Category Archives: #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

25 and Loving It

After four long years, we were finally grace with Adele’s new album, 25.  Adele has said that she was at first afraid that she would not be able to follow up her last album, 21, which was an enormous success and broke so many records (including being the first album since the advent of the internet and illegal downloading to be certified diamond (selling over ten million copies)).  This in addition to some personal issues probably caused the delay.  But it was worth the wait.

After finding peace with the fact that 25 may not live up to 21, Adele has said that writing became fun again like it did when she was writing her first album, 19.  Her album certainly shows her focusing on herself, her truths, and writing what she was experiencing: the transition into adulthood.  The album has a sense of yearning for simpler times but also a sense of acceptance towards the past.  The greatest growth Adele has made in these four years is that in 21 she was blaming a lot of her heartache on her ex-lover (who probably was to blame), but 25 shows Adele accepting that while he may be a jerk, she needs to move on with her life.  That she is in control.  (By the way, I have no idea if the same guy inspired both albums, I’m speaking in general of love: that when she was younger, she would blame love but now that she is older, she accepts it).

I don’t think Adele has anything to worry about in regards to 25 not living up to 21.  The album alone has been sitting in the iTunes top one or two spot for the month it was on preorder (an unusual feat) and is on track to sell well over a million copies in its first week (per Billboard).  Even still, her vocal work (which was already phenomenal) has seemed to grow as well.  Her voice seems to have grown warmer, slightly deeper and even more emotive, it such a thing was possible.

My favorite song after a quick listen through was definitely “Send My Love (to Your New Lover).”  The song, co-written with Max Martin and Shellback – the two masterminds behind some of Taylor Swift’s recent hits like “Shake it Off,” “Blank Space,” and “Bad Blood” and a ton of other hits (look up Max Martin’s writing/producing credits on Wikipedia, it’s literally every hit song since the ’90s…he’s a genius) – is quite upbeat for Adele.  It’s faster paced than we’re used to, but it’s amazing.  It starts off with this fantastic rhythmic guitar and drum beat.  The chorus is particularly infectious with the way she sings “lover” in the line “send my love to your new lover.”  It’s so un-Adele but it’s fantastic.  It’s not Adele trying to be someone she’s not, it’s her showing us a new side of herself.

“Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” was apparently supposed to be the lead single but Adele felt that “Hello” was a better representation of her album as a whole – she didn’t want people to think the whole album was entirely upbeat like “Send My Love (to Your New Lover),” which it isn’t.  Regardless, “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” should be a future single, as well as “When We Were Young” (which I think will be her next single), “Water Under the Bridge,” and “Remedy.”  The entire album is really full of glorious hits and I can’t see 25 not coming close or even surpassing 21.

UPDATE: 25 sold 3.378 million copies in it's first week on sale, which shattered the record of most albums sold in the U.S. in it's first week.  NSync sold 2.416 million copies in one week in 2000.  25 even went on to sell over a million copies in it's second, which I believe is the only album to do that. As of December 24th, 25 has sold 7.13 million copies.  That's in one month of sale!

Caracal

I recently got a copy of Disclosure’s new album Caracal, and naturally one of the first songs I listened to was “Magnets,” a song cowritten and sung by Lorde.  Being a huge Lorde fan and waiting rather impatiently for her follow up to Pure Heroine, I needed any jolt of new Lorde music.

“Magnets” instantly became one of my new favorite songs after listening to it one time.  It has a great dance beat and Lorde’s vocals are on point.  It’s one of those songs that you can’t help but dance a little when you hear it.  And then you’re sad when it’s over.  Thereby you put it on repeat.  It should be their next single.

My first instinct was that I liked the song only because Lorde sang and cowrote it.  But then I just started listening to other songs and realized that it’s a pretty fantastic album.  The beats and rhythms alone are incredible, but then you add the many collaborations (which include artists like The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Lorde, Miguel, and others) and it shows the Lawrence brothers (who make up Disclosure) are quite talented in the area of making catchy electric-dance music.

Cam’s “Burning House.”

Occasionally I will poke around iTunes to see what music is out there.  Sometimes I will scroll through the top 100 songs and listen to the previews.  Every now and then I will stumble across a new artist and instantly become obsessed with the song.  This just happened with the song “Burning House” by newcomer Cam.

I’ve seen the song on the top songs chart for a while now, but I finally decided to listen to it and I instantly could feel the heartstrings within me being pulled by the beauty of the song.  So I quickly googled it to hear the whole song and stumbled across this live version and I was struck by how unreal and beautiful her voice is.  It was within the first five seconds of hearing the song that I went back to iTunes and bought the song.

The mixture of Cam’s vocals and the acoustic guitar makes the song so fragile and raw, which amplifies the heartbreak within the song.  My only criticism of the song (if there had to be one) is that the background vocals slightly take away from the song; they were rather unnecessary in my opinion.  For instance, if you listen to the first part of the first chorus in the studio version (below, about 1:03-1:09), it leaves out the background vocals and it gives Cam more room to shine and stun with her vocal work.  I also think they somewhat cover the warmth of the strings and fill a space that doesn’t need to be filled.  Listen back at Sugarland’s hit song “Stay.”   It featured just an acoustic guitar and Jennifer Nettles’ striking voice (there may have been an organ in there or something along those lines, but it was very subtle) and it made the song incredibly powerful.  The same principle should’ve been applied here to make this gorgeous song even more beautiful.

But like I say, I think this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year.  It just has this rawness to it that really makes you feel something and connect with Cam.  If I were a Grammy voter – and I’ve long since thought I should be, but I don’t “qualify” – I’d definitely nominate this song for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance.  I can’t promise or even predict that this will happen because Cam is so new to the music scene, but I’ll be very happy if it does happen.

Got Ellie Goulding “On My Mind”

Ellie Goulding’s new single “On My Mind” has grabbed my attention and doesn’t seem to be letting it go.  I first heard the song on the radio a couple weeks ago and I really liked the beat and synth work (I wish I could describe the instrumentation a bit better, but I’m not quite as familiar with synths as I am with stringed instruments – I can play the violin, cello, guitar, ukulele, piano, etc.)  But I really like how she sings the verses (or, I suppose, raps?) because it’s perfectly in time to drive the song.  I especially like how she harmonizes the lyric “Saying that I hurt you but I still don’t get it/ You didn’t love me, no, not really” in the second verse.  In any event, it’s a good song to bop to.

My favorite part of the song (and the reason why I’m sharing) is the lyric during the bridge: “You got yourself in a dangerous zone/ ‘Cause we both have the fear of being alone.”  I found this lyric quite powerful; one of the great things about music in my opinion is that you can take a song and interpret it in your own way or understand it any way you want.  For instance, I read online that that lyric was referring to an ex-boyfriend who had a problem with gambling (I don’t know if it was true, but I’m using it as an example), but it made me think of someone getting married (or getting into a serious relationship). I’m not saying this is what she meant or how you should take the song, I just thought the line could be used to describe a situation where one person is engaged and the narrator (in this case, the singer who is not engaged) is telling the person who is engaged that they both want to end up married, but one should not marry the wrong person (i.e. get in a “dangerous zone”) to avoid the fear of dying alone (which they both have in common).  If we try to make the lyric fit the internet’s suggested topic of gambling, I don’t think it would fit as well.  The first part of the lyric certainly would fit – gambling can be a bit dangerous if you don’t know when to stop – but how would that be related to having “the fear of being alone?”  I just saw the line referring to someone so desperate to be in a relationship that they get in a relationship with the wrong person just to say they have a partner.

Regardless of the fact whether my interpretation of a lyric is true, we still end up with having Ellie Goulding on our minds.

