Category Archives: Phillip’s Opinion

The Album Curator: Lorde’s MockingJay

Yesterday, Lorde tweeted out that she’d be taking on the responsibility of “curating” the new soundtrack for the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 movie.

She also revealed that she and her producer/co-writer Joel Little would be writing and releasing the first single off the soundtrack (yay!).

Which leads to two very important points: Lorde is making and releasing new music, and what the heck is an album curator? Continue reading

Amy Schumer

My new year’s resolution this past year was to laugh every day for a year, which is a lot easier than you’d think.  I recently started getting into searching YouTube and Spotify for different comedians and just being either grossed out by them (some of them don’t know when to shut up) or be laughing hysterically (which is awkward when I’m at work at the library putting books away…).

One of my friends posted a video on Facebook of Amy Schumer playing “air double dutch” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and I thought it was kind of funny and weird.  On the side where YouTube has the suggested videos, there was one of Amy Schumer doing standup with the title “I’m not shallow, I’m just really pretty,” which I thought was intriguing so I watched it.  Long story short, I ended up searching YouTube for more videos of Amy Schumer.  Here are some clips that I found that I thought were hilarious; she really knows how to tell a great story.  Enjoy!

Amy Schumer on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:

Amy Schumer on Ellen:

Frozen’s Totally Frigid Score

I just got the Frozen soundtrack…like three months after I saw the film and actually had the songs stuck in my head.  Now, I finally got over those catchy, almost-annoying rhythms  out of my head (I finally stopped singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” and “Let it Go” was finding it’s way on to less playlists), and I decide to play back all those songs.  So, basically, I have the whole soundtrack stuck in my head…yet again.

While I do think Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez did a phenomenal job writing the songs that the characters sang and I believe the deserved the Academy Award for Best Original Song they won for “Let it Go,” I just wanted to take this time to applaud Christophe Beck who composed the score to the movie.  He did an incredible job incorporating elements from Lopez and Anderson-Lopez’s songs, and really injecting such emotion and action into his orchestral arrangements.  I’m primarily speaking of “Epilogue” when I say he incorporated elements of the Lopez songs.  If you pay special attention towards the end, you can hear the melodies of “For the First Time in Forever” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.”  This is just an incredible way to remind us of what the characters went through and unite all the music.

Listen to “Epilogue,” composed by Christophe Beck:

I am also floored by “Vuelie” and “The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise).”  If you’ve seen the film, “Vuelie” is the melody that is played during the opening credits.  The choir chanting/singing really pulls at your heartstrings and evokes so much emotion.  It’s fantastic.  It makes me want to tear up and cry when I hear it….but I don’t, because I’m a guy and we don’t emote in that way… I also like the fact that Beck brought this theme back in “The Great Thaw,” when Elsa melts all the snow in Arendelle at the end (spoil alert…sorry).  Again, it is uniting all the music and really provides a solid foundation for us.

Listen to Beck’s score, you won’t be sorry:

Random Thought of the Day

So I was biking today, my usual route, when I had a thought: you should be nice/kind to whoever you meet, regardless of who you think they are, because you don’t know who they are or where you’ll be in life in the future.  At the exact moment you desperately need help, they could be the one person who can give you that help and they may not want to.

Just a random thought…thought I’d share!

Pure Genius: Lana Del Rey’s Cover of “Once Upon a Dream”

Whoever decided to have Lana Del Rey cover “Once Upon a Dream” for the upcoming film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, is a genius.  Del Rey’s spooky performance is a perfect match to echo the darker themes of Maleficent.

