Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 3

September 20, 2021
  1. Bob Marley – Buffalo Soldier

When I was growing up, I never really listened to the lyrics of this song growing up because I had yet to learn history. The song’s title and lyrics make reference to the term Buffalo Soldier which was coined by Native Americans during the Indian Wars. The regiment of black US Army soldiers was given all of the difficult jobs in the military. One of those jobs was to protect colonizers from displaced Native Americans who thought that their hair looked like the pelt of a Buffalo. Marley was a fighter in his own way, fighting for the rights of black people through his music and his activism. The bouncy tune and Marley’s signature calm but forceful voice combine to create a great song.

  1. The Beach Boys – Barbara Ann

There are so many great songs to choose from when it comes to the Beach Boys. A lot of their songs were appropriately fast-paced and uptempo for me. Barbara Ann is just so much fun. The vocals have more of a layered feel as we have not only the usual vocals from the Beach Boys but also William Jan Berry from Jan and Dean (who originally performed the song). Those vocals are bouncy and cut loose and fun. There are not a lot of other instruments as the guys are mostly just jamming the vocals. The single was rushed out by the studio without the band’s knowledge to try and bolster the group’s reputation after the previous release was disappointing. Still, it gave the track a less polished feel which may be why I like it so much.

  1. Buddy Holly – Maybe Baby

My dad used to sing this to me as a kid. That is primarily why I chose this song out of all of Holly’s hits. Apart from my sentimentality, the song is really good on its own. The song is upbeat and up-tempo but somehow still allows Holly to croon out the vocals. The guitar and bass guitar parts form a really fun riff. The song has a little bit of a playfulness but definitely a bounciness that I love. This song (seeing as how I heard it as a baby) was my introduction of the genre of rockabilly. My parents taught me so much about music and how to appreciate it.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

I have been slowly reminded lately that Led Zeppelin is actually a good band. I think that my perception of them is constantly colored by Stairway to Heaven which I dislike so much. They have so many rocking tunes. Early on when I was a kid I was blown away that they had so many Hobbit references in their songs. I just did not get a lot of that from other bands. This song was always my favorite with its battle cry and lyrics about Viking journeys and battles, it really gets your blood pumping. The guitar riffs feel all jangly and exciting. It does not hurt that this song had such a prominent place in Thor: Ragnarok.

  1. Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

The first thing that hits me in this song is the rhythm from the drums as they kick in. Thar rhythm continues through the song like a steady march. Then the high horns kick in. Wonder sings with an obvious joy and passion that is impossible to deny. It is interesting that this is probably the song that saved Stevie Wonder’s career. He had only two moderate hits previously and, as his voice changed, the studio was about to cut him loose. Like me, the producer for this single and the fans really liked Wonder’s new, deeper tenor and he was back on top and headed toward becoming a legend.

  1. Sam Cooke – Good Times

Probably one of Cooke’s most iconic songs (and more commercially sellable than the very important A Change Is Going to Come). As usual, Cooke’s voice is so sweet to the ear as he croons out some great lyrics. The backing instrumentals are really good at staying out of the way and letting Cooke burn things up. The song speaks of the heart and soul of what music is and what feeling good should be.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 2

September 6, 2021
  1. Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady

I listened to a lot of Jimi especially when I was in high school. I had a friend that played a passable cover of his version of All Along the Watchtower. My brother learned to play guitar from watching Hendrix do it. He had many fantastic songs but Foxy (or sometimes spelled Foxey) Lady has long been a favorite of mine. Part of it has to do with this song being prominently used in Wayne’s World. Most of it has to do with the song itself. It is definitely a great display of Hendrix’s wailing vocals with his unique deep voice. The guitar riff also really does it for me. It feels like a revving engine to me as it punctuates each sentence in the song. One thing that really hit me as I went back through Jimi’s catalog to make my selection is that he only had two albums to choose from. It’s still pretty tragic.

  1. James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)

Yes, I went with the cliche. This song just makes me feel good. It starts with Brown’s excited scream and then the funky horns start. The horn riff feels joyous and playful. The drums and horns really punctuate the chorus and give it the oomph it needs. James was never really easy to understand but when he recorded this one, he was clear as a bell. It may be why this is the song most used in movies, television, and commercials. As with all of his songs, James Brown sells the hell out of it with his vocals and leaves everything behind when he’s done.

  1. Little Richard – Rip It Up

Decidedly not going with the cliche this time. When I think of Little Richard, I always think of him hitting the long high notes as he leans back as he plays the piano. He put his whole body into the music even when he was just sitting at the piano which would inspire plenty of other pianists (ie Elton John). When I was going back through his catalog, this song caught my eye and I realized I had forgotten about it. This song feels like it has a little more edge to it. The bouncy instrumentals make me smile. The slightly aggressive way that he sings about having a good time after work makes me think back to times that I felt the same way. It just feels so good to be done for the day and heading out (or in my case home) to have some fun.

  1. Aretha Franklin – Think

Once again influenced by movies as Aretha’s performance of the song in Blues Brothers is electric and sassy. Aretha may have been known for Respect but she shared it with many other acts. Aretha owned this song and nobody ever came close. I also really like the lyrics better for what Aretha does with them. The way she weaves the words (especially in Blues Brothers) felt like a predecessor to rap music with the speed she’s going. Aretha’s voice has always been one of my favorites and her songs seemed to be more uptempo than some of her contemporaries. I really love the bouncy, happy rhythm as Aretha threatens her lover.

  1. Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack

There are not as many Ray Charles songs that I like as other artists on this list. He was a great singer and piano player but his songs were more crooning than I usually listen to. In fact, my favorite song he ever did was paired up with George Jones called “I Didn’t See A Thing”. It’s just so playful and funny but it doesn’t count for this list. Hit the Road Jack is playful and feels a lot like what I think of as traditional blues. This is definitely a song that does a lot between Ray and his backup singers. Ray gets the majority of it but the back and forth really sells it. The horns are iconic and once again it is easy to guess why this song is also used a lot in film.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Project Pt. 1

August 16, 2021

While I was listening to the radio, one of the morning DJs posed a question about the hosts’ pick for favorite Rolling Stones song. I thought about it and I thought it would be neat to name my number one song for various bands and musical acts. I was originally only going to do Rock but I stumbled on the top 100 Musical Artists list from Rolling Stone magazine so I decided to use that. There are technically two lists so I may jump between them a bit but the first 26 did not change between 2005 and 2011.

  1. The Beatles – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Yes, the Beatles had dozens of really good songs that I could have put here. However, when I was a preteen, I fell in love with Abbey Road and played it often as I walked home from school. While other songs may have more technical skill or more meaning, this is just the lads from Liverpool having a good time. The song also has a dark edge behind its jolly sound which definitely falls within the scope of my interests. There are a lot of clever rhymes that just sound really pleasing to my ear as well.

  1. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues

A lot of Bob Dylan’s most popular songs are too slow and rambling for me. In contrast, this song has a frenetic energy as he rushes toward the finish line. The lyrics are interesting in that they can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Dylan claimed that he was inspired by beat poets like Kerouac and Ginsberg. He was also inspired by the Woody Guthrie – Pete Seeger song “Taking It Easy” and Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”. Thankfully, the music video has some of the lyrics on cue cards because Dylan never was big on diction. Still, he inspired a lot of musicians. https://www.youtube.com/embed/PpsUOOfb-vE

  1. Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock

Elvis had a ton of hits as well. I did not really care for his crooning ballads (although they melted many hearts back in the day) but when Elvis was rocking and rolling, I loved his music. I actually performed Elvis songs on stage once for a Church talent show (along with much more talented and not-having-a-panic-attack partners). I think that was when I started to appreciate Elvis more as a musician than the cartoon he was usually portrayed as. Jailhouse Rock just always felt like his hardest-hitting song. I also loved the lyrics as I could imagine the party he is describing.

  1. Rolling Stones – Paint it Black

Something about the haunting, calmer singing with a rocking instrumental really gets to me. Also, as a preteen and teen, I was a bit goth and was the kind of person that would always answer “black” when asked for my favorite color. What really cemented this song as my favorite is the video game Twisted Metal Black which used it as a theme song. When I was in the depths of my worst period of depression, songs like these felt good because I felt less alone.

  1. Chuck Berry – No Particular Place To Go

I was so tempted to put “My Ding a ling” here but I feel like this is my actual answer. The guitar is what really gets me in this one (although most of his songs had great guitar). I like the progression of the song where the music starts jubilant and excited but ends kind of angry. This befits the funny story that the lyrics tell of a bad date night. It was this song that I thought of when I first heard The Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman”. Berry knew how to paint a picture and this song just feels so good.

Media Update 1/21/21

January 21, 2021

Soul

I have been a fan of Pixar since they premiered their first feature film in 1995. Toy Story made me consider a job in animation for a short while as a teen. The company has a lot of hits and very few misses. When I saw advertisements for Soul, I was absolutely excited because people of color are still underrepresented in Disney fiction. This movie also corrected a lot of earlier mistakes by actually hiring on writers, consultants, and eventually a co-director who experienced and therefore understood black culture. That way they could tell a truly nuanced and authentic story and they succeeded. Jamie Foxx stars as a music teacher who is questioning his life. Tina Fey plays an unborn soul who has grown cynical. Graham Norton plays a hippie with a strange mystic background. The cast is rounded out by brilliant performances from Angela Bassett, Questlove, Richard Ayoade, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Donnell Rawlings and more. It is such a poignant story about what we do with our lives and how our plans change when life happens. I have heard people say that this was “Mid-Life Crisis: The Movie” but it is so much more. It is about culture, love, creativity, desire, and so many other things. I definitely recommend this movie.

Trolls World Tour

Dreamworks feels to me like it has more misses than hits but they are starting to pick things up in the past few years. Trolls was a movie that completely took me off guard. I was expecting a fun poppy movie (pun intended) with colorful animation and good music. The movie ended up being smarter than I expected. Trolls World Tour was a repeat of that phenomenon but to an even greater magnitude. This movie was way heavier than I thought it would be and had a great message. Ana Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return to anchor the movie again and are given a lot more to work with as it relates to emotional depth. Ron Funches returns with a much expanded role. Newcomers Anderson .Paak, Sam Rockwell, Kelly Clarkson, and Kenan Thompson really knocked it out of the park as new characters. Rachel Bloom plays the antagonist and does great as a heavy metal goddess. A special shout out to legends George Clinton and Mary J. Blige for rocking small but very important roles in the movie. The movie also displays more of a musical range as Pop is joined by Funk, Hip Hop, Rock, Country, Classical, Techno, Yodeling, Reggaeton, KPop, and even Smooth Jazz. It makes for a very interesting soundtrack which is mostly made up of good covers. I recommend this movie.

Over the Moon

Glen Keane has been an animator since the seventies and particularly worked for Disney on legendary projects like Beauty & The Beast, The Princess and the Frog, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Frozen and more. He recently left Disney and this is first time in the Director’s chair. He was joined by Audrey Wells, Jennifer Yee McDevitt, Alice Wu, and John Kahrs to create an authentically Chinese and human story. The movie follows a young girl played by relative newcomer Cathy Ang. She does such a great job of portraying a vulnerable yet headstrong preteen girl. Another relative newcomer plays a lovably annoying young kid who she is thrown together with. She has great chemistry with her family played by John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Sandra Oh, Margaret Cho, and Kimiko Glenn. They all give such warm performances that I wanted to hang out at their dinner table. Ken Jeong plays a lovable yet fairly annoying goofball (really a Dreamworks staple). Finally, the great Phillipa Soo plays a headstrong woman who is hiding vulnerability and she is so, so good at it. The original songs are all very beautiful and/or catchy. I definitely recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Aunty Donna – Chuffed (Dad Song)

Megan Thee Stallion – Girls in the Hood

Phillipa Soo – Ultraluminary

Seven Lions Feat. Runn – Calling You Home

Mashup of the Week:

Oneboredjeu – X Gon Give It To Ya Maybe

Weekly Update
This week’s theme is “Loss and Music in Animation”
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube
Special Shoutout to Jenny Nicholson’s 2 hour and 30 min video on The Vampire Diaries
I watched more AGDQ 2020
i watched more Elementary Season 3
I finished watching Numbers Season 5
I watched City of the Dead (Rifftrax Version)
I watched House on Haunted Hill (Rifftrax Version)
I watched The Hideous Sun Demon (Rifftrax Version)

Media Update 10/15/20

October 15, 2020

We Summon the Darkness (2020)

I liked the poster for this one and this was actually the inspiration for this week’s theme. I liked the idea of mixing heavy metal with satanic cults in a comedy horror (especially after Satanic Panic). This was a really clever movie with some really interesting plot beats and characters. I do not want to give much away but the movie definitely surprised me in places. Alexandra Daddario (who also produced) plays a rich girl who, along with her friends, hit heavy metal shows. Amy Forsyth plays a nervous teen runaway who has fallen in with Daddario’s little gang of friends. Maddie Hason plays an impulsive and ditzy party girl who is part of the group. They meet up with Keean Johnson, Austin Swift, and Logan Miller who all play aspiring musicians and friends. The characters interact in great little ways that you really believe the friendships and things definitely get fun. The movie is really well shot and everything fits together so well. There was definitely enough horror, comedy, and action to keep me happy. I recommend this movie.

Slumber Party Massacre 2 (1987)

This movie has some things in common with the first movie but it has some new elements that are batshit insane. It felt very much like Slumber Party Massacre mixed with The Nightmare on Elm Street and Bad Channels. It is a horror movie with honest to goodness musical numbers which look like music videos. Crystal Bernard plays a survivor from the first movie who is now trying to move on. Her sister, also a survivor, is played by Cindy Eilbacher who is now stuck in a mental hospital. She goes along with her bandmates, her friends, and her new boyfriend on a trip out to spend the weekend at a condo. Things start to get really weird and surreal and the rock and roll and death commences. The unnamed killer is played brilliantly by Atanas Ilitch who is so charismatic and goofy while still being threatening. He does his own singing as far as I can tell. The movie is full of great Rockabilly music and Eighties Rock. I recommend it.

Lords of Chaos (2019)

This movie is a loose dramatization of the story of the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem and its sordid history. Seeking to create a new sort of Metal that was darker than Death or Speed Metal, Mayhem ended up being one of the driving forces to popularizing Black Metal. The band was co-founded by Euronymous, Necrobutcher, Manheim from Norway. A few years later they were joined by a man who simply called himself Dead from Sweden. The movie covers the troubled mental state of a suicidal and depressed Dead (Jack Kilmer) and his relationship with Euronymous (Rory Culkin). The latter part of the movie deals with Euronymous’ relationship with singer Varg (Emory Cohen) who develops a violent psychosis. While this is not really a “horror” movie per se, it definitely has a lot of realistic horror that stems from when young people let their fantasies get away from them. I recommend the movie but it is violent and explicit when it comes to suicide and violence.

Music of the Week:

Killer Dwarfs – Dirty Weapons

Hayley Kiyoko – Demons

Buck 65 – Zombie Delight

Aaron Fraser-Nash – Horror Characters Cypher

LUCIFER – California Son

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “The Horror of Rock”
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more Lovecraft Country Season 1
I started Elementary Season 3
I finished Harley Quinn Season 1
I finished Blacklist Season 7
I have watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube

30 Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 5

August 24, 2020

25 – A song you like by an artist no longer living

A relatively recent death, Dr. John was a legit jazz and blues artist in every sense of the word. He was rightfully labeled a legend and can be listed among the greats for all time. However, I did not even hear his music until I was almost eighteen in the year 2000. Yes, because a lot of what I take in is through television and movies, the first time I saw Dr. John sing and play piano was in Blues Brothers 2000. He was part of the legendary superband The Louisiana Gator Boys among such lumanaries as BB King, Eric Clapton, and Bo Diddley among many more great musicians. If Blues Brothers 2000 did one thing right, it was to form that band. That was not the only movie that Dr. John was a part of. Any time something was set in New Orleans, there was a chance that his music is somewhere on the soundtrack. Case in point, the above track opens up Disney’s Princess and the Frog. It was the perfect song to set the scene and introduce the magic of the setting before the characters are properly introduced.

26 – A song you like from the last decade

This song is a great song that definitely gets me pumped and it is really fun to sing along to. I had heard of Bruno Mars before (how could you not?) but this was actually my introduction to Mark Ronson. A funny family story actually stemmed from this song. As I have mentioned before, my brother did a TED Talk years ago. While he was backstage, he was introduced to Mark Ronson because my brother’s talk had been about sound and Ronson was intrigued. This was around the time this song was hitting the airwaves. My brother told us the story later and we thought it was cool. Cut to my mom doing a calisthenics class and the song that the instructor played that she liked the most was Uptown Funk. She went to my brother and asked if he had heard of the song. Not only had he heard the song, he had met the singer. My mom was hardly embarassed that she had failed to make the connection but we all laughed pretty hard.

27 – A song that breaks your heart

I am pro-choice for sure but even so an abortion is rarely something anybody looks forward to and is often not a happy moment. Ben Folds and drummer Darren Jessee wrote the song about an experience Ben Folds had accompanying his high school girlfriend getting an abortion. I can feel the anxiety, grief, and angst so much emotion in the performance. It was a departure for Folds who had mostly had uptempo and silly songs as hits. This was him growing as an artist.

28 – A song by an artist whose voice you love

I absolutely fell in love with Halestorm because of Lzzy Hale. She has such range for a hard rock singer and every song has such smooth vocals with a sharp edge. Pretty much every song they have done has been a hit with me and I use to listen to their music a lot in the car on the way to gaming. I am also particularly fond of how they put their albums together. For example, their hit Mz. Hyde slides right into I Miss the Misery in the next track through the sustain of a guitar. However, the real appeal is the vocals that always blow me away. There is something a little blues and a little punk rock to it. Halestorm also does a lot of covers including covers of pop songs adding a rock flair.

29 – A song you remember from your childhood

The first time I heard this song was in my mom’s car on a Raffi tape. Raffi and the Rise and Shine Band was a godsend for parents everywhere. He released good recordings of a lot of classic songs but broke it up with some more exciting songs. That way, mom did not have to hear us sing along to Wheels on the Bus and then some other repetitive song. Instead, she sometimes got a De Colores or this song originally recorded by the legend Harry Belafonte. Of course, his recording has a very prominent place in Beetlejuice. He did not write the song as it was a traditional Jamaican work song from the point of view of dock workers working at night to load ships.

30 – A song that reminds you of yourself

I just had to pick this one. I have loved Weird Al so much since I first heard his silly parodies in the nineties. I feel like he has gotten better and better as a performer and a songwriter since. This song really fits with my life. Particularly, it makes me think of my high school years when my horizons were starting to expand. I was obsessed with Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Video Games, Comic Books, and so much more. I was very white but I was just starting to get into rap music and less white forms of entertainment. I felt out of place and kept my NWA, Pharoahe Monch, Jurassic 5, and Busta Rhymes albums hidden. I went to a private school and I was self-conscious. I am a fan of so many things that Weird Al lists in this song. It always makes me smile.

30-Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 2

July 27, 2020


7 – A song to drive to

When I was living in New Jersey and driving my broken down white Saturn, I used to love to listen to this one as I drove. It has the perfect mix of calm and upbeat to really get me into a groove. It is also really fun to sing along to. I actually first listened to it on the road when I worked for the circus. Sitting shotgun in a mack truck, dozing a bit from exhaustion and listening to easy listening classic rock. The Eagles rock but they never really rock too hard and it was always pleasant to listen to them on the road. I remember listening to them on the long drives from Northern Jersey home to Baltimore when I was furloughed or for the holidays.


8 – A song about drugs or alcohol

Buckcherry was the music that I would play loud in my room during my middle school and high school years when I was angry. I would sing along and get it all out of my system. In retrospect, it was not so healthy to stew in it like that but teenage angst paired with an anxiety and anger problem is not pretty. The driving guitar and metal-style singing reminded me of a mixture of heavy metal with hair metal with a garage band edge. The band is very good at churning out problematic lyrics (see their song “Crazy Bitch”) but their songs are definitely bangers.


9 – A song that makes you happy

Ninja Sex Party is a band that I discovered on YouTube just as they were starting to really take off and thus the production values of their videos were getting better. Music Videos kind of died a while ago but some artists have kept the flame alive. All of NSP’s videos tell a story visually and lyrically. Danny Sexbang (Danny Avidan) is just so joyful with his lyrics and plays an obliviously happy character. I love the bouncy composition that Ninja Brian (Brian Wecht) came up with for this one as well. It is so catchy and easy to sing along to. I will always be a fan of this band and I remember well seeing them live before they really started touring. I also met Brian Wecht briefly once.

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10 – A song that makes you sad

In my opinion, the most overrated song in the history of music so far. I have really grown to dislike this song. It is slow and pointless and has never been fun to listen to. It made me hate Led Zeppelin for years until I learned to listen to their more upbeat and uptempo songs. I do not even consider it a rock song because it does not rock.


11 – A song you never get tired of

When the Gorillaz came on the scene they were a revelation. I was instantly a fan and the more I learned and listened, the more of a fan I became. They are a supergroup made up of many top musicians in rock, electronic, and rap. It had a punk rock feel to it and that was definitely supported by the animation style furnished by Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame). Because the band was made up of fictional characters, any musician could enter or exit the band for any song and create without being tied to their particular style. Their first album was probably the first that I listened all the way through without ever skipping a track. It was basically a perfect album and this was my favorite song off of it. Part of that is due to Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s rap breaks. The music just comes together so well.


12 – A song from your preteen years

I was a bit of a bigot when it came to music as a kid. I dismissed rap music but during my preteens and teens, I suddenly saw my folly and embraced rap and hip hop culture. I had bought into previous generations’ racist and classist take on rap. However, I was raised better than that and during this time I started to rebel against everything I thought I had believed. Part of that process started with Tupac Shakur, a fellow Baltimorean who had made it big out in California. His style was the quintessential style in rap that I would grow to love. His samples and flow were upbeat and just what I wanted to hear. His lyrics were brilliant the way they fit together like puzzle pieces so tightly. Tupac led me to artists like NWA, Busta Rhymes, Pharoah Monch, and so many more.

A Star Is Born (2018)

April 22, 2019

I used to really love to sing when I was much younger. Although, “used to” is not exactly an accurate term to use here. I still love to sing but mostly on my own in my car or in the shower just because the music I am listening to moves me. Sometimes I will sing from memory when I am nervous or high strung. But I used to sing in front of people. For years I was in the chorus at school and I only slightly let the fact that I was placed in with the sopranos bother me. I was the only guy in the soprano section but I just soldiered on. Nobody teased me but ingrained gender bias is a difficult psychological obstacle for a young boy. Later, I joined the church choir and I was tentatively put in with the baritones. In order to secure that position, I started purposefully singing an octave lower so I was not moved to sing with the girls. Finally, the director had it and told me if I was not going to sing correctly, I should not sing. She told me this at a performance at a senior center. During the performance, I just stood there with my mouth closed. That was my last day in the church choir.

Still, even if I had soured on singing in a group, I still sometimes toyed with the idea of public singing. Now, I have not really ever told anybody this before but at some point, I had fantasies of being a singer for a rock band. I really love the energy and rhythm of rock and roll and I often cannot help but sing along to it. Now, I entertained these fantasies knowing full well that I do not have an amazing voice or the inclination to practice that skill. I also had (have) crippling stage fright that would have made being the frontman of a band either impossible or incredibly unenjoyable. Even so, I would listen to my albums and close my eyes and sing along. The only thing encouraging me is the observation that went around my childhood home since I can remember. I believe it was my mother who pointed out that there were a lot of rock and roll singers who did not have the best voices or trained musical talent. What made them great was that they poured their entire heart into singing and succeeded from pure charm and energy. It was encouraging at the time but I am happy where I ended up.

A quick note here: I have not seen the other versions of this movie yet so I have nothing to compare this movie to. Of course, the point of this movie is the music. From the jump, I loved the bluesy rock and country that Bradley Cooper plays. I am a sucker for riffing guitars and chugging bass and he does a good job of that performance I was talking about above. He might not be the most polished but he is putting his whole heart into the performance. In other scenes, he gives more of a refined performance so that you really believe that he is a professional musician. Lady Gaga is, of course, a great singer. She is a proven commodity in the recording industry and her growth from her beginnings really shows here. She sings big musical show numbers and intimate ballads with the same talent. She also sings some songs in her usual pop style. Her rendition of La Vie En Rose (a personal favorite song of mine) was especially mindblowing. There is definitely a gap in their talent levels but it was not nearly as wide as I thought it would be. In addition, all of the music is sung live which definitely gives it more of a dynamic and energetic feel. The music is co-written by Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson.

I was completely surprised at how good of an actress Lady Gaga was. I had seen a bit of her in American Horror Story: Hotel but she spent much of the time looking gorgeous and aloof. Granted, I did not see a whole lot but she did not get much of a chance to really act. She immediately impressed me in this. She definitely proved to me (and obviously audiences and professional critics) that she has what it takes to play in the big leagues of Hollywood. Bradley Cooper has grown as an actor and he continues to be able to transform himself in each role. In some of my favorite movies, he is a gay man, a space raccoon, and an FBI agent. In this movie, he plays a character that I am very familiar with. He is a troubled asshole who is super charismatic. Sam Elliott is, of course, a great actor as well. He is great at playing that gruff, grumpy guy you cannot help but like. There were also surprising performances from Greg Grunberg, Dave Chapelle, and Andrew Dice Clay of all people.

Overall, I thought this was a really good movie. These sorts of dramas are not really my cup of tea but everybody puts in endearing performances. While it is not a happy movie, it is a movie about seeking hope and redemption. When you are dealing with alcoholics and addicts, hope and redemption are rare. You do not always get a happy ending but they are definitely worth fighting for. This is not a happy movie but it is definitely a ride worth taking. There is also a fantastic soundtrack full of some great songs. The genres of country, rock, and pop are all well-represented. If nothing else, check out the soundtrack for a total of 19 songs.

Playlists

April 18, 2019

Over four months ago, my good friend Joe passed away in his sleep. As I had previously stated, one of the things that we shared was a love for music. Though we sometimes argued over what constituted “good” music, we agreed that music was good. One of the things he did was curate playlists on YouTube like people used to make mixtapes. This year I decided to start making my own playlists of my favorite music. I add to them from time to time but I also go on music binges trying to pump them up so I can put them on in the background sometimes. Below are three of them that I have worked on the most but I have so many more I want to create.


Rap


Pop Music


Hard Rock

So what do you think I am missing? What other playlists should I create?

(Written on 4/13/19)

Musical Gimmicks

April 15, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, music has been tied to professional wrestling for a long time. It started in the 1950s but really hit its stride in the seventies and eighties with the marriage of rock and wrestling. This basically amounted to music playing as performers entered the ring and when they won a match. Also, music was obviously used in promos and advertisements. Later, I heard stories about music videos that were produced for Smoky Mountain Wrestling to introduce new members of the roster. Music is a powerful force that can provide a lot of information through tone and lyrics in a short amount of time and minimal effort. Also, a performer’s entrance music fires the crowd up and lets them know who is showing up so they can cheer or boo appropriately. However, what I want to talk about today are professional wrestlers who are actually musical.

Though, I actually want to start with those gimmicks that were music adjacent but actually rarely showed much musical skill. As usual on these overviews, I will probably expose some gaps in my knowledge but enjoy the ride and educate me in the comments if you must. First in this group is the Honky Tonk Man. Honky was a master at making people hate him but he was also a guitar-wielding, Elvis-inspired performer. He hit more people with his guitar more than he ever played it. Speaking of hitting people with a guitar, there was also Jeff Jarrett. He was supposed to be a country music musician who wanted to use pro-wrestling as a platform to become a star as improbable as that sounds. He never sang a word and he broke hundreds of guitars throughout his career. Funny enough, his entrance song was sung by another wrestler Jesse James but the WWF never went anywhere with that. I also think of people like Jillian Hall who did a tone-deaf pop singer gimmick, squealing into a microphone to the delight of nobody.

But no, I am here to talk about those with actual skill. The first that I want to talk about is John Cena. Those who only know him as a meme or as a Hollywood personality might not know his past in the early 2000s. Back then, he changed from being a fairly normal guy into a white rapper gimmick. I am sure there are many who would be surprised to know that he was a very competent rapper. It started with him recording his entrance theme “Basic Thuganomics” and doing 8 Mile-esque rap battles on Smackdown. He was dubbed the Doctor of Thuganomics and then he recorded his album which included a lot of great tracks including the aforementioned “Word Life” and “Bad, Bad Man”. His rap career started to fade away as his gimmick evolved but he did record his now iconic theme song of “My Time is Now” which a lot of people might recognize from the popular John Cena meme. Every so often, he breaks out the rap and stretches those muscles. Just recently at Wrestlemania 35, he got back in his Doctor of Thuganomics gear and laid a rap down on Elias.

Who is Elias? Well, he is what happens if you take Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick and you actually give it to a talented musician. Elias started down in NXT as The Drifter Elias Samson. He was a drifting musician who played the guitar down to the ring and was booed for slowing down the action for an impromptu concert. Eventually, the songs he sang did their best to insult the crowd. He eventually moved up to the Raw roster where he continued to “drift” around, playing his guitar. Eventually, he proved himself to be a really talented pro-wrestler and a very talented musician. He sang a lot of impromptu songs to insult the audience and his opponents. Like Cena, he actually released an album Walk With Elias (which he claims is what WWE stands for). He continues to impress with his music but lately every time he tries to play he gets interrupted. He is getting more chances to show off his in-ring skill which is great.

Probably the most successful is Chris Jericho. He earned a reputation as an artist in the squared circle. He has constantly reinvented himself over and over to change with the times. However, all during his career, he was always a huge fan of heavy metal. He idolized all of the greats but his dream of professional wrestling came first. However, in a weird real-life twist on the Jeff Jarrett gimmick, his fame from being a WWE superstar started to get him attention from a lot of his idols in professional music. He started to make friends with a lot of these guys and they saw that he was as passionate about music as he was about pro-wrestling. He was not just some wannabe singer who might assemble a band as a vanity project. He wanted to be an actual heavy metal singer. He was able to put together a band named Fozzy which is still touring today. They have put out numerous albums and they play huge concerts and festivals all of the time. Now, he has been able to extend his pro-wrestling career by balancing it with his music career which will probably allow him to do both for as long as he wants.

There are plenty of people who sang their own entrance themes. Shawn Michaels re-recorded his theme song (“Sexy Boy”) with his vocals. R Truth raps his way down to the ring live, showing without a doubt that he has some skills. There was famously the West Texas Rednecks (a group in WCW) who sang a song called “Rap is Crap” which actually charted and was played on the radio. Tyler Breeze recorded a theme song which is an ode to his gimmick as a supermodel and an actual banging electronica song. Meanwhile, Mickie James has recorded two Country albums and is working on a third which is why she has been away from the ring for a while. I am sure this list will continue to expand as the years go by and the stars of pro-wrestling get better at diversifying their talents. We already have plenty of pro-wrestlers in Hollywood, why not some who get a Grammy eventually?

(Written on 4/10/19)


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