Category Archives: Music

Tomorrow Things May Change…

I think I’ve said before that I tend to listen to music that reflects my mood, but lately I’ve been in a really weird mood that I feel is only embodied in the song “Tomorrow” by Avril Lavigne (thereby making it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay, Lavigne’s first).

I used to be the kind of person that had to know literally what a song would mean; my dad and I would often go on car rides, listen to music, and analyze what a song was precisely saying (my dad is freakishly good at doing this).  Recently, though, I’ve decided that I can’t digest exactly what a song is supposed to say, but I know what the song means to me.  For example, I’m kind of obsessed with Lorde’s music right now; I loved the song “Team” from the first time I heard it, but I remember telling my dad on one of our car rides “I love this song, but I have no idea what it means.”  I then thought about why I loved the song – I felt it displays a strong sense of camaraderie and sense of belonging to people who are different and stand out (people like me).  I don’t know if that’s what Lorde intended, but that’s what I got from it (and that’s all that matters to me at this point).

Anyway, I digress whenever I talk about Lorde.  For me, “Tomorrow” tells the story of the feeling just before getting over someone/something and moving on; you’re in the process of accepting your situation:

“I don’t know how I’ll feel,
tomorrow, tomorrow,
I don’t know what to say,
tomorrow, tomorrow
Is a different day”

Clearly here Lavigne is espousing that she doesn’t know how she’ll get over this person or feeling, but she knows things will change in the future (as the future is a “different day”).  It’s kind of an unusual song in that it’s not about breaking up with someone and it’s not about having moved on about some; it’s like you’ve been wounded, but the scab just formed and you’re not healed just yet.  It’s a transitional song.

I’ve just been getting lost in this song because of it’s beauty and the fact I honestly relate to it.  What stands out to me is when she says she wants to “believe” in this person, but feels that she can’t; there’s a breach in her trust of this person:

“And I wanna believe you,
When you tell me that it’ll be ok,
Yeah, I try to believe you,
But I don’t”

I don’t really know why I’ve been feeling exactly like this, but I think I’m in a transitional moment in my life where I want to believe in everyone and everything, and trust that everyone is my friend, but I’ve had a lot of friendships/relationships that did not pan out.  This is not a “oh, poor Phillip moment,” this is me stating how music really brings out different emotions in me and makes me reflect on my life; that’s the magic of music.  For example, if you asked me before listening to “Tomorrow” if I was happy with my life, I would probably have said yes.  It’s not exactly perfect at the moment, but it could honestly be a whole lot worse.  But upon listening to “Tomorrow,” I’ve realized that there is a big thing missing from my life, which is why I know I’m not at the top of mountain of life…if that makes sense at all…

Furthermore, I find “Tomorrow” to be such a beautifully composed and performed song.  In particular, I think the acoustic guitar is so warm and, want for a better word, fulfilling.  It just adds the right tone, a sort of rawness.  Also, I think the “hey yeah yeah”‘s during the bridge are just perfect.

Another reason why I’m in awe of this song is the fact that it was never a single, but it’s as though it was.  I kind of feel like Avril Lavigne’s album Let Go is my generation’s album.  I just remember growing up and everyone having a copy of that album and singing along to it.  Whenever you mention this song or play it, people tend to know it.  It’s odd, usually that only happens with singles.  Like you know all Beyoncé’s or Rihanna’s hits (songs that were singles), but can you name a song  of theirs that wasn’t a single but still a well known song?  I can’t.  It just goes to show how much success Lavigne had with Let Go, and it marks her as a great musician (at that time).

So, yeah, “Tomorrow” by Avril Lavigne is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay, and here’s to hoping tomorrow things may change!

I’m Not Beyoncé

When I was a junior in high school, we had a  project where we had to make some sort of satire (just like the movie Mean Girls, which is coming to its tenth anniversary…jeez, I’m getting old).  There were many forms of satire we could attempt, but I ended up choosing to “mock” a popular song.  Basically I had to take the melody and rhythm of some popular song and make fun of something.

Obviously I chose to utilize Beyoncé’s “Halo.”  Like, how hard would that be.

As it turned out, incredibly hard.  As a male with a deep voice, singing any kind of Beyoncé, let alone “Halo,” is not an easy accomplishment.  The funny part is that I did not realize this until the night before the project was due.  I had decided to record the song to see how I sounded before I would “perform” my hit in front of the class.  When I listened back to my recording I was all:

YIKES!!!!

I’m not a terrible singer or musician, I’m just not Beyoncé (sad face…sort of), and I was trying to be…make of that what you will….

Needless to say, every time I hear “Halo” I’m reminded of that disaster and I always cringe.  Which is why I can only listen to Beyoncé’s music in small dosages…any prolonged listening session reminds me of the night I decided to become Beyoncé.

Tonight, however, I decided to listen to “Halo” on repeat.  Apparently I’m a masochist.

Actually, no.  I’m tired of running from my fears or my mistakes.  I’m tired of being embarrassed of things that may or may not have happened.  I know life is too short to worry about things, but until now I never lived with that PHILosophy (see what I did there…my name is Phillip…philosophy…PHILosophy….hehehe).  I’ve just decided in the last five seconds that I’m not ever going to hide myself again or avoid being myself in the company of others.  A group of idiots may have had a problem with that when I was in high school, but you know what, I don’t care anymore.  It’s like what Hagrid says in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

“There’s some who’d always hold it up against yeh … there’s some who’d even pretend they just had big bones rather than stand up an’ say — I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed.” (HP4)

So, I may not be Beyoncé.  Who cares? I’m Phillip.  And I think he’s pretty awesome.

P.S. I decided to name "Halo" by Beyoncé as #PhillipsSongOfTheDay because of the above story, but also because I think Ryan Tedder did a #fab job with the production…the drum beat and piano really make the song, in addition to Beyoncé's vocal performance.

Rihanna’s Russian Roulette

It’s creepy.  It’s dark, perhaps even sinister. But “Russian Roulette” by Rihanna is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

This song is incredible and awful at the same time.  I say that because while the songwriting and performance is phenomenal, the overall theme of the song is just too dark for my taste.  I first want to commend songwriters Shaffer Smith and Charles Harmon for their ability of telling such an in-depth story.  While it is simply a story of a person (or persons) playing a game of russian roulette, it captures the terrified emotion of the narrator, and it brings in the ideas of the meaning of life  and how one’s actions have consequences.  For example, the character in this song starts to realize while they are playing this game that they may actually die, the ultimate loss:

“I’m wondering, will I ever see another sunrise?

So many won’t get the chance to say good-bye

But its too late to think of the value of my life.”

The fact that this song has so many layers that are so intricately woven in themselves is just incredible, and I really admire that as a songwriter.  I personally find when I write songs that my songs need to convey the specific emotion or feeling while, if possible, telling a story, which “Russian Roulette” does.  I find poorly written songs tend to be so broad that it’s impossible to connect with or understand what the song is conveying.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, if a song is too detailed or has too much in it, it may deter listeners as it may be overly complicated or suggest a behavior that is not desirable.  “Russian Roulette” may possibly do this.

At the very last second of this song, a gun shot is fired off, suggesting that the character pulled the gun and died (sad face).  That, to me, is an example of how this song is inspiring and disgusting.  The gun shot furthers the story and causes the listener to paint their own mental image, but at the same time it’s not really a delicious image to envision.  This may be how Smith and Harmon put too much info into the song; like, we get it, Rihanna’s character is freaked out…does she really need to die?

I also want to commend Rihanna’s vocal ability of evoking such dark emotion.  Specifically, at the parts where she sings:

“And you can see my heart beating

You can see it through my chest.

Said I’m terrified but I’m not leaving

I know that I must pass this test

So, just pull the trigger”

It’s at moments like these where Rihanna’s vibrato is prominent and sheds the almost perplexed fear of the narrator.  I honestly think the song would not work if Rihanna’s vocal performance was not as strong as it is here.

Check out this lyric video of “Russian Roulette,” listen for Rihanna’s incredible vibrato/vocal delivery:

A+ for Ed Sheeran

I was busy writing other posts, doing homework, watching tv, and listening to music (I’m a very talented multitasker) when I decided I wanted to stop and just commend Ed Sheeran for his song “Lego House,” which should have been #PhillipsSongOfTheDay but never has.  So it’s official today: “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

I was first introduced to Sheeran’s music when his Grammy nominated song “The A Team” was available on iTunes as the Free Song of the Week, and I was taken with his vocal ability (he really can hit those high notes, I saw him perform live and, man, he got really up there) and the rawness of his music.  I didn’t really become a full fledged fan until I heard “Lego House,” which is just a phenomenal song, and saw him perform live.

The reason “Lego House” has deserved to be #PhillipsSongOfTheDay is because it is a wholesome sounding song.  From the soft guitar melody to Sheeran’s warm vocals, the song is like a tonic on a sad, rainy day.

“I’m out of touch, I’m out of love

I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down

And out of all these things I’ve done

I think I love you better now

I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind

I’ll do it all for you in time

And out of all these things I’ve done

I think I love you better now”

The thing that really makes this such a phenomenal song is the background vocals, which I assume are done by Sheeran.  Hats off to the person(s) who engineered/created the background vocals specifically during the chorus, particularly in the lines “I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down” and “I’ll do it all for you in time.” During these lines, Sheeran’s background vocals harmonize the last word of each line (“down” and “time,” respectively) and holds it out longer than the lead vocal.  I’m not entirely sure how to explain it, but if you listen for it during the chorus, you’ll pick up on it.  But, whoever thought of the idea to have Sheeran hold out those words, kind of like a faint sigh, is just a genius. Pure genius.

Listen for the background vocals here (and, yes, that is the same guy who played Ron in Harry Potter):


Watching Sheeran perform live was a real honor and inspiration because he performed without a band.  It was just him and his guitar.  It wasn’t an acoustic session; Sheeran is his own band.  He uses a foot pedal to record/loop different sounds he makes on the guitar, so he would bang out a beat on his guitar, step on his foot pedal, make another sound on his guitar, step on his foot pedal, and so on.

Sheeran performing during Taylor Swift's Red Tour

Sheeran performing during Taylor Swift’s Red Tour

He even tried to get different sections of the audience to perform different harmonies (I believe I turned to my dad, who was with me at the time and said, “God, where’s my sheet music…am I on pitch?”). It was a blast because it was just a guy and his guitar.  #TheMusicainIWantToBe

 

The Juxtaposition of Lana Del Rey

This is how I work: when it’s sunny and warm outside, I’m happy.  When it’s cold and snowing, I’m sad.  Pretty basic.  I don’t care about the research I’ve read at school, the weather affects my mood, because I hate Massachusetts Weather.

It’s currently the most depressing time of the year for me here in arctic: winter.  The past two months literally have had below freezing temperatures.  It’s just been so dark and cold, and so much snow.  Sad face.

Given the fact that I listen to music mostly based on my mood, and that I’ve been so deflated because of this weather, you’d think I’d listen to music from the ever so effervescent Lana Del Rey (sarcasm), especially her album Born to Die.  But the thing is, that’s really a summertime album for me.

I’m not kidding.  Last summer, one of the albums I had on repeat was Born to Die, and had her songs “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Summertime Sadness” (both the standard and Cedric Gervais Remix (which just won a Grammy)) on repeat on my iPod, especially when I was out biking in the beautiful sunshine.  Today, while at work shelving books, I realized I hadn’t listen to the stunning Lana Del Rey’s music in months, so I decided to dedicate an hour to Born to Die.  It didn’t last; the album kept reminding me of summer and I thought “huh, this is a summer album.”

If you’ve heard the album or any of those songs, they’re not upbeat songs; they’re not songs that would provide you much motivation while exercising or songs that would cheer you up.  So why are these slow, somewhat melodramatic, and rather ethereal songs more compatible for my summer?

The somewhat magical thing about Lana Del Rey’s music is that while it’s depressing-sounding, it does not make the listener depressed.  In a weird way, her musical content is rather bold in that she sticks to themes and strong opinions of heartbreak that others stray from; I doubt anyone would tell their boyfriend, even in song form, that they were “born to die,” or that, rather poignantly, “I think I’ll miss you forever/ Like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky.”  From her lyrics and her music, Lana Del Rey’s listeners pick up her darker emotions and either relate to them or simply understand them.  Take her summer hit, “Summertime Sadness,” the lyrics, on the surface, would appear rather optimistic for Del Rey.  With such lines like “I just wanted you to know/That, baby, you’re the best” and “Oh, my God, I feel it in the air/ Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare/ Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/Nothing scares me anymore,” one would expect this love song to be about the height of romance with no depressing undertones.  But when you add swirling strings and ambient tones to Del Rey’s crooning, you get a rather depressing song about heartbreak.  While the song truly is about a breakup in that Del Rey is listing out all the positive/wonderful things about her relationship that she’ll miss like we miss the summer during winter, the production of the song could have been manipulated to create a more positive experience for listeners.  Take Colbie Caillat’s song “Realize” for example.  The song, like all of Caillat’s signature songs, sounds positive and happy like the sun-kissed home she’s from (she’s from California/Malibu/Hawaii type place).  Her vocal performance and the acoustic nature of the song leaves you smiling, wanting to lay out in the sun with your significant other.  But, upon closer examination of the lyrics, it’s rather a heartbreaking story about unrequited love, especially emphasized with lyrics like “If you just realize what I just realized/ Then we’d be perfect for each other/ And we’ll never find another,” and “It’s not the same/ No, it’s never the same/ If you don’t feel it too.” This is a case where the production/performance of the song changes the scope of the song to be more positive for the audience.  Lana Del Rey, however, does the opposite in that she purposely keeps her music in Born to Die on the negative side to emphasize her misfortunes.

I honestly don’t know why I associate Lana Del Rey’s music with the summer.  I do feel like some music is seasonal, and logic and my past experience would sort Lana Del Rey as a winter’s artist, songs not to be listened to during the upbeat summer.  But that’s not the case.  Perhaps it’s just me; perhaps LDR should be listened year round.  Let me know with poll below!

 

 

Your Snow Shoveling Playlist

With today’s blizzard-like snow here in the arctic, here’s my snow shoveling playlist.  It helps plow through the snow and stay positive that spring is almost here (hopefully):

  1. Closer” – Tegan & Sara
  2. Where Is My Mind?” – Pixies
  3. 10538 Overture” – Electric Light Orchestra
  4. Just Dance” – Lady Gaga
  5. Bad Romance [the Skrillex Remix]” – Lady Gaga
  6. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together  – Taylor Swift
  7. The Monster [feat. Rihanna]” – Eminem
  8. Viva la Vida” – Coldplay
  9. Bass Down Low” – Dev
  10. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” – Fall Out Boy

 

“White Lies” by Stacy Clark – #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

I have this professor who prides himself on being a musician as well as being a business professor.  Overall he’s a pretty cool guy and great teacher (this is the second class I’m taking with him).  He usually gives us these class activities to do at the beginning of class to use during our discussion, and he will play a random Pandora station to create a “mood.”  Today, a Lady Gaga song came on, and he shook his head and made a crack about “music today.”  Basically, in his opinion (and other kids in the class, who I’m pretty sure where just sucking up to him), music today is a bunch of crap.
I don’t like when people are negative or cut down music without giving it a chance.  I had a friend in high school who literally would hate any music/song that was played on the radio because it was “mainstream.”  He was the kind of guy that would only listen to obscure jazz or blues songs.  I recommended him to listen to Adele’s album 19 because it features that jazzy-blusy sounds he enjoyed.  Just as I did so, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” blew up on the radio, and he refused to listen to her songs.  Like, I don’t get that at all.  I think the level of musicality or whether a song is “good” or not should not be established by who listens to it.  You just need to sit back, relax, and just listen.

Anyway, because my professor made this crack about Lady Gaga and the rest of today’s terrible music, I decided to name a Lady Gaga song #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.  I was going to pick “Just Dance” because I was listening it as I was shoveling snow in this lovely weather we’re having (by the way, I pretty much hate the cold, snow, and will probably blog about that…I’ve written songs about my hatred of winter here in the arctic).  However, I started to listen to Stacy Clark’s song “White Lies” while writing this post, and well, that kind of got stuck in my head/started playing on repeat, and it reminded how much I’m blown away but that song.

There’s something about this song that should not work, like you hear it and think “that’s not a radio single,” which I guess it’s not considering I don’t think it got radio traction (at least, I haven’t heard it on the radio), but the song really works.  I’m not saying that for it to be good it needs to be on the radio, I’m not a hypocrite, it’s just the song has a weird rhythm/beat to it…a weird rhythm/beat I enjoy.  The lyric that stands out for me is “Do you think I’m a fool? Shame on you and shame on me twice, for trusting, trusting you.”

If you haven’t heard this song, you need to.  It’s great.

“The Love Club” by Lorde

The Love Club” by Lorde is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay 

It’s been on repeat for the past hour.  Why?  Because Lorde is an incredible musician/artist, and I’ve been kind of obsessed with her music for the past month.  My sister and I were going to splurge and see her in concert, even though I’m a #brokecollegestudent, but we couldn’t get tickets!  It sold out too fast!

Seriously, though, “The Love Club” has this incredible pulsating/swelling background vocals (I don’t really know how to explain it…you just got to listen to it) that really makes the song.  The producer, I’m assuming Joel Little (he produced/co-produced all or Lorde’s music…I believe), did this thing where he added a crescendo to the fourth beat (I think) when Lorde’s background vocal goes up that makes the note change stand out….pure genius.  This will make more sense if you just listen to the song:

I also want to commend Lorde for the way she sings the chorus, especially the line “Be a part of the love club;” her phrasing is perfect.  The way a person sings just one word really can change my opinion of a song (e.g. the way Lorde sings the word “ruins” in her song “Team” is perfection…part of the reason it’s one of my favorite songs…not kidding).

I read an interpretation of “The Love Club” that said the song is about how if you want to be cool and to be “in the club,” by society’s/the media’s standards, you have to be dating someone or be in a relationship.  Basically, this is Lorde being her usual self of denouncing the media for telling people, particularly youths, how to live their lives.  I kind of admire that about Lorde and her music.  I generally don’t like songs that preach to people and tell people how to run their lives, but I think Lorde knows how to straddle that line.  Her songs stop right before telling people how they should live; she’s telling us how she chooses to live.  I find “The Love Club” to be refreshing, and, at this moment, relatable.

 

Cut Your Teeth

I’m ten years old.  My violin teacher has just approved me to start playing a more advanced book of songs.  I am over the freakin’ moon.  I can’t quite contain myself as I say to her, “I’ve actually taught myself some songs from that book.”

She gives me a skeptical, slightly mortified look and says “Have you?  Which song?”  I open the book to the second song and start playing it.  I get really into it, playing it exactly the way it should, in my opinion, be played, and finish beaming.  “So, we can skip that one, right?” I ask, thinking I know the answer.

“Well, actually, you learned that all wrong,” my teacher says as my heart sinks, “I mean, you made up all these rhythms that are wrong, you made up fingerings, you hit none of the notes right.”  I’m now looking at my feet, feeling embarrassed and rather stupid.

***

“So, it goes G, C, E minor, D,” says my friend Dat, the kid that can play pretty much any instrument you want him to (except banjo, although I suspect it’s because I always tell him to learn it), “You only need to learn those four chords, keep to the beat, and we’ll be fine.”

It was May, and my band and I, all sixteen years old, were rehearsing for my brother’s graduation party, which was taking place the following month.  Our “band” basically consisted of Dat playing guitar, our friend Nicole singing, and me playing cello.  But, when you’re going to play for a celebratory event, like a graduation party, there are not a whole lot of “happy” or upbeat songs you can play with just voice, cello, and guitar.  We needed to add drums (which Dat could play) because most of those “happy” songs all required the use of drums.  Either I was going to learn to play drums, or I was going to have to learn to play guitar (I don’t think it ever occurred to us that Nicole could learn to play guitar, something she did a year later).  I chose the latter, knowing I could never get the hang of the drums in time.

“It’s really not that bad, Phil,” Dat continued exasperatedly, pointing to the many charts and diagrams he drew to teach me the chords, “you can handle this.  After this, you never have to play the guitar ever again.”

“I know,” I said with an edge in my voice.  When people tell me that I don’t have to do something, I tend to do it anyway just to prove them wrong.  So I started practicing those four chords so much that I actually broke a couple guitar strings that week.

But I didn’t stop there; I looked up other chords, and found sheet music for my favorite songs and figured how to play those chords.  Over time, I eventually figured out many different chord progressions, strumming patterns, and how to create different sounds.  I never took any formal guitar lessons, unlike my previous eleven years of being trained classically to play violin and cello.  But once I started playing guitar without any professional guidance, I was not going to stop.

I remember at the beginning of my guitar-playing career thinking “I’m probably doing this all wrong.”  Whenever I practice any of my instruments, I always think back to being ten and feeling the way I did when my teacher berated me for daring not to follow her methods (she actually was not as mean as she sounds).  But I like the fact that I may be holding my guitar the wrong way, that I may not have the right fingers on the right frets, and that my rhythms or strumming patterns could be totally made up.  I like that freedom.  Without any formal guidance, there are no limits to what I can do with my music, which I think has made me more passionate about playing music.  What it comes down to for me is that the music sounds good, and if it does, who cares how you got there.