Maleficent tells the story of the villainess, Maleficent, from the classic Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.  In the original story of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent places a curse on Princess Aurora because she was not invited to her christening or something, and says that Aurora will die on her sixteenth birthday.  In all honesty, I know the gist of the story, but I’ve never seen Sleeping Beauty.  Seriously.  I was doing some quick research to understand the plot so I could sound informed when I wrote this, but it got so complicated that I was like “gosh, it’s just easier to watch the dang movie,” then I realize I don’t have a copy of Sleepy Beauty handy, which means I would need to go to the library even though tomorrow is my day off (I work at a library), then I rounded the whole fiasco out by just thinking “eh, who’s got the time. ”

Anyway, I digress.  My understanding is that Maleficent is like Sleeping Beauty as it involves the same characters and setting, but it is more focused on the dark villainess, not the bright, cheery heroine.  The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” is rather optimistic and, well, darling.  Take a listen:

The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty:

Now, Lana Del Rey’s version, like Maleficent, takes a new spin on the old classic, making it darker and more suspicious.  When I first heard Del Rey’s version, I thought “Once Upon a Dream” was originally intended to be this brooding, haunting song; the production and performance in Del Rey’s version is so striking that it colors the song to have a different meaning.  It’s exquisite.  Take a listen to Lana Del Rey’s version:

“Once Upon a Dream” performed by Lana Del Rey:

Disney made the right choice in picking Lana Del Rey to cover “Once Upon a Dream” because it’s such an iconic song that needed to be transformed to fit this new, darker telling of Sleeping Beauty.  Lana Del Rey’s music has the subtle, nuanced way about it that makes it appear to be dark and somewhat depressing.  Even by the deep timbre that Del Rey sang “Once Upon a Dream” with gives me the chills.  I don’t think Disney could have found a better person to give a classic a dark twist, and do it so well.

 

P.S.
If you're on the struggle bus this week, here's a clip that you may relate to (I know I did):

 

“Love Whiplash” by Jayme Dee – #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

A while back, I was searching YouTube to watch the music video of “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, when I stumbled across this:

I was immediately taken by the fact that this person, whoever she was, was playing every single instrument.  I thought the video was clever and inspiring, not to mention she sounded great (“Rolling in the Deep” is a pretty hard song to sing, especially around the chorus…it takes a pair of steel lungs and a lot of anger).  And it was one of the few times that I actually watched a cover video on YouTube from start to finish.

After watching this video, I needed to know more about this girl.  According to YouTube, her name was Jayme Dee and she had a bunch more covers.  All of them were pretty unique, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across her MySpace that I found an original song entitled “Love Whiplash.”  After listening to this song, I was a fan.  What was more, I found that she was an unsigned artist.  This thrilled me because ever since Colbie Caillat, I always wanted to watch an artist transform from unsigned to getting a record deal to releasing an album/playing on radio.

Colbie Caillat had uploaded her song "Bubbly" as an unsigned artist to MySpace, which apparently became the number one most listened to song on MySpace by an unsigned artist.  She then got a record deal with Universal Republic Records, and "Bubbly" was released as her first official single, which then went on to Chart number five on Billboard's Hot 100.

At that moment, I hoped the best of Jayme Dee, wondering if I might just hear “Love Whiplash” on the radio one day.  I logged offline and forgot all about her  for like four months (in all honesty, it probably was like two days, but two days feels like four months when you’re in college).

Take a listen to the original version of “Love Whiplash”:

Then, one day, rather randomly, I decided to check back on Jayme Dee and see if she posted any new music.  Again, I could only find “Love Whiplash,” but I found out that Jayme Dee had gotten signed by Universal Republic Records!  Let the countdown to a stellar album begin!

Well, a year passed by.  And then like another.  I might be exaggerating, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that we got her first official single, “Tip Toes,” an upbeat song about falling in love or, rather, having an intense crush on someone.

