “Angels” and “Chained” a listen (click for songs). Their sophomore album is looming with success, with two just absolute awesome songs already out. Now “Try” is a bit different from the prior two singles but still maintains the emotional, sickly sweet vocals that you are exposed to in every one of The XX’s songs. This track has a bit more emphasis on airy synths than the usual guitars, but the most important part is that the band still sticks to its emotionally-driven lyrics and sound. This track is very chill and finding it at 4 in the morning was very nice. It’s very relaxing and I feel damn good listening to it with my eyes closed.

The lyrics tell the story of many a people face. The meaning of the song is a couple meeting with each other after a break-up, and even though their relationship is over, after looking it over, realize they still have feelings for one another, but won’t outright say it. Just another XX song that many people can relate to, which seems to be their specialty. Even if you don’t relate to it, it’s still nice to listen to. “Coexist”, their sophomore album, gets set for release on the 10th of September. Get pumped. It’ll be good.

Lyrics:

We bide our time
Though the time is fine
Oh to be there, I could be there
Say you’ll be there
You know the way, I
Can’t resist you, I
Said to myself I’ll try

Why do we waste time
Hiding it inside?
I want you to be mine

Now it’s dead and gone
You say what you would’ve done
You would’ve been there,
I wish you’d been there,
I needed you there

And if we try once more
Would you give me it all?
I won’t believe it,
‘Til I can feel it
Can you feel it?

You know the way, I
Can’t resist you, I
Said to myself I’ll try


Gotye – Somebodies

Just when you thought the sensation was over (finally)…

Gotye does this with all the amazing covers on the internet and creates a new level of excellent. This gives me hope.

PS: Sorry for the posting hiatus. I’ll be back with a few huge essays on film, music and TV soon.


Letting Up Despite Great Faults – “Visions”

 

Following up on their previous Paper Crush EP, featuring an absolutely killer of a track in “Teenage Tide”, dream pop rockers Letting Up Despite Faults offer the opening track off their forthcoming full-length “Untogether” (out Oct. 9). It’s a classic sounding college rock song, the dueling guitars and washed out synthesizers that represents the great, fuzzy, youthful pop that can monopolize your summer playlist.

“Visions” is a free download, so get it to listen to Letting Up Despite Great Fault’s   signature elements: feather-light vocals and a soaring melody.