03rd May2011

The America Post

by Will

Well, as I’m sure you all know now, America finally got him. You know…he’s got a ZZ Top beard? Yeah, him. Anyway, I’m not really going to get into all that, but I did want to join in the widespread patriotism that’s catching like Pokemon fever! I support the troops, and appreciate all that they do for us. I kinda wanted to share what America means to me. Of course, things hold different meanings for different folks, so you may not agree. I still wanted to express myself in some way. In any case, I thought about doing another 5-part thing, you know, like “America Week”, but I can’t keep up that schedule (What do you think this is? Postcultural?) So, I thought I would just put all of my feelings in one post, and let the videos do the talking. Fly your flag, let your bald eagle out of its cage, and join me in celebrating the good ol’ US of A!

04th Jan2011

My 20 Favorite Songs of 2010

by Will

Yes, I understand that it’s 2011, and that most people did these lists weeks ago. That’s the point. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle, so I figured I’d wait for everyone else to get their own lists out of their systems. Plus, I really didn’t want to be caught up in the whole “Best Of” phenomenon. I think it was during my time at Diamond when I realized that I’m not really qualified to judge the “best” of anything (which is probably why I never got tapped to judge the Eisners). Quality is completely relative, and all I know is what I like. So, instead of focusing on the best of 2010, I’m going to focus on the songs that I most enjoyed.

Now, as you know, I sometimes do a content sharing thing with TGRI Online . The thing is, I’m not their primary demographic. Usually, when I write something with a musical slant, I immediately think of posting it over on that site. With this kind of project, however, I’m fairly certain that that audience ain’t gonna be onboard with my choices. Likewise, I’m not always keyed into the musical tastes represented over there. I wouldn’t know moombahton if it threw a brick through my window. So, with that in mind, I figured I’d just do this for me. Of course, you’re welcome to follow along. I do, after all, like attention.

20. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts

I think I first heard this song at a gas station, but it was beautiful. Apparently, it gained fame from being played on So You Think You Can Dance, but I never watched that show so I can’t vouch for that. It reminded me of a more mellow Evanescence, and I really loved that group. Back in the spring, I made a joke on twitter that I felt emo high school girls were probably scribbling these lyrics in their notebooks, and I still believe that.

19. Flo Rida – Club Can’t Handle Me

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: this song is WAY more fun than it has any right to be. I usually don’t like David Guetta’s stuff, and it’s a throwaway movie song. That said, I loved the Hell out of this song during the latter half of this year.

18. Bed Intruder Song – Antoine Dodson and The Gregory Brothers

Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Sure, I got tired of him just like everyone else, but this was truly the Year of the Autotuned Amateur. We got a ton of imitators, but none made as much of a mark as Mr. Dodson. “Hide your kids, hide your wife” became a part of our vernacular, and shows like Cougar Town were even giving shouts to the song.

17. Eminem – Not Afraid

We’ll leave the video out of this one, as I didn’t really dig the Em-As-Neo imagery, but I still loved this song. The lyrics are strong, but it’s the background that really makes the song. No, not the beat – the background. It’s really epic, like it could be a score for a superhero movie. I loved it so much that I rock the instrumental just as much as the album version.

16. Elton John & Leon Russell – When Love Is Dying

The critics weren’t too kind to Elton & Leon’s collaborative album The Union, but I love anything Sir Elton releases. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album has a definite rural flair to it – one that we haven’t heard from Elton since around 2004’s Peachtree Road. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and after repeat listens, I simply fell in love with it.

15. Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this song at first. No, let me correct myself. I loved the song, but I didn’t like Bruno on it. I didn’t think his voice was strong enough. I felt that it needed stronger vocals and more strings, which would’ve boosted it to the next level. Over time, though (especially due to BarkBite’s constant pimpage of the Bruno Mars brand), I came around to really liking the song. What I initially saw as weak vocals turned into a sort of earnestness. I think the public connected with that as well, which is why the song has become such a huge hit.

14. V.V. Brown – Shark In The Water

You can’t deny the hotness of that chorus. An import from the UK, V.V. hasn’t really taken off yet, but this song is popping up in commercials, so don’t count her out just yet.

13. Eminem feat. Lil Wayne – No Love

Ok, full disclosure: I am a fool for Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” Loved it when it came out, loved the A Night At The Roxbury revival, and I loved this. I kind had to give Em credit for even rapping over what some might consider to be a cheesy song. Not only that, but his flow is INSANE. To complete the circle, I also downloaded the instrumental. I’m not sure why more artists aren’t using that track on mixtapes, as there’s a lot of potential there.

12. Natasha Bedingfield – Touch

I’ve always loved the Bedingfield family. I think there’s audio evidence somewhere of me butchering “If You’re Not the One” on an Ithaca radio station. I even loved his little sister, even though her debut album was riddled with songs about how hard it was to write an album. So, I really liked this song, even though the video is really just a Plenty of Fish commercial. In any case, I felt Natasha was venturing into Kylie territory with this song, which isn’t a bad thing.

11. Chris Brown – Yeah 3x

This is dumb, but one of the things I love about this song is the name: it’s not “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, but is instead “Yeah Three Times”. It’s a stylistic thing, but it resonated with me. Whether you forgive him or not, CB’s back. I actually enjoyed Graffiti, but he still had the Rihanna incident looming over him. The video’s kind of a pandering affair, as he dances surrounded by a bunch of little kids, but I still found it to be a fun song.

10. Chris Young – Getting You Home

No, we’re not leaving country off this list! Lindsay & I listen to the country countdown every Sunday morning on the way to church, and this song was ALWAYS on. Avoiding the stereotypical country tropes, this is actually a really sexy song. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really came to love this song over the course of the year.

9. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You

This song needs no introduction or explanation. Next!

8. Miranda Cosgrove – Kissin’ U

If you follow me on twitter, you already know I have an unhealthy obsession with iCarly. It’s nothing dirty or unseemly – I just like bad television. A guilty pleasure, if you will. This song didn’t blow up too much, but I liked it because it sounded like something M2M might’ve released back during the Pop Renaissance of 2000.

7. DJ Khaled featuring a whole bunch of motherfuckers – All I Do Is Win

I’ve got so many versions of this song that I’ve lost count. I first heard it at my friend Jason’s wedding, and then I couldn’t stop hearing it. It gets in your head like that. The best way to listen to the song, however, is driving through the back roads of rural Virginia, at about 10 PM. Also, you’re required to take your hands off the wheel and make ’em stay there.

6. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind Part 2

I’ve never been the biggest Jay-Z fan, but I will say that I love his samples. I have discovered more music than I can remember from samples that Jay-Z has used on his tracks (I’m still cranking “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City”). That said, as huge as his NYC anthem became, I preferred Alicia’s solo take on it more because it had more heart. While Jay is just name-dropping things you might see mentioned in an I Love NY brochure, Alicia really makes you feel what it’s like to be swept up in the city.

5. Neon Trees – Animal

This song is just infectious. It’s perfect for car jingles, fast food ads, and it’s got “one-hit wonder” written all over it. Despite all that, the sound is reminiscent of the days when The Killers sounded like they were actually having fun in the studio. I can only hope there are more like this from this group, but “Animal” was the only track I liked off their album Habits.

4. Shontelle – Impossible

This was a powerful ballad that just kind of snuck up on me. When I first heard it, I thought it might have been a new Brandy track, as it did have that “Brandy-When-She-Doesn’t-Suck” vibe to it. I remember not thinking much of Shontelle’s debut song, “T-Shirt”, but this track definitely changed my opinion of her. It was a slow burn up the charts, but I think she’s finally making a name for herself.

3. The Band Perry – If I Die Young

Back to the country stuff, this band seemingly came out of nowhere during the second half of the year. A family act, The Band Perry have only released 3 singles so far, but this one has gone to #1 on the country charts. As for subject matter, this is the kind of stuff Taylor Swift would be performing if she could grow out of her fairy tale obsession.

2. Darius Rucker – Comeback Song

I have loved Darius since the days when all of y’all were calling him “Hootie” (btw, he was not Hootie). While that group had an impressive debut and a pretty lengthy career, Darius has almost taken the Justin Timberlake path, as he has achieved way more as a solo country act than he ever did as a member of that group. The funny thing is that it’s not like he even really changed his sound; if you loved Hootie songs, you’ll love Darius’s solo songs. He’s the first black man to make an impact on country music in 2o years (sit down, Cowboy Troy!), and he’s been grabbing awards left and right. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, and this was his biggest song of the year.

1. Sara Bareilles – King of Anything

Kaleidoscope Heart didn’t get a ton of love from critics, nor did I see it on anyone’s Best of 2010 list, but it was by far my favorite album of the year. I think a lot of people wanted to write Sara off after the success off “Love Song”, but this song proved that she wasn’t a one-hit wonder. It has the same lyrical playfulness of “Love Song”, but the beat and the handclaps really just help to bring it all together. Nobody does Cute Tell-Off songs quite like Sara. I highly recommend every track on the album, but this is my favorite, as well as my favorite song of the year.

Thanks for playing along! Leave your comments/concerns below. Next time, I’ll probably have a comic rant. That is, if I remember to pay my ISP…

13th Oct2010

Music Review: Toby Keith – Bullets In The Gun

by Will

A common occurrence in the music industry today is that it’s becoming more difficult to figure out which tracks are meant to be filler and which are meant to be singles. This is mainly due to the lackluster quality of  the tracks being released. When people wonder why music sales are on the decline, they need only look to the wares the industry is trying to peddle. That’s certainly the case with Toby Keith’s latest release, Bullets in the Gun. Before we get to that, let’s examine Toby’s past.

I came to the Toby Keith party a bit late, but he has quickly become one of my favorite artists. While those who aren’t into the country scene might quickly dismiss him, there’s something unique to what Toby brings to the table. I like to think of him as the “Don Draper of Country Music”. Like the Mad Men character, Toby exemplifies a particular idea of what it means to be a man, though in different times and circumstances. Don Draper lives according to the adage that “a man should always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice” – the idea that a man takes care of his responsibilities, but doesn’t allow himself to truly be tied down. There’s a lot of this to Toby Keith’s persona, as he works hard and plays hard, without ever letting himself get too caught up in the goings on of life.

In “How Do You Like Me Now?”, Toby rubbed his celebrity in the face of the valedictorian who didn’t give him a chance in high school. You can pretty much figure out what “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight” is about. His first gold single, and most controversial song, was “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)”. Released after 9/11, it’s a jingoistic call to arms, as Toby tells the terrorists that we’re gonna “put a boot in yer ass – it’s the American way”. Now, if that concept scares some of you, then try hearing the song in concert, with a couple thousand rednecks singing along. I have. I’ll never forget that.

Later in the decade, he gave us “I Love This Bar”, which described the only true love in his life – his local watering hole. The song even went on to inspire his real life investment venture, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. “As Good As I Once Was” was a catchy song about a man wistfully comparing present-day experiences to similar events in his past. “God Love Her” is the tale of falling in love with a precher’s daughter.

The thread tying together Toby’s most successful singles is the fact that they were all catchy songs, each containing a good hook. Even in country music, a great hook is key. This is the problem with Bullets in the Gun, as there aren’t any strong hooks. The songs just feel like leftover tracks from 2009’s American Ride. Considering the accelerated release of the follow-up, that’s probably exactly what they are. The album’s lead single is “Trailerhood”, which was the product of a Freudian slip where Toby mixed up neighborhood and trailer park in a conversation with a friend. It’s clearly one of the stronger tracks on the album, but it’s still not great. Outside of that, there are a bunch of forgettable tracks that don’t really leave a mark. It’s not until the album’s final track, “Get Out of My Car”, that you get what could be called a “Toby Keith song”. It’s a bit of a date rapist’s anthem, but the gist of the song is that Toby and a woman are in his car long after last call. It’s the interpersonal tug-of-war of “will they or won’t they”, as they drank, danced, and kissed, so she either needs to take off her top, or get out of his car. Written out, it seems a bit off-putting, but it’s actually a pretty fun song. In the vein of “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight”, it’s another example of a good ol’ boy just trying to get his rocks off.

As I’m a sucker for a flashy cover, I sprang for the deluxe version that came with a lenticular cover (that’s “magic motion”, for the uncultured). Along with this chase cover, the disc also included 4 live tracks from Toby’s recent tour. While most people wouldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth, I found the tracks problematic because they were presented without explanation. They aren’t live versions of his most popular hits. Instead, it’s like he chose some jam tracks that sounded the least muddled. It would’ve been great to have live versions of  “The Angry American” or “I Love This Bar” with audience participation. The original version of the album would’ve ended at “Get Out of My Car”, which would’ve been a good note on which to end. The deluxe version’s inclusion of the live tracks only made an uneven album seem even more rudderless. Apparently, the album topped the Billboard chart with 71,000 units, but that’s due to Toby’s loyal fan base. This is the kind of album that’s released in order to fulfill a contract obligation; it was either this or another Greatest Hits album. If Toby wants to retain those fans, he can’t keep releasing albums like Bullets in the Gun. The decline began in American Ride, and now this. You’ve got one strike left, and one last bullet in the chamber, Toby. Let’s make the next one a good one.

19th Jun2010

The Hits From Toast to Toast AKA “Get Off That Table, Becky!”

by Will

Tara Reid

Walk into an average DJ’d bar on a weekend night (for you local folks, I’m talking Union Jacks, Blackfinn, the late, great Lulu’s, etc.), and you’re bound to have your ears assaulted by certain songs. Have you ever wondered why every bar plays the same songs? Well, the bars I mentioned are pretty much “white bars”, and I’ve come to notice that drunk white kids LOVE these songs. I thought I’d try to figure exactly what it is about these songs that appeals to the young, drunk, Caucasian masses. These are presented in no particular order, as popularity is relative, based on quality of the night, amount of alcohol, as well as environment. So, let’s see here…

Friends In Low Places – This Garth Brooks classic is a karaoke staple, but it’s the non-country fan’s country song. It embodies everything everyone thinks about country music (drawl, unrequited love), but it’s also got edgy, angsty leanings. It’s about not fitting in, and feeling like an outsider. Shit, this thing could’ve been recorded by Foo Fighters or Death Cab. A lot of insecure wallflowers can relate to this song at the beginning of the night. It’s a song about shady people. Everyone singing along is in one of 2 camps: they’ve got a shady friend, or they are the shady friend. The drunker Cody gets, he moves from the former to the latter. That said, the presence of alcohol just ensures that he’s not alone in this transmogrification.

Sweet Caroline – This is another drunken singalong staple, especially due to its use during the 7th Inning Stretch. Nothing brings a room together like a unison “bum-bum-bummm!” – or, the regional “fuck-ing-slut!”- that follows the titular refrain. This drunken solidarity turns a room full of dudes into a room full of bros.

Gold Digger – White people LOVE this song! Why? ‘Cause it let’s ’em say “nigger” (unless the pussy DJ is playing the radio edit). Any black person who’s made it to college – the time of life when levels of bravado and available alcohol run highest – has dealt with the “but it’s in the song!” argument that Chad throws down when he sees you glaring.

Another reason the song resonates with white people can be boiled down to one simple line: “we want prenup!”. You see, white people are the only ones who understand the importance of said document. Black people don’t have prenups, unless they’re athletes – in which case they’re married to white women. Otherwise, your average black man doesn’t have anything your average black woman would even want in the event of a divorce!

Also, what does the song’s protagonist end up doing? “He leave yo’ ass for a white girl!” It’s a line that’s met with sneers in the black club, but is met with Woo Girl cheers in your white bar. Every Molly, Abby and Katie will make herself known at this point! Black guys, this is also a good time to scan the crowd to find the girls who might be down. You know what I’m talkin’ about…

As the night rolls on, and everybody’s loosening up, we move to the 80’s trifecta:

Livin’ On A Prayer – Drunk white kids sing this thing like it’s their national anthem. They forget their trust funds and kickball leagues, and sing as if Johnny and Tina were their hardworking, blue collar parents. Despite all this passion, it’s all gonna fall apart at the key change. It always does…

Your Love – This is the point in the night when Cody decides that he doesn’t want to go home alone. He’s had just enough Yuengling to start making eyes at the hot chick at the bar. He makes a point to really eye fuck her once the “I just wanna use your love…tonight” part hits. Unfortunately, Becky’s not on board, and rolls her eyes as she disappears into the crowd to find her friends. This lines up perfectly with the next song:

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Nothing filled white people with so much hope until Barack Obama came along. It’s a song that says to Cody, “Don’t worry, there are other fish in the sea!” The guitar solo alone is enough to make a man forget his troubles, and trust me – he WILL engage in air guitar!

Just as Cody starts to cheer up, and get back on that horse, Closing Time kicks on and the lights go up. Sure, tonight was a bust, but there’s always next weekend – same bar, same songs…

12th Feb2009

So You Wanna Be A Country Star?

by Will

“Tell me how I’m s’posed to breathe with no air”

So, you say you want to be a country star, eh? But you just can’t get that song out of your head and onto your guitar? Having trouble finding just the right words to get that shot at The Grand Ole Opry?

Well, the Stetson Institute of Country Western Linguistics, in association with the Faith Hill School of Crossover Studies, brings you the Country Music Theme Generator (patent pending). These organizations have analyzed Top 40 Country radio for the past 5 years, and have noticed certain trends. Choose one topic from the following list, or string together several, for a showstopping, whiskey-drenched CMA award winning hit:

-Drunken bad decision
-She left
-He left
-She’ll Take You Back
-He’ll Take You Back
-You Chose the other Chick, but You’ll Want Me
-You Chose the other Guy, but You’ll Want Me
-Someone gets to Heaven
-River/Lake/Muddy Baptism
-Drinking before Noon
-Excuses to Drink
-Dad dies
-Girl loses legs
-Crying Dad
-Ominous Traffic Light reference
-America
-Soldiers
-Freedom
-American Soldiers Fighting for Our Freedom
-Dead Soldiers
-Weddings
-Trucks
-Revenge
-Silly Youth
-Elderly Wisdom
-Old Regret
-Dad singing about daughter in mildly inappropriate way

This list is for anyone who likes their Rascals Flatt & their Travises Randy.

Hootie & the Blowfish frontman, Darius Rucker, followed this method, and his hit about leavin’, regrettin’, and whiskey, led him to become the first black person in 25 years to have a #1 country song! A black man at the top of the country charts! Pretty soon, they’ll be in the White House!

Anyway, if you’re ready to be a Nashville star, with a legion of fans shaking their honky tonk badonkadonks, this is the program for you.

*Special thanks go out to Toby Keith, Director of the United States Department of Retribution (itself, a division of the US Department of Homeland Security)

06th Feb2005

Will Answers Your Questions!

by Will

WILL ANSWERS I

  • If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one CD, one food, and one tv character with you for three years…. what would they be?

    If I only had one CD, it would have to be “Journey: Greatest Hits”. Laugh if you wish, but this CD has EVERYTHING. Plus, as cheesy as people like to remember Journey, they inspired every major pop/soft star today. Now, you may not exactly like these styles of music, but greats such as Mariah Carey (the Good Mariah, not the hooch Mariah) list them among their top influences.

    Plus, you’ve got any style you want on one disc. For a romantic slow song, you’ve got “Faithfully” or “Open Arms”. For the pensive, brooding song, you’ve got “Send Her My Love.” And the sheer bombast of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” would motivate me to construct my Raft To Freedom.

    One food? That would have to be Monogolian BBQ from Cornell Dining. There’s a reason it was voted #1 dining hall in the country. Plus, I DID live off of it for an entire year. I ate it everyday, sometimes twice. Ask anyone. It’s how I got my Sophomore 30!

    One TV character? The Adam West Batman. Come on, is there ANYONE more entertaining? This guy was the George W. of Superheroes; just looking at him, you knew he had NO BUSINESS in that role, wearing that suit, but he overacted hard enough that it was SO bad it was good.

    Plus, it’d be hilarious to spend 3 yrs with him, as he kept pulling stuff out of his utility belt, such as Bat-Shark repellant, which would inevitably fail to provide rescue or safety. It’d kind of be like an experiment to see how far a man must fall before he cracks. ‘Cause I get the feeling that, for the 1st yr, he won’t even take off his mask. He’d take off the cape, maybe even the suit. But I feel like he’d be stark-ass naked on that island just wearing a cowl, and you can’t PAY for that kind of stranded entertainment.

  • For the sake of posing a more original question:

    Have you ever written any songs of your own?

    -Karlos

“More original question”…I smell a catfight! Anyway, no, I haven’t written any songs of my own. Why? Because that part of my brain doesn’t work. It’s true!

You see, I’m a smart kid. I’m at a place in my life where I can honestly say that. BUT,
don’t get “abstract”. I can think outside of the box, but the creative, like lyrics and poetry, eludes me. You have to hit me in the face with a dead cat to understand poetry.

I get the themes, such as Winter is Death, yadda yadda, but when someone is trying to
convey their feelings, I get lost. That’s why I hate when people are like, “Listen to this
song -the lyrics mean so much to me.” And the song turns out to be “Glycerine” or something, and all I can say is, ‘Wow, I love this song. It’s awesome!” And they respond with, “It’s not awesome; in fact, it made me consider taking my life.” No joke, I’ve been in these situations.

I tried to write songs, but they all ended up as those country-esque “I’m so lonely” songs, and there are really only so many times that it should be legal to rhyme “heart” & apart” or “alone & phone”. Hell, what did people rhyme with “alone” prior to Bell’s nefarious, yet convenient, invention?

I have, however, composed songs. You see, prior to the a cappella, I played piano for 10
yrs. When I started singing, I had to use the piano part of my brain. Now, when i was
playing, I was “classically trained” (am I the only person who hates how pretentious tha
sounds?) , but I only used that to play all of the cliche parlor songs, such as Fur Elise an
Moonlight Sonata. My true passion was New Age. Laugh if you want, but nothing calms
me down like Enya & “Pure Moods”. So, I started composing New Age music. I had a
Music Technology class in high school with synthesizers and stuff, so by graduation, I had a good album’s worth of material. But, get this, the school went under, and they have no idea where my disc is. If that shit resurfaces…

But my New Age claims to fame are “Silver”, named after my mother, and ‘Ellie’s Mirage”, written for my grandmother, who loved to hear me play.

Oh, and I play a MEAN rendition of the Star Trek: Voyager Theme!

23rd Jul2003

I Just Saw Partial Nudity on CMT!

by Will

When did Country Music Television get so hot?!! That mess is steamier than MTV’s been in years. Woke up this morning and saw the controversial “I Melt” video by Rascal Flatts. Let’s just say there’s something in that video for everyone. Definitely not the healthiest way to start my day, but I’m not complaining. On another note, where the fuck is my “Seduction of the Innocent”? I swear if that guy ripped me off….

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