Check out the official music video for “Tip Toes”:

This certified me as a fan.  “Tip Toes” is the only song I ever heard that is 100% pure happiness and joy, and perfectly embodies the summer and sunshine.  And, on July 30, 2013, we finally got her debut EP, Broken Record, which featured a new version of “Love Whiplash.”  Honestly, I prefer the original version (see/listen above); I think that version has a warmer, natural air to it, whereas the version on her EP is a bit overthought and too-complicated.  The main problem I have with the Broken Record version of “Love Whiplash” is that Jayme Dee sang it in a completely different way.  For instance,  listen to the way she pronouces the first line “I never know if you’re seriously” in both versions, and it’s like she has two different accents….it’s weird.  I do have to commend her vocals on the EP version because they are a bit bolder, especially around the chorus.

Regardless of the version, “Love Whiplash” is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay because I think it is a incredibly clever idea: the guy is sending her so much mixed signals that she has “whiplash.” It’s a simple idea that I can relate to.  Plus the lyrics are pretty snazzy/intriguing:

“Are you just trying to play with me?
Do you get joy from my misery
I’d like to think
It’s just a phase and we’ll work it out
But you keep jerking my heart around

Now I’ve caught a bad case of love whiplash
You push me off and then you pull me back
Please could you tell me if you’re being sincere
Cause darling I can’t stand to cry another tear”

“It’s not a long conversation
Don’t waste all your precious time
It’s not a difficult equation
A simple yes or no will do just fine”

*This whole post and idea of naming "Love Whiplash" #PhillipsSongOfTheDay was inspired by the fact that I sneezed today (I'm incredibly sick...yay) and thought "that sneeze just gave me whiplash," which reminded me of "Love Whiplash"...#random*

Listen to Broken Record:

The whole EP is worth a listen; Jayme Dee’s music overall may be sugar-sweet pop music, but she subtly infuses jazzy/bluesy elements into her music that’s rather intriguing.  Songs that stand out in the EP include “Tip Toes,” “Love Whiplash,” “Broken Record,” and “Till I Fall Asleep.”

Enjoy!

 

“Stay” – Playlist

Do you know how many songs there are entitled “Stay?”  A lot.  There’s that Rihanna song, the Lisa Loeb one, and the Grammy Award Winning one by Sugarland.  I decided to make another playlist, but with all songs titled “Stay.”

 

My favorite is Lisa Loeb‘s version (it also was a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay).  That song to me is rather refreshing; she’s admitting she was wrong, and is pleading with her loved one to come back.  There is a rawness in that song that conveys a relative deep level of hurt that I really connect with.  A close second  to Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” is “Stay” by Sugarland.  The guitar in that song is phenomenal, and Jennifer Nettles is an incredible songwriter (she won many awards for writing that song, including the Grammy for Best Country Song), but I find Nettle’s vocals rather…um…harsh.  I mean, Jennifer Nettles is an incredible vocalist and has an intense passion for making music, but I feel like “Stay” by Sugarland is supposed to be a softer than the way she actually delivered it.

I bring up this playlist of all songs named “Stay” because I think it emphasizes exactly what not to do as a songwriter: give your song a common title.  If you search iTunes or Spotify for “Stay,” there are hundreds of songs, a lot of them are covers.  As a musician, you want to stand out (from a business perspective).  Why would you give a song a name that a hundred other songs are named?

One counterargument would be that, as a songwriter, you don’t write to the name of the song.  You tell the story the way it needs to be told, and the name just kind of stands out in the lyrics (at least that’s how I do it).  However, there is a way around this.  For example, on her latest album Red, Taylor Swift had a song that clearly should be named “Stay.”  Instead of falling into that trap, she named the song “Stay Stay Stay,” a very unique and original title.  Another thing the songwriter could do is give the song a title that does not come from the lyrics.  Lorde is a big fan of doing this; the phrase “400 Lux” does not appear once in the song “400 Lux,” and the phrase “buzzcut season” appears once in “Buzzcut Season,” like how “ribs” appears once in “Ribs.”  I’m not telling other songwriters how to write their songs, but my opinion is that you want to give your song its own identity that people want to listen to that song as opposed to any other song.  If I have a song “Stay,” then why would you listen to me over Rihanna?  We’re both clearly demanding our loved one to stay, regardless of the situation.

 

The Most Beautiful 12 Seconds of My Life

Last week, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Let it Go,” from Frozen.  When I saw Idina Mezel perform the song live during the Academy Awards, I was taken with her incredible vocal ability and the power of the song.  And naturally I had the chorus of “let it go, let it go” stuck in my head.  I then decided to download the song, and what a good decision that was.  “Let it Go” performed by Idina Menzel is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

After downloading “Let it Go” from iTunes and it started playing, I got shivers from the opening music.  The piano is just beautiful.  So beautiful that I actually put a loop on it just to listen to that piano.  It’s just…ah, take a listen:

These twelve seconds suck you into listening to the rest of the song, which isn’t a bad thing.  I know what you guys may be thinking right now, “Phillip, really?  A disney show tune?  You need to man up, dude.”  Well, I think this song is pretty catchy, but more important, it’s empowering.  It doesn’t matter if you male/female, masculine/feminine, young/old, these lyrics emphasize that you can get through any struggle and all your problems/mistakes in the past are just that, the past.  For example:

“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on”

“I’m never going back,
The past is in the past”

Perhaps I just enjoy songs whose narrators overcome some obstacle or hold a high level of confidence, but I find this song truly inspiring and uplifting.  Even after a stressful week of midterms and craziness, it feels good just to get lost in such a song that makes you realize that everything will be alright, things will work out….eventually…

Side Note: If you get a chance to look up Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's acceptance speech after winning their Oscar, I would totally suggest it, it was so adorable!  They rhymed/sang their speech and dedicated it to their daughters (they're married!).  I just thought their speech was one of the highlights of the Oscars… I tried to find a clip of that and a clip of Idina Menzel performing at the Oscars, but YouTube is taking down such clips down so fast that even if I found one, it'd be gone by tomorrow...

I KNEW IT!!!!!

In my last post I argued that “Glory and Gore” should be Lorde’s new single from Pure Heroine and I have two important updates.

First, the song, when I wrote about it, was number 40 on iTunes, now it’s number 23!:

"Glory and Gore" at number 23, as of 2/27/14

“Glory and Gore” at number 23, as of 2/27/14

 

Second, “Glory and Gore” is actually going to be the next single from Pure Heroine!!!  Not to gloat, but I KNEW IT!!!

"Glory and Gore" will impact radio March 11th (keep your ears peeled).

“Glory and Gore” will impact radio March 11th (keep your ears peeled).

 

Perhaps when I was writing about this, Republic and Lava Records knew/was keeping track of the success of “Glory and Gore,” just as I was.  

When I was driving home from school today, I was actually planning on writing a post entitled “The Real Reason for the Failure of the Music Industry,” in which I would shame Republic and Lava Records for not taking “Glory and Gore”‘s recent success and growing it.  In all fairness, I read in multiple sources that Lorde’s next single was intended to be “No Better,” a left over track that is on the extended version of Pure Heroine.  

Listen to “No Better” here (could be her next single for the summer…it’s totally a summer song):

While I adore “No Better” and certainly believe it will be a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay in the near future and should be a single eventually, I was going to write that it doesn’t make sense to undercut the success of “Glory and Gore,” success which was garnered from the fans and the promotional use (see my post Lorde’s New Single for more details).  Like, there would be no ROMI (Return On Marketing Investment…learned about that today in class…) by choosing a different single that had less promotion than “Glory and Gore.”

What I’m suggesting may seem like common sense, and rather foolish that a record company would pull such a stunt of releasing a song as a single when a different song had more attention.  BUT IT HAS HAPPENED.  Let’s not forget Taylor Swift’s album Speak Now and her song “Sparks Fly.”  This song happened to be a huge fan favorite.  Swift played this song at one or two of her shows (apparently she wrote it for Fearless and played it at the live show to test it with an audience, but decided to scrap it for a different song), and a very rough live version could be downloaded online or listened to on youtube, such as:

Really rough quality, probably because it was recorded from a cellphone or cheap camera.  Regardless, us Swifties found this and loved it.  After much demand, Swift obliged her fans and put the studio version on Speak Now (insert tears of joy…our hard work paid off).  Once Speak Now was released, “Sparks Fly” rocketed to #1 on the iTunes Top Singles.  And what song did Big Machine Records release as her next single? “Back to December.”  I mean, it wasn’t a bad decision, given the fact the song was released as a promotional single weeks before as part of the “Count Down to Speak Now” campaign and had some exposure.  But still, I personally felt that anticipation grew for the release of “Sparks Fly,” and such anticipation could have be used to impact radio.  And I think Big Machine did know of this anticipation and knew it was radio friendly, given the fact that they released it practically a year later as a single. While “Sparks Fly” did manage to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, it only went to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.  I fear if it was released in the first week of November 2010 like “Back to December” was, it could have broken through the top 10 (it would have also made for a better pop radio version than “Back to December”); the fact that they waited so long to release as a single I think hurt it’s chart and commercial performance.  And let’s not forget “Back to December” only went to #3 on the Hot Country Songs and #18 on the Hot 100…so, there…

But, back to Lorde and “Glory and Gore:”  Republic and Lava Records are off the hook…for now…

 

P.S. I admire Big Machine Records for the fact that their business model puts music before business; they work with their artists and see their artists as partners, not employees (cough, cough….why they are one of the most successful independent labels…cough, cough….).

 

Lorde’s New Single.

Glory and Goreshould be next single from Pure Heroine.  While “Team” is currently burning up radio here in the US, it is starting to fall on the iTunes top selling singles and the Billboard Hot 100, an indication that the single’s life is coming to an end.  While it is still in the bottom of the top ten in both iTunes and Billboard, it is time to think ahead.

“Glory and Gore,” while being a fan favorite, has started to gain traction with a wider audience.  I think perhaps it’s because it was used in a promotional campaign for the History Channel’s show Vikings:

I’m not entirely sure if that’s the only reason for it’s popularity (I don’t know if “Glory and Gore” was used in any other ads or promotions…I’m good, but not that good), but it has gone to number 40 on the iTunes Top 100:

"Glory and Gore" is currently #40 on iTunes, as of 2/25/14

“Glory and Gore” is currently #40 on iTunes, as of 2/25/14

The only other Lorde songs on the iTunes Top 100 are “Team” and “Royals,” her two hit singles.  Yesterday “Glory and Gore” was at number 41, so it’s position has been rising on it’s own accord (i.e. without any radio airplay or live performance promotion).  Given the fact that the History Channel, while a brilliant network, probably doesn’t serve a lot of viewers within Lorde’s target market (i.e. teens and college kids (although I know a lot of kids my age love the History Channel, so maybe it’s wrong to assume only older men watch the History Channel…)), if “Glory and Gore” is given the promotions within the given target then Lorde may have herself another Top 10 hit.

I also base this on the fact the song is one of the catchiest and more listened to songs on Pure Heroine.  With her usual dark and mystical vocals, “Glory and Gore” charms the listener within the first five seconds.  More specifically, during the chorus, Lorde and producer Joel Little added a background vocalized “oh, oh” which really draws the listener in.  Even her imagery within her lyrics of “gladiators,” “battles,” and “saviors” evokes this kind of brave fighter attitude that my generation espouses.  Don’t believe me this song is worth a listen?  Just listen to the clip in the Vikings commercial in the above YouTube clip and you’ll be listening to “Glory and Gore” on repeat!

***UPDATE***

“Glory and Gore” is now #28 on iTunes (cough, cough):

"Glory and Gore" is now #28 on iTunes Top 200, 2/26/14

“Glory and Gore” is now #28 on iTunes Top 200, 2/26/14

 

 

Quick poll for my fellow Lorde-ites: