16th Jan2014

Track Star: Mr. Mister Vs. Boy Meets Girl

by Will

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Welcome to Track Star! Don’t know the rules? Read this first

Today’s Challengers:

Mr. Mister – Welcome To The Real World vs. Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

Today, we’re pitting two ’80s acts against each other. Mr. Mister had a hit song to which nobody seemed to know the words, while Boy Meets Girl were a songwriting act who weren’t used to being in the spotlight themselves. This time around, we’ve got a sampling of 6 songs from each group. Who’ll take the crown in this round of Track Star?

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Mr. Mister is a group known for two particular songs and, luckily, they both happen to be on Welcome To The Real World. This was actually the group’s second album, but served as a breakthrough since it included the #1 singles “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”. This is a VERY ’80s album, as evidenced by the song “Don’t Slow Down”, which seems like it was written for a movie montage. “Run To Her” is a beautiful ballad, reminiscent of “Broken Wings” – known to every child of the ’80s. “Is It Love” is so ’80s that it’s wearing legwarmers and shoulder pads. Everyone knows “Kyrie”, even if they don’t know what’s being said (for the record, it’s “Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel.” It’s Latin for “Lord, have mercy.”). The album wraps up with the title track, “Welcome To The Real World”, which sounds like another montage anthem.

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Best known for their song “Waiting For A Star To Fall”, Boy Meets Girl spent most of the ’80s in the shadows of other people. The group was comprised of the songwriting duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam. They wrote Whitney Houston’s hits “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, while they provided background vocals on Deniece Williams’s “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”. In 1988, they released Reel Life, which included their hit “Waiting…”, along with 9 other songs. I love this album because they sound like the prototype for the California Dreams – strong female vocals, great harmonies, and a sweet, poppy sound. The Dreams comparison begins with the opening track, “Bring Down The Moon”, which, then, leads us right into “Waiting For A Star To Fall”. Next up, “Stormy Love” and “If You Run” just further the comparison between Boy Meets Girl and the Dreams. “Restless Dreamer” is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Because this came later in the decade, I have to say that this feels and sounds more like a ’90s album than an ’80s album. Just listening to this and Mr. Mister back to back, it’s apparent that they weren’t contemporaries. The album closes out with “Someone’s Got To Send Out Love”, which is giving off a California Dreams ballad feel. Considering my love for that show and those songs, I’m really pulling for this album to win this round. Can it do it, though? Let’s find out.

You really could’ve seen where this one was headed, as I simply loved Reel Life. Sure, it suffers from “they all sound the same”-itis, but that’s not a problem if you’re a fan of that sound. At the end of the day, Reel Life just has more repeat “listenability” to me than Welcome To The Real World. Sure, there’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”, but there’s not a whole lot other than those two. There are strong, serviceable tracks on the album, but they just aren’t as consistent as the songs on Reel Life. I feel like Boy Meets Girl have aged better, even though Mr. Mister are included on every 80s collection infomercial. It’s the “hidden gem” nature of Reel Life that really went a long way in this match-up.

The Winner:

Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

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For those playing along at home, agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

09th Sep2013

Track Star: Willa Ford Vs. M2M

by Will

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Welcome to Track Star! Don’t know the rules? Read this first.

Today’s Challengers:

Willa Ford – Willa Was Here vs M2M – Shades of Purple

Willa Ford (AKA Amanda Williford) was known for one thing – she dated Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter. Apparently, she also dated syndicated radio DJ Kane of The Kane Show, but there’s not a whole lot of information about that. Anyway, when there was the initial Battle of the Pop Princesses, Willa was the first one to slut it up, right out of the gate. Her only hit was “I Wanna Be Bad”, which included a video of her writhing around and licking stuff. In this battle, however, she already starts at a disadvantage – the CD skips on the most important song! Can she recover from such a stunted start? Let’s see.

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Willa got a co-writing credit on 9 out of 11 tracks on her debut album, which is pretty much unheard of in the pop world. Not that the quality is really there. I mean, these are standard pop songs you’d get during that era of music. They come off like the filler tracks on an *NSYNC album. Anyway, track 2 begins to skip. Then track 3. Finally, I take out the disc and, I kid you not, there’s a splotch on it. Is this a testament to her sex appeal? We’ll have to clean the disc and come back.

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So, I was forced to move on to M2M prematurely. Not a huge group of the time, M2M hung out on that 3rd tier of millennial pop that included the A-Teens, Vitamin C and The Moffats. If you still had Radio Ahhs or Radio Disney, you were likely to hear them. In fact, M2M are probably best known for their song, “Don’t Say You Love Me” on the soundtrack for Pokemon: The First Movie (coincidentally, Willa was also on that album, using her earlier stage name, Mandah). Anyway, M2M was comprised of Norwegian teens Marit & Marion, and their sound was evocative of a two-person Wilson Philips. In terms of maturity and subject matter, they were basically the prototype for Taylor Swift – only I’m sure they knew that Romeo wasn’t in The Scarlet Letter. These were the kinds of girls you’d be proud to see on your daughter’s wall (no, not crucified – I’m talking about posters!) The biggest hits from this album are “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “Mirror, Mirror” (God, did they play this all the time while I worked at Toys “R” Us!). “The Day You Went Away” has a nice poppy beat to it. “Pretty Boy” is a sweet ballad with gorgeous harmonies.”Our Song” features an awesome Bee Gees sample.  Most M2M songs fall into the “they all sound the same” boat, but that’s not a bad thing when you like that sound.

So, back to Willa. After her hit, we’ve got “Did Ya Understand That?” with a pseudo-Latin tinge that was in all pop songs circa 2000. Next up is her faux R&B ballad “Ooh Ooh”, which just falls flat. “Tired” sounds like it would’ve been right at home on *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached album. It’s funny, though, as it’s about how she’s tired of being compared to Britney and other pop starlets of the time. “Prince Charming” is funny, as she gives shout outs to all the hot guys of the moment, like Matt Damon, Kobe Bryant, and Sisqo. “Somebody Take The Pain Away” loosely samples “Here Comes The Rain Again” by The Eurythmics. “Dare” closes out the album with Willa telling us she’s “nasty nasty nasty!”

So, who wins this round? The strongest tracks for Willa are “I Wanna Be Bad”, Tired”, and “Somebody Take The Pain Away”, so she’s got the 3 tracks required in order to do battle. M2M have too many to mention. At the end of the day, there’s nothing memorable on Willa’s album. She might’ve been the pioneer of turn of the century “skank pop”, but it didn’t translate to any iconic songs. M2M just bring such a melodic mix to things that there isn’t really a question as to who’s more versatile. Pop radio only plays Willa as a joke on throwback weekends, while M2M still pop up from time to time.

The Winner:

M2M – Shades of Purple

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03rd Sep2013

Introducing…Track Star!

by Will

I like “bad” music. Of course I don’t consider it bad, but in the court of public opinion, my favorite musical acts would be considered bad. At the very least, it would be considered “guilty pleasure”. We’re talking boybands, pop starlets, 80s synth groups, etc. Still, I LOVE music – of all kinds, actually, but I always come back to the “bad” stuff. Growing up, I had quite the CD addiction which spiraled out of control once I got a burner. At last count, it’s something around 900 CDs that I haven’t even touched in years since all my music is on this very computer. Oh, did I mention that this music is completely different than what’s on those CDs? Yeah, I’ve never ripped a disc in my life. Crazy, right? Even in this age of modern technology, I find myself still buying CDs. See, I find them in thrift stores, and they’re only $2, which is a far cry from the $16-20 that I used to have to pay. Sure, I joined Columbia House and BMG like every other fiscally irresponsible teenager, but I’ve sunk thousands into the purchase of music. That’s not even an exaggeration. Where was I? Oh yeah, CDs cost almost nothing now, so I find myself buying albums for one song that I think I liked back in ’97, only to find the rest of the CD is a trainwreck. As you can imagine, these discs are starting to stack up, and they don’t really deserve a slot in The Collection. That’s when I devised Track Star – a two CDs enter, one CD leaves battle royale.

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Here’s how Track Star will work: I’m pitting two CDs against each other. They won’t necessarily be of the same genre, and may have nothing in common. Most of the time it will just depend on the luck of the draw. Two “vintage” CDs will be played through from beginning to end, as I search for any and every track that might earn the disc a spot in my permanent collection. In order for it to be somewhat of a fair fight, each disc must have AT LEAST 3 strong songs to bit against one another. Some albums have no single-worthy songs (see Justin Guarini’s debut album), and this would stop the competition before it even starts. If there aren’t 3 strong songs on a particular disc, it will be disqualified and donated to the thrift store; the remaining disc may be pitted against another CD in the future. Outside of disqualification situations, a CD will only enter competition once. The winner stays, while the loser goes back to the thrift store. Got it? If not, here it is in bullet-point format:

-Two CDs, of potentially disparate genres, are pitted against each other

-Each disc must have THREE (3) strong tracks in order to do battle, or else there will be a disqualification

-The loser will be donated to the thrift store from whence it came, while the winner will be crowned the Track Star, and it will join The Collection

What’s a “strong” track? Who knows? It could all come down to how I’m feeling that day. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!

To make things easier for you to play along at home, each post will be accompanied by a Spotify playlist of the albums in question. After listening along, you can tell me your thoughts in the comments. Got it?

The first challengers are coming up in a few days, so be there or be square!