Stand By Rachel Platten

Rachel Platten has finally released “Stand By You,” her follow up single to her smash hit “Fight Song,” and I got to say it’s pretty darn catchy.  The song itself deals with the nature of loving someone unconditionally and standing by them through thick and thin, which has caused some critics to deem it “Fight Song – Part Two.”  It’s really nothing like “Fight Song” other than it’s positive messaging.  Take a listen:

From the first second of the song, I was hooked.  When I bought it, I hadn’t heard the song in it’s entirety, which is a very rare thing for me.  I’m very frugal when it comes to spending my money on iTunes and I don’t usually make purchases without being absolutely sure I’ll like the song (i.e. I hear it on the radio a couple times, etc.).  In fact, I thought I’d regret the $1.29 on this purchase, feeling Platten was a one hit wonder with “Fight Song,” but I was in love with “Stand By You” from the first note and willing to eat my words about her being a one hit wonder.  The soft piano and fading into the first verse is perfect and ingenious.  And when she reaches that full chorus – which makes you want to dance around and sing along – I was sold.  Add in snappy lyrics like “If your wings are broken, borrow mine so yours can open too,” and “Even if we can’t find Heaven, I’ll walk through Hell with you,” and you got a hit.  It’s such a positive, upbeat song that will brighten your day…we need more songs like that.

I saw a criticism of the song on iTunes where the person said they loved the song, but thought it should be entitled “Can’t Find Heaven.”  In fact, I found a clip where Platten performed the song during the pre-“Fight Song” era and it was referred to as “Can’t Find Heaven.”  Initially, I thought that song title was catchier than “Stand By You.”  And given the fact the first lyric that appears in the song is “Even if we can’t find Heaven” and it’s part of the major hook of the song, it’s a pretty prominent string of words.  I was especially on board for a name change particularly because “Stand By You” made me think of Stand By Me, which I really only know of from The Big Bang Theory, whereas a title of “Can’t Find Heaven” seems unique to me and doesn’t remind me of Wil Wheaton (which I’m not saying is a bad thing, it’s just when you hear a Rachel Platten song you should probably think of Rachel Platten).

But then I started thinking about why they probably chose “Stand By You” over “Can’t Find Heaven,” and realized that “Stand By You” is probably the better choice.  At first thought, “Stand By You” seems the better title in regards to the message of the song: she’s going to stand by her love no matter what happens.  But the same could be argued for a title of “Can’t Find Heaven:” their relationship has imperfections and they are not in a bliss that is Heaven.  Overall, though, “Can’t Find Heaven” has a negative connotation of not being able to do something whereas “Stand By You” has the positive message of never giving up on someone.  And, really, “Stand By You” expresses the sentiment of not giving up a little bit better than “Can’t Find Heaven.”

But, really, if the only argument/complaint I’m going to have about a song is it’s title, then I think you know it’s pretty good.

Alessia Cara is Here

The other day I was scrolling through iTunes, as I occasionally do to see what music is out there, and I stumbled onto the New Artist section and found Alessia Cara.  I previewed her song “Seventeen” (it was the featured song), and I liked her unique style and sound.  She kind of reminded me of Xenia from the first season of The Voice in that her voice had this rasp and warmth to it.  Then I was driving home from work hours later and the radio DJ said something along the lines of “We’ve got this new artist Alessia Cara, whose song  ‘Here’ everybody’s talking about,” and then they proceeded to play it.  And I was hooked.

One of the many things I find intriguing about the song is that it seems like one of the few pop songs (if any other of them exist) that actually speaks against heavy partying.  Instead, she’s spreading the message to just be yourself and define the way you have fun and hang with your friends your own way, which I like.  Another great thing about the song is the beat, especially how she sings the lyrics in triplets: it makes it pretty catchy.

When I got home after hearing “Here” on the radio, I immediately purchased her EP, Four Pink Wallswhich says a lot.  I tend not to buy EPs because I fear that I’ll spend the money on it, then a couple months later the full length album will drop that will include all the songs from the EP plus like five additional songs; I would have paid for the same music twice, which I prefer not to do.  I will, however, break this rule if I’m a big fan of the artist’s work and simply cannot wait for the forthcoming album.  In any event, you should definitely check out Alessia Cara, and let’s hope her album comes out soon (especially with more than just “five additional songs”).

Ed Sheeran’s Photograph

One of the things that continually impresses me about Ed Sheeran is his phenomenal vocal range.  I remember when I first saw him live, he was crooning some song and his voice started going up to a high pitch.  And it kept going.  And going.  I sat there kind of stunned that a grown man could emit such a sound that high with such ease and not sound ridiculous.

Which brings me to his latest single, “Photograph.”  In the song, he starts off in his soothing, raspy lower register.  Then he reaches the chorus and his voice just shoots up there, and it immediately gives me shivers.  Sometimes, I hear songs where guys will sing up in a high falsetto and I just sit thinking, “really?”  because they either can’t sing that high or it isn’t necessary for the song.  I remember reading a review of an album where a person wrote that just because a singer (a male one, in particular) could sing in a high register does not mean they should.  I agree with this because I think music should be performed to tell a story and transcend an emotion, not to show off.  Like, if you can sing in a high register, that’s incredible and impressive, but use it when it’s necessary.  In the case of “Photograph,” Sheeran singing that high adds to the delicateness of the song and emits a rawness.  It pulls at your heartstrings and makes you feel what he is feeling.

If, for example, Sheeran sang the chorus in a lower register, it would probably sound good (I mean, it’s Ed Sheeran), but it would not have that fragile air to it.  Let’s consider Sheeran’s other song from x, “Don’t.”  In this chorus, Sheeran sings it in his lower register and it adds to the aggressive anger of the song.  Imagine him singing that chorus in his falsetto, it would be…well…bizarre.  Just because he can sing that high, does not mean he does it all the time…he knows how to effectively use his falsetto.

This is My Fight Song

Fight Song” by Rachel Platten has to be one of the best songs this summer (and year).  I heard the song on the radio a couple months back and was instantly intrigued because the song had a Kelly Clarkson vibe about it.  So I quickly asked Siri what the song was, and discovered Rachel Platten.  What I love the most about the song is the defiant, war cry of someone who is not giving up on their dream.  Indeed, Platten said in an interview that she wrote the song at a point in her life where she questioned if she should give up on her music career because things weren’t panning out.  Instead, she told herself to just believe in herself.

I also think this song holds some of the best lyrics we’ve seen so far this year.  With lines like, “Like a small boat/ On the ocean/ Sending big waves/ Into motion,” “I might only have one match/ But I can make an explosion,” “And all those things I didn’t say/ Wrecking balls inside my brain/ I will scream them loud tonight,” and “And I don’t really care if nobody else believes/ ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me” are incredibly powerful and inspiring to me and really emulate this warrior cry of independence.

The song itself is beautiful outside the lyrical content, starting with the shimmering piano and Platten’s perfect vocals sends shivers down the spine.  Then to the chorus with pounding drums and grunts (you can hear them more in the third chorus).  I especially liked how at the bridge, they pulled back to just the piano again to remind us of Platten’s vulnerability.

Platten recently performed “Fight Song” with Taylor Swift on Swift’s 1989 World Tour, and I got to say watching them is great.  Not only did this cause “Fight Song” to rocket into the number one spot on iTunes and jump to number thirteen on Billboard’s Hot 100 (we really need to get it to number one!), but to see Platten’s look of happiness and joy just to be able to sing “Fight Song” to a stadium full of people was intoxicating.  I am a bit sad that Swift didn’t have her as a guest for the date I’m going to the 1989 Tour…

I do believe that we could quite possibly see Platten at next year’s Grammys for Best Pop Solo Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year.  You never know how the Grammys will work (and she would be a huge upset if she did get a Grammy nod), but I feel like how Platten perfectly captured the emotion and delivers a great performance warrants a Grammy.

I also read that Platten is working on her debut album, which will be out later this year, so keep your ears peeled!

You’d Be a Fool Not to Listen to Ryn Weaver’s “The Fool”

I actually heard about Ryn Weaver from a Facebook ad.  You know how you’ll be perusing Facebook and notice that they’ll have “recommended” articles in your feed/timeline that are basically just ads?  I remember multiple times scrolling through and seeing a picture/ad for Weaver’s Promises – EP.

The first couple times I saw it, I ignored it.  Then, I finally clicked on it because the picture somewhat intrigued me, and also because the ad said something about her song “OctaHate,” which I thought was a weird yet interesting title.  I mean, what does the word “OctaHate” (if it’s a word) even mean?  I thought it was something like Pitch Perfect where that one singer kept saying “aca-scuse me.”

I finally found an interview where Weaver explained that the song was originally titled “OctaLoser” because they were using an Octatrack. From what I could gather from the interview, they were creating the production of the song so they just named it “OctaLoser” as a place holder, and then she went back home and wrote the words and finished the song.  She then changed it to “OctaHate” because she said the song is about “hate times eight.”  She then went on to mention something about an octopus and people be tangled together….if you want to read that interview, click here.

So, I finally listened to “OctaHate,” and then I immediately bought it from iTunes.  It’s a great little tune.  What I like the most about the song is how her vocals are aggressive, but in a pretty way (if that make sense).  I just mean that she has this way of attacking the song that emits the hate and angry, but it’s rather elegant.  If you listen to the second verse especially (1:05) below, you’ll get what I mean.

Weaver finally has released her debut album The Fooland I’ve been thinking about getting it.  But then I decided to preview some of her songs before I invest the money in the album.  There’s nothing more annoying than buying an album because you really liked one of the songs on it and thought you’d like the rest of them, and then the whole album is just awful and you’re out like $20 (just an FYI, The Fool is only about $7 on iTunes…I’m still in the mindset that albums are $20 like they were when I was a kid in the ’90s).  The Fool  is definitely not one of those albums. It’s a  great vocal work; she absolutely shines in songs “Pierre,” “Sail On,” and “Traveling Song” (and “OctaHate,” which I already mentioned).

However, I think there are spots throughout the album where she and her producers took some risks that didn’t really work.  When I started listening to her song “The Fool,”  I really liked it.  Her swirling vocals and intriguing lyrics reminded me of “OctaHate.”  But then when I got to the end of the song (3:11-end), I couldn’t help wonder – and I don’t mean to sound rude/harsh/mean – what exactly the producer was thinking.  Pulsating sound?  It just hurts to have sound being pulsed in and then out, and it’s way too choppy.

Now, I’m not putting down Weaver or her producers, these are just stylistic options that wouldn’t have been my first choice.  However, I’m sure the more I listen to it (and I will continue to listen to the album), the more it will grow on me.  Ryn Weaver is a new, talented artist, and we need to support upcoming acts like her. The Fool  featuring “OctaHate” is a great start and certainly features unusual sounds.

Elle King’s Ex’s & Oh’s

Elle King's debut album Love Stuff features the epic song "Ex's & Oh's."

Elle King’s debut album Love Stuff features the epic song “Ex’s & Oh’s.”

So, I’m in the car on my way home, fumbling through the different radio stations, trying to find something good to listen to.  For some reason, each station has been playing the same song today on repeat.  I wish I was exaggerating.  Then, I end up on a station that is playing “Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King and I’m obsessed.  Of course, I had no idea what the song was, but I loved her voice within the first seconds.  I quickly got my phone and asked Siri to listen in and tell me the name of the song (I wasn’t driving, so this was totally legal).  And almost immediately I downloaded the song from iTunes.

I love the rock vibe of the song and King’s husky vocals.  The song has just a badass attitude to it, with catchy lyrics and a great beat.  After the song finished, the radio DJs (there were like three), were like “that song is cooler than all of us combined.”  I especially appreciated the title…”Ex’s & Oh’s”…sounds like XOs, get it?

As far as I can tell, Elle King is an upcoming artist and from what I’ve just begun to hear, she’s incredible.  I can’t wait to listen to her album, Love Stuff.  The album was released in February, so if you want to check her out on iTunes, you totally can.  Listen to “Ex’s & Oh’s” below: