Wednesday, May 26, 2010

AMERICAN IDOL: SEASON FINALE

So ends another season of "American Idol" and another winner was crowned.

This year's champ was Lee DeWyze and although I would have preferred Crystal Bowersox, I wasn't really that excited by either one. In fact, none of the twelve finalist this season were particularly strong, memorable or imaginative. I think this was emphasized by this episode being the lowest rated season closer in the history of the program.

I think the problem is that because everybody has watched the show and know what to do and what not to do that they all wind up playing it safe. . . too safe. They're to the point were they are afraid to take any musical chances, like picking songs that haven't been done to death on previous seasons and trying something a little more challenging. The fear of being voted off has made most of the contestants uninteresting. The only person this season who was fearless and stayed true to who she is throughout was Crystal but although she is very talented, I'm not sure how successful of a recording artist she will be. She lacks, just like the many of these other wannabe "artists", that certain je ne sais quoi to help her stand out in a very crowded music field.

Here I am. . . sounding like Simon Cowell, who is going to be greatly missed. He may not have any tact but he was the only one of the judges keeping it real. I have no suggestions for a replacement for Mr. Cowell but it definitely needs to be somebody with more depth than Randy Jackson and more bite (and musical background) than Ellen.

In regards to the show, I thought the musical tribute to Simon Cowell with all the previous "Idol" winners and contestants was very nice. The new song that Christina Aguilera performed was an odd choice but she sang it well. Although for some reason it just comes across as a little sad when they pair the "Idol" contestants with artists whose glory years are behind them but it's still great to see people like Hall & Oates, Chicago and Alanis Morissette.

For me, watching Janet Jackson perform was certainly a highlight of the show although I'm not so sure she was actually singing "live" but who cares? It was good to see her, she looked great and she was entertaining.

Here are some tunes from previous "Idol" winners. Enjoy:

Truth is - Fantasia.mp3
Because Of You - Kelly Clarkson.mp3
Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood.mp3

Sunday, May 23, 2010

FOCUS ON: NINA SIMONE


I remember the first time I heard "My Baby Cares For Me" and I thought it was a man singing it.

I knew it didn't sound exactly like a male voice and I double checked the name of the artist and it said Nina Simone.

It made me love the song even more.

Afterwards, I sought out more music by this artist with the extraordinary and unusual voice. All you have to hear is just the first few notes, you know exactly who it is.

She is a fascinating artist who sings with such deep emotion that very few singers can compare to what she can do. Like Aretha Franklin, she is capable of taking well known and widely covered music and truly make it sound fresh like a brand new song.

Born Eunice Waymon in North Carolina, she changed her name to Nina Simone when she started her career to protect her mother from knowing that she was performing the "devil's music". "Nina" was a nickname that was given to her by a boyfriend and "Simone" was from the French film actress, Simone Signoret.

She began playing the piano at the age of three and she continued playing at her church. At seventeen, she applied for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute. While she gave a very good audition, she failed to get in to the school. An insider informed her that she was rejected because she was black. This infuriated her and helped fuel her future involvement in the civil rights movement.

She was known for her commanding stage presence and her live performances were once in a lifetime events. She was also well known for being "difficult" but it was disclosed much later in her life that she suffered from schizophrenia and was bipolar.

She was dubbed "The High Priestess of Soul" but she disliked being categorized. She recorded over forty albums during her career and they cover a wide range of musical styles including gospel, blues, classical, pop and jazz.

Ms Simone passed away in 2003 but her music still continues to inspire other musical artists and is heard in countless commercials, film and television programs.


I have heard that a film is being prepared, to begin hopefully sometime next year, on the life of Ms Simone which will star Mary J. Blige. Although I'm not crazy about the casting, I think it's wonderful that she will be getting some long overdue recognition and that it may expose her music to a younger generation.

Here are few of my favorite songs. I have also included "Feeling Good", thanks to Michael Buble, too many "American Idol" contestants have felt this is an easy song to sing and wind up sucking the life out of it. If they had first heard Ms Simone's version, they might have thought twice about doing it or at least, the way they performed it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

MIX IT UP

I remember when I was a kid, I would take selected songs off of my albums and 45's and record them on tapes so I could travel with my music on a cassette player. The quality wasn't great and it would take me hours to do.

Now, I have an Ipod which takes minutes to effortlessly put music on it and I am able to enjoy my high-quality music anywhere.

I guess we have come a long way, baby.

I have collected over 4000 songs on my Ipod and so when I use it, I normally shuffle the songs otherwise I just would wind up listening to the same few songs. I love it when a song pops up that I haven't heard in a long time or haven't heard at all in it's entirety.

These are the last songs that played on my pod and it is an interesting mix.

Emotions(Live -MTV Unplugged) - Mariah Carey.mp3

Here You Come Again - Dolly Parton.mp3

Paradise - LL Cool J.mp3

Thinking Of You - Sister Sledge.mp3

What A Good Man He is - Tammi Terrell.mp3

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

THE FIRST TIME: PART TWO

Here is another post of the first time I heard the music of artists that I love and admire:

PAT BENATAR - "IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT" - (1979)
Pat Benatar was trained in musical theater and opera but her heart belonged to rock & roll. She was a regular performer at the Catch a Rising Star club in New York before she was discovered by record executives and signed to a recording contract.

She has released eleven CDs, won four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock performance from 1980 to 1983 and has been married to her band leader and lead guitarist, Neil Giraldo since 1982 and they have two children.

Although this was the third single off of "In The Heat Of The Night", it was the first song that brought her to the attention of the masses:

Heartbreaker.mp3

CULTURE CLUB - "KISSING TO BE CLEVER" - (1982)
Culture Club was a British rock group that combined new wave, soul and reggae to create their sound. The group was led by the flamboyant and androgynous lead singer, George O'Dowd or better known to the world as Boy George with Mikey Craig on bass, Roy Hay on guitar and keyboards and Jon Moss on drums.

The band became a world wide sensation, amassing many top ten hits during the early eighties and winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1984 before the group broke-up in 1986 due to George's increasing drug problem and his turbulent secret relationship with drummer, Moss.

This is the group's first hit single off of  "Kissing To Be Clever":

Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?.mp3

GEORGE MICHAEL - "FAITH" - (1987)
He had been one half of the hit British pop group, Wham! but in 1987, George Michael went solo and released his first album which became a monster hit. It had five #1 U.S. singles, sold twenty million copies world wide, and would go on to win the Grammy Award for Album of The Year.

He has completed only five solo albums in his career, partially due to personal issues and a contract dispute with his record label but he has still managed to sell over 100 million of them around the world.

This controversial song was the first hit off of "Faith":

I Want Your Sex.mp3

This is the sexy music video of the song:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

FOCUS ON: SADE


Yesterday, while I was driving home from work, I saw not one, but two different billboards, not far from each other, using the beautiful face of Sade to promote a local radio station using the slogan, "Relax. . . and unwind".

This is an accurate feeling you get from the music of Sade, which has been soothing people for over twenty years. It is a wonderful blend of jazz, Caribbean, rhythm & blues and classic pop music that creates the unique sound of Sade.

Sade is absolutely one of my favorite groups and at this point I should say, if you didn't know already, that Sade is actually the name of the band, although it is named after their lead singer, Sade Adu. The rest of the band consists of: Stuart Matthewman who plays guitar and sax, Paul Denman who is the bass player and Andrew Hale who plays keyboards. They all contribute to creating the songs with Ms Adu writing the lyrics.

They have only completed six albums since their debut, "Diamond Life" in 1984 and they just finally released their latest, "Solider of Love" that came out in February.

"Solider of Love" is another great one with their distinctive smoky and seductive sound that includes a few minor contemporary touches sprinkled throughout the record.

Their latest single is a great song, "Baby Father". The set up for this video of Sade singing in a kitchen as she washes dishes is a little odd but Sade looks AMAZING. Here is the music video:




Sade has won three Grammys and has sold more than 50 million CDs across the globe.


Love seems to be a recurring theme in their music, so here are a few of their tunes that I really love:

Love Is Stronger Than Pride.mp3

Hang On To Your Love.mp3

Your Love Is King.mp3

Sunday, May 9, 2010

THE FIRST TIME

Since this is my first post, I decided to look back on the first time we heard the music of some of my favorite artists. Here are the first group:

JANET JACKSON - "CONTROL" - (1985)


Although this was Janet Jackson's third album following, "Janet Jackson" (1982) and "Dream Street" (1984), this was her first record that made any impact with the public. She was the youngest of the musical Jackson clan and while she dabbled in acting on the television shows. "Good Times" and "Fame", but it was still music that got her out of the shadow of her famous family.

After releasing the first two records, where she had little say on the music she recorded, she was teamed up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, formerly of the band, The Time where they took her out of her home environment, went to their recording studios in Minnesota and together they wrote the songs for the record where she finally took control of her music career.

She went on to release a total of ten CD's and has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

This is the first song that kicked off her career:

What Have You Done for me Lately.mp3

ALANIS MORISSETTE - "JAGGED LITTLE PILL" - (1995)

Like Janet Jackson, this was not Alanis Morissette's first record but the one where she was first achieved world-wide musical fame. She released two records as a teenager in her native Canada. The first,"Alanis" (1991) was a pop album which was very successful in Canada and the follow-up, "Now Is The Time" (1992) did not do nearly as well.

After she finished high school, Alanis went to Los Angeles where she met up with producer and songwriter, Glen Ballard and together they created Alanis's first international smash hit.

Alanis went on to release a total of ten albums to date, won seven Grammy Awards and has sold 40 million records world wide.

This was her first single:

You Oughta Know.mp3

WHITNEY HOUSTON - "WHITNEY HOUSTON" - (1985)

She may be the daughter of singer, Cissy Houston and the cousin of Dionne Warwick but she has a voice that is all her own. She was part of her mother's stage act when she was discovered by the head of Arista Records, Clive Davis and he promptly signed her to his label.

This album, at the time, was the biggest selling debut by a female artist. She has released seven albums so far, has won six Grammy Awards and has sold a total of over 170 million records around the globe.

This is the first single off of this album:

You Give Good Love.mp3

NEW SOUNDS

WHITNEY HOUSTON Words cannot express how much I miss the glorious voice of Whitney Houston . It's been five years since her passing...