I’m Back!

I finally got my new computer.  Took long enough, but now I’m in the process of setting it up and getting things rolling.  It’s amazing how fast it is, compared to my old one.  Anyway…just an update…

I leave you with this video of Zoe Lister-Jones on The Tonight Show, her story of meeting Jimmy Fallon is hilarious.

If I Was an Executive Producer

At this year’s Grammy Awards, Taylor Swift took home the award for Album of the Year, making her the first female artist to win the award as the lead artist of an album more than once.  She has also joined the ranks of Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and U2 for winning Album of the Year as the lead artist more than once (Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder are the only two artists to win this award three times).

What's curiously interesting about Swift's wins is that both her winning albums - Fearless and 1989 - have a total of thirteen tracks, the only two of her albums to have that amount of tracks.  Swift has said for years that the number thirteen is her lucky charm...it's kind of intriguing that the two albums to have thirteen tracks went on to win the top prize of the music industry.

But, let’s look at her fourth album Red which was also nominated for the coveted Album of the Year Grammy, but lost to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.  It deserved the nomination because Red challenged what we think of contemporary country music, almost to the breaking point.  She added synths and dubstep beats onto the album that are unknown to the genre and still dared to call it country.  And it still fit in the spirit of country music – she was speaking her truths in the storybook tradition of country music, but did it in a rather unusual sonic way.  She took risks and it deserved the recognition it got.

The album, however great it is, still held a major flaw: it was too long.  The standard version holds a whopping sixteen tracks (which any self proclaimed Swiftie was/is overjoyed by this treat), something Swift did to give her fans everything that fit in the Red-era without having them to purchase a reissue a year after the release to gain three extra songs (remember: there was no Red: Platinum Edition like Fearless or tour CD/DVD like Speak Now).

However, if I was the executive producer on Red, I would’ve cut the album down to thirteen tracks.  This is not to fit in with Swift’s lucky charm, but because the extra tracks did in fact bloat and dilute the core theme of the album.  When she first announced Red, Swift described the album: “All the different emotions that are written about on this album are…about the kind of tumultuous, crazy, insane, intense, semi-toxic relationships that I’ve experienced… All those emotions…are red…. There’s nothing beige about any of those feelings.”  This intense passion is felt in the majority of the album, but as you continue on to the album towards its end, it starts to lose that intensity (and, by the way, it’s not only Taylor Swift that this happens/ed to.  I find most albums that exceed fourteen tracks tend to drag on…it’s to a point where you start to feel lost and lose track of where the album is going).

Here was the tracklisting Swift presented on Red in 2012 (*tracks that were presented as bonus tracks on the Target Edition):

  1. State of Grace
  2. Red
  3. Treacherous
  4. I Knew You Were Trouble.
  5. All Too Well
  6. 22
  7. I Almost Do
  8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
  9. Stay Stay Stay
  10. The Last Time (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol)
  11. Holy Ground
  12. Sad Beautiful Tragic
  13. The Lucky One
  14. Everything Has Changed (featuring Ed Sheeran)
  15. Starlight
  16. Begin Again
  17. The Moment I Knew*
  18. Come Back…Be Here*
  19. Girl At Home*

The first thing as executive producer I did was airlift “Treacherous” out and replaced it with “Come Back…Be Here.”  I felt the transition from “Red” to “Come Back…Be Here” hit a stronger and sweeter note.  It also made me, as an objective listener, keep me listening on to “I Knew Were Trouble.”  I personally felt that “Treacherous” made it easy for the listener to get distract and stop listening or to simply skip to the next track.

When listening to Red, I think  the point where Swift starts to drift away from the Red theme is somewhere after “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”  So, I laid out those ten songs (counting the bonus tracks minus “Come Back Be Here” since I moved that to the beginning of the album), and ranked them based on which ones fit the albums best and which ones were catchy/couldn’t be left off.

This resulted with me cutting “Stay Stay Stay” and replacing it with “Girl At Home.”  While I like “Stay Stay Stay” very much – it’s fun and upbeat – it’s almost too cheerful.  I also think that “Girl At Home” is more whimsical and a better fit.  I then cut “Holy Ground,” “The Lucky One,” “Starlight,” and “The Moment I Knew.”  Some of these songs got cut because they just didn’t fit (e.g. “Starlight” represents the passionate spark of love, but I didn’t have enough space and I felt others were a bit stronger).  Others I felt didn’t really fit the theme of the album.  For example, I really like “The Lucky One” (if you remember, it was a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay), but I just can’t see it fitting into the Red theme.  It doesn’t spark passion, but describes a situation where Swift regrets her fame.  It’s kind of a downer.

