Rocking Out to Finals

I, like the millions of other college students out there, listen to music while I study or do my homework.  However, I’ve noticed recently that if the music has lyrics or some type of vocals that I will probably get distracted.  I’m most productive when I listen to instrumental music, so I created another playlist for all you college students out there studying your brains out for finals.  I recommend anything by the Piano Guys, particularly their “Love Story Meets Viva La Vida” (it’s not on Spotify).  Share what songs get you focused while studying in the comments below!

“Love Story Meets Viva La Vida” by the Piano Guys:

Warning: “Shenzou” from the Gravity soundtrack and “Czárdás” may be too epic for your studying session, depending on what you are studying.

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“They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot”

For the past three days I’ve had “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell/Counting Crows stuck in my head.  And I think the line “They paved paradise to put a parking lot” is just #brill, so “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell/Counting Crows is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song written and performed by Joni Mitchell on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon.  However, I first heard the chorus of the song during a scene in the 2002 movie Two Weeks Notice, and it’s such a memorable melody.

Listen to the original version of “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell:

The Counting Crows cover version, featuring Vanessa Carlton:

My boss asked my colleagues and me during a staff meeting “do you guys know the Joni Mitchell song ‘Big Yellow Taxi?'” to which we all stared at him blankly.  I googled it the other day and I realized it was the song from Two Weeks Notice (yes, I know how lame that sounds) and I was floored that it was originally by Joni Mitchell.  Like, I would’ve known the song if I heard it, but I had no idea the name of the song when he was talking about it.

I really love the chorus of “Big Yellow Taxi,” I think it’s lyrically magnificent:

“Don’t it always seem to go 
That you don’t know what you’ve got 
Till it’s gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot”

In the song, I believe Joni Mitchell is talking about saving the environment and stuff like that (there’s a memorable line where she asks a farmer to “put away the DDT”), but I take the song in a more personal sense.  It’s so true that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

The line “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” has been swirling around my head this past week because I just think it’s such an incredible symbol/image.  According to Joni Mitchell’s website, she wrote the song literally about a hotel in Hawaii that destroyed trees when it was built.  And, apparently, there is a “tree museum” in Hawaii where they charge people to see the types of trees that were cut down to build said hotel.  But, I think you can take this line out of her literal context and think about life.  For example, a parking lot is a rather practical thing for business and is something you should have for your customers.  So if you do something in life that is practical or worth doing because it is deemed valuable by others it may be at the cost of your “paradise.”  I just think this line, and the song, works on so many beautiful levels.

Further, according to Joni Mitchell’s website, “Big Yellow Taxi” has been covered 350 times, which is insane.  The most notable has to be the Counting Crows version featuring Vanessa Carlton.  I like the fact that they made the song their own without destroying it.  I’ve heard people cover iconic songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Both Sides, Now” and just ruin them because they were “making it their own” because “they’re artists.”  I feel like the Counting Crows’ version holds the integrity of Mitchell’s version, but they give it a warmer color with the bass and drums (listen to both version above).

An interesting thing about Joni Mitchell that I’ve noticed is that she has written some iconic songs that many musicians cover, but she had very little success in terms of radio hits and chart performance.  The only song she had land in the top 10 of the  Billboard Hot 100 was her song “Help Me” from the 1974 album Court and Spark.  But songs like “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Both Sides, Now,” “River,” and “Woodstock” have been covered copious amounts of times.  Even on her website, they list out how many recordings were made of these songs; “Both Sides, Now” was covered and recored a whopping 955 times!  The list is actually intriguing to look at, read it here.

So, “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell/Counting Crows is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay because the lyrics work on so many levels, and because both versions rock.  I commend Mitchell’s guitar performance, which, like her song “Both Sides, Now,” is in her own unique style, but I also like at the end how she sings the song up an octave then down and octave and laughs.  The Counting Crows version again takes Mitchell’s song to a whole new mellow place, which deserves the #PhillipsSongOfTheDay mention.


P.S. If you haven’t seen Two Weeks Notice starring Sandy B (Sandra Bullock) then you need to.  Here’s the trailer:

How I Spent My Morning

I woke up this morning two hours earlier than planned.  So as I was laying in bed, I was thinking about the song “Pompeii” by Bastille (featured as a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay, read here) and how that’s a totally epic song.  Then I thought, “how would I perform that acoustic?”

I’m performing in my first showcase at my school tomorrow; I’ll be playing three original songs (guitar and vocals), but I did have a moment when I thought I’d start off my set playing a cover song.  It was hard to choose which song to cover, but it was between “Let it Go” from Frozen, “Cooler Than Me” by Mike Posner, and “Team” by Lorde.  I wasn’t even considering “Pompeii” because I had no idea how an acoustic version would go.  Then I found this video:

Watch Bastille perform their hit “Pompeii”


From this video, I found these clips of Bastille covering “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus and “No Scrubs” by TLC.  I was stunned how they changed up these songs; they totally owned the songs and I think did a great job:

Watch Bastille cover “We Can’t Stop”

Watch Bastille cover “No Scrubs”


How Am I Gonna Be an Optimist About This?

It was absolutely gorgeous outside today.  On the way home from Cape Cod, “Pompeii” by Bastille came on the radio and it just fit with the sunshine, the windows down, and the air rushing through my hair.  For that three hour car ride (we hit massive traffic in Boston…that story may appear in a future post), my cares and frustrations about finals that were starting to come back to me that morning, flew away.  For that reason and more, “Pompeii” by Bastille is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

When “Pompeii” first came out on radio, I originally did not like it.  Whenever it came onto the radio, I would immediately switch the station.  That’s right, I wrote the song off before I gave it a chance, and I’m still not entirely sure why.  But I couldn’t control the radio this afternoon, so I had to put up with listening to the song, and my family got the pleasure of me being stunned into silence; that’s how good this song is and how wrong I was to write it off so quickly.

From the first second, I was taken with the male choir/vocals of “eh-eh-o-eh-o;” it was…majestic and rather wholesome sounding.  And let’s not forgot those incredible drum beats, particularly the drum solo before the second chorus (1:54 in the video below).

Watch the music video to “Pompeii;” listen out for those drum beats

So, musically, “Pompeii” is just incredible and it has a great beat for this summer.  It makes me want to get up, go outside, and…mow the lawn (I weirdly like mowing the lawn…again, another long story for another time).  Any music that will get me into the spirit of summer is a song that deserves to be on repeat!

However, this song also intrigues me because I’m almost sure that the song is actually a lot more depressing and a lot darker than I’m taking it to be.  I’ve written before how I associate music with the weather, and while I’m taking “Pompeii” as a bright summer song, it could actually be a darker, cold winter song.  With lyrics like “I was left to my own devices/ Many days fell away with nothing to show” and “And the walls kept tumbling down….Bringing darkness from above,”  “Pompeii” doesn’t really bode happy times for our protagonist.  And exactly how I think this is a positive, happy song is just…intriguing.

I also really enjoy the chorus, lyrically speaking.  Especially the lines:

“But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?”

I guess to me, this song is about a guy who is down on his luck, but he is still going to try to break through and find happiness.  While he questions his judgement and wonders how he’ll be optimistic in a place where it seems all hope is gone, he is still going to fight.  And that is the energy I admire in stories.  Especially during a time like today, the Boston Marathon.  #BostonStrong.


You Think You’re Cooler Than Me?

Finally.  Finally it’s warm, sunny, and beautiful.  It’s the type of weather where you roll down the windows, put the shades on, and drive with the radio blaring.  On repeat during my commute was “Cooler Than Me” by Mike Posner….#PhillipsSongOfTheDay

Mike Posner started out producing mix tapes for hip hop artist Big Sean.  He has grown to writing and producing for other artists, including Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Nelly, Pharrell Williams, among many others.  In 2010, he released his solo debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff.

When “Cooler Than Me” first came out, I did find the song incredibly catchy, but it never was a song I had on repeat.  Perhaps it was because I found Posner’s vocals to be slightly off-putting.  I’m not suggesting that he is a poor vocalist or musician, it’s more the fact that his voice comes off a bit too….husky.  It may just be his voice and who he is, but it just seems almost unnatural.  However, once I swallowed my pride, I realized that this song truly has substance/attitude that I really relate to:

“You got designer shades,
Just to hide your face
And you wear them around like you’re cooler than me.
And you never say “Hey”
Or remember my name.
And it’s probably cause you think you’re cooler than me.”

I  had the pleasure to meet someone just like this in one of my classes this semester.  They wear the designer clothes, they try to hide their emotions, and they think they’re cooler than me.  I learned in another one of my classes and read in a textbook that a key to power and leadership is to act aloof like this because people will want to know you and be like you.  This might be somewhat true because I originally thought I had/needed to get this person to like me.  I thought I needed to be like them and that I needed to be friends with them.  But like Posner, I now couldn’t care anymore about this person or people like them.  We might try to win aloof people over, but when it comes down to it, we won’t wait forever.  You lost us.

Moving on….Musically, Posner pulls of intriguing beats (dance party!…ahem) and synths that are catchy, another reason to put it on repeat.  My favorite part is the last thirty-four seconds.  I like how he ends the song with a counter-melody, which he brings up an octave…I find it inspiring and it gives me goosebumps.

Listen to “Cooler Than Me:”

*If it's sunny out and finally warm where you are, enjoy the weather!  I plan on doing homework/studying for finals outside.  Deep breaths, we made it through winter!*


Gravity: One Hell of a Ride

I just saw Gravity and…I actually enjoyed it.

I had a friend who saw it in theaters, and she absolutely hated it.  She said basically it was a movie about how there’s nothing in space, and that it’s Sandra Bullock floating around gasping for air.  Even the trailer did nothing more than  give you the impression that it was about Sandy B struggling in zero gravity.  Then I saw this “Honest Trailer” about it, and I started to think that Gravity was in fact the stupidest movie ever:

But I still wanted to see it because I’m a huge Sandy B fan.  Every movie she does I think is just #brill.  I love Miss Congeniality (both the original and the sequel), Two Weeks NoticeThe Blind SideSpeedThe NetThe HeatThe Proposal, etc.  She’s one of the few actors who I can trust will do an incredible job whatever movie she’s in, and I will at least enjoy her character if not the whole film.  Since she got a lot of nominations for Gravity, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, I decided to at least borrow Gravity from the library to watch Sandy’s performance.  And what a performance it was.

The first half of the movie is really meant, in my opinion, to showcase Director Alfonso Cuarón’s graphics.  Basically the honest trailer summarized this part of the movie: they crash into things, they scream, people die, nothing to meaningful happens.  However, I think there comes a real turning point towards the end when Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, is about to give up and essentially kill herself.  As she’s dying, she has a vision/dream of her fellow astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who previously sacrificed himself for her, coming in to help her steer the space craft she was on.  In this dream sequence, he tells her she can either give up like she was planning or she can fight for her life and continue to live.  He emphasizes to her that if she chooses to live, she has to move on with her life (you find out earlier that her daughter had died, so she pretty much grieves for her daughter and goes to work…she doesn’t have much of a life on Earth).  When Kowalski, in Stone’s dream, is about to take the wheel of the space craft from her and drive it to the Chinese space station, he says to her:

“I get it. It’s nice up here. You can just shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights, and just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe. I mean, what’s the point of going on? What’s the point of living? Your kid died. Doesn’t get any rougher than that. But still, it’s a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go, then you gotta just get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride. You gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start livin’ life.”

I found that inspiring for my own personal life: you can let problems no matter the size bog you down, or you can enjoy the life you have and not waste a second of it.  Because he’s right, what’s the point of living if you’re going to hate life?

I also found this scene to be the point that creates a change in Stone in that she starts to view life differently and she actually fights to get back home; she’s not going to give up.  In fact, when Stone is on her way back down to Earth [SPOILER ALERT], she says to “Houston in the Blind:”

“The way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes.  Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes.  Either way, which ever way, no harm no foul!  Because either way, it will be one hell of a ride.  I’m ready.”

This was my favorite part.  The spirit that Sandra Bullock embodies, her whole demeanor, is just breath taking.  I feel like her character had so much growth from an almost depressed scientist who was grieving her daughter to a woman who was going to live life to the fullest and not give up.  She wasn’t going to let everything that happened to her knock her down; she was going to live in spite of it all.

So Gravity isn’t about Sandy B floating/screaming/failing in space.  It’s not even meant to scare people about space travel.  It’s meant to tell people to never to give up on life.  No matter what.  Even when the odds seem to be against you.  Never.  Give. Up.

x out June 23rd!!!

If you follow Ed Sheeran on Twitter (@edsheeran), you’ve probably read over the past year about how Ed has been recording his new album.  And that he finished his album.  And that he would release details soon.  Well, he finally did.

Ed Sheeran’s second studio album is entitled x and will be out June 23rd!!!

I like the fact that Ed Sheeran is sticking to a theme for his album titles: his first album was +  and now his second album is x.  I was wondering if he was planning on naming his albums different symbols, kind of like how Adele names her albums after her age (i.e. 19 and 21) [incidentally, I read reports (rumors, rather) that Adele’s new album, which should be out sometime this year, is to be titled 24 or 25, although I did read a quote from Adele that said she wasn’t going to name her third album after her age].  I think giving his albums different symbols like + and x is really cool because it shows there is a link between his albums, but that his music is still growing or expanding.

Sheeran also announced that his first sing is entitled “Sing” and is being released to radio as we speak…but there is no word yet when it will but on iTunes for purchase.

Preview of “Sing:”

In anticipation for x, you should check out Sheeran’s first album, which earned him two Grammy nominations (he was nominated for Song of the Year for “The A Team” and for Best New Artist; he also received a nomination of Album of the Year for being a featured artist on Taylor Swift’s album Red).  Highlights from the album  include “The A Team,” “Lego House,” “Grade 8,” and “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” (“Lego House” was actually a  #PhillipsSongOfTheDay…check out that here)



x is on iTunes for Preorder!  Check it out here



Frozen: Olaf vs. Sven

If you haven’t seen Frozen, you really need to.  It’s adorable, hilarious, and heartwarming.  I mean, I’m a twenty-one year old guy and I’ve seen it twice, I know/sing all the songs from the soundtrack (one of them, “Let it Go” was even a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay), and I can’t stop talking about it.

Anyway, I ran across this clip that they released prior to the release of Frozen as a promotional campaign, but I think it’s so adorable that I thought I’d share:

The snowman’s name is Olaf and he “enjoys warm hugs,” and the reindeer is Sven…he likes carrots