My final act as executive producer was arranging the tracks to be sonically cohesive.  This I struggled with because I don’t think they overall tell a linear story, but I do think they fit well together sonically.

My edit of Red:

  1. State of Grace
  2. Red
  3. Come Back Be Here
  4. I Knew You Were Trouble
  5. All Too Well
  6. 22
  7. I Almost Do
  8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
  9. Girl At Home
  10. The Last Time
  11. Sad Beautiful Tragic
  12. Everything Has Changed
  13. Begin Again

I need to end this post by saying that I admire every song Taylor Swift writes.  I think she is a very gifted songwriter and musician – she has a way of connecting words and beats that most can’t do.  This wasn’t in anyway to criticize or judge her, but a fun exercise of my love of crafting playlists and playing pretend-producer.  Again, I think Red is a phenomenal album and just wanted to see if it was possible to make it a thirteen track album…

Roses, Candy, and Notecards

Sometimes when I’m in the grocery store, waiting to check out, I like to see what other people are buying and try to figure out what they’re making.  It’s fun for me to take random objects and create a whole back story of a character.

Like, for instance, when I was in the grocery store…today, I was in the express lane to check out a couple items I forgot to pick up the last time I was there and there was this guy in front of me buying a bouquet of roses, Sour Patch kids, and notecards.

Naturally my brain started whizzing, crafting a story on the spot.  Immediately a love story came to mind: he was going on a date with someone he really had a crush on.  Like a huge one.  He met them at school and was nervous to ask them out so he pined away for them.  Then, finally, as the semester (he was of college age) came to an end, his crush asked him out to the movies.  So, he ran to the store to pick up candy and wanted them to know they were special, so he got the roses too.  But because he was still nervous about the date he picked up a pack of notecards.  This way he could come up with conversation starters and practice/study for his date so things would go over smoothly…

Again, I have no idea if that’s true, but it was just a story line I thought up whilst trying to purchase my groceries and I thought it was fun, so I decided to share.  So, if that guy is going on a date – which, for all I know he was just picking up study items (notecards and candy) and he likes roses and they were on sale – best of luck to him!

Perfectly Defined

selina 1One of the things I enjoy about the HBO show Veep is the fact that it has such a strong presence online.  I know there is a “Stop Selina Meyer” twitter account…I don’t know if it’s HBO who runs it, but it’s a great way of promoting the show.  They even made a campaign website for Selina Meyer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who plays Selina) made short campaign videos for it.  There are also a lot of discussions people have about different episodes, and each time I stumble across one of them I learn more about the show and how it’s crafted.

The other day, I found this discussion people were having about an episode in season four where Selina gives her first State of the Union address (SPOILER ALERT).  Naturally, the speech is a complete disaster: the teleprompter stops working because they’re editing the speech while Selina is supposed to be reading it only for them to put in the wrong edits and Selina announces the wrong spending plan (she promises to invest $60 billion on obsolete technologies when she intended to announce she was cutting $50 billion in the budget).  selina 2Anyway, she ends up telling her staff after the speech “This speech was supposed to perfectly define my presidency.” Someone pointed out in a discussion group that the speech did in fact perfectly define Selina’s presidency because her whole administration is a complete disaster.  So, the speech in the first episode foreshadows the entire season.  Which I just thought was a great point.

So, naturally, I’m thoroughly excited for season five to start….count down to April 24th

Who You Gonna Call?

They’ve finally released the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie, starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jordan.  I was first intrigued about this remake of the classic movie because they switched all the gender roles: they made the male leads female and they even turned the female secretary into a male (Chris Hemsworth).

I’m not really a Ghostbusters  fan, mostly because I haven’t seen the original movies (so I can’t say I like or hate them…I’m neutral)…but I’m actually excited about this film.  I do think Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy can get a bit over the top with their comedy (let us not forget the bathroom scene from Bridesmaids) but I typically enjoy their films nonetheless.  I also think Melissa McCarthy plays “possessed by a ghost” real well in this trailer.

This movie has the potential to be really funny, especially with the great cast.  But I also have a feeling that it may be a flop.  It may appear they tried too hard to make it a hit that it’s not actually funny.  That’s the challenge with making such a remake: the originals are so beloved that if you’re going to remake it you have to do it better, which is difficult.  It’s like when musicians cover other artists’ hit songs: they have to make the song their own and, in that way, better.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  I’m excited to see the film, and I plan on seeing it in theaters (and if you’ve followed this blog long enough, you know that means something).

How to Play “Burning House”

I’ve been playing guitar for almost seven years…which is completely odd to think about.  It feels like yesterday when I was saving up my money to buy my guitar and persuading my parents to take me to the guitar store to buy one…

For the most part, I’ve taught myself how to play the guitar.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some genius who figured out all the techniques, it took some Googling, watching of YouTube videos, and asking my friend who is a great guitarist for tips.  And I’m not like Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton.  But I know enough to write my songs and play my favorite tunes.

Anyway, I’ve been kind of obsessed with Cam’s song “Burning House.”  I think the guitar (and her voice) is just incredibly beautiful in that song.  The other day I was thinking “I wish I could play the guitar part of ‘Burning House,” and then I thought “Well…why can’t I?”  So, I searched YouTube and found this video:

For the most part, I can play the whole intro.  The slide is a bit tricky (as he says in the video), but it’s quite fun to play.  Plus you sound like a pro once you get the arpeggios down.

I figured I’d share if anyone was looking for a good tutorial on how to play “Burning House.”  Even if you’re not familiar with the song, it’s good to work on your pick/pluck work (I don’t know what you’d call it, but it’s good practice is all I’m saying).  I will say that the guy in the video goes kind of fast, so you might have to rewind a bit, but it is a good tutorial.

I Took a Pill in Ibiza

For a while I’ve seen Mike Posner’s new song “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” rise on the charts on iTunes.  I never listened to the preview because, yes, I judged a book by it’s cover (or a song by it’s title).  I figured based on the title and Posner’s previous work that it probably was about doing drugs in a foreign land. And while it kind of is about that, it’s actually the complete opposite than I expected.

So, there I was, scrolling through iTunes trying to find something new to listen to…I’ve kind of been a music rut lately…and I kept seeing “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”  So, I finally caved and I hit the preview.  And then I searched for it on YouTube to listen to the whole thing.  And then I bought it from iTunes.  Because holy crap I was completely wrong thinking it was some party anthem.  It’s incredibly beautiful and moving.

Yes there is a dance remix that is climbing the iTunes charts, but the original version from his The Truth – EP is amazing.  It starts off with this folksy guitar and it has warmth and soul in it.  The beauty of the song comes from his raw, honest truth (probably the inspiration behind the title of his EP).

Mike Posner was big a few years ago with his hit “Cooler Than Me,” and then I believe he produced or cowrote (or both) a song for Justin Bieber and he was a big/in-demand synth pop producer.  So this is a complete 180 from what I’m familiar with.  I don’t know where Mike Posner has been in the past few years or what exactly happened to him, but from this song you know he’s been through a lot.  You can feel his struggle as he tells his truths.  It’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming to experience someone being that honest in music.

The Transcendental Experience

Being computer-less is odd.  I mean, my phone still works, so I can still get the necessary things done – and when I say necessary, I mean checking in on Facebook and Twitter (even so, I do that less since I’m more of a fan of the desktop version of those platforms).  But I haven’t checked my email in like two weeks, so I must have hundreds of missed messages by now.  But in all honesty, 99% of it is usually spam, so I don’t think I’m missing much.  And it’s great not to have to look at or delete some ads from Target about a deal I don’t care about.

I’m probably going to be without a computer for another few weeks…I heard the new Mac is coming out at the end of this month.  Why buy a computer this week when next week it will be obsolete? (I suppose the same will be true then, but at least I’ll have a solid six months of saying I have the latest Mac – as opposed to two weeks – before the another one comes along).  I thought it would be hard to go a month without a computer, but it’s been quite easy.

This is the point of the story where I go into having a transcendental experience and realizing the beauty of nature.  While that is probably true, I’ve just really embraced watching tv on my phone and getting used to using the tiny keyboard.

I’m joking (partly).  Actually, being without a computer has given me more time to do things that I thought I didn’t have time to do.  For instance, I’ve been writing songs since I was fifteen, and as I got older and had more obligations, I’ve had less time to pick up the guitar and write songs.  Sure, I always keep a notebook on me to scribble out ideas thoughout my day, but it’s been a while since I wrote a complete song start to finish.  And it’s really started making me get back into it and making me excited about making music again.

So perhaps I am having a transcendental experience.  Or I’m finally being able to find myself without being distracted by some update or alert.  It’s kind of exciting.

I do apologize for the lack updates, but as I said in the last update post, I can only do it when I borrow someone’s computer…so…I’m doing